I want to back up a recent opinion put forward by Steve Topple, a British blogger who emerged from almost complete obscurity to become a very articulate op-ed writer.
Steve appealed against the formation of new media elites. A new centre-left consisting of very tame bloggers starts to overrun the mainstream media, as can already be seen. Examples of those personalities are people like Owen Jones. They seem radical, usually throwing their support in the direction of the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and talking endlessly against austerity, but taking a very austere and civilised path to power and influence that could ultimately see them merely become defenders of the establishment rather than real opponents.
The tendency to pay lip service to the themes of decentralisation and disintegration brought about by digital technologies since the 1990s, while actually still conglomerating around authority and institutions of choice (papers like the Guardian and organisations such as the Labour Party) can only lead to disappointment. This is because the people who want to preserve power and wealth inequalities will use this weakness of gravitating to authority to once again simply preserve themselves as authorities.
I think this threat fits with the theory of the di Lampedusa strategy, and was explained by Immanuel Wallerstein in his short book Utopistics. Wallerstein warned that the media and political elite behind a powerful central regime or economic model can simply co-opt “a lot of the terminology of the discontented” to abort a revolution and keep themselves in power. The essence of the di Lampedusa strategy is that the elite are in a war of maneuver to steal the rhetoric of anyone who might overthrow them, and become their own opponents so that anyone who replaces them will simply be them again.
In the case of Britain, which Steve was addressing, the di Lampedusa strategy might see the economists, civil servants, institutions and authorities behind austerity measures alter the phraseology and theories of austerity, and then reapply them. If a “socialist” party such as Corbyn’s Labour were to be in power, those institutions would simply try to repackage austerity in socialist-like language and reapply it again, using any means possible to corrupt people like Corbyn or have him replaced with someone corruptible. They will try to repackage war in the language of stopping war.
However, there is also the genuine possibility that even if the institutions behind austerity are dismantled and all the politicians and journalists who supported war and pestilence for their own financial gain are imprisoned, whoever replaces them may be just as selfish and contemptible. That may ensue, if some new hierarchy formed to replace the old one, but there is also the technological trajectory away from hierarchy. That inevitable technological trajectory is more responsible for the proliferation of anti-austerity, anti-authority and alternative media movements and viewpoints than any particular leftist political faction or strategy you can identify and blame.
What of all the tech-empowered bloggers from a background of powerlessness – that group Steve offers himself as an example of? What of media disintegration, the formation of the OffGuardian and the thousands of other OffGuardians that are tearing readers away from the Guardian? What about all the small Alex Joneses tearing people away from the real Alex Jones. These hundreds, perhaps thousands of independent radicals (the kind the Mont Order has intended to gather and support) have no real strategy but they corrode and disintegrate the more authoritarian media environment. There are no authorities on the web.
There are no “esteemed” journalists and newspapers anymore, there are just points of view. If anything has any authority, it’s the combined chorus of independent bloggers and sources challenging the old papers and broadcasters. Those bloggers are the essence of media disintegration and collapse of press authority.