The Test of Time

The single most important reform we need – even more important than political and economic reform – is reform of the media.

I’ve campaigned for direct democracy – real democracy – for over thirty years, so I believe absolutely in the right of every citizen to make the political decisions of their government – not just elect so-called representatives. However, there is a vitally important pre-condition to the proper exercise of that right: good and proper information. We live in a world where good and proper information is easier to obtain than it’s ever been, but is very difficult to find – a true can’t-see-the-wood-for-the-trees scenario. Our national newspapers are the worst culprits – but radio and TV news is not much better.

This matters because it’s the media that provide our eyes and ears, and far too often our brains, to understanding world events. It’s pretty obvious that if the information we’re receiving is misleading, wrong and even criminal (e.g. media support for illegal wars), the opinions we form and decisions we make will be faulty. The bad information we receive is not restricted to an occasional aberration, it’s abundant and all-pervading every day of the week. The superb website Media Lens has been documenting some of the evidence for many years.

Historian and journalist TD Allman once described what the media should be like:

Genuinely objective journalism not only gets the facts right, it gets the meaning of events right. Objective journalism is compelling not only today. It stands the test of time. It is validated not only by “reliable sources” but by the unfolding of history. It is reporting that which not only seems right the day it is published. It is journalism that ten, twenty, fifty years after the fact still holds up a true and intelligent mirror to events.1

Any day of the week we can pick up almost any newspaper and find countless examples of journalism that couldn’t stand Allman’s test of time. This is not acceptable.

What we need is a brand new state media service to properly counter all the misinformation, a national news-provider producing an unimpeachable standard of journalism that would always satisfy Allman’s test of time. Most existing state broadcasters, such as Britain’s BBC, could not do this – they’re usually among the worst offenders. All they could usefully do is supply technical infrastructure.

Once we are given good and proper information we will be able to make good and proper reforms to our economy and political system. The media must change.

  1. Hidden Agendas by John Pilger, p. 525 []
John Andrews is a writer and political activist based in England. His latest booklet is entitled EnMo Economics. Other Non-Fiction books by John are: The People's Constitution (2018 Edition); and The School of Kindness (2018 Edition); and his historical novel The Road to Emily Bay Read other articles by John.