International Man: The mainstream media can dial up the fear in society much like you can with the thermostat in your house. And right now, they seem to be cranking up the fear to hysterical levels.
Governments are able to enact radical policies when people are fearful.
What is your take on the situation and the media’s role in it?
Doug Casey: The great American journalist H.L. Menken once said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
He was right.
Fear is one of the most powerful and primal emotions, and government has always used fear to unite the people behind it. Government—which produces nothing—only exists because of fear. Fear of foreigners is allayed by its army. Fear of domestic chaos is allayed by its police.
The media is an ideal way to transmit fear. The media has transformed itself into the government’s lapdog. It has the same talking points and communicates “the narrative” in the same way. Government and media have always worked hand in glove, of course, but today more than ever. There are no longer thousands of independent newspapers scattered across the country, just a few conglomerates that control all significant print and electronic media.
One thing that hasn’t changed as far as the media is concerned is the old saying “if it bleeds, it leads.” Fear, danger, and violence make stories interesting and exciting. They make events urgent—and most important, they make people want to buy newspapers and visit their websites.
I don’t trust neither the government—which has its own interests and enforces them with coercion—or the media which, if it knows what’s good for it, either touts the party line or acts like a “loyal opposition” to give readers the impression they actually have real choices.
It’s a dishonest and disgusting charade.
International Man: CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, The NY Times, The Washington Post, and others are notorious for sensationalizing stories, dramatizing situations, and propagandizing certain issues.
How does the mainstream media today contrast with the mainstream media in previous decades?
Doug Casey: They’re very similar in essence because the newspaper business wants to sell newspapers, and TV and radio want the public to hear ads. The magazine business wants to sell magazines. The more you sell, the more advertising dollars you generate. That results in a tendency to generate outrageous copy. It’s why you must be a skeptical, critical thinker and demand proof for everything.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, we had the yellow press. Hearst and Pulitzer were famous for pumping up public enthusiasm for wars. Everybody wanted to hear news from the front. There’s absolutely nothing better—nothing even close—than a war for generating readers, listeners, and viewers.
The mainstream media hasn’t changed much from that point of view. Newspapers and the media have always competed with each other based on outrageous headlines. If they’re wrong, you forget them and drive on. If they’re right, they never let the booboisie forget it.
People like stuff that’s interesting. That hasn’t changed much, although today it is more advertising rather than subscription-driven. That is especially the case with the ongoing COVID-19 hysteria. Big pharma has big advertising dollars, and you don’t want to make your major advertisers unhappy.
There are, however, other meaningful differences between the media of today and that of years past. First, the people who became reporters in the past weren’t college-educated. They were basically street kids who liked to write; they were much closer to the ground level. They actually had to put boots on the ground to get the story.
Today’s reporters have all gone to college, as opposed to the school of hard knocks, to learn journalism. They get most of their information from their computer, as opposed to firsthand research, the way reporters used to do it. They now just Google something and accept what somebody else says as fact.
Another big difference is that Washington DC has grown exponentially more important over the last 100 years; there’s vastly more reporting about the government in DC than there ever has been in the past.
Reporters once reported about things that they knew, their local scene. Today, unless he’s posted in DC, a reporter is nearly irrelevant; all they know is what other people say on the internet. In general, the quality of reporting has gone down tremendously over the years.
International Man: Does real journalism exist today? Where can it be found?
Doug Casey: The so-called “paper of record” in the US is the New York Times. I used to read the NY Times, but not anymore; it’s totally woke. It shouldn’t be trusted. I don’t even trust their science section anymore.
Everything has been very politicized. They try to relate everything to global warming, COVID, or what the government should do to solve some real or—usually—imagined problem. Everything is written through that filter. They even try to tie science issues into Critical Race Theory and gender.
I like to see what people are reading, so I read book reviews. But in the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books—I still subscribe to them out of inertia—it seems the majority of books today are written and/or reviewed by people of color (POCs), people with sexual aberrations, or women. And they all seem to grind Left-wing axes.
The Left—the statists and collectivists—has completely captured the mass media, especially the upmarket mass media, like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and the publications I just mentioned. They’re just vehicles the elite use to talk to each other about being elite.
If you want to subscribe to anything today, I recommend that you consider subscribing to blogs, of which there are thousands on the internet. Look for blogs you think are reliable, and subscribe to select newsletters. Since it’s your subscription dollars—not the advertisers’ favor—that they have to earn, they generally try to be more intellectually honest, although, at least in the financial realm, many have become nothing but overpriced tout sheets. Be discriminating.
However, there are still some magazines out there I think are good—like Reason Magazine and The Spectator—but it’s slim pickings.
International Man: Large tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are the new information gatekeepers.
Are these companies becoming the new mainstream media in that sense? What are the implications?
Doug Casey: Frankly, these Big Tech companies have had their day in the sun. They’re too big to be managed efficiently. They’re arrogant and corrupt. And, I suspect that even though everyone uses them, most people no longer like or trust them.
There will be either a change in technology or a change in the public mood that will turn them into dinosaurs. I’m not interested in owning their ultra-expensive stock, and not just because I despise them and their editorial takes; they’re stooges for the State.
The fact is the government still can’t directly censor things. It’s too hard because the First Amendment, at least in name, still exists. But as I said earlier, these media companies work hand in glove with the State. Big Government prefers to work with Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the rest. There’s no law against Big Tech censoring somebody—nor should there be—because they’re a private business. You certainly don’t want to give the government even more power.
This type of “private” censorship is a clever way to get around the Constitution. The fact is that these companies have become unofficial arms of the government—that’s part of what the “Deep State” is all about. The good news is that this will eventually cause them to cut their own throats. They’ll be superseded by changes in technology and the public mood. Many people—including myself—already deny them support in any way possible.
People who seriously rely on them for their news are basically useless misinformed idiots. Thinking people go elsewhere for news.
International Man: How can the average person find the truth about a given issue?
Doug Casey: First of all, you have to actively cultivate habits of critical thinking. Ask yourself about everything you read or hear from any source: Does this make sense? What’s the hidden agenda? What is being omitted? What’s being shaded, twisted, and spun?
This is an essential skill. Subject everything to a process of critical thinking. Question everything—especially authority.
Number two is to trust your own eyes, ears, and senses. By that, I don’t mean what you see on television or what you read in Google. Things that you see with your own boots on the ground. Actually, talk to people one-to-one to find out what the man on the street is thinking, not what some reporter says he’s thinking. Or perhaps I should say feeling since few of the public think.
Try to be your own personal reporter. Put your own boots on the ground and investigate the real world first hand. Don’t just accept what some reporter tells you.
Reprinted with permission from International Man.