Challenging the media narrative and the results of the challenge
Bains, a long time commenter here at QandO, and someone who I enjoy reading, put out a rather lengthy comment on the post about the CBS News poll that showed the majority rejected the narrative that heated political rhetoric caused the Tucson shooting. I thought I’d give the bains comment some further visibility because it has some tasty parts that I think deserve discussion. Here’s the comment in its entirety:
I’m noticing something else at play here. A theory of mine that recent events support, perhaps even validate. This will be long so please bear with me.
In 2008 I was in an argument with my father. I was lamenting that if only the media did its job, the nation might have a better idea of just who Barack Obama was, and where he wanted to take this nation. As with many of my friends, and evidently a good number of voters, he would have none of my criticism. Pop was, and still is, mired in a hatred of George W Bush. As such, he entirely missed the point I was trying to make. When news media becomes an advocate for a person, or a position, or a policy, we can not trust that media. It is not just that they are no longer ‘objective’; no, they have become willing disseminators of propaganda. Most here know this.
In a fit, I said that his reliance upon the MSM would come back to bite. All the blowback to the partisan blame-naming that we have seen over the past several days is a good indication of that “bite”.
No, it is not that the MSM is heavily biased leftward (they are). Rather, that those who have studiously ignored, and many have denied, this bent have seriously damaged their own cause. When one agrees with an author, or commenter, or pundit’s point of view, it is quite easy not to call them out on the inaccuracies they use in promoting their cause. And for forty years, the major media outlets have rarely been taken to task for their inaccuracies. That the narrative was acceptable was/is all that is important – facts be damned. And for a long time, this worked: Bork was Borked, Gingrich shut down the government, Limbaugh was responsible for the OKCity bombing, Reagan and Bush’s support of Israel caused 9-11, Humans cause global warming, and evil corporations (supported entirely and only by the right) caused all of our economic woes.
Instead of saying “wait a minute MSM, what proof do you have to make that statement” far too many folks nodded in agreement. Not because of a compelling argument, but because of an overwhelming agreement with how the conclusion could change the course of politics. Bork et al were/are bad solely because their views were/are in opposition to the enlightened, and therefore, brilliant judgments of the political “vanguard” – the Left.
Now what this has led to is a media, and the political left ill-suited to make compelling arguments. All this time, they have been living in an intellectually cloistered tabernacle, only hearing praise for all their illogical and un-provable prognostications. All their “brilliant” arguments are merely juvenile and facile, applauded only because they “proved” the proper position (approved by the ‘right’ cocktail circuits in the ‘right’ locations with the ‘right’ dignitaries approving).
Pundits of this ilk, say Paul Krugman and many others, have been living in a world of masturbatory bliss. Egos massaged, they willingly shelve any intellectual acumen for further gratification. They proudly spout the approved line, support the approved policy, advocate the approved politician, fighting evil in the name of (party approved) decency and Nobility. Hell, a Nobel Prize proves they must be brilliant (and Noble)! But therein lies the (nasty sandpaper) rub. There will come a time when they will not be able to hide their intellectual inadequacies behind a screaming choir.
This is why we see, I surmise, Krugman, his hosting broadsheet, and so many others, going off the deep end regarding the shooting in Tucson. They are loosing their grip on the narrative, and are petulantly lashing out at those who are more and more willing to reject not just the politically motivated narrative, but also those who mindlessly foist that narrative.
Bains’ theory is similar to the thoughts I’ve had (although I’d hesitate to call mine a theory, so ill formed are those thoughts at this moment) about the state of the media. I think bains raises some interesting points. As my brother has said to me, the internet’s democratization of publishing and commentary is as “important as Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type”. The more I observe what is happening, the more I agree. Bains takes that a step further to point out the impact and implications that “invention” is having.
Gutenberg took the Bible away from those who controlled it’s narrative at the time – the Church. It was the beginning of the end of the Church’s power. No longer were they the sole possessors of the written word or the narrative. Now many, many more could directly possess what only the wealthy church could previously possess (since Bibles at the time were all hand made and hideously expensive) and they were also able to offer their own (and competing) interpretations as well.
For a few centuries, the “media” has been – in some form or another – pretty much the sole provider of “news”. It chose the topics, it chose how they were treated and it chose how they were presented, followed up and talked about. Or, as bains points out, they controlled the narrative.
That’s big power. And for the most part, they had no competition except within their own industry. So people like Krugman, et al, became used to having their opinion accepted as “the” opinion and were able to push whatever narrative their ideology demanded as the “common wisdom”.
But there was a true revolution brewing that they missed completely. As Al Gore’s internet stood up in the mid to late ‘90s a challenge developed to the “official narratives” that were then considered conventional wisdom. No longer were the keepers of the narrative unchallenged. The first thing I remember – and this was before blogs or just as blogs were beginning to develop – was the “Tailwind” scandal where CNN’s Peter Arness was brought down over a lie that US troops used poison gas in Cambodia (I believe – this is from memory).
Then came Rathergate, when blogs came into their own and destroyed the story a major news organization was pushing as true and accurate. It wasn’t.
Since then and with the rise of the democratized press, bains theory seems to describe well what has and is happening. Krugman seems to me to be the perfect example of the establishment media’s reaction to the situation.
Certainly there have been vast changes in the media itself. The rise of radio then television. The death of “appointment TV” with the rise of cable news. Etc. But all of those still had an insular media in charge of the narrative and able, for the most part, to do what bains describes.
Not anymore – with the bar to entry lowered so that anyone with an internet account can challenge the big boys and their narrative the monopoly on information deemed “news” is over. The decision as to what is or isn’t “news” is not something the traditional media can dictate anymore. Proof of that are the many stories essentially ignored by the traditional media, kept alive in the blogosphere and finally and reluctantly covered by the MSM.
Anyway, seemed a great topic for discussion – go for it.