Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Facebook isn't the enemy of the mainstream press, they are their own worst enemies

The Guardian journalist Roy Greenslade has written an article entitled "Why Facebook is public enemy number one for newspapers, and journalism". It's a load of sanctimonious, hypocritical and self-pitying rubbish that casts mainstream media journalists (like Roy and his mates at the Guardian) as heroic scrutineers of the establishment, and Facebook as an evil empire that is obstructing and repressing these noble freedom fighters from doing their job of holding the powerful to account.

I don't actually mind Roy Greenslade as a journalist, he's admirably productive and I don't remember ever feeling such visceral revulsion at one of his articles before, but this particular one is appalling one-sided hogwash.

In this article Greenslade scrapes together a bunch of barely related criticisms of Facebook in order to paint himself and his kind as heroes and Facebook as the sinister threat to democratic accountability.

In isolation each of the criticisms of Facebook has some merit.

The site's appalling American prudishness over nudity is both sexist (there is simply no justification for denoting the female nipple or images of breastfeeding as offensive and not the bare male nipple) and an enabler of historical revisionism (rewriting history by repeatedly deleting perhaps the most iconic photo of the entire Vietnam war).

Facebook's reaping of its users' personal data is an obvious concern to anyone who still cares about the once fundamental, but now largely disregarded concept of the right to personal privacy.

Facebook's editorial role is also worthy of criticism. They were accused of bias in their manual selection of trending stories, then when they replaced the human team with algorithms, the bots immediately went haywire promoting all kinds of woeful gibberish to the pinnacle of the Facebook news agenda

Facebook's tax-dodging activities are well documented. But it takes a good measure of hypocrisy for a Guardian journalist to complain about it given the less than saintly tax affairs of his own stable. Using tax-dodging as a criticism when his own employer is less than squeaky clean really does hammer a great big hole in his over-simplistic "saints and sinners" narrative.

The main problem with Greenslade's "goodies and baddies" story isn't that Facebook is so good (it clearly isn't) it's that the majority of mainstream journalists are not the valiant scrutineers Greenslade paints them as. They're more often than not the repressive cognitive gatekeepers who use 
trivia, distractions, deliberate propaganda and displays of synthetic outrage in order to keep the "lower orders" well away from the ideological castles of the rich and powerful.

The Brexit vote has created a lot of uncertainty (because there was never any actual plan for what it was meant to mean), but one thing about it is absolutely certain: The public are deeply dissatisfied with the status quo. The public are crying out for a change; a shake-up; something radical and different and new.

Whether you like him or not (apparently many people don't) Jeremy Corbyn stands for something new. The most essential change Corbyn is offering is that he wants to prise open the gates of power and allow ordinary people much more access to and influence over the political system and more say in the direction of the economy.

The mainstream media hate Corbyn for this as much as the Westminster establishment club.

The political elites hate Corbyn because they're terrified that he's going to take away some of their power and influence and distribute it to the "lower orders". The mainstream press are intensely and provably biased against Jeremy Corbyn because they are simply doing their jobs as cognitive gatekeepers of the establishment order, and also because they're afraid that cognitive gatekeepers would be much less necessary in the freer and more accountable political system that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters envisage.

It's obviously wrong to paint all mainstream journalists as repressive cognitive gatekeepers because a small minority of them occasionally do a great job of holding the powerful to account. But many more of are content to do the bidding of the billionaire press barons and work tirelessly to prevent radical change by framing the spectrum of debate against it, and by presenting the public with innumerable distractions and misdirections.

The reason traditional journalism is under threat is not the power of Facebook, it's the fact that so many journalists are missing the bigger picture, or even actively working to obscure it.

People want radical change. People want an alternative to the rotten crony-capitalist status quo that has existed in the UK for the best part of four decades now. To blame Facebook because so many mainstream journalists are refusing to address this yearning for a fairer and better world is a pathetic cop-out.

The Guardian is supposedly the mainstream media bastion of the progressive liberal-left, but it's savagely biased coverage of the huge democratic socialist movement that has risen up in support of Jeremy Corbyn is abominable. How many times have they tried to portray the hundreds of thousands of people who have united behind Corbyn to demand a better, fairer system as a bunch of vile, brick-lobbing bullies and thugs? Long after the tale about the notorious brick through Angela Eagle's window was discredited as a fabrication, the Guardian carried on weaving it into their anti-Corbyn narratives. When the truth becomes irrelevant because it conflicts with the ideological agenda, then what is being presented is no longer news, it's simply propaganda.

Before social media such propaganda narratives were easy to disseminate because there was no forum for the counter argument to take place, but now these narratives can be shredded on social media within hours. Every time the mainstream press attempt to disguise inaccurate propaganda as news, the more they discredit themselves and the more demand they create for alternative news sources to expose the dishonest agendas they're pushing.

In light of all of this, a simplistic "goodies and baddies" story that casts mainstream journalists as the valiant heroes and Facebook as the sinister threat to society simply isn't good enough. The mainstream press aren't essentially good, just as Facebook isn't essentially bad.

For all of it's faults and imperfections Facebook has allowed a guy like me to reach an audience of millions without ever having appeared on the TV or even in my local newspaper. Facebook has given a public voice to the previously voiceless and it's helped the development of a vibrant alternative media that is unafraid to speak outside of the narrow mainstream spectrum of debate.

I have a feeling that this empowerment of non-conformist alternatives to the once closed shop of mainstream journalism is the underhand and unspoken objection that Greenslade and other members of the press pack have to Facebook.

In his article Greenslade even has the gall to accuse Facebook of "narrowing the news agenda" when he knows perfectly well that it's played a fundamental role in widening it and chipping away at the powerful monopolies the mainstream press barons have been allowed to build up for themselves over the decades.

Facebook is allowing ever greater numbers of people to bypass the mainstream media cognitive gatekeepers and search out independent journalists who don't have to toe the editorial line that is dictated to them by the billionaire press barons or opaque corporate owners. Perhaps that's the real unspoken reason that professional hacks like Greenslade feel so threatened by it?

The more the mainstream press continues to present dishonest propaganda as news, the greater the thirst for alternative news sources will become. Blaming Facebook for this is laughable. Facebook is simply the vector by which the alternatives are presented, the real demand for alternatives is created by the dishonesty and cravenness of mainstream journalists themselves. Facebook isn't their enemy number one, they are their own worst enemies and they don't even appear to know it.

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