Allow Internet Journalism to Bury The Mainstream Press–But Not Freedom of Speech

The internet is now king when it comes to getting reliable news, hard and fast. I believe it is a good thing that the traditional (and somewhat stale) mainstream press is being left behind because of this. The internet allows for multiple views and voices to be heard, and for society to hear alternate reports on current events. However, with the advent of cancel culture and the banning of many public figures on social media, we have to wonder if we are at the risk of swapping one problem with another…

Few would disagree that the mainstream media were ‘running the show’ for a long time. The largest and oldest news publications from across the globe had been able, undeniably, to sharply shape the narrative of reported events in such a way as to coerce the general public into believing exactly what they wanted them to. When it comes to the biggest major news corporations, many of the most significant world events have been written about selectively, leaving the reading audience with little more to go on than what made the headlines in any chosen country.

With the advent of the internet, things changed in an explosive way when it came to reporting on current affairs and topical issues. Although many of the larger corporations of news media still cling to tried and tested ways of reporting – which is often, if not always, heavily biased – the internet has blown open our understanding of many events. Now, it seems, the door can never be closed – and that, I believe, is a good thing. However, with the amount of suspended social media accounts growing, and those who are targeted by the cancel culture mobs, are we at the risk of trading one problematic system with another?

As the internet bloomed over the years, so has our access to raw data and news – as it happens. No longer were the platforms (in which people were drip-fed information) few in number – the market was wide open and over time, readers began to see the value and power of online reporting. Independent news websites, in particular, gained a strong foothold, and where once the published press held on firm to the keys, there was soon a new generation of reporters, writers and “internet sleuths” who helped to change our perception of things many once took for granted. In short, people had access to everything – not just what those above wanted us to know. The power shifted.

Nothing illustrates this more perfectly than the recent court case between actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, Amber Heard. Their open exchange of shocking allegations of abuse gripped much of the public. There was a time when the scales were tipped in the Aquaman star’s favour – when the earliest seeds of the case were merely ‘her words against his’ and the press asked us to take this at face value. Yet over time, a small core group of internet journalists studied fastidiously every minutiae detail of the case, which they shared online – and the public soon shifted their perception. They were able to read the facts behind the lurid headlines; headlines and articles that seemed so intent on destroying Depp’s reputation. The internet highlighted for many the disconnect between the general public and the mainstream media, who still peddled the same erroneous story about Depp that very few believed. The recent court case shows – especially in light of the fact that the work of several of these internet journalists were brought into court and they were mentioned by name – that those using the internet helped the truth to be revealed, and Depp rightly gained his victory after many years of being silenced.

Independent news sites, bloggers, freelance writers and even Youtubers (some with subscribers numbering millions) are doing their part to share alternate reports which blow apart our misguided misconceptions. Just recently, comedian, author and activist Russell Brand made a series of videos on his YouTube channel, calling for his 5+ million subscribers to take a step back from the mainstream reports of the crisis in Ukraine and to read between the lines of what we are being told by many press reporters.

Brand invited his supporters to avoid getting whipped into a frenzy by the prominent media moguls and asked us instead to take a calm and measured look at what’s happening in the world. In the past, as with today, the headlines shape much of what we perceive to be reality – and Brand encourages us to no longer settle for that.

The sheer amount of independent news sites/independent reporters/bloggers online is staggering – and their high web viewing figures show us that the world was hungry for the unfiltered truth. There is clearly no going back now – and thankfully so. In this age of fast-paced reporting, social media breaking news and independent writing, we are now in a more powerful position than ever to pull apart the facts from the fiction. However, much like everything else in life, there seems to be a downside – and when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the internet seems to be playing a dangerous game by allowing “cancel culture” mobs to push their influence across many popular sites. This, coupled with the continued banning of public figures that they don’t agree with on certain platforms, leave significant areas of the internet at risk of becoming as sterile and selective as the mainstream press once were.

We have seen this happen just recently, with author, commentator, and psychologist Jordan Peterson who found his Twitter account suspended after a series of comments he made regarding Elliot Page, which caused controversy. Whether one agrees with Peterson’s views and choice of words or not, no one can deny that there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction from Twitter and across social media platforms to remove voices that are not aligned with our own views, and in this way, we are once again, as a society dictating what can and cannot be said, or what can or cannot be reported upon.

The same can be said of Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who has been pursued by cancel culture mobs since she offered her opinion on Twitter regarding gender, sex and women’s rights. Since she published her thoughts online, she has been besieged with death threats, vicious comments, and calls for her to be banned from social media. Yet again, the point remains the same: whether we strongly agree or disagree with the author, society should allow for a more nuanced response to difficult subjects and topical debates. Anything other than shutting up and removing the opposition would at least be something.

Whilst the internet is full of radicals from all walks of life, extremists who wish to push their own agenda and silence opposition, we as a public should endeavor above all to hold onto the balance in all things and to protect our rights to access of information. Only this way will we ever have an opportunity to arrive at the full truth of the things that matter.

Written By:

Fiona Dodwell is a freelance writer and author who has written for Made In Shoreditch Magazine and Music News, among other. She is passionate about music, books, animal rights and politics.

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