Imagine that you are a passive “consumer” of news, to use the preferred industry lingo. The use of “consume” is telling, admitting news itself has a shelf-life of a bag of chips, and does not necessarily contribute to the core of knowledge that our descendants will call History.
Imagine that you turn on the morning TV shows and are not revolted by the pablum incessantly interrupted with commercial messages, and barely notice that some of the pablum itself is commercial in nature. Radio is also infected with this virus. Even shock-jock personalities are incredibly mundane and do not tread from the sanctioned path.
Perhaps you have a newspaper subscription, rare these days, or like to visit a mainstream news site when you have your morning coffee or glance at when you have a spare moment at the office. It barely registers that the articles and opinion pieces have been carefully colored and curated to communicate a particular narrative. It hardly matters, since after digesting the headlines, you click over to the sports scores or the gossip section for a palate cleanser before retreating into your everyday existence.
Imagine that you like to settle down with a beverage before dinner with the televised Evening News. Because you are not curious, you don’t click on rival stations to hear the same news packaged in almost the exact same way, with the exact commercial breaks, often hawking identical products. Maybe before bed, you will watch a self-styled comedian delivering news and commentary disguised as entertainment, hammering home the same messages you heard since daybreak.
One of the more popular themes of what purports to be be news is how terrible Donald Trump is, what an awful person he is, and how dare he be president. Take one example of Trump’s allegedly reprehensible nature. He talks a tough line against immigrants. What he means are those “immigrants” who have an actual home somewhere else or who may not be able to substantially contribute to the US economy. He is not against all immigrants, or all immigration. In fact, two of his wives are immigrants. He was able to somehow see past this black spot on their characters and set up housekeeping with them.
If the media had any sense at all, they would take pains to report on this fact, and examine Trump’s policy proposals in the light that he is obviously not against all immigration, but is opposed to a very specific type of immigration that has the potential to rent the fabric of US society. There should be an active and ongoing public debate about what we value and wish to preserve as a nation and this debate should not be shut down by the media’s refusal to report.
If you are a passive consumer of news, you are likely not aware of other sources of news, as these sources—if recognized by the mainstream media at all—are roundly ridiculed. Infowars.com falls into this category, and to a certain extent, The Drudge Report. Infowars is the brainchild of Alex Jones, who is the well-intended if bombastic host. He runs through headlines from the mainstream media around the world and opines on the coming of the “New World Order.” If you have not heard of this, recall the words of President George Herbert Walker Bush. He did not invent the NWO, but he was and is and ardent advocate of the one world everything.
A personality like Alex Jones is easily laughed off as being an uneducated buffoon. Youtube, for instance, demonetized the Infowars channel and the channels of its contributors. Demonetizing these stations (and others that do not hew to the official narrative) means shutting down their advertising revenue. To make up the lost revenue, Infowars sells tee-shirts and vitamins, and for this, the entire enterprise is further delegitimized in the eyes of mainstream media. But the activities of the mainstream media are in large extent underwritten by Big Pharma. Ironic, no?
The Drudge Report also falls into this category. People who have been steeped in the musings of NPR and its for-profit three-letter counterparts disdain The Drudge Report, although it is a coup to be linked on the famous black-and-white website. It has been suggested that both Drudge and Infowars are “controlled opposition”—that they are allowed airspace to offer an outlet for the crazies. Whether this is true is open for debate, but there are trending stories that both sites skirt or ignore entirely.
If you are a passive consumer of the news, you may not know that there are innumerable websites and Youtube channels that rank below Infowars and Drudge that report on matters widely ignored or otherwise untouched by the mainstream media. One such sensational avenue are the posts made by one “QAnon” on 4chan and 8chan. New York magazine reported that QAnon is a conspiracy theorist. The term “conspiracy theory” was weaponized by the CIA as a largely successful attempt to shut down skeptical inquiry in the days following the release of the Warren Commission report that cemented the single-shooter narrative for the assassination of a sitting president.
QAnon offers an alternate prism to interpret modern current events, from the mysterious shooting incident in Las Vegas, to the Saudi roundups, to the mysterious flights that may or may not be heading to Gitmo. Every bit of what Q reports is curious, and if Q is not real or the output of a particularly fervid imagination, the public would like to know. Commentators who have kept up with Q story are Lionel and Tracy Beanz. Drudge is largely mute on these subjects, although Infowars covers it.
Below the activity of these citizen reporters and opinionators are those who offer a mishmash of UFOlogy, arguments supporting the existence of reptilian bloodlines, and wild but elegantly reasoned flat-earth theories. While Infowars can be ridiculed, those who offer completely alternative viewpoints are not even allowed to sit at the big-people’s table. While a sane person may repudiate the far-out websites, these websites offer the legitimate alt-media cover to continue the discussion with their followers unmolested and untrammeled by the mainstream media, which is why people are seeking these sites out. If some loony-toon is lumped in with Alex Jones and Lionel, so much the better. If everyone is colored with the same tainted brush—everyone is left alone.
At the nub of the alt-media is the search for truth. The truth is known to be elusive and wily, but the truthseekers do not care. They are willing to turn over every rock and follow every lead. They are willing to formulate and theorize and be wrong. They are willing to self-correct. They are willing to consider new evidence. They are willing to ask questions. They are willing to learn. They don’t insist on degrees and credentials. They take honest interest at face value, and anyone is welcome to join the battle, fight, movement, or discussion.
People want what the mainstream media used to do, and these alternate sites seem to provide it. The mainstream media have lost their reportorial chops, but they are skilled in delivering mealy-mouthed half-truths. They don’t think much of their audience—who passively consume the tripe they have on offer. But perhaps, they are made for each other.