The fact that the newly elected President of the United States of America is already at loggerheads with the media, after two days, comes as no surprise. The mass media supports and is supported by the Establishment, while Brexit yesterday, Trump today and Le Pen, tomorrow, represent a New Establishment - a new cycle in the twenty-first century.
Following the history of political representation and following the journey of the media from Town Crier to today's corporations, we see clear reasons leading to a conflict of interests.
Political players evolved from royal appointees to representatives of the aristocracy on one side and representatives of the merchant class on the other. Later on, they became representatives of the urban working people, after the Industrial Revolution and representatives of the rural and landed gentlefolk.
It was always clear where the dividing line stood between rightist policies (controlling wealth, keeping it in the hands of those who controlled the means to make or distribute capital) and leftist ones (distributing wealth and granting opportunities to those outside the ruling classes, or Establishment). As time went on, the Left won its main battles - workers' rights, the right to belong to a Trade Union, women's rights, universal education, universal healthcare, children's rights.
These battles won, and with the Left inheriting an endemic tendency to fragment itself, the Leftist movement split into a myriad of different factions, each one representing a different take on the intended direction. More and more, after the transformation of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Leftist parties became pressure groups raising issues such as rights for ethnic minorities, rights for the LGBT community, and eco-friendly policies, as the former Socialist or Labor parties moved to the policical center and from there to the right.
So today, those parties which present themselves as center-left or center-right parties are in fact reactionary political groups, some even proto-Fascist in their aims and policies, proposing social terrorism as their norm of government - destroying jobs, dismantling public services, limiting social benefits, sweeping away the workers' rights gained over the last century and creating societies which function on the medieval concept of feudalism, where the rich rule the roost and the poor stand cap-in-hand begging at the gate.
So with the political spectrum limited to two "main" political parties, both more or less proposing the same thing, the Political Establishment was formed over the last twenty years, an Establishment which managed to distance itself from the people since the major battles had been won and most people, having bread on the table, showed less interest in politics and paid more attention to the television set, and that new opium, called football/soccer, whatever. With an absence of a real opposition, and with this, an absence of political checks and balances, sleaze and corruption started to seep in until we reached the point where we are today: politicians by and large, and as a group, are disrespected, we have an "us and them" situation in which the political class is "them" and the people are "us".
And so anyone who appears from outside this Political Establishment, whatever her/his color, cause or creed, is sexy. Enter front stage Brexit and Nigel Farage, enter Donald Trump, and enter Marine Le Pen, each one with a carefully crafted political discourse which avoids economic benchmarks and therefore can appeal to elements who would normally support the political left as much as the political right. A discourse which uses as its markers and soundbites words such as "country" (in these cases, Britain, America, France) and "people", avoids economic ideology and therefore escapes being classified as a call for one particular socio-economic group. Welcome, the New Establishment.
As regards the media, after the Town Crier gave way to the news bulletin, and after this developed into newspapers, first with telegraphic news reports crammed onto four sides of a broadsheet, then developing into more complete newspapers and magazines as pages and sections were added, the many publications were swallowed up by media groups. Gone were the days when writers such as Charles Dickens made a living by serializing their books in papers such as The Morning Chronicle, in came the slave trade in the form of internee journalists, unpaid in many cases, who learnt their trade writing pieces which the editors of the newspapers classified as different, or able to attract readership.
Say hello to Page Three of the tabloids where Titty Tiffany bares her boobs as she pouts from behind a giant candyfloss holding a toffee apple in her right hand under the caption "Wanna lick?" Say hello to Spanking Sarah stories on page one, complete with pics of a Mistress in hotpants with a silver-haired Senator over her knee and a whip in her hand. And in came the paparazzi who make money from smut, prying into the private lives of celebrities and make a living from other people's misery.
Having worked in the printed and online media, having worked in daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, newspapers, magazines, books, guidebooks, pamphlets, in sport, culture, finance/economics, politics, I do know a thing or two about the media. I know, for instance, that tits n' bums makes for a wider readership than boring statistics about the state of the economy. I know that the sex life of a lawmakers' wife gets more hits than a treatise on what lies under the North Pole. It's a question of selling copies and making money and therefore it is natural that the media groups are controlled by the Establishment.
Ipso facto, someone from the New Establishment is going to be at loggerheads with the media. Unless a New Media appears. Welcome, the Social Media. And that is where Donald Trump is at.
Photo credit: By Florian Plag from Bretten - Daily News., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18973701
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.
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