A free press should entrench rather than distort the ideals of Western liberal society, only then can we secure victory over those who try to destroy us
A few years ago, the ‘don’t believe everything you read’ approach would have been a sufficient way to totter on accepting that we can all read, think, and say what we want, whilst simultaneously filtering out the BS. Yet, with the recent swell in Islamic extremism, a threat that is alive both here and abroad, the key to overthrowing this modern-day evil lies in our media output more than ever.
It’s all well and good me preaching about what should and shouldn’t be in the media; remove the racism, down with the all-powerful influence of the Murdoch-elite, out with institutionalized bias, oh, and please only print pictures of smiling, perfect teenagers who pull a quizzical, innocent look when you introduce the alien concepts of obesity, depression and class war into the conversation. There is no difference in controlling what we read, even if it has some moral advantage, than when media moguls control it for the worse; we do, after all, have that magical thing called freedom of the press. It’s what allows us access to a wealth of information, an array of political opinions, and what essentially keeps me in a job.
However, despite this inviting a privileged, and necessary, array of spectrum-swinging media outputs, one can’t help but think of the power that such an ability can achieve when applied to values its very name – and our societal DNA – professes. After all, doesn’t the very essence of ‘freedom of the press’ ensure that we get exactly that?
On Monday evening, I attended an event at the Frontline Club in Paddington where in collaboration with Cinema for Peace, they previewed a collection of short films based on migrants from all over the world.
From a 16-year-old from Honduras seeking refuge in America, to a young Syrian family living in asylum in South Africa, the evening drew attention to the mounting immigration issues all over the world.
Witnessing such raw, truthful journalism made me realise we need more of it. Its potential presence in today’s Europe has the power to overturn an international crisis so severe, that we may never experience another one like it. The Syrian Civil War has killed nearly 200,000 people, displaced millions, created the worst migrant influx in modern history and manifested the presence of militant Islam so extreme, that it is even disowned by al-Qaeda. Described by the UN as the ‘worst humanitarian disaster’ since the Cold War, the growing presence of Islamic State in Syria has fractured a country — and the lives of those who once populated it — into a thousand barbaric pieces. The international community, Britain included, has been thrown into a state of perpetual fear.
There is no doubt about the psychological and moral damage this evil is causing nations, innocent people and the West itself. But the material produced amongst the British press surrounding the war on Islamic extremism is not only morally dubious, but it begs the question: are we equally to blame for the suffocating air that seems to be slowly choking Europe?
From the Daily Star’s trending tag, ‘ISIS Armageddon’, to the Sun’s grossly misrepresentative front-page headline, ‘1 in 5 British Muslims Have Sympathy for Jihadis’, the mainstream media’s obsession with provocation and exaggeration has equally contributed to the growing turmoil we face today. While the machete-waving lunatics are undoubtedly an explicit cause of this crisis, our unnecessarily misleading and culturally segregating headlines are implicitly fuelling the social unrest.
Our very involvement in this war — whether you believe it to be right or wrong, necessary or not — is based on the simple truth that we are fighting an evil so severe, it has the potential to distort the most widely practiced religion in the world. We judge this crisis from our high horse of perceived democratic and cultural perfection. Yet as long as what we write is fabricated nonsense, morally distorted and nothing shy of Stalin-style scapegoating, our way of living remains just as flawed as that of the people we condemn, and destined for the gutter.
What is yet to be grasped by the British and much of European media, is that no matter how catastrophic today’s geopolitical circumstances are, we hold the key to overturning them. It doesn’t lie in our newly equipped drones, nor some pally treaty we next sign, but rather in the rolls and rolls of newspapers, hours of aired news coverage and a plethora of radio sessions we are exposed to daily. The only way of defending our freedom against eruptions of extremism is by practising the very equality, individuality and liberty that defines it.
As Pussy Riot once declared: ‘Freedom is a responsibility’. We, as fortunate practitioners of the opportunity for self-determination, have a duty to ensure that it is both preserved and extended to others. But as long as we are reading headlines telling us how firearm sales in Austria have rocketed 350 per cent because of ‘unease’ to migrant numbers, that is never going to happen.
The circumstances we face in this country are ultimately what we make them, and much of that, is decided by our press and what we as British Citizens choose to read, believe and share.
We need to make it more about integration, not interrogation. We also need to stop doubting and (as this article’s leading point aims to suggest) start covering the good, which remains in the majority, instead of reporting on the minority of bad things. That is how IS will be defeated; how over nine million displaced refugees will find a home in the values of Western liberty; and how our freedom can finally be embodied in the spirit of the press.