'Tell the truth'

| 8th September 2020 |
XR Murdoch shutdown
Extinction Rebellion
How can we have a true and free democracy without a free press?

If we really want radical change - on climate, on injustice, on inequality - then inevitably we must come together and turn to the press, the fourth estate, the invisible hand that guides us.

Extinction Rebellion launched a national day of action on Friday 4 September targeting the mainstream press at three newspaper printing presses.

I sat on top of a van for thirteen hours, locked on to the arm of a friend outside Rupert Murdoch’s Broxbourne Newsprinters - the largest printing press in the world. The protest was replicated at Knowsley in Liverpool and on a smaller scale in Glasgow. 

We are picking this battle with Goliath because we are left with no other choice.

Freedom

For one day we managed to stop the delivery of much of the UK’s climate sceptical press which prints its papers at printworks owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. And within this space we’ve opened, if we listen closely, maybe we will finally be able to hear the truth screaming inside it.

We are heading for climate, ecological and social collapse; that is a truth. When we reach it, will we wish we had acted sooner? Will we wish we had more friends to lean on?

Will we regret, bitterly and with a now useless rage, that we had allowed ourselves to be distracted and pacified by those who had only their own interests at heart?

We do not have a free press. Three companies alone (News UK, DMG and Reach) dominate 83 percent of the national newspaper market (up from 71 percent in 2015). Five billionaires are the majority voting shareholders for most of the UK national newspapers, with a combined weekly readership of 49 million.

Not only that but their papers also form the basis of the news agenda for the underfunded broadcast media, extending their power beyond the papers onto our screens. This small handful of people create the lens through which so many of us view the world. They manipulate the truth to suit their own ends, stoking whichever fires will fuel their inexorable drive for profit and power; they find the weak points lurking in our subconscious, simple human fragilities borne of fear and the instinct to survive, and they strike a match against it.

Democracy 

These billionaires toy with our democracy like careless, spoiled toddlers, dashing puppet politicians into the sandpit when they are displeased with them, and anointing those who play nice. And we go along unwittingly, we buy into their game, because why wouldn’t we?

The news, many of us reasonably assume, is just that - news. Not opinion masquerading as fact, not a personal agenda framed as a pressing national issue, but a largely objective, empirical reflection of the world.

In fact, we know the former Special Representative for Climate Change, Sir David King, has come out and said that he was repeatedly stopped from speaking out on climate by No. 10 under David Cameron and Theresa May for fear of upsetting the Murdoch press. 

The game is rigged. The supremely privileged few distract us with fear and hatred so we fight among ourselves and remain powerless. They would have us believe that the family of immigrants next door, or the disabled man down the road receiving benefits, or the scared mothers crowded into dinghies at our shores, are the problem, the 'others'. But The Truth, the one they don’t want us to know, is that they are the problem. 

They are the barriers to real progress; they are what's keeping us from a fair and just society that puts people and the planet before profit.

Possibility

From their private helicopters and blacked out limousines they would keep us distracted, standing in the shadows cast by the spectre of their greed and yet turned inwards, pointing at each other.

But in order to survive what’s coming, we must turn outwards and be the light that illuminates the truth. If we really want radical change - on climate, on injustice, on inequality - then inevitably we must come together and turn to the press, the fourth estate, the invisible hand that guides us.

Because how can we have a true and free democracy without a free press?

A society governed by fair laws and principled people, shaped with respect and care for the environment and love and compassion for future generations, and informed by a scrupulous and accountable media may sound like a utopian vision. But I don’t think so, and I have to assume neither do the thousands of others who have taken action alongside me this September.

It is possible, and within reach, but only if we reach for it. This reality will not manifest itself, it will not land in our laps unbidden. We must fight for it, but in order to fight we must first face the truth. 

Motivation

We must not allow these corporations to divide us anymore. Unsurprisingly, much of the media is now acting exactly as we expected them to - going after individuals involved in the protest and working to turn this into some kind of culture war between right wing defenders of democracy and left wing extremists who are “suppressing free speech”, instead of facing the real problem. 

Yes they are big but we are many, and we have a more potent motivator if only we have the guts to look at it head on. 

They are motivated by power, money, and prestige. We are driven by something far greater - we are fighting for a better world, and the battle is only just beginning. 

This Author

Gully Bujak is a former events planner and facilities manager from Norwich. She moved to London in March 2019 and has worked full time for Extinction Rebellion since. 

Help us keep The Ecologist working for the planet

The Ecologist website is a free service, published by The Resurgence Trust, a UK-based educational charity. We work hard - with a small budget and tiny editorial team - to bring you the wide-ranging, independent journalism we know you value and enjoy, but we need your help. Please make a donation to support The Ecologist platform. Thank you!

Donate to us here