The Ouroboros is a mythical serpent whose chief characteristic is that it eats its own tail in a never ending cycle of self absorption. I say it’s a mythical creature but I have discovered it is alive and well but living under another name, The Media.
Last night in a carefully timed move, clearly intended for maximum political effect, The Sun announced that it was going to be supporting the Tory party at the next election. To be honest I’ve never thought The Sun was anything other than a conservative newspaper if the utterances of its political correspondents are anything to go by. Anyway, what has followed has been a master class in self absorption. The BBC news ran the story as its main headline both late last night and first thing this morning: not the content of the Prime Minister’s speech, not the breaking news of the earthquake and tsunami hitting Samoa, nor any of the other important issues of the day directly affecting people’s lives, but The Sun’s decision to support a different political party.
The press followed the same agenda, discussing and analysing the significance of the switch in a feeding frenzy which can only reflect their own sense of self importance. On radio and T.V. pundits and commentators have been wheeled out to chat to each other about how significant the story is; a classic example of reporting the news being the news. This is where we are with political reporting, analysis not of what is said and done, the content, but of process; the medium not the message is what counts.
The media has been consumed in recent days with commentary on Andrew Marr’s question to Gordon Brown about whether he takes prescription drugs, asked on Marr’s Sunday morning BBC 1 politics show. Where did this question come from? It is becoming increasingly clear that the question derives from an unsubstantiated piece of speculation, put out on a blog, bounced back and forth across the internet and then spread through the Westminster village; innuendo masquerading as serious journalistic enquiry. It’s just one more example of the media feeding off itself and then regurgitating the content only to consume it again as it debates the appropriateness of the original question.
The broadcast media and newspapers constantly complain about the threat to their survival as viewers, listeners and readers turn to other sources for their news, information and comment. Well the media need not worry - at this rate they will eat themselves out of existence long before other forms of communication finish them off. Then the new Ouroboros will be no more than a mythical creature, just like the original.