Populism- the New Truth

Over the last several decades there has been a move away from what could be called facts (although these weren’t always right in the past either – and I can think of some horrific examples) to this kind of ‘if it feels right it is right’ and while I agree perception is as powerful as reality we should always look for truth in our dealings with each other and the world around us.  Another way this manifests itself is that if the majority believe it then it must be true.

The majority opinion is not always the right opinion.  Most Germans supported Hitler until the last year or two of the war and he was clearly wrong!  Most people will just blindly accept this fact, but if you were prudent you would check it out yourselves and not just accept it at face value.  Go ahead… I dare you.

Fake news surrounds us and the discerning person needs to look behind the headlines.

A personal favourite of mine – because it is so bad – is the so called European refugee ship that was accepted by North Africa during the World War II.  I have reproduced it on the right.

It may seem logical that many Europeans attempted to escape Europe during the horrors of World War II and the message of our common humanity and reciprocation is indeed a moral one and thus rests easily on our consciences – so we accept it as true.

However closer examination reveals the truth.  It may not be obvious but the picture has been de-coloured which makes it look older.  The people are so small that they become featureless but if you were too zoom in it would be obvious they are not dressed in the style of the 1940s.  However, the biggest clues are the name of the ship and its home port.  It is the Vlora, registered in Durres.  Both of these are Albanian ports cities and what we are actually looking at is an attempted mass exodus from Albania after the fall of communism.  The ship crossed the Adriatic and ended up in the Italian port of Bari.

This meme became very popular and was viewed by millions though their social media accounts, but shouldn’t a moral message be rooted in the truth?

Wikipedia has become the most popular encyclopedia in the world and is often the first point of reference for many.  The intentions of the creators was honourable and while there is undoubtedly a lot of accuracy in their articles and they have taken steps to ensure authenticity it is inevitably flawed because of the populist rather than academic nature of its authorship.  I recall coming across degree level study materials that in one chapter stated that Wikipedia should never be used in serious academic research, but then a few chapters later quoted a Wikipedia article to support a claim the author was making.

However neither of these are the real target of my article today.  Rating sites are very useful, but also deeply flawed.  Typically they provide a forum for clients to express their views on the service they received from any given company.  Probably the most famous of these is Trip Adviser who can make or break a business.

In the past hotels used to display their star rating, but now it is also all too frequently accompanied by its Trip Adviser rating, such has the influence of the website become.

It is important that I point out at this point that to my knowledge there is no ill intent on the part of Trip Adviser the issue is the populist approach to the reviews.  I am sure most opinions are valid and a real reflection on the consumer’s experience of a hotel, hostel or restaurant.  However, some are not.

I know first-hand of a restaurant that was effectively destroyed by the views expressed on Trip Adviser.  I can state with absolute confidence that the views expressed were completely wrong as I was there myself for the New Year’s celebration on the evening in question and while the service wasn’t perfect it was nowhere near as bad as the reviewers claimed it to have been on Trip Adviser.

Of course people are entitled to their own views; however the issue is that these views were expressed with no accountability and this is dangerous.  If a view is expressed on a public forum it is only fair that the reviewer should be held accountable on the same public domain.  Sadly this is where most ratings sites are.  What is more it is easy to create a false email account and use this as your reviewing medium and thus hide your real identity.

Social media gave rise to trolling and writing unsubstantiated opinions with no accountability is fundamentally the same thing.  Please understand I am not saying we should never write bad reviews.  If a place genuinely deserves a bad review then it is fair, so long as accountability is built in.

After all it is a person’s livelihood that we are playing with and the consequences are life changing.  How would you like it if you were put under the spotlight and reviewed unfairly in your line of work.

It’s not nice – so play nice!

© 2018 by Richard Horton (Omega Support Services)