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The Opening Created by Truthiness

okanogen's picture

Here is an excellent observation by the Business Pundit:

"MSM (mainstream media) reports and government announcements leave us with a sense that something is off. We try to assuage our unease with online facts, leaks, and answers. That seeking, combined with the mainstream media’s ineffective communication, opens a portal for opportunistic publicity hounds. Like Hal Turner.

Yesterday, Turner announced that he had obtained leaked “bank stress test reults” (sic) from regulators. He pithily stated that “they are very bad.” "

snip.

"Doesn’t it feel gratifying to read the excerpt, despite the fact that it was written by someone who accuses people of being sodomites? Turner, bigoted and irrational as he is, capitalized on the need-for-answers niche. His “leak” affirms the gnawing suspicion that the whole system is about to blow, banks are big fake zombies, and that the MSM is deceiving everyone.

Turner’s answer took fire on the Web, proving how confusing the financial crisis really is. An answer like his satisfies collective suspicions. A waffling government and contradictory MSM reports, on the other hand, lead to more unpleasant confusion.

Turner Knows the Information Market
Turner and his answer highlight a market niche. People want answers. They want confirmation. They want an information source that they can perceive as being real. The MSM lost those honors. Many people see independent media as biased or partisan. The media itself speaks of the collapse of the media."

I had read that link earlier (via ft.com), and knew that it was an important example of a bad phenomenon but BP nailed what was gnawing me about it.

The collapse of the MSM has left a giant hole. Kind of like the hole in the ozone layer, it started small, primarily on the farthest margins of the Right and Left, but now is engulfing our entire society. A thousand slimy things are finding a way to shine in that void and feed on the uncertainty by providing "information" that "sounds" truthful, without actually being true.

BTW, with the collapse of newspapers (actually caused by the collapse of classified ad revenue via ebay, craigslist, online car sales, and online job clearinghouses), it's only going to get worse.

Good times.

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gizzardboy's picture
Submitted by gizzardboy on

The collapse of the MSM has left a giant hole. Kind of like the hole in the ozone layer, it started small, primarily on the farthest margins of the Right and Left, but now is engulfing our entire society. A thousand slimy things are finding a way to shine in that void and feed on the uncertainty by providing "information" that "sounds" truthful, without actually being true.

The (almost) collapse of MSM seems to me to have started not on the fartherst margins, but in the timid center. The editorial boards afraid of their corpoate masters to stir things up with investigative reporting and telling the truth as they could discover it. Is the small start with its slimy things the blogosphere? I see the blogs as filling a void created by the collapsed lack of truth seeking by the MSM. I'm sure there is a lot of bullshit on blogs, but after the manipulated "truths" foisted off on the public by government and MSM stenogrphers, where does one seek the truth?. "Information" that "sounds" truthful seems a good place to start.

Submitted by lambert on

and change at the margins!

I should change the site motto...

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

A thousand slimy things are finding a way to shine in that void and feed on the uncertainty by providing "information" that "sounds" truthful, without actually being true.

Kinda like The New York Times on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

and from my point of view would do more good than Norquist's version.

Local papers are way more likely to reflect, and respond to, their readers' concerns and points of view than chain papers (cf Morris Communications Company, a Florida corporation that's sucked the life out of the Amarillo and Lubbock papers).

Partly 'cause the raison d'etre of "go with the money" isn't someplace in Australia or NYC or SoCal (sorry about that, those of you who live there) but is, you know, a block or two down the street at the car dealer's or the local bank's (wait, those still exist? Well ... yeah. Mostly in towns where the local paper is a *weekly* not a daily or even a six-days-a-week proposition) or the apothecary shop. Partly 'cause the editor-in-chief is apt to run into the superintendent of schools at the grocery store (and get an earful, if coverage is sloppy) -- and the sports editor is apt to get stopped by a deputy if a football game account misidentifies the deputy's son (particularly if it's his senior year and a bad review jeopardizes scholarship scouting).

COMMUNITY is important over and above profit. Otherwise, those online ads that advertise garage sales, used cars, real estate and job openings (often for far less of a fee than the local pica-type three-line buried-in-the-back classifieds) are a community service. I think the ascendancy of craigslist (altho the murder connected to it is a little unsettling) is a response by readers to their dissatisfaction with media organs in their markets.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

but most of the small local ones I read are little more than advertising rags written by semi-literate hacks, writing glowing stories about local businesses, right across the page from a full page ad for that local business.

Speaking as someone with two siblings in the newspaper business (photos) and a spouse formerly in the business (sales, marketing), I can tell you that the two aspects of the deterioration of newspapers are actually not all that inter-related. The deterioration of credibility is due primarily to laziness, lack of professionalism and the privileged "creative class" superiority ethos that started up during the Reagan years, where reporters came to believe that they were celebrities, part of the scene, either Hunter S. Thompson or PJ O'Roarke or Woodward/Bernstein or maybe all three rolled into one awesome package. They were connected, they were players, they were part of the "in" crowd. Due to that, they "know" more than you, they even know what you need to know. Whether or not it was actually true or not was pretty immaterial. They believed their own hype.

Unfortunately Seymour Hersh wasn't the model....

Regarding corporate business putting on the squeeze. Sure, they were/are trying to maximize what little profit is left. But that profit really was deteriorating due to advertisers putting their money into Car Soup and Monster, Craigslist and eBay. I have at least a dozen friends who used to sell advertising in one of the big local corporate papers. They are all out of it now, down sized out of jobs, there just wasn't any more classifieds getting sold. Papers DO NOT make money off your subscription or the 50 cents you put in the machine. They only make money off advertising and primarily classified ads.

So regardless of how or why it did/is happening, corporate media (which at one time you could marginally believe) has now lost almost all credibility. Into that void steps the Hal Turners (and Huff Posts and Drudges) of the world. In the absense of actually reporting, they say things that "sound about right", they cater to their audience's desires for information, even if it is a pack of lies*.

As someone might say, they play us for rubes....

* said at the risk of sounding like I'm relitigating the primaries. i.e. a Clinton dead-ender.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

and carry the county commissioners' meeting or the school board above the fold on page one (which often is the only page of the four or five not to carry multiple ads).

Not, e.g., the San Jose Mercury News or The Orange County Register. Papers like the Denver City paper or the Brownfield paper or the Stanton paper (to name three I've had some dealings with). If they get an IGA preprinted circular once a month, that's a HUGE revenue spike.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

It's interesting that you use those examples. County meetings, school boards, prep sports, etc., that is the model that ALL of the large dailies are moving towards since they don't have the money to keep an office in Washington or New York or to pay for their Reuters or AFP subscription. They can send an intern over to cover the Muskrats beating the Warriors in Division A basketball, then over to the Cedar county zoning board to see if that 4 story apartment got a variance.

The weekly local rag is exactly what I was talking about. The health inspector discovered 57 malnourished kittens in the back storage at the Scarlet Mandarin restaurant. Neighbors were shocked by the discovery.

Meanwhile, you can learn whether or not Congressman Harmon is a corrupt pol fraternizing with foreign agents from Andrew Sullivan, Matt Drudge or Keith Olbermann. Trust them, they are pros.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

but the papers I'm thinking about are in the towns half the size of Big Spring (e.g. Stanton, Ballinger, Hale Center) or without a "big city" in an hour's drive, for example, where the legal notices (by Texas law) have to be printed in a paper. Sometimes that's all the classifieds they get, these days.

Stephenville is no longer outside the sprawl zone from the Metromess, but Big Spring is past the edge of the Odessa/Midland sprawl, and Stanton is in the wrong direction -- it's away from instead of along the Interstate. Ditto Hale Center, although the Plainview Daily Herald covers Hale County quite well (it's a six-days' paper). Idalou, on the other hand, is a city paper of the kind I have in mind -- a weekly or even bi-weekly print run, circulation approaching 2,000 copies.

Even in Texas we don't have nearly as much really isolated country as you might imagine. However, there's Loving County and Dickens County, King County and a couple others where even the county seat doesn't come over 500 population. (Two or three of those *counties* don't meet that population number, per the 2000 census). New Mexico's eastern half is as sparsely settled as the rest of the Chihuahuan desert.