💬With astonishing speed we have moved from a situation in which citizens of democratic societies shared a consistent view of the political realities of their society to one where disinformation is the order of the day. This has been a result of a deliberate attack on that shared reality by the media of the far right, often using ‘fake news’ as purveyed by the most powerful man in the world.
This is a fundamental assault on democracy since, as Hannah Arendt wrote, ‘The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.’ So to defend our democracy we need to analyse the assault on our shared reality by those who would seek to create a world of ‘alternative facts’.
Any attempt to criticise the purveyors of disinformation – or to assert a right to limit the use of propaganda within a democratic system – is met with accusations of oppression and claims that creating a legal structure within which a genuinely free media might flourish are attempts to deprive the propagandists of their freedom. But, as Winston Smith observes in 1984 by George Orwell, ‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four’ and not to enable those who would claim that it equals five. I examined some of these issues in a report about the Leveson Inquiry, concluding that our media system is anything but free.
The structures of propaganda, making use of the classic techniques of the Big Lie and of constant repetition of a false narrative as honed by authoritarians in the last century, are flourishing on the hard right and among those who are rabidly defending the hardest of Brexits.
The media style which began on the ‘alt-right’ has seeped into the media most of us rely on, with a disturbing level of exchange between one and the other. The most obvious example during the Brexit referendum was the claim on the side of the Brexit bus that leaving the EU would make £350m a week available for additional health spending. This has been roundly condemned as false by the government’s spending watching, the OBR.
This regime of non-truth has been turbo-charged by social media platforms that claim they are merely vessels and have no responsibility for the content they share. Thus lies and bile have become the common currency of our political discourse as the level of knowledge declines and the possibility of a genuine democratic debate evaporates.
On this website we profile some of the pro-Brexit propagandists who are part of the Brexit Syndicate. They include: