And it’s the opposite of what Gil Scott-Heron prophesised, no individual empowerment going on here. Still, on a more humorous note, there’s a line in ‘The comeback’ by Alex Cameron in which he assumes the predicament of a washed up TV show host – ‘they say the kids are done with television, and it aint getting a second chance’.
TV’s not done yet. I mean, how else do we explain the continuing popularity of the woeful Conservative party?
There are digital alternatives now, but television still holds an undeniable sway over western culture. Future generations are being weaned on to it as the majority still cleave to it as the entertainment medium of choice. The programming on it still holds an inordinate influence over the daily schedules of many lives, and it shapes our attitudes on various social and political issues.
To paraphrase someone much smarter than me, there is no such thing as absolute truth, and perception is the only reality that counts. In the realm of media this allows facts to be replaced by opinions. Politics has always been mostly about perception, about how you sound, about what you’ll claim to do in power. But now, due to the utterly deplorable and sycophantic style of mainstream television journalism that now prevails, reporting, or parroting a perception, is always favoured over presenting facts or forensically challenging a political narrative, because it’s just easier.
I’m well-adjusted these days, no honestly, so it’s difficult to make me angry, but the dreadful BBC News’ reporting of the unelected Tory leader Theresa May’s ‘campaigning’ in the lead up to this snap general election has brought on the fume. Her avoidance of any possible sources of mainstream media scrutiny, hiding from the public, unless it’s in a controlled environment with her sympathizers and their vetted fluff questions, is being presented as normal democratic process. It is wholly indicative of the contempt they have for their audience. I don’t go for the ‘Illuminatus!’ angle that everything’s potentially a conspiracy theory, but watch any of the BBC’s political output and it becomes impossible not to feel you’re being cheated on purpose.
Part of my anger stems from defending the BBC’s right to state funding during the last Independence referendum in 2014. It’s a massive and diverse organisation of which its News division is only a fraction so the argument went. But, you know what? It’s gotten worse since. It’s betraying us. Remove its taxpayer funding. The BBC’s arrangement takes the premise of The Social Contract and pisses on it from a height. Saying that the reporting on other channels/networks is just as mendacious isn’t a good excuse.
It behoves the BBC News to be partisan to the government by regurgitating its slogans, not because they think it’s what people want to hear, or need to hear, but because affirming the self-interest of the taxpayer which funds it, a societal value which is currently popular going by recent voting patterns, is the easier choice. Forms of contrarianism, be it satire, challenging the validity of a consensus or just sheer research on claims made, requires the effort of ingenuity and commitment. A lack of integrity encourages the loudest most repetitive voice to win. It’s why that cunt Nigel Farage is always on the News or fucking Question Time. The ‘Safe and stable’ label and May’s scripted lines are left unchallenged, and every day you know what you’re getting on the news – a series of faulty, half-baked perceptions; the dreadful Laura whatsherface jabbering on about what it means, a story of yet another foiled terror attack here or one in the Middle East, replete with a jus of xenophobia ‘that it makes us less safe’ to enrich Brexit’s appeal. There are segments with Mark Carney using a combination of hand movements and ‘dumbed down’ euphemisms to predict interest rates and the economy. Often there’s a report on the NHS going over budget again – with the included privatisation is the answer subtext lingering as subtlety as a massive dogshite festering on the pavement – usually accompanied by statistics which can always be massaged in a big fuck off pie chart sans any meaningful context.
Even reporting of Dickensian struggles; zero hour contracts, foodbank use, benefit sanctions and rape clauses – if it’s reported at all (and the last barely was) ‘for balance’ and ‘to keep it real’ are cynically posited to encourage a ‘be thankful’ complacency because they have little continuity with most of the audience’s everyday existence. This subliminal message is created by the starkness of the contrast in which it is delivered, it comes to you from a state-of the art, sanitised studio, to match the decadence of your open-plan living space, or maybe just your safe place, and you’re liable to be watching it on a Full HD obscenely widescreen screen. It helps to create the impression that things aren’t that bad for you, and they probably aren’t. Those afflicted are still, for now, the minority, and that’s considered political success. It’s the end result, not what it costs (others), that counts. We’ve still never had it so good.
Perhaps we should consider why the illogical juxtaposition, as shown above, happens. Unless you live in Scotland, an alternative that’s perceived as credible is lacking. There are several reasons to hate Tony Blair, but the current demonisation of the Labour party, both internally and externally, is another egregious element of his legacy. Blairism was a net positive, but television documented his sickening hubris so vividly that it’s made Labour’s brand of kinder centralism toxic, as it became synonymous with that erroneous and disastrous foray into Iraq.
Today, the only way to find out what’s really happening, and who’s doing what, is to do your own research. Most folk are up to their eyes in it just trying to get by, under constant pressure due to austerity and inflation with stagnant wages. Being in this position means I can empathise with those who choose the complicity of self-interest which the media encourages. Cop-out on your sofa and channel hop after the headlines have piously roared at you of the need to ‘take back control’, who wouldn’t? Many young folk are so disenfranchised by the tone of political debate that they can’t even be bothered to register to vote, and the disingenuous, biased or inaccurate reporting on televised news betrays the older voting demographic the most, as it’s often their only source of news.
People aren’t naïve; deep down they know they’re being cheated, but most of us don’t know how to change it. Suitably, I don’t have a solution. Voting Yes in the next Independence referendum (should there be one) feels like a start, but I do know that hiding out on Twitter and retweeting a satirical comparison between Alan Partridge and Theresa May is ineffective and apathetic.
Sadly, being politically aware on the net is a bit of a fruitless pratfall. Internet congregations on forums, Facebook and Twitter, are still relatively small affairs, and they’ve now supplanted equally meagre Union meetings as the de facto place to fight the power of tabloidization through venting, reaffirming confirmation bias(es) and building discontent and bitterness for those who don’t see things the right way, your way, or don’t care to see anything at all.
While social media is invaluable in affording you the chance to source your own news, isn’t it dismal that it and most political blogging largely exists to refute the misinformation on mainstream media outlets? It’s time consuming for them and for you, and reaches only a fraction of the audience of the BBC News. Our sense of helplessness, spliced with negativity, at the prospect of changing this being so distant, does in fact share similarities with the media’s propagation of our and the government’s motivations behind Brexit – ‘taking back control’ – but there the question is never posed – of fucking what?
This election will reaffirm the Brexit narrative and prove we’re fucked. We’ll have witnessed, on television, the abdication of our responsibility to think, and as such we’ve given reality over to it.