Here Be Dragons. Part 2: MGM + MSM = Faux News(peak)
In case you forgot your secret integral decoder ring:
MGM = the “Mean Green Meme”
MSM = Mainstream Media
Faux News = the brutal disembowelment of journalistic integrity
Brent Simpson has written a great followup to his discussion about conspiracy theory over on Integral Life, and i thought i would post my latest response here.
Brent, you are doing an exquisite job with this, allowing yourself access to so many perspectives–even those teetering precariously on the fringe–while keeping your own approach as grounded as possible, which can be very difficult to do when dealing with this sort of material. Keep up the great work; you have obviously hit on a topic that i am rabidly fascinated with.
I think that as long as we can keep just a few parameters in mind, this conversation can go a long way toward identifying some of the major obstacles that stand in the path of implementing any of our visions of an “Integral World Federation” And i personally agree that there is no greater obstacle to this newly-emerging potential than the power elite.
Just a few things i like to keep in mind:
– One of the greatest weaknesses in conspiracy theory is the temptation to wrap over-simplified mythologies around extremely complex realities, often framing the struggle as one between classic conceptions of good vs. evil, oppressed vs. oppressor, Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. Most conspiracy theory does not take into account the full range of human motivation, even among the power elite themselves.
– Conversely, many conspiracy theorists prefer needlessly complex and convoluted narratives over more straight-forward interpretations, in desperate need of an appointment at Occam’s Barber Shop. (See, for example, the supposed “moon landing hoax” conspiracies. Much simpler to just go there and simply cover up what you found, than it is to hoax the whole damn thing ^_^)
– A great preponderance of conspiracy theory is fueled by green anti-modernist sentiments, which often undermine both their perceptions and conclusions about life in the 21st century. These are the people who use the internet to protest anti-globalization, or who fancy themselves revolutionaries because they wear Che Guevera t-shirts that were actually made in China. It’s important for us to find a way to have a conversation about the New World Order set in a worldview that frames our growth toward globalization in a positive light. Which brings us to….
– Eros, baby. Not even the power elite can escape its grasp. Whether they know it or not, they are part of the story of our mutual becoming, just as much as anyone else. And they are playing their role precisely as they should be, creating exactly the sort of evolutionary tension we need to propel ourselves to the next level of self-organization.
I have a few comments about the examples you cite of conspiracy within military, economic, industrial, and entertainment complexes, which is exactly where you would want to begin when trying to determine the influence of the power elite on American (and, by effect, global) society. But unfortunately, i don’t have as much time to respond as i would like, so i will just touch on one piece i have been thinking about lately, which is around the corporate-controlled mainstream media and the 24-hour news cycle.
The other night Chuck Todd was on Bill Maher’s show, and he was expressing his own consternation that he has to share the arena of “media” (i think he was specifically referring to “journalism”) with people like Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, who make a career out of distorting truth, fabricating reality, and espousing traditional values rather than offering an objective view of the facts and allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions. A couple decades ago, these people would have never have even been invited to the grown-up table on Thanksgiving. But now, it seems, you can use something like Fox News to carpet bomb American society with partial truths and propaganda, leaving it to the other networks to clean up the mess, while knowing that the lies will “stick” with enough of the pre-rational fringe to disrupt our most important media cycles. This is why when you turn on the TV hoping for a reasonable debate about health care, one that presents the facts on both sides of the argument in a cool and rational way, but instead find images of gun-toting protesters, hanging effigies of congressmen, and posters of Obama with a Hitler mustache (which i imagine must be hideously insulting to holocaust survivors and their decendants…).
Many people point the finger at Rupert Murdoch, and consider him a direct conspirator behind the artificially-stoked culture wars that are preventing any real solutions from being surfaced. But i think he is just playing his role as a capitalist, following the money wherever it takes him. Our current journalistic malaise is not (solely) due to corporate conspiracy to keep us down by keeping us dumb, but is an inevitable result of liberal media itself, coupled with the exponential growth of information technology. Having only three network channels to choose from forced us into a sort of journalistic objectivity, and someone like Walter Cronkite was able to report across ideological lines and be heard by multiple values at once.
But as communications technology continued to accelerate, our viewing options continued to increase, and postmodernist criticism of objectivity itself continued to saturate academia,the entire milieu of journalism began to change right before our eyes until we found ourselves exactly where we are–a plurality of news sources, each uniquely customized to various values propositions up and down the spectrum of development, each catering to its own (usually mutually exclusive) audience demographic. As a result, it is now almost completely impossible to send a single message to all of America–or for a single lie to be debunked for all of America–a reality that many politicians have already begun using to their advantage (I’m looking at you, Palin…).
I don’t actually think all of this unfolded according to some secret Illuminati plan, as the technologies involved (especially the internet) were largely disruptive technologies–meaning they were innovations no one could have really seen coming, with consequences no one could have fully predicted. But it did create fresh and fertile soil for corporate opportunism, especially as the expansion of news media became more and more dependent upon Neilson ratings and advertising sponsorships.
Of course, news media now has way too much span for way too little depth, and has already begun collapsing under its own weight. Journalism is beginning to eat itself–anchormen are being replaced by entertainers, journalists replaced by commentators, and investigative reporters replaced by stay-at-home bloggers. We no longer report facts, we report values. We no longer search for objective truth, we search for ways to reinforce the things we already believe. As a result, the power elite now has an entirely new place to hide their skeletons: right in plain sight for all to see (and none to notice).
Anyway, i think it is a delicious twist of irony that the only reason that people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck can find a spotlight in the mainstream media is because of the high-minded pluralistic values that have emerged in the past 50 years, which has simultaneously raised the bar for journalistic sophistication, while almost entirely deconstructing our collective need for journalistic objectivity (or even integrity).
“There is no objective truth, just endless interpretations of truth. And no single interpretation can be any better or any worse than any other interpretation. Therefore, there is no essential difference between Sean Hannity’s truth and Rachel Maddow’s truth.” -Extreme Postmodern Strawman
“Take your aperspectival nihilism and shove it up your mean green ass.” -Extreme Integral Strawman