According to some people "the media" has either caused or magnified every problem in this country. I've heard it blamed for the obesity epidemic, the rise in anoerexia, the war in Iraq, the strong anti war sentiment in the UK, the rise of political correctness, the fact people rubbish political correctness, etc, etc, etc. In fact I honestly can't think of a problem our nation faces which hasn't at some point or other had some chuff bumble on about how they "blame the media".
This culture of blame is damaging to those who indulge in it and feeds the power of the people who it is intended to attack. Think of the final scene in, The Wizard Of Oz. "The media" is, at its worst, the machine which distracts Dorothy and her friends. When used by the likes of politicians or big business it allows them, the real villains, to hide behind a curtain of confusion. Furthermore once your focus is upon that machine, there's an all powerful version of these characters being projected at you which will frighten anyone but Toto the dog. Thus the media is here, at worst, a distraction made more powerful by your attention. However, that is not the full picture and those who think it is have merely been successfully distracted. If you remember the story, the dog pulls aside the magician's curtain to reveal the truth. What is Toto the dog here, if not a fearless newshound who sniffs out the truth?
This is the inherent problem with blaming "the media" as a collective. It conflates a massive group of people who do not have the same agenda or act as one on any issue. It ignores the benefits of a free press, which without question we have in this country. It pretends that those who speak about the expenses scandal, the WMD scandal and even the phone hacking scandal found out about such things by virtue of their own ingenuity. They didn't, they heard about it through "the media".
However, and here's the bit many people do not seem to understand, although Toto the dog and the Wizard of Oz's media machine are not the same thing you cannot have one without the other. Why? Because no one wants to watch Toto the dog being worthy all the time. He's boring. That big machine over there in the corner of the room is proper cool man, look at it! There's smoke coming off it and stuff, it's ace. The fact it gets an audience means it can make money and it also means when Toto runs over to it, they're looking in the right direction and give a toss about his "scoop".
This brings me to the "phone hacking scandal" which has, without question, not gone away. There's an article about it in this morning's Telegraph. It's being pushed by incredibly powerful people who are frankly sick of Toto the dog. They're trying to make you think they're attacking The Wizard's all powerful celebrity machine but only an idiot (or a celebrity) would buy that. In fact that machine is so big and profitable you can easily slice a few bits off it and throw them to the baying crowd without much worry.
In this vein they brought you the head of, The News Of The World, to help frame the debate in their favour. The crowd cheered this spectacle in much the same way as they might have first greeted the guillotine during the French revolution. Like those crowds, who got a thrill watching the "great and the good" of France meet a grizly end, those who parrot the mantra of "I blame the media" are also driven on by jealousy, I suspect. Celebrity culture and jealousy walk hand in hand. The lungs of those who "blame the media" usually belong to bitter and disgruntled media studies students, unfamous wannabies and tarnished celebrities. Those of them with the sense to realise what has happened will find their cheers ring hollow later on, I think, when Toto gets a taste and the inevitable consequence of "blaming the media" asserts itself.
How about this mantra, it's one that is far more fruitful but weirdly less fashionable: I blame the politicians?
Make no mistake, the real criminals in all of this are WITHOUT QUESTION the politicians who right now are rolling out their guillotines. They want to licence journalists. This is a dreadful idea. We are told it is designed to make journalists more 'trustworthy'. Ask yourself this, from whose perspective? Trustworthy from the perspective of those behind the curtain, the poiticians. I say you should NEVER trust a politician. Allowing them to choose who you can trust is equally absurd. The public already licence their journalists, thank you very much. We CHOOSE to pay attention to them or not. Our attention gives them a licence to communicate with us. If they lose it their licence is revoked.
Some politicians do not understand this because they think people are so stupid that they're actually controlled by the media. The media machine pays lip service to this idea because it gives them access to real power. Power which is granted to them by people who are at core incredibly vain and arrogant. Politics has been described as 'showbusiness for ugly people' and the truth is that a flattering media profile or two can make them appear from a distance to be less repulsive than they actually are.
I'll leave the final word to, John Kampfner, the Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, as reported by "the media":
“If we look over the past decade – from Iraq, to the behaviour of bankers - journalists have found out too little about those with power because of our restrictive libel and privacy laws. Journalism is too weak, not too strong.”
Quote from The Telegraph article linked to.