Thoughts On “The Media” and “Fake News”

At the dawn of 2019, what can we really say about “the media”? It is a thing that, like “the people”, often embodies a meaningless abstraction to be used or abused as the powers that be see fit. But “the media” is a real, tangible, complicated thing just as “the people” consists of countless individuals each with their own biases, opinions, and backgrounds. One side in half-truth and often hypocrisy, proclaims the evils of the “mainstream media” and “fake news”. The other side also sometimes uses the term “fake news” in relation to foreign powers, but moreover goes on to uncritically defend the “integrity” of the billionaire owned and run corporate media. In that light, I thought it would be acceptable, since this is my blog, to voice my own views on the matter.

The media in all its varying forms, no longer required to attempt to present both sides of an issue objectively, has been turned into an outlet of specific political propaganda. Under capitalism one can expect that the media, no matter how “objective” it tries to be, will always come to the defense of capitalist society directly or indirectly; ideology permeates especially through so-called “apolitical” journalism just as it permeates through “liberal” and “conservative” journalism. Today however, the fragmentation of even the believable illusion of objectivity within the nomenclature of formal declarations, has led to a rampant increase in political tribalism. The media seeks not to inform, leaving the individual to come to their own conclusions having been informed to the best of their ability, of both sides within the limitations imposed by the ideology of bourgeois society– but rather, it seeks to indoctrinate the viewer into a political tribe which, while fervently opposed to the “other side”, in actuality has far more in common with the “other side” when compared to the objective diversity of global politics. That which is agreed upon by both positions, both parties, is never debated or discussed except by “radicals” who are occasionally given 3 minutes of air time without enough time to really prove or adequately defend their “impossible” positions. Those agreements matter, and often are just as if not more important than the immediate issues at hand.

Those who cry “fake news” are often those most susceptible to it. Everything they do not agree with (i.e. the “liberal media”) is “fake news”, while their preferred conservative media outlet, usually the billionaire owned Fox News, which plays 24/7 on the television of almost everyone over 60, is somehow “real news”. Right-wing conspiracy theorists such as those found on InfoWars are the “real news” while CNN, in spite of its obvious liberal biases, is “fake news”. In fact, the conservatives do not lie when they call CNN “fake news”, they merely do not go far enough. Fox News, one of the biggest mainstream media sources in existence, likes to pretend it is special when it speaks of “the media”, “the mainstream media”, etc. Any billionaire owned television station will be slanted towards the views and attitudes of the prevailing society, and moreover towards the views of the ruling class of that society.

If objectivity is the goal, legislation ensuring fair and unbiased journalism (to the best of the ability of the journalist) is necessary. Furthermore, what is needed is radical decentralization and democratization of the media itself. The corporate media of course, will proclaim a violation of its “right to a free press”, even if such action is actually necessary for the freedom of the press to survive. The primary purpose of the media is to hold power accountable. In actuality we find that one side is hypocritical in its criticism for 4 years, and uncritical in its praise for the other 4. People like to listen to what affirms their own biases, and avoid what contradicts them. Ignoring the issues of the relative subjectivity of attempted objectivity, and the seriously overlooked issues of agreement between “both sides”, it is highly unusual for someone to watch Fox News under Obama, and then to switch to MSNBC under Trump. Because of this, truly adversarial journalism ought to be encouraged embodying “the ruthless criticism of all that exists: ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”

Both sides have of course, been more and more radicalized since the early 2000’s. Not only in the sense that the left is moving further to the left, the right is moving further to the right (in comparison with the American norm), but rather both sides are increasing in their authoritarianism. More and more we find that one side would have it that the other is silenced, and vice versa. Often we find that the media today is less “journalism” than stations of indoctrination. Anyone who cannot see this today is blind to what is happening. As long as serious, though often petty differences between both sides are fervently debated, the similarities between them embodying the gross injustices found within very base of society itself will be ignored and overlooked. There is no simple solution to this problem, but support for ceaselessly adversarial and principled journalism, legislation requiring both sides to be fairly reported, and the broad decentralization and democratization of the media are a good start as we try to look for both short and long-term solutions to this issue. In a world of ever increasing authoritarianism and mass surveillance, we should also look to support censorship resistant and privacy respecting platforms of communication that journalists may need to rely on in the future. In short, these are my views on the matter.

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