BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
There is growing evidence that lockdown is winding people up now. This includes the journalists who scribe from the homes they have rarely left since March. Hats off to the anti-capitalist Black Lives Matter opportunists who used the perennial August of lockdown to generate a high-profile campaign when, frankly, there were so few stories circulating. One can only read so many articles about Covid before getting bored senseless by the topic. Those dull government briefings – two minutes and it’s switch over time. Nazi Hunters on PBS is outstanding even a fifth time round – now that is worth watching if you want to see true anti fascism in play.
If TV is not your thing and you have plenty of time on your hands then there are now all kinds of freelance commentators on YouTube you can click and play who seem to have enormous audiences (“seem” as audience numbers can still be bought). They tend to deliver a mix of conspiracy theory and humour, focusing on snippets from politics as if politics are the be all and end all of human existence. Their excuse for demanding donations on Patreon is that they are engaged in a “culture war” of mammoth significance and that they are the rebels against an MSM which is no longer representative and “elites” who plot and scheme behind closed doors to shape the world against the masses. That excuse for dosh is mostly rot – they are preaching to converts and want to make their flat in Swindon look less green screen and more like a studio. By “culture”, presumably these people disagree with the axiom that politics is downstream of culture as there are few if any references to culture in their diatribes.
Are these YouTube characters actually engaging in a culture war? Yes. Putting culture above politics as a distinct realm is very much mistaken, for politics is a part of culture. Are they changing media as we know it? Yes. If their audiences are to be believed, they are putting much of the big budget content produced by the behemoths like the BBC to shame. Are these people having an effect on mainstream politics? No. Extraordinarily little if any effect, in fact. Swing voters have never heard of them. Businesses – who influence politics the most – have no time for them.
When Brexit was there to be won these ranters served a purpose in keeping Brexiteer heads up and rallying the troops, but that purpose has now gone. Nowadays they are too easy to dismiss as green-inkers and their figureheads tend to have fatally overstepped the mark at some point – whether by calling Islam a cancer, joking about rape, or going down the intelligence-genetics route in discussions about race. Hardly the type of shows or characters that advertisers want to be associated with. Although the YouTube commentators tend to be of the right rather than of the left, there are leftie commentators who suffer from the same pick-a-fact routine with which to explain all – frankly, all need a health warning emblazoned across them. They really don’t do nuance.
You can see how people get radicalised. How they turn from call centre helpdesk assistant to the destroyer of 5G masts. How they are convinced that billionaire Bill Gates plans to inject nastiness into the human race via a Covid vaccine. The videos of those they follow are convincing, eloquent and often compelling. Of course it’s all bollocks.
Conspiracy theories do tend to surface during times of uncertainty so the YouTube commentators are making hay. Followers are not vulnerable as such, it is just that conspiracy theorists come up with ideas out of thin air to match whatever ‘fact’ they think is true. They use paranoia-based beliefs to successfully convince others. YouTube ranters traditionally target the low-hanging fruit – uncooperative, distrustful, and socially isolated males who are prone to paranoia. Sadly, their fans find them so appealing because believing in a conspiracy theory with strangers on the internet gives them a sense of belonging which they lack in their real world lives.
The chaos of the MSM has of course been pushing audience into these characters’ laps, especially lately. The opinion pieces in the newspapers by the aforementioned lockdowned journalists have gone off into the surreal and bonkers. The BBC continues its downward spiral, soon to be starved of cash. Other newspapers seem to house activists rather than journalists who engage in nothing more than Cadwalladrised tinfoilery. In the sense that all that really matters in a post-Covid world (presuming we get there) is the Economy, the MSM will continue to suffer and only the best will survive – that content which fits a market. The YouTube ranters will also go through a refining process after the current mass proliferation with the successful ones professionalising – their Patreon donations drying up as politics becomes boring again. Thank Covid, the gods of the economy, not Brexit commentators, shall be left, right and centre once more – culture reverting to music, gaming, film and football.
The big winner from the audience race between the MSM and Marmite YouTube ranters looks like being Instagram. News bullet-pointed into snippets and images without those attic-dwelling Twatter trolls. Instagram is already rising to the challenge of delivering news and politics. Short – without the Commie detritus of Twitter, costs of MSM and the hour-long rants of YouTube commentators – shall be sweet as most normal Brits pull their sleeves up and get down to some hard work. Time for watching news and politics will diminish massively now that the Brexit battle quietens and then vanishes.
Is the culture war over? Yes, as good as finished in Britain. It ended on the night of the twelfth of December. What we see now is a faux war exaggerated a hundredfold by the poison of Twitter and Covid-induced frustrations. People just want facts now and are fed up to the back teeth of manipulation by the few.
“We must never give in to the oldest and least democratic trick of all – the coercion of the many by the ruthless manipulating few.” – Margaret Thatcher
Fact-based news bullets may be a dream too far, but it’ll help the growing tent of struggling journalists and commentators not miss the point. It may make them realise their tent is temporary and they really ought to back their writing job up with something more solid. I am reminded of Sherlock Holmes who on a camping trip asked Dr Watson to look up at the sky and tell him what he saw.
“I see millions and millions of stars,” Watson replied.
“What does that tell you?” Holmes questioned.
Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”
“Watson, get to the point, man” Holmes replied. “It tells me that some bastard has stolen our tent!”