Is the media, specifically the so-called mainstream media invested in polarising and dividing its audience? By injecting controversial ideas and opinions into the wider conversation do they end up creating more news for them to report on?
Well yes, arguably sometimes they do. Whether they do it intentionally or not is up for debate. The way in which stories are framed to us in the news media informs our view on a given topic and combined with the knowledge we already have can cause us to act in ways we might not truly desire or understand.
In the research study “ Conspiratorial Framing. Framing as a tool in the war on information “ conducted at Lund University by Austin Shilstone they describe Framing as:
“Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions… Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world. It is changing what counts as common sense.”
There are numerous examples of news reports being broadcasted which in turn create more news stories, how news media choose to frame a story gives rise to new stories created by those individuals consuming and responding to the stories. These often fear driven retaliations can result in devastating consequences for those involved.
While i dont think terms such as “mainstream media” are useful due to the diversity of media available these days, and how we consume news; there is something to be said for how stories are presented to the public by major media outlets, and how the public then responds to those stories.
In the interest of engagement, and more recently shareability editors are increasingly being forced whether willingly or not to partake in sensationalism through the publishing of divisive contents.
News Reporting News Creating News Reporting News
I was inspired to write something today because I recently watched Hoaxed, a very America centric documentary that claims the Democratic owned mainstream media’s M.O is to divide its viewers, to push their ideas up against one another until controversy occurs, and new stories created. Perpetuating the news cycle in a way that the film viewed as creating news not simply reporting on it.
If this is true, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest in the United States it is, are those of us that depend on attention to sell our ideas or products online, destined to take the same approach? I would argue we have already begun, and the independently created film Hoaxed perfectly encapsulates that approach although somewhat hypocritically.
Now, i need to add a disclaimer here, The argument within Hoaxed is highly conspiratorial and full of YouTube personalities many of the personalities featured in the film i had already been exposed to before seeing the film, most of which occured in the 12 months prior, again due to my making an influencer project. In fact as soon as I set up the YouTube channel for the character he was bombarded by right leaning American content, even though the character’s account was set up as being in Australia; as the character is Australian.
While I don’t recall seeing these YouTube personalities in the film trailer I do recall having a big desire to watch the film due to the nature of the subject matter. After some weeks the anticipation had built and I was very excited to see the film as I have always had an interest in critiquing the media landscape and was curious to see how the ideas in the film would be presented.
TLDR: I was disappointed yet inspired. The film did not do a very good job of highlighting the fact that the mainstream media that the film constantly refers to is today, a globalised machine. The film references over and over again American media, as if this American media is the world’s mainstream media.
The issue the film seems to be trying to highlight is that the American media has been entirely captured by the Democrats, which of course is debatable, but (among other things) it is the films constant referencing of examples outside of America to back up their view on the internal American media landscape which served to highlight the flaws of the films over arching proposition.
The film takes an exceptionally narrow view on talking about propaganda by the mainstream media, while with the same breath exercising in the same propagandorial conduct itself. I commited to watching the entire film largely because I feel it beneficial to try to understand what the film maker hopes to achieve with the film and also because the infamous nutter Alex Jones was featured in a somewhat new light.
When Is Truth Born?
In a recent discussion with a colleague at work we were looking at options for an icon colour for a new dapp, the agency we had used provided us with a selection of various colour options. While my colleague was keen on the red icon, I was more inclined towards the pink option, the thing is, we were both talking about the same icon, only he saw red where i saw pink, to be more specific i saw a deep pink but definitely not so deep it became red.
This strange confusion in our back and forth communications resulted in me deciding to capitulate and although I did not agree the icon we were discussing was red, it did not concern me that he saw red where I saw pink as it’s a bit of a nothing burger argument to have. While we could easily have proven it either way by asking numerous others their opinion or indeed even asking a professional colour theorists, for this small somewhat insignificant disagreement it was not necessary.
But let’s change up the context for a moment, using the recent revelations around the well known and much derided Alex Jones. For those of you not familiar with him he’s basically a mad man that spouts the weirdest nonsense on the internet, arguably one of the first major online personalities to do so and make a lasting business out of it.
Widely disregarded as a conspiracy theorist, Jones is famous for screaming such profoundly odd things as: “the water is being poisoned with chemicals that are “making the friggin’ frogs gay.” and more recently accusing Hillary Clinton of running a child prostitution ring from a pizza restaurant, resulting in a young man shooting up the restaurant in retaliation. The list of utter madness this man spouts is literally endless, there’s a wiki here if you care.
I first experienced Alex Jones through his radio show some 20 years ago, at that time I was just shy of 18 years old and myself and a few friends listened fairly frequently but always intently to his words. His delivery was to me, intense and at times laughably insane but as a curious teen he had my attention on and off for the following few years. Over those years his message and delivery descended into absolute madness and I eventually drifted away from him, but many did not.
Fast forward to recent years and i discover he grew a substantial audience over the last 20 years, so substantial in fact that he was now being deplatformed by the likes of YouTube and Twitter, his madness had obviously permeated society to such an extent that the powers that be could no longer tolerate his wild and forceful hyperbole. Especially when it turns some people into murderers.
As I followed the ensuing legal case, in his defence it came to be known that he was claiming to be playing a character the entire time. When i learned of his defence, i flashed back to those days all those years ago when i listened to Alex on his own dedicated radio show, called InfoWars. I remember going back through those thoughts i had at the time, “this guy can’t be for real” i remember thinking, “he’s gone full on insane” i thought, these thoughts led to me leaving him behind and moving on but as i said before many never left him, and many still believe he is for real.
Now that it has been publicly revealed that he claims he was only playing a character (for 20 plus years) I can imagine many people out there cannot let the reality of how he presented himself for all those years just descend into fiction overnight. For many people Alex Jones, whether a character or not has played a major role in how they grew and developed their perception of the world. It is in this strange situation where many find themself today, what is true? does it even matter?
If a person (especially young and impressionable) can craft a strong view of the world (and share it continuously) with input from a far away fictional character claiming to be real in one context (his show) but then when forced into a legal battle claims otherwise; and given our current dominant forms of communications; does that mean we are now living in an age where the fictional stories we tell each other using fictional characters but presented as real, can have just as much impact in our shared reality as real stories with real people? Indeed, has it always been that way? Only now it’s more prevalent due to powerful and free publicly available tools?
For many Alex Jones remains the same regardless of their knowledge of his claims of just putting on a show, a character to satirise the mainstream media as he claims. He is both real and unreal at the same time, and in that way if his claims of playing a satirist the entire time are true then he has surely succeeded at satirising the media.
The question is at what cost and to what ends?
What do you see?
I see pink.