There’s a new story sweeping the internet. It looks like it started at Climate Audit, but it got picked up by Watts Up With That, and Bishop Hill, and now the Devil’s Kitchen is onto it too. The essence of the story is that the tree ring record on which the hockey stick graph of global warming was partly based used a highly selective set of trees to produce the apparent sharp uptick of global temperatures in the 20th century. If the entire record of tree rings is used, the warming almost completely vanishes. It’s an almost open-and-shut case of scientific fraud.
But in the comments on WUWT, Cassandra King (22:17:39) writes:
A rather odd situation has developed whereby if you want to really know what’s going on, you look on the internet. If you want to know what’s officially supposed to be going on, you consult the MSM. And increasingly, the reality of the MSM is quite different from the reality of the internet. It’s not the first time this had happened. Back in 2003, while the MSM were faithfully carrying the story of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs, the internet opinion was hardening into the conviction that those WMDs simply didn’t exist. It took another 2 or 3 years before the MSM came round to this opinion too. If the MSM is going to lag 3 years behind the internet, then we can maybe expect the BBC to become sceptical about global warming in about 3 years time, and sceptical about passive smoking in about 5 years time. In the mean time, there will continue to be two separate realities – one in which global warming and passive smoking are real threats, and one in which they aren’t. They’ll be the official reality and the unofficial reality.
In many ways, these two realities only came into existence over the past 10 or 15 years. Before that there was only the official reality. And because there was only one reality, there was no disjuncture. But now that the internet has arrived, we might wonder whether there is always going to be this official-unofficial divide.
The principal feature of the MSM is that it is almost entirely one way. The MSM is broadcast media. The information flows from the broadcaster to the viewer or listener or reader. The MSM has only a residual information flow in the other direction, in the form of letters to the editor. The MSM news is manufactured by professionals who are not much interested in what anyone else thinks. By contrast the internet is a web of little cottage industries, almost entirely unpaid, and all talking to each other conversationally.
The MSM provides a good way of getting information quickly to a lot of people. The same information diffuses slowly across the internet. But the MSM provides little in the way of discussion of the news. Newspapers may carry op-eds, and radio and TV may have discussion programmes, but these tend to be relatively brief, and to lack any real substance. For in-depth discussion of anything, the internet is the only place to go. And that’s why the internet ends up being a powerful opinion former. Opinions are shaped in discussions which run on for months or years.
The megaphone MSM is also an excellent propaganda medium. The MSM can create a reality, or a perception of reality, by simply repeating it over and over again. That’s what’s been happening with smoking and with global warming, and with plenty of other things as well. The internet isn’t so good at doing this. The internet is inherently diverse, with lots of different opinions. The MSM can – and does – march in lockstep, telling just one story. In the past, it wasn’t clear to people that they were often listening to propaganda. Now that they have second opinons available to them on the internet, they are becoming aware that they are being propagandized.
Speaking for myself, I’m getting tired of being propagandized. I stopped buying newspapers a few years ago because they seemed to be full of propaganda. I’ve now stopped watching TV for the same reason. I’ve become propaganda-averse. In the past, I didn’t know I was being propagandized. But now I do. I get more and more of my news from the internet. More and more frequently, I’m getting my MSM news secondhand, as reported on one blog or other. The internet has become a buffer between me and an increasingly strident MSM.
And perhaps that’s part of the reason why the MSM is in trouble. Newspaper sales are dwindling, TV viewing figures are dwindling too. We may be living in a period which marks the end of the MSM, and the end of a totalitarian propaganda era in history. It doesn’t seem entirely implausible to imagine the demise of all newspapers, and of many TV and radio channels, and their replacement by a network of blogs, in which the blogosphere is itself the news network, with its millions of members as its unpaid army of reporters. There would no longer be the Times Baghdad reporter, but instead the Baghdad Blogger and his friends. And there’d be Bombay Bloggers, and Bucharest bloggers. There would be a lot more news, but it would be unsieved and unsorted. And there would cease to be something that was The News in quite the way there was in the MSM era. It’ll more likely be The Global Gossip.
In the mean time, it looks like there will continue to be two separate realities, the official MSM propaganda reality, and the unofficial internet gossip reality, with the latter gradually overtaking the former.