From Captive Audience to Open Democracy: Why the Mainstream Media Is Freaking Out
December 12, 2016
In a democracy, trust must be earned. It cannot be imposed.
In its panicky rush to demonize the independent media via baseless accusations of "fake news," the mainstream press has sunk to spewing "fake news" of its own.
Here's The Washington Post's criminally false "fake news" article in case you missed it: Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.
So-called "fake news" was perfectly acceptable to the mainstream media when it was the exclusive purview of the central state. The infamous Gulf of Tonkin Incident in August 1964 that was used to justify a massive escalation of the heretofore limited war in Vietnam was heavily promoted by the mainstream media of the day.
Within hours of the incident, Navy commanders had notified the Pentagon that the entire incident was very likely illusory, a "fog of war" error.
Decades later, the mainstream media swallowed the Executive Branch's "weapons of mass destruction" justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq as well. Even more egregiously, the mainstream media parroted the central bank/state's narrative about the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008, missing the systemic fraud and embezzlement at the heart of America's financial system.
Why is the mainstream media freaking out right now? The MSM had bet all its diminishing chips of credibility on Hillary Clinton winning the Presidency. Leading newspapers such as The New York Times ceaselessly undermined Bernie Sander's campaign in favor of Hillary Clinton, a bias visible throughout the mainstream media. (When Bernie won a primary by a substantial margin, the smallish NYT headline would read something like "Sanders edges Clinton." When Clinton won a primary by a slim margin, the NYT would declare in large typeface "Clinton regains momentum." Do you see the not-so-subtle bias?)
The same was true regarding Donald Trump. Of the 100 largest newspapers in the nation, not one came out in favor of him -- a one-sided media bias that is unprecedented in recent U.S. history.
The MSM has awakened to the reality that the monopoly they once held on a captive audience has eroded to the point of ineffectiveness.
-- In 1964, the media could easily convince the American people that the Vietnam misadventure was "necessary."
-- The media could still sell the American people that the Iraq misadventure was also "necessary" in 2002.
-- In 2016, the media went "all-out" to sell the inevitability and rightness of a Hillary Clinton presidency. What should have been a slam dunk ended up in defeat.
The fundamental dynamic here is the transition from a captive audience in thrall to a handful of media corporations to a radically democratized media. In 1964, Americans had essential zero alternatives to the three TV networks and the mainstream magazines and newspapers.
A few hardy souls subscribed to newsletters from muckrakers such as I.F. Stone, but independent journals and journalists were marginalized.
Any journal that published investigative journalism that called the dominant narratives into question (for example, Ramparts magazine in the late 1960s and early 1970s) attracted the ire of the C.I.A. and the central state's other organs of security/repression.
If you don't know anything about this, I recommend reading Site Behind Washington Post’s McCarthyite Blacklist Appears To Be Linked to Ukrainian Fascists and CIA Spies (nakedcapitalism.com).
Increasingly, the media is becoming more of a Wild West than the homogenized, centralized media with a captive audience. With the advent of digital publishing, a lot more voices can be heard. But it takes effort to find them, and separate the wheat from the chaff. As I explain in my short video (1:21 minutes) recorded for Max Keiser, Comments on being on the "Russian propaganda" List, democracy implicitly imposes a responsibility on the citizenry to sort out who benefits from whatever narrative is being pushed.
Simply put, democracy requires citizens to be skeptical and street-smart. Chumps who can't figure out when they're being played will lose their democracy.
The mainstream media is attempting to demonize the independent media by lumping us in with "fake news" click-bait farms and "conspiracy" theorists. Notice what this says about the MSM's view of its viewers/listeners/readers:
"You are mindless sheep who are easily led astray, you are incapable of sorting wheat from chaff and so you should only listen to your betters--us."
The MSM's frenzied obsession with "fake news" (but not its own "fake news") is the gravest possible insult to the American people. The MSM is implicitly declaring that the American people are incapable of grasping the difference between click-bait headlines such as "What dangerous secret did Obama tell Trump?" or "You won't believe how these child actors have aged" and actual journalism.
Some people believe the moon landings were faked, and the rest of us have been duped. An entire cottage industry has emerged to provide evidence of the faked landings. Look, this is a democracy. People are free to believe whatever they want, or whatever seems persuasive to them. Lumping everyone outside the six corporate media behemoths into the same pot as click-bait farms won't work.
Just to refresh your memory: LIBOR rate rigging was dismissed as a wacky conspiracy, until it was shown to be true. Rigging of the silver market was a "conspiracy theory" dismissed as the equivalent of flat-earthers -- until it was shown to be true.
No wonder Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low (Gallup)
The mainstream media is apoplectic that their captive audience of inmates is now exposed to a cacophony of alternative narratives and opinions. In the good old days, the MSM's blanket promotion of Hillary Clinton's candidacy would have yielded a landslide victory for their chosen candidate.
For the first time in American history, the entire weight of the corporate mainstream media failed to persuade the citizenry.
With advertising revenues sliding along with the citizens' trust, the MSM is flailing about in a self-destructive fit of hubris: This makes no sense! There must be an external reason for our failure, because it can't be anything we did!
Wake up, Big Corporate Media. The enemy that's destroying your power and income is your own hubris. You can't put the Internet genie back in the bottle. Your reporting and narratives are now in open competition with a thousand other narratives, many of which (such as those of this site) are based on readily available data published by government agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the I.R.S., US Census Bureau and the St. Louis Federal Reserve.
For example my analysis Endangered Species: The Self-Employed Middle Class relies on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and I.R.S. data. Similarly, my analysis on Why We Keep Getting Poorer: High-Cost Housing is based on data drawn from the US Census Bureau.
In a democracy, trust must be earned. It cannot be imposed. The days of captive audiences are over. The monopoly on "news" and propaganda has been broken for good.
In Part 2: The Future Of Truth, we explore what this new media landscape means for seekers of truth going forward. How can you improve your ability to identify trustworthy information in the current landscape of controlled mass media & wildly fragmented alternative voices?
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