In response to an FT article by Gillian Tett on 21st July 2017, entitled ‘Want to change the media? Don’t get mad — get even’
“These days, many voters seem furious with both journalists and social media. In this column last week, for example, I wrote about the tribalisation of the media. This has sparked more online reader comments than almost anything else I have written — and most of them are angry.
Amid all the emotion, what is notably lacking are proposals for a way forward. Readers and viewers say they want the media to be “less biased” and to “focus on the facts” but the problem of how to finance and organise serious non-partisan journalism for the mass market remains largely unsolved. The trouble is that partisan social media is free — and readers seem to be hungry for this. So how can we support real news when most voters keep flocking to entertaining stories that are (at best) partisan and (at worst) deliberately fake?” – Gillian Tett
If anger is what it takes to get any powerful group to pay attention – and clearly it is – then anger is what will occur.
For example, politicians of all stripes like to point to societal change as being the work of politicians, when history clearly demonstrates that the politicians of the time were usually blockages – female suffrage was not gained because of parliament – it was gained despite the prolonged resistance of the majority, and the continued horror of a significant minority. The change was gained because a few angry, determined and brave women chained themselves to railings, made a lot of noise, and frequently got locked up in jail to the cries of ‘anger doesn’t change anything’.
“Another proposal is for governments to require media companies to promote non-partisan coverage, similar to the standards that the Federal Communications Commission used to impose on television” – Gillian Tett
The idea that government is the answer, when clearly it is a huge part of the problem – is a bad joke.
For example, how many journalists sat on their hands watching the Bush administration lie through their teeth in Congress and the United Nations in order to take the US to war on fabricated and phoney evidence? We’ll probably never know, until the bravest of the bunch come clean and issue a 'mea culpa' – perhaps something like ‘Yes, I knew it was White House and State Department propaganda but I buckled under pressure from my editor, and the CIA links to the media that no-one is supposed to know about, but everyone who is paying attention does’.
Or…when Trump bombed a Syrian airbase on the basis of zero evidence, and despite the fact that a Professor at MIT challenged him on it, how many mainstream journalists raised the alarm? On the other hand, how many thought ‘Even though I hate Trump, I’ll get into a lot of trouble if I make trouble, better to keep banging on about the latest CNN line on Russia’?
Culture doesn’t change because governments dictate – culture changes when people have had enough of the status quo and challenge the agreement on ‘this is how we do things around here’ – you’re an anthropologist – you know this stuff.
You want some practical tips on how the FT can improve? Here’s one that is implicit within the anger – I’ll make it explicit:
Tell the ‘big beasts’ at the FT that the Council on Foreign Relations, the State Department and various other governmental and establishment ‘think tanks’ are not the only sources of intelligence on what is happening in the Middle East, or indeed elsewhere in the world. Remind them that the CIA has a long history of false flag operations; that lying didn’t stop with little Bush; that many of their readers seem to be far more widely read than they appear to be. Tell them that the primary duty of the fourth estate is to hold power to account, and that they patently do not meet that duty when the power in question is wearing their preferred political stripe.
Or don’t. But if you don’t, please get used to some of us being a tad angry.