The pace and scale of the chaotic changes we are living through today is bewildering. Terrifyingly dystopian, while brimming with potential for a better world out of all the madness. Cognitive dissonance and existential angst have become near inescapable aspects of conscious life. It’s no wonder that so many people chose to remain asleep for so long. Sleep is no longer an option though. The climate has collapsed. The fascists are in charge. The sky is falling in. We are out of time.
I have been an avid spectator and supporter of alternative, independent media for most of my adult life. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, the UK’s alt media scene was then a vibrant sub culture. A smattering of local and national freesheets and websites offered windows out of the saccharin neo-liberal myopia, speaking truth to a generation of otherwise silent witnesses. I would occasionally engage in memery, art, video and music, but mostly I was just a spectator back then.
The history of the struggle for a more truthful, independent media goes way back, to well before they tried to brand it ‘fake news’. It predates Iraq, Hillsborough and Orgreave, Murdoch, Bernays and Machiavelli. Like most controversial struggles, it’s not on the prescribed curriculum but thanks to the tireless work of many digital activists and independent publishers, it is now available online…if you know what to look for.
First the internet, then smartphones with cameras and now livestreaming have been massive gamechangers in this aspect of the struggle. Today, anybody who is privileged enough to have a smartphone and an internet connection can become a source in realtime, almost anywhere. Like agent Smith from the matrix, (but hopefully with somewhat better intentions and outcomes).
The first ever TV shows were broadcast live. Videotape wasn’t invented until the late fifties, and didn’t become really affordable until the seventies. Modern livestreaming technology has been around since the late nineties. With a few notable exceptions, the ability to broadcast live video had been limited almost exclusively to corporate media until fairly recently.
By 2011, most people had livestreaming technology in their pocket. The freeflow of uncensored information and ideas online had already monumentally shifted our perceptions of ourselves and each other. The Occupy movement was arguably the first global movement which was able to see each other in realtime, uncensored, worldwide.
There has since been a massive groundswell in grassroots-led, social media powered citizen journalism, reporting on injustices being suffered all over the world, from Palestine to Syria, from Standing Rock to Preston New Road. Arguably, this groundswell is what led to the bizzare, post truth spectacle of ‘mainstream’ corporate media denouncing social media as #FakeNews…
2017 is the year that the livestreaming subculture finally started to go mainstream in the UK. Facebook launched their streaming feature in January this year, making the technology accessible to their 2 billion users. Twitch.tv, the pre-eminent videogame streaming service added an ‘IRL’ (In Real Life) streaming functionality in March.
Now, it seems that some sections of the 1%’s corporate media are finally changing too. Empowered by social media, the massive groundswell in grassroots-led citizen journalism is apparently forcing them to.
In July this year, during the BBC’s gender pay gap scandal, Sky News political correspondent, Lewis Goodall (who is a self declared comprehensive school boy), acknowledged that their whole profession’s class gap is ‘worse’.* He said: “And it’s quite unfair to single out the BBC in this regard anyway, I’m sure the pattern of private school dominance is repeated across our industry: at Sky, ITV and across Fleet Street“.
In August, Channel 4’s Jon Snow used his McTaggart lecture to tell his colleagues that they have become too far removed from ordinary people. He said that the media was “comfortably with the elite, with little awareness, contact or connection with those not of the elite” and that Grenfell had shown this lack of connection was “dangerous”.
Snow was acknowledging the media’s responsibility for the tragedy, which was so eloquently expressed by Ishmail Blagrove in the video that went viral of him telling sky news.
Last week, the BBC’s Nick Robinson whined that “guerrilla war” is being waged on the BBC. As Thomas Barlow of Real Media and the Media Fund points out, “We know why: Robinson’s not as afraid of the independent media as he is of the Murdoch press, and he shares more political and personal affinity with the tabloid press. It’s not just that he’s a Conservative, it’s that the BBC’s news agenda is largely set by the tabloid press.”
Despite the Nick Robinsons of this world, there have been acknowledgements in word and we’re slowly starting to see them in deed from factions within the ‘mainstream’ media. Channel 4, ITV, Sky, the independent, the grauniad, all seem to be accepting that they need to shape up. Social media and citizen journalism are here to stay. People are sick of corporate bullshit and they have an alternative now. Who’s going to pay to be lied to when you can access truthful, firsthand information for free? Even the Daily Fail and S*n have started to report slightly more accurately (online, if not in print).
Crossing The Streams
It is no longer unusual for corporate media to suddenly appear on independent livestreams hurriedly setting up their cameras and asking people for interviews. Yesterday, I was watching the Occupy News Network streams from the last few days’ #StopHS2 action at Colne Valley. On the last stream, 24 hours into a seven person lock-on, a journalist from ITV news turned up just as the protectors were starting to be removed. He explains that ITV are planning to do a live report that evening. Dan, the livestreamer laughed, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m already live…”
The game is changing. Livestreaming technology (and internet access generally) are levelling the battlefields for truth and justice. It is a reason to be hopeful, but we must not become complacent.
The independence referendum in Catalonia is one of the most striking recent example of how most corporate print and broadcast media are still trying to distort people’s perceptions of reality.
This photo was published with the caption: “Firemen try to hold a group of people in front of Spanish Guardia Civil officers outside a polling station in San Julia de Ramis CREDIT: LUIS GENE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES”
The firefighters were actually defending the voters from riot police who were attacking them with batons. (Again, even the S*n newspaper acknowledged the reality of the situation).
I share Craig Murray’s suspicion that “were it not for social media, UK mainstream media would have told us very little at all. This is an object lesson in how the mainstream media still seek to continue to push fake news on us in the age of citizen journalism. They no longer have a monopoly on the flow of raw information; what they can do is to attempt to distort perceptions of what people are seeing.”
Corporate media had near exclusive access to livestreaming technology when it first appeared. Today, the technology has been democratised and corporate media are playing catch up with it.
Whether this results in a more or less truthful account of our objective reality is up to us. There are at least 7 billion different ways of seeing the world. None of us have a monopoly on truth, all of us do. We don’t have to be passive, silent spectators, consuming the corrupt corporate culture which guards the status quo anymore. We can all be active, outspoken participants, creating meaningful change in our daily lives and sharing the effort with each other. In realtime.
The culture we are finally outgrowing has historically thrived on division and conflict. It is designed to pit all struggles against each other, in it’s preferred language: Violence.
We can keep getting drawn into the dominant culture’s outdated, ultrapolarised, dogmatic and combative worldview, or we can keep tuning in to real life and getting on with helping to build the other world that we all know is possible.
* It’s a shame that Lewis hung this article on the gender paygap headline, because the class gap is equally deleterious to our cultural diversity. ‘The gap’ is the fulcrum of intersectionality, not the identities of all those disenfranchised by the gap. The headline: ‘class gap is worse’ risks setting feminists against class warriors, which is unhelpful. Reading beyond the headline though, it is apparent that the author is sincere in their conviction and makes some excellent points.
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