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The New Media become the Old Media.


IN THE EARLY 2000s, I used to get my information from blogs, which were one of the few ways to keep up to speed with news that the old media were not reporting. For instance, the RIPA bill in the UK (2000), not touched by the broadcast media at all, that introduced truly draconian powers of surveillance the Stasi would have envied; the EU’s Data Retention Directive, an early attempt to control the internet (and ironically repealed a few years later because it was found to have contravened the EU’s own laws); the campaign of terror and brutality waged by the Rohingya in Burma (still never, ever mentioned), and many other things.

The advent of Twitter made a real difference after a couple of years of just being a platform for superficial chat, pics of kittens, dogs, bloopers and food; when it also became a conduit for news. It has now transformed into a battleground between the insane left and the rest of the world, with everything tilted in favour of the former because of the increasing bias of the owners.

It’s rather odd that British people can worked up by someone else’s president. It’s not as if they have a say in it, but such is life.

The same happened to Facebook, which I have always loathed. When it began it provided a more stylish competitor to MySpace but was initially limited by its college-based, closed system. Once membership was thrown open to the whole world it really took off. It always remained (in my view, anyway) rather difficult to customise and control. As with Twitter it soon became a political battleground with a huge leaning to the left. I gave up using it after the EU referendum when the progressive whining was turned up to 11. The Trump phenomenon took it further to a preternatural level, at which it has remained. It’s rather odd that British people can worked up by someone else’s president. It’s not as if they have a say in it, but such is life.

At the same time the technology improved in its speed, power and reach. When I first heard of the internet, in the mid 1990s, I had to buy an expensive external modem (a Robotics Sportster 14,400, to be precise) which had to be rigged up with my computer and plugged into the phone line so that I could access the new marvel via a subscription to CompuServe. Within a few years every computer came with a built-in modem and wireless card.

This was when AltaVista was the search engine, soon to be swallowed up by Yahoo, which then became the search engine. Google came along and snatched that position. Google also snatched up the fledgling YouTube early on. Netscape at the time was a major browser, before Bill Gates realised he’d missed a trick with this internet thing and set his engineers onto the problem to come up with Internet Explorer.

So for a few years these platforms were still alternatives and it took time for the conventional media to understand what was going on. Once they did, it was only logical for them to consider moving in, first of all to profit and then to control, which is precisely what happened. They would buy up smaller competitors and just shut them down or half destroy them through bad management. Or they would ape more successful businesses and fail dismally each time: Google, for instance, tried to rival Facebook with Google Buzz, Google Wave and finally Google Plus, all complete bodges.

We are at the part of the process where there is a fusion of old media with the new: podcasting is the new radio; streaming, YouTube and other sites are the new television and film; blogs and websites are the new newspapers. Amazon not only sells books and garden utensils it also commissions and makes films.

So far, so predictable with regard to money and corporate empire-building. One thing we’re waiting for is the inevitable decay or disintegration of these tech giants. Before then, however, we are confronted with the more alarming problem of their ideological bias, which is deliberately stifling the early promise of the internet to provide a truly open ground for free speech and expression. Increasingly, non-left individuals and groups are being banished from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube; in some cases even financial services are withdrawn in an effort to make them unsustainable.

We are slipping back into the old days when we were mere consumers of whatever the media put in front of us…

We are slipping back into the old days when we were mere consumers of whatever the media put in front of us, except that as we are given less and less input of our own, those opposing us are given more. There is still hope that freedom of speech will survive the coming suppression. The breakup of the giants is likely to provide newer, perhaps smaller but more independent and resilient platforms. It may turn out that some of the earlier, older forms of social interaction, such as forums and blogs, regain traction.

Whatever happens, the internet has provided us one vital thing, the genie that cannot be put back in the bottle, which is the knowledge that those of us who care about free speech, and the traditional values of family, home and country, are not alone; that we are in fact, the majority. We know without any doubt now that the media establishment are against us, that they lie to us and misrepresent everyone they disagree with. The internet has shown us clearly who our enemies are and who are our allies. And that is definitely an improvement on how things used to be.

Currente Calamo columnist, poet and writer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent book is Albion Days (perennisperegrinator press).

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