Journalism is dead. But that does not mean it hasn’t been like that for ages. In fact, besides the occasional rebellion, journalism has served throughout history as the lap dog of the powers that be. By now we’ve heard the figures that for every dollar spent in advertising 85% goes to Facebook and Google. Simply put, that means news are no longer about interesting stories or balancing power or educating the masses but about clicks. Damn clicks. Moreover, it means that most of the people who are connected to the internet, instead of tapping into the vast sea of free flowing information that the internet promised to be, just walk around zombies getting fed a very narrow spectrum of stuff which confirms their biases and those of the people around them. An echo chamber, to put it bluntly.
But, first, let me tell you why it is not far fetched to distrust journalists or, more accurately, the stars and shot callers among them. You see, very commendable exceptions aside, there is something irresistible to human beings and that is power. It is like catnip (for those damn cats I mean). The remarkable Glenn Greenwald made a compelling case in With Liberty and Justice For Some about the 2-tiered justice system in the belly of the exceptional beacon of freedom and democracy; a de facto and de iure system in which the elite gets a free pass to behave like a little Caligula while the scum (a.k.a. the 99%) gets crushed for a speeding ticket or rolling a harmless joint. Though, most importantly than the obvious, is how the press has always pulled its pants down to support things like Nixon’s pardon, Bush’s pardon, and likely Obama’s pardon as well —with journos cozying up to their little buddies in power whose hands reek of blood and dirty money, and celebrating retroactive immunities for giant telecoms helping snoop on Americans against all fundamentals of the constitutional boundaries. But this is not news.
For those of us who are still angry about the Iran Contra affair, the sad story of Gary Webb is well known. In a nutshell, this guy went the extra mile to investigate the connection between the CIA, some Central American puppets trying to overthrow a democratically elected government, and the crack epidemic sweeping the U.S. black community in the 80s. Inaccuracies aside, which all reporting has one way or another, the shocking thing is that all the major newspapers in the U.S., instead of working on deepening Webb’s story and perfecting it, ganged up their own peer until driving him out of job opportunities and driving him into alcoholism and eventual suicide. They were, literally and demonstrably, petty little hounds at the service of power rather than the Fourth Estate their prima donnas like to call themselves.
So, do I feel sorry that these scoundrels are falling like flies to the algorithms of Facebook? In a way, I do not. You see, people are social and by social I do not mean it in a dog way, because we can very well be alone and still wag our tail. Humans dissolve into nothingness, like a sugar cube in a cup full of hot coffee, unless surrounded by others. It is needed for support, validation, belonging, and thriving. It is the lifeblood of the human sentience and sense of self worth. As we discussed elsewhere, human happiness in the West is gradually being orphaned as it is no longer outsourced to communities, e.g. church. So, ask yourself: is there really a difference between a dude in a feudal town during the Middle Ages, flocking daily into the local chapel and then his guild for the purpose of socializing and guidance and meaning, among others who think alike, and your average urban loner glued 24/7 into his Facebook feed which regurgitates “targeted” ads and posts, most of them from people who think alike? Not at all.
Your social media feed is the new guild, the new church, and the new tavern, all rolled into one. Monetization and pace have changed, yes, but, in essence, you are telling your social media overlords what you want to be told and define how you think.