Illusions and truths; Reflections on our media age

On the 4th of September 2020, protesters across the U.K. the U.S.A, and Australia blockaded the printing works of major news corporations, preventing the lorries from delivering the Sunday papers. The newspaper corporations that were blockaded are owned by just five individual people, all billionaires, principally the billionaire Rupert Murdoch. The court case which is currently underway to investigate the crime committed has been a long and interesting one. Allegedly the U.K. government’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, was on the phone to Mr Murdoch after only half an hour of the blockade having started. I’ll leave it to the courts to decide whether and to what extent the government intervened in the newspaper blockade, or has been intervening in our media in general for that matter. All I will say is that the government’s reaction to the newspaper blockade does seem somewhat over the top. It’s one of the government’s principal examples of extreme protest that they cite when defending the need for the new ‘Police, crime, sentencing and courts bill’. This bill basically makes most forms of street protests illegal by introducing measures which would greatly inhibit freedom of assembly as well as giving more powers to the police.. But what harm, when all is said and done, did the newspaper blockade do to the ordinary person on the street? So far as I can see, the only effect it had was the person behind the till at the newsagents had a quiet Sunday morning and people were deprived of their depressing daily read. Extreme protest, to me, would involve ordinary people being harmed, but what harm did the newspaper blockade do?

Image credit; Rishabh Sharma, Unsplashed

My personal story.

In my late teens my ambition was to be a journalist. I love writing and am interested in current affairs so it seemed an obvious career choice. However, since then, I’ve become disillusioned with my teenage dream. I dislike the way newspapers scapegoat ordinary people, rather than dealing with those who are truly at fault or have the power to change things. The BBC article blaming asthma sufferers for having a “carbon footprint as big as eating meat”, which I also mentioned in my blog post Ableism, is a good example. The article could easily have written it from a different angle, blaming pharmaceutical companies for not doing more to invent an effective eco-friendly inhaler for example. But no, instead the article suggests the patient should discuss their need for an inhaler with their doctor and be more efficient when using them. I’m a highly principled person. It seems that journalism and principles aren’t compatible.

Since the blockade, ‘Free the press’ has become an entire movement. This weekend (26th – 27th June) people will be taking to the streets to protest against the propaganda of the mainstream media. I wanted to write a blog post to coincide with the weekend of uprising but wasn’t sure what approach to take. It wasn’t until I was watching a recording of a video workshop in which the presenter led a visualisation into the Otherworld that an idea came to me. I was struck by the similarities between the realm of the Otherworld and the realm of the media.

Comparing the realm of the media to the Otherworld.

When I say “the Otherworld”, I mean the realm of the faerie folk (fairies, gnomes, pixies, banshees, etcetera ) which mythically lies beyond our physical one. In folk and fairy tales, this is a world of illusions. It casts ordinary mortals under a spell. It seduces and inspires, blights and harms. Just as our media does. Our media is largely composed of regurgitated illusions of events, often with little grip on tangible reality.

We’re living in an age saturated with media. Social media, online media, television media, newspapers and magazines. All readily available at our fingertips for much of the time. Therefore we’re surrounded much of the time by illusions of reality. These illusions influence our perceptions, our emotions and our opinions of our everyday world. It’s very important, when viewing any piece of media, whether that’s a Facebook post, a television programme or a newspaper article, to use our own sense of judgement to decipher it. Just as with stories of those who travel to the Otherworld, who seem to still be able to exercise their own sense of judgment whilst dealing with the faerie, so must we whilst dealing with the media.

Free the truth.

Media, by its very nature, will always be a subjective form of knowledge, a type of illusion. However it needn’t always be bad. Media, if created with knowledge and integrity, can be helpful, even a force for good. Unfortunately most of our mainstream media is written by journalists who have little knowledge of what they’re writing about. It lacks integrity even more. Corporate media is aimed at selling a story, not accurately informing its readers. More hate, more clicks, more money. We need to give media its integrity back. In tales the Otherworld could bless the ordinary, physical world with healing and blessings. So could our media, if it was freed from greed and propaganda. Social media has already been a useful asset to activists attempting to organise, connect and raise awareness of current issues. What kind of healing could a truly free press bless the planet and its people with? Potentially ushering in a new world of truth and accountability?

Find out more about the Free the press campaign at https://extinctionrebellion.uk/act-now/campaigns/free-the-press/

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