Our job as public service broadcasters is to take people beyond the limits of their own self, and until we do that we will carry on declining.
The BBC should realize that. I have an idealistic view, but if the BBC could do that, taking people beyond their own selves, it will renew itself in a way that jumps over the competition. The competition is obsessed by serving people in their little selves. And in a way, actually, Murdock for all his power, is trapped by the self. That’s his job, to feed the self.
In the BBC, it’s the next step forward. It doesn’t mean we go back to the 1950’s and tell people how to dress, what we do is say “we can free you from yourself” — and people would love it.— Adam Curtis
British filmmaker Adam Curtis offers a valuable critique of contemporary media in this passage from his interview with Register.com. By keeping us lost in own selves, it becomes easy to sink into comfortable positions and avoid challenging our world views.
Media avenues that could be used to unite people under a common cause are instead seething with anxiety, producing content that prays on the weaknesses of the most vulnerable. Those who peddle these parasitic products lie about the dangers posed by this arrangement.
Social media was promoted as a peaceful zone of human creativity and commerce. It’s early visionaries sold the world on the idea of self-expression unhindered by the constraints of reality. They told us their companies would take a hands off approach and let their user base drive the content. The unhindered public would prosper, and the visionaries would reap the profits.
Instead, in the absence of paternal power, the internet has grown into a breeding ground for trolls, reactionaries, and extremists. Facebook hosts right-wing extremists groups. It’s undeniable that Twitter helped create Donald Trump.
Is this really the best we can do?
It doesn’t have to be this way. A better social media is possible. Taking responsibility for what we do and say online could vastly improve our lives. This means extending the idea of a public space into cyberspace.
The danger here is of creating a nanny state that controls what is or isn’t said online, but the opposite is just as dangerous, and it’s what we presently have: a wild west of harassment, lies, and anti-social behavior.
Cultural vibrancy has fallen precisely because we have ceased to invest in the common good and have instead focused on the fragmented and diverse perspectives of the individual. While this turn has produced new ways to connect, it has also brought about a general instability in society.
It is clear that culture is dependent on a stable environment, on relative harmony between people that live together, and on a belief in a better tomorrow. When crisis arrives, the extra stress felt by every member of society is absorbed by the common traditions, collective belief, and feelings of unity that transcend our individual self-interests.
No such collective beliefs exist anymore. What little shared vision we find is mostly hot air, as Donald Trump and his cronies so often proved, and continue to prove.
Let us take advantage of the media’s openness to argue for a more humane media, one that puts the good of people first. We need a media that helps us overcome the limits of individuality, not distort them for personal gain.
The visionaries of the early internet promised the world a playground. The lack of paternalistic influence has led to an infantile public, desperate for leadership, sinking further into fear and stagnation.
It’s well past time for the left to cease limiting its ambitions to the establishing of a big state…the goal of a genuinely new left should be not to take over the state but to subordinate the state to the general will.— Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism
What’s needed now is a revitalizing of the concept of the public good. We must stand against the postmodern dismantling of all meta-narratives and instead insist on their necessity to relieve us from ourselves.
Widespread mental health problems, a collapse in public trust, institutional failure, an epidemic of abuse, drug addiction. What do these things have in common? They are all the result of the abandonment of our lives to Capital and the mirror-world of identity and individualism.
Only by coming together and recognizing the need for a public space where we can confront difficult ideas together, not in fear, but with a sense of progress and mutual respect, can we hope to rebuild our society.
We start by fighting within the political terrain for a new media worthy of our trust.
We owe it to ourselves to help each other in this time. Our communities are worthy of saving. Our neighbors need our help. We are worth fighting for.
Let’s help each other.