After travelling out of the country for a little while, and having enjoyed engaging with people from a culture somewhat less commoditised than ours, I returned back home with little appetite to engage with ramblings, accusations, denials and fabrications that routinely swamp the senses from the mainstream. The trouble is, it’s so hard to avoid it. To be clear, what I consider to be a monstrously compromised and fraudulent media appears now geared only to the machinations of an increasingly clueless ruling minority, one which wants its own way on everything. Of course their set of tricks, developed and maintained during a century of mass accumulation and cultural disarray are as effective as they are subtle; sloganeering and sound bites have long since replaced clear thinking or use of logic but I guess many would think that’s just a conspiracy theory. In any case, once you’ve been out of it for a while you can’t help notice the difference – and feel good for having been out of it.
The era of believing stuff just because it came off a screen ended abruptly for me during the days of the Iraq war protests. Involved in every one of them either as an organiser or a volunteer, I was constantly surprised at camaraderie and good natured-ness of the participants, as well as the depth and breadth of the social backgrounds of those involved, yet astonished to witness every protest be reported on the nightly news as troubled – the slant to discredit a perfectly credible activity for any healthy democracy was unmistakable. That was it, the bubble had burst.
Once the manipulations are laid bare and the repetition noted, all but the shrillest of ‘stories’ become irritations to be avoided – the latter inevitably permeating your bullshit shield just enough to remind you just how far to the fringe you’ve been pushed. You can scarce turn on the box without being slapped with the latest indignation about how ‘they’ have done us wrong, how all the conflict is caused by ‘them’ or how things are going perfectly well, despite ‘those’ findings/ reports/ theories to the contrary. The agenda setting drives me mad.
Of course, I’m perfectly prepared to entertain the idea that I am but one jaded Englander falling prey to the all too familiar misanthropy some might say is characteristic of someone in my age group; perhaps if it was possible to reconcile myself to this I might be able to let the perpetual pap wash over me as so many others seem able to. Unfortunately this is not to be. My disillusionment (in all the best connotations of the word) was complete a decade ago. These days I am as incapable of accepting the baying stories of the media at face value as I am in believing in the veracity of Ms Piggies affection for Kermit.
If I sound cynical then maybe you have fallen victim to one of the short cuts to thinking mentioned above. Branding words, such as ‘cynical’ or ‘doomer’ just foster the tendency to dismiss countering opinions based on value judgements rather than dig into the underlying facts or arguments. This is the prime strategy of mainstream media. Their worn out way of taking complex facts and blanching them down in to simple yes/ no, right/ wrong binaries makes them banal shadow plays prevents serious engagement with what’s really going on.
Maybe I should just turn it off? I certainly agree but whilst I might ignore the messenger some of the messages desperately need proper attention. As already mentioned, boiling everything down creates inertias in thought that become impossible to break; more to the point the conclusions are as fatuous as they are insidious. An armed man walks in to a café and shoots people, band about words like ‘terror’ and ‘jihad’ and you instantly associate a troubled individual with a wider current of manipulative thought that these days portrays one of the desert god religions as oppositional to everything right thinking people should stand for. An eccentric, middle aged man lives alone and with the right combination of suspicion and allegation he is but one more of the shadowy and extensive underworld that lives to predate our children. You get the picture. Both of these scenarios deserve illumination of the far wider context within which they are drawn from but they’re shaped to appeal to the base emotions; fear, suspicion, separation. A picking of the proverbial scab.
Just at the time we need to utilise the tools and methods built up over the last several decades by media and advertising – proven techniques that can and do shape opinion – we squander them on a litany of banality and fictions rolled out to reinforce negative and limiting ideologies. At a time when distrust in the dominant minority has never been greater, a time when a whole host of crises are converging and when we find ourselves on the edge of profound change, we’re pounded with reports of who’s doing who, who’s screwing who, who’s plotting against who.
Not wishing to pursue a debate on whether or not there are any merits to being exposed to a mainstream media at all, there’s still the question of what should be done to counteract this toxic tide whilst we’re exposed to it? Think of who decides what is newsworthy and who might benefit from a particular ‘story’ would be a good place to start; try getting out and talking to real people – there’s a diverse and interesting population in this country and we can all teach other a thing or two; don’t believe a single word you hear.