In the last few days there have been a profusion of articles and blog posts designed to give a General Patton style slap in the face to world weary liberals and lefties still shuddering in shock over the events of 2016.
I am one of those liberals, bracing myself for the likelihood that 2017 is going to be even worse. This is also another 'pull yourself together, get back out there and fight dammit' article, but I'm going to try to present fellow travellers with at least one practical suggestion as to where we can concentrate our energies to begin with. First of all I will assume the following things:
* That whatever you think about Brexit, the fact that mainstream politicians openly lied and their media mogul friends helped them is deeply worrying to you.
* That you have moved beyond being deeply worried by Trump and are now simply lost for words at what America appears to have done to itself.
* The prospect of a fascist running France is nothing short of horrifying.
If you're happy with these three grounds for alarm, please read on, or alternately you can go straight to Twitter. I have written two previous blogs on fake news and the responsibility of the media in disseminating half truths and out and out lies and I am going to limit myself to talking about how to democratise the print and digital media here.
However, it is the undemocratic nature of this most powerful of forces in our lives that is in large part to blame for the above crises I have listed. Any media is supposed to be a means of transmitting important information - a nervous system for society if you will - when messages within this system become unclear, corrupted, misleading or false there are predictably disastrous results.
British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin famously spoke of the media's 'power without responsibility' and up until quite recently every mass media system from the British print media to Google itself was exactly that, a vast accumulation of market power and wealth, largely unaccountable and able to shrug off most forms of governmental regulation.
The declining circulation of Britain's daily and weekly newspapers has placed their proprietors for the first time in an uneasy and vulnerable position, as pressure on their budgets also comes from groups like Stop Funding Hate, who successfully campaigned Lego to drop its advertising with the Daily Mail. This forced disinvestment is the first indication that, contrary to what their owners might believe post Brexit, the tabloid press is not at the zenith of its power and has a vulnerability.
The extreme rhetoric of the press is clearly starting to make some leading brands feel uncomfortable. However, even if the Mail and the Express began to tone down their relentless immigrant bashing, the damage that 30 years of myth making about the EU has done to public debate on the subject cannot be undone, so when the cost of living in 2017 begins to spiral and the fantasies that the Brexit press have spun begin to evaporate, there must be an equivalent reckoning.
Shoppers who sees their cost of living spiral should write, post haste, to the producers of their favourite consumer goods and urge them to pull advertising from the worst offending Brexit papers, if they cannot be trusted to inform readers that their leave votes will lead to inflation and deliberately mislead, do they deserve to continue trading at all?
This action will not happen spontaneously, instead we must point out the link between tabloid mendacity and falling living standards until we are hoarse; remember, endlessly repeating something can have immense power and the Mail et al know this all too well. In June, when people as why coffee is five pounds a jar? The answer we must cry in unison should be 'because of Paul Dacre and Richard Desmond, that's why'.
Previously anti racism groups have valiantly attempted to counter the pernicious bigotry of the Mail, Express and the Sun through boycotting campaigns, but a far greater demographic is the public itself. As private corporate entities, newspaper groups are responsible only to their shareholders and have a fiduciary duty to produce dividends, so this is the most reliable method of forcing some popular control over unaccountable newspapers post Brexit. Make them poorer by threatening a boycott of their advertisers and the culture of the press will dramatically change. Or they'll die out.
The spread of fake news via Google, Facebook and other social media is a separate but related issue and I will be returning to this later in the week to discuss how we might apply democratic control there as well.