SARAH VINE: Life’s becoming impossible in the Way Too Much Information age – non-stop details about Prince Harry’s frostbitten penis and the toxic data dump that is Matt Hancock’s WhatsApps are making us angry, sad or simply paranoid
Lately I’ve been struck by the realisation that we are not so much living in the information age as the way-too-much information age.
Lots of reasons, really. Not least the infinite supply of videos on social media of people sharing all aspects of their personal lives — from what they had for breakfast and that boil on their bottom to Prince Harry’s musings about his ridiculous frostbitten penis and the way the police told the world intimate details about missing Nicola Bulley’s mental and physical health for no obvious reason at all.
Non-stop data is being poured ceaselessly into our devices and our brains, occupying space in our individual hard drives which, when you think about it, rarely serves practical purpose other than to make us angry, sad or simply paranoid.
The latest example is the thousands of leaked Matt Hancock WhatsApp messages. The people involved in divulging them are awfully pleased with themselves, claiming some sort of giant victory for the truth and public interest.
But what do the messages really tell us, other than the fact that Hancock is a bloody fool whose brain is in his trousers, or that Isabel Oakeshott, who ghost-wrote his book, is someone no politician would be wise to entrust with a cloakroom ticket, let alone the entire contents of their mobile phone?
The people involved divulging Matt Hancock’s Whatsapp messages are awfully pleased with themselves, claiming some sort of giant victory for the truth and public interest
Isabel Oakeshott used the information to further her anti-lockdown agenda, to paint the situation as a simple case of wrong versus right, bad versus good
Both of which truths are already abundantly clear, firstly from Hancock’s public betrayal of his wife and secondly from Oakeshott’s track record as a self-styled ‘scoop getter and feather ruffler’, which ultimately led to a prison sentence for Vicky Pryce after the former wife of one-time Liberal Democrat minister Chris Huhne revealed how she had conspired with her ex to avoid a motoring fine.
The fact that the person who was naive enough to trust her with his private phone texts was also in charge of our health strategy during the Covid pandemic is far more worrying, in my opinion, than any of the unedifying things he might have said in the messages themselves.
The truth is, all this information, all this machine gun-like rat-tat-tat of arguments, innuendo, accusations and recriminations, might be fascinating in the detail, but it doesn’t make our lives, as consumers of this data, any better or easier.
What does it achieve, other than make us more angry and less trusting of those in power, as well as turn what was a deeply traumatic period in recent history into something that seems even more traumatic?
Will it bring back lost loved ones? No. Will it repair the damage done by lockdown and school closures (which I opposed vigorously)? No.
Does it offer a calm, balanced, non-biased analysis of the mistakes and misjudgments that were made during an unprecedented time of national crisis? Of course not.
Information is not the same as knowledge. The latter requires context and understanding, intelligent, thoughtful analysis. No chance of that here.
The Lockdown Files are just another giant, toxic data dump dressed up as ‘public interest’ — but which is really no less misleading or manipulative than the politicians it pillories.
All this information, all this machine gun-like rat-tat-tat of arguments, innuendo, accusations and recriminations, might be fascinating in the detail, but it doesn’t make our lives, any better
Had Ms Oakeshott really wanted to serve the public interest, she would have quietly handed the data to Baroness Hallett who, as chair of the forthcoming Covid inquiry, would no doubt have taken the relevant messages into account.
Instead, she’s used the information to further her anti-lockdown agenda, to paint the situation as a simple case of wrong versus right, bad versus good, when she knows as well as anyone that joined-up government is an inherently messy, often long-winded, process, and never more so during a pandemic.
Trouble is, that narrative doesn’t sell newspapers or garner many ‘likes’ on Twitter. The reality is too much information can be as bad as no information at all.
It doesn’t matter what sphere you’re in — corporate, private, public — there has to be a presumption that some things, some conversations and exchanges, will remain private, that certain boundaries will not be crossed. Otherwise, life becomes simply impossible.
A pretty poor claim by Gigi
Gigi Hadid admits she’s a ‘nepo baby’, acknowledging that she and her sister Bella have ‘come from privilege’ as their dad is a mega-rich property developer. Good to hear her telling the truth — but then Gigi also claims she doesn’t think of herself as the ‘prettiest person in the world’. Hmm. There’s healthy self-deprecation — and then there’s plain nonsense.
Gigi Hadid admits she’s a ‘nepo baby’, acknowledging that she and her sister Bella have ‘come from privilege’ as their dad is a mega-rich property developer
- So, the shoulder-pad is back. As someone who spent the 1980s with two small cushions stuffed under her bra straps, this news fills me with some trepidation. In my experience, the things are extremely addictive: one minute you’re just jazzing up a T-shirt, the next you look like an American Footballer in drag — if one is allowed to say such things.
- I do hope Harry’s drug-taking confessions don’t come back to bite him. American immigration officials can be tricky about that sort of thing.
Reality TV ‘star’ Stephen Bear has been jailed for 21 months after filming himself and his now former girlfriend, Georgia Harrison, having sex and uploading the footage to porn site OnlyFans. That he turned up at court in a rented £475-a-day Rolls-Royce and a floor-length fur coat tells you everything you need to know.
Chaps to blame for care costs
The soaring cost of childcare is seeing women ‘priced out of work’. Mothers can spend up to a third of their salaries on childcare meaning that, for many, it’s not worth working.
This is nothing new: when my two were small, childcare ate up most of my salary — but I still paid for it. I was worried that if I took time out, then all my hard work in my 20s and early 30s would have been for nothing. Men simply don’t have that problem — and since men still mostly make the rules, childcare remains expensive.
- The final moments of Tymofiy Shadura, the unarmed Ukrainian prisoner-of-war filmed taking one last drag of a cigarette and declaring ‘Slava Ukraini’ before being gunned down by Russian soldiers, will become emblematic of this conflict. Putin could live for 1,000 years and not inspire a fraction of the respect we all feel for this brave father of five.
- On my local neighbourhood app the other night, someone was offering a five-seater Roche Bobois sofa — worth £4,000 new — for free. Apparently, someone had agreed to collect it but failed to turn up — so now it was sitting in the street. Recession, what recession?
- You may think Wayne Couzens getting an extra 19 months for indecent exposure is almost irrelevant given that he is serving a whole life term for killing Sarah Everard. But it matters. When I was 14, I was on a train with my grandmother when the man sitting opposite us began pleasuring himself. He sat there with a horrible smirk on his face, knowing there was nothing we could do. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it: the shock and the shame remain.
Drew has a true friend
One of my favourite shows to watch with my daughter is the quirky black comedy Santa Clarita Diet, about a middle-aged mother who turns into a zombie (why my daughter identifies with this, I can’t imagine). It stars Drew Barrymore, who has been through her own share of trauma including the break-up of her marriage to Will Kopelman. Now Barrymore’s friend, Cameron Diaz, has spoken about staging a ‘quasi-intervention’ to help Barrymore battle her demons. Everyone needs a loyal friend — and it’s always the bad times that reveal who they are.
One of my favourite shows to watch with my daughter is the quirky black comedy Santa Clarita Diet, about a middle-aged mother who turns into a zombie
- Eddie Izzard has adopted the name ‘Suzy’ for her new identity, as that is ‘what I wanted to be since I was ten’. Funny thing, names. When I was ten I remember wishing my name was ‘Alice’ instead of Sarah. Alices wore silk hairbands and pretty dresses and went down rabbit holes, while Sarahs were solid, sturdy-thighed types. Needless to say, I grew out of my Alice phase. But I hope Suzy brings Eddie all the happiness she desires.
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