Information and Accountability

Many years ago, sometime after the invention of email, an incoming Secretary of Energy felt that he needed to reform the Department of Energy. He called an all-hands meeting of the employees at headquarters, in downtown Washington D.C., and explained that DOE was a mess, blamed the bums out in the DOE field offices, and promised to clean it up. That same week, he traveled to the largest DOE field office, and called an all-hands meeting. He explained that DOE was a mess, blamed the bums at headquarters, and promised to clean it up. Much to his surprise, the staff at headquarters had emailed a transcript of his HQ speech to friends in the field offices, and later that week the field office staff emailed a transcript of his field office speech to friends at HQ. He went on to become a pretty good Secretary of Energy, but only after he rebuilt some credibility.

Then-new tools like email seemed to offer a small chance to seek accountability from politicians who like to talk out of both sides of their mouth, but digital technology has evolved a long way past simple email. Most of us carry cell phones capable of photos and audio or video recordings. Cameras and microphones seem to be everywhere people are present. And anything posted on the internet is there forever, although it may take some digging to find an archived copy.

Accountability remains as elusive as ever, though. Politicians, their handlers, and their allies have become skilled at denying what they said, even if confronted with a recording. They stall, deny, and change the subject, waiting for the news cycle to shift to something else. With today’s news media attention span, they usually don’t have to wait very long. Move along, move along, nothing to see here. And now we have big tech and big social media helping move us along.

So, what’s the point? To quote Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. Technology will change, but human nature and self-interest maybe not so much. As noted in a previous post, this is a time for critical thinking and thoughtful listening. And it is a time for seeking truth rather than moving along to the beat of corporate drummers.

3 thoughts on “Information and Accountability

  1. Thank you Jesse. Truth always seems to win over time. But it is stressful when the darkness of lies can inflict so much loss before the light of truth. The answer to the interim stress is hope.

    “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Roman’s 5:5


  2. Jesse, you are getting really good at writing these thought provoking pieces. Thanks for giving us some real meat to chew on. I am truly disturbed by the severely tainted news media and now we have corporate technology bosses who think they are justified in unilaterally violating the first amendment rights of those they disagree with by shutting down their access to social media outlets. Where does it stop? Where are the checks and balances? Where is the accountability?


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