“The press is the hired agent of a monied system, and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where their interests are involved.”
– Henry Adams
I’ve always found myself at odds with the modern day mass media. I struggle to imagine why millions of people choose tripe like The Sun and the Daily Mail as their paper of choice, to inform them of what’s going on in the world. But it doesn’t just confuse me, it scares me. The modern day mass media doesn’t inform, it shapes people’s opinions and turns individuals against one another. It may be the poor, women, Muslims or immigrants – but you can be sure that at some point a minority is in the iron sights of some low-life journalistic hack working for a tabloid. The contemporary mass media is a disease, and it needs to be dealt with.
I can already hear the cries of “Stalinist” or “fascist!” in the distance, but hear me out. I’m not in any way extremist – I believe wholeheartedly in liberty and freedom, which is why I am so disgusted by the mass media. It doesn’t allow for freedom of thought – if you disagree with their position, you are some sort of outcast from society; if you don’t conform to their views, then prepare to be ruthlessly criticised in a medium that millions of people read and labelled with some moronic term like ‘Cultural Marxist’ or ‘Leftist’. It’s worryingly totalitarian how the media influences the minds of so many people and turns them to hate – looking at some Daily Mail comment sections, especially articles on immigration, wouldn’t be very different from attending a Ku Klux Klan rally with comments such as ‘We don’t want you here!’ receiving thousands of up-votes. Look at some papers during election time – how open some are about their political affiliation is distressing, with papers like The Sun proudly touting slogans like “In Cameron We Trust” during the 2010 election in huge font on the front page, then having whole spreads devoted to tearing down a political party in particular that they don’t like. Look at Benefits Street; it’s almost like a megaphone for Iain Duncan-Smith, turning people against the poor by highlighting extreme examples and making them seem like the norm, vilifying the worst off. It’s hard to think that we let this pass by and not care. I thought the whole point of democracy was an informed electorate, making a choice over who they would like to govern them. But instead it’s almost like a bunch of sheep straying blindly into a booth to vote for whichever politician the media moguls takes a liking to.
If anyone has read Orwell’s 1984, or Huxley’s Brave New World, one can draw many similarities to the mass media of today. In 1984 for instance, the ‘proles’ (working classes) are kept subjugated to constant supplies of mindless entertainment, such as pornography, that keep them from realising that they live in an oppressive nation and rising up. Obviously, I’m not saying we live in Airstrip One – but the fact we can draw similarities with Big Brother’s control over the proles to our Mass Media’s influence over the populous is terrifying in itself. Brave New World also draws a similar line, although it’s not as openly oppressive – Huxley imagines a dystopian future where mass entertainment has blinded the population. I find it more distressing than 1984 however, because I have a feeling it’s where we, as a society, are heading. Huxley feared that information and intellectual pursuits would be drowned out in a sea of irrelevance – news wouldn’t be banned, nor books – but people wouldn’t read them or inform themselves, they’d instead let unimportant trivial matters wash over them. We are a society controlled by the distractions in Huxley’s novel. Now glance over at the Daily Mail’s website – is it usually information about International Affairs? Science? Things that actually matter? No. Usually it’s which celebrity managed to gain enough cognitive functioning to waltz over to a plastic surgeon and throw obscene amounts of money at them to look freakishly inhuman, or which pop singer managed to string a sentence together. We devote columns upon columns to this drivel, yet millions suck it up every day – like Huxley wrote, we are drowning ourselves in distractions, not looking at what really matters.
But, what’s the worst problem with the contemporary media? The tools it uses, and what effects it has. Richard Littlejohn – if you don’t know him, he’s essentially what every journalist should strive not to be – for instance picked out a teacher, Lucy Meadows, who was undergoing sexual reassignment surgery. For reasons beyond me, he found issue with this and devoted an entire article to the poor woman, shaming her for the entire world to see. Effectively, he was creating a metaphorical lynch mob, with cretins rallying around him under the banner of bigotry. What happened to Lucy Meadows you ask? She committed suicide. The tabloid press drove someone to take their own life, because they saw the poor woman as different – somehow being transgender would hamper pupils according to Littlejohn. It astounds me how the man kept his job, and how he isn’t on trial for manslaughter. But the mass media have done many other immoral deeds – hacking the phones of soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan, or deleting texts off the phone of dead teenager Milly Dowler to keep the parents in hope that she was still alive, allowing the tabloids to keep the story going and keep on rolling in money. Is that what journalism has devolved to? Earning a quick buck at the expense of grieving parents or dead servicemen?
To conclude, I ascribe to George Orwell’s journalistic philosophy – it’s printing“what somebody else doesn’t want to be printed”. Journalism and the mass media should inform the citizenry about what the people in power are doing, keeping us clued-up on global affairs, even if the government doesn’t want us to. It isn’t about forcing views upon people however, turning them into pigs, ready to have tripe fed to them at will. It isn’t about turning people against one another to ensure the paper sells and it certainly isn’t about driving people to kill themselves to produce a controversial, but widely viewed article. The mass media should inform and educate, not coerce and oppress freedom of thought. One only hope that people wake up and realise this, as we are already on track to become Huxley’s World State. The most important weapon in the world is education, and it’s fundamental to a healthy democracy that its population knows what’s going on. Papers like The Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail aren’t doing this, and it’s sending us hurtling towards a very bleak future.
By Rory Claydon