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From Captive Audience to Open Democracy: Why the Mainstream Media Is Freaking Out

by Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds:

In a democracy, trust must be earned. It cannot be imposed.

In its panicky rush to demonize the independent media via baseless accusations of “fake news,” the mainstream press has sunk to spewing “fake news” of its own.

Here’s The Washington Post’s criminally false “fake news” article in case you missed it: Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.

So-called “fake news” was perfectly acceptable to the mainstream media when it was the exclusive purview of the central state. The infamous Gulf of Tonkin Incident in August 1964 that was used to justify a massive escalation of the heretofore limited war in Vietnam was heavily promoted by the mainstream media of the day.

Within hours of the incident, Navy commanders had notified the Pentagon that the entire incident was very likely illusory, a “fog of war” error.

Decades later, the mainstream media swallowed the Executive Branch’s “weapons of mass destruction” justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq as well. Even more egregiously, the mainstream media parroted the central bank/state’s narrative about the Global Financial Meltdown of 2008, missing the systemic fraud and embezzlement at the heart of America’s financial system.

Why is the mainstream media freaking out right now? The MSM had bet all its diminishing chips of credibility on Hillary Clinton winning the Presidency. Leading newspapers such as The New York Times ceaselessly undermined Bernie Sander’s campaign in favor of Hillary Clinton, a bias visible throughout the mainstream media. (When Bernie won a primary by a substantial margin, the smallish NYT headline would read something like “Sanders edges Clinton.” When Clinton won a primary by a slim margin, the NYT would declare in large typeface “Clinton regains momentum.” Do you see the not-so-subtle bias?)

The same was true regarding Donald Trump. Of the 100 largest newspapers in the nation, not one came out in favor of him — a one-sided media bias that is unprecedented in recent U.S. history.

The MSM has awakened to the reality that the monopoly they once held on a captive audience has eroded to the point of ineffectiveness.

— In 1964, the media could easily convince the American people that the Vietnam misadventure was “necessary.”

— The media could still sell the American people that the Iraq misadventure was also “necessary” in 2002.

— In 2016, the media went “all-out” to sell the inevitability and rightness of a Hillary Clinton presidency. What should have been a slam dunk ended up in defeat.

The fundamental dynamic here is the transition from a captive audience in thrall to a handful of media corporations to a radically democratized media. In 1964, Americans had essential zero alternatives to the three TV networks and the mainstream magazines and newspapers.

A few hardy souls subscribed to newsletters from muckrakers such as I.F. Stone, but independent journals and journalists were marginalized.

Any journal that published investigative journalism that called the dominant narratives into question (for example, Ramparts magazine in the late 1960s and early 1970s) attracted the ire of the C.I.A. and the central state’s other organs of security/repression.

If you don’t know anything about this, I recommend reading Site Behind Washington Post’s McCarthyite Blacklist Appears To Be Linked to Ukrainian Fascists and CIA Spies (nakedcapitalism.com).

Increasingly, the media is becoming more of a Wild West than the homogenized, centralized media with a captive audience. With the advent of digital publishing, a lot more voices can be heard. But it takes effort to find them, and separate the wheat from the chaff. As I explain in my short video (1:21 minutes) recorded for Max Keiser, Comments on being on the “Russian propaganda” List, democracy implicitly imposes a responsibility on the citizenry to sort out who benefits from whatever narrative is being pushed.

Simply put, democracy requires citizens to be skeptical and street-smart. Chumps who can’t figure out when they’re being played will lose their democracy.

The mainstream media is attempting to demonize the independent media by lumping us in with “fake news” click-bait farms and “conspiracy” theorists. Notice what this says about the MSM’s view of its viewers/listeners/readers:

“You are mindless sheep who are easily led astray, you are incapable of sorting wheat from chaff and so you should only listen to your betters–us.”

Read More @ OfTwoMinds.com

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