Does the election of Donald Trump and Brexit mean that we have passed the high-water mark of media control?

The way that lots of people think is nowadays being shaped more by social media and web-based news provision than by traditional media, writes Christopher Goff.

The vibe that Britain's state broadcaster, the BBC, gave out on the day after Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 US Presidential Election gave me a feeling of déjà vu. It felt just like the vibe the organization gave out following the decision of the British people to leave the EU. And how would I best describe this vibe? Well, like the vibe the BBC would give out if the Queen were to have died.

BBC TV presenters didn't even have to say anything to give out this vibe. You could see it in their demeanour and you could see it in their faces. And as for those BBC presenters you couldn't actually see, meaning the ones on radio, you could detect this vibe in the tone of their voices. On the day after Donald Trump's election victory I happened to be listening to one such presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live, called Emma Barnett. I found it quite extraordinary how just through the tone of her voice she could manage to convey such a powerful sense of disappointment, while the fact that nearly all of the people who guested on her show and with whom she discussed Donald Trump's election victory loathed the guy came as much less of a surprise. I would add that under normal circumstances I just can't bear to listen to the whinings of this particular Orthodox Jew, but of course in terms of the news it was a special day.

While Britain's broadcast media continues to be heavily influenced by Marxist dogma, the situation is a little different in the case of the print media. Britain's second best-selling daily newspaper, the centre-right Daily Mail, is a notable exception to the rule. The newspaper is part of the Daily Mail and Trust Group (DMTG), a multi-national media and information business whose Chairman and controlling shareholder is a certain Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere. The Daily Mail phenomenon is an interesting one. It is the only British newspaper whose female readership comprises more than 50% of its demographic, while at the same time it carries with it a whiff of stigma that the liberal-Establishment really doesn't like – one of the co-founders of the Daily Mail, the 1st Viscount Lord Rothermere, Harold Harmsworth, was a friend of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, while at around the same time the newspaper was said to have been editorially sympathetic to Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists.

Recently, the Daily Mail has come under attack from the UK-based Stop Funding Hate group which targets those media outlets it says 'spread hate' – the Daily Mail's coverage of the migrant crisis in Europe is something which has met with the particular disapproval of this, well, disapproving bunch of migrant-loving liberals. Stop Funding Hate has recently claimed as one of its successes the supposed termination of a business arrangement that the children's toy company Lego had with the Daily Mail, while in response the newspaper said that their arrangement with Lego had in any case come to a natural conclusion. People who oppose the activities of Stop Funding Hate say that the calling for commercial boycotts is something which in itself could be described as 'hateful' – the Nazis were quite good at organizing boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses in 1930s Germany – however, this thinking seems not to have entered into the consciousness of one of the BBC's most favourite and well-paid sons, the simple-minded Gary Lineker, who tweeted in support of what he seems to have thought was Lego's premature termination of the business deal it had with the Daily Mail on account of the activities of the Stop Funding Hate group.

The election of Donald Trump and before that Britain's vote to leave the European Union have had the effect of 'showing some media organizations for exactly what they are'. Whenever media organizations say that an election result was 'unexpected' – as lots of media organizations did in the wake of both Donald Trump's election victory and Britain's vote to leave the EU  – we now know what these organizations actually mean is that 'the result was not the one we wanted'. And while the frustration felt by media organizations following 'unexpected' election results is most usually very perceptible, these organizations are always careful to couch their frustration in terms of 'The electorate was misled' or, and here's my favourite, 'The [winning] campaign was based on lies'. Media-types, you see, are acutely aware of the importance of not biting the hand that feeds, at least not too hard that is. Of this, UK-based readers of this article will know that the BBC is funded by a licence fee levied against every TV-owning household in the country – a lucrative arrangement which you can imagine the BBC does not want to see changed.

But who exactly have the controlled media organizations been blaming for the recent spate of 'unexpected' election results? In the case of Brexit, the right-wing press was widely blamed for 'spreading lies' in the run up to the referendum, while many an independent observer will tell you that both sides were as guilty as each other in this respect. And, of course, only an imbecile would in this modern age expect electioneering to be wholly based on truth. In the aftermath of the 2016 US Presidential Election, mainstream media organizations both in the US and elsewhere were quick to blame the new generation of independent web-based news providers, and also the new social media platforms, for Donald Trump's 'unexpected' electoral victory. While most of the people reading this will have heard of the left-wing news website The Huffington Post, I think not as many might have heard of its right-wing counterpart, The Daily Caller. Launched in 2010 and after reportedly raising $3 million in funding from conservative businessman Foster Friess, the The Daily Caller news and opinion website has not only very quickly grown into a credible rival to The Huffington Post, but also into a respected alternative to the more well-established news providers from the US print and broadcast sectors. Indeed, The Daily Caller, along with a number of other independent news and opinion websites, amongst them Breitbart News, are thought to have been instrumental in helping Donald Trump win the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Social media websites, and in particular Twitter and Facebook, have also come under attack for their role in helping to create 'unexpected' election results. On 15 November, 2016, The Daily Caller, in an article titled 'Twitter Initiates Mass Purge of Prominent Alt-Right Accounts Following Trump Victory', reported that Twitter had conducted a mass purge of accounts associated with the alt-right movement in the US just a week after Donald Trump's election victory, including the account of Richard Spencer, President and Director of the leading alt-right think-tank, the National Policy Institute. Not only did Twitter terminate Spencer's personal account, but it also suspended the National Policy Institute’s official account as well as the one associated with its online magazine, the Radix Journal. The ban came into force the same day that Spencer was appearing on The Daily Show, a highly popular news satire and talk show in the US, and also on National Public Radio. Speaking to The Daily Caller, Spencer called the unprecedented purge of Twitter accounts "corporate Stalinism".

Without question, one of the most important roles in Donald Trump's election victory was the one played by social media. BuzzFeed News Reporter Charlie Warzel wrote of the influence of Twitter in the 2016 US Presidential Election in an article of his titled 'Facebook and Twitter Didn't Fail Us This Election', and which appeared on the BuzzFeed website on 11 November, 2016:–

"As a megaphone for political discourse, Twitter was vital to the campaign of President-Elect Donald Trump, who used 140 character missives to bypass the press, rake in earned media, program cable news talking points and rally supporters. The result was the empowerment of the insurgent political movement of the alt-right who, through a co-ordinated effort of trolling and online organization, drove enthusiasm and momentum against the establishment and for Trump".

And in Warzel's highly informed analysis of the role played by social media in getting Donald Trump elected, he explained just how well the likes of Facebook and Twitter had lived up to their billing as vehicles for social change:–

"Throughout the fifteen-month election slog, Facebook, Twitter and the social platforms we live on functioned exactly as designed – rapidly disseminating information, providing a real-time look into the pulse of the nation. Throughout the cycle and almost without exception they were reflective of the national mood and elevated a political movement by giving voice to a previously unheard constituency – just as the [social media] companies had hoped they would. Argument, opinion, ideology – all these things were amplified widely and powerfully across Twitter, Facebook and places like Reddit. In the end, these platforms worked exactly as their founders intended – just on behalf of a group they didn’t see coming with views that many who worked on their development are now struggling to come to terms with".

Paradoxically, many of those technically gifted individuals who were at one time at the forefront of using the Internet in their attempts to unleash the spirit of free speech are now amongst some of the most vociferous advocates for its censorship. Recent history – and I am thinking here in particular of the Arab Spring – has shown us that the groups which typically exploit free speech the most are the groups to which free speech has been denied the most. Indeed, this should hardly need stating. In response to this assertion however, there are some who might say that it is more probably just a case of the political left not being able to exploit social media as good as the right, but this is not true. Freedom only benefits those to which freedom has been denied, and while the left has never been denied free speech mainstream media organizations have routinely denied free speech to groups and individuals on the political right. Furthermore, I even think it true to say that the left has absolutely nothing to gain from the increase in free speech which the Internet brings. For the left, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are a losing game – like a fruit machine they can pay into, but can never beat – and the recent purge of alt-right accounts in a cynical attempt to buck the free speech ideal on which the social media platforms were founded only serves to support this analysis.

News provision used to be the preserve of a small number of very large and powerful media organizations, but now it's different. Media commentators these days talk in fascinating terms of how the traditional media has been 'delegitimized' by the growth in web-based news provision and social media. A new age has truly dawned, and one in which the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit have become powerful tools of expression. Indeed, the political left is not oblivious to this development and there is underway a concerted effort to try to censor and control the new media platforms in much the same way that the left still manages to censor and control the old media platforms. The creation by the left of the concept of 'hate speech' is one of the more recent manifestations in its campaign to try and silence people whose opinions they don't like, while in response those on the political right and who support freedom say that 'hate speech is free speech'. In the old days, the loathsome creatures who opposed freedom had a much easier time of things by distrupting right-wing political meetings, marches and paper sales, and by denying anyone with what they called 'controversial' views access to the mainstream media, but now the dynamic has changed and the new battleground has become the Internet.

We should expect a future where the left agitates for greater legal oversight of the Internet, increased levels of Internet censorship and the bringing of increased numbers of prosecutions against those which it accuses of being responsible for 'hate speech'. The age-old dynamic where those on the political right speak truth and offer reason, while their opponents on the left try to silence them, will continue. Marxists will try to disguise this strategy in what they might phrase as their 'responsibility not to allow the distribution of hateful views', but we know their game by now. It's a game they've been playing for years.

Copyright © Christopher Goff
Tag: Media Control
Uploaded: 30 November, 2016.