It lies within

In his 2008 book Flat Earth News, long before the current frenzy about ‘fake news’ and Russian ‘disinformation’, British journalist Nick Davies sought to explain why the global media contained so much ‘falsehood, distortion, and propaganda.’ According to Davies, up to about the 1980s, mass media was not predominantly concerned with money-making. In particular, what one might call ‘serious’ broadsheet newspapers were rarely profitable and often lost substantial amounts of money. They stayed in business because of the subsidies of rich proprietors who felt that owning a newspaper gave them prestige and political influence. In the 1980s Rupert Murdoch changed all that, and set about turning the mass media into a source of revenue. One way of doing this was by cutting costs, which entailed reducing payroll. Thus began a process in which the number of journalists employed by Western media organizations has plummeted. This process has accelerated in recent years, with newsroom jobs falling by 23% between 2008 and 2017 alone. At the same time, the internet has led to a vast increase in the number of media organizations. The internet has also created intense pressure to produce stories quickly. The result is fewer and fewer journalists forced to produce more and more stories faster and faster. The inevitable consequence has been a decline in quality.

Along the way, investigative journalism, which is slow and labour intensive, has fallen largely by the wayside. Instead, modern journalism has become largely a matter of cutting and pasting. Davies and his research team examined where the stories in newspapers came from. They discovered that the overwhelming majority came from two sources: a) a handful of press agencies, such as AP and Reuters; and b) press releases issued by governments and private corporations. Only a few organizations, such as the BBC, produce most of their own news reports. The majority just cut and paste from press agencies or press releases. Fact checking – which is also slow and labour intensive – has largely disappeared. In his 2006 book War Reporting for Cowards, British journalist Chris Ayres explained how the process works. Arriving in New York as the new US correspondent for the London Times, Ayres meets his predecessor. His job, she tells him, is to watch CNN and read the New York Times and then transcribe them for a British audience. Enough said!

My last post was on a very trivial matter, but I wrote it because it encapsulates the sloppy journalism which results from this process. Unfortunately, it’s endemic, and given the pressures that journalists operate under, it’s probably inevitable and not really their fault. Davies comments that these pressures mean that it’s relatively easy for governments and corporations to manipulate the media. Needing stories, journalists will snap up official press releases and regurgitate them without too much critical analysis. Others will then copy them, and before long the story is accepted everywhere. If you want to know why the English-language media overwhelmingly accepted government claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, this explains a lot.

What Davies doesn’t go into, but I think is also important, is the latitude the modern cut-throat media process creates for biases to influence reporting. Many issues are contested. Perhaps more than one party is issuing press releases. You don’t have time to check the competing narratives, or maybe look for some middle ground. The editor wants the story out now. So you have to choose. Whose press release do you cut and paste? The one issued by the side you believe more reliable, obviously. And how do you decide that? Perhaps years of experience have taught you the correct answer. But perhaps it’s just a matter of personal preference. Reporting on Syria, do you cut and paste the White Helmets’ latest press release, or that of the Syrian government? You don’t like the Syrian government, so you go with the former. Ideally, you’d do more research, but, as I said, there’s no time, so biases govern.

Davies also points out that at any time there is a ‘story’ which prevails. If everybody else is reporting on something, then editors feel that they have to be reporting on it too, regardless of whether there is anything to it. If you want to sell copy, you can’t be the only outlet which is ignoring the ‘story’. You can see this with what is called ‘Russiagate’. For the past two years, Russian ‘electoral interference’, ‘disinformation’ and so on have been the ‘story’. Journalists therefore leap upon anything which feeds this story, even if it doesn’t actually amount to much. By contrast, anything which suggests a different story is ignored. You can see this in the case of the British-run Integrity Initiative, a shady organization funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and dedicated to combatting ‘Russian propaganda’. As Kit Klarenburg points out in an article in Sputnik News, the Integrity Initiative set up one of its ‘clusters’ of like-minded opinion formers in Germany. This cluster was headed by a former British Member of Parliament Harold Elletson, who is believed to have once worked for the British secret intelligence service MI6. Imagine if it became known that a secret network had been set up in Germany to push pro-Russian stories in the German media, and that this network was funded by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and led by a former Russian Duma Deputy who had at one time worked for the Russian intelligence service SVR. One suspects that it would be front-page headlines. Journalists would be all over it. It now turns out that a British funded network, run by a former British spy, has been recruiting Germans to influence Germany public opinion. It seems newsworthy. But how much attention has it gathered from the ‘mainstream’ media? Practically none. It doesn’t fit the ‘story’.

Attentive readers will note that in two days I have twice referenced the Russian media organization Sputnik. This is kind of odd, as I doubt that I have ever read more than about five Sputnik stories. But the narrative above tells me why people might decide to read more. Too much reporting in Western media is sloppy, inaccurate, and biased. I’m certainly not saying that all of it, or even most of it, is. There are some excellent journalists and some first class reporting. But when it comes to Russia, there is a lot which falls short, more than enough for many intelligent readers to realize that something isn’t quite right. The result is a loss of faith in the mainstream media, which induces some to defect to alternative sources, be it Sputnik or anything else.

Those alternative sources may, of course, be worse. But it seems to me to be wrong to blame them for the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ and the like. Those who campaign against Russian disinformation often demand that governments take action against RT, Sputnik, and others, and propose setting up counter-disinformation centres dedicated to exposing Russian fake news and spreading their own version of the truth. But none of this addresses the root cause of the problem – the failings of our own traditional media. I’m not sure what the solution is – the pressures of the market and the processes unleashed by modern information technology are what they are – but the solution certainly doesn’t involve blaming others. If you don’t report on the Integrity Initiative, for instance, of course people will turn to Sputnik to read about it. And frankly, they’re right to do so – where else can find out about this stuff? So what I’d say to our information warriors is that if you don’t want people turning to Sputnik¸ you first need to get your own act together. As I’ve said before, the root of problem doesn’t lie without; it lies within.

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26 thoughts on “It lies within”

  1. “You don’t like the Syrian government, so you go with the former. ”

    Well, I don’t think this is a matter of who you like or dislike in Syria. I don’t think they care about any of them.

    There are accepted/approved ‘narratives’, and all you have to do is to follow them. If you do, you’re a member of the team in good standing, and in due time you’ll be promoted.

    If you start contradicting ‘narratives’, then you’re a crank, conspiracy theorist, most likely racist and alt-rightist, a troublemaker. Soon you’ll lose your job, and someone who’s willing to play ball will take your place.

    And I’m pretty sure this was the case before Murdoch, albeit in a less brazen way; Manufacturing Consent was published in 1988.

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    1. As a lefty British journalist, Davies despises Murdoch, and I think he is indeed guilty of exaggerating Murdoch’s importance. As you say, these problems aren’t new ones. At the same time, I think that the phenomenon Davies describes – fewer and fewer journalists having to cover more and more news quicker and quicker, and so cutting corners and failing to check facts – is real.

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      1. “I think that the phenomenon Davies describes – fewer and fewer journalists having to cover more and more news quicker and quicker, and so cutting corners and failing to check facts – is real”

        “fewer and fewer journalists” results in crappy output – well, there’s an unfounded assumption of the cause-effect in there.

        Sure, it could be, as you believe, that major media companies intend to produce what we would describe as ‘decent journalism’, but aren’t able to do it because of the constrains imposed by competition. (The ‘sloppiness’ hypothesis)

        Or, it could be that media companies’ product is dissemination of propaganda, and in that case they simply don’t need journalists. The basic content is provided by think-tanks and government agencies. And to disseminate, all major media companies need is top-notch sales force: ‘star’ presenters, a-la Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity. (The ‘intent’ hypothesis)

        I find the latter far more plausible, I’m afraid…

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  2. As if there are no solutions. There are solutions, they are just not palatable in this day and age where we think it normal to look up to oligarchs and look down on unionists.
    Canada, like other places, needs to revamp the CBC with more funding, not less.
    -We need to think about how we can foster and help mushroom this excellent growth of tiny youtube news channels, and co-fund them on the basis of our laws of free speech and viewership. –
    -We need to demand that the big social media companies refrain – at least in our country – to put censure on if they control more than 50% of the market in their particular sphere: because then, they are a virtual monopoly and should be required to relinquish the freedom of censuring what they please.
    -We need to create financial hurdles for big, corporate-sponsored news organizations
    -How do we as a country reward and attract and develop people like Robert Fisk, Caitlin Johnson, Sy Hirsch? It was the CBC which uncovered the hoax of the first Iraqi war – the fake news story of babies taken out of their incubators and left to die on the floor… Alternately, can we develop an objective way to publicly scold and downgrade channels that loose their objectivity (such as the BBC’s blatant anti-Corbyn editing?
    There are ways; they involve money and programs and a long-term vision to set us apart from the American media space, include Asian and African analysis and worldviews. There is no such vision in our politics.

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  3. As if there are no solutions. There are solutions, they are just not palatable in this day and age where we think it normal to look up to oligarchs and look down on unionists.
    Canada, like other places, needs to revamp the CBC with more funding, not less.
    -We need to think about how we can foster and help mushroom this excellent growth of tiny youtube news channels, and co-fund them on the basis of our laws of free speech and viewership. –
    -We need to demand that the big social media companies refrain – at least in our country – to put censure on if they control more than 50% of the market in their particular sphere: because then, they are a virtual monopoly and should be required to relinquish the freedom of censuring what they please.
    -We need to create financial hurdles for big, corporate-sponsored news organizations
    -How do we as a country reward and attract and develop people like Robert Fisk, Caitlin Johnson, Sy Hirsch? It was the CBC which uncovered the hoax of the first Iraqi war – the fake news story of babies taken out of their incubators and left to die on the floor… Alternately, can we develop an objective way to publicly scold and downgrade channels that loose their objectivity (such as the BBC’s blatant anti-Corbyn editing?
    There are ways; they involve money and programs and a long-term vision to set us apart from the American media space, include Asian and African analysis and worldviews. There is no such vision in our politics.

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  4. Josh makes an interesting comment about the need to increase funding to the CBC- I am rather surprised with the positive comments that he could make about it (Perhaps Canada is too close to the hegemon for its own comfort.) Down here in Oz, I don’t think that extra funding for our ABC would improve things one jot, and nor do I think that more “investigative reporters” would help. We have some decent reporters, John Pilger and Julian Assange immediately come to mind, as do Caitlin Johnstone and some others, but these are all studiously ignored by the MSM. I might add that our local reporters are not backward in telling us how wonderful they are- apparently they are into “quality journalism”- but I have yet to come across one who has a word of support for Assange. (I think of our journalists as a tribe of Bandar-log (monkeys).) For some time I had a senior Murdoch executive as a neighbor. He assured me that the Murdoch press was apolitical, and he probably believed that. On the other hand, one couldn’t but observe the pride of place given to the family photographs with (then President) Bill Clinton. Overall,I don’t think that too much is left to chance in much of the western press. It is hardly surprising that “Integrity Initiative” shows such interest in Germany- it is on the “frontline” so to speak. It’s worthwhile remembering what Udo Ulfkotte had to say about that:
    https://off-guardian.org/2018/01/08/english-translation-of-udo-ulfkottes-bought-journalists-suppressed/

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    1. Davidt, yes maybe we are still or were on the front lines. But concerning Ulfkotte generally or this book specifically, I would advise you to handle him with care. The author of the article did not do the necessary homework. Full circle back to the news selection process.

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      1. You feel people should write their own entries on Wikipedia? Assuming you refer to the English entry? The article no doubt is a bit odd. Not sure, I understand what you may or may not try to suggest.

        I did not rely on Wikipedia, but on the most diverse recollections. Notice,

        Ulfkotte drew my attention in the post 9/11 universe. It feels at one point he co-wrote a heavy propaganda piece with Daniel Pipes in Die Welt. If I can rely on my memory here. I recall his German Wikipedia site looked pretty different too then. Meaning for me his origanally meager site st that point in timme supported his Security Expert. In whatever function as lecturer. Not a prof, not a trace of an “Habilitation”.

        via Google translate:

        Already during his studies, he was a member of the CDU -near Konrad Adenauer Foundation and was from 1999 to 2003, the planning staff of the Foundation. He was a specialist in security management and industrial espionage. Ulfkotte was from 1999 to 2007 lecturer for security management in the Department of Business Administration at Leuphana University Lüneburg and taught competition observation in the US. From June 2005 to June 2006, he was chief correspondent of the personality magazine Park Avenue of the Hamburg publishing Gruner + Jahr . His articles appeared among others in the magazines Capital , Cicero , Young Freedom/(Junge Freiheit our alt-right) and the news agency ddp.

        I am too lazy to dig up the precise article on which Ulfkotte and Pipes cooperated. I tried to find it again a couple of years ago, but it seems to have been successfully erased by now on the web.

        Meaning, the Specific article has gone, but he left other traces in Daniel Pipes’ online database:
        As Udo Ulfkotte, a political science professor specializing in counterespionage at the University of Lueneburg and an expert on Islamic terrorism, notes, the Erbakans and the Zayats lead networks of organizations that aim at the radicalization, respectively, of the Turkish and Arab communities in Germany.[49]

        I encountered him elsewhere later on many occasions. He is not my cup of tea, admittedly. The co-written article I remember was playing with statistics in the ME. How many people did Arabs vs Israelis kill in the ME type of story. Thus whom should the West side with. He surely was only one cog in the larger wheels that produced someone like Anders Behring Breivik or the National Socialist Underground over here. Next to yes, no doubt a lot events from the other side. ISIS supporters lately.

        A lot of water flowed down the Rhine since then.

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      2. I didn’t want to go into this. Should be obvious from my carelessness in the last post.

        Anyway, what was on your mind concerning the Wiki Article?

        I am open to a limited amount of “desires” on the alt-right. But not beyond. I am pretty familiar with the Junge Freiheit, which was founded in the larger context of Freiburg University even before it moved to Potsdam near Berlin. It’s a central cog in our neo-right. I studied it quite a while against heavy protest from my closest friend. 😉 It’s also something like the inofficial party organ of the Alternative for Germany (AfD). I would assume he was familiar with the original founders, who partly left when the further right took over. Initially it was a party of protest against the way the Greek crisis was dealt with. That shows in his German wiki article too.

        Refugees and Islamophobia are a lot better in getting people to vote.

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      3. Sorry, I didn’t mean to take up so much of your time. Briefly, I couldn’t think of Ulfkotte’s name and, when I did find him, up came the Off Guardian article and the Wikipedia entry. (It was Integrity Initiative’s interest in Germany that triggered my search.) I linked the Off Guardian article because I liked what it said and because I found the comments valuable and interesting. (It seemed to me that the Wikipedia article was a hatchet job.) My opinion is that Ulfkotte has something worthwhile to say. (Many people, especially in the sciences, have great input into their Wikipedia entry, and I was in no way assuming that you relied on it.) I cannot read German so know very little about its “politics”. On the other hand, I feel very disappointed that Germany has not played a more positive role in lessening tensions between Russia and the West. Over 10 years ago I came across an article in Asia Times Online that largely determined my opinion about post 9/11 Germany. (Since then, I think it was valuable for me in predicting German foreign policy.) The article “Germany, the re-engineered ally” consists of three parts, and was written by “Axel Brot”, the pen name for a German defense analyst and former intelligence officer. Each of the three parts has been republished in Studien von Zeitfragen- here is the link to the 1st part:
        http://www.studien-von-zeitfragen.de/Deutschland/German_Ally_I/german_ally_i.html
        Best.

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      4. You are welcome. But no, I do not think it is a hatchet job. The author is simply not good enough to get a wider group of contributors for the English edition. That’s obviously different over here, since from one point in time, he couldn’t be ignored anymore. Apparently. After he first drew my attention, that must have been.

        By now, I gave the title itself a closer look. I read a review by someone I trust and I know has been looking into related matters for a while. As the author’s name and my recollections suggested the title promised much much more then his book actually tells you.

        Although he is older then me, born in 1938, his perspective is pretty close to mine. Mueller is a dissident concerning the recent turn of the Social democrats on labor market reforms (2004). He worked under Willi Brandt and Helmut Schmidt, meaning he criticized his own party. Red-Green coalition at the time.

        I know German into English via Google translate is not easy to read , but maybe you’ll get an idea. No time to offer better translation via Google translate. That’s time consuming.

        https://tinyurl.com/review-Albrecht-Mueller

        **************
        Basically, or full discovery: I “suffered” training as PR adviser at one point in my life. There are a multitude of definitions, but Klaus Merten, whose two volume dictionary of PR is published in 2000 by the FAZ*-Institute, meaning at the time Ulfkotte still worked at the FAZ, after collecting different definitions gives us his own definition with co-author:

        * Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

        https://www.uni-muenster.de/Kowi/personen/klaus-merten-pub.html
        Klaus Mertens, Publications:
        (2000) Wörterbuch der Public Relations. Frankfurt: F.A.Z.-Verlag 2000, 2 Bde.

        Mertens / Westerbarkey (1994: 210)
        Drawing on constructivist insights (in particular, that reality can be determined by fiction as well as fact), Mertens / Westerbarkey define public relations as a “process for constructing desirable realities.”

        mind you he adds the critique beneath it:
        Criticism: This definition dispenses with the explicit designation of communication as the instrumental basis of all PR; the term “desirable reality” isn’t explained enough

        I hope you have enough fantasy to imagine what a ‘desirable reality’ for let’s say for a company, a person, or, why not, NATO could mean? he/she it obviously would like the public to perceive matters or one’s image to one’s own desires. No? As nothing but the truth? As the only real way it can be possibly be seen?

        *************
        By the way, I had to smile when I discovered that Nick Davis asked a research institute to look into matters and they came up with exactly the same number we were told in training. Don’t be shy, 60% of the news is influenced by public relations anyway. Not verbatim, quite some time ago, admittedly. But I am good in keeping numbers in mind.

        As public relations worker you obviously give up your copyright. And I can assure you, there are more then single ones that eagerly copy more then phrases, they copy the whole article, if you assure them. All you have to do, is do the homework for them. Tell them: They get it exclusively. Saves time. 😉 But yes, the other option is obviously experts.

        And yes, much of your work looks like that of the “Integrity Institute”. Familiar tools.

        I won’t copy read this.

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      5. I encountered him elsewhere later on many occasions. He is not my cup of tea, admittedly. The co-written article I remember was playing with statistics

        Correction, that wasn’t him. In hindsight I should have known he must have fitted into different German cogs/networks. E.g. the “Axis of the Good” blog.

        Thanks anyway for the link and indirectly helping me to get things right. 😉

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    2. thanks, David, once in a while someone has to wake me up from babble mode:

      “Axel Brot”, the pen name for a German defense analyst and former intelligence officer. Each of the three parts has been republished in Studien von Zeitfragen- here is the link to the 1st part:

      Highly dense text. Much of it way over my mental grasp concerning parts of it. Needs time to look into, The only “brilliant mind” in my personal circles solidly familiar with German politics I would like to show it to is dead by now. Myself, I miss the stable foundations in politics. …

      Nevertheless the larger red thread/theme makes sense.

      Why the Asia Times? At one point in time I wondered if it could be it used as argumentative launching pad for the reams of “Western Culture”. .”Axel Brot” sounds interesting. The three series article has been taken down by now on AT. Wouldn’t mind to read them all. Although, they are slightly dated now.

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      1. At one point in time I wondered if it could be it used as argumentative launching pad for the reams of “Western Culture”

        That doesn’t really describe it.

        But how comes “Spengler” is still around, while Brot obviously isn’t. He never published there? You invented this part of your story?

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      2. The funny thing is that I did manage to find the 3rd part of the article in AT Online, but not the other two:
        http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/IH10Aa01.html
        In the “olden days” AT Online often published very interesting articles, but not so many these days.- I am not an unabashed fan of Spengler though I always read what he writes as he is highly intelligent and a serious writer.
        Here is another article that was first published in AT Online, but which seems very difficult to find there unless you know where it was republished.
        http://www.conflictsforum.org/2012/syria-straining-credulity/
        I think this is a very relevant article in any discussion about the media. Crooke references an article in the US Army War College Quarterly. Six years ago it was possible to read this reference but now access is blocked.

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    3. I am not an unabashed fan of Spengler though I always read what he writes as he is highly intelligent and a serious writer.

      As I recall it, I met Spengler first on First Things. Don’t ask me how I got there. I may do him wrong. .., I folded him into the larger “Just War” ethical discussion there, But yes, full discovery, I am a Catholic. Anyway I have to admit, I maybe wasn’t too impressed when he was outed by Phil and friends although basically I understand their interest. I don’t even recall how he caught their attention vs mine. But it was much later, that I recall.
      https://mondoweiss.net/2009/03/spengler-unwittingly-outs-himself-as-david-goldman/

      Seems he still may be the dominant guy addressing the EU on AT. That was what he focused on before his outing above. At least how he caught my attention, mainly because I thought it might be somewhat manipulative. And strictly, I guess, I don’t spend much time on sources on the average article on the web. But on his article then, I remember I did, extensively, and found it missing. But then, I respect your advertise that he may be more intelligent then I am.
      http://www.atimes.com/author/spengler/

      I am too lazy to dig into matters:
      Spengler’s article “Christian, Muslim, Jew: Franz Rosenzweig and the Abrahamic Religions” (October 2007) misleads more than enlightens as to the challenge facing the three Abrahamic faiths

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    4. Davidt, the skepticism and ongoing critique of national state-sponsored channels has been bon ton for 30 years. A high level of criticism like that is unavoidable since it ends up usually being the biggest channel. Yet there are things that can be done because of the fact that not everything about the programs has to be profitable. One example, in Canada, is the secondment of a CBC journalist to follow the journey of Nunavut into a new status within Canada – now over 10 years ago. The question is whether those kind of projects are now easier or harder to accomplish. News gathering and advancing local detailed understanding of remote areas may lead to better decisions on how to support and develop those communities. Just as many countries measure their level of public service in terms of ‘gasificatsia’ (getting gas heating across Russia to remote areas), the question is also how to include otherwise ‘negligable’ areas into the human community.
      Undoubtedly if we in Canada were ever to be able to have a government that could make that case again, we would have to put in place conditions of source diversification and diverse views. In his article, Prof Robinson correctly points to the lack of time, higher demand, lesser quality, lesser number of sources, easy-access company PR and mainstream narratives as the reasons for our MSM narrative collectivily voluntary censure. I would add to that the extreme level of human predictability that Google Analytics also confronted us with, and which we can all see if we look at the extreme predictability of what we read on a regular basis, our web-surfing habits, and our product decisions. Within Canada, our press is addicted to the circus news and repetitive chorus of the behemoth to the South of us, although its news value is very low. Generally, our journalists feel they are already doing well if they read something that comes out of the UK. My point is – any increase in government co-funding towards news agencies could be set up with conditionally to force an expansion of those narratives. Within a country like ours, where we have a large influx from India, Pakistan, China and somewhat from Iran, Syria, Egypt, it is often very audibly a strange surprise to hear refugees talk a very different line than that which has been fed from either the UK, France or especially the USA. It seems very difficult to me to enforce a broadening of news and narratives without having the government involved, while maintaining the freedom of speech as a guiding principle.

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  5. Hey, look at this. CNN:
    “BROWN: Well, and of course this is in the wake of the arrest and the guilty plea from Maria Butina who pleaded guilty to being an illegal foreign agent in the U.S. This is what Vladimir Putin said following that. “We will be guided by the principles of the old testament, a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye….”
    http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1812/31/cg.02.html

    Here’s a video of Putin clearly uttering the words “и мы здесь НЕ будем действовать по принципу…”:

    And this is a major CNN talk show, with Bill Kristol, Elizabeth Warren, the whole shebang. This happens every day. C’mon Paul. I find it incredibly hard to believe that this can be explained by media turned into a source of revenue. This is Orwell’s 1984, pure and simple.

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  6. As our most gracious host reminded us time after time, Professor Robinson is a Western Liberal ™, and you can’t be one without embracing and kissing right-in-the-gums capitalism– and everything that it entails. I’ve read and re-read this blogpost several times and still failed to notice any criticism of the ruling Western socio-economic paradigm. Meaning – our Dear Professor, deep down, handshakes and approves of the whole set up. Kvetchin’ is not an answer and makes you, really, no different from the “silent submissive majority”.

    I mean, last time I heard Western Official Propaganda, it advertized it’s ruling regime as a “Liberal Democracy” ™ as the pinnacle of the human development. It’s is “highly likely” (c) that fellow members of the commentariat already know all of its buzzpoints, among which I’d like to point out one principle tenet – that (liberal) democratic society is only possible with the Freedom of Information.

    Ha. Ha… ha…ha. Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahaha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-(coughcoughcoughspitcoughohmylungscoughcough)-ha-ha-ha-ha!

    The thing is – modern Net-driven MSM enjoy/suffer from the reduction of information distribution’s coefficient of friction. In, say, early XIX century it was nigh impossible in most of the countries to run a (very profitable) publishing house or editorial, that prints stuff like claiming that Caesar and Alexander of Macedon were the same person because they both had “A” and “E” in their names. In these dark times before the triumph of the universal education, the target readership was both small and too well educated (even by today standards – especially by today’s standards) to fall for it. “Pulp fiction” in literature, press, political science and academia would be unlikely to be profitable for independent entrepreneurs back then, because costs of the traditional publishing were steep, while financial returns wouldn’t be really great.

    Now, in our own New Dark Ages, the situation changed radically. Internet lowers the costs of “printing” and distribution (aka “spread of information” aka “propaganda”) to unbelievably low levels and there is also a new type of data consumer – so-called “informed everyperson”, victim of the thought-killing benign universal education. These “informed everypeople” possess just the bare minimum of information about virtually everything (which allows them to get “hooked” by a vide variety of topic peddled by the information dealers) while their brains, falling victim to the modern upbringing, primary (or even higher) education, acquire a superconductive quality rarely seen in the nature. Their brains, which devolved along the ideological lines either into a water-like broth, or constantly shaking fruit jello, or pork kholodets (or even into a smelly pile of shit), are good enough to absorb all kinds of new information, without processing or analyzing it – and telling their bodies to act accordingly and seek more of the same informational fast-food.

    That’s the essence of the Freedom of Information. Not the access to the truth or verifiable data, which would allow the citizens to make right (and not just informed) choice during the arcane and profane rituals, aimed to support the illusion of the legitimacy of the Liberal Democratic Regime(s) – the access to any and all kind of information is demanded, as per the tenets of the open market capitalism. I suggest for the Liberal Inquisition to add to their list of Enemies of the Freedom (along with deplorables with their Pizzagate, Russian trolls with their dezinformatsiya and whoever is the Traitor of the Day) the third law of thermodynamics as well. Because an ideal “informed everyperson” must consume the maximum amount of any information, said “informed everyperson” (again – ideally) must simultaneously believe that:

    a) There was no Moon landing in 1969.
    b) Back in 1969 the astronauts found aliens on the Moon – and the Authorities Are Hiding the Truth.
    c) The Earth is flat.

    Boom! Entropy – chaos everywhere. So it’s a little wonder, that the Powers That Be in the Liberal Democratic Regime have to employ Catch-22 strategy. As the Freedom of Information is essential to (their form of) democracy and also a tool of the oversight over the Authorities, that grants the electorate an illusion of control, they have to… limit the Freedom of Information! Your typical “informed everypeople”/electorate are sooo busy earning money to sustain their life(style), and then they are so busy in their very limited free time solving everyday problems or consuming diverse (but thoroughly vetted through a sieve of pre-approved socio-political tropes) forms of entertainment. The very order of society precludes them from learning anything non-essential to their well-being – like politics and stuff about other countries. No, instead “informed everypeople” rely on easily accessible data, as interpreted to them by the trusted Gurus. That’s right – if there is ought to be a limit on the Freedom of Information, it must be as stealthy as possible – ergo a crap ton of Experts in Everything, Gurus of Academia, Think-Tankers and Masters/Mistresses of the Opinion. They, this Invisible Clergy, must read to their Flock from the Book of Truth, and offer an ideologically correct interpretation of the passages just read.

    Obviously, these Invisible Clerics are not beholden to the Book of Truth – they are beholden to their Corporation, this or that Temple of the Ultimate Truth. It can’t be other way – these are the chief principles of the modern capitalistic corporate ethic AND simultaneously also of the feudalism of yore. What our Dear and Most Gracious Host just described was the Invisible Hand of the Market (swt) finding a way to optimize and reform outdated structures in accordance with the modern times in the name of the Greater Efficiency and Profit (ma shā Allah!). That’s the core feature/contradiction of the capitalism. Capitalists want maximum possible profit and lowest possible expenses – their hired workers want to be paid more while doing less. And ideal illustration for the capitalist enterprise such as any MSM is, therefore, a bordello. Yeah, sure – the sheer number of the prostitutes in existence makes it statistically inevitable that some of them would be nymphomaniacs who really enjoy and derive unparallel pleasure from the constant (unregulated) fucking with a diverse cast of partners of not their own choice – but that hardly could be used as the foundation stone of the “professional ethics”. The same goes to the journalism.

    So, really, I don’t know what was the sublime point of this blogpost by Professor Robinson. For a person who received elite education AND also possess a still functioning brain, saying “A, B…” but not the rest of the alphabet is… inconsistent. Or is it just you becoming a… mental hobbit? And btw – for the matters of belief, you have to go other kind of institutions, where the professionally trained people will provide you with this kind of stuff should you ask. For the Academia, to which you belong, and for any critically thinking person, faith in Big Clunky Things is inadvisable – even if dismissing it crushes your cozy intellectual burrow.

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    1. ” but not the rest of the alphabet is… inconsistent. Or is it just you becoming a… mental hobbit?

      Glad you are back. You may be able to stir him back onto the right path. Back from his “Western Liberal” delusions. …

      Concerning “sublime” interesting topic generally not least in visual art history. As was my take at the time, a coinage/argument to better sell “the product” by art artists and historians alike post Hiroshima? A mixture? With a little help from soft-power political circles no doubt … But also expressing ‘visual’ speechlessness, if I may?

      The Sublime is Now, Barnett Newman:
      http://art310-f11-hoy.wikispaces.umb.edu/file/view/Newman+The+Sublime+is+Now

      So, really, I don’t know what was the sublime point of this blogpost by Professor Robinson.

      What type of sublimity you feel he should aim at? Personally I am looking forward to your critique of his upcoming book on Russian conservatives over centuries. If I get matters right here. 😉

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      1. I’m pleased that you got something out of Lyttenburgh’s intolerant rant. I was inclined to dismiss it as insulting gibberish. Certainly it was meant to be insulting, and it unfortunately reminded me of some of the worst post modernist (Western?) writing. Lyttenburgh may well have the knowledge to write a valuable critique of Paul’s book but, in his current emotional state, that would be beyond him.

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      2. “You may be able to stir him back onto the right path. Back from his “Western Liberal” delusions. …”

        I won’t. Mr. Robinson is an adult with already well formed and established world view and biases. I’m not even sure any change (for the worse) in his financial or workplace situation would accomplish that.

        “I’m pleased that you got something out of Lyttenburgh’s intolerant rant. I was inclined to dismiss it as insulting gibberish.”

        Full stop here. David, what you mean by calling my comment “intolerant”?

        Is it really “intolerant” to, first, explain the “action” (growing chaos in media sphere due to technical progress and reigning socio-political reality) and the following “re-action” (attempts to reign in the chaos in the media sphere using technical progress and reigning socio-political ideology)? What Professor did is just explaining the ABC of the capitalism and expressing some sublime surprise, that, yes, it applies to the MSM and Academia too. Which, naturally, begs a follow up question – “Ok, and now what?”.

        Or, what, you, David, find it insulting, that you can’t unfuck a system, because the bugs are also its core features? Or you find it insulting that I’m once again calling the emerging mentality of the “thinking masses” a Mediaeval one? Or is it a bordello comparison?

        “Lyttenburgh may well have the knowledge to write a valuable critique of Paul’s book but, in his current emotional state, that would be beyond him.”

        There, highly likely (c), won’t be any critique of Paul’s upcoming book by me, because I’m not interested in the topic. OTOH, David – care to elaborate about my “emotional state”?

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      3. and expressing some sublime surprise
        I didn’t read him like that. I actually would be surprised if he is. But maybe you are right and I am wrong, And naive???

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  7. Am I the only one who finds it odd that our esteemed professor seems to be unaware of the fact that “media executives and top journalists of almost all major U.S. news outlets, have long been members of the influential Council on Foreign Relations”? https://swprs.org/the-american-empire-and-its-media/ … This group, through its multiple proxy “think tanks” and academia ‘experts’ is the ONLY source of all Western media news content.
    “Cambridge Analytica, New Knowledge, Fusion GPS. This is Operation Mockingbird in the digital age.
    “What is the difference between Time and Newsweek? Between ABC,NBC, +CBS News?Between the Washington Post and the New York Times? For all practical purposes, none. The concentration of media power means that Americans increasingly get their information from a few sources who decide what is “news.” – Oliver Stone

    You say that the BBC produces “most of their own news reports”. It was Orwell’s experience at the BBC that inspired him to start warning the world about “Ministry of Truth”. BBC openly list among their sources of revenue (besides license fee payers) such propaganda outlets as the British Council (a donor to the Clinton Foundation and a co-sponsor of the Al Qaeda PR outfit White Helmets). There’s a reason it has been thrown out of Russia. Can an honest researcher believe that such sources are simply accidental?
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaaction/about/funding

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