Wealth Gap and Internet Sites

So, Internet is the cause behind the widening wealth gap?

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) says it is. In a study published by BBC, it is concerned about websites providing househunters with data on neighborhood income levels and ethnicity.

Similar process has already surfaced in the US, the report says, where segregation is more and social cohesion is less. In effect, the Britain, known for class divisions, has accused US (which refuses to believe there is any) of class divisions. And the pundits opine that Internet may be the reason behind the widening wealth gap in both societies.

They may not be out of their wits entirely. Yes, Internet sites offer specialized searches for neighborhoods, categorize them into economic interests and helps people choose communities.

But this theory has two dangerous deductions: one, that people are solely affected by external sources of information (that is, conversely speaking, they do not use their own conscientious judgment), and secondly that, human beings always prefer to live with their likes (in terms of class, gender, ethnicity, nationality) and in effect, abhor diversity.

Oftentimes studies like this as they get prominence in mainstream media are nothing more than mere spaces. The nature of mainstream media to absorb any sensationalism has reached a point, where journalists/editors no more critically screen through a copy before using them for x number of columns/pages/minutes.

Its not merely important to talk about findings (Time magazine’s article on Sleep was another of the kind). That job can be done by the research assistant at the lab. What we as mediapersons need to do is to understand that we are addressing such issues of wide implications to a larger gamut of people and we need to incorporate at least some of the differing perspectives to check if there are some loopholes in the theories of the “experts”. The respect for experts as the “gatekeepers” of today’s news contents need questioning not to undermine their significance, but to critically update their contributions.

Hence in the aforesaid story we could also talk about another parameter: that is, who determine the neighborhoods?

1.Government as the agent 2. People as actors 3. Others as mediators (media, advertorials). Government has a responsibility to enforce desegregation. It’s not just a duty of human beings to morally think of it as a virtue and not practice (we know the colossal difference between preaching of virtues and practice of them). And the mediators are actually the second layer information channels. They are the points of references, not instigators for actions for an informed citizenry.

To claim that certain websites lead to wealth gap is like missing the whole point altogether. The issue of wealth gap itself. The people we elect as representatives simply are not accounted for except for the part of election themselves. Which is self-serving anyway. It’s like people feed them with their doses of electoral bliss and perpetuate the system. What should rather be the focus of stories on widening wealth gap is the lack of accountability on part of the administrators who carry out the oaths of public causes and simply shun them according to their whims.

If the government cannot on any pretext educate people about the need to live in a diverse community, it’s quite easy to blame some websites for mischief. But it also absolves the government (that is the people whom we elect—even in case of non-western democracies the people who we allow to rule over us) of its primary responsibilities—to bridge inequality gaps. Banning certain websites, if any, will not serve any purpose.

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Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

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