If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,
people will eventually come to believe it.
-- Joseph Goebbels
We try to hustle them,
try to bustle them, try to cuss them
Another day, another dollar,
another war, another tower
--Who Will Save Your Soul,
[War is our stock in trade here at Ranger. Apropos of that, this is the first of a three-part critique on our media's descent into madness, thereby committing a war for your mind, and why you feel so perturbed and menaced today, and think things are falling apart. They may be, but not in the way you think they are.]
Do you love me, now that I can dance?
The mainstream media (MSM) has pulled off a great moral and ethical heist, and it all happened so quickly -- in their would-be twilight -- as the cultural critics were singing their swan song.
Papers across the nation were shuttering their doors (166 since 2008) and the reporting profession lost more than 50% of its rank and file over the last 20 years (most in the last five years.) But just before the casket lid was closed -- in this watershed moment -- the media made a pact with the devil to save its skin.
To staunch their bleeding, they co-opted billionaire entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar's model in his oxymoronic "opinion news" tabloid, The Intercept (refashioned lately as a "national security blog.) Media "reportage" became a circus seemingly overnight, the players dancing madly under the protection of diaphanous Big Top of former respectability.
No longer was the oxymoron absurd, dastardly or a piker's error, and Omidyar's model provided to the media the way to the greatest resurrection since Lazarus came back from the dead. Five years ago, the standard press was moribund --DOA. Now, the MSM were players once again.
While the papers and reporters are still gone, the press has gained cachet by adopting a new paradigm: All furore, all the time, with no pretense of rigor, and no apparent goal to their delirium and agitation. The holy grail of fact-checking has melted away in favor of the newsish, "bystander cell phone footage caught ...", or "In a leak today, ...".
Righteous indignation projected towards the solution of a moral offense is one thing (we have laws to cover legal transgressions.) But that is not what we have now, though we may trick ourselves into believing it is so, or that such a thing might be quantifiable, adjudicatable or in fact, newsworthy.
What we have is a free-floating angst focalized toward any crumb we are fed. Smut is the coin of the realm, and if the news makers have no thing, insinuation and sneers will do. The goal is pandemonium, and an instantaneous and white hot fury is the expected response from even previously thoughtful and informed consumers.
Now, we are ridge runners all. Thomas Hobbes had it right: it is a war of all against all. The media found the keys to the kingdom when they learned to transmute itself into a Zippo.
"Fire 'em up!
The old woman at a 2007 South Carolina church rally for candidate Obama had it right. A controlled candidate Obama was trying to appear down-home. He requested that attendees get stereotyped cousins "Ray-Ray and Pookie" up off the sofa to vote.
The speech was dwindling down on its own enervation when the woman in the back (Edith Childs) harnessed the power of "call-and-response" with her well-placed shout out, "Fired up, ready to go!"
While the scholastic Obama himself did not quite light the fuse, once the bodies started swaying and fist-pumping, it was all she wrote. The crowd had self-ignited, and like a stadium wave, its momentum carried itself.
That was an instructive moment in modern politics. People LIKE to get agitated, whether for good or bad. Since we have now abdicated our rationale, we easily turn "Hatfield and McCoy" when our media overlords sound the alarum.
Judicious reportage is no longer needed in the face of vanity social media feeds. The New York Times' Jim Rutenburg asked if it was o.k. to cover Mr. Trump's Presidency solely from a position of opinion, so malignant, so sui generis was it to the average NYT's reader.
Our nation's paper of note decided that the President demanded a new way of being covered, despite the fact that he won the Presidency in a most mundane fashion. It had the look of a plebiscite, but it was a foregone conclusion.
Writer Matt Taibbi said that the news was signing its death warrant if it bought into this, and trust in press impartiality would be gone. It was a last stand for dignity. (Mr. Taibbi soon joined the other side, seeing on which side his toast was buttered.)
Turns out, we do not want impartiality; what we want is to be able to whank off with others who think like we do. It feels so good that we have ceded our wits to them. Dopamine and adrenaline are powerful motivators, and we will do anything to keep the supply coming. We may now be too ill, too drunk on the toxic brew, to give up our fix.
Co-opting and Re-directing Anger
President Obama's administration oversaw a renascence in the news of police clashing with black citizens, an issue which appears like a sine wave in the media. This time, however, the events combined with the ubiquitousness of social media, allowing the images to be uploaded and shared in real-time.
Nothing was off-limits, and speculation ran rampant before the least fact could be vetted. Nothing new was happening in actuality under Obama, but the presentation and reaction to is WAS new. WE now created our reality out of bits and pieces ingathered from the sources which spoke to our predilections.
This "news wobble" became obvious several years ago when noticing the headlines from the same major news outlet delivered to my two email accounts differed considerably. After pondering the matter, the only difference was that from the older email address I wrote to mainly conservative friends; the other, primarily liberal.
The news which arrived in the first box box tended to be more optimistic and "news-like", of the old ilk. However, my newer email received only incendiary coverage, angry and rarely offering balanced viewpoints.
The media is trafficking in your fear and anger, and selling it back to you with the halo of righteousness. You are co-opted into their project when you re-send their content to 5,000 "friends". You have become small-time Soma pushers and fail to realize your complicity.
News goes on auto-pilot, as you function like HuffPo's unpaid "content generators", adding your own glib comment. But unlike the HuffPo non-wage-slaves, there is no hope of gaining a writing day job for all of your efforts.
You are mental bondsmen, compelled by habit to "help the revolution". It's just what you do, sun up to sundown, and beyond.
So, the MSM (which was on oxygen) made a life-saving move. They would co-opt and harness the anger of the black community. They have subverted a moral and institutional failing, stripped it of its facticity, and are using the ensuing white hot fury as bellows to keep them alive.
This should make you mad. Your outrage can now be directed to any issue of their choosing. You are like bulls with ringed noses.
Think about it: they did not raise your ire against president Obama for his inability to contain the racial violence which erupted under his terms, and the media now owns that real estate (i.e., your violent impulses). They are practicing their dark arts now, and have led you to another pasture, re-directing your anger upon a focalized point of easy derision, President Trump.
This is as fine a work of agit-prop as I have seen in my lifetime. It is legerdemain of the highest order.