The Economist magazine is out with an article entitled "The end of mass media: Coming full circle." It actually provides us with a kind of sub-dominant social theme – that "social media" take us back to the pamphleteering days of Samuel Johnson, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and others.
This has been, in a sense, a message of ours for many years. And here at DB, we’ve regularly compared the output of the Gutenberg Press and its revolutionary influence to the Internet. The Economist is about 10 years late in joining the party.
Even so, I think The Economist is making the wrong comparison and doing it on purpose. Blogs and websites are a far more appropriate comparison to the Gutenberg Press than "social media."
There is likely a reason that The Economist, a power elite mouthpiece, wants to talk up social media. Here’s the beginning of an article from Global Research written way back in March 2009, when Facebook only had 20 million users but was well on its way to success:
Facebook – the CIA conspiracy … Facebook has 20 million users worldwide, is worth billions of dollars and, if internet sources are to be believed, was started by the CIA. The social networking phenomenon started as a way of American college students to keep in touch. It is rapidly catching up with MySpace, and has left others like Bebo in its wake.
But there is a dark side to the success story that’s been spreading across the blogosphere. A complex but riveting Big Brother-type conspiracy theory, which links Facebook to the CIA and the US Department of Defence. The CIA is, though, using a Facebook group to recruit staff for its very sexy sounding National Clandestine Service.
The story starts once Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had launched, after the dorm room drama that’s led to the current court case. Facebook’s first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome The Diversity Myth, he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.
The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company’s key areas of expertise is in "data mining technologies."
The Internet has revealed much about the way the world really works. And more and more it seems evident and obvious that almost NO company in US, Britain and Europe becomes globally dominant without Intel vetting – and subsequent cooperation with high-ranking government officials.
These people are proxies, in fact, for Anglosphere elites themselves. And the Anglosphere elites in my view own almost everything worth owning. (When one owns a central bank after all, one can print money at will. Western elites control about 100 of them through the BIS.)
This was a big secret in the 20th century. It’s increasingly well known in the 21st. The West’s "capitalism" is mostly authoritarian, but the powers-that-be have tried to disguise it as much as possible. They are still pretending even thought they have been "outed" by the ‘Net.
Of course, you can have a successful chain of, say, donut shops without being bothered by snoops. But to have a world spanning company of any sort – from soda pop, to automobiles, to media, to computers and software – you’ll no doubt interact with a friendly spook sooner or later.
How does it work? Don’t know, exactly … But probably, the dark-suited gentlemen sitting erectly in your office indicating that as a "patriot" and successful businessperson you ought to be helpful to your country, is politely pressuring you.
Then comes the hook. Perhaps you ought to think about making a movie that takes a favorable look at the military-industrial complex. Maybe you ought to build a back door into your software so the government can use it to catch "criminals." Are you making cars? Perhaps you ought to come up with a special military model.
Likely, you will be offered money as well. And told that significant, shadowy individuals have taken a sizeable position in your firm. Most CEOs will say yes. The ones that say "no" may soon find themselves under attack via the media, politically or corporately.
This is how the EU apparently operates. Important politicians and corporate types are told if they do not cooperate with the Eurocrat vision, they’ll be thoroughly embarrassed by one revelation after another. On the other hand, if they are helpful, they’ll be provided a numbered Swiss account and a good deal of secret cash. The corruption thus goes right to the top. Everybody is involved in the conspiracy.
In the case of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, the process seems fairly transparent. For one thing, Zuckerberg apparently attended a select, elite grade school along with another famous individual known today as Lady Gaga.
No coincidence either. The reason for so much standardized testing these days is that the Anglosphere elites want to capture mathematically adept young men and women at an early age. If they continue to show promise, they are funneled into colleges such as Yale, Harvard and MIT.
Zuckerberg ended up at Harvard. Doubtless the idea for Facebook was his own – or at least partially so. But once he had put together a popular prototype, his "friends" swung into action. If he needed funding, it was provided. If he needed marketing, it was available.
The young man was on a fast track. He wore a hoodie and kept quiet about his government associations. That’s his MO. He’s done it well, and he’s been rewarded not only with outsized wealth but also with a major motion picture. No doubt an autobiography is on the way. Perhaps some sort of Nobel Prize.
Eventually, like Bill Gates, he’ll "donate" his enormous wealth to social causes. Actually, he’ll be instructed to. It’ll go to some Foundation the Anglosphere elites control. They don’t leave outsize fortunes in private hands if they can help it. And Zuckerberg is the hired help. He’s not a "real" insider and probably never will be.
This is how the elite operates. They both support and control their enablers. One can see it with Julian Assange, another seeming Intel asset. Assange has all the elite signatures: a million dollar book contract and a major movie about his life in the works. He has, in fact, already been mentioned for a Nobel Prize.
But what exactly has Assange done? As a young man, he was arrested for hacking and threatened with a long jail sentence. Apparently, that may have turned him – and the rest is history.
Assange, in fact, has a close relationship with … you guessed it – The Economist, which has bestowed upon him several writing awards. In my view, it’s no coincidence this article brings up his name prominently, as follows:
Julian Assange has said that WikiLeaks operates in the tradition of the radical pamphleteers of the English civil war who tried to "cast all the Mysteries and Secrets of Government" before the public.
Of course, this is nonsense. WikiLeaks is not a pamphleteer. WikiLeaks writes nothing at all; it merely leaks. (Though little lately.) Not only that, but its last big, announced leak came from a gentlemen with a list of prominent Swiss tax evaders, a list that has apparently been leaked several times. So much for exposing government secrets.
The Economist makes other points, equally questionable. Its main working hypothesis is that the Internet is contributing to a breakdown of mass media. Tell that to Matt Drudge who regularly attracts 10 million viewers per day to his website. That’s an audience rivaled only by big TV programs.
No, the Internet Reformation is not shattering the mass media of Anglosphere elites. It is REPLACING that media. Big difference. As we’ve pointed out many times before, the mainstream media can’t compete with the Internet – absent extraordinary censorship which does not exist yet – because the alternative ‘Net press is not controlled and homogenized. It tends to tell the truth, or several truths, anyway.
The Economist is trying to present a kind of elite promotion. It is talking up social ‘Net media – which the establishment can control fairly easily from the top – at the expense of myriad bloggers and websites. These are the writers and poets one could compare fairly to pamphleteers of days past. Not Zuckerberg. Here’s some more from The Economist article:
News is becoming a social medium again, as it was until the early 19th century – only more so … there is a great historical irony at the heart of the current transformation of news. The industry is being reshaped by technology – but by undermining the mass media’s business models, that technology is in many ways returning the industry to the more vibrant, freewheeling and discursive ways of the pre-industrial era.
Until the early 19th century there was no technology for disseminating news to large numbers of people in a short space of time. It travelled as people chatted in marketplaces and taverns or exchanged letters with their friends. This phenomenon can be traced back to Roman times, when members of the elite kept each other informed with a torrent of letters, transcriptions of speeches and copies of the acta diurna, the official gazette that was posted in the forum each day.
News travelled along social networks because there was no other conduit. The invention of the printing press meant that many copies of a document could be produced more quickly than before, but distribution still relied on personal connections. In early 1518 Martin Luther’s writings spread around Germany in two weeks as they were carried from one town to the next.
As Luther and his supporters argued with his opponents over the following decade, more than 6m religious pamphlets were sold in Germany. "News ballads", which spread news in the form of popular songs, covered the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, among many other events. In January 1776 Thomas Paine’s pamphlet "Common Sense", which rallied the colonists against the British crown, was printed in a run of 1,000 copies. One of them reached George Washington, who was so impressed that he made American officers read extracts of Paine’s work to their men.
By July 1776 around 250,000 people, nearly half the free population of the colonies, had been exposed to Paine’s ideas. Newspapers at the time had small, local circulations and were a mix of opinionated editorials, contributions from readers and items from other papers; there were no dedicated reporters.
We can see from this narrative how The Economist twists the analysis. We’ve written about this before. Social media are to be THE transformative enterprise. There’s a reason of course. One need merely work with a Google or a Face Book and data mine to one’s heart’s content. Blogs and websites are not easily controlled. Social media is.
The Economist makes other dubious claims in this article. It claims that "the mass-media era now looks like a relatively brief and anomalous period that is coming to an end." How the anonymous writer(s) come to this conclusion is a mystery. Google, Drudge and numerous other blogs and websites probably reach together and separately MORE viewers than 20th century media. The Internet is big. And so are its biggest facilities.
The article does get some things right: "The biggest shift is that journalism is no longer the exclusive preserve of journalists. Ordinary people are playing a more active role in the news system, along with a host of technology firms, news start-ups and not-for-profit groups." True enough.
But then it swings right back to its main theme: "’Social media are certainly not a fad, and their impact is only just beginning to be felt. ‘It’s everywhere – and it’s going to be even more everywhere,’ says Arianna Huffington."
Now that’s funny! Huffington didn’t create a social media site, she created a socialist-oriented news and information WEBSITE. In order to bang the drum for social media, The Economist writers are actually misrepresenting what Huffington created (and subsequently sold to a continually desperate AOL).
Here’s how The Economist ends the article: "Successful media organisations will be the ones that accept this new reality. They need to reorient themselves towards serving readers rather than advertisers, embrace social features and collaboration, get off political and moral high horses and stop trying to erect barriers around journalism to protect their position. The digital future of news has much in common with its chaotic, ink-stained past."
We’ve made all these points before (with the exception of the social media one). In fact, we’ve kinda helped pioneer the point of view that the Internet is the new Gutenberg press and that it’s driving the elite-controlled mainstream media crazy. You can see my latest analysis here: Rupert Murdoch’s Failing Attempts to Control the Internet Reformation.
I’m glad The Economist has hopped on board (some 10 years later), but the decision to emphasize social media distorts the tale. It’s obvious enough WHY the editors of this controlled magazine want to emphasize social media, but it’s already a failed enterprise. Rupert Murdoch tried to turn MySpace into a news and information disseminator and he couldn’t do it. Facebook likely won’t manage the trick either, though it’s much larger.
The action may well remain with blogs and websites – seemingly the REAL stubbornly uncontrollable pamphleteers of the modern, electronic era. Samuel Johnson, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Alexander Pope, John Dryden, etc. – none of these individuals would necessarily have been interested in "friending" people – much less putting intimate, personal information online for the world to see.
François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), Jonathan Swift (Isaac Bickerstaff), 17th earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere (Shakespeare, probably) – these men used pen names for a reason. Telling the truth is often a dangerous act. But it is also an attractive one and is a reason why Drudge with a staff of two or three can generate a larger readership than major mainstream media with thousands of writers and editors.
The Economist with articles like this one – filled with half-truths at best – provides us a kind of metaphor for the struggles of the mainstream press. Probably, The Economist is struggling, too. Articles like this are one reason why.
Anthony Wile is an author, columnist, media commentator and entrepreneur focused on developing projects that promote the general advancement of free-market thinking concepts. He is the chief editor of the popular free-market oriented news site, TheDailyBell.com. Mr. Wile is the Executive Director of The Foundation for the Advancement of Free-Market Thinking — a non-profit Liechtenstein-based foundation. His most popular book, High Alert, is now in its third edition and available in several languages. Other notable books written by Mr. Wile include The Liberation of Flockhead (2002) and The Value of Gold (2002).