Mirror Mirror on the Wall: Brexit, Trump & the Media

As a Brit watching the unfolding theatrics of the American presidential election, I cannot help but think of the Brexit Referendum.

Here, the complex social, political and economic context - that created the environment - that facilitated the vote and the outcome were ignored. Instead the arguments and the ultimate decision put forth were oversimplified, and consequently the very framework of the debate, and in many ways society, were redefined within these terms.

Something very similar is happening Stateside. 

As someone who has studied or worked in the media for 13 years, one of the biggest culprits – if not the biggest – is the media. We are being failed by our media. Fundamentally and almost absolutely. While online social media has its benefits, for the institution of journalism and media, it has been a nail in the coffin.

The media plays such an unbelievably pivotal role in society. But I increasingly struggle to see how it is doing anything other than taking us further and further away from the realities of our societies. Realities that we must acknowledge, accept and understand before any real change or progress can be made. 

Of course, it is not all bad. But the good seems just a drop in the ocean. It feels like a barrage of nonsense, agenda and misinformation. We all feel it, every single day.

The media has become an absolutely monstrous machine.

Yesterday, watching the debate, I stopped for a moment and thought what does this actually look like? And to me it just sounded like the organ that is the “Western Media”.  A lot of it sounds like Donald Trump and a lot of it sounds like Hillary Clinton. And hardly any of it sounds like anything else exists (except maybe for Kim Kardashian).

At best, you could say, well then it is doing its job. It is the mirror reflecting the reality of our times. But it is not the mirror. It is part of the ugly reflection staring back at us. It reflects not the truth, but the increasingly disconnected reality it dwells in. It is tying itself in knots, with the bed sheets of its incestuous affair with power, politics and money. 

The “alternative media” is not the mirror either. Maybe it’s just another mirror. Maybe made by hand, with a material not as polished nor as expensive. Maybe by people who had, had enough of the lies and wanted their point of view to be heard. 

One is the alternative media. And the other lives in an alternative reality.

Really all we have now is a hall of mirrors. We don’t know where one starts and the other ends. We don’t know if there are cracks in the glass or are we just imagining it. We know we are there, real and solid and in reality in the middle of it all, but we cant really figure out which reflection is actually ours – they all seem to be telling us that “this is the real version of you”. And social media has made the endlessness feel simultaneously larger and smaller than before. 

That is what is happening in our societies today. And in our politics. And most fundamentally in the institution that is supposed to be informing us of it all – our media.

The rules of the game have in many ways been defined by the media; they can cause you to rise they can cause you to fall – not many of us would survive a single, simple media campaign against us. They can smear with any of their many brushes and make it look like a piece of art you will overpay for.

Even the individuals who tell us they are standing up to this “status quo” like Donald Trump are fuelled by the very same coal.

Just like with Brexit, the media fuelled the flames before it reported that there is a fire to be put out.

But they waited long enough for all of us to get burned.