Portland Isn’t it interesting when people finally put down their consumer trinkets to search for life’s answers in alt media chat rooms?
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The current media landscape is like an endless maze of confusing content. Its stories are classed under so many different headlines and formats that we seldom recognize their quantity nor their seamlessness. The police show in which a criminal is arrested, the documentary in which a doctor saves lives, and the news clip in which jihadists behead a hostage eventually become the same drama – a visceral experience that melds into the bland oneness of TV. The news then loses whatever potency it once had for informing and becomes something bizarre altogether. In fact, people say they watch the news to “know”, but they hardly know anything. They know there are wars in the Middle East,
but they knew that already. They know there are crimes and car accidents in their country, but they knew that too. With each piece of news they know nothing more than they did before and remain as inert as ever. What steps will they take to reduce crime and unemployment? What will they do about terrorism? Most people will do nothing.
Yet the news helps them feel virtuous and “responsible” for knowing more things they can do nothing about. Are such feelings really justified? Probably not, but when the whole apparatus of life becomes so complex that a person loses confidence in his own abilities, then he requires the media to tell him what to feel and think. He may be subject to commands he doesn’t understand, moving towards a destination he hasn’t chosen, but at least he knows that some authority figure is guiding him there. He also finds comfort in knowing that he’s in good company, joined by millions of others who consume the same mass media as him.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, now more relevant than ever, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who only reads newspapers “.
What the KGB once called “dezinformatsiya”, and the Reagan administration named “perception management” has come to dominate public life, with the mainstream media largely controlling the minds of the public. Their barrage of information has helped create a climate that de-emphasizes learning through real experiences, replacing them with virtual ones that trap society in a continuous, incoherent present. As today’s news offers little insight into anything but how to craft good PR, it’s increasingly acceptable to give up on the truth altogether and to hide one’s sincerity behind mass-produced Guy Fawkes masks of irony. When the public business becomes such a masquerade, and public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, it spells the end for a society. Who will save the masses from this situation of their own making? “We will “, says the alternative media.
“Alternative media” is a loose term for the news outlets produced by socio-political actors and marginalized groups that seek change by critiquing the status quo. Such channels have always existed in the form of pamphlets, newsletters, and underground radio, but only when the 21st century arrived and the masses migrated to the Internet did the alt media find its widest audience. The Web made information accessible from the desk, armchair and bed of every individual, courtesy of their smart devices, and we’re now looking at a third generation of youth for whom the Internet has been their first and most accessible teacher. In fact, the online world has become the command center of the new epistemology – there is no audience so young that it is barred from the Internet.
There is no poverty so abject that it must forgo the Internet. And there is no subject of public interest – politics, science, sports – that doesn’t find its way online to be shaped by biases of the Internet. So it’s hardly surprising that the insufficiency of the mainstream media has allowed a slew of online outlets rise up and usurp a portion of their market. The last 20 years has seen an explosion of podcasts, radio shows and blogs that offered alternative takes and stories, with some claiming to be the new-cutting edge of journalism – a form of “anti-media” that would counteract the cacophony of the mainstream. Without these new platforms, many of the protest communities of the 2010s would not have arisen, which is to the alt media’s credit, but the growth in their popularity has not come without the need for scrutiny. As mainstream and alternative outlets compete to offer attractive accounts of the world, the overlap between the two has shown itself to be more significant than previously thought. As such, the alt media’s purported mission can no longer be taken at face value. Whereas their professed desire for social change was once presumed legitimate due to their critique of the mainstream, it must now be viewed in light of how much change has actually been achieved in recent times.
Admittedly, the alt media say much on their platforms that’s more honest than what the mainstream allow themselves to say on theirs, but what has been the end result of this candidness? Some unveiled conspiracies perhaps, but hardly any true clarity. One of the great ironies of the Information Age is how those who champion self-enlightenment are often the ones most in need of it themselves. Whether rabid social-justice warriors or alt media pundits who rail against the crimes of corporations, neither of these groups realize that blind ideological commitment inevitably distorts both their thoughts and perceptions. Despite seeing themselves as leading the charge on forward-thinking activism, many end up as the somewhat mad victims of their own brainwashing, as their efforts to enlighten devolve into posturing. Simply turn on any fringe Internet radio station to hear all manner of dither about what’s “really going on” in the world from bedroom podcasters who, for all their hysteria, have been unable to rally the masses to any significant “awakening”. Even when such outlets manage to highlight a topic of interest, like hidden aspects of the legal system or the workings of secret societies, they’re unable to make the information applicable to one’s daily life, thus generating more questions than answers. Indeed, the point where alt media personalities should lose the goodwill of their audience is not when their assertions become wildly controversial, but when they’re insufficiently clear about the conclusions of their statements. Everything in their broadcasts about mainstream brainwashing and social engineering implies that society should revolt against the system and upend it. Yet this is where the alt media’s greed trumps their commitment to social change; their livelihoods depend on getting people to realize the “truth”, but upon inspection, those “truths” turn out to be more of the same revelations that anyone could acquaint themselves with in a few weeks of study. Meanwhile, the system continues to plod along unhindered because the alt media know that if they really tell the truth about what their revelations mean for the West, their listenership would drop from 50,000 to 12, and the reason is simple: the truth about the West lays bare the activities of something evil – an evil so comprehensive that it implicates all of us in its crimes. But you can’t call your listeners “evil”, right?
Only the government and corporations are evil, apparently.
Doesn’t everyone want to get ahead even though we know the system is corrupt?
Doesn’t everyone want fame and fortune? The alternative media is no different, which is why things stay the same. Even when someone suggests that we really change things, you always get people who say, “Wait, I need the system to stay working just a bit longer until I’ve made it. Once I’m rich, then we can change it “. Such people may hide behind a demand for less corruption, but what they really want is a greater chance to participate in it. In this sense, the alt media are exposed as the aspiring bourgeoisie they are, showing that the bottom of the media hierarchy is no less self-serving than the top. They won’t upend the system because they depend on it like everyone else, if for nothing more than subscription billings of $7 a month. Their true endpoint is not social change for the sake of uprooting evil, but change to readjust the current system, which merely requires some tweaks to serve them better.
One of the consequences of finding success as an alternative outlet is that you attract a class of mainstream detractors that question your credentials and motivations.
Should you be filed next to Info Wars and Breitbart in the back row, or with Mother Jones and Democracy Now somewhere in the middle? What is your political position?
If not politics, then what about your ideology? The notion that news could aim to inform rather than propagandize leaves the mainstream not so much bemused as furious, which explains the branding of many alt media outlets as the platform of choice for the political far-right. Mainstream actors demand “credibility,” which is their form of fictitious power; it offends them if you gain a following by questioning the status quo from your bedroom, but to control the world from a corporate newsroom is perfectly fine because it validates their elitism. For a while, the alt media did a commendable job of offsetting their perceived lack of credibility with compelling stories that filled the void left by mainstream narratives. However, having been catapulted from the obscurity of the Internet and underground radio into a wider audience, they’ve squandered whatever goodwill they once had in a bid to supplant the very outlets they criticize. In their obsession to overtake the mainstream, they created a machine much like the one they rail against; one that is pathological in its behavior and dogmatic in its beliefs, stopping at nothing for the proclaimed goal of “change”. Yet none of the alt media pundits really want to live in the world that such change brings about, if they even believe its attainment to be possible.
Their professed endpoint matters less to them than the thrill of aiming for an infinite horizon, where the fight against evil is noble but endless, until the once-staunch resistance tires of conflict and surrenders to the well-known adage, “If you can’t beat them, you can at least stand next to them “.
Here’s a thought experiment: try to forget everything you know about the current time and its culture, then reinsert yourself into this age as a visitor from another planet. As you walk down the street of some metropolis, pick up a newspaper and you’ll be left with the following impression: “Something significant is going to happen tonight. Either that, or something must have happened last night “. This is because exaggeration is as essential to the news as it is to the movies, where the job is to make as much of every plot point as possible. All news platforms are, for the sake of their trade, alarmists – it’s their way of making themselves interesting. Hence, the mass and alt media are all in the same boat, funneling us whatever stories will induce a click or a like on behalf of whatever objective they serve. And we in turn choose our favorite outlets as we do our friends, based on their conformity to our humor and disposition. But what credit can we really give any of them when they leave us with so little after all their preaching? The best of most media can only provide a commentary on reality, as opposed to an explanation that teaches us how to navigate through it, and since buzz words and headlines can’t be used to improve anyone’s grasp on the world, it leaves one feeling most unsatisfied and discontent.
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The mainstream media is like the Vatican, whilst the alt media is like the Protestants complaining about it. Who should we listen to? Duh. No-one.
If you eat at a cheap restaurant and enjoy the food, it’s probably because it’s your first time there. After a week of eating their food everyday, you’ll say, “Actually, this place isn’t as good as I thought. I feel sick after eating here now “. That’s how the alternative media is. At first it seems good because you’ve never heard the content before, but in the long run it becomes nauseating.
I keep hearing the alt media hosts tell their audiences things like, “We’re all in this together ” and “I love you guys “. Give me a break. Of course they love us – even the less famous ones can sucker in 500 paying subscribers at $7 a month, earning them $3500 in salary. Does your average Joe even make that much? With that kind of income they better say they love us.
You don’t want to know the truth. That’s why you get the alt media who are idiots and don’t have anything real to give you. All they do is read the mainstream news and give their spin on it.
Saying that you analyze the world by looking at what’s online is like saying you know all about cows by analyzing the grass. Actually, the latter is more informative.
The alternative media is a joke. Their hosts are mainly looking to put out junk-food content, so they bring in Ronald McDonald to babble about things related to fast food, and the audience eats it up.
The alternative media are only useful for providing a new threshold of insight. But a threshold isn’t a destination; it’s a no-mans-land. In other words, the alt media can’t show you where the good or bad in anything is. They just take you from where you were before to another place that isn’t where you need to be.
So their revelations are only a temporary reprieve at best.
Repeating what the authorities say isn’t the same as speaking with authority. It’s just parroting. So the alt media parrots the official line as determined by the mainstream.