Alternative media site or account A endorses politician X’s campaign. Is this really a productive thing to do under any circumstances, for those wishing to challenge the “mainstream” narratives in the media?
Much of the alternative media on the web today consists of independent bloggers who are tired of the “mainstream” and want to fight back against it all. A particular nuisance to many people is the tendency of some papers and broadcasters to demonize.
UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is the prime example today of a victim of this demonizing of political opposition in the supposedly free press. And in the UK, many independent bloggers have thrown all their support behind Corbyn. Similarly, in the US, many microblog users and small columnists have dedicated themselves to expressing support for Bernie Sanders. But is this good?
Much like more formal civil society bodies, the Mont Order information-based society declares neutrality in its code (although it does not forbid its members taking their own positions) when it comes to political campaigning. This may be the wisest route for alternative media, because we should not want to be tied to a specific politician, especially in the event that this politician fails on promises and deservingly becomes unpopular because of this failure.
The purpose of media should be to criticize, much as the purpose of engineers is to find faults and repair errors. If alternative media simply tie themselves to political alternatives, such as Corbyn or Sanders, they are sacrificing themselves for these men and their political careers rather than seeking out their own type of power. The power of information, like the power of money, may, in fact, be greater than the power of politicians.
Someone who has squandered their credibility and the demographics of their readership by backing a political candidate will not be able to see the full extent of the power of information. They curb their own influence. The Mont Order knows it is better to be there as neutral actors, when the power of information reaches its greatest height, than to be buried with some dishonored political figure or movement. This is how other bloggers should learn to think. Criticize and offer perspectives, don’t support.
In addition to the dangers of backing politicians and parties mentioned already, there is the aspect of technological change invalidating the former necessity of big political organizations. This has already been addressed in the first commentary in this series. It can be added that the youth, in the West at least, tend to think far less now in terms of party allegiances and allegiances to political figures. There is a tendency to instead support campaign issues, as is enabled through internet searches and campaign groups dedicated specifically to these issues that can be found rapidly online.
Some grassroots campaigners, for example, support relaxing anti-piracy laws, or relaxing the legal controls over certain drugs. These people are not looking for a movement or political authority, and are quite satisfied with pressure groups dedicated to the issues only. Adding important faces, symbols and other dimensions typical of a movement only gives people things to lose faith in, whereas the raw political issue being talked about lacks this weakness.
Consider that there is widespread interest in the transparency and anti-surveillance currents of activism and information-sharing online, and in grassroots activism in the street too. While Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are icons of this organic campaign emerging from society, they are not leadership figures. They preside over no organization. And yet, if we look at those men and the issues associated with them, we see forces much greater than the political opposition parties in some countries.
The “Snowdenistas” lack an actual name or even a political party. However, these nameless masses managed to receive promises from the US President, who could not ignore the mass indignation over the facts revealed by Snowden, and had to make at least some effort to reform and rein in the National Security Agency (NSA). It is questionable that Obama was either able or willing to really make concessions to those critics, however. But can the political opposition in the US, at this time the Republican Party and smaller parties including the Libertarian Party, claim a similar policy victory over the incumbent government while the Democrats were in power? It is not likely. They need to win elections, whereas pressure groups can get what they want without capturing state power.
The nameless opponents of surveillance and the growth of the national security state in the US, who are everywhere and lack any formal organization, could have done far more if only they were more concerned than they actually are. In reality, the issue is not yet devastating enough to people’s lives to really force them to use every option to compel the government to obey the wishes of the people. Voting may also serve as a way of letting off steam, as most people are too busy at work most of the day to realize that the vote they cast at the end of it is actually worthless and cannot deter the state’s ongoing massive violations of their civil rights.
Politicians and parties are transitory as always, but the will to power – the will of the hungry and the oppressed to get what they need — is something that can crash through to the halls of power without ever declaring a formal organization at all. Led by just an internet connection and their anger, human beings could make or break some forms of political power. If you got rid of formal political organizations tomorrow, the world might even be more democratic and representative based on the popular issue-driven model rather than authority-driven ideological platforms.
What is advocated here is not that bloggers, grassroots activists and civil society practice a type of anarchism, or refuse to believe in all organization or authority. It is simply advocated that politicians and organizations in general not be taken too seriously, and that no-one invest too much time in defending them. People are bigger than their parties and their leaders, and should think bigger.