“The closer the relationship between those in power and those in media, the weaker our democracy”. Cygnus, a local Radical Indy activist, discusses media, power and democracy.
Democracy is ultimately about control – the control of power by the people over wider structures, but it is also about the control of information or knowledge. With the gain of state sovereignty over Scotland, those who live in this country have the opportunity to restructure power at the roots. The chances of achieving this within a political union dominated by London are comically low. As part of the UK, people in Scotland are politically disenfranchised.
With a parliamentary representative system in place to act on behalf the people, and a corporate media to inform them, these two institutions combine to create a deeply undemocratic society.
Being granted a vote for a party every 4 or 5 years is not democracy. For the MP who ‘represents’ us, the party and the state comes first, and the constituents last. This means that most of the population do not have a voice in crucial decision-making in the long-term. Some may argue that the electorate can lobby or pressure their MPs into acting according to their interests. Grassroots opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is a key example here. Despite demonstrations by millions of people in the run-up to the invasion, Britain remained a faithful partner in the American neo-colonial project.
The corporate media largely reflects the opinion of the centres of power. At home, the working class are mocked and disparaged, austerity measures are questioned only in terms of where cuts should go, and the vast spectrum of opinions presented is confined to the safe orthodoxy of the neo-liberal capitalist model. On international discussions, we are given countless options how we might ‘save’ a people from themselves by bombing them, as with Libya, or shown the myriad ways in which our allies could bomb another country, such as Israel and Iran. The imperial mindset is very much part of the present, well as the past.
While the representative system ensures that members of parliament have a safe distance from accountability to the electorate, the corporate media works to maintain the perception that the state is a benign entity. People are not in a position of control: they are bombarded narrow, ideologically-charged reporting that ensures they do not question the status quo, and that they vote for the correct party.
Of course, having a Scottish parliament is a positive shift away from being governed by unelected and largely unaccountable plutocrats in Westminster, but it is still representative democracy. With independence, we can move beyond this, by having an inclusive and participatory democracy. Power will be directed from the bottom upwards. This can and must include the media, not just political decision-making at the local, regional and national levels. Control of our media means we can end decades of elite ideology and begin to fully and honestly discuss the things that really concern the people.
There is nothing revolutionary about a referendum; however, with the sovereignty that can come as a result of the referendum, we can shift towards a more rewarding and satisfying society to live in. Encouragingly, a change has already begun with the independence campaign: we have already started writing a history from below. This is a challenge to the corporate media. There are countless news sites, blogs and such like – often run by very few people – that have opened up to everyone at the grassroots level, allowing them to engage with wider issues. Prior to this point, they had been excluded. This is genuinely positive, but the real change will begin after 18th of September 2014, when we can end the dominance of the corporate media and an outdated parliament for good