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The media content of the mass media is controlled by the advertising market and has changed American journalism, writes Matt Taibbi (b. 1970). He is the co-editor and journalist of Rolling Stone. Taibbi's latest book, Hate Inc., is a critical examination of the condition in the American media. The time of publication was well-chosen, ahead of an expected hate-oriented American election campaign.
Taibbi grew up from Boston, where his father was a TV star, not unlike the TV series The Anchorman (2004). He has extensive journalistic experience from Russia, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. Taibbi was deported from Uzbekistan after criticizing President Karimov.
Capitol Hill and Fox News
"US needs a new media system", wrote Taibbi January 11, 2021 on his blog (republished in the National Post) – a week after the storming of Capitol Hill.
Hate Inc. warned the situation in American society almost prophetically. News journalism in the United States is not objective, but market-driven news factories with profit and high ratings as a guideline. Taibbi writes that Rupert Murdoch sacrificed the already paper-thin pseudo-respect the TV channel Fox had, and reinvented a platform for Donald Trump's conspiracy-building brand in a cartoon-like populism in a "more-Fox-than-Fox" narrative. Trump is a symptom of America's problems, but not the cause of them. CNN and MSNBC eventually opted for a Fox-like approach. "News can be sold as character-driven episodic TV in the manner of soap operas," writes Taibbi.
The Fox technique was as follows: During the Bush era, they had learned that viewer polls went to the ceiling if the audience got the impression that the liberal neighbors were terrorists and traitors. On the rating, this was more effective than news about Al Qaeda, since the enemy was closer and made the hatred more real.
A credible news institution is needed
The media works as a news agency backwards, they first ask: "How does our target demographic want to understand what's just unfolded?" Then they find words and angles that fit the market research. Fox News, for example, refers to the storming of Capitol Hill as "Pro-Trump protesters," while The New York Times and The Atlantic call it "insurrections." anm]. The conservative media also emphasizes how Apple, Google and Amazon shut Trump out, while the mass media hinted at the possibility of a new round of armed protests – probably on 19 or 20 January.
Taibbi writes further: "Drifting apart into two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts, and separate realities, with nothing in common except our hostility towards each there and mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share." He continues: "What we saw explode last week, is a paradox. A political and informational system that profits from division and conflict and uses a factory-style process to stimulate it – but professes shock and horror when real conflict happens. […] You can not sell hatred and seriously expect it to end. »
What is desperately needed in the United States is an institutionally credible news institution, Taibbi writes. The country's new media system, in Taibi's perspective, should be independent of political parties, with objective, credible journalism – independent of Apple, Google or Amazon.
While traveling in Mongolia and Uzbekistan, Taibbi brought three books with him: Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson ("a great work of journalism"), and Scoop by Evelyn Waugh ("the perfect parody of journalism"). But when Taibbi read book number three, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), written by linguist, philosopher and social critic Noam Chomsky and economics professor Edward Herman, His understanding of the role of the media in American society changed fundamentally.
Hate Inc. is a continuation of Noam Chomsky's and Edward Herman's media critique of 1988. When truths are for sale in feedback loops, hate rhetoric and polarization increase. Chomsky and Herman revealed that the American mass media were powerful ideological institutions as in an effective and systemic propaganda apparatus. A key idea – a continuation of the American journalist Walter Lippmann's media criticism from public opinion (1922) – was that censorship in the United States was subtle, and dependent on market forces.
Chomsky and Herman discuss propaganda and obstacles to journalistic freedom in the American press. Much of this comes from Herman's earlier book, Corporate Control, Corporate Power (1981), but was already carefully discussed in Herman and Chomsky's book The Political Economy of Human Rights, which was published two years earlier (1979). The work was based on an even earlier Chomsky / Herman book: Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact & Propaganda (1973). This shows that the mass media coverage of significant American economic and political interests – and relations with friendly or hostile states – acts as agency agencies for state propaganda.
Chomsky and Herman sort out the criticism of the American press' inadequate coverage of reprehensible matters in US foreign policy, human rights protocols and role in the Vietnam War. This falls into categories such as friendly publicity, criminal participatory reporting (incomplete or incorrect), and myth-forming information.
Advertising revenue is most important
The propaganda model i Manufacturing Consent has five points: 1) Advertising revenue is a more important source of revenue than single sales and subscriptions, and advertisers' political prejudices and demands challenge editorial freedom. 2) Powerful and resourceful social actors subsidize the mass media financially; in return, they receive privileged dissemination of "their" news. 3) The media favors the authorities and resourceful people to stay in the opinion-forming and economic sphere. 4) The editorial staff avoids controversial topics and facts that give negative feedback, which in turn affects advertising revenues. 5) The last point of the propaganda model is the news about anti-communism, a topic that from the end of the Cold War (1945-91) had filled newspaper readers with fear. After 1991, Chomsky replaced it with the news of the "war on terror" as the main social control mechanism.
The main conclusion in Manufacturing Consent was that the free press, in "The Land of Freedom", was not independent. It cut like a chainsaw through the American deception, writes Taibbi.
Chomsky's and Herman's book received few reviews. Warner Publishing wound up the publishing department that published Manufacturing Consent. Only 500 copies of the first edition of 20 were sold at launch.
The hate rhetoric is far stronger present today than then Manufacturing Consent was published. Taibbi's book was originally intended to be published with the paraphrasing title Manufacturing Discontent, since the media-critical-political perspective of the previously mentioned Lippmann, Chomsky and Herman is continued. Taibbi's book has, however, received good reviews in the New York Times, Washington Post and Publishers Weekly, among others.
Hate Inc. was first published as a series of e-mail newsletters (via Substack). In addition to a review of the Russiagate / Müller report, an interview with Chomsky is published. Chomsky's book had the unforeseen consequence that it created distrust of the media.
The media creates the illusion that being informed is a social act in itself.
Long before the establishment of the hate rhetoric that characterizes Fox and CNN, and long before Trump taught his followers that CNN conveyed "fake news", the TV audience had learned to despise and hostile their opponents via sports 24-hour-a-day TV the ESPN channel. The new news consumer "was already reading the sports page". News coverage went from relatively neutral to "cheer-leading". "The flip side of cheering is hating," Taibbi writes.
The rules of hatred are simple. There are only two teams, two political ideas, and the two are in permanent conflict. The hatred is personal. Everything is the fault of others. The visions on both sides are on a subtle level: Find your peers ("Root, don't think"), be loyal to the team ("No switching teams"), and be aware of your superiority over the others ("Feel superior"). The enemy is literally Hitler, and in the fight against Hitler everything is allowed.
Where the advertisement gave a feeling of well-being, desire and pleasure, the new media consumption gives the feeling of paranoia, anger and mistrust. The discovery that hatred sells, transformed the news into a commodity or identity marker. A completely new type of news image where the knowledge interest is cynically exploited for sale.
In his review of social media, Taibbi writes: "The notion that you are reading the truth, and not consuming a product, is the first deception of commercial media." Neither Facebook nor Google states that this "door to the truth […] was built just for you".
Facebook conveys content that strengthens your own prejudices in "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops". After your personal consumption pattern has been analyzed (controlled by "the little dopamine hit" you get from likes and rewards), it is matched with advertisers with demographically adapted products. What you get, completely free, is a personalized truth-telling – according to how your online activity is. Facebook's and Google's function is to resell the activity information.
Taibbi continues: “All the commercial actors make more money the more you read or watch. The business, therefore, is geared toward keeping you glued to the screen. " The fields of hatred are easily recognizable, from "energy to medicine to pollution to science to nuclear weapons".
The feeling that the world is disintegrating is part of the strategy.
The feeling that the world is disintegrating is part of the strategy, to get readers to continue consuming news, looking for more knowledge online. The result is more ads, and more sales for the marketing departments, in a mutually dependent relationship.
According to Taibbi, the media creates the illusion that being informed is a social act in itself. But being up to date creates no change.
Hate Inc. nevertheless tries to restore media trust by pointing to the credibility of the majority of newspapers, such as the New York Times, but emphasizes that trade-offs and nuances do not traditionally sell newspapers: "The news media are in crisis." Hope is a growing market for politically neutral journalism.
MODERN TIMES also recommends podcast about Manufacturing Consent
ALSO READ the mention of Where Truth Lies about American media and digital culture.