In the era of blogs and podcasts and independent, streaming news, I’ve been hesitant to agree when people blame “the media” for our problems. Personally, I can’t imagine taking CNN or MSNBC’s word for anything. I certainly don’t agree with everything I hear on Fox and I can’t imagine slogging through a daily diet of New York Times style progressive-rant-pretending-to-be-news.
After all, don’t most of us share independent sources in social media settings? Wouldn’t we rather be the talking heads on these matters? Can’t we poke and pry through cyberspace until we get a sense of the truth? You can even opt out of the monster search engines if you want. You can duck-duck-go your way to all of the stories. These days, the best Covid commentary is coming from people who actually read the internet-published science and public records — as opposed to the two minute summaries of legacy media “science” reporters.
Having lived through the era of the news being dominated by three major networks and one-newspaper towns, (where the local agenda was fixed by a single, usually left-leaning voice), I just assumed everyone saw the internet as a liberating alternative to indoctrination.
But here’s where I think I was wrong. People actually enjoy indoctrination. They actually find comfort in thinking the academic and spiritual elites have it all figured out for them. The millions of blogging, talking, chattering, truthful and deceptive voices actually frighten them. They want Walter Cronkite back to let them know everything will be okay. They desperately want to believe Snopes actually checks the facts.
As a result, in this era, they collect a finite assembly of media idols to put on the shelf for daily comfort and reassurance. They will scorn a video documentary–even if it’s produced by a Stanford academic with four full professorships–with the words: “Where did you learn that? YouTube?” (Notice here, that even my example, an appeal to credentials, “Stanford,” is another way of giving the search for truth an argument-ending shorthand.) In our discussions, the truth itself is far too detailed and messy and soul-scarring. We want someone to tell us what to believe, and even though we can search for that truth in ever-more expanding territory, a lot of people (most?) can’t stand the new frontier. They won’t believe it until they see it in the Washington Post or the New England Journal of Medicine.
More on this subject soon, because it inspires some questions I haven’t answered. Will the Covid era of corporate media censorship and gas-lighting finally destroy the legacy media once and for all? Will people allow their idols to be broken? More generally, is the human condition far more comfortable nurturing comforting mythologies — “all vaccines are safe!”, “election fraud never really happens!”, “emergency rooms are flooded with horse-dewormer overdoses!” — or can we really take the truth?
I’m not terribly optimistic.