January 13, 2017

The media landscape: A guide to the coming collapse and re-alignment events

I

During the otherwise uneventful lame duck stage, seismic changes are striking the media ecosystem and the intelligence community. They are inter-related, with the deep state operatives feeding BS to the media in an effort to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration. The over-arching narrative is that "Russia hacked the election," a meaningless phrase if altering vote tallies is not involved, but a phrase intended to muddy the waters about how legitimate of a President the next one will be.

This media-spook coordination came to a head with the publication of risible "intelligence reports" that were not verified or even seriously looked into. Any idiot could tell that it was pure BS, but good ol' BuzzFeed and CNN both ran it into mainstream coverage, where it became a fake news story du jour.

Trump savaged both of them during a press conference, and praised those who did not run with it. That's the interesting thing here: only some organizations went with it, and others refrained. Usually the media behaves as a monolith when it comes to trying to delegitimize Trump -- hosting pundits who act aghast when Trump brags about the size of his hands, hounding him to release his tax returns, etc.

When there is variation in their behavior, it reveals fault-lines within the media world that might otherwise not strike us. That may tell us what will rise and what will fall during the Trump era.

Notably, Fox and MSNBC did not take part in the charade. While Fox has been doing worse than historically, it is not in free-fall and is still the leader in cable news. On the liberal side, MSNBC is on the ascent, while CNN is dying. This has been going on for a long time, with cable news fueling the rise of networks with emotional approaches (Fox, MSNBC), and extinguishing those with informational approaches (CNN).

This was covered in an earlier post, although I would amend the term "ego validation," for what is provided by the emotional networks, to "tribal validation". They are about pushing your emotional buttons about group or tribal superiority over rival groups or tribes, not individual superiority over other individuals.

II

What's surprising is not that CNN acted one way and Fox / MSNBC another way -- it's that BuzzFeed joined CNN. BuzzFeed makes no pretensions to seriousness, whereas CNN stakes its brand value on seriousness. Why is a purveyor of clickbait trash in league with a network that goes out of its way to portray its anchors as sober figures with lofty values?

It is because BuzzFeed, like CNN and unlike Fox / MSNBC, takes an informational rather than emotional approach to its content and its audience. Its clickbait invariably takes the form of factoids, or listicles cataloging a bunch of things. They are meant to add to the knowledge, if it can be called that, of the audience, rather than to push emotional buttons as strongly as possible to validate their sense of tribal superiority.

And if you look at the target audiences of CNN and BuzzFeed, they are more egocentric and atomized than those of Fox and MSNBC, who derive their superiority from group-level affiliations (liberal tribe, conservative tribe).

CNN is a propaganda outlet, acting as a Ministry of Information to spread Establishment narratives. It offers its consumers a sense of individual superiority over individuals for being more in-the-know than others, regardless of group or tribal membership.

BuzzFeed makes no pretense at crafting grand narratives from its information, but its factoids and listicles do make it a lower pop-cultural form of Ministry of Information. How in-the-know are you about Things Only '90s Kids Appreciate about Disney Movies? Or, 9 Floral Prints to Rock This Summer? Or, 17 Positions to Try for Mind-Blowing Orgasms? Etc. You compete against other individuals over who is more in-the-know on these topics, rather than your tribe vs. some other tribe. (We'll cover tribal clickbait in a bit.)

The fact that CNN and BuzzFeed jumped on this story, while Fox and MSNBC avoided it, means that it acted as a novelty-value factoid (for BuzzFeed's clickbait audience) or as a factoid that belongs to a larger narrative about how Trump is compromised by being a puppet of Russia (for CNN's propaganda audience).

MSNBC is not primarily a propaganda outlet -- in the sense of constructing informational narratives -- so they can avoid this piece of BS. MSNBC is about validating the tribal superiority of liberals, and that doesn't require publishing this particular fake news item. They have many other ways to push the emotional buttons of liberals, without publishing obvious BS, whereas CNN almost has to run with a factoid like this since it fits in with their informational approach, constructing a propaganda narrative about Trump being compromised due to something Russian.

Notice that it was BuzzFeed and not Huffington Post that served in the trash role. But then Huffington Post is like a clickbait form of MSNBC, not of CNN. It is geared toward validating the tribal superiority of liberals, and its listicles are about 8 Ethically Problematic Things Trump Said This Week on Twitter, or 11 Environmental Problems That Will Get Worse Under Republican Rule, and so on. It is more clickbait-y than MSNBC, hence all of the gossip / sex position / foodie novelty items on HuffPo that do not clog the arteries of MSNBC.

Like MSNBC, HuffPo could avoid this obvious BS and cheerlead for liberals in many other ways.

III

This differing behavior among the mass media who are all anti-Trump, has led us to a model of the media landscape based on two dimensions, aside from the liberal-conservative dimension:


First, is the approach informational or emotional? This dichotomy was already studied in the earlier post linked to before. Informational approaches appeal to egocentric audiences, while emotional approaches appeal to tribal audiences. Interest in information and egocentric focus characterizes the autistic or systemizing end of Baron-Cohen's spectrum, while resonance with emotions and tribal focus characterizes the empathetic end.

Second, are the items in the output linked and ordered into a larger whole, or are they intended to be mostly disconnected factoids with no hierarchical structure? This is how general or specific their vision is. CNN arranges its factoids into a larger propaganda narrative, while BuzzFeed makes no connections or grand narratives across its myriad listicles. Fox and MSNBC take many examples of why conservatives or liberals are superior and weave them into a larger narrative about tribal superiority, whereas the output at HuffPo is more like one damned reason after another for why we're better, and not as grand and mythological in its pretensions.

The nature of clickbait will be explored in another post.

IV

Looking forward, we see that the main casualties will fall on the left column of that matrix, those whose approach is informational. If your whole appeal is making your audience more in-the-know, and what you told them is revealed to be pure BS, there goes your credibility.

There is no corresponding factor of credibility among the emotional-tribal outlets. They're judged by how good they are at whipping up their tribe through daily pep rallies.

Even within the informational side, those that are specific / clickbait will withstand the fallout from fake news better than those that are general / narrative. In the hyper-specific model, any given factoid isn't closely connected to any other, whereas in the general propaganda narrative model, one piece of the whole being infected raises the possibility that the whole damn thing is infected.

Especially if the source of infection is an unreliable or fake source, as in the latest case. Any idiot can string together a listicle for BuzzFeed, so no one assumes that if one item is proven wrong, the same author has produced other listicles that could be similarly compromised. In a propaganda outlet, one unreliable source has probably informed numerous items within an entire narrative, making the audience more likely to turn skeptical toward the whole story when just one piece is proven to be BS.

So, sites like BuzzFeed will prove more robust than CNN at being accepted by the public and influencing their worldview and behavior. Fortunately for us, BuzzFeed has no larger narrative that it is pushing, so it getting more attention than CNN is still a win for us in the information war.

V

What, if anything, will fill the vacuum left by CNN? There is no conservative or moderate version of CNN to expand its territory in that quadrant of the matrix. Fox and MSNBC are qualitatively different in being tribal and emotional, not presenting facts to inform people about what's going on in important topics. BuzzFeed and HuffPo are clickbait, not meant to string items together into a larger coherent story about current events.

For the short term, we will enter a truly post-factual era, where most "news" is opinion-based cheerleading for the audience's tribe.

Perhaps after some time, an entirely new organization will fill the void left by CNN -- informational in approach, and ordering its items into general stories rather than clickbait. It would be more moderate, and would have to be more populist and nationalist than CNN, since CNN's shattered credibility stemmed from it being so stubbornly elitist and globalist (publishing pure BS from the elitist-globalist CIA), during a re-alignment toward populism and nationalism.

The individuals who staff this new organization may come from existing outlets that practice other modes of journalism, where they feel uncomfortable ginning up emotional energy or writing listicles. They just want to report on what's going on in important matters, and doing so in a more coherent narrative form than thematically related tweets. Somewhere that Michael Tracey would fit in.

VI

Getting there, the most important policies to pursue are busting up the media monopoly, which would not only deal the coup de grace to CNN, but would prevent the re-formation of another in its place. Only a mega-giant in the communications sector can take on the role of Ministry of Information.

Even if there were a thousand little wannabe CNNs, they would have to compete over audiences and have to distinguish themselves from one another. Some would be less propagandistic on issue X, others would be more honest on issue Y. Some would cover issues that were being censored by the others for propaganda reasons.

That's the worst-case scenario, which is still a quantum leap beyond where we are now, and does not take a sophisticated complex solution -- just sledgehammer the media monopolies.

14 comments:

  1. OT--any thoughts?

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-14/trump-has-6-goldman-appointees-swamp-drains-you

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  2. The Establishment made a mistake pushing the fake news meme.

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  3. Random Dude on the Internet1/15/17, 4:41 PM

    > The Establishment made a mistake pushing the fake news meme.

    The left is so used to being the only ones with the megaphone that they can't imagine anyone would be able to turn something around on them. Now it is being done on a regular basis and they are scrambling to maintain control. This is why the ADL and SPLC have come in recently and declared just about every right wing meme to be hate speech. Even they are finding it tough to get people to fall in line through that method.

    All it means is to keep doing what we're doing and they will start destructing. Even better is that on the way to self destruction, they will find shadier and shadier business associates to provide capital injections. Imagine Al Jazeera buying CNN or The New York Times being run by a front for a narcocartel. Maybe Jeff Bezos will get bored and sell his stake in the Washington Post to RT. In the twilight era of the media, we're going to see some interesting relationships form. That is why it is important to find ways to break up these media conglomerates.

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  4. This is also related to the crime rate. cocooning makes people more apathetic and willing to accept a substandard product. Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if, over the past 25 years, the public has been consuming less news. Having less political discussions with others, which is a social thing, so less of a need to inform oneself of the news.

    But now that the culture is becoming more outgoing, and people are consuming more news, they're becoming more cognizant of how mediocre most organizations have become.

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  5. Interesting regional shake-ups occurring, too, as the Midwest goes Republican -- and not just because the whole rest of the country went Republican (as in '72, '80, and '84), but standing out against roughly half of the country in doing so. Really sticking their necks out against coastal elites.

    First, Greta Van Susteren is promoted to MSNBC, where she stands out more than at Fox. She is not assimilated into the hysterical coastal liberal fold, but is a non-partisan pragmatic semi-populist. She speaks with a Wisconsin accent and references the Packers, not whatever degenerate Hamilton crap her coastal-accented peers are talking about.

    Clearly a move by MSNBC to salvage some of their tribal appeal to middle America. If their tribal appeal only extends to the coasts, then they're done. I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Moore is given more time there as well.

    Also, Bob Woodward is coming out against the CIA-CNN propaganda campaign, and therefore also against his former partner Carl Bernstein.

    Obviously there's a Jew vs. non-Jew angle there. But more than that, Woodward grew up in the Great Lakes (Chicago metro), whereas Bernstein is from the DC metro.

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  6. The impression I get is that political involvement mostly coincides with PC periods and/or protracted wars/protracted domestic strife. The period of about 1975 (end of Vietnam) thru 1987 (right before the left-right cultural fault line widened) didn't have many "controversies" or message movies.

    By comparison, the Vietnam and civil rights era of the late 60's and early 70's had lots of protests and preachy songs/movies. Around 1988 the PC/inital culture war broke out and even metal bands started writing political lyrics, whereas in the golden era of classic rock (1976-1981), groups like Styx, Journey, Foreigner, Billy Squier, etc. almost never talked about "important" social issues or politics. The Bush 1/Clinton era culture warriors got worn out by around 1995 and things lightened up for the next 10 years or so.

    When the Iraq/Afghan wars began to drag on in the mid 2000's, public discontent and discord showed up along with various artists complaining about Bush and the war. As America's imperial overreach has become undeniable, it made the culture of about 2006-2016 pretty pretentious and glum. Not helping is Obama stirring up Culture War part 2, this time with the president himself openly pitting the races against each other. Whereas in the relatively light-weight early 90's culture war, blacks were stirred up by irresponsible media and some Leftists nostalgic for more 60's style upheaval but the impact was blunted by Dems and moderates not wanting to alienate the then quite conservative white population. Recall that under Bush, the government investigated rap music as a threat to law and order.

    Obama has failed to keep civic order to a degree not seen since the 1800's. Trump has a lot of work to do, a lot of demons to vanquish before we can get back to a lighter mood and much less preaching and angst.

    It perhaps is plausible that being outgoing diminishes military over-reach. People kept that cat in the bag in the 70's, 80's, and early 90's even as the CIA and early neo-cons were trying hard to egg on more belligerence. And in the 80's, Reagan was criticized by some liberals for being "macho" and merely building up the military as opposed to actually using it. Which only happened briefly on a handful of occasions. Meanwhile, in the current cocooning period we've become convinced that we should meddle in other countries to the point of blowing them up and then attempting to supervise the rebuilding.

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  7. "The period of about 1975 (end of Vietnam) thru 1987 (right before the left-right cultural fault line widened) didn't have many "controversies" or message movies."

    I see political involvement as correlating with the crime rate more than anything else. First, political discussions are social. Second, they tend to be rough, so when people are more passive they don't want to argue with each other. It also takes work to educate yourself about politics without looking like an idiot. Third, political interest is a sign of maturity - children don't know anything about politics, teenagers know some things but take unrealistic positions, whereas adults know the most about politics. So when the population is more mature, they are also more political.

    the 80s actually were a period of intense political involvement. Agnostic has written about how there were conservative Christians emigrating to Central America etc.

    That said, what people are arguing about changes depending on other factors. as you say, there was some kind of social change in the late-80s/early-90s, where people stopped arguing about economic issues and changed focus to lifestyle issues. This might be because of improving economy - when people suffer economically they focus more on economic issues, when people have more money they fixate on lifestyle issues.

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  8. Here's the post: "The Left in the 80s"

    "In fact, I'm going to quote Chomsky at length to establish that the various movements were not about Left vs. Right but about popular vs. elite control. There was a leftist flavor to The Movement (TM) of the late '60s and early '70s, but that had eroded by the '80s, when those championing popular causes were on one side, and those defending the elite were on the other."

    quoting Noam Chomsky:
    "In fact, what you have now is much more serious activists in many more places(more serious than the 1960s). I travel all the time and give talks all over the place. I've been amazed to go to places throughout the 1980s ... take, say, the Central America solidarity movement, which I think is a pretty dramatic development. I don't think there's been anything like it in history. I'd go to a church in Kansas or a town in Montana or Wyoming or Anchorage, Alaska and find people who knew more about Latin America, certainly, than the CIA, which is not very hard, but people in academic departments who've thought about it, who understood things about American policy."

    "I can't even tell you their names. There are too many of them. Also, I'm not even sure that the word "left" is the right word for them. A lot of them were probably Christian conservatives, but they were very radical people in my view."

    "In the 1960s nobody ever dreamt of going off to a Vietnamese village because maybe a white face in the village would limit the capacity of the marauders to kill and destroy. ...... But in the eighties it was common."

    https://akinokure.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-left-in-1980s-what-did-they-focus.html




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  9. "the 80s actually were a period of intense political involvement. Agnostic has written about how there were conservative Christians emigrating to Central America etc."

    This has to be disentangled from striving. G.I. Gen Americans often were reluctant to move to another state, let alone another country. By the time all Boomers were adults in the 80's, we were both sending our own people abroad as well as admitting tons of foreigners into America. Keep in mind too that Silents and especially Boomers, in their search for excitement and "enlightenment", often sought out foreign stuff under the post 60's Left-wing assumption that white Western culture was somehow debased and soulless. Many Left-wingers born in the 30's, 40's, and 50's hated the G.I. machine, blaming it for mechanized warfare and pollution. They bought into the cultural Marxist notion (even Fred Reed does, for god sake's) that brown and yellow people are essentially wholesome until ugly white people, with their notions of "progress" and rationalism, blunder into the scene.

    It's remarkable how even nominally conservative white Boomers/late Silents (like Charles Murray, Jared Tayler, and Reed) didn't even marry white women. Yeah, the 60's were an ugly period for foreign policy and we did look stupid (though it must be noted that some right-wing Boomers thought that the reason we lost in SE Asia is because we should've been MORE tough). But that's no excuse to totally go off of one's ethnic reservation in a (vain) attempt to atone for tribal sins. For the miscegenators, I really wonder if we're dealing with a sort of deeply inadequate masochist type. Deny yourself a co-ethnic who thinks, acts, dresses, and smells like you in favor of an inscrutable exotic foreigner.

    Oh, and I wouldn't expect a Silent Jew to understand what conservatism is. It's hard to think of something less conservative than leaving one's homeland (unless it's in the course of defending it) or not marrying within one's race.

    In the very outgoing 1920's, we actually shut immigration off almost totally and many Americans were keen on reducing cosmopolitanism. Sounds good to me.

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  10. I guess we started mucking around too much in other people's affairs back then, but it was pretty light-weight compared to what we've done since 9/11. One longs for the 80's, when small groups of Americans were involved in at times misguided and ultimately counter-productive efforts to fight the commies. But given how enormously destructive and totalitarian communism was in it's worst mid-century excesses (not to mention aggressively hostile towards religion), the West had good reason to want to thwart Left-wing governments/movements thought to be sympathetic towards the Soviet style or outright Soviet annexation.

    I'm not sure it's fair to be that hard on pre 90's efforts to deal with communism. Until the late 80's, it was really thought by many (non-hardcore Leftist) Americans that the Soviets were legitimately a threat to the world. You really want to slap commie symps upside the head for minimizing Soviet malignance and maximizing the notion that the West was decadent and a bully (mind you, Russia deliberately botched serial killer investigations on account of the idea that only the dirty capitalists were capable of such horrors).

    LOL at the idea that Americans supporting coups and death squads in 1980's Latin America is even remotely the moral equivalent of what Stalin and Mao did. And given how screwed up the 3rd and 2nd world is, it's also laughable to think that these places would've been wonderful in the absence of America and it's goons. But given the preponderance of Jews and white guilt ridden WASPs in our cultural power centers, a lot of people are never going to quite grasp just how terrible communism is (or the fact that in the mid-century, America was indeed being subverted by actual commies many of whom were Russian Jews).

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  11. "That said, what people are arguing about changes depending on other factors. as you say, there was some kind of social change in the late-80s/early-90s, where people stopped arguing about economic issues and changed focus to lifestyle issues. This might be because of improving economy - when people suffer economically they focus more on economic issues, when people have more money they fixate on lifestyle issues."

    I think by that point we we're seeing the emergence of a distinctly ruthless and cosmopolitan and rootless cultural elite. It was clear already that many Boomers were in a tough spot (to be joined by the next several generations) but fewer and fewer came to care as elites (whose opinions eventually filter down to the masses) embraced the dog eat dog climate.

    Hell, in this decade we've seen elites matter of factly claim that a sizable chunk of workers are simply not necessary anymore; their problems don't arise from poor working conditions/wages/benefits or even from their own poor choices, but rather, our modern economy just doesn't have any use for them. Technology is cop-out since it doesn't explain how the Silent generation was able to carve out a comfortable life with minimal effort or talent, like no other generation had ever done before. The early Boomers basically drafted behind the Slients. And those born since have gotten royally screwed with dwindling support or sympathy. It's not much different from Dickensian England, when the educated classes claimed that a wide swath of the poor were literally programmed to poverty by virtue of genetics.

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  12. Twitter limp-wristed censorship note: auto-complete in search box will not return "Trump" or "Michael Tracey" accounts until you spell the entire thing out.

    Surely making us type an extra couple keystrokes to find anti-Establishment voices will re-install the Uniparty next time!

    They have no Plan B.

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  13. The media helped create the cocooning environment by perpetuating a climate of fear. here is an excerpt from the late, great Michael Crichton's "State of Fear", about a change in media presentation beginning around 1989:

    "If you study the media, as my graduate students and I do, seeking to find shifts in normative conceptualization, you discover something extremely interesting. We looked at transcripts of news programs of the major networks - NBC, ABC, CBS. We also looked at stories in the newspapers of New York, Washington, Miami, Los Angeles, and Seattle. We counted the frequency of certain concepts and terms used by the media. The results were very striking."

    "There was a major shift in the fall of 1989. Before that time, the media did not make excessive use of terms such as 'crisis', 'catastrophe', 'cataclysm', 'plague', or 'disaster'. For example, during the 1980s, the word 'crisis' appeared in news reports about as often as the word 'budget'. In addition, prior to 1989, adjectives such as 'dire', 'unprecedented', 'dreaded' were not common in television reports or newspaper headlines. But then it all changed."

    "These terms started to become more and more common. The word 'catastrophe' was used five times more often in 1995 than it was in 1985. Its use doubled again by the year 2000. And the stories changed, too. There was a heightened emphasis on fear, worry, danger, uncertainty, panic."


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  14. "Has it ever occurred to you how astonishing the culture of Western society really is? Industrialized nations provide their citizens with unprecedented safety, health, and comfort. Average life spans increased fifty percent in the last century. Yet modern people live in abject fear. They are afraid of strangers, of disease, of crime, of the environment. They are afraid of the homes they live in, the food they eat, the technology that surrounds them. They are in a particular panic over things they can't even see - germs, chemicals, additives, pollutants. They are timid, nervous, fretful, and depressed. And even more amazingly they are convinced that the environment of the entire planet is being destroyed around them. Remarkable! Like the belief in witchcraft, it's an extraordinary delusion - a global fantasy worthy of the Middle Ages. Everything is going to hell, and we must all live in fear. Amazing."

    "In reality, for the last fifteen years(novel published in 2004) we have been under the control of an entirely new complex, far more powerful and far more pervasive. I call it the politico-legal-media complex. The PLM. And it is dedicated to promoting fear in the population - under the guise of promoting safety."

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