Opinion: The power of the media for good or ill

The existence of a free press is one of the hard-won aspects of our society, that makes it what it is. Added to this is the existence of a free broadcasting system and the internet, some of which features other countries are lucky enough to share.

Of course, there are problems associated with a free media, including the issue that it is largely profit-driven and can therefore occasionally overstep the mark of what many ‘ordinary’ people consider to be acceptable behaviour. Delving too deeply into the private lives of those who are not in a position to defend themselves is one example of what can go wrong. On the other hand, revealing the depths of corruption in various public bodies is something for which we should thank them.

It is therefore with a degree of diffidence that I wonder whether some of the 24 hour a day coverage we see is actually a bad thing. Take for example, recent events in Sydney, Australia.

Of course, the world has a right to know what is going on. Modern communications mean that this is possible instantaneously. The other side of the coin is, however, that the coverage gives terrorists precisely what they want – publicity for their cause.

Looking into history, stories of (alleged) atrocities by German troops during the Great War were used as a way of galvanising the British to fight against them. Today, it seems that terrorists use images of their own actions as a way of seeking to justify their cause, while also aiming to frighten a worldwide audience into giving them whatever it is they want.

It could be argued that by denying them the publicity of instant news coverage, society could reduce the effectiveness of what they are doing to such an extent that it no longer appeals to them. In writing this, one has to be aware that we are living in a global environment where no one country can dictate what others do; nor can the power of the internet to promulgate propaganda easily be limited without infringing the rights of many harmless people.

What is needed is a debate that addresses how we can limit the effectiveness of terrorists’ activities, without limiting the ability of everyone else to live their lives as freely as is consistent with allowing others to do the same.

Perhaps we should also seek to find ways of altering the way we all live, so that some people no longer feel that they have no alternative to adopting extreme measures to achieve what they see as reasonable goals. This is not something we can do alone, but neither is it something that can be ignored. Even if we could argue we have made no mistakes in the past that have contributed towards the current world situation, we could not ignore it. But as an ex-colonial power, that would be difficult to argue.

* Stephen Phillips spent his entire career in financial services, spending the last decade writing on insurance, investments, pensions and mortgages. Latterly, he also wrote a monthly economic review that was issued to the clients of a large number of independent financial advisers. He has been a member of the party since 2013.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I recommend everyone to read the Pilger report on the press, ‘War by media and the triumph of propaganda.’ We do not get the truth from the majority of journalists. We no longer, if we ever did, have a free press. The media is used to manipulate us.

  • Jenny Barnes 17th Dec '14 - 6:58pm

    He’ s not a terrorist. He’s a very naughty boy. It looks more like generalised resentment and a bid for notoriety than anything ideological.

  • Jenny Barnes

    Good comment. I would suggest “generalised resentment ” is the root of most communist, nazi and islamic terrorist violence . Communism, nazism and islamic terrorism attracts resentful people who enjoy inflicting death and suffering on others

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