New Media & Democracy

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Mapping out a Political Compass

A good starting point in a debate around the media and democracy is to first of all find out where your own social, cultural, moral and political beliefs (ideology) are based. In other words, we all possess some form of bias, whether it comes from our objective world – where we live, what we do, how old we are, gender, sexuality, physical and mental condition etc – or from the range of subjective ideas that we have been exposed to – from our family members, friends, community, school etc. In other words, if news media (and other media forms?) exhibit bias, how can we identify and critically understand it? A good starting point may be to identify our own social-economic-political bias, so take this survey from ‘The Political Compass’ (link to test). Once you have a better understanding of left / right; authoritarian/libertarian forms of government and control, you can apply some of these ideas to the products that you are examining in your media courses.

Once you have some ideas around concepts such as libertarianism, authoritarianism, communism and capitalism, in particular, look up the idea of classic liberalism, associated with such thinkers as John Stuart Mill and John Locke – listen to the BBC Radio 4 documentary where Gavin Haynes, editor-at-large of VICE UK, goes in search of a new wave of political thought that looks to use new media technology as a way of communicating outside of traditional media frameworks, which is / has dramatically affected the relationship between news, politics and truth.

On the internet, and on YouTube specifically, a huge new political movement is taking shape in the shoes of a very old one. Some are calling it classical liberalism, the intellectual dark web, anti-SJW, or the skeptic movement. It’s on the right of the political spectrum – but not the right as we knew it. It’s socially libertarian, economically centrist, nativist – but anti-identitarian. It’s sympathetic to Trump and to Brexit – yet large parts still don’t consider themselves to be right wing. The phenomenon has American roots, but a British contingent has found massive online support. For example, the 36-year-old self-styled classical liberal Paul Joseph Watson, a man from Sheffield who used to broadcast from his mum’s basement, has over a million followers on YouTube. He also has more twitter followers than any UK political journalist. Another, who goes by the handle Sargon of Akkad, preaches to 850 000 subscribers from a converted garage in Swindon. Thanks to his patrons, he makes £20 000 a month. A Glaswegian free speech activist called Count Dankulahas in excess of 350,000 subscribers.

The traditional press doesn’t matter to these people – in fact, they style themselves as its enemies. They call themselves the Alternative Media. They don’t consider themselves journalists, but Activists. And one thing they know above all else is that they are warriors in a culture war.

Right Click: The New Online Culture Wars

Another good text to consider is this documentary nonymous: A Space for digital activism

Henry Jenkins Participatory Culture

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