In the two months following on from what I'm sure will noted by future generations as a decidedly infamous referendum, it would seem all hell has broken loose. Racial hate crimes are up five-fold, the economy is making a steady downwards slide and we have the least competent government in decades leading the United Kingdom. Or Divided Kingdom, as it could be accurately be described. It seems that after supporting a campaign with a recklessly divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric at the helm, the ardent leave campaigners are trying their hardest to swim away from that most toxic of ships, pointing fingers as they desperately try to stay afloat.
And of course – to use another analogy – the Leave politicians are only partly responsible for opening Pandora's box; they had a helping hand or two from numerous media outlets. I won't name any names (because frankly I don't need to), but these sources of “news” have been running front page headline after front page headline of ridiculous half-truths, with sickeningly xenophobic spin put on almost all of them. Wonderful examples of this front page eloquence, from the “world's greatest newspaper”, include “Migrants take ALL new jobs in Britain”, “98% DEMAND ban new migrants” and “we must stop the migrant invasion”. This, of course, was paralleled by the Leave campaigns claims of £350mn a week extra to the NHS if we were to leave the EU, to name but one.
I don't know why such blatant lying and misleading of the public is acceptable, but the fact remains that it is. And this throws into light another fact; something must be done about it or history is destined to repeat itself. If the stormy clouds of the referendum have any silver lining, it would appear to be the sudden awakening of the electorate from the slumber of political apathy, due to the sound of gross mistruths on a bigger scale than ever before. Of course many people are still singing to the tune that the deceivers are playing, but many others – myself included – have become outraged that those who present such myths as facts are being let off scot-free.
For any change to happen, this outrage needs to be used as a motivation for action. This is already becoming apparent with supporters of the European Union; in the two weeks following the result there was fury and desperation; now there is organisation and direction. I feel the same must and will happen in regards to media regulation.
And that is the long and short of it all – the media must be regulated.
Before the cries of “FREE SPEECH” fill the air, hear me out. This is not a new idea, nor is it a radical one. Essentially, any figure or organisation in the public eye, be it politicians, newspapers, celebrities, whatever, must not be allowed to knowingly lie to or mislead the general public. If they were to do so, they would be reprimanded appropriately (ie fined) and, more importantly, be made to retract any false statements made in the same way they were initially contrived (ie a false front page spread must be rectified by another front page spread detailing inaccuracies of the previous one). And just to clarify, this would not impede upon free speech, it would make it more effective, in the same way that the criminalisation of murder doesn't impede social freedoms, it enhances them. Outlawing deception is not the same as censorship; there's nothing wrong with publishing an opinion as long as it is clear that that's what it is.
The referendum on the 23rd of June has brought on the beginnings of political and social shifts not seen for numerous years, and it would seem that accountability is a big issue. It would appear that at the moment all we can do is keep campaigning and see what happens. Should be an interesting few years.