In­for­ma­tion as Am­mu­ni­tion!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By

It used to be said that the pen is might­ier than the sword. It still is but to­day both have changed: wars are no longer fought with swords and writ­ers no longer use pens. The mes­sage and the mes­sen­ger have trans­formed, as has how news is gath­ered and de­liv­ered.

The tools of the jour­nal­ism trade have changed over time. But the power of in­for­ma­tion is still as po­tent as arms and am­mu­ni­tion: sharp as a bul­let, deadly as a gun. It is neu­tral and can be a used as a tool or weapon - to in­form, ed­u­cate, en­lighten and build - or to break down. It can be made to help or hin­der, praise or abuse, high­light or down­grade, up­grade or down­play.

It all de­pends on the ob­jec­tive of the shooter and the tar­get aimed at.

Jour­nal­ists have al­ways had the power and choice on whether to use in­for­ma­tion as am­mu­ni­tion. Each has ac­cess to com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels in­clud­ing e-mail and Facebook, What­sApp, In­sta­gram, Twit­ter, etc. Wi-Fi is ev­ery­where. And the In­ter­net re­mains bor­der­less.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy has not been matched ev­ery­where with the nec­es­sary up­grades in un­der­stand­ings of the vary­ing mis­un­der­stand­ings in the me­dia of what its role is or should be. Some are peren­ni­ally driven by what they see as a nat­u­ral (and there­fore nec­es­sary) an­tag­o­nism be­tween The Press and Govern­ments. Oth­ers see wider roles that ex­pand be­yond lo­cal hori­zons or na­tional bor­ders.

In­for­ma­tion can be used as am­mu­ni­tion to at­tack or de­fend, to de­ter or to demon­strate an abil­ity to re­spond. Those who feel un­fairly tar­geted by the me­dia find and use dif­fer­ent ways and means to fire back. Mes­sen­gers get shot - and also fire at each other.

Where nar­ra­tives col­lide, in­for­ma­tion be­comes both of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive am­mu­ni­tion. Read­ers and lis­ten­ers, view­ers and browsers are not al­ways able to duck the cross­fire, many suf­fer­ing the col­lat­eral dam­age of tra­di­tional in­for­ma­tion war­fare.

With na­tional elec­tions ap­proach­ing in both Saint Lu­cia and the USA, in­for­ma­tion is the prime po­lit­i­cal am­mu­ni­tion be­ing used by the par­ties and can­di­dates. Slanted re­ports, se­lected top­ics, bare bi­ases and other forms of pro­pa­ganda are in­creas­ingly in full play across the me­dia land­scape.

Ev­ery plat­form on earth and ev­ery cloud in the sky are be­ing used to try to in­flu­ence vot­ers. Words and photos, vi­ral videos and posted mes­sages are mov­ing faster - and with more fury than ever.

But where in­for­ma­tion is used as am­mu­ni­tion, the re­sults de­pend less on those fir­ing; if those tar­geted don’t be­lieve the mes­sage, the am­mu­ni­tion will have been wasted.

The main­stream US me­dia aims all its am­mu­ni­tion at in­flu­enc­ing who will be the next Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent. But a Huff­in­g­ton Post poll last week showed that only 6% of Amer­i­cans have enough con­fi­dence in the main­stream me­dia. And an­other poll ear­lier this year re­vealed that only 4% trust the US Congress.

The press here would have us be­lieve it can in­flu­ence the re­sults of Gen­eral Elec­tions in Saint Lu­cia. That is yet to be proven. But then, even if it can, is the lo­cal me­dia able or ready? We will see.

But once again, with an­other elec­tion ap­proach­ing, the me­dia here is more tail­ing than lead­ing, re­peat­ing with­out ques­tion­ing, swal­low­ing with­out chew­ing and gen­er­ally going with the flow, in­stead of high­light­ing is­sues or set­ting the agen­das for pub­lic de­bate.

Pri­vate an­tag­o­nisms have over­shad­owed pro­fes­sional con­sid­er­a­tions, re­sult­ing in ini­tia­tives and op­por­tu­ni­ties for pro­fes­sional en­gage­ment ei­ther be­ing ig­nored or spurned, at the ex­pense of progress. In­stead of col­lec­tively ben­e­fit­ting, those most in need of uplift­ing end up suf­fer­ing from the down­sides of col­lat­eral dam­age.

Now the elec­tion pro­pa­ganda war is on. In­for­ma­tion am­mu­ni­tion is be­ing fired rapidly from side to side, up and down, across and in be­tween, those to be in­formed caught in the cross­fire. Dam­age as­sess­ments at the end of Elec­tion Day will show how ef­fec­tive the rapid me­dia fire was as we learn the fa­tal­i­ties and in­juries – how many dead, badly wounded and un­hurt.

Af­ter the war count is over, the me­dia will be called upon to turn swords into ploughshares, to hol­ster our guns and re­place our weapons with tools. But there will al­ways be those li­censed hold­ers of me­dia firearms who will de­fend to death their right to de­cide whether to use in­for­ma­tion as am­mu­ni­tion in their self­de­fined roles as cow­boys or crooks, po­lice­men or thieves, de­fend­ers of truth or as­sas­sins of char­ac­ter.

The is­sue fac­ing the press in the use of in­for­ma­tion as am­mu­ni­tion is like that fac­ing coun­tries with nu­clear arms or ev­ery in­di­vid­ual firearm holder - it all de­pends on what you want to use your gun for!

The new face of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion war­fare weaponry in the 21st cen­tury.

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