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When Outrage Hides The Truth
We must not conflate a sense of injustice with a sense of outrage
Last week I interviewed Peter Jukes, co-founder of Byline Times, about oligarchic capitalism, market monopolisation, and how the insidious collusion between media and politics has seen journalism in the United Kingdom captured by corporate interests.
Some months ago, I wrote a piece for Byline Times about my frustration placing stories within the media about systemic change. ‘Isn’t Journalism about Finding New Stories?’: The Climate News the Media Ignores detailed the blanket silence across legacy media about the Beyond Growth conference in May which saw four thousand people gather in the European Parliament to explore new economic models which put planetary and populace wellbeing ahead of profit and endless GDP growth. Despite the importance of this conference, the fact that models which have been lambasted by the mainstream as immature and naive found their way to the heart of European policy-making, our media turned a blind-eye, once again denying citizens the plurality of conversations taking place around sustainability, environmentalism, economic organisation and resource distribution.
Journalism theorists call this the ‘spiral of silence’ which results from journalists gatekeeping stories they don’t believe fit certain news values. This keeps certain narratives and questions out of the public discourse, which then perpetuate the disinterest in covering those same stories. The public sphere becomes a merry-go-round where the same arguments and debates are recycled, with the right wing increasingly weaponising culture wars to gain ideological ground even as establishment figures pass through what Peter terms “the revolting door”, moving seamlessly between politics and the media industry.
But outrage doesn’t help. Outrage masks the reality of collusion, creating the illusion of democracy, the illusion of fair markets, the illusion of an independent press. Outrage swept the left when it was announced in June that Boris Johnson, the man who lied to Parliament and the public, was granted a column in the Daily Mail allegedly worth £1 million just one week after stepping down as an MP. Such a move does not deserve outrage; it is to be expected. Outrage only covers up the extent of collusion between political and media elite. Rather than feeling outrage, we should use such instances as yet more evidence of that collusion. Outrage suggests the unexpected, the previously-unimaginable. A lying conman being granted an inflated column in the right wing press is not unexpected whatsoever. It is the system of the revolting door behaving exactly as it was built to—to protect power interests.
We must not believe illusions, we must not pretend that which is broken can still function. Responding to such announcements with anything akin to surprise only validates the illusion that such things are not supposed to happen. For how long will we labour under that very illusion? And how can one begin to dismantle that which one does not understand? Or that which one does not believe in? We must keep a cool gaze fixed on the reality of the local, national and international situation: Everything is happening exactly as it was designed to. Wealth is funnelling towards the richest whilst the poor get poorer, those poor lose their bargaining power as their meagre assets depreciate and their labour becomes, once again, their only source of bargaining power; that bargaining power becomes more precarious as the state is stripped of its duty to provide. Round and round we go.
There is much injustice in the world, and we must not conflate a sense of injustice with a sense of outrage. We must not cry the alarm at instances of injustice but cry the alarm at pervasive systemic injustice. Atomising each case as if it is anomalous only protects those in power, bolstering the illusion that something is wrong rather than, frankly, everything being wrong. Outrage spikes where injustice pools, deepening, cooling, solidifying until the heart of justice is revealed and drums the beat of those who march towards a new dawn.
There is much to be angry about, but screaming our heads off demands strapping in for the ride. Let us, instead, get off and shut the whole thing down.
© Rachel Donald
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