Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The ongoing battle between independent, alternative media and legacy corporate-government sponsored propaganda media is in full swing following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. While I’m no big fan of Trump, his win has so emotionally damaged the U.S. status quo they have begun to lash out in a hysterical and careless manner against those they feel prevented Her Highness, Hillary Clinton, from ascending to the throne.
The escalation of this fight, which I have referred to as “The Media Wars” since the summer, was easy to foresee. As I noted in the post, Questioning Hillary’s Health is Not Conspiracy Theory:
As I look at the landscape in 2016 to-date, I observe emergent signs that alternative media is finally beginning to take over from the legacy mainstream media when it comes to impact and influence. The mainstream media (unlike with John McCain in 2008), had decided that Hillary Clinton’s health was not an issue and chose not to pursue it. Many in the alternative media world took a different position, and due to mainstream media’s failure to inform the American public for decades, the alternative media drove that issue to the top of the news cycle. That’s power.
This is an incredibly big deal, and the mainstream media intuitively knows what it means. It means a total loss of legitimately, prestige and power. All of which is well deserved of course.
So here’s the bottom line. 2016 represents the true beginning of what I would call the Media Wars. Alternative media is now capable of driving the news cycle. Mainstream media now has no choice but to fight back, and fight back it will. It will fight back dirty. This is going to get very ugly, but by the time the dust has settled, I think much of the mainstream media will be left as a shell of its former self.
2016 was the year when alternative, independent media went from being merely influential, to affecting the outcome of a Presidential election. As was widely reported, basically every single newspaper in the nation endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. The fact she lost anyway represented the greatest middle finger to the media (and the status quo generally) doled out by the American public in at least a generation.
While genuinely fake Macedonia-based news sites certainly garnered a lot of clicks (and revenue) by inventing ridiculous stories, anyone who really thinks this is what led to Hillary’s defeat is simply in denial. We all know that independent websites taking Hillary to task on her very real and very deplorable track record of being a compulsive liar is what was truly decisive. The mainstream media knows this, which is why they haven’t actually been focusing on censoring provably fake news sites, but rather have been promoting an agenda to lump any non-establishment perspectives within the umbrella of “fake news” in order to destroy their competition and regain an upper hand in the national narrative. If those of us who value independent media want to thwart this nefarious plan, we need to fully understand what these cretins are up to.
To that end, I want to turn your attention to one of the best articles I’ve read on the topic. Published at Counterpunch and titled, Manufacturing Normality, here are a few excerpts (definitely make sure to read the entire thing):
Sometime circa mid-November, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat (i.e., the beginning of the end of democracy), the self-appointed Guardians of Reality, better known as the corporate media, launched a worldwide marketing campaign against the evil and perfidious scourge of “fake news.” This campaign is now at a fever pitch. Media outlets throughout the empire are pumping out daily dire warnings of the imminent, existential threat to our freedom posed by the “fake news” menace. This isn’t the just the dissemination of disinformation, propaganda, and so on, that’s been going on for thousands of years … Truth itself is under attack. The very foundations of Reality are shaking.
Who’s behind this “fake news” menace? Well, Putin, naturally, but not just Putin. It appears to be the work of a vast conspiracy of virulent anti-establishment types, ultra-alt-rightists, ultra-leftists, libertarian retirees, armchair socialists, Sandernistas, Corbynistas, ontological terrorists, fascism normalizers, poorly educated anti-Globalism freaks, and just garden variety Clinton-haters.
As I suggested in these pages previously, what we are experiencing is the pathologization (or the “abnormalization”) of political dissent, i.e., the systematic stigmatization of any and all forms of non-compliance with neoliberal consensus reality. Political distinctions like “left” and “right” are disappearing, and are being replaced by imponderable distinctions like “normal” and “abnormal,” “true” and “false,” and “real” and “fake.” Such distinctions do not lend themselves to argument. They are proffered to us as axiomatic truths, empirical facts which no normal person would ever dream of contradicting.
In place of competing political philosophies, the neoliberal intelligentsia is substituting a simpler choice, “normality” or “abnormality.” The nature of the “abnormality” varies according to what is being stigmatized. Today it’s “Corbyn the anti-Semite,” tomorrow it’s “Sanders the racist crackpot,” or “Trump the Manchurian candidate,” or whatever. That the smears themselves are indiscriminate (and, in many instances, totally ridiculous) belies the effectiveness of the broader strategy, which is simply to abnormalize the target and whatever he or she represents. It makes no difference whether one is smeared as a racist, as Sanders was during the primaries, or as an anti-Semite, as Corbyn has been, or a fascist, as Trump has relentlessly been, or peddlers of Russian propaganda, as Truthout, CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and a number of other publications have been … the message is, they are somehow “not normal.”
Why is this any different from the shameless smear jobs the press has been doing on people since the invention of the press and shameless smear jobs? Well, hold on, because I’m about to tell you. Mostly it has to do with words, especially binary oppositions like “real” and “fake,” and “normal” and “abnormal,” which are, of course, essentially meaningless … their value being purely tactical. Which is to say they denote nothing. They are weapons deployed by a dominant group to enforce conformity to its consensus reality. This is how they’re being used at the moment.
The meaningless binary oppositions that the neoliberal intelligentsia and the corporate media are supplanting traditional opposing political philosophies with (i.e., normal/abnormal, real/fake), in addition to stigmatizing a diversity of sources of non-conforming information and ideas, are also restructuring our consensus reality as a conceptual territory in which anyone thinking, writing, or speaking outside the mainstream is deemed some kind of “deviant,” or “extremist,” or some other form of social pariah. Again, it doesn’t matter what kind, as “deviance” in itself is the point.
Actually, the opposite of deviance is the point. Because this is how “normality” is manufactured. And how consensus reality as a whole is manufactured … and how the manufacturing process is concealed.
The above hits the nails entirely on the head. It also explains why it took the Washington Post two weeks to even address the fact that it published a fake news article about “fake news.” Here’s how The Washington Post is “taking responsibility.”
While absolutely pathetic, the editor’s note is equally telling in its sloppiness and arrogance. For instance, the article was a such a gross piece of journalistic malpractice, the only honest, professional move by the paper would be to fully retract the story and apologize; yet The Washington Post didn’t do that. Why?
The reason is because the paper and its editors knew exactly what they were doing with the publication and promotion of this nonsensical fake news hit-piece. Sure, they’re now a bit embarrassed because they were called out by pretty much everybody, but the intent all along was to tie independent media sites with absolutely no connection to Russia, to Russia, in a desperate attempt to recapture the public narrative via blacklists and tech company censorship.
As an aside, for specifics on how the status quo is attempting to use developers and social media companies to censor alternative opinion under the guise of fighting “fake news,” read this excellent article published at Naked Capitalism: Witch Hunt: “Fake News” Software Touted by CBS Smears Naked Capitalism, ShadowProof, TruthDig, Others; Creator Admits He Made Up Who Went on Hit List.
Now that we know what they are up to, how worried should we be? Although I’m extremely optimistic about the future of decentralized, independent media, and the proliferation of individual voices generally, it’s quite obvious legacy media gatekeepers will not go down without a fight. The good news is they are the ones who are on the defensive, not us. They are the ones who are battling on our terms, not the other way around. A great example of this can be seen in how the “fake news” meme has been turned around against the mainstream media to great effect. As I tweeted earlier today:
It is when you get desperate, scared and panicky that you make the biggest mistakes, and the legacy media is currently desperate, scared and panicky. As Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly said:
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Whether or not he actually said them, those words still ring true. We mustn’t get in the way of the legacy media’s inevitable self-destruction. Part of this means that we do not self-destruct in the process. We need to recognize that there’s a reason independent, alternative media is winning the battle of ideas in the first place. For all the warts, mistakes and bad actors, the emergence of the internet is indeed the historical equivalent of the invention of the printing press on steroids.
Only a clueless self-important elitist actually believes that the smartest, most informed people in America are the pundits on tv and the journalists employed by the mainstream media. With a handful of companies and a few oligarchs in charge, you’d have to be the most naive fool on earth to not understand that legacy media is driven by well defined narratives, and that these narratives are not in your best interest. The rest of us understand that the Internet has served as a much needed countervailing force, and has been an incredible blessing to human knowledge, connectivity and the marketplace of ideas. Just because some people can’t distinguish truth from fiction, doesn’t negate the incredible progress that decentralized information dissemination provides. It is only those who do not wish to engage in public debate on the issues themselves who want to censor stuff. The rest of us are more than happy to have an open discussion.
Many of us have spent years, if not decades, building up our online reputations and we should be careful not to squander all we have gained. There will be attempts at co-option, explicitly and otherwise. Be on guard. There will be hit-pieces and smear attempts. Stay cool and fight back from a position of strength and calm. However, I believe the greatest threat comes from the ever present danger of self-inflicted error. Part of the reason independent, alternative media has been so successful is legacy media has made it easy to look good by being so obviously captured, puerile and propagandistic. We must continue to be better than they are. As such, we must be more honest in our actions, less hypocritical in our analysis of events, and just more ethical overall. Given the competition, this shouldn’t be difficult.
Another way the status quo will fight back is by attacking our means of surviving financially, which means readers must be prepared to donate to your favorite sites more than ever before (you can support Liberty Blitzkrieg here). The other way will be to prevent our content from appearing on social media sites or search engines, or when it does appear, it will come with a warning. If this is the tactic they choose, it’ll be relatively easy to fight back.
Ten years ago it would’ve been hard to counter such a strategy, but not today. The cat is simply too far out of the bag. Too many of us reach too many people, and many of the people we reach are smart and influential. We have already sufficiently infiltrated and influenced the public discourse, so denying us a voice is no longer an option. If Facebook or Google start presenting Liberty Blitzkrieg, Zerohedge, or Naked Capitalism with warning labels, the intelligent amongst us with see right through this tactic and become disgusted.
So let me end this with a warning to Facebook, Google, and all the other tech behemoths. You start this fight at your own risk. Any disingenuous attempt to smear genuine, independent media websites via blacklists and censorship will ultimately harm you more than it harms us. In a misguided attempt to destroy us, you will destroy yourselves. Tread carefully and be on the right side of history.
To everyone else, stay strong. My writing would be irrelevant without you. It is not alternative media writers who will inflict the final blow against legacy media, it will be you, the readers. We are in this together and dependent on each other. Together we will win.
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