Saturday, 12 November 2016

2016 - the year journalism died.

I know I am far from alone in lamenting the crassness of the media. I will mark 2016 as the year journalism finally gave up the ghost. There is a class of mainstream media hacks who think they know everything and can't be told anything. Faisal Islam, Michael Deacon, the entire FT staff, Matthew Parris, Fraser Nelson, Iain Martin, Owen Jones and the broader chatterati.

I have over the course of the last year attempted rational discourse with most of them but the "establishment bubble" is a very real thing. They are imbued with a sense of superiority and they genuinely believe that only they are in possession of a particular political knowledge and that we plebs should know our place. They are in transmit only mode. There is no dialogue.

Only one or two of them have shown a glimmer of curiosity but journalism is now a dead art. Theirs is a world that runs in parallel to our own where there is no premium on knowledge. This phenomenon extends into the world of think tanks and politics and you can see this in how little they pay researchers.

This of course is not a new observation and it is something has been saying for many years. It's just that 2016 is the year where it has become abundantly obvious to all. Through the rumour mill I am increasingly hearing that real journalists (not the celebrity opinion generator) are giving up on the profession entirely.

The Daily Telegraph pays a pittance, The HuffPo pays nothing at all last time I checked and the Daily Mail pays only so long as you are willing to write the story the way they want to spin it. The opportunities to make a real living out of intelligent commentary are increasingly diminishing, not least because there is no real demand for it from the mainstream press. I cannot pick a single example of mainstream Brexit coverage where the issues have been adequately explored.

What we get from the likes of the Economist and the Spectator is low grade, received wisdom with no fact checking and no expansion. All they do is collate second hand material most of which is derivative or simply stolen.

It is then something of a pleasure to learn that the likes of City AM are struggling to get the hits since they employed ad-block sniffers and I am equally delighted that the Telegraph has been forced behind a paywall. I think of it more as a quarantine whereby the public are protected from their stupidity.

The fact is that they are not providing anything the public cannot discern for themselves. If journalists do not take the time or make the effort to inform themselves they are then merely processors of the same information that everyone else gets. Since they are no more informed than the average schmuck, there is no reason to think they can add value by penning their interpretations.

In this, there was a time when I would run pieces specifically to illustrate just how bad they were. These are known as fisk pieces. The word is derived from analysis of articles written by Robert Fisk which were easily refuted, and refers to a point-by-point debunking of lies and/or idiocies. This is an artform practiced well by fellow blogger Sam Hooper.

The problem with that approach is that most normal people don't know who the hell any of these hacks are - and in reality they are nobodies save for the egregiously stupid ones like Owen Jones and Laurie Penny - and by giving these people the time of day and drawing attention to them you give them the publicity they crave. Since they ignore the blogosphere and deny the existence of it, the favour should be returned. 

Another reason for ignoring them is that stupidity is all part of the business model. It all becomes clear when you realise that media is the deliberate magnification of the stupidest points of view. It is a growing trend that has not yet been fully realised which is why superficially intelligent commentators still have columns, but ultimately the media, in due course, will exist solely for the purpose of generating controversial noise in a race to the bottom. 

Everything outside of this will be content generators feeding back to readers what they already think. This is why Breitbart exists. Breitbart does not exist to expand the debate or challenge the perceptions of readers. It exists solely to articulate the prejudices of its readers. This is why poor old James Delingpole has had to debase himself and go native. It is not simply good enough to write like they do. You have to think like they do. Conformity is the condition of entry. 

And that is typical to every single media claque. It is why there is an army of Toryboy libertarians writing exactly the same articles, willing to deep-throat anyone who will give them a little bit of prestige. Without prestige you don't exist and you can write decent content until the cows come home but you will forever toil in obscurity. 

In short, modern journalism is a stinking cesspool of competing egos flattering the gatekeepers to the few remaining outlets with large audiences. In this I refuse to play the game. There was a time many many years ago when it was my ambition that one day I would see my name in the Telegraph as a writer - and while I could, if I played the game, still achive that it would be utterly meaningless to me now that the Telegraph is a hollowed out shell whose prestige is only residual thanks to its long standing brand. It might impress people who don't know any better but it is not the honour it once was. 

In the final analysis the legacy media is dying. Our media was once a luxury liner. It is now a garbage scow with corrosion holes in the hull. It is dying a much deserved death and every bit of bad news for the newspapers is good news for us bloggers. I can think of plenty blogs who produce better and more informed content in an afternoon than the usual suspects manage in a week of trying. And there is good reason for that. 

Outside of the bubble you have a certain distance from the fray and not in hock to the peer pressure inside it. Outside the bubble is the only place where free thinking can occur. To join them is to become them. And who would want to stunt their intellectual and personal growth in such a way?

This does of course mean that writing is now done largely as a labour of love. There is no money to be made nor recognition to be had. All that matters to me is that for every moment readers spend on advert free blogs is a moment they are not reading the Spectator or any of the other garbage. Every blog post I write is an act of vandalsim on an established media whose final gasp cannot come too soon. 

I reached the conclusion some time ago that there is no reasoning with the hack-o-sphere. The best course of action is to unplug from them and ignore them. I have subsequently blocked them all on Twitter along with the official accounts of the Guardian, the FT, the Times and the Telegraph. I advise you to do the same. The power is yours. 

This is the year where the word "blogspot" and "wordpress" carries prestige. The low grade tat of the legacy media shouldn't even be acknowledged. If it didn't exist at all we would be no worse off in our understanding of events and politics would be all the better for it. The dinosaurs have had their day and we should not mourn their passing. We should do what we can to hasten their demise. 

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