Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Friday, May 21, 2010

There's no "i" in public

Slightly delayed reaction, but this is the first chance I've had to vent...

Some of the most infuriating post-election analysis has involved repeated reference to what “the public” have decided [1]. This would suggest that the voting population is mentally conjoined by way of some vast pulsating shared consciousness [2]. Now I'm all for monism in small doses, but I'm not entirely convinced about this whole giant mind conception of the UK's voting population.

Commentators have, for example, bleated about “the public” deciding to punish MPs by denying any one party a clear majority – which would suggest that people voted for a particular party not because they agreed with that party's policies and wanted them to be in power, but rather, because they somehow foresaw how every other member of the public would vote and then voted accordingly to ensure no single party got too many votes. Perhaps there was a mass UK Voters conference where “the public” voted on how they would vote so as to stick it to those dastardly MPs. Oh god, there was and I wasn't invited! Still, there's no “i” in public. Oh, hang on...[3]

[1] The same infuriation is incited by financial reporting such as: "the markets don't like uncertainty". It makes the markets sound like a wuss that needs to man up.

[2] members of a facebook group

[3] Try typing in "the public decided" into google and have a look at their track record on decision-making. It will soon become apparent that the public is a moron.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff. Not sure about "the markets not liking uncertainty". In financial and economic reporting "The markets" are generally seen as one entity similarly to the way the government is a single entity.

26 May, 2010 19:49  
Blogger Maisie said...

Thanks for your comment. I agree it's useful to use the shorthand "the markets" in many scenarios - thus succinctly grouping together a myriad of procedures, infrastructures, etc. and saving much precious time which would otherwise be taken up listing all the components of "the markets" each time anyone wanted to comment on them. Which would be rather dull.

I suppose what grates with me is the twee anthropomorphising of this abstract concept. "The markets" don't like or dislike anything - economists predict the markets will react in a certain way to certain things and then the markets do or don't accord with their theory. That's it. The markets don't get distressed at the idea of impending uncertainty, because the markets are not aware of it. They are not a person, they are a fictitious entity.

28 May, 2010 17:11  

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