The vestiges of democracy are still around. The practise of “one person, one vote” still has some small power over the political classes. It’s on the wane, but not because of the practise, more so because of apathy.
In today’s world of news, with its less than 140 characters and scramble for 6 second soundbites, we are all participants in the further diminution of democracy. Democracy has never really worked. In the same way that right wing ideologues proclaim “socialism has ruined every economy that tried it” those who claim “democracy is the least worst option” are wrong.
Democracy, actual people power in a society of equals, has never been tried. Nor has the socialist utopia. No, instead we live in a bastardised Corporate Governance Democracy, or Chumocracy for short. This Chumocracy brands itself as Representative Democracy. Who it claims to represent and who it actually represents are two entirely different things.
People are blaming the media for the rise of Donald Trump. You constantly hear how he is the most discussed US Presidential candidate ever. He gets more airtime, more headlines and more coverage across all platforms than his opponent. In fact, it was shown (I think it was Nate Silver again) that while seeking the Republican Nomination, he received more coverage than the thirteen other candidates combined. Isn’t that a damning statistic of media?
This isn’t only the case in the US, it’s a global phenomenon. When FBI Director Comey wrote his (most recent) letter saying that no sanction was to be recommended against Hillary Clinton, I heard Newstalk report this news via the line “Donald Trump has reacted to the news of the dropping of the email investigation by saying that “it’s a rigged system“. The story absolving Clinton was relayed from the Trump perspective. Is that responsible journalism?
The answer to both questions is more than a simple yes or no. The media are in the entertainment business. Clicks, likes, tweets, shares and vitriolic comment sections are the currency of the day. The media commodify these and turn the eyeballs or ears into advertising revenue.
Without the banner add, or the pop-up, none of the good work can be done. That economic fact is not the fault of the media. We don’t want to pay for content anymore. We use private browsers to slip behind paywalls. We want our news in bite size chunks that reinforce OUR world view.We like political panels that discuss everything, but resolve nothing.
Think about it. If YOU think Trump is a Racist, Xenophobic tax cheat who is a danger to the world, YOU are probably tuning in to hear his waffle in order to condemn him further.
If YOU (somehow) believe Trump is a great entrepreneur, who tells it like it is and gets things done, then YOU are listening to hear his words for guidance and perhaps inspiration.
The media is just giving the people what they want. WE are all in this mess together. WE are dumbing down the discourse and patting ourselves on the back while wagging our fingers at the media. WE consume the news, twist it to our biases and then regurgitate our own version of it.
Yes, I have serious concerns about the editorial control of “Independent” News and Media. Yes, I think media control must be tackled. Yes, I think failure to do so is a risk to democracy, but not so much to the Chumocracy. But those concerns do not excuse my not thinking for myself.
Unless we put a value (monetary and time) on the sources we consume our news from, then we will continue to binge eat junk reporting. Unless we skip over the clickbait articles, we won’t have time to read about what matters. Rubbish in, Rubbish out as they say.
Tony Groves November 2016