Make Media Against The Media
Power rests in very few hands in this world. There is the power to go to war, supposedly, decided by the UN’s eight-member Security Council. There is the power to legislate, controlled by a relative few members of each country, and generally far from representative of the country that they rule over. There is the power to use violent force which lays with the state and its cronies. And then there is the power to spread propaganda and guide public opinion.
Six companies hold the power to distribute propaganda in America. They look out for the interests of their owners and those interests differ sharply from those of the majority of human beings. The media’s stranglehold on acceptable opinion has intermittently wavered in the digital age as radicals with blogs and zines have grabbed small amounts of market share.
Subverting Establishment Media
Magazines like Adbusters have punctured holes in the plastic bags used to suffocate free thought. CrimethInc and similar groups have used words to attack the structures that control popular thought. Facebook walls have become questionable but broad sources of news as friends share media from around the web. Bloggers have dedicated their time, paid and unpaid, to producing their own news. In general, mainstream opinion is, to paraphrase Noam Chomsky, a very lively debate within the limited spectrum of acceptable opinions. Independent media’s content widens that spectrum.
The fight against the Corporately-limited spectrum of acceptable opinion has been facilitated by rapid advances in communications technology. Social media and Content Management Systems like WordPress and Wix allow anybody to spread their opinions with as little thought as they want. You can format your own book for publication and market to audiences that would’ve taken decades to reach before the rise of the internet. People still argue that the world is flat and the citizens of the internet are exposed to their arguments.
The flip side of this is that organizations that already collect important information and data that conflicts with Corporate interests are able to disseminate that information to a wider audience. This includes information such as climate data, labor statistics and information on multinational corporations’ practices.
Six corporations might own more than 90% of the media distributors but the facade of Western mainstream journalism’s impartiality has been weakened by competition. A 2016 study from the Media Insight Project found that American trust in the press is at an historic low. Only 6% of Americans said they have a great deal of confidence in the press.
What Comes Next?
Young people are solving this information/trust gap by turning to alternate news sources for their information. Redditors aggregate news from around the world, making their tag-line, “the front page of the internet,” an embarrassing criticism of the former behemoths of the printing industry whose integrity is at question. The Real News Network and The Young Turks bring the old-format of broadcast news with a far more independent vibe. They’re even funded on a subscription and donation basis. The people driving the Occupy Movement and Anonymous contribute to in the blogosphere. Verso, Jacobin, and CrimethInc produce and distribute mountains of media about leftist politics, social justice, and direct action.
The widespread distrust of mainstream media sources undermines its ability to guide public opinion. It will still be parroted in barber shops and online debates when they tell the public that America is only bombing countries to spread democracy and save lives. But the alternative viewpoints also get a public defense now. Popular narratives can be debunked and shared around the world in moments thanks to virality. These debunkments are coming from people who aren’t being paid by one of the Big Six, they often aren’t even being paid. They are serving the public when they report fearlessly and well on topics that don’t get sufficient attention.
There is a trust question with all information from the internet, and strict verification needs to find its place at the table in alternative media. Provided funding and institutional support the alternative media landscape could live up to the title of the fourth estate. The public needs more researchers investigating public figures and oligarchs. The powerful need to feel watched. The business practices of corporations need to be exposed. And elected officials need to be held accountable to their constituents. None of this is happening currently. Justice isn’t blind. She’s racist and classist. But over time exposure to public interrogation could fix that.