another article on where the media is headed has totally fucked me off – this time it is the article published in overland (‘progressive culture since 1954’) entitled ‘the end of a world, an elegy for the newspaper’ by jonathan green.
the online version is here: http://overland.org.au/previous-issues/issue-208/feature-jonathan-green/
i had to look up what elegy means: a lament for the dead.
he gives an outline of the various reasons for the decline of ‘quality’ newspapers: subscribers dying while the young were less interested/more interested in crap, the entry of television news, general decline in advertising dollars (including classifieds) due to new media — but he is at pains to reject the apparently common claim that the internet was solely to blame for stealing the classifieds from the newspapers.
he talks about the slide the more reputable newspapers took as they attempted to attract advertising dollars with all their bullshit ‘lifestyle’ shit.
he aptly points out that ‘in the commercial mind, journalistic content is either the plaster between the ads or something tailored specifically at attracting them.’
the whole story is told as if the more progressive elements of the corporate media were amazing institutions that held together the conscience of the people from the middle of the eighteenth century — capital working for the good, standing up for the unadulterated truth and the little guy, as capital always does.
he talks about the way the papers used to simply chronicle events as accurately and comprehensively as possible, we are instructed to ‘think on that’ (i wasn’t thinking at all as i read the article up to that point, but after he said that i really flexed my brain muscle) — the myth of unbiased coverage alive and well in the mists of time, the selection of items and the framework of their explanation totally devoid of value, the good ol’ days.
after confirming that all newspapers will die, he goes on to talk future – this is where i transition from typically-grumpy to especially-pissed-off.
he praises the internet for it’s variety of quality content (if we know where to find it), but says that with a lack of a generally shared focal point, something is missing – no shit, a coherent and appropriately moderated public sphere is missing, a sensible arbitrator to filter out bullshit, elevate goodshit, demand an ideology-defined and fact-based approach to issues, something to set a sane agenda and framework for political discussion that will equally serve all members of our global citizenry.
he hopes that somehow a strong body of public opinion will form due to the free flow of quality information, but concedes that the internet is amazing at providing support for any belief or prejudice, regardless of the unimportant truth.
then he goes on to talk about how no business model can deliver what we need (what he thinks newspapers have delivered in the past): fact-focussed institutions that serve the public interest.
then this: ‘public broadcasting might be a partial answer, but only if it survives the coming challenge from desperate private media who see it not as a publicly funded adjunct to the fourth estate, but as competition funded by fiat rather than public preference.’
after the catalogue of problems with having the media tied up with business (capitalist) pressures, after seeing that the business (capitalist) model for quality media is totally non-existent, after admitting that any quality journalism that happened to find its way into our newspapers was more of a brief, happy co-incidence than a product of a sound business model, he says ‘public [media]* might be a partial answer’, fuck me, it’s the only possible answer, a logical demand of the theory of democracy, and this is an intelligent progressive talking.
in my mind there couldn’t be anything more plain as fucking day, but no ‘progressive’ prick seems to see (or want to say) what we have stupidly been lacking since we started this democracy shit and what remains as necessary today as it ever was: a public-fucking-trust media system to define our mainstream, mandated to serve the public that fund it and separated into cross-scrutinising entities.
the democratic structure of society has many essential elements, the basic institutional ones are these:
– the executive, the legislative and the public service (the fucking elected members of parliament, their administration and the ‘legislating’ they fucking do on our behalf)
– the fucking justice system trying to stop/help people from being cunts to other cunts**, in accordance with the legislation of our elected representatives.
– the public-fucking-trust media who keep all the shit honest, inform us of all the shit we need to know and provide a platform for sensible public discourse that can help us decide what we want to demand our m.-fucking-p.’s to do.
(i refuse to remove all these fucking swears retrospectively, once i’ve finished and calmed down, note to future editing fucking self)
when we readily accept that we (the public) have to pay for the operations of government and the justice system, why are we so stupid to think that the media will work itself out if we just trust it to ‘the market’ (that is, to the enemies of those ridiculously unprofitable concepts, ‘democracy’ and ‘justice’)?
why don’t we just trust the justice system to the (ever efficient) market as well? we can all hire our own justice service providers like we do our internet service providers — that should be unproblematic.
let’s privatise members of parliament too, we should all have to pay politicians to represent our views in parliament, that’ll cut the public cost of paying wages to parliamentarians and ensure those lazy/poor bums don’t get a say even better than our present system does.
this is so ridiculous it feels like a bad dream.
jonathan green almost seems to blame the public for being unwilling to pay for the quality journalism we need in a democracy, rather than seeing this as another reason that we need a publicly-funded, public-trust ‘fourth estate’, he just instructs us to ‘think on that’ once again, i guess we are supposed to realise how horrible we are and how hopelessly idiotic all ideas of democracy have been because we are just a bunch of celebrity-gossip-scoffing tight-arses.
(a shit analogy: if we lived in a society of ill-health and obesity because junk food and trashy video entertainment houses were completely free and readily available, yet there was a considerable cost for every form of exercise and healthy food, would we say that our society deserves it’s ill-health, or would we just change things?)
i think if you stripped the public/tax/government funding of the police force and made paying police fees a voluntary expense that was not billed, but had to be paid on the initiative of the individual, you would probably see many money-stressed people (the majority?) neglect to chase them down and pay them, does that mean none of us value justice and we are all horrible cunts? of course it fucking doesn’t, it just means we have a tendency to selfishly cut financial corners if given the easy opportunity, and policy has to make up for that.
while there is free-to-air*** corporate television and other cheap sources of escapist corporate entertainment for the reasonably-disillusioned public to consume (all of it so titillating and unburdensome), getting the public to voluntarily fund a decent ‘fourth estate’ (broad, mainstream-defining and global-justice/democracy-driven) made up of independent and totally noble businesses is going to be impossible — should we think on that??
the global rich aren’t going to pay for it (unless we force them, as we should), they’re arseholes that benefit from the present situation, and the global poor can’t afford it – but don’t worry, the global middle/professional-class ‘liberals’ will keep their civilised (expensive) magazines on their civilised (expensive) coffee tables within their civilised (expensive) houses and just keep rolling along with the whole horrible show (if only others were as smart, compassionate and politically engaged as they are).
this magazine, overland, proudly displays a criticism from a conservative prick newspaper on its back cover that says overland is ‘one of australia’s loopy-left little magazines’, if even the ‘loopy-left’ isn’t loopy enough to imagine the proper provision of democratic media systems, who the fuck will? (apart from crazy ol’ magee, scribbling alone in his prison cell, slowly sliding into a comforting madness).
i can hardly bring myself to reiterate or further impress what i am saying, it is so fucking clear, open your fucking mind eye and you’ll see without me having to say anything, please…. please…. please….
i feel compelled to offer excuses for jonathan green, perhaps because i don’t want to believe his life in journalism has left him so totally acceptant of the tragically inept/deliberately destructive media his generation is landing the next with through their lack of vision.
one thing i’ve noticed about professional types (even the ‘progressive’ ones) is that they are often shit scared to do/say anything slightly controversial, let alone ‘radical’, it can be death to their careers and conservative reputations, which they hold with an overvalued importance.
also, green works for the australian broadcasting corporation (unfortunate name, they should have stayed a commission), for him to come out and say public media should be expanded, globalised and constitutionalised would bring a shit-storm down on him that only a mad(hu)man would bring on his/herself.
jonathan green seems to me like the sort of experienced journalist with integrity (one who understands the critical importance of the media in democracy) that should have an influential say on how a global liberal media system would be best constituted (although his seeming belief in the unimpeachable quality and social-democratic utility of broad-sheets of old is cause for some concern), it breaks my heart that he offers no hope for the future of media, just romantic histories and alarmist statements about coming challenges to the inadequate public media we do currently have.
i guess if i can do anything to help this situation of terminal ignorance/avoidance amongst establishment progressives it’ll be to fill the role of first crazy-cab off the rank, after i’ve thoroughly messed myself with the public espousal of my eccentric views (if i can actually achieve any blip of disturbance to the normal run the public sphere), the civil society of respectable-job-havers can then perhaps actually broach the subject (having a context to do so without having to commit the unthinkable and raise the issue themselves).
what i’d really find refreshingly and hearteningly realistic would be a public acceptance from journalists of integrity that the progressive/capitalist print media (you know you’re in trouble when your concept is an oxymoron), while much better than the majority of mainstream corporate shit, acted to set a ‘sane/respectable’ limit on progressive thought (which prevented it from being truly progressive) and was largely composed of well-off, ‘liberal-minded’ folk self-congratulating within a relatively isolated clique of western hypocrites (the global ‘political’ class) as everything slid backward through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s (thanks corporate mainstream).
the progressive/capitalist print media wasn’t progressive enough, did at least as much damage as it did good and definitely wasn’t the sort of thing we should look back on with rose-tinted lenses — if it was so fucking fantastic, why are we where we are now?
perhaps the bottom line is that journalists with any idea of journalistic integrity who have spent much of their working lives in the corporate media are not going to want to admit that what they did was just kinda shit — working in the “lefty-control” division of the corporate media that presided over a period of significant democratic stagnation and decay (not that democracy was ever too healthy).
we also need to consider that there is a reason the people who work within the progressive/corporate media do so for so long — they actually believe they are totally free to report as they wish because their views on what is appropriate largely coincide with what the news establishment wants — a gentle chiding of those in power and a general defence of our ‘democratic’ systems (which would work if only those inbred proles would wake up).
if the radical political changes necessary in our fucked-up times are going to be realised, the mainstream needs to become truly progressive — the circle-jerk of cashed-up ‘liberals’, effectively blaming the unwashed masses and seeing everyone’s faults but their own, wasn’t even close to what we need (which is of course, a progressive, global, (truly)liberal media system, accountable to universal democracy and justice above all else).
* he said public broadcasting, not media, probably because the public media has historically only done television/radio broadcasting (they are on the internet now though of course), but future media institutions, public or not, will operate on multiple platforms (all via the internet eventually probably): print (type?), audio, audio/visual, smellovision, funkatromitor and shaswooosi.
** of course, the prison system (the prison-industrial complex) is totally fucked (watch as australia privatises and expands it’s prisons along the american model), and it should progress toward the kind of system that prison abolitionists advocate (shit name, maybe prison-minimalising-addressers-of-root-cause-societal-ills would be a better, if not slightly cumbersome, name for them)
*** of course, we all pay for free-to-air television, the companies that fund free-to-air (by paying to get air-time for their toxic advertisements) do so with their surplus of misappropriated public funds, we pay financially, then we pay politically, then we keep on paying until our descendants receive the bill of a totally fucked planet.