When I first read an article about the death of Kim Wall and the Danish inventor, aptly called Peter Madsen, I thought it was a satirical piece. I thought that it was fiction. Doh! Recent world events and changes in world media should’ve told me, by now, that we live in a time of surreal truths, and that I should expect everything and anything, from all angles.
We spend a lot of time browsing the internet, and by ‘we’ I mean almost everyone in the UK. 88% of adults used the internet in the last 3 months in the UK, which is almost 46 million people. Most of that internet time will be spent on Facebook, Amazon, eBay and then divided up among the next largest websites. Yes. Porn takes up a significant portion, but that’s besides the point. By 2030, I’m guessing almost everyone in the UK will receive the main bulk of their news from the internet.
Facebook’s monopoly on news, and the sad pandering of the largest newspapers in the country to click bait culture, will only have a negative impact on news credibility. Reader’s ability to skim through dozens of articles from dozens of websites means that newspapers are resorting to attention grabbing headlines. Even the most credible newspapers ride along the waves of terrorist attacks, nuclear missile tests and politics, often with unverified information, falsification and exaggeration, to fill their pockets with desperately needed cash to pay for increasingly unread articles.
To cut through the muck, critical thinking is a necessity. But where does the ability to think critically actually come from? There’s been a long lasting debate in education about how to teach critical thinking. From my personal experience of the class, this is a debate that needs extending, because the extent of my critical thinking ‘education’ revolved around out-of-date science problems and defunct ethical philosophy. Nothing about how to tell whether the news you’re reading is completely made up. Basically, we’ve got to improve our ‘bullshit radar.’
Children will be exposed to the internet more than any other generation so far. Time will only tell if future generations will be able to unpick and dissect what they read on the internet, or whether we’ll fall further into a state of untruth. When I first started thinking about the web, I thought global communication and the global sharing of information could only be a good thing. Recently, I’ve come to realise that people will believe anything they read, and there are many in society who’re willing to take advantage of that. Scary stuff when considering the future of our planet.
It’s in this state of untruth, something Donald Trump has coined ‘Fake News’, that I first read the article about the Danish inventor Peter Madsen, his homemade submarine and the brutally dismembered body of Kim Wall, a 30-year old journalist with numerous successful publications under her belt. At first, the story seemed too bizarre to be true. Like something out of Scandinavian noir, this chilling story of a potentially premeditated murder captured a dark park of my imagination.
Did Madsen build his submarine with this eventual plan in mind? Spending 20 years of planning, scheming and design to create a giant metal tube in which to murder someone? Was it a spur of the moment decision to kill Kim Wall facing her rebuttal? Was there really some accident on board the submarine? What did they speak about? How far into the journey did they go?
What really happened?
That’s the question I landed on. This questions summarises all the problems with New Media. What really happened? In a world of North Korean nuclear strikes, Donald Trump and Russia, mass famine in the middle East, death of innocents in Syria, murky workings in Turkey, secret police in China, destruction of the Amazon rain forest, racism in Australia and a babbling Conservative party in the UK, will we ever know what really happened?
The likely answer is no.
The story of Kim Wall and the submarine is an allegory for the surreal blurring between truth and fiction in the media. All we can do is laugh, cry, and laugh again. The blank space between when Kim Wall went under and when Peter Madsen was rescued from his scuttled submarine is the same as the blank space between our collective knowledge of world events. Peter Madsen will keep us in the dark about what really happened on that submarine to serve his own needs, and modern media is no different.