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- Child-free women are tired of being told they’ll regret it
- Yet more allegations against our military in Afghanistan set to emerge
The modern world gives voice, and rise, to the worst types of crazy. With the spread of free media, we step closer to something that caters for everyone.
Esquire recently delivered, with the subtlety of hammers on a typewriter, an essay on the failure of the American people to make democracy work. It cast the rise of Donald Trump as an inevitable toxic cloud fuelled not only by “deplorable” voters, but entertainment-hungry consumers who spoiled their appetite for a healthy democracy by gorging on junk journalism. The author warned, with a grim tone of vitriolic smug, that the worst is yet to come, however.
Bleak is on fleck.
The modern media offers appeasement to every bias. Whatever your mood, there’s a crank for your cranium. It’s never been easier to fill your mind with a conveniently narrow selection of perspectives and reaffirm what you already know. If you dare to step sideways from your media landscape however, you quickly see that all possibilities are now deemed probable. We live in a multiverse and you can pick and choose which reality suits you best.
There is so much alternate media available today that the very idea of a mainstream media is as quaintly old fashioned as the expression “quaintly old fashioned”. Still viable, but nobody’s paying attention anymore.
Respect was once the cornerstone of journalism and media. Headlines held gravitas and the weight of words could compel politicians to act in accordance with their charter. Their job was to serve us, not the other way around. For a while there, we had it good. For a while, we were gifted powerful media in print, radio and television, who all chased the truth and held scrutiny to the innate tendencies of man. Media used it’s power for good, and evil was thwarted at every pork barrel.
The problem doesn’t lie with any single part of the media, rather the fact that it is growing into something completely new and now caters to all manner of madness, the very opposite of what it once was.
Journalism was something I grew up believing to be the cure for excess. The power of the press was to hold a light to the darkness and reveal the ugly truths that would otherwise destroy our society. While humankind is a species of war and destruction, it is also capable of compassion and love and creation. We are not all bad.
In recent years I have read some incredible works of journalism. Friends of mine in the game point out that never before in the history of civilisation has such effort been possible for deep investigative reporting. We can discover and illuminate with greater skill and accuracy than ever before. They are not mistaken. The problem is, actual journalism has for the most part been supplanted by entertainment. There is very little click bait value in thoughtful contemplation of our society. Facebook algorithms are not only determining what you don’t see, but Zuckerberg would prefer your brain fettered with viral videos than have you delve deep into a 3,000 word essay that explores a few nuances.
Democracy is the weaker for it.
The paradox of the Internet revolution is that people somehow expected this would make the world a more enlightened place. In truth, wisdom has been the exception and not the rule. Chairman Mao rightly saw academics as the major threat to his power, people who might tell a different version of the story, and so he had them removed. Most people in society are ignorant of wisdom; we tend to leave it to the experts to carry the truth in heavy, bound volumes.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Clowns to the left of me, racists to the right: Stuck in the middle with news
- The news: What we miss when we’re well informed
- Deafened by opinion war, I seek dumb solitude
- The 24 hour news cycle: Is it best to always feed the hungry beast?
At least, we used to. For hundreds of years our civilisations have trusted the written word and the authority it offers. We would read the headlines and consult the columns for guidance. What happens when we enter a point in history where everybody thinks they are the experts?
We get Trump. We get Abbott. We get anti-vaxxers and climate denialists.
The problem doesn’t lie with any single part of the media, rather the fact that it is growing into something completely new and now caters to all manner of madness. It is the very opposite of what it once was. If you step back in history far enough you discover that the alternative wasn’t always so great either. When there are very few media sources and very few influences upon them, you shouldn’t expect good journalism to be the outcome. Nazi Germany in 1939 was not exactly the hotbed of civilised debate we expect of our media today.
Why exactly we expect the media to be fair, effective, impartial, honest, responsive, unbiased and sensible is unfathomable. It has never been thus. What is has become is a blend of entertainment and medusa, with each venomous head spitting a different kind of poison that renders its audience numb. For those with an appetite for solid journalism there is much work to be done, filtering out the hacks and digging deep within your own ego-filled mind to avoid slandering those few good journalists who sit on top of the junk heap.
The good news is, we’ve never had better journalism available to us than right now. The bad news is that the majority have found other fodder to jam inside their heads and they will vote accordingly.
Expecting the world to be any different is a special kind of madness, yet that is probably news to most of us.