Thursday, April 07, 2016

Of NatPo and News Cycles

To those who lament the inevitable passing of PostMedia as a loss to journalism I ask just how tenuous does a publication's ties with reality and information have to be before we stop treating it as journalism? I don't know about you but I wouldn't consider the Socialist Workers' Daily a work of journalism. It's a propaganda rag that dilutes news with lies and half-lies to produce distortion, spin, sometimes outright propaganda. It seeks to distract, confuse and confound its readers to achieve a targeted end by manipulating them. National Post? Same, same.

The Panama Papers scandal is just a few days old. Some 100 news outlets around the world have been digesting the massive document dump for a year but the story only broke on Sunday.

In Canada, none of Paul Godfrey's PostMedia papers were invited inside. Ditto for the once prestigious Globe & Mail.  They were left, obviously resentful, on the outside looking in. That didn't, however, stop Godfrey's flagship rag from running the predictable "nothing to see here, move along" piece under Kevin Libin's byline. Just a bunch of law abiding citizens going about their business claims Libin, after admitting he doesn't know his ass from his elbow about what's actually in the documents. Besides, he adds, we can solve all these problems by simply cutting our tax rates until they're competitive - with tax havens, tax-free zones. Yeah, right.

No, it won't be our nation's or Canadian journalism's loss when PostMedia finally collapses under the weight of its massive debts, it's lifeblood revenues sucked out of it by New York vulture capitalists who received special dispensation from Shifty Steve Harper to contravene Canadian law.

But we don't need NatPo to kill off the scandal and allow the powers that be to revert to business as usual. The modern "news cycle" of itself will see to that. Today we don't want to know and we certainly don't want to remember.  Real news, hard news, has a very limited shelf life before it arrives at the hard flush of the memory hole.

I wonder how history might have played out if society was so vulnerable back then to today's "news cycle" phenomenon. Would Daniel Ellsberg's 'Pentagon Papers' have lasted more than a few days before it wound up buried in the second section (yes, there was more than one news section back then). Would the Watergate scandal have had the legs to last long enough to bring down Richard Nixon? I doubt it.

This isn't the 70s, kids. We don't have that great climate any more. We don't live in a nation at peace, that's over, gone, probably forever. We're no longer committed to advancing and enshrining rights and freedoms for our society and generations to come. Rights and freedoms - they're under assault, in retreat. We're not a cohesive society any more. We don't just disagree among ourselves as we once did, we're in camps now, walled camps that vilify and despise each other where the loser's resentment festers, yearning for revenge. We don't get even plausibly truth-based information. Today we're fed a diet of spin, a formula crafted with care to condition us, leave us malleable and, so, easily manipulated to the point we can't tell truth from lies, not when it matters.


Northern PoV said...

I heard a story about Russian journalists laughing at western journalists during a conference back in the 1980s.
Because the Russians wrote stories where the truth was hidden "in between the lines" to get past the censors. Their readers knew it was propaganda and either ignored it or looked for the hidden messages.

They laughed at their western counterparts who were reliable 'stenographers' for their own governments and the western readers believed the lies they read.

The Mound of Sound said...

Point well taken, NPoV. I've long suspected that there's more than commercial advantage in how we're manipulated by messaging disguised as information, news. It's a process of conditioning that recognizes the threat of an informed electorate capable of effectively exercising their democratic franchise. That's the backbone of healthy, robust liberal democracy. Defeat it and you pave the way for the ascent of illiberal democracy, authoritarianism and oligarchy. I would rather not admit it but it's already here.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant analysis. Well written. Dashed off even. That is a perfect example of a Thesis précis.

And the research will be a doddle. laugh

j a m e s

The Mound of Sound said...

Well, James, be my guest. Those days are behind me - I think. Of course it wouldn't be the craziest thing I've done either. Still I see your point, perhaps somebody should flesh this out.

Anonymous said...

The National Post and it's subsidiaries are becoming unreadable.
When it takes the Globe and Mail to report upon the negatives of the BC Liberal Government ; we are in trouble!
The consolidation of news media ( done for profit reasons) has been a huge failure mainly for free speech and, interestingly, for the the 'free enterprise' system..