An a la carte Restaurant of News
Choosing your information independence
This is a story of my media consumption habits and what I have learned as they have evolved during my 5 odd decades of life. I hope it is useful for the post gen X'ers, and gives them some ideas about how to make their choices in media consumption.
Every new advance in media technology generates a response from the power structures within the existing media space; the printing press vs. the monasteries, the telegraph vs. the newspapers, radio vs. the newspapers and telegraph, television vs the newspapers, radio, and telephony/telegraph, and finally, the internet vs all of them.
Family consumption of news in the mid-80's
My initiation into "news" was sitting with my family and watching the half hour national news broadcasters’ daily television news program, followed by the half hour "current affairs" program. This was a widely embraced social norm. This meant that the issues being discussed on the bus, or at work the next day were guided by the issues presented during that 1 hour of "news" broadcasting.
There were 4 or 5 television channels, and they largely covered similar topics, with minor differences in analyses. The largely uniform topics controlled social discourse. The question here is of editorial influence and what is not presented.
During the late eighties and nineties talk back radio emerged. The "shock jocks" did expand the social discourse. That was not even a “pre-cursor tremor” to what was to come.
The Internet and "Social Media"
The commercialization of the internet in the late nineties and early naughties, and the pursuant "dot com" boom/bust allowed a new form of media or information dissemination to emerge and "indoctrinate" the "unwashed masses".
The existing media, television, newspapers and radio, were largely unprepared for what would come. It is difficult to predict what the effects of the introduction of a new dominant media technology will be on a society. But, a study of the social changes induced by the sequence of media revolutions I mentioned above may have given some guidance.
The biggest factor that existing media missed and that the Google founders (and others like AltaVista) saw was "Search". How does one navigate not just the local newspapers, radio stations and television studios, but the world's media which were coming on-line? Search was the key, and its consequence was the rapid reduction in the main revenue producing mechanism for newspapers, excluding advertising, the classified section. Ask a 20 year old. "What is the classified section of the local newspaper used for?" Huh? Is that where they comment on things said by an anonymous government official? And what is a newspaper anyway?
Next comes "Facebook" and the "social media" revolution following in the footsteps of, and surpassing Google. Surveillance capitalism was born; targeted advertising based upon targeted surveillance.
While these trends are happening, another less visible but quite influential force is being born; independent media. The bloggers, pod casters, or call them what you will, are a disunited massive collection of people "in their basements" producing their own analysis of news, with commentary on the brainless contradictions of the FCM (Fawning Corporate Media) or doing independent reporting from non-”news” sources like reports published by governments, the UN or non-profits. Often these two are combined with "here's the independent report, and here is what the FCM idiots are saying". A vacuum of ridicule was rapidly filled by the comedians ribbing the politicians and FCM equally using the disarming and effective tactic of humor to pierce the attempted controlled narratives.
Newton's Third Law
I suggest that the explosion of non-FCM media started around 2005. During the ensuing 15 odd years it has expanded and become more "slick" and/or "professional". I mean that it has learnt from the preceding media and adapted quickly to changes in technology to maintain its relevance. During the last 5 odd years, these non-FCM non-aligned asymmetric information warriors have started to found their existence on subscriber funding so that they are not dependent on "sugar daddies" or "grants" or "advertising" but only their followers.
This is a devastating blow to the FCM who are still wedded to the daddies, grants and advertisers who influence their editorial choices and content as outlined by Herman and Chomsky in “Manufacturing Consent” close to the time of my birth. An army of "here's what I think" commentators, analysts and publishers had been unleashed and those who established widespread independent funding sources knew that their continued success depended on them not being subsumed by the influencers. RT established a slew of programs “Breaking the Set”, “On Contact” etc. in which some USA citizens were given carte blanche to say whatever they wanted which re-enforced this independent media space. If you think its all “Russian Disinformation” then debate Chris Hedges in public and we can all judge.
Nonetheless, the "Operation Mockingbird" style spy agencies continued to do their best to influence narratives. Have you heard of the "Integrity Initiative" or the "77th Brigade"? Or how about the "Fact Checkers"? Isn’t “fact checking” what news organisations are meant to do? Okay, so they are “opinion organisations” with outsourced “fact checking”.
How to Navigate on a Sea of Influence? There be do's and do not's, or paths and pitfalls.
If you wish to understand Truth, sign up to years of courses in Philosophy. You will never find it in a newspaper, or any other form of news media.
What is the purpose of consuming "news media"? Indeed, why even bother? This is, of course, a personal choice and may be as simple as to gain some understanding of events to better position your investments. Have at it.
For me, it’s about integrating what I understand of history with recent events, and orienting myself based on my ever changing political position to these recent events. It has a social reward. I can knowledgeably engage in discourse with associates, and hopefully either help them to better understand events in context or far more importantly, for me, learn from their understanding.
As a father, I have a responsibility to cultivate intelligent inquisitiveness in my soon to be adult children. You, dear reader, may not have this goal, but I take it seriously, for the world we leave behind will be administered the coming generation.
The key term is trust, which is to be earned. I do not "trust" a "news organisation", I place trust, when earned, in a person, an author, a journalist. There is one edge-case exception; Wikileaks. I give them no "trust", but I give them less scrutiny because they have never retracted a single publication. This leaves every other "news" organisation in the dust. As we know the USA establishment have spent at least 10 years trying to destroy Wikileaks. How many fabricated, and well fabricated, articles have the USA spies delivered to Wikileaks? Not one of them got through Wikileaks' verification process during a decade of the FCM publishing "anonymous sources" spouting verified rubbish, some of which they have been forced to retract: “Manafort visits Ecuadorian Embassy” anyone?
How can trust be built? Gimme your sources. Let me be able to verify that what you are saying in the factual, as opposed to opinion, sections of your report. It may be that your sources are misrepresenting, but that's my problem to divine.
Is what you are saying interesting, by which I mean relatively unknown? I do not need to go to the local meteorological site to tell me the wind speed; I can see it out my window; the leaves on the trees are moving gently, its 5-8 knots.
When one has found a source providing interesting information, with sources that you can verify, and have verified some of it, one can assign an early "trust point".
It is incredibly important to note that by this one criteria you have just eliminated the vast majority of the western FCM. They, almost universally, do NOT link to external source documents, but back to their own articles or cite other FCM articles. They "quote" "officials" and expect you to believe this. What is magically said in some unknown interaction between an "access reporter" and an "official" cannot be disproven. It sits as an unverifiable, and un-disprovable public assertion. It is neither fact nor opinion, it is unverifiable assertion.
This "trust point" that you may have found will likely reference other researchers/commentators/analysts. Check them out. Sources? Verifiable? Interesting? Assign trust as you go, and start to build your collection of interesting sources which can be verified.
The Library of Alexandria
You need two libraries; one of sources and another of publications. The source library is far more important for "staying in touch" with what is going on.
The "product/publication" library is also important. Things that annoy the "powers that (should not) be" get deleted from the Internet. If you see a very interesting publication, save/download it. This, of course, means you need to develop a mechanism for classifying your "download" library. Do not forget archive.org and other groups that carry on the mission of information preservation. They are the modern allies of libraries and deserve funding and respect.
The source "index" should be simple enough. Use bookmarks, or create your own HTML page with links to the "interesting journalists/analysts/commentators". RSS is a great tool for automating collections of articles if the mechanism is supported by the publisher.
There is no "free lunch" here, it takes a little effort; use the best tools you can find to help you and learn as you go.
Take your own control of your information inflow.
Video killed the radio star 1979, Buggles, Virginia Hey Youtube Channel