Category: Alerts 2016
- Created on 05 December 2016
- 05 December 2016
In the wake of Brexit and Trump, 'mainstream' media have done the formerly unthinkable by focusing on media bias. The intensity of focus has been such that the Oxford Dictionaries have announced that 'post-truth' is their 'Word of the Year 2016'.
'Post-truth' refers to 'circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief'.
Students of 'brainwashing under freedom' will notice that this bears a striking resemblance to 20th century US policy advisor Reinhold Niebuhr's insistence on the use of 'emotionally potent over-simplifications' to control the public mind. It's nothing new, in other words.
We learn from a lengthy article on Wikipedia that 'post-truth politics' is driven by 'fake news':
'Fake news websites publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation to drive web traffic inflamed by social media.'
This 'fake news' is being harvested by social media that seal unwitting users in airtight 'filter bubbles':
'A filter bubble is a result of a personalized search in which a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behavior and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.'
The results are terrifying indeed. Author Andrew Smith argued in the Guardian that, post-Trump and Brexit, future historians will decide 'whether this will go down as the year democracy revealed itself unworkable in the age of the internet'. The forecast is grim:
'One day, I suspect, we will look back in disbelief that we let the net-induced friction on civil society reach this pitch, because if we didn't know before, we know now that our stark choice is between social networks' bottom line and democracy. I know which I prefer.'
These words appeared less than two years after the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre, when a Guardian editorial had opined:
'Any society that's serious about liberty has to defend the free flow of ugly words, even ugly sentiments.'
Now, it seems, anyone 'serious about liberty' has to resist the free flow of ugly words for fear of 'net-induced friction on civil society'. Whatever that means.
Smith was reacting to 'the accidental or deliberate propagation of misinformation via social media'. Many millions of people 'saw and believed fake reports that the pope had endorsed Trump; Democrats had paid and bussed anti-Trump protesters...'; and so on.
Curiously, Smith made no mention of the relentless 'mainstream' and social media efforts to link Trump with Putin seen by many millions of people around the globe. Nor did Smith mention the upside of social media – the democratisation of outreach, the related growth in popular support for Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, and for left-wing movements like Spain's Podemos.
Like the rest of 'mainstream' journalism, Smith had nothing to say about the leading role played by traditional corporate media in the 'deliberate propagation of misinformation'. A remarkable omission, given the unprecedented ferocity of the smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn.
In one news report, seven different Guardian journalists discussed the rise of 'fake news' around the world without mentioning the key role of 'mainstream' media. This led to conclusions such as:
'Fake news is not a problem of any scale in Australia: the media market, dominated by a handful of key players serving a population of just over 21 million people, does not seem fragmented enough.'
Some perspective was provided by former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Giraldi in 2009:
'The Rupert Murdoch chain has been used extensively to publish false intelligence from the Israelis and occasionally from the British government.'
Another Guardian piece was titled:
'Bursting the Facebook bubble: we asked voters on the left and right to swap feeds - Social media has made it easy to live in filter bubbles, sheltered from opposing viewpoints. So what happens when liberals and conservatives trade realities?'
The problem being:
'Facebook users are increasingly sheltered from opposing viewpoints – and reliable news sources [sic] – and the viciously polarized state of our national politics appears to be one of the results.'
Facebook readers, then, are sheltered from the giant, global corporate media that dominate our newspapers, magazines, publishing companies, cinema, TVs, radios and computer screens – even though social media are themselves corporate media. And presumably we are to believe that readers of 'reliable news sources' – the BBC, Guardian, The Times, Telegraph and other traditional outlets - are forever being exposed to 'opposing viewpoints' by these media.
If we beg to differ, having studied the media intensively for two decades, it may be because we belong on a list of 200 websites that 'are at the very least acting as bona-fide "useful idiots" of the Russian intelligence services, and are worthy of further scrutiny', according to the PropOrNot group. The Washington Post reports:
'PropOrNot's monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.'
Matt Taibbi notes in Rolling Stone that outlets as diverse as AntiWar.com, LewRockwell.com and the Ron Paul Institute are on the list, although the Washington Post offered no information about the PropOrNot group, 'which offered zero concrete evidence of coordination with Russian intelligence agencies'. Chris Hedges of Truthdig, which is on the list, describes the Post's report as an 'updated form of Red-Baiting.' He added:
'This attack signals an open war on the independent press. Those who do not spew the official line will be increasingly demonized in corporate echo chambers such as the Post or CNN as useful idiots or fifth columnists.'
Significantly, the Guardian experiment in swapping social media concluded with this extraordinary comment from one of the participants, again just two years after Charlie Hebdo:
'Maybe we should stop having social media. For all the things that social media has done in terms of making it easier for me to stay in touch with someone that I was vaguely friends with in college, maybe the ability with social media for people to construct their own reality to create a mob is not worth it.'