The Peo­ple v The Me­dia

If there is one huge chunk of re­al­ity bla­tantly un­veiled by the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and Don­ald Trump’s shock win last Tues­day, it is the way a mas­sive wave of vot­ers, i.e. the Amer­i­can peo­ple of their own free will chose to com­pletely ig­nore both the

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - * * *

There are many other facets of that feat to be dis­cussed, but the is­sue of me­dia in­flu­ence is, of course, of prime in­ter­est to yours truly. Where has all the pre­sumed power gone? Na­tional me­dia in­sti­tu­tions, from news­pa­pers, ra­dio and TV sta­tions to the thriv­ing “trans­form­ers” of the so­cial me­dia, came out openly against the Repub­li­can can­di­date, some of them even openly ig­nor­ing their staunchly con­ser­va­tive past to en­dorse Hil­lary Clin­ton, in their hith­erto vo­cab­u­lary “a lib­er­tar­ian”. This in­cred­i­ble switch of his­toric pro­por­tions oc­curred at a time when even Trump’s own party was sup­pos­edly com­mit­ting col­lec­tive po­lit­i­cal sui­cide, with most of the old guard pub­licly op­pos­ing his be­com­ing the US’ 45th pres­i­dent.

For Trump to have over­come this con­glom­er­a­tion of forces, de­spite his ex­posed past and lu­di­crous prej­u­dices, goes to show that there has been an ob­vi­ous shift in the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of the me­dia and peo­ple no longer need the me­dia to hold their hands on is­sues that in­ter­est and af­fect them di­rectly. Yes, they’re will­ing to lis­ten to and read dif­fer­ent views and to be able to an­a­lyse and com­pare, but they now have a mind of their own and won’t be swayed by the “in­tel­li­gent” nat­ter of this me­dia guru or that po­lit­i­cal pun­dit, in print or on TV.

Some peo­ple have likened the sit­u­a­tion to the Brexit vote in the UK. Not ex­actly. On that oc­ca­sion, the Bri­tish me­dia had been, in their vast ma­jor­ity, all out for a Brexit re­sult and they got it. The one stark sim­i­lar­ity, aside from com­mon roots of jin­go­is­tic poli­cies and out­right prej­u­dices, was in the fact that the out­side world was to­tally against what even­tu­ally be­came the out­come of the vote.

It is easy for many of us to con­sign the whole is­sue to “ig­no­rance” on the part of the vot­ers, which is in it­self a Trump-like in­sult. But there are truths that the world, this tot­ter­ing world, needs to ac­knowl­edge at this mo­ment in time, one of which has been cited by none other than the odi­ous Sarah Palin, for­mer gover­nor of Alaska. Like many oth­ers, she quickly com­pared the Brexit vote to Trump’s suc­cess in the US elec­tion, but her most telling re­ac­tion was when she said, “Bri­tain and the US are go­ing rogue.”

Of course had it been any other na­tion other than the US and the UK, Palin would have re­ferred to them as “pari­ahs”. Some­how “rogues” sounds more pos­i­tive, even rev­o­lu­tion­ary in this jux­ta­posed world po­lit­i­cal sce­nario.

Given what the me­dia and the Clin­ton cir­cus were say­ing through­out most of the cam­paign, es­pe­cially in the lat­ter stage when Wik­ileaks was pub­lish­ing thou­sands of re­veal­ing emails, Putin and his Rus­sians should have been the first to come out danc­ing to the mu­sic of their bal­alaikas in the mid­dle of Red Square. Does it mean the Amer­i­cans, who gave Trump the pres­i­dency and con­trol of both the Se­nate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, couldn’t care less that the Rus­sians were “hack­ing” the whole US es­tab­lish­ment and, in the most re­cent of empty NATO jar­gon, even con­tem­plat­ing an in­va­sion of their al­lies in Europe?

The Peo­ple v the Me­dia is not con­fined to the US. Me­dia own­er­ship and “spon­sor­ship” no longer guar­an­tee suc­cess. The more ed­u­cated the elec­torate, the more it is in­clined to reach its own con­clu­sions as we have seen lo­cally on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. Tra­di­tion­ally, pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tions, like the Church, con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal par­ties and rich, in­flu­en­tial fam­i­lies, have been bluntly shoved into this re­al­i­sa­tion. One can now eas­ily see why most of them – as por­trayed in our history books – had once been ve­he­mently op­posed to free ed­u­ca­tion.

The me­dia’s role has not been usurped, but it has cer­tainly been emas­cu­lated. It can no longer pro­ject an “evan­gel­i­cal” im­age, but more that of a plat­form for dis­cus­sion, anal­y­sis and, as from its in­cep­tion, the dis­sem­i­na­tion of news and events. Pres­i­dent Elect Trump will glee­fully vouch for all that.

As for Hil­lary Clin­ton, I could not re­sist go­ing down mem­ory lane and re­call­ing her quip when she lost her nom­i­na­tion bid to Bar­rack Obama in 2008 – “I can al­ways be­come pres­i­dent of Malta”. The lady wouldn’t have made history here, ei­ther. We had our first woman pres­i­dent in 1982 and our in­cum­bent is a woman too.

Dead is­sues

Flog­ging a dead horse in pol­i­tics has never been wise. It is true that many peo­ple want to stick to prin­ci­ples and tra­di­tions they have be­lieved in for most of their lives, but there will al­ways come the day when change has to be ac­cepted. This fact ap­plies to po­lit­i­cal par­ties and politi­cians ev­ery­where and the suc­cess­ful ones are al­ways those who ac­knowl­edge it and do some­thing about it.

When an is­sue is dead, such as di­vorce, na­tion­al­i­sa­tion, and so on, it be­comes anath­ema to sen­si­ble par­ties and politi­cians will­ing to change with the times. Those who dig trenches of­ten end up on the scrap heap as we have seen with so many such ex­am­ples all over Europe, par­tic­u­larly in Italy, Ger­many, France and Italy.

There is of course the cy­cling and re-cy­cling of ideas and meth­ods, of­ten de­pend­ing on the pub­lic mood of the day, but when the laws of sci­ence are chal­lenged, it all de­vel­ops into a mean­ing­less cha­rade. A case in point is the Na­tion­al­ist Opposition’s con­tin­ued re­sis­tance to the change that is oc­cur­ring in the en­ergy sec­tor. Be­yond any al­le­ga­tions of du­bi­ous deals of the past and the present, it is a proven sci­en­tific fact that gas as an en­ergy source is not only cheaper but also much safer and cleaner. So why the sense­less per­sis­tence on the pre­vi­ous govern­ment’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble choice of heavy fuel oil, now thank­fully re­versed as we move to gas gen­er­a­tion?

The whole en­ergy is­sue has been a source of na­tional in­trigue for far too long and it is now time to ac­cept re­al­i­ties. The whole of Europe is do­ing so.

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