21st Century Wire
More than any other technological development, the internet has revolutionised the concept of ‘plurality of opinion’, which is essential for any free and advanced society.
The rise and rise of independent media online is certainly one of the most positive social developments in all of modern times, but like a bumb steer in the pen, the big networks and papers will still be kicking up dirt for a while to come.
Like its overly familiar bedfellow – politics, big media is constantly trying to invent itself and appear relevant to the general public, so it’s still important as ever to expose it’s odd habits and perennial failures in order to help build a better alternative.
The Desert and The Jungle
Press and media were called The Fourth Estate – or fourth leg of the state, which itself can have an animal image, whether rabbit, elephant, cow or other. In Ancient Rome it was symbolized as a female wolf feeding the people. As the fourth leg of the state, therefore, press and media supposedly feeds the people with information while it serves and defends the elite. It was always considered suspect by freethinkers, radicals and the left, while never being able to realise its potential until the internet arrived on the scene.
One reason for traditional opposition suspicion is The Fourth Estate has always been controlled by “tight knit groups” of corporate barons and press moguls in the western democracies, and always directly by the State in the theocracies and police states, as in the communist countries of the ex-USSR (and in modern Britain, in the case of the BBC). Propaganda and the press have a long twin-track record, explaining why “modern media” exhibits all the key features of the process that dumbs down and deconstructs society – and kills the media.
BIG MEDIA: Their circus is still in town, but the it’s getting harder and harder to sell tickets to the people.
For around 20 years but especially for the last 10 years, and intensifying all the time, sales of “traditional print media” have declined in the western countries. The pat explanation is an Internet which churns with carbon copy models of “traditional media”, both newspaper clones, and magazine clones, but this is at best a half of the explanation for the probably certain disappearance of the “great newspapers”.
This other half of the explanation concerns dumbing-down, lying, trivialization and idiotized fantasy and entertainment-oriented coverage replacing the former copy – and even the propaganda – that buyers of print media got. Much the same happened to broadcast media through the same time period, eating into audience and viewer scores and shredding the credibility of former “reference programmes’ like the Eight o’Clock News shows broadcast both on private and state TV stations. Television is well on its way (if it’s not already there) to becoming another Lost Media, just like the print media.
Occasionally we get a snapshot of what is happening inside the shrinking citadels and boardrooms of “once-great-papers”. Revealed by Buzzfeed in April 2014, a non-public report to management of the ‘New York Times’ simply said the paper’s present model is obsolete. It went on to say the flailing attempts to attract new readers and keep existing readers is a total failure because of of the paper’s now long-term and patent lack of interest in the truth.
The New York Times (NYT) had functioned like newspapers in other western democracies, as a fourth branch of government, for decades. Like them, it was a gatekeeper for “only the right news and views” for a Brave New World. This model has collapsed or is collapsing because of several factors, but one of them should really draw our attention.
The leaked report to senior figures of NYT’s corporate and editorial management focused on the paper’s starkest failings. Sometimes in black and white in the report, it said the management’s plan “to be prepared to march towards a world government” had the rationale that, “supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and [the] world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”.
It’s Darwinian how dictators and corporate fascist systems will always follow the same progression. As corporate media become more and more detached from reality, like government, they tend to double-down on their bets, overly insisting that somehow “mainstream media never been better”. The report also said that what NYT’s directors call “quality journalism” is perceived by more and more of the public as straight lying!
Pass Me the Twinkies and the AK47
The internal report said that unless the paper breaks major news stories and identifies itself as an undeniable “friend of freedom”, it will continue to lose revenues and continue to decline.
We can hope, and predict that happens. The plight of the NYT has many other causes than simple dumbing-down and lying. Fantasy has to be placed high up the list.
Constant confusion of values, and even meaning – shown by probably unconscious but constant spelling mistakes (eg. “their” is now spelled “there”). Completely illogical editorial conclusions placed next to a feature article. So-called Op-Eds which basically say nothing at all, and constant rambling about so-called “iconic themes of our times”. This generally means thinly-disguised tourist agency pitches and tour destination country propaganda, real estate pitches, food and wine or restaurant plugs for “cute places to eat in Taipei”, the latest whining hip hop hit produced by a corporate partner or subsidiary record company, furniture and fine art pitches not forgetting football pitches. And so on – and on.
Imagining for even one second that NYT management nurtures a Hidden Agenda of sweeping “national auto-determination” from the planet to usher in World Government, with this trash, is mind-boggling. Imagining that its ultra-flaky reports and features demonstrate “the sovereignty of an intellectual elite” is fantastic.
The close linkage with the delirium of other clown print media was shown in the report. It quoted a senior figure at NYT saying:
“We are grateful to the Washington Post, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promise of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the light of publicity during those years.”
They have a “plan for the world?’.Hitler may have used a few gas ovens and Stalin used the gulag, but we have to surmise the Great Newspapers intend boring millions more persons to death. They have gone much further than simple dumbing-down. That was only the first step. We are in the final phase now, which is designed to change our language, and ultimately change the way we think and behave. By definition, this is applied behavioural psychology – albeit on a mass scale.
The leaked report to NYT management also said “the world is more sophisticated” today, meaning this is why newspaper sales are going down all the time, and this supposed causality of more sophistication-equals-less sales provides us with another stark example of why and how the Fourth Estate lost all contact with the real world. The unknowing process is so heavily present, that totally antinomic themes, rationales and conflicting corporate desires are constantly jumbled together – which is light years away from “sophistication”. This mix and mingle shreds the ability of media managers to have any knowledge of what the people want – with even starker effects further down the hierarchy in editorial rooms and nighttime TV newsrooms.
One example is the word or theme “government”. Whether it is the NYT or identical outlets of what we can call the strange genre of Journalism of the Unknown, for example the WSJ in the US and Guardian in the UK, Le Monde in France, and both State-owned and private TV news “providers” across the western world, “government” is treated so ambiguously it is impossible to know what the media wants us to think or believe. Government is ultra powerful. Government cares. Government is failing. Government is wasteful. Government must be swept away, anywhere outside the western world, by the Flash Mob – or perhaps by Divine intervention and Martian invaders.
The magical word “democracy” gets the same unknowing treatment, shredding all meaning of the word by what I call the “concatention principle”, piling completely antinomic paradigms on top of each other – and producing what any self respecting dog would curtly refuse as its dinner. Do we love it or do we hate it? Obviously, the “great newspapers” love and hate it showing a perfect split mind – and they also want World Government! When the two-word ikon of “world government” is broached this is a clear sign that mainstream media is definitely dying.
Another pat theme of why the Dinosaur Dailies are dying is that particularly younger persons “now get their news from the Internet rather than television or the dailies”. In fact that has moved on, also.
Traditional, linear television is also dying fast. In several EU28 countries today, as many as 33% of persons below 25 years age do not even possess a TV set. If they ever watch TV, and that is declining, its by way of Internet. The next stage is also coming, with younger persons in many western democracies saying they use Internet less and less – and tend to only use the social networks when they do use Internet. In other words, what was called “news, views and opinions” is being disowned and forgotten – not just the dailies. After the dumbing-down, we get ‘The Unknown’.
To be sure the dinosaurs of print media were pioneers of trashing and shredding the meaning of the word “news”, the same way they tirelessly undermined and sapped the meaning of the words “government” and “democracy”. The spillover collateral damage from this, to TV and then Internet is no real surprise. Readership and viewership collapses, which are now frequently reported for newspapers and TV programs of all kinds – not only news shows – naturally results in rising layoffs of journalists and producers, which results in lower and lower quality for residual and remaining output.
The downward spiral is set in stone and we have no trouble concluding that Unknowing is now a concrete process that is highly mature, right across the media spectrum.
The Troubled Future of Brainwashing
The unknowing process in the western “mature capitalist and market-liberal” democracies, or more accurately ex-democracies, makes it hard to suppose that the real aim of Press Barons and Moguls – which is brainwashing the mass – has any future. And this is not particularly or exclusively due to Internet. Brainwashing works in a context of strong national identities and frameworks of being, for example in police states and theocracies. When national identities dissolve, the framework is deconstructed, bit by bit. Being is chipped away. Meaning is lost.
In the western ex-democracies, readership and TV viewership polls show that it is really only those over 65 years age who still “rely on” the dying dailies and mainstream TV news shows for their information and therefore brainwashing. Twenty-five years ago the figures were starkly different and can be summarized by the single word “confidence”. Brainwashing, like publicity and politics, only works when the lies and distortions are believed. When the public “turn off” it becomes very difficult to force a particular set of notions, beliefs or “values” into their heads. As the media becomes flakier and loses coherence, the challenge for brainwashing becomes even larger.
Upping the ante and resorting to hysteria is always a telltale sign of brainwashing losing impact or “traction on the masses”. Most of the dying dailies, in a large number of western countries, and the TV documentary editorial fraternity of spin doctors, run longstanding and recurrent Op-Eds, Opinion pieces and Special Report themes on how “we” are preparing for societal collapse, no less. This can be slanted to pseudo science themes, such as global warming and bad weather, economic themes such as declining sales and profits for the great corporations (now including Apple and Facebook, for example), geopolitical themes such as the threat to the west of “Putin’s Russia” and of course the Chinese, to other fear-management themes such as youth unemployment, or street violence.
These are all post-brainwashing even if it is clear that the producers of his turgid output intend it to brainwash and hope or believe it does brainwash “the masses”. Interestingly enough, there are simply hundreds of Internet sites that work the same cabbage patch, of “societal collapse is coming”.
It was not long ago that US Secretary of State John Kerry and “ikonic strategist” Zbigniew Brzezinski said that the internet is making it hard to govern. Kerry has been relatively loquacious on how he feels threatened by Internet, saying that “… this little thing called the internet and the ability of people everywhere to communicate instantaneously and have more information coming at them in one day than most people can process in months or a year” is one reason that it is harder to rule.
This totally ignores the results of about 30 years of “destructive incoherence” in western society – originally willed and decided by persons like Kerry and Brzezinski. Crying over the spilt milk is useless when it dried, went rancid, and disappeared in flakes through the window – decades ago. No doubt “good old brainwashing”, as in the former Warsaw Pact countries and USSR, or in Saudi Arabia and North Korea today, is highly attractive to the self-proclaimed elite but it is at best an elite folk memory, and is now sold as a myth for western society. Today’s brainwashing is more advanced, more complex and many times more dynamic and pervasive in terms of content distribution – than anything that 20th century autocrats could have imagined.
Kerry’s talk about “information overload” or more information coming at people in a day than they could handle in months or a year ignored the GQ-garbage quotient of possibly 98% in what “comes at the people”. As a result they shut down and turn off. This is very bad for brainwashing until and unless we have George Orwell’s famous future TV sets (which can work with PCs having a built-in webcam), where “the people” are filmed to ensure they regurgitate the pap-and-propaganda.
For brainwashing to work there has to be a perceived state of fear and threat, among the people. They have to believe there is a menace to their future that The Leader will fight. So they have to believe there is a future, even if it’s fuzzy and abstract. As we know, the western (neo)liberal market economy revolution, launched in the early 1980’s, was defended and promoted by politicians such as Britain’s Margaret Thatcher – who repeatedly used the slogan “No Future” to describe the future of Britain’s youth!
How are you supposed to be worried about the future? Any true grit consumer of elite propaganda in the western countries over the last 20 – 30 years should by now be certain the future is “self-regulating”, like the economy and the change-over from one of the two-party government parties, to the other governing party every 4 or 5 years. There is no ‘threat’… because there is no future.
READ MORE ON MODERN PROPAGANDA AT: 21st Century Wire Propaganda Files