I do not own a television. I have not owned a television for several years. Not so long ago, I used to regard such people as oddities; relics from a byegone era who take perverse pleasure in absenting themselves from contemporary culture. Now that I am one of those people, I am convinced that we are the wave of the future.
For a start, I am far from “disconnected”. Quite the reverse. The Internet and the Web allow me to access sources of information and opinion that are superior to anything available in the legacy media. While the press and the broadcasters prattle on about Corbyn reheating portions of a tired old speech, written in the 1980s—and some even have the arrogance to call this irrelevance news—there are others online who are putting in the hard graft of researching and reporting on a genuine scandal in the making (See: here, here, here, here and here).
The really worthwhile content is not to be found on either Netflix or Amazon Instant, it is on the blogs, the social networking sites and the independent YouTube channels. The ability of private individuals to publish globally without additional cost (only what it costs to connect to an ISP) has created a new form of media—still nascent and little noticed by those who occupy the legacy media bubble, naively assuming that they alone have the power to control the narrative—which will eventually usurp the monolithic giants that have ceased to meaningfully report on current events or reflect our public debate.
The fact that our politicians and our politics—at the elite level—still centres around newspapers and broadcasters is unfortunate, but they are the people who will have to adapt or die. The power of these outdated and outmoded ‘guardians’ is being challenged by individuals and groups that are more open, more energetic and much better informed. Those in the know were recently able to watch history in the making with the definitive EU exit plan for Britain—Flexcit—taking shape online, before their very eyes. This represents nothing less than a revolution in public policy-making.
Hearteningly, the reach and authority of the legacy media is least amongst the youngest. Politicians are barking up the wrong tree if they think that votes for 16-year-olds or any other gimmick that panders to the “youth vote” is going to save them.
The “establishment”—to use a very vexed piece of terminology—are right to be concerned. There are millions of people who are waking up to the fact that they have no need of a media whose purpose is not to inform, educate or entertain, but to tell them how and what to think. Far too much contemporary commentary consists of inviting people to reaffirm prior assertions.
The moment when I finally decided that these fossils are beyond resuscitation occured while watching Evan Davis interview Conservative MP Owen Paterson on the BBC’s flagship political review show (ha!) Newsnight.
There is a very insidious narrative being promoted from the first question onwards. That is, the assumption that the politician is trying to deceive. The apparent refusal to give a straight answer to a straightforward question is then used as evidence of same. While scepticism should be welcomed and encouraged in all circumstances, in this particular case, I happen to know that when Paterson tells Davis that he is “missing the point” or that “I am distinguishing between the political and the economic” because the situation is not as simple as the BBC reporter would like to portray, the politician is correct and the journalist is behaving like an arse.
I am everyday more and more convinced that the ability of the legacy media to shape political debate to suit its own narrow agendas is even more corrosive than the undoubted inadequacy and self-serving nature of many of our politicians. The BBC, which dominates the legacy media landscape, has a special responsibility, one that it has repeatedly failed to fulfill. The Wilson Report, from 2005, criticises the corporation for reporting on EU-related matters only in terms of “splits”, a pattern that continues to this day.
Sadly, the rest of the legacy media is little different. Everything is a biff-bam personality contest. Those who rely upon the British press to keep them up-to-date will therefore be universally misinformed. The shallow narcissists who report on these matters lack the intellectual architecture to accurately describe, let alone analyse the situation. Their agenda-driven nonsense is of no value. Turn off, tune in, get involved.