Rupert Murdoch’s bid for a full takeover of Sky TV demonstrates graphically that the extreme concentration of media ownership has not yet run its course. It also yet again underlines the extent to which the Leveson Inquiry was barking entirely up the wrong tree. There is no question to which the correct answer is increased government control over free speech. Any inquiry into the media should look first and foremost at its highly concentrated ownership and how to instil more pluralism. It is probably now too late to expect that a vibrant, diverse traditional media is achievable. We can however be cheered by the continuing decline of the political influence of the mainstream media, as illustrated by its “Fake News” panic.
Even five years ago, if the mainstream media carried a meme that was fundamentally untrue, the chances of persuading public opinion of its untruth were almost minimal. Similarly if they wished to ignore an inconvenient truth, it would be very hard indeed to get it out to a significant number.
Four years ago, when the official version of the Adam Werritty affair was front page news for days, causing the resignation of the Defence Secretary, I discovered that in fact the real scandal ran much deeper. Werritty – who had an official pass but no official position – had held at least eight meetings with Matthew Gould, now Cabinet Office anti-WikiLeaks supremo. Gould had at the time of some of the meetings been ambassador to Israel, at the time of others Private Secretary to two different Foreign Secretaries, David Miliband and William Hague. On at least one occasion it was acknowledged by the FCO that Mossad were also present. For the three meetings which occurred while Gould was Private Secretary, I requested the diary entries under the Freedom of Information Act. The meetings were held on 8 Sept 2009, 27 Sept 2010 and 6 Feb 2011. The FCO sent me, in reply to my Freedom of Information request, the diary entries for those three days with only the dates – the rest was 100% redacted, in the interests of national security.
The Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell, in presenting his report to parliament into Werritty’s activities, blatantly lied and listed only three of Werritty’s eight meetings with Gould. Yet, even though the Werritty scandal was a front page story, I could not interest the mainstream media in publishing the truth. I believe that was because it touched on security links with Israel. To be plain, I was offering officially verified information at no charge to all the mainstream newspapers and broadcasters, and the only outlet which would touch it was the Independent. Tellingly, this paper, not controlled by the big news corporations, has since gone bust.
The reason I revisit this all now is to point out that when I published the true facts about Werritty on this blog, it was read here by tens of thousands. But four years later, when similarly I wrote about the story behind the mainstream media version of the Panama Papers, it was read by hundreds of thousands on this site alone. I had simply pointed out that the leaker had erred in giving the Panama Papers to the mainstream media and not to WikiLeaks, and therefore we were not getting the full picture. Media attention was focused on extremely tenuous links to Russia (ring any bells lately?), and remarkably no major British or American corporations or prominent individuals were named. In the event the full papers never were published by their mainstream media guardians, only a redacted “database”. No major British or US corporations ever were named. Unlike on Fox/Werritty, I was able to reach many millions of people with my writings on the Panama papers through the increasing power of social media.
These are homely examples from my own blog. But the real effect was seen in the WikiLeaks releases of the Podesta and DNC emails. The mainstream media contrived to ignore the damning content of those emails almost completely, but they were shared by many, many millions through social media. We now have the hilarious situation where the mainstream media is still hiding the content and denying the influence, while at the same time promoting a meme that the leaks were crucial and all the fault of Putin. What the mainstream media cannot squarely face is that 2016 became the tipping point, the year when they no longer control the narrative, the year the traditional means of population control by the 1% stopped working properly.
2017 will see the Establishment reaction to this. Control of “Fake” news by social media, and “ghost banning” are two of the weapons which will be used. The obvious weakness of the people’s social media revolution is its heavy reliance on the corporations Twitter and Facebook. There is every evidence that their fellow billionaires are working hard and with success to ensure that the new billionaire controllers of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Wikipedia become properly committed to the corporate news management agenda. We have already seen governments move across the Western world to increase powers of internet censorship “to counter radicalisation”, and expect these to be both strengthened and deployed against non-official news.
The 1% have all the money and we don’t because they are powerful, unscrupulous, sociopathic and very resilient. 2017 I suspect will be the year it becomes plain that new social networking media beyond corporate control are required, but I am confident the internet will work that one out by its collective genius. 2016 will be seen as a turning point. But there are still a great many hard battles ahead.