Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Right to no Information

The Right to Information is a fundamental right in most countries. Freedom of the press is a cherished goal. All very good.  But I think its now time to have a Right to NOT have information. I write this even though I have witnessed at close quarters for three years, the perils of such an idea.

Take the case of the story of the idiot in Florida who wanted to burn the Koran, which is the trigger for my post today. He is an irrelevant nobody  who perhaps has a dozen imbeciles who go to his "church".  Suddenly he has become a celebrity and has been interviewed and reported all over the world. And equal imbeciles in some corner of the world, who can't even point to Florida on the map demonstrate and threaten violence against America. That's reported on too. News has been "created" where none should have existed. With potentially dangerous consequences. The world would have been a better place if the worthy in Florida had been royally ignored.

A week ago, there was the tragic case of a mental case taking hostages in a bus in the Philippines. The media descended like a swarm of locusts on the scene and started reporting live. Each channel shrilly trying to outdo the other. The police planned an assault to free the hostages. Every preparation for this was broadcast live in graphic detail including the position of the snipers. The only problem was that the hijacker was watching all this on the TV inside the bus. Negotiators couldn't reach the hijacker once because he was busy giving an interview to a TV station on his mobile phone. End result - the attempt to storm failed and a disastrous ending with many deaths.

Dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is reportedly so. Therefore it makes sense for man to bite dog to gain his moment in the sun. All too many people are trying to bite the dog in order to get themselves into the papers. And the media is willing to provide the dog, sharpen the man's teeth, provide a cushion to kneel on for the act and are even prepared to pay him for the privilege of filming him sink his sorry teeth.

In a different way, the Right to Information Act in India is a similar problem. It was enacted in India a little while ago, to provide transparency about the government - governments should not be allowed to bury their activities under the cloak of secrecy. Many democracies have similar rights enshrined. Noble intentions. But the consequences are predictable. There is a huge number of people who have nothing else to do. Their pastime is to request all sorts of information under the Act. What is the weight of the the Minister's mother in law ? How many times did his dog poop on the carpet ? What was the water consumption in his house ? A bureaucracy has been created to cater to such requests for information. My tax payer rupees to amuse the retired, senile who has nothing else to do ? Thank you very much.

I strongly feel the need for a Right to NO Information Act !