“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…
The dumbing down of Americans is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”
It was hard to disagree with the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Times when he called social media the “cancer of our time.” A free society needs a robust, competitive, self-sustaining news media landscape, and social media seems to have corrupted that. If social is cancer, and the LA Timeshorrible readership are any diagnosis, that paper is a terminal case.
The Times is just one instance of the vicious cycle in news media. Radical technological changes have disrupted traditional funding models, making traditional types of reporting too unprofitable to sustain. Newsroom staffing has been slashed by one-quarter since 2008, with those left standing horrified they’ll be next.
This creates newsrooms full of anxiety, with many reporters trying to leverage sensationalism on social media. While reporters 20 years ago might have tried to bury – or at least hide – the biases that informed their reporting, now they brag about those biases on Twitter in the purity-spiral battle to prove who’s the wokest.
Traditional news outlets have lost credibility and for good reason. In a recent survey, the US ranks dead last in trust of domestic media. And desperate attempts to tack into these headwinds are making things worse.
Just getting it right doesn’t matter to so many in the industry nowadays as seen with NBC’s recidivistic problem with improperly sourcing articles.
We can also see so much hypocrisy when it comes to the reporting on potential conflicts of interest after people leave the White House. When former Trump administration staffers left to pursue media opportunities, they were attacked for conflicts of interest but with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki leaving to join MSNBC and former deputy press secretary for Vice President Kamala Harris, Symone Sanders launching her own MSNBC show, we have not heard a peep.
Traditional news values don’t even enter into editorial decisions when you’re paid by the click, or worse, subsidized by corporate overlords.
One particularly galling example is Business Insider. While one wouldn’t immediately think it would suffer from some of these aforementioned problems, indeed it’s been a leader.
All the way back in 2013, reporters were deriding Business Insider for “slideshows and other crap meant not to inform, but merely to generate clicks.” When its ownership changed hands in 2016, there was a mass exodus of staff who objected to the way “traffic took precedence over enterprise reporting.”
Some of their reporting has even led to public fights and litigation, accusing Insider’s corporate masters of using the news outlet to slander their competitors. After hit pieces against Barstool Sports’ owner – and direct media competitor – Dave Portnoy over alleged sexual misconduct, he filed a lawsuit against Business Insider for defamation and printing “outright fabrications.” Bogus “Me Too” allegations are very useful for getting rid of competitors in a world where we unquestionably “believe survivors.”
Comparable allegations have been made about the website’s coverage of real estate mogul and head of real estate data company CoStar, Andrew Florance, who’s been accused of misconduct ranging from making female subordinates at his company CoStar feel uncomfortable to pointing a gun at people! While the accuracy and severity of the claims made in the reporting are best left up to those involved, Insider’s reporting never once mentioned that their parent company Axel Media also owns multiple real estate marketing portals across the globe that are direct competitors to CoStar. Most notably Axel Springer bought France’s number 3 property platform Logic-Immo for $115 million in 2017 and also in 2011 bought online property advertising firm SeLoger for $846 million.
Insider’s reporting is immediately brought into question based on the fact their CEO has a lifetime ban from the SEC, a point that Portnoy has made publicly multiple times. Their questionable ethics should receive even more scrutiny when reporting on their owner’s competition without making basic disclosures.
At the very least, it’s reasonable to wonder if these undisclosed conflicts are motivating factors of what Insider chooses to cover. Even as horrible as the once-great Washington Post has become since Jeff Bezos bought it, whenever the paper reports on Amazon, they are quick to disclose their ownership.
The sad truth is that media neutrality and reliability seem to be a product of 20th Century television reporting. Because the Big Three – ABC, NBC, CBS – had to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, they all were all fighting to be the one that shot best toward the middle.
As demographics have become more diverse, so too has our media consumption. News outlets have reverted to the kind of biases we’d previously seen for hundreds of years, whether it was corrupt Gilded Age political bosses or Thomas Jefferson hiring a newspaper to call John Adams a hermaphrodite.
The challenges of the modern media environment are hard, but it’s hard to feel bad for almost any modern, mainstream media outlet.
The US House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a hearing to follow up on some 143 UFO sightings reported between 2004 and 2021, Representative André Carson (D-Indiana) revealed on Tuesday. The hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday, will be held by the Intelligence Committee’s subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and counterproliferation, which Carson chairs.
“Since this is an area of high public interest, any undue secrecy can serve as an obstacle to solving the mystery, or it could prevent us from finding solutions to potential vulnerabilities,” Carson told the New York Times. “This hearing is about examining steps that the Pentagon can take to reduce the stigma surrounding reporting by military pilots, and by civilian pilots.”
Among those testifying before the subcommittee are Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray. Both have been involved with further investigating the 143 sightings detailed in a report released last year by the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, an office that has since been replaced by the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group. The new division, led by Moultrie, is supposed to “detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in Special Use Airspace and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security.”
Public discussion of UFOs has increased since 2017, when it was revealed the Pentagon had a project known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) tasked with identifying (or at least trying to identify) such aircraft. Last year’s report released to Congress, while largely classified, hinted that the Pentagon was involved in analyzing the “advanced technology” seemingly displayed by UFOs, which it has divided into multiple categories, admitting in one partially-redacted section that “UAP [unexplained aerial phenomena] Probably Lack a Single Explanation.”
Spurring a renewal of public interest in the phenomena were three videos released shortly after the AATIP report – and officially confirmed by the Pentagon in 2020 – that showed recordings of unidentified aircraft performing bizarre maneuvers not believed to be possible with known human technology.
The last public hearings on UFOs concluded in 1970, when the Air Force closed its public investigation into the phenomenon, called Project Blue Book. Despite numerous reports from pilots both military and civilian, the Air Force concluded that no UFO had ever been a threat to national security, that the objects thus far unexplained did not display advanced technology beyond the knowledge of the day, and that there was no evidence the aircraft in question was extraterrestrial. UFO enthusiasts have cried foul play ever since.
It’s not that the US elects incompetent leaders who make bad decisions that kill millions of people with warfare, it’s that the global US empire is held together with military violence and the threat thereof. It’s an intrinsically evil institution and you should always oppose it. It’s not that the US government has done evil, it’s that the US government is itself evil.
The very way it has set itself up to operate in the world necessarily means it must exert endless violence and oppression to keep populations functioning in its interests. That’s evil. The Mafia hasn’t happened to make bad decisions throughout its history that resulted in the unfortunate demise of certain individuals, it’s an institution explicitly set up to reap profits by exerting and threatening violent force. The US empire is exactly the same. Same evil.
It’s not that the American people keep accidentally electing warmongering thugs, anymore than it’s an accident that the Mafia is always led by men who are willing to bully and kill. The US empire is an intrinsically thuggish and violent institution and needs that kind of leader. The US empire is just a rich man’s mafia. And you should want it gone for the exact same reason you don’t want your neighborhood to be tyrannized by violent mobsters.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone