There’s a rather fascinating media war being fought these days between the established mainstream “dead tree” media and rival new upstart internet media outlets. Here’s the NYT/Boston Globe laying down a barrage on upstart Infowarrior Alex Jones:
Is Donald Trump taking his cues from Alex Jones?
By Jim Rutenberg NEW YORK TIMES FEBRUARY 21, 2017
Way back on Friday, President Donald Trump declared that several news organizations — ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times — were “the enemy of the American people.” You know who’s not the enemy, in his book?
Jones, in case you aren’t aware, is the conspiracy-theorizing, flame-throwing nationalistic radio and internet star who’s best known for suggesting that Sept. 11 was an inside job, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was “completely fake” and that the phony Clinton child-sex trafficking scandal known as Pizzagate warranted serious investigation (which one Facebook fan took upon himself to do, armed with an AR-15).
Essentially it’s a war between the old media that was against (and still is against) Donald Trump, and the new media that was all for him. And since Donald Trump’s election as US President, the new media have been in ascendancy over the old media – an event comparable to the upstart motormouth Cassius Clay’s victory over Sonny Liston.
In this respect I have to say that in recent years I’ve become something of a devotee of the new media over the old media, in very large part because the new media are available free, and the old media are not. So I read ZeroHedge, Matt Drudge, Breitbart News, Daily Caller, and watch YouTube videos of Alex Jones’ Infowars, and listen to podcasts of talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Mark Levin. I don’t watch any mainstream BBC news at all, because I’ll have to pay the £155/year licence fee if I do. Recently I stopped watching the BBC iplayer catch-up service, because that has now been deemed to require a licence to view that too. Similar restrictions apply to the Times, Telegraph, and several other established media outlets (but not the Independent, Guardian, Mail, and Express).
The result is that I get all my news from free sources, and none of it from pay-to-view sources. And my opinions have been increasingly reflecting this. I’ve been a pretty avid Trump supporter over the past 18 months. And if I’d been an American citizen I would have voted for him in last year’s presidential election. I can well imagine that plenty of American citizens have a similar opinion profile: they read free stuff, and don’t subscribe to the New York Times – because they can’t afford to -, and they voted for Donald Trump because Alex Jones and Michael Savage told them to.
It’s not even that I’m a true believer in the new media. I’m not a 9/11 conspiracy theorist: I still think that the twin towers were brought down by a couple of airliners flown by people with names like Mohammed Atta. And I still think that a lot of schoolkids and teachers were killed at Sandy Hook. And I don’t believe that Bill and Hillary Clinton have been flying out regularly to Orgy Island (well, not Hillary anyway). But I tend not to believe everything I’m told, whatever the source. So when the mainstream media have been telling me that smoking is the cause of nearly every ailment known to man, and that if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels we’ll soon be facing catastrophic global warming, I tend not to believe them either.
I tend to run my Plausibility Meter over everything I read, asking myself: How Likely Is That To Be True? Is it really very likely that the twin towers were demolished by controlled explosions shortly after having large jet aircraft fly right into them? The needle on the meter moves up into the red Implausible region. But it’s not always like that. Everyone was being told by NASA and the media that the Chelyabinsk fireball of 15 Feb 2013 was completely unrelated to asteroid 2012DA14 that passed very near the Earth on the same day. But it seemed highly plausible to me that the two were related. In that case, the needle remained firmly stuck in the green Plausible region. And, since I constructed numerous orbital simulations, it actually seems a lot more plausible than it did back in 2013: the needle has been moving into the deep green Highly Plausible region of the dial. But I know that pretty much I’m on my own in this.
But with the MSM calling out Infowars and Breitbart and others as “fake news”, and no less a person than the President of the United States calling out the New York Times as “fake news”, we’re in a major firefight between rivals fighting for legitimacy. Who’s going to win? Who do you trust? Who don’t you trust?
It’s a struggle between the recognised, established experts in every field versus upstart nobodies on the internet. It’s NASA versus Frank Davis. And it’s the UN IPCC versus an army of climate sceptics. And it’s the WHO Tobacco Control against billions of smokers scattered all over the world. It’s the New York Times against Alex Jones’ Infowars. It’s professionals against amateurs. It’s big battalions against guerrilla groups. It’s a whole bunch of Goliaths versus a whole bunch of Davids.
And if you’re someone who readily defers to established experts, you’ll tend to believe the professionals. And if you aren’t, you’ll be rooting for the amateurs.
Somehow or other, the recognised, established experts, that nobody would ever have dreamed of questioning 20 or 30 years ago, are increasingly coming into question. What else is likely to happen to the Roman Catholic church if many of its clerics are found to be paedophiles? What happens to the standing of atomic scientists when their nuclear power stations (Chernobyl, Fukushima) regularly melt down? In such circumstances, people start asking questions. And in the new media environment of the internet, with huge amounts of information available to everyone, it’s increasingly easy to ask questions and come up with new answers. And to tell lots of people about it.
I don’t know how it’s all going to pan out. But I do know that we’re in a global media war.