I attended the First Zero Hedge Symposium and Live Fight Club in Marfa, Texas, where I presented the following speech: “Breaking the Alternative Media’s Dependence on the Mainstream Media.” The speech was about 45 minutes long, so the article is lengthy.
Hi, I’m Robert Gore, the guiding light behind the website Straight Line Logic.
Let me tell you a story. Remember the Bill Clinton administration? Remember the scandals? I was 34 when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. That was a good year for me; I got divorced. Before the election, Gennifer Flowers disclosed her affair with Clinton. There was Hillary, seated lovingly beside him, as he denied the relationship on 60 Minutes. Flowers released tapes of phone calls with Clinton. You would have thought that might raise the media’s interest, but it latched on to George Stephanopoulos and James Carville’s proof-free claims that the tapes could have been—not were, but could have been–doctored. There was no investigation of the substance of Flowers’ allegations, just a vicious smear campaign against her. The matter died, although six years later Clinton did admit to having sexual relations with Ms. Flowers.
The Flowers story characterized the pattern. Somebody would accuse Bill and/or Hillary of something immoral, illicit, or illegal. There would be evidence, or what would have been evidence—whatever it was—had it not gone mysteriously missing. Sometimes a few so-called fringe media outlets would try to investigate, encountering resistance and obstruction at every turn.
The Clintons’ hatchet-people would go to work, trumpeting purported inconsistencies in investigative stories, maligning the character, political leanings, and associates of those publishing them. The mainstream media, or MSM, would ignore and suppress, but would rush to publish anything that exculpated the Clintons from the scandals the MSM wouldn’t acknowledge. The first couple commissioned a lengthy “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce” memo, which Hillary later popularized as the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” It was a condemnation of all those who had investigated the Clintons, and a handy pre-condemnation of those who might do so in the future. Facts and issues were left unexplored and unaddressed.
I followed what was probably the same progression as some of you through the many scandals: pissed off, then numbed, and finally, resigned. The fix was in and would stay in while Clinton was president.
Ron Brown was Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce. He was on a plane that crashed in Croatia, April 3, 1996. At the time he died, his son, Michael, was being investigated by the Justice Department for shady dealings with a small Oklahoma energy company. Tom Parsons was my brother Jim’s best friend growing up. They were best men at each others’ weddings and they’re both straight-arrow, salt-of-the-earth guys. Tom went to college and medical school on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, and was trained as a forensic pathologist. I went to dinner with him once at a barbecue place, and was amazed how he stripped his baby backs clean with just his fork and knife. Right there I decided: I want this guy doing my autopsy.
Tom was working for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, or AFIP, in Washington, when thirty-three bodies from the Croatia crash, including Brown’s, were brought to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Tom didn’t examine Brown’s body. The pathologist who did found a perfectly formed round hole, .45 of an inch in diameter, the kind a bullet makes when entering the body, on the top of Brown’s head. That hole was seen by another pathologist and by the photographer who took pictures of the body.
Although autopsies were performed on several corpses, there was no autopsy on Brown’s. Tom heard about the hole from his colleagues, but it didn’t become public knowledge until December, 1997, twenty months after the plane crash. It was revealed in a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story. That newspaper was owned by the late Richard Mellon Scaife. Both newspaper and owner had featured prominently in the Clinton’s “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce” memo.
The disclosure kicked up a controversy, especially after it came out that both sets of Brown’s head X-rays were missing. Brown was Afro-American. The head of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, demanded answers from the Clinton administration, and comedian and activist Dick Gregory led a group of protesters in a Christmas Eve vigil outside AFIP’s headquarters. Gregory released a statement.
We are not going to allow this to pass. There is very strong evidence the AFIP found a gunshot wound on Brown’s head and decided to cover-up this evidence.
Gregory was arrested and spent Christmas in jail. Jesse Jackson weighed in after the new year, calling for an investigation. In response, Janet Reno, the Attorney General, informed a press conference that the Justice Department would not investigate. The Washington Post reported the basis of Reno’s decision. The AFIP had convened an internal panel of pathologists, which according to the Post unanimously backed the decision by the pathologist who examined Brown’s body not to conduct an autopsy or further investigation.
Lieutenant Colonel David Hause was a forensic pathologist on the AFIP panel. He had seen the hole. He told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Herald he did not agree with the panel’s supposedly unanimous decision. Neither did Tom Parsons. He thought the hole was suspicious and an autopsy should have been performed. The Tribune-Herald quoted both of them in a story published on January 11, 1998.
Six days later the Monica Lewinsky story blew up, and it would consume the press and suck the oxygen out of every other story for weeks. The Afro-American community, led by Jesse Jackson, rushed to Clinton’s defense and stopped pursuing the matter of the mysterious hole in Ron Brown’s head.
According to Jack Cashill, author of the book Ron Brown’s Body, David Hause and Tom Parsons were essentially cashiered. They were barred by the AFIP from doing further autopsies, which put them out of business as forensic pathologists. Hause was transferred to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and Tom to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and they were both reassigned to hospital pathology, a specialty outside of their training. That jibed with what I remembered my brother telling me about what had happened to Tom not long after it happened.
Cashill never directly accused the Clintons of murdering Ron Brown, but he highlighted a whole string of suspicious circumstances and a possible Clinton motive: Brown was the president’s reputed bagman for corporate campaign donations and had threatened to spill the beans if Clinton didn’t call off the Justice Department investigation of Brown’s son. Cashill’s book was published in 2004. At the time I read it, I had never heard of confirmation bias, but the book certainly confirmed my biases against both the press and the Clintons. I had no trouble believing either that the Clintons murdered Brown and exacted retribution against David Hause and Tom Parsons for publicly calling for an autopsy, or that the mainstream media helped them cover it up. Case closed.
Here, though, the story takes an interesting twist. I called Tom recently and asked him about the incident. He confirmed some of the story, but said he had not been cashiered to Andrews Air Force Base after the Tribune Herald article. He had requested the move because tensions were running high at the AFIP where he worked, and he wanted to get away from that environment. He said he was not barred from doing autopsies, and in fact was put in charge of the Andrews’ unit that did autopsies. Cashill had never contacted him for his book.
Which makes the Clinton retribution angle problematic. Maybe Cashill was right and somebody got to Tom so he changed his story. I doubt it; I know Tom. Or maybe Cashill just got it wrong, which prompts the question: what else did he get wrong? It threw the book’s credibility into doubt and wreaked havoc on my confirmation bias. I still have no problem believing the press took a powder on the story. I was following it at the time and I remember how it just died, obvious questions unasked and suspicious issues not investigated or resolved. But I realized that because of my political leanings and willingness to believe the worst about the Clintons, I had accepted a certain so-called fact for years without confirmation when all it would have taken was a phone call. The truth is a tricky thing, and those who would pursue it must reckon with their own psychology.
In the 1930s, when the federal government decreed that the airwaves were public property and frequencies must be licensed, objectivity in radio and television were grounded before they ever took flight. A broadcaster operating at the government’s sufferance cannot be independent. Newspapers are a different story. Since the founding of the republic, newspapers have been a pain in the government’s ass. Thomas Jefferson hated the press but to his credit concluded that, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Newspapers don’t exist at government sufferance, so neutering them has been a more gradual process.
World War II and the Cold War, painted as existential struggles, turned much of the media into government toadies. Even Hollywood jumped on board. The war gave rise to the US’s first intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, which was formally established in 1947. By secret executive order, Harry Truman established the National Security Agency, or NSA, in 1952. You can’t understand history since the war, or the present state of affairs, without understanding the intelligence agencies and their relationship with the media. This is difficult because so much of what has been done has been cloaked in secrecy and disinformation—which is the officially approved, twenty-dollar term for lies.
In the early 1950s, the CIA set up Operation Mockingbird, which put on its payroll or within its influence everyone from lowly stringers in remote foreign locations up to big name journalists and editors with, among others, the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, and Time. The goals were to ensure that the CIA and foreign policy establishment’s Cold War party line, what we now call the narrative, dominated the media, and to make sure that any questions, or alternative points of view, were marginalized.
If that sounds like today, it’s because little has changed. Vietnam gave the intelligence agencies, the FBI, and the military, what I’ll call “the Complex,” operational and propaganda templates. Operation Phoenix was a joint CIA and military project, with the South Vietnamese military and secret police as junior partners. At its laughable best, leaflets were dropped from helicopters on hamlets in a bid to win hearts and minds. At its worst, bribery, blackmail, extortion, torture, and murder were used to terrorize the local population into submission. Since then, those tactics have been used during overt and covert US interventions in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. I wrote a two-part Straight Line Logic article called “The Phoenix Template” arguing the same will come to the United States, and many of us think it already has.
The Complex spied on domestic critics of the Vietnam war and other aspects of the status quo, particularly race relations. Although there were isolated exceptions—publication of the Pentagon Papers and pursuit of the Watergate scandal—the media became increasingly supine. Even those episodes may have, sub rosa, served the Complex’s purposes; we may never know. There are alternative explanations of Watergate that conclude it was essentially a coup engineered by the Complex.
The Complex lost its ostensible reason for existence when the Soviet Union fell in 1991. However, ten years later, 9/11 conjured up another so-called existential threat. How a band of Islamic guerrillas holed up in Afghanistan’s caves posed the same danger as Nazi Germany or the USSR was never answered. The question was rarely asked, certainly not by the mainstream media. It endorsed the Afghanistan war, still going on after sixteen years, the Iraq war based on nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and the Patriot Act’s constriction of civil liberties. Since that fateful Tuesday in September of 2001, the Complex has massively grown in both funding and power.
If not for the internet, the media today would be a captive sloth only Joseph Goebbels could love. Not that the mainstream isn’t close. The first glimmer of something different was Matt Drudge’s 1998 Monica Lewinsky disclosure, a story Newsweek had but only published after Drudge did. The story probably didn’t have the media moguls shaking in their Guccis, but it might have had them looking over their shoulders a little. Drudge was new competition. The other challenger was Fox News, which like Drudge had launched in 1996. They questioned totems which all the right newspapers, magazines, opinion journals, and networks had sworn fealty to since World War II. More ominous than anything the newcomers published was what they portended. Anyone could start an internet site, and cable and satellite were opening up hundreds of new channels.
If we had all of the alternative media in 2001 that we have now, we might not have had the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. At the very least, more questions would have been asked. Unfortunately, the government and MSM steamrolled potential opposition, and the alternative media, then in its infancy, couldn’t push back.
Our own beloved Zero Hedge burst on the scene in 2009. It made its bones on the financial crisis engulfing the world. The reality of that crisis was fairly simple. A lot of people and institutions were gambling with borrowed money and at extremely high leverage ratios. Markets, led by grotesquely inflated residential and commercial real estate and their associated mortgage securities, went against them. Margin calls begat more margin calls in the globally interlinked financial system as decades of debt expansion became debt contraction. In their wisdom, governments and central banks addressed that crisis—caused by too much debt—with more debt.
In straightforward prose laced with a fair amount of invective and moral outrage, Zero Hedge covered and explained what the MSM was calling an out-of-the-blue, mystifying crisis. From fraudulent mortgage applications to fraudulent mortgage-backed securities to fraudulent financial institution balance sheets leveraged thirty and forty times to fraudulent crony socialistic bailouts to vacuous and fraudulent pronouncements by pundits, academics, and government and central bank officials, Zero Hedge provided perspectives absent from the MSM. They called the frauds as they saw them. The crisis worked a seismic upheaval. It became us against them. Those with decimated retirement accounts and underwater mortgages, footing the bill for the bail outs, against the government, its string pullers, the connected bail-out beneficiaries, financial institutions, academia, and the mainstream media. Since then, the chasm only yawns wider.
The 2016 election has been the alternative media’s shining moment, so far. The emerging order was confirmed when Donald Trump appointed Breitbart’s Steve Bannon as his campaign’s CEO and then kept him on after he won. While not all of the alternative media jumped on the Trump bandwagon, virtually none of it supported Hillary. Even non-Trump supportive sites were putting up stories about her emails, foundation, donors, health, incompetence, cronies, lies, and inept campaign. Clinton and minions recognized the AM’s growing impact, countering with the fake news concoction, which probably attracted more people to the alternative media than it repelled.
After Trump’s victory, the AM has had a period of consolidation. Certainly Trump’s campaign was the baitiest click bait ever. During the campaign, putting Trump’s name in the title of my Straight Line Logic articles guaranteed an extra 25 to 50 percent readership. However, now that he’s president, day-to-day issues and governance matters aren’t quite as exciting. When they get into office, politicians invariably disappoint supporters, and Trump has been no exception. To its credit, much of the alternative media has, at times, been highly critical of Trump the president. The MSM, on the other hand, continues its role as unrelenting cheerleader for the Clintons, Obama, and the Deep State, doing nothing to repair its tattered credibility.
Like sharks, AM sites must keep moving or die. They can’t waste time reading their own press clippings. After the election, the AM and blogosphere were filled with stories taking credit for Trump’s victory and heralding the death of the MSM. The AM had an influence on the election, but the death of the MSM has been greatly exaggerated. Consider these numbers from SimilarWeb US Media Publications Top 100 Rankings of monthly online page views. These are for April, but they don’t change much from month to month.
At the top of the list is msn.com, with 1.7 billion monthly page views. espn.com is second with 1.39 billion, followed by the alternative media’s gorilla, aggregator drudgereport.com, with 1.24 billion. After that, there’s not an AM site until you get to breitbart.com, at 34 with 155 million page views, about one-eighth of the Drudge Report’s and one-eleventh of MSN’s. Most of the top spots are news, sports, and business sites. The first three of what can be termed opinion sites are liberal buzzfeed.com and huffingtonpost.com, at 10 and 12, respectively, and politico.com, at 25. The top tier is populated by sites like bloomberg, cnbc, washingtonpost, New York times, CBS news and NPR. Zero Hedge comes in at 56 with 66.4 million page views, or quite a few more than Straight Line Logic, which you’ll be surprised to learn doesn’t make the list at all. Go figure!
The alternative media has a long way to go before it displaces the mainstream media, no matter how you define the two. You can say that these numbers just confirm that most Americans are oblivious morons who are content with MSM bias, pablum, sensationalism, and fake news, and deserve what they get. This offers all the emotional solace of sour grapes. It also disparages people who might otherwise end up in your camp, and wasn’t that Hillary Clinton’s big, deplorable mistake?
Moreover, the sour grapes’ mindset ignores the obvious message from the numbers. People want to know what’s going on, far more than what somebody else thinks or feels about what’s going on. Strangely enough, more people want to know what Trump said or did last night than what Straight Line Logic has to say about what Trump said or did last night. They want news and facts. People need to know what’s going on, and until that need goes away, obituaries for journalism—the gathering and disseminating of news and facts—are premature. Technology and methods of dissemination will change, but the need to know will not.
This confronts the alternative media with both a challenge and an opportunity. For years we have vigorously criticized the mainstream media: its capture by the powers that be; its propaganda; the many issues it won’t cover; it’s bias, and so on. The criticism came to a head during the campaign. The MSM didn’t try to hide its anti-Trump and pro-Clinton biases. The alternative media identified the old guard and its candidate as the perfect targets. Every ounce of credibility the MSM lost the AM gained.
The AM shark tore into the MSM and drew a lot of blood, but remember, sharks have to keep moving. Look at the AM’s business model. We tear into the MSM, but it has almost all the hard news and fact gathering capabilities and info-structure. Right now, it is the mainstream media that decides which stories to ignore, investigate, write about, and slant. The MSM uncovers whatever facts get uncovered, or manufactures its own facts, and decides what gets published. The MSM is the the source; it decides the newsworthy issues, and sets the agenda. The alternative media, on the other hand, is a snake swallowing its own tail. We are devouring the mainstream media but we’re almost totally dependent on it for facts and news. You can see the conundrum. It can’t last.
There’s another consideration. Remember my Ron Brown story. Just because you can point out the other side’s shortcomings, and it’s distortions and lies, doesn’t necessarily make your side’s version right. Journalistic credibility is built up slowly over time by consistently getting it right, discarding political allegiances for an allegiance to the truth. Authentic journalism—uncovering facts and news, the truth—is hard, time consuming, expensive, and dangerous. Even within the MSM, journalism is being replaced with opinion and analysis. It’s cheaper and easier. Everyone has opinions and opinions disguised as analyses. Ideology forces facts into the reigning opinions, discards them, or makes up more congenial facts. However, it’s counterfactual to say that only the MSM is at fault.
The mainstream media is under financial pressure. The internet and cable have fragmented its audience, and advertisers want mass audiences, not fragments. Newspapers’ classified advertising, a reliable cash cow, is in line at the internet’s slaughterhouse of business revenue streams. Internet advertising was going to be the new cash cow, but that bovine is already dying.
So how does the shark keep feeding and put the MSM into extremis? I have a proposal. After I’m done proposing and explaining, tear into it. Just imagine it’s one of my articles on Zero Hedge and you’re commenting on it.
The alternative media must have its own independent journalistic capability, its own source of real facts and real news. As long as the MSM sets the agenda and provides the fake news, which nevertheless remains the sole facade of journalism, the AM cannot be either independent or a go-to news alternative for most Americans. A 2016 Gallup poll revealed that only 8 percent of Americans trust newspapers. Why do they distrust them?Because they aren’t trustworthy.
Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I believe there’s a substantial market for the truth among the other 92 percent. The MSM is a dead man walking, giving the alternative media a huge opportunity to establish itself as a trustworthy source of news. That will require it to grow beyond its current role as a diffuse purveyor of opinions the establishment doesn’t like. No longer can it remain reliant on the establishment media’s version of facts and news. The alternative media must become a credible journalistic source. This is the next logical step in its evolution. Call it the alternative media’s disintermediation from the mainstream media.
As you would expect, that poses challenges. Even a very successful alternate media site would be hard-pressed to fund such a journalistic capability on its own. The effort would also be handicapped by the perception that it was a captive of its parent. The Associated Press, or AP, is a US-based multinational nonprofit news agency. It was started in 1846 by 5 New York newspapers to share the cost of transmitting the Mexican-American War’s news. It’s still owned by its contributing newspapers, and radio and television stations. I believe the AP offers the financial model for an alternative media news agency.
What if a consortium of alternative media established a news agency along the lines of the AP? The AP’s rationale remains as valid today as it was in 1846. Gathering news is costly, and media outlets can help themselves by sharing costs and stories. The AP is still alive, but it’s owned by the legacy media and it’s showing its age.
Why can’t the media of the future—the alternative media—develop its own platform? Why remain beholden to the legacy media? They don’t get it, they’re out of touch, biased, don’t cover real and important stories, and have become the fourth branch of the government. We can and should continue saying these things, because they’re true, but why then should we continue to rely on the mainstream media, the opposition, for facts, news, and agendas?
Say the alternative media set up a consortium; let’s call it the Independent News Consortium, or INC. The members of the consortium would be the INC’s owners. How would an INC operate in 2017? We would have the freedom to design and to fully exploit modern technology; to take full advantage of the internet and other information and communications technologies. This will be tomorrow’s, not yesterday’s, platform.
The legacy media are crying in their $20 dollar cocktails: the internet is destroying their advertising and subscription models. But the internet is a mixed curse, and it could be an outright blessing for the INC. For example, it dramatically drives down the cost of acquiring and disseminating information and reaching viewers. I say “viewers” instead of “readers” because the internet also enables a marriage of text and video. Journalists and editors can be all over the world, writing, filming, and editing from their homes, small offices, coffee shops, or other locations, all of which would be cheaper than space in expensive urban office towers. It would also contrast to the MSM’s concentration on the coasts.
Changes in technology explain only so much of the mainstream media’s misery. Most of it is self-inflicted. The MSM has destroyed its most important asset, its credibility. An independent media consortium must be structured around developing trust and protecting credibility. Most importantly, there must be an inviolable separation of the ownership from editorial policy, call it the Chinese Wall. If the INC is perceived as the mouthpiece of its owners, then it will be relegated to the same dustbin as so much of the mainstream media. Invitations to join the consortium should be extended to all outlets that can be characterized as alternative media, regardless of political persuasion.
The owners of the INC would fund it for objective news, unique stories, and perhaps an eventual return on their investment, which I’ll address p. We in the alternative media can generate our own opinions; the INC would stay out of that game. The INC’s goal would be journalism pure and simple: discovering and disseminating real news, the truth, as accurately as possible. Period. Biases will never be completely expunged and mistakes will be made, but journalistic integrity and accuracy must be the goals, first and foremost.
If a high-minded mission were all it took for a successful business venture, there would be a lot more successful businesses. Running a business is a combination of vision, calculated risk, trial and error, details, opportunism, execution, modification, and adaptation. Therefore, everything I say should be regarded as suggestions and proposals, subject to discussion, modification, or outright trashing.
The INC would probably start with a narrowed focus on areas of assured readership and existing expertise within the ownership structure: government, politics, business, and finance. That may sound like picked over territory, but the amazing thing is how little it has been picked over. Take, as an example, the US government. It will spend over $3.5 trillion dollars this year. We’ve seen the pie chart breakdowns, but how many stories actually drill down to the details of what is spent and why? Take one of those slices, the roughly trillion dollars spent on military, intelligence, and homeland security, and start asking questions.
Who gets all that money? Who are their lobbyists? How much of what they get is recycled back to politicians in the form of campaign contributions or other bribes? Which members of congress and their districts are the biggest beneficiaries? Did you know that Homeland Security has 229,000 employees? What the hell do they do, other than groping travellers and making flying miserable? How much of the military, homeland security, and intelligence payrolls are administrative personnel? How much money has been spent on Afghanistan? Iraq? Syria? Those figures should be readily available, but the estimates are all over the map.
That’s just from the boring old budget. Every one of you can come up with an important story the mainstream news doesn’t cover. Or which they dismiss as a conspiracy theory. FDA captured by the pharmaceutical companies? Conspiracy theory. Wars waged for the benefit of the military, intelligence agencies, and their contractors? Conspiracy theory. Rigged markets? Conspiracy theory. Surveillance of every nook and cranny of American life? Conspiracy theory. Government officials profiting from the drug war? Conspiracy theory. Autism caused by heavy metal-laced vaccines? Conspiracy theory. Health dangers posed by pesticides and GMOs? Conspiracy theory. The CIA invented the term to discredit anyone who questions official story lines. Legally, however, a conspiracy is merely an agreement between two or more people to commit an illicit act. By its legal definition, there is a plethora of conspiracies out there, just read Zero Hedge.
The stories that don’t get covered are usually more interesting than the ones that do. They’ll be the foundation of the Independent News Consortium, the basis of the alternative media’s disintermediation. Story ideas would come from readers, whistleblowers, INC journalists and editors, and consortium members. In keeping with the Chinese Wall, the INC news staff could accept or reject member ideas. Members could contribute material, expertise, personnel, or other resources, but would exercise no editorial control or veto power.
Involvement in the INC would be scaled according to the varying sizes, profitability, and audience reach of websites. For smaller sites, most likely non-equity members, access to stories could be a la carte. They would get a non-distributable feed of INC stories, from which they would choose the ones to post on their sites. INC would release the chosen stories. Billing could be per story or by monthly subscription, allowing for access to a certain number of stories per month.
Larger sites would receive equity participation in proportion to their equity contribution. Equity members would receive a continuous and distributable feed of INC-produced stories. Technological and legal issues would have to be worked out to prevent non-INC members from posting INC material. INC could also offer both equity and non-equity members a separate feed compromised of members’ articles, primarily opinion pieces, for distribution throughout the INC universe. Feed recipients would have the option of reposting. They would get both member-generated content and wider distribution for their own material.
There are other details that would need to be worked out. Would the Independent News Consortium make its stories directly available to the public, or would it rely solely on its member sites for distribution? My inclination would be the latter, because I don’t think the INC should be in competition with its members, but the members may see it as a source of INC revenue through advertising. If INC stories are not directly distributed to the public, advertising is not an issue. However, with direct public access, advertising would be an option.
The Independent News Consortium’s primary asset will be its credibility. If INC accepts advertising, it has to be on the same condition with which it accepts equity membership: a Chinese Wall between advertisers and editorial policy. The goal would be to have enough of both equity members and advertisers so there would be no significant financial dependence on any single one of them. The INC must have the ability to say to any and all funding sources: we’re sorry you don’t like this story, here are your two options: get over it and stay involved, or don’t get over it and withdraw.
As a life-long capitalist, I’m partial to for-profit enterprises. Profit puts a spring in the step and a fire in the belly. It makes employees, especially those with equity participation, conscious of costs. No big offices, expensive lunches, jet-setter conferences, or other fancy perks that have become the norm within government and many nonprofits, some of whose executives make seven figures. Giving key INC employees the right bottom-up, profit-based incentives could pay for itself many times over.
Long-term profitability emphasizes building credibility and consistently offering well-written, well-edited articles that people will read. Try to recall the last truly interesting writing you’ve seen from a nonprofit or government source. Potentially producing profits could help the INC generate support and investment from its alternative media owners. To paraphrase Robert De Niro in the Untouchables, a lofty goal and a payday gets you a lot farther than just a lofty goal.
A for-profit consortium would have all of the usual startup risks. There’s financial risk, but scalability, gradual expansion, and keeping costs in some proportion to revenues would be the plan; it’s not going to burn cash like a Silicon Valley unicorn. One infinitesimal risk: the world isn’t as corrupt as we think it is. One risk we’d be happy to have: pushback from the establishment, which would be a marker of success.
Here’s an article by blogger Fred Reed about those who inhabit the mainstream media universe.
“Notes of a Reformed News Weasel: Understanding the Vacuity”
By Fred Reed May 26, 2017
Do you wonder why the legacy media are such puzzled otherworldly twits? Why, for example, they had no idea what was happening in the recent election? Why they seem to know so very little about America or much of anything else?
Some thoughts from a guy who spent a career in the racket:
Ask journalists when they were last in a truck stop on an Interstate, last in Boone, North Carolina or Barstow, California, or any of thousands of such towns across the country. Ask whether they were in the military, whether they have ever talked to a cop or an ambulance crewman or a fireman. Ask whether they have a Mexican friend, when they last ate in a restaurant where a majority of the customers were black. Whether they know an enlisted man, or anyone in the armed services. Whether they have hitchhiked overnight, baited a hook, hunted, or fired a rifle. Whether they have ever worked washing dishes, harvesting crops, driving a delivery truck. Whether they have a blue-collar friend. Know what the Texas Two-Step is, have been in a biker bar.
Now do you see why Trump surprised them? Next, ask how many went to fancy schools like Oberlin, Swarthmore, Amherst, the Ivies, Bard. Ask how many even know someone who graduated from a land-grant school. Ask whether they know an engineer.
Now look at how much they write about each other for each other. Look at the endless coverage of what Maddow said about what Hannity thought about O’Reilly’s harassment of soft-porn star Megyn and how much she might make at CNN. Ask how much time they spend comparing ratings. They are fascinated by themselves.
Ask them how many have ever worried about paying the electric bill, had to choose between a new winter coat or paying the cable, or known anyone who did.
They don’t know America, and they don’t much like it.
Ask them whether they are rich. They will say no, and believe it. Yet when friends drop in, the question will be whether to eat Turkish or Thai on the Hill. For much of America, dinner in a Turkish restaurant on Cap Hill, where the waiter puts a white napkin in your lap and the bill for four with drinks and tip is $180, would be the adventure of a lifetime.
In Washington, a two-bedroom apartment in a very old building across Connecticut Ave from the zoo, with the original steam radiators, goes for $2500 a month. An 835-square foot two-bedroom apartment in Colonial Village, just across Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia, starts at $2450. Fifteen years ago, such a closet sold for $300K.
Now ask how many journalists voted for Trump. Close to zero. Virtually the entire press corps is of one mind and slants the news to the point of verticality. In the absence of Trump, they are almost as heavily Democratic. Most don’t know they are doing it. It’s just that they are so obviously…right. They are not reporters. They are advocates.
It is more than having the same politics. They have no conception of such romantic notions as freedom of expression or the interplay of ideas. You will never see a policeman given five minutes, uncensored, to describe what really happens in the streets or a gun owner, not chosen to be a buffoon, allowed to explain his position. If you told them that the media are tightly controlled, they would think you a right-wing loon.
Journalists are not stupid, running to well above average in intelligence. You could form a large chapter of Mensa by raiding newsrooms in Washington. However, with a fair few exceptions, they are not intellectuals, not contemplative, not studious. They are high-pressure fact-accountants, competitive, comfortable under tight deadlines, aggressive, combative, quick but shallow. This can be a serviceable substituent for stupid.
In a curious process of self-delusion, they imagine a world that doesn’t exist and then try to live in it. For example, they don’t know what cops face in the ghetto because they have never been in the ghetto and don’t know any cops. They dismiss anyone who tells them that things are not as they think. Their confidence is invincible, for do not all their friends say the same things?
Their ideological attachment to political correctness is–obviously–strong. This is particularly stark with respect to race. Week after week, year after year, we read on the internet of whites beaten, burned, punched, of stores looted by flash mobs and wrecked in brawls. The perpetrators are always “teens” or “troubled youths.” If you ask reporters why they never mention race, they say things like “race is irrelevant. A crime is a crime.” But let a white cop shoot a black attacker, and nothing matters except race–not truth, guilt or innocence.
They see no hypocrisy in this. They believe that they are just expressing Right Values. Since they talk only to each other, nothing contradicts them. Coverage of most things is either bad or nonexistent because the media have neither the time, resources, nor inclination to cover much of anything. Most outlets are crippled by the nature of their medium, political correctness, narrow focus, and lack of curiosity.
For example, television is the medium of the illiterate and barely literate. (People who can’t or don’t read all have televisions.) It lacks the staff to have specialized reporters, has to avoid offending anyone so as to keep the advertisers happy, has very little time to spend on a story which it has to keep at a sixth-grade level to avoid losing much of its audience. It has to be politically correct so as to impose appropriate values. It can’t upset big corporations because that’s who owns it.
Newspapers can assume perhaps a tenth-grade and better readership, but they too must be PC, worry about the advertisers, and they too lack staff. Big papers will typically pay attention to State, DoD, Congress, the political parties, and themselves. Most of the government simply isn’t covered. When is the last time you saw a story about HUD, Commerce, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Energy, or Education?
That’s why the mainstream media are largely vapid and predictable. It is why the internet, not bound by political correctness or controlled by corporations, able to specialize, to serve intelligent readers, is now primary.
Thank you, Fred, for your tour of that Twilight Zone, and for the vote of confidence in the internet. The alternative media can’t tell the truth while relying on the Twilight Zone for facts, news, and journalism. We know we’re not getting the truth. We’re getting evil, mind-destructive corporate and government propaganda, tedious triviality, and superficial stupidity. Neither the First Amendment nor this country will survive if the malignant and the corrupt control the news.
We can fire our shots at the political establishment and its captured mainstream media, we can rave and rant, but if we rely on their version of facts and news, we’re captive to them. Revolutions begin with ideas. Alternative media journalism, real journalism, is an idea whose time has come. It’s what must happen if the alternative media is to evolve away from the mainstream, fight for the press’s vanishing freedom, and tell the truth. If we don’t put up, we’ll eventually be shut up. Thank you.