“The Medium is the Massage!” Part 1.

No – the ‘Fourth Estate’ is not the latest housing development for which you have acquired a dodgy ‘development permission’.

Under my Post “New Technology Baffles Chain-Smoking Old Hack”, I was asked a question by ‘Tony the Prof’. He asked what I thought of the ‘other’ Jersey media.

In addition to the Jersey Evening Post, the island is “served” by a commercial radio station – ‘FM 103’, A local commercial television station which serves the Channel Islands – ‘Channel Television’, and a BBC Jersey out-post (‘gone native’) which does both radio and TV output.

I will try and answer Tony’s question – but what he asks cannot be answered in a glib sound-bite.

OK, OK – yes it can; God, you’re a ruthless bunch.

So, OK, there are two answers – a short one – and a long one.

Short answer? The Jersey media is rubbish.

Long answer? It’s still rubbish – but we must explain why, based on a theory of media.

To deliver the long answer will take a bit of space – so I’m going to have to split today’s post into two parts.

This post, Part 1, will set the scene. Later today, Part 2 will examine the theory.

So first, for those of you not familiar with media in the island of Jersey – and the key role it plays within the island’s political economy – a bit of background information is necessary.

Although Jersey is a self-governing jurisdiction, which makes its own laws and sets its own tax rates and so forth – like a mini-nation state, – it is, effectively, a single-party state. 98% of political candidates run for office as so-called “independents”.

How this manifests itself in practice is, of course, a de facto Conservative Party – operating on a covert basis working to hidden agendas. Moreover – the ‘cultural’ resistance to political parties has been very carefully nurtured and promoted by the island’s media over the decades – particularly the Jersey Evening Post.

The reason for this is obvious to anyone upon a moment’s reflection.

With political parties the voting public actually have a clear choice concerning which political philosophy and manifesto of policies they will be governed by. The electorate has power.

And that is the very last thing that the Jersey oligarchy wants to see.

Voter power, you might think, is a very foundation stone of functioning democracy. But in Jersey it is viewed as though it were the second coming of Mikhail Bakunin.

Instead, in Jersey, people like me trawl around the election campaign trail – trying to sell our wares to the voters – usually on the basis of nothing more substantive than “Hey – I’m a nice guy – my great-uncle lived in this parish – and I like your pub – so please vote for me.”

In my case I like to imagine I offer a little more substance – but the net result of this approach to democracy is a legislature comprised of a disjointed, directionless rabble which possesses no electoral mandate for a particular political direction or programme of policies.

Such a lack of focus results in a “let’s make it up as we go along” approach to policy formation. Most members of the Jersey legislature, no matter how well intentioned, are just sitting around waiting to be led – waiting to be told what to do.

And it is into this policy vacuum that the winds of power rush – sweeping up the gullible and the ignorant – and carrying them along on a Mistral of Groupthink.

For those of you familiar with Jersey politics, just carry out a simple thought-experiment. Of the 53 elected members how many of them could you imagine being able to sit a test – without notice – in which they had to describe in detail their vision for the future of Jersey, the challenges the island faces, and the policies we need for some kind of secure future?

Hell – how many of the 53 can you even name?

So there you have the polity in Jersey; a legislature largely consisting of a broadly well-meaning, but befuddled and directionless collection of passive lobby-fodder – actually eager to be told what to do by those with a keen interest in stepping into the policy and power vacuum.

That Jersey has – albeit in an insecure and unsustainable way – been reasonably successful in certain areas, is more down to a happy accident of history – rather than any great focus and vision on the part of our recent Glorious Leaders.

In this kind of political environment what, then, is the role of the media – the Fourth Estate?

Let us imagine – and I know this is a big ask – that the fantasy self-image of the average news editor and churnalist was reality – rather than self-deluded dream-world posturing.

Imagine they really were fearless seekers after truth; champions of public empowerment – brave men and women in the finest traditions of the Fourth Estate.

Under these circumstances we might imagine such people shouldering the burden of challenging The Power – analysing the capabilities of the Establishment – applying intellectually rigorous analyses to the Establishment policies – to a far greater extent than that which occurs in, say, the UK. For there, we find a tradition of political debate, the challenging of ideas and policies, the testing by opposing political parties of the others’ ideas etc. But the political environment of Jersey lacks this culture of real and informed debate.

Yet rather than stepping up to the plate – and serving the public interest in a way that compensates for the absence of organised politics and real debate – what do we find when we examine – with tongs and suitable disinfectant, of course – The Jersey Media?

The profound irony, of course, is that regardless of one’s political views – left or right, Labour or Conservative – neither outlook is well-served by a political environment which is un-focused, directionless, incompetent and shallow; a political environment in which ever greater levels of hubris, complacency and arrogance are fostered amongst the powerful through the servile, grovelling and uncritical approach of the local media.

But that is, pretty much, the kind of scene we have now.

I think I’ve given the short answer to ‘Tony the Prof’s question concerning my opinion of the Jersey media in my comments above.

But I have to justify such conclusions. So – in Part 2 – I will deliver your cut-out-and-keep guide to the functioning of the opinion management industry.

Watch this space!

Stuart Syvret

Book of the Post:

The Medium is the Massage, by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore.

Joke of the Post:

“Don’t tell my mother I work in an advertising agency; she thinks I play piano in a whorehouse.”

Jacques Seguela.

One thought on ““The Medium is the Massage!” Part 1.

  1. Tony from Jersey

    So – the States Members and their visions. I think I can give at least some of them.

    Alan Breckon – vision: socialist or social democrat, wanting politicians to not overlook the poorer members of society, and a better future for all our islanders, not just a privileged few.

    Philip Ozouf – vision: next chief minister and lots of column inches and photographs in the post, Jersey’s answer to Tony Blair?

    That’s 2 for starters!


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