It is a churlish question to ask of a Western audience. We are the good guys, remember? We live in a democracy. Of course we have a free press. But recent events have made me mull over such esoteric questions. We take it for granted that the press keeps us informed of what is going on around us. We have no other source to glean any authentic information from. We trust the press not to suppress information that is vital to us. And yet the ruling elite and their cohorts in Britain and in the USA were completely caught off guard by Brexit and by the election of Trump. These were the most serious issues in several decades and nobody had even an inclining as to what the majority of the population in both countries was thinking. How could that happen in technologically sophisticated and media savvy countries such as ours?
I have listened to many discussions in private circles and in the public sphere about what went wrong. Again we got our cue for these discussions from what the media deigned to suggest to us. So we dutifully talked of an uninformed electorate, anger and resentment of people, of Russian hackers, of lazy pollsters and on and on thus. Nowhere did I hear the media being blamed for misinforming the public right up until last moment of truth. This is partly because the media commentators were themselves part of the media conglomerate. So they could hardly point the finger at themselves. It is up to individuals to ask the basic question. I am standing on the sidelines asking why the emperor has no clothes.
We do not live under totalitarian regimes where journalists are imprisoned or disappeared. So the malfunction of the media must arise from other causes. My take is that the media became totally encrusted in the marzipan culture; the belief that everything will always be sweet and pink and permanent, like Mrs. Clinton herself, that no clown would sweep on to the stage and upset the marzipan. The media fawned too long on the elite and the rich and the fluffy haired pundits to even dream there would be other players in the game. That the top politicians, the economists, the pollsters and the assorted individuals called “doctor” or “lord” or “professor” had all the answers was the media belief. It was a cozy state of affairs. The press men and women did not have to walk the streets and find out what real people thought. What would real people know? They had no clever one liners to spew out.
Yet, the decision makers were out there on the football grounds, in markets, in housing estates outside London, in the outlying farming communities, in womens’ institutes, in smoking groups outside call centers, in shopping malls. The press in the meanwhile were embedded with the wrong crowd; the losers, the marzipan people.
I have a disclaimer to make here. I do not agree with the decisions on both counts but I strongly believe in democracy. I just wanted to point out the fact that a media that is hypnotized by the marzipan culture; would you call it a free press? Would you not say it has got too cozy and comfortable to give out news that will alarm the power brokers and go contrary to the status quo?
In conclusion may I say we have a free press in the sense there is no tyrant controlling it but it is vulnerable to the enticements of soft power which is more insidious.