Monday, September 19, 2016

A is for Alternative Media

The alternative media has exhibited an exponential growth pattern in recent years due to the digital revolution and the unsatisfactory narrative offered by traditional media. The ease with which new media ventures can be incubated and by which information is distributed has broken the stranglehold the mainstream media (MSM) has enjoyed in terms of setting the narrative agenda in society. In a recent survey it was found only 6% of Americans have a lot of trust in the MSM, and that figure is likely to be repeated, to a greater or lesser extent, across the industrialised world.

This rapid growth of the alternative media has occurred in parallel with the diminution of trust in the MSM. Since the early 1970s - when the rich economies of the West began to depart from a reality based upon physical productivity and currencies backed by precious metals - the MSM has caused ever-growing levels of cognitive dissonance in its consumers. However, the widespread ownership of computer technology which has occurred in recent years has allowed the vacuum to be quickly filled by thousands of YouTube videos, blogs and alt news sites, all distributed at lightning speed via social media, email lists and RSS feeds. The cumbersome business model of the conventional media has found itself unable to compete with this networked and distributed onslaught and faces a lingering death as its cash reserves and lines of credit deplete. All it can do is dig itself into an ever deeper hole as it desperately tries to rescue its own credibility, but finds it is unable to do so without compromising the power structures behind it.

One way in which the MSM and its supporters are attempting to fight back is by discrediting all alternative media. Due to the anarchic nature of the alternative media arena a wide range of controversial topics are addressed in a range of tones. Some of these are singled out as conspiracy theories in an attempt to discredit the entire phenomenon of non-hierarchical information disbursement and the old maxim of slinging mud at a wall in the hope that some of it sticks applies here. This tactic in itself seems to be backfiring as one 'conspiracy theory' after another is proved to be reality; a phenomenon that has turned the tables and appears to be inducing cognitive dissonance in the MSM itself. A prime example of this is the Washington Post's simultaneous championing of the ex-NSA computer analyst turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, whom the paper simultaneously supported to earn industry plaudits, whilst subsequently calling for his arrest due to the existential threat he posed to the establishment.

The MSM is acutely concerned by its shrinking power but does not appear to be able to repel the swarm attack. If it mimics the alt media it shoots itself in the foot, but if it ignores it it further erodes its own self-defined relevance. Instead it repeatedly doubles down on failed strategies and expects them to succeed. With so much capital invested in their enterprises the controllers of the old media have yet to figure out a way to compete with alternative media sources. The new media is unbound by any editorial and political constraints and willing to offer up their services for free, whereas the old media must play by the old rules and is forbidden from 'rocking the boat'. Thus, in the face of this existential threat they are churning out more and more 'news' in the form of entertainment, mixing commercials with supposed reality in the form of sponsored content and retreating behind paywalls that nobody wants to pay for. This has created a negative feedback loop for them and, in fact, without the help of generous benefactors or cash engines strapped onto their media enterprises, we could see the death of the MSM within a few short years. Reports of social media sites censoring alternative media material are only likely to quicken the erosion of whatever trust remains in the MSM.

What emerges from the wreckage is unclear but the issue of trust has been thrust to the fore. In the same way that not all MSM content is 'bad', conversely, not all alternative media is 'good'. The same shady array of forces harbouring murky intentions and blatant attempts at propaganda remains, and we can be sure it is desperately attempting to reconfigure itself in new ways for it to continue to control the narrative and perpetuate the status quo. Perhaps, as the collapse of industrial society intensifies more local forms of media will rise in relevance and importance. This would be one way the trust horizon of information providers could be verified. At the same time, in a deglobalising world, people may find they do not have as much time to follow world events from their own home. Instead, they may be too busy raising chickens and growing vegetables. 


  1. Seems to me that the business model of the developed world has been theft from the developing world. The business of the MSM has always been to make that enterprise look virtuous. I think that most people in the developed world were willing to swallow whatever fictions the MSM came up with as long as they got their share of the spoils. They could then believe the official story that the country's wealth was due to the virtue and hard labor of its citizens seeing that they were being rewarded with a comfortable life style for their part in the enterprise.
    As more and more people slip into poverty and the main task of the MSM becomes to convince them that they are still well off, people gradually become less prone to believe the fictions produced by the MSM. If they are lying about my condition, what else are they lying about?
    Most of my exposure to MSM comes during the few minutes of driving in my car when I am switching between radio stations trying to find one that is not running advertising. What I notice lately is that what is broadcast is mostly reports on trivial issues. It's not even about lying so much any more as simply ignoring the decline of our society.
    And agreed, once you get busy with chickens and vegetables, who cares if Hanjin went bankrupt or the US accidentally bombed the wrong people in Syria.

    1. Hi Wolfgang. Indeed. A great example occurred yesterday when the actor Brad Pitt and his wife announced they were getting divorced. Flicking through the main news sites it was the headline everywhere, as if it were important. I think the MSM are basically clueless and are running scared.

      I saw an excellent comment on an article in The Guardian the other day. Following the Hanjin bust, they chose to focus on a 25 year-ol conceptual artist who was stuck on one of their ships somewhere doing something avant-garde (apparently her major 'work' up to that point was rolling down a hill covered in mouse traps). They didn't mention the actual crews of the ships, who were similarly stuck. The commenter said something along the lines of "The Guardian is no longer clueless, it's actually become mentally ill." I couldn't agree more.

    2. Thus reflecting the power structure at large. They just can't see it.


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