Friday, May 27, 2011

 

27-7 Media Has Not Helped US Move Towards More Mature Democracy

I thought Rachel Cooke in the Observer made some good points about the current state of the media. Our high pressure, constantly alert media has not really brought democracy any real benefits so far. Rather, it seems to have induced an oddly volatile tendency to over-react. So someone floats a worthy idea but on a controversial subject and a huge roar goes up, with the media seeking out protest from every conceivable quarter. Ken Clarke's comments on rape are a good example. What he said, admittedly a little clumsily, was not really controversial, I think he was genuinely trying to start a conversation leading to the overhaul of a penal system which expensively fuels its own problems.

The result was a huge tsunami of condemnation from feminists, liberal pressure groups and, with The Sun to the fore, the hang em and flog em right-wing law and order brigade, Sir Herbert Gusset et.al. as Private Eye would characterise it. As Cooke asks:

Where did this new taste for taking offence come from? How is it that we have grown to like it so much that we're willing deliberately to misunderstand the Ken Clarkes of this world the better to give ourselves the opportunity to huff and to puff and to ring Nicky Campbell? I'm damned if I know.

The result, of course, is that new ideas tend to be dropped and new ones not even raised by thoughtful politicians, for fear of the collateral damage. It's precisely the wrong atmosphere in which to float new ideas. Maybe it's because the print media are in decline and seek out controversy to boost flagging sales? Almost certainly that's a factor but such spikes in sales I suspect will only prove a temporary blip in the downward trajectory. The new media however, just seem to be obsessed with anything which has a sniff of sensation about it, the better to fill up cyberspace with protesting posts and tweets. One is led, inescapably, to the conclusion that bloggers and twitterers just need to get a proper life.

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