Published 18 April 2017
It’s mid April, and I’ve finally woken up to the fact it’s over 200 days since I last blogged.
Not to come back all doom and gloom, but in the days since I last put pen to paper, my once rosy outlook has been flooded with the dark darkness of inevitability. It’s all 2016’s fault.
Saying 2016 wasn’t great is like saying grab em by the p*ssy is mildly offensive.
As the year tailed off, maybe you hoped as I did that David Bowie would emerge from the shower, give us all a warm, wet hug and explain that 2016 was a bad dream.
Optimisits might have you believe that peaks follow troughs. But looking at the socio-political picture, I disagree: where some see mere blips, I see downward spirals.
I see certain mass cultural and character traits – that were already unpleasant – supersizing before our eyes. Our trajectory doesn’t look good.
With that, here’s five reasons we’re *stuffed.
5. Celebrities will kill us
Branjelina this, Beyoncé or Beckham that, celebrities belong in the glossy sections. It’s when they breach the levy that we’re in trouble. Putting a TV-made sociopath in the premier position in global politics sets an explosive precedent. Pun fully intended…
Sure, before Trump, there was Reagan, Ventura and Schwarzenegger, but these were isolated, quirky appointments. Trump equals an irreversible trend.
The mighty political machine did its best to trip Trump at every turn. And he did trip, again and again. Yet the political no-hoper, against the odds, was the people’s choice.
After the blaze of Trump are we really going to return to quiet, diligent, humble politicians? I think not. Razzmatazz celebrity politics has been knocking at the doors of power for some time and Trump has breached the divide. The price is substantive political debate.
I expect to see many more lightweight celeb politicians … and Kanye West as First Lady.
4. We’re getting angrier
On any slow news day, papers and mags can easy squeeze a few hundred words out of anger trends. There’s always been anger, but today’s is mutating.
Now I’m not saying our anger isn’t justified. It is. But people can now mobilise, focus and execute their anger like never before. There’s something inevitable and climactic about today’s anger – it feels like it’s building to something.
We live in an era that’s culturally designed to affirm and confirm a person’s importance and individuality at every turn. Try telling someone they’re wrong, insignificant or don’t deserve to be heard nowadays and see the brand/ cultural conditioning rev up.
Take those whose anger is legitimised by the socio political agenda and watch what happens when mass anger surfaces. Dotcom’s darkest corners now incubate people’s wrath, then there’s the threat of race riots, defectors and politically motivated assaults and worse. Some or all of those things have happened in the UK in the last year alone. And let’s not mention America – Pepsi anyone?
The tone of political debate has, likewise, degenerated into anger. It’s now more about mudslinging, going for the jugular, and soundbite anger. And it’s not just the right. The left’s stock response to something distasteful is Racist! Ban it! Bigot! Sexist! We disapprove! It rarely goes much further.
On that, the voting classes are more polarised than ever with much more of an inward focus than a community one. I don’t know if it’s belief, pride, ego or posturing but people nowadays simply refuse to listen to their opponents; back down or give way. See self-importance point above.
When was the last time you heard someone say: “I agree, you’ve changed my mind I’m voting the other way”? It’s as if everyone is right and no-one is wrong, there’s no debate anymore just vitriol.
3. Remember responsible reporting?
Apologies for insulting your intelligence, but here’s a question: what should journalists do?
The press, in actual fact, should help keep states healthy by holding those in power to account. They have a responsibility to report truth and fact. It’s not real journos’ jobs to take up-skirt shots or to doorstep celebrities.
I’m not daft, I get it: commercial restrictions, the ease of communication and utter market saturation has contributed to a change of the news agenda. Supply and demand isn’t lost on me and the least-in for the most-out formula is one many of us have had to get used to.
But it’s another trend that ain’t going anywhere. It is costing us now and it will cost us later.
Publications used to invest time and budget into public service but so few now practice good, independent journalism. I’m old enough to remember when The Daily Mirror sent journalist John Pilger to post-war Cambodia to make a documentary that opened the world’s eyes and forced the UK government into humanitarian action.
That’s right, The Daily Mirror.
It used to be that local news reporters would sit in local council meetings, local courts and town hall meetings to question officials’ records, and report inconsistencies. But local newspapers are stretched and dying – and therefore institutions are able to swerve micro scrutiny.
Editors’ obsessive focus on a macro news agenda leaves lower-level news politics and governance open for abuse. Without the press sniffing around, local councils and representatives are freer now than ever before to sweep crises, cronyism and criminality under the carpet.
2. Fake News or F*cked News?
When smoking was first linked with cancer, tobacco firms pushed a strategy of agnotology: the deliberate production of ignorance and confusion. They skewed reality, and they bought themselves a weapon.
We’ve long been used to iffy news; dodgy sources and too much opinion when we’re hungry for facts. Those who run 24/7 news outlets need to fill their airtime/ columns with fresh angles to fend off competitors.
For some time now, news-gathering has been more thin than fact but we’ve now devolved into fake.
Fake stories are marketed via the same channels and with the same digital principals as real news. They’re dressed up, disseminated and distributed much like the real ones. Fake news is like a good fake Rolex, it looks perfectly legit to the casual observer.
In Germany, a fake news story broke that immigrants in Berlin raped a young Russian girl. The news spawned, in both Germany and Russia, anger, outrage and venom directed at immigrants, Islam, liberals, Merkel …
It was posted and reposted, shared, retold, repurposed and repackaged by the far right, the anti-Islamists, and issue voters. Another nail in the coffin for immigration. It was used for political point scoring and point-making – people’s blood shot off the Kelvin scale. But it was a fake.
The internet was supposed to have been our weapon for truth. It still very much can be. But in 2016, when Post-truth was the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, Fake News set us back majorly.
1. Smash the youth at your peril
We’ve always had disaffected young people, but today we’re not talking goths and punks, we’re talking about a demographic that has been, and is being, utterly stepped on.
In the UK, and in other parts of the West, civilisation has taken a step back. One, millennials and Gen Z will not earn what their parents did. And two, they may not even live as long. Every generation in the modern age has built on the one that came before it. Until now.
In the main, youngsters didn’t vote Trump nor Brexit. They are watching a world run by the over 50s stray further out of their reach, and they are footing the bill. Tuition fees (unless you’re in Scotland and don’t get me started on IndiREF2), the financial collapse, ludicrous house prices, longer working hours, rubbish pay, a lesser quality of life. The list goes on.
Youngsters are being spiked by the institutions and mechanisms that surround them. Chancers and liars are pi**ing on their heads, and then trying to sell them umbrellas.
Young people are being bent. Bend too far and you’ll hear a snap.
That’s enough Jemima….
In his seminal 1976 essay The Fate of Empires, General Sir John Glubb analysed the trends that characterised the demise of world civilisations – empires, dynasties and regimes – over time.
“Past empires show almost every possible variation of political system, but all go through the same procedure from the Age of Pioneers through Conquest, Commerce, Affluence to decline and collapse.”
Glubb notes that an age of pessimism creeps in just as cultures start heavily pushing sports and celebrity and food (decadence) to distract their masses. Check.
He also points out the taking control of the means of communication is a prime indicator that revolution is near. Maybe the internet is our time’s printing press. It was during the Arab Spring.
On a personal level, and to calm this talk of revolution for the moment, I’ve been too busy to write in the last five months because I’ve been neck deep in the Co-op rebrand.
Although I’m delighted and proud with this huge body of work, this has been the hardest era – in all my many days in marketing – to talk about genuine truth, honesty and integrity. In today’s world, those words and those principals seem a tough sell.
Let’s hope as we weather this “Post-Truth” era, that the real truth, the real stories, the real humanity and the real future shows its face once again; in the words of Paul Weller, I’m gonna clear out my head, I’m gonna get myself straight, I know it’s never too late, To make a brand new start.
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