Once upon a time journalists were seen as heroes of the people. They fought against “the man”. They exposed the elaborate cover-up by dint of hard work, hours of laborious investigations in dark libraries (the libraries were always dark), cultivating whistleblowers by having meetings in car parks at night. They were threatened by the powers that be with jail time but they would not give up their sources. You could trust a journalist. A journalist was solid, brave, loyal, resourceful, basically a boyscout.
Good journalists were given Pulitzer prizes for their investigations. They were given international awards for exposing corruption, white collar crime, tax avoidance, all that stuff the top 2% hate you to hear about.
So then “The Man” took over the news organs. The “independent press” became a mouthpiece for the interests of the Global 2%, the Davos set, the Bilderberg crowd. You could not trust the headlines, or the stories. Investigative journalism was fine if it exposed low-lifes, organised crime or benefit cheats. But God Forbid it should look into the tax affairs of Billionaires. In 1983, 90% of US media was controlled by 50 companies; in 2012, 90% was controlled by just 6 companies. This pattern is reapeated worldwide.
Then along came the internet and the 5th Estate. On Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Quora etc we get the truth, straight from the horses mouth. You can talk to the person at the source.
The Media Moguls who now owned the 4th Estate needed to disrupt the 5th Estate. The tool they use is called “Fake News”. If you flood the media with sensational fake news you can create so many side conversations that it is difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, the truth from the lies.
The age of the investigative journalist was over. Success in journalism today resides in the ability to write good clickbait. The headlines that go viral are the Pulitzer prizes of today. Nobody cares about the actual article. So these days as a Journalist you may write an excellent and insightful article which is published widely, only to find that it is topped with a clickbait headline you did not write. The headline may not even bear any resemblance to the article itself.
In a world where every politically charged news item is presented with wildly contradictory “facts” the average Joe just retreats from the war for airtime.
Karl Marx famously commented on how the oppressed retreated into Religion as an anodyne to the realities of a hard life, something to distract the attention of the worker from his or her own exploitation, a promise of something better in the next world. In the modern social-media world religion has been replaced by “Reality TV”. Keeping up with the Kardashians, Love Island, America’s Got Talent, Who wants to be a Millionaire, Big Brother, Survivor, The Bachelor, America’s Top Model, Duck Dynasty, Ice Road Truckers, Storage Wars and so on. All of these shows are examples of Hyperreal simulacra. They represent an idealised life that does not exist – Disneyland for adults who find themselves out of touch with the cold hard realities of the modern world.
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people” Karl Marx