by Jayne Ozanne, Director of the Ozanne Foundation and Editor of Via Media
Some call it the ultimate Hunger Monster – the creature with the insatiable appetite.
Others liken it euphemistically to the apocalyptic beast depicted in Ezekiel and Revelation, whose multiple eyes look in all directions at the same time.
I myself just call it the “all-seeing eye” – the giant eye of Horus which hardly ever blinks, and certainly never sleeps.
I speak of course of our 24-hour media – the “free press”, that is a prize mark of a free democracy.
I’m beginning to fear however that history will show that this beast has shaped our culture and most certainly our political landscape far more than anything or anyone else over the past decade.
We all know the game by now.
Ambitious media outlet wants a scoop. It invites its prey (enter stage left a celebrity or a politician) into its lair where it tries to prize out of said prey a soundbite that can become the next major headline. Triumphantly, the outlet then claims they are “the first with the news”, that they can “exclusively reveal”, and that only they can be trusted to bring “the true story” to the public.
To achieve such a coup, an army of backroom researchers trawl through years of social media posts, or better still they find a soundbite from a speech (nearly always taken out of context) from a fellow politician, so as to try and find that precious proof that their latest victim is not to be trusted, that they don’t really mean what they say, or that there has now been some “major U-turn” in policy.
And so the dance begins…or should we say, the bear-baiting starts. The only contestants that survive are those who can win a near-perfect score in some virtual reality version of “Strictly Come Dancing”.
And I for one am sick of it.
I’m sick of the games. I’m sick of the tap dancing – which seems to come straight from a scene in Chicago, where lawyer Billy (one smooth fast-footed Richard Gere) deftly dances around (ie manipulates) the media to save his guilty client. It’s the ultimate dance-off in which some will survive, and others sadly don’t.
We now know the tune, inside out, and I myself know hardly anyone who wants to dance to it anymore, let alone listen to it.
It reminds me of Jesus saying that this generation is like children crying out: “We piped a tune for you and you did not dance, we sang a dirge for you and your did not mourn” (Matt 11:16-17)
You see, we’ve all seen through it now. We don’t trust it anymore. Indeed, we don’t seem to trust anyone at all anymore. It all seems so pointless. Mud-slinging, name calling, fact twisting, cat calling – it’s all there, and no one comes out of it with much dignity.
The 24-hour news service, which is meant to help us maintain our freedom has I fear begun to sew seeds that risk fundamentally undermining it. For we now take everything we hear with a very large pinch of salt, and we see the dance for the staged theatre that it is. The news frequently leaves us none the wiser, and more often than not results in us feeling even more frustrated and in the dark.
However, there is Good News afoot.
For there is one All-Seeing Eye, who knows all truth, and sees all truth. God knows what is going to happen. Quite literally. The source of truth can reveal all truth, and with the help of the Holy Spirit brings witness to that truth.
You see I believe that thanks to Holy Spirit, we can recognise when we hear truth spoken – even from those we disagree with politically. And when we recognise the integrity of what is being said, when there is a “witness in our spirit” to the voice of truth that seeks to cut through all the political posturing and point scoring, then we start to tentatively take steps towards rebuilding some trust and with it, some hope.
Such as when the new Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke this week about the need to reform politics and remove the tarnish that has become such a stain on everybody.
Trust urgently needs to be re-established in our country, and that will only occur when the media start to play their part in enabling this. When they change the music and enable people to dance a different dance. When we move away from Tarantellas focused on the feverish foot stamping of individuals to ones that provide forums to model elegance and grace.
Until we’re able to do that, our hungry 24 hour media monster will continue to eat away at some of the foundations on which our society is based, rather than helping to strengthen the main pillars of truth and trust on which our communities can all flourish and grow.
Maybe its time for some eyes to sleep, to take a rest, and to wake refreshed in the morning?