The Disintermediation Project

It is only two weeks since the inauguration of Donald Trump.

The international and domestic US political systems are reeling from a fast-moving succession of Executive Orders and statements whether from the White House or on Twitter. What is striking is that, to the shock of many, we have a President who (except in foreign policy where more caution has started to appear) keeps his promises. It is still too early to say whether this energy will be sustained or curtailed by events but we can see the outline of a revolutionary approach to politics.

To summarise what is happening in one of our short blogs would be too much to ask but one trend is worth focusing on - the weakening of the important link that was forged by the centre-left between the political executive and the media. The media had developed into a form of priestly class interpreting 'God' (the State) to the people. This shifted the media rather subtly from being the voice of the people or of special interests to becoming a special interest with a stake in a total system where the centre-left came to dictate cultural terms.

The origins of this were pragmatic despite the attempt of many theoreticians to give credit to the thinking of Gramsci the revisionist Marxist. Whether it was the genius of Peter Mandelson with New Labour or the more trial and error approach of Clinton's circle to create a political triangulation that would contain an unruly Fourth Estate that had moved steadily towards mass infotainment as it had corporatised in the late 1980s, the system had settled, by the time of Obama, into a shared cultural collaboration. The media was soon criticising politicians but not the system or its values.

American Republicans might chafe at this but British Conservatives adapted as they always do. An essentially conservative system was protected under the Cameron-Osborne Government through the expedient of adopting the liberal values that were now the common currency of a broad church without having to change anything fundamental beneath the surface. Obama had followed a similar strategy after 2008 of an essential conservatism beneath a patina of social liberalism. In the spring of last year this soft conservative-liberal hybrid looked totally unassailable ... normal.

Looked at retrospectively, the cosy solidarity of politicians, media, the universities, the 'creative sector', business and the NGOs, within settled frameworks such as global trade agreements, the European Union and Davos, had become disconnected from socio-economic reality. Although not at all inevitable, the Brexit and Trump revolutions, if they could break through an electoral barrier, would inevitably present an existential challenge to every one of those constituencies - including the now complacent and self important priestly class in the media.

What we may be seeing in Trump's behaviour is not merely the expression of a wayward personality (which is how the media might like it to be seen) but a 'disintermediation project' much like the old Protestant call for a direct relationship between God and the People. Of course, the media remains a power in the land - in fact there are signs that it is being reinvigorated by the challenge - but the terms of its relationship to power have changed. It now has to compete directly with a parallel system of mass communication that has taken infotainment to new creative levels.