We gauge the ‘mainstream’ on the basis of our instinct for what’s politic. For instance, unless we are out to cause trouble, we wouldn’t crash an ANZAC parade dressed as a Japanese military officer from 1942. We understand this would be offensive and would result in a negative reception in which our personal safety would potentially be in jeopardy from angry retribution by those we’ve offended. Importantly, this would be a prevailing sentiment we had offended.
Our politic behaviour, in this instance, is coded via a cultural saturation that comes with a hereditary understanding passed down by the instruction of folklore. Your grandad (assuming he wasn’t killed then), your grandmother, and the antiquity of folks old enough to have lived those shared experiences and been shaped by those times would, if they were halfway articulate, share stories about those days.
This is outside of textbooks, historical accounts, memoirs, and newsreels from the times. Their days were the times of the printed word, the wireless and the newsreel; all of which form the integrated model of the new technologies by which we now communicate. Back then these ‘voices’ crowed the most heavily censored information, tailored to prop up our morale, to keep the people organised. This is a core function of media, and nothing has changed in that sense. Views, thus formed, were propagated by the people in communities: at work, at the pub, at the dinner table, in the church and on soapboxes at public parks.
Yet, something most certainly has changed in the way the mainstream operates. Even though back then news may have been selectively edited so’s not to affect the morale of those on the home front — and given the divergence of media and its audience — we cannot be said to be ‘unified’ in such a way that the ‘mainstream’ voice braying at us is in truth representative of the majority of the populace.
Nothing was disunified about the message that we had to beat the Japs, and that view was in no way dictated by the government propaganda department of the war office. We knew it to be a self-evident truth. Propagandising wasn’t intrinsically reshaping our national opinion, it just handled it with special gloves.
We did and continue to diverge on matters of politics and that’s (apparently) a sign of a healthy democracy. It would be unrealistic to suggest that a time ever existed where dissenting political views were tolerated uncensorious. For instance, the ‘red menace’ was loathed and hounded from the media to the offices of the newly formed Australian Intelligence Security Organisation (ASIO). Its message was distorted and its threat exaggerated to meet with general disapproval (interesting how times have changed and what was then the mainstream is now hounded by ASIO in the same way). As such, reds and reactionaries regularly punched on in city streets, and brawls were quite nasty.
But in those times, we had every reason to be leery of the reds. Perhaps those singing the Internationale while waving the red flag were naïve, but at a time when Stalin was killing millions and imprisoning millions more, and Eastern Europe had fallen under the iron shadow of communism the average Aussie had no reason to favourably view the possibility of joining such a restrictive ideology.
Indeed, we went the other way, down a road of mass consumerism with the blessing of conservative impresario Robert Menzies. The media went with it and before long it was a ‘mass media’. But the difference between then and now was in the unification and simplification of both medium and its message. We have transitioned from the era of broadcast into narrowcast. The audience, like the medium, has splintered. This actually began before the computer became a household item, it started back in the 1980s with cable television and hit its stride in the 1990s. By the time right-leaning Fox News came along to challenge the prevailing liberal conscience of American media, for instance, a separate audience had been identified and was being transmitted to. The ‘mainstream’ had now been split into two: those on the ‘right’ and all the rest. What began as a business model designed to fill media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s investors’ coffers intuitively became representative of a second tier of American opinion which had not had a powerful voice since William F. Buckley Jnr was at his peak. By the time Fox News rolled out, the Internet had caught on, and those ‘two’ expressions splintered into countless audience possibilities. Narrowcast had arrived, by which we mean that instead of one medium preaching to all, the medium became many and found its niche in catering for its specific audience.
Suddenly, someone who didn’t much care for football could immerse themselves in issues of spelunking, let’s say. They could turn off their TV and chat online about spelunking without ever knowing who won the Superbowl. Wiccans could chat their thing, non-smokers could assemble in online chat groups, and access information from websites catering directly to them and so on. But all of that changed as soon as the corporations caught up with what was at first excitedly greeted by digital utopians as a world of endless freedoms where you could say what you wanted and find someone who’d listen. You could find your own tribe, your own audience.
Sadly, as seems to be the way with the human race, the dystopians got it right and utopians, in their O-eyed futurist optimism had it wrong. The internet, outside of the dark web, is so heavily corporatized and policed now that that the whole basis of ‘narrowcast’ in anything but a recreational sense has been undermined and ruined. Worse yet, the freedom of the internet has gone and everything you click on comes with advertising; every site you visit has a monetised component (except NAB of course). The internet is controlled by Google. Facebook has become the conduit for the dissemination of news, or rather, despite all the hooey about its ‘tolerance’ for the ‘far-right’, mainstream news. Woke is, of course, mainstream.
Now, we’re in a new age of mainstream; that which the majority truly agreed upon has passed, and that view which is chosen for us is imposed on us.
Whether or not we approve of gay marriage, we will be censored on the largest platforms if we oppose it; more so, we’ll be banned. If we don’t agree with climate change we’ll soon be rubbished and have our accounts frozen. The majority of news sites operate like an interrogator’s lamp, stampeding our consciousness with messages we don’t agree with but we dare not challenge in any serious way. Celebrities understand that if they want their bread buttered, they better join the conga line of Woke ideas and opinions. Those who work for the public service would lose their jobs if they were to contradict the Woke narrative that is inculcated into their training and service. As we’ve seen, not even someone as seemingly removed from the world of politics as a sporting star can get away with expressing his or her opinions contrary to the Woke narrative.
If we deviate from the mainstream platforms and start our own, we soon find that not only are we being spied on and infiltrated but our hosts are compelled to shut us down. We are even punished for our dissension external to media; banks have begun freezing the accounts of dissident netizens; employers will delete our CVs from their HR files and rabid online communities with the state’s blessing will ‘doxx’ us by sharing our personal details online in a bid to shame us.
However, it’s clear from the election of Donald Trump alone (using the US as a model here, do excuse us, readers) this is not a mainstream consensus, but a mainstream narrative delivered through a narrowcast bank. A myriad of views exists out there, much of them crackpot, many of them off-centre, but it’s an illusion of the big media to suggest that the beliefs they peddle are shared unanimously around the country and the globe. If the West hasn’t ‘woke’ to the fact that it’s lost its military and ideological domination over the world then it had better wake up and smell the Tiger Balm because the balance of order changed while it was fanatically obsessed with the threat of Islamic terrorism. And Woke is a Western poison.
In summing up, it is no longer a mainstream view, but a dictation to the mainstream which doesn’t invite opinion, it decides it.