CAIRNS - In Abraham Lincoln’s time, messaging was limited to horse and rider and, as electronics became better understood, the telegraph.
News slowly developed as a commodity but, back then, it was largely confined to industrialised countries.
An event of significance happening in mid-19th century India might have appeared as a footnote in the London Times many weeks after the event.
Probably nobody in South America or South East Asia ever heard about it. It was not common for news to spread beyond its immediate locality.
Keith Jackson told me of a discussion he had with Jim Leigh, Papua New Guinea’s Controller of Broadcasting, 50 years ago. It was about a simple news item.
“When I said the information was some months old,” Jackson said, Leigh shot back, ‘News is what the listeners have never heard before’.”
Today information is widespread, immediate and largely inescapable. Almost every human is plugged into it.
While I doubt manipulation of voters by politicians has changed over the centuries, their ability to reach untold more people has vastly expanded their ability to influence.
At its peak just before it was banned, Donald Trump’s Twitter account had nearly 90 million followers. It was his main means of communication and it was very efficient in disseminating information.
It’s my assessment that our technological capabilities have long since exceeded our ability to control our impulses.
These impulses can be beneficial but too often they embrace violence, greed, anger, ambition and ego and the consequences of letting them run free on a mass scale have become increasingly dire.
While we perfectly understand the pointlessness of mutually destructive nuclear war, we nevertheless have heard Russia threaten it in Europe as a bargaining chip to keep allies from too-actively supporting a threatened neighbour.
More incredible still we see every day that the technique of the ‘big lie’ used to chilling effect by the Nazis in World War II is still effective – not only in authoritarian states like Russia but across democracies, including our own, that purport to cherish the truths and freedoms that underpin democratic rule.
A lie is uttered to avoid truth, but it is undeniable that truth is the enemy of the lie.
In the case of delinquent politicians, the application of truth is their greatest threat.
Their survival is invariably dependent upon maintaining the lie because, once exposed, it becomes the instrument of their downfall.
How politicians, journalists and other people of influence treat information is of great importance as the world is forced to change to address serious problems of climate change, disease and war.
After seven decades of relative stability, the world has discovered that it has become a place of significant problems that are putting us all under pressure.
In such a situation, we need information and we need accurate information.
The real challenge for voters is to become sufficiently wised up so we can make decisions that are best for us.
We must appreciate the need to elect representatives who speak verifiable truth rather than offer magical thinking or downright lies.
Political leaders or other powerful people who promulgate unfounded and disproven garbage must be geld to account with the same gravity as those who seek to spread hatred and violence.
Disinformation is a cancer on Democracy.
It may seem to be simple words, but it can be shockingly destructive.
There is a paramount need to elect representatives with a deep understanding of just how interconnected we all are and to use that knowledge for own good.
Part of our collective future is the need to adopt a global approach promoting equity not exploitation, sustainability not mass consumption, and rationality not ideology.
We need to collectively attack poverty and disease, and more effectively deal with the complex issues humanity will have forced upon it by climate change - including mass migration, food shortages, political instability and escalating conflict.
And to achieve these ends, the basic requirement of those who wish to govern must be to offer us good leadership.