City Leap could be a useful case study of the effect of social media on local political participation.
It’s a topic that on the face of it seems quite vast and full of buzzwords; so much so that it’s barely understood — but is part of a broad wave of practices through globalisation and neoliberalism brought in to increase the profit of capital. It’s a mechanism to transfer wealth from the public to the private sector.
Now, these concepts aren’t normally brought up in the local media. On a search for the use of the word neoliberalism — the label for this group of mechanisms including deregulation, lower taxes on capital, wage cuts, insecure wages, hollowing out of the state while public services are carried out by the public sector, gives an initial but crude look at how the media perform:
My assumption from past reading of the Bristol media, but not from evidenced research, is that these aren’t topics for local journalists. To quote Gary Webb, the local journalist who uncovered CIA involvement in the drug trade on the streets:
“In seventeen years of doing this, nothing bad had happened to me. I was never fired or threatened with dismissal if I kept looking under rocks. I didn’t get any death threats that worried me. I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn’t work, that it was steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite? Hell, the system worked just fine, as I could tell. It +encouraged+ enterprise. It +rewarded+ muckracking.”
Alas, then, as Joseph Heller wrote, “Something Happened”:
“And then I wrote some stories that made me realise how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job. It turned out to have nothing to do with it. The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.” [medialens]
In 1996, Webb wrote a series of stories entitled Dark Alliances. The series reported how a US-backed terrorist army, the Nicaraguan Contras, had financed their activities by selling crack cocaine in the ghettos of Los Angeles to the city’s biggest crack dealer.
I have talked to journalists from the regional press, I am married to one, they are part of my life day to day and I have yet to come across anyone who thinks they are suppressed or censored or even not 100% impartial. They don’t write anything important enough to suppress. And yet some topics are just not covered. So there’s that.
From Media Lens again: “journalists are selected on the basis that they are unlikely even to attempt to report “dangerous ideas” of this kind – troublemakers are quickly identified and filtered out as ‘committed’, ‘biased’ and ’emotionally involved’.”
But City Leap is big money in a little pond — the entire Bristol budget is around £1b and Bristol is considered one of the core cities. There are many financial interests in the city.
The Bristol Port, which can be considered part of another very important practice in neoliberal mechanisms might be another useful case study.
The Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Zone are part of regulatory zones that give tax breaks and business rate breaks to capital, often at the disadvantage and harm of the local community.
“The ward is the biggest in Bristol but has some of the highest reported health issues, lowest social provision, high unemployment, low skills and some of the lowest satisfaction ratings with way of life and the mayor.”
But topics like this aren’t newsworthy for local media.