Why is Legacy Media Like This?
The Post-Propaganda Age
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Signals from Another Time in Another Place
In David Cronenberg’s 1983 Cult Classic Videodrome a Toronto television executive, played by the delightfully slimey James Wood, becomes obsessed with a pirate television broadcast, the titular Videodrome, which he believes may be a snuff film. Woods, becoming increasingly unhinged in his desperate attempts to find the origin of the broadcast, gets drawn into world of techno-terrorists, body-horror, cyber-futurism, and conspiracist semi-Lovecraftian horror, where almost all who seek the mystery of Videodrome pay with their lives.
So why does James Woods follow this already horrific lead? An already violently pornographic, possibly snuff, pirate broadcast? This executive you see wants to license the broadcast for his late night programing block.
Now this is a biting, just beyond the edge of reality, satire of the explosion of television channels in the late 70s-early 80s and the new extremes possible during the great deregulation of television that began then. Canadian commentators all agreed the film’s Civic-TV was an almost explicit reference to CityTV, whose Friday night Baby Blue Movie block had started in ‘72 and was the first pornographic programing block on North American broadcast TV.
Now the plot of the film was almost too prescient, it was a genius Cronenberg horror classic, and brilliant bit of edge-of-the-present cyberpunk SciFi, which should have been a pop-culture hallmark… If only it had come out 5-8 year later and known it was supposed to be about the internet… not the web of TV broadcasts.
But there is another incongruous element, aside from the lack of internet, that really makes it hard for a child of the 2000s to really get in the mindset of the film…
Who can imagine a Television Executive giving a shit, let alone that much of a shit, about entertaining their audience?
TV, Radio, Newspapers, pretty-much all legacy media institutions are complete shit. Care about your entertainment? They couldn’t care less… All news, talk shows, hell even supposed shock jocks like Howard Stern, are self righteous moralizers that can’t, or consummately refuse to, even muster the excitement of a D-Grade Baptist preacher… You go to a radio shock jock in the 2020s and you get pretty-much the same regime approved unthreatening drivel you’d get from a grade-school teacher. Remember in 2017 when they gave Bill Nye the Science guy a Netflix show, with no rules on content, where they’d talk about sex and swear and stuff… and somehow it was more moralizing, condescending, and insulting to its audience than the children’s show?
That’s all institutional media now… All of its propaganda, all of its terrible, and as for entertainment? If one of them asks “are you entertained?” its an accusation, a challenge, and you’re supposed to say no and instead be solemnly thankful that they’ve taken the time to educate you.
And of course all of its dying.
There is a debate I see crop up again and again.
On one side are those who, quite reasonablely, argue that our media has gotten vastly vastly worse, that editorial standards of quality have collapsed at the same time ideological uniformity has been enforced to a totalitarian extreme… Barely even concealing the open lies: “They know that we know that they know that we know they’re lying… and yet they’re lying”. Hell, there is an entire industry of wannabe Solzhenitsyns sharing by now cliched Orwellisms that “The purpose of propaganda, at least in its late stage form, is not to inform you, or deceive you, or even manipulate you. It's to humiliate you.”
On the other hand we have the more ideological, or perhaps better read who say: What the hell are you talking about!?
American Media has ALWAYS been like this.
In the 30s Newspapers colluded to prop up FDR as he aggressively sought regulatory and content control over radio, which escalated in the 40s as every single publication became either state funded or directly controlled propaganda outfits, a system that if anything got more extreme in the 50s and 60s as television came to the fore and everything the average American saw became subject to FCC “Equal time”, “Fairness doctrine” and “Decency” rules, thus ensuring regime approved messages had to always be given prominence, and nothing could shock audiences out of their myopia.
This Saccharin totalitarian ideological control has always been in place. You just didn’t realize it or know to be outraged… no media existed to call the ruling elite genocidal war criminals, because the control was so effective you actually believed the regime’s moral Narrative and didn’t know enough to be outraged.
This Argument is especially compelling if, like me, you grew up in the 90s and 2000s…Your experience of media consumption was going from children’s media, which is obviously moralizing ideological propaganda meant to make people more easily ruled… to then being on the 2000s internet with no rules what-so-ever and consuming irreverent Newgrounds style media that treats racism and pornography as fodder for humor.
It is very easy from this perspective to look back at CNN or the nightly news with its reassuring insistence on some version of moral and epistemic clarity, even as they openly lie, and think to yourself “Ya. All Television was children’s television”… Even the plotlines of Disney children’s shows and something as supposedly serious as Law and Order, all share a narrative insistence on a legitimate authority to be trusted, and explicit or implicit moral instructions, with seeming ethical quandaries all being wrapped up in under an hour.
Legacy media is and always was propaganda.
And yet The way Cronenberg depicts Entertainment in the 80s… even the self help call in shows are pornographically sensational!?
And then there is this exhibit:
THIS WAS TV IN 1993!
Sure Jerry Springer has to take sides and make sure everyone knows his and the network’s position. And well, he’s gotten kids to play his villains… its not as if he’s getting Steve Sailor or Jared Taylor, or someone who he risks might actually persuade a significant fraction of his audience (in studio or at home)
But my god! I’m Entertained. When the internet rediscovered this gem it was memed to the stars.
And then you remember things like South Park were aired on television… not just as a weird legacy property, but was actually picked out, funded, advertised, expanded: from nothing…
Ok, you might say… But think of the prominent American dissidents, the people you’re not supposed to hear from… certainly not in unedited uninterrupted long form discussions…
You wouldn’t see something goofy like Jordan Peterson free associating dissident ideas of variable quality in his weird Muppet voice back in the day…Or would you?
Its weird that this surprises me.
Jordan Peterson? talking about Bush lying about WMDs? in 2008!? on TV!?!?… I remember watching The Agenda with Steve Paikin on TVO in 2008… I might have seen this very episode when it aired!
Yet I’m shocked. I was in grade school in 2008… and as I aged I had assumed that I had only watched these shows as a tween for the same reason I watched say Winnie the Pooh as a toddler… that in my immaturity I didn’t realize all the ways my intelligence had been… more or less correctly, insulted.
But this is an actual intellectual discussion… its Jordan Peterson, so its weird and free floating, and not nearly empirically grounded… but its very hard to argue its not of the same quality as his podcast or online viral content.
and then there’s our last artifact… 1983, ya that was a different country… 1993, obviously a different country… 2008, naturally a different country, forget Trump, Obama wasn’t even elected…But 2018 was a different country.
The Steve Bannon Vs. David Frum Monk Debate on populism feels like an artifact that shouldn’t exist.
Indeed you can see the cracks where its falling out of existence right in the video… the references to the politically connected protestors outside, the woman who starts shouting during Bannon’s opening statements, the rather confused talk about free speech (as if the corporations and NGOs doing the censoring aren’t all state funded or subjected to explicit threats from regulators) that inflects the whole thing… Not to mention the infamous ending….
Hosted in the Oxford style the Audience was polled at the start showing 28% supported Bannon and the motion “Be it resolved, the future of western politics is populist not liberal...”, while 72% supported Frum and the negative… It was announced immediately after that Bannon had won and an additional 30% of the audience had been persuaded to his opinion from Frum’s… an incredibly rare decisive victory for an event like this…
It was shortly after the debate the organization tweeted a retraction, and released the new results… No one had changed their mind. Audience opinion remained perfectly unmoved, it was still magically 28-72. A coin had been flipped and landed on its side. They still maintain this was the case.
Sure that’s 100% bullshit and obvious shenanigans… but that this was allowed to happen at all!? This was carried on C-SPAN, the CBC, the BBC… In 2018!
Its impossible to imagine this happening today… Not the voting shenanigans… I’m informed such things have never happened before or since anywhere ever…What’s inconceivable is that there’d be a debate.
“You can’t legitimate him” they’d say of Bannon… a man who was a personal advisor to the most powerful man in the world.
“You can’t give him a platform” They’d say of a man who heads a publication and popular podcast.
“How can you endorse him!?” They’d say of a person and beliefs brought to be debated.
2018 was a different country.
So what happened?
While the old-school ideologues, whether they be Rothbardians or Chomsky types, are almost certainly correct that Legacy media/the corporate press, has always been an instrument of gatekeeping, ideological control, institutional self censorship, and Manufacturing Consent, it is undeniable that every one of these institutions has gotten extraordinarily worse in a very few short years.
One could blame it on the woke and the rise of social justice… But there were woke and social justice type in 2015-2016, Hell political correctness was first rolled out in the 90s… I can’t tell if Campuses in the 90s were exactly like the 2010s or if Canadian Frat comedy PCU just accurately predicted it… But nothing in the 2010s was especially new.
Likewise one might blame it on Trump… but notice again the dates.
Peterson was appearing on The Agenda in 2016. Frum was debating Bannon in 2018.
Even into the Trump era the legacy media paid lip service to being a forum for debate and at least valued the ratings entertainment got them. CNN famously gave Trump vast amounts of “Earned media” both before and after 2016, because he drove ratings.
The world in 2022 could not be more different.
CNN plus failed in less than a month by offering such obviously unattractive subscription content as Flashpoints with Fareed Zakaria, Land of Giants: Titans of Tech, Parental Guidance with Anderson Cooper (Maybe not the best programing when your primary demo’s kids are 40 year olds who failed to have kids)… And original Documentary: Chicago vs. Jussie Smollett. (no idea whether they tried to be revisionist and imply Jussie was innocent victim framed be racist cops)
Could you imagine anyone who’d pay to watch CNN+? What creatures are in the overlapping Venn diagram of “Wants to hear from Anderson Cooper” and “Knows how to subscribe to a streaming service”… Where are these techno-literate 87 year old Fag-Hags? Well judging by the quick failure…nowhere.
Closer to home Canadian TV isn’t doing any better. I have Poems with more views that the Agenda’s latest videos, and my more popular pieces have more views than any of their videos going back 3 MONTHS.
I’m in a text based medium!? They’re putting out video!
They should have an extraordinary advantage just on that one factor ! Let alone the fact that they’ve been going fulltime for 16 years and I’ve been doing this as a hobby for 5 months.
How is it that I’m eclipsing what once was a show that pulled 100s of thousands of organic views on YouTube secondary watches?
I tried to confirm TVO’s on air viewership… and its impossible to find ( rather scandalously for a product my tax dollars subsidizes).
But given the trend in Canadian media, I’d guess low Thousands… possibly 10-20k if they do really well, but also quite possibly down into the hundreds some episodes… C-SPAN, a sorta equivalent network, got 440,000 viewers for the 2020 republican convention and 76,000 for the 2020 Democratic convention (Citation)… so divide by 10 for the Canadian population…divide by 2 to 10 again for how exciting a week night of TVO isn’t compared to a 2020 US political convention… and ya a few single digit thousand, or even a few hundred viewers on an off night… that’s what we’d estimate for an Average episode of the Agenda.
I tried to check some other metrics, you know check my work… Equally awful.
the entire TVO network website gets just over 100,000 visitors a month of which the Agenda represents maybe 5-10%…so under 500 visitors a day.
And as for the associated podcasts… well SoundCloud posts numbers. Consistently single digits per episode, some don’t even have numbers…. not a single listen or download.
It may seem weird I’m harping on about this… a legacy media property went to shit in the internet age, get to the point!
But I cannot emphasize this enough: That’s not what happened.
The Agenda was thriving as a property in the Internet age. If anything the internet was a massive boon to it. It went from this obscure regional talk show in Ontario to regularly getting hundreds of thousands of views internationally on YouTube.
The Agenda had dozens of videos in the 2015-2016 period that got millions of views. One of Jordan Peterson’s more famous appearance on The Agenda got 8.5 million views. for a long form interview!? Those are Joe Rogan numbers!
How the hell does that happen!? How do you go from Joe Rogan big, to smaller than my hobby Substack?
Hell How does The Agenda pay the production costs!? As of writing, this substack doesn’t pay for the coffee I drink writing it. (please subscribe) How do they produce a 5 day a week show with multiple full time staff for…
Oh right my tax dollars.
The Agenda like the rest of TVO receives almost the entirety of its funding from the Canadian federal and provincial governments… They still go through the motions of asking donations like NPR… but its a farce, their audience is non-existent. A mere fig leaf maintained only because they’re not doing anything else of value with their air time.
That leads to the next question: Why does the government fund them?
The Trudeau regime pours millions of dollars into these endeavours, seemingly for not even cynical reasons. Even if we assume the point of the government funding these media sources is for pure propaganda and cynical totalitarian motives… well what’s the point of funding propaganda almost no one sees?
Who pays for Regime Media? Why!?
There’s a disturbing truism in the accumulated Internet wisdom:
If you aren’t paying for a service… you aren’t the customer, you’re the product.
We eye the Googles, Facebooks, and Twitters of the world with a profound suspicion in the knowledge that fundamentally they’re loyal to their true paymasters, the advertisers, investors and “partners” who mine user data… not the mere civilians that use their '“services”.
But what happens when there aren’t even people to be the product for advertisers?
Even at still watched channels in American news, a disturbing transition has taken place.
CNN’s profitability is significantly down from its 2016 Trump highs. The network is on track to be under 1 billion in profits this year, down over 100 million from their target (Citation), but even as they flounder and look at 10% declines, that number is shockingly high.
CNN’s primetime average is only 639,000… by contrast youtuber Tim Pool, someone who fills basically the same niche as CNN (News, Politics, Cultural Commentary), puts out a multi-hour live video a day and breaks it down in smaller segments that he also uploads… Not counting his podcast listens and other content, these videos alone draws as much viewers as CNN prime time.
This isn’t even that huge of a YouTube channel… The real giants such as Pewdiepie draw millions of views for each video. Rogan was consistently drawing multimillions of viewers for his 3 hour long interviewers…
And ya Pewdiepie, Rogan and Tim Pool are all millionaires… Rogan signed a contract with Spotify for 100 million dollars… But none of these people are drawing a BILLION. ANUALLY.
How the hell is CNN making that much!?
If anything CNN should be drawing vastly less in revenue than these YouTube start ups… Not on the basis of numbers, they still might have them slightly beat in absolute draw across all videos (producing 24/7 content will do that)… but in terms of the Target Demographic.
Pool and Rogan’s audiences are almost entirely the coveted 18-54 demographic. People who are actually buying things, making big investments and purchases, looking for new brands to consume, and who have decades of purchasing left in them if you can make them loyal customers. The people advertisers have always wanted to reach.
CNN’s demographics on the other-hand well… adult diapers are advertised far more often than baby diapers. One forgets that houses are more often achieved with mortgages… not reverse mortgages with houses. Indulge an hour sitting with your grandmother to watch CNN or MSNBC, and the raw number of ailments and medications you should ask your doctor about will astound you.
Legacy media, even when they have audiences, have demographics that make bingo halls look hip and high rolling.
So how the fuck are they funding themselves!?
Well if you watch an hour of MSNBC in particular, as I had the misfortune a few years ago, you can see who is funding them:
I was unaware what I was in for when during the last election I sat down to watch MSNBC with my grandmother… Literal ads for Raytheon.
Now neither my grandmother, nor really anyone who’d we’d typically think of as belonging to a consumer demographic, is at all positioned to purchase a hellfire missile or signals intelligence system from one of Raytheon’s many subsidiaries. Indeed the ads eschewed anything we’d think of as a sales pitch, and never even mentioned a product or services the audience they were allegedly advertising to might buy.
Oh we audience members were assured that Raytheon employed a diverse workforce of every gender, color, age, and social class. Well meaning middle-aged black women used soldering irons to… do something. Energetic young Asian women in ties and pencil skirts gave presentations… with no slides visible. A 30 something brown man in a hardhat and a tie checked a clipboard at a jobsite… somewhere. A gay-coded white male in a suit chatted with an equally besuited black man in a hallway… for some reason.
but nothing was communicated. One could not even mistake it for a recruitment ad… it was to uninspired and the viewing audience already retired.
No the point of the ad wasn’t the ad… it was what came after the Ad.
MSNBC, the news channel for the American left, had segment after segment about US foreign interventions, politically fraught FBI investigations… and not a one of these segments was at all critical of the us military or security state. The news organization that exists explicitly to cater to the American left… just 15-20 years ago a faction defined by the anti-war movement, had nothing critical to say across segment after segment about the countless interventions and entanglements US military assets are currently deployed for.
Buying advertisement on MSNBC might not reach much of an audience nor sell much of anything for Raytheon… but it sure makes sure that certain conversations never happen in mainline left spaces…. And if a left-wing politician starts to force those issues and call back to the anti-war left… well the mainline left wing news channel is bought and paid for… a sex scandal or one of the countless nothing scandals can be drummed up and just blared across MSNBC for hours.
Ever notice these 24/7 news channels never seem to actually cover much of anything? Stories that seem pretty big: the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma ( I refuse to say Myanmar, it will always be Burma) or the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war received little to no overage… despite you know being wars and there being 24 hours to fill… but every time there’s a scandal or someone’s on the outs these networks can pour countless hours into nothing talk about it.
Raytheon pays them to be boring and unengaging, and to only engage in what is in essence beltway gossip. The ads are just the simplest way to launder those payments.
Then there is FOX.
A media company with shockingly strong ratings…. or maybe not so shocking, when you consider they’re the only channel catering to 50% of the US. My dad watched segments from it constantly (now he’s disappeared down right wing YouTube).
Tucker Carlson, the current star of FOX, is quite unique in this respect. He draws millions of viewers, and does push a great number of the limits of acceptable opinion, even on the republican right.
Indeed Glenn Greenwald has speculated that Tucker is dangerously close to the line and, like Glenn Beck before him, advertiser pressure could tip over into taking him off air…
But who advertises on FOX?
We’ve already seen that it is pretty difficult to advertise on Television profitably… the demographics are aged, the audience share is plummeting, and the prices, at-least judging by CNN’s remaining profits, remain quite high relative to the number of views you’re actually getting.
So who advertises on FOX?
Well Mike Lindell of MyPillow fame is a prolific FOX advertiser… and seemingly without ulterior motive. The man is at a unique intersection of business models being a prominent right wing personality AND having a business that sells a product the elderly uniquely care about (all sleep products being a crutch for decayed bodies and lifestyles; Healthy active young men can sleep on couches or even the hard ground). It might actually be that Lindell can just advertise profitably.
Then there are the other health and age products: Chairlifts, Adult daipers, reverse mortgages, pads for office chairs, drugs… More on them in a minute.
And then there are the NGOs. The ads which tell you that your dollar a day can make a difference in some unfortunate’s life… yet somehow can spend millions of those dollars a year on Television ads. How many starving children are there in Sierra Leone again? At 8 million total pop, and maybe 10% of that being starving children…
But I don’t need to tell the post Clinton Foundation world about the duplicity of NGO world.
It was while watching FOX however that I almost fell out of my chair at the temerity, the sheer chutzpah of one of these NGOs.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews an avowedly Zionist organization is an NGO that leads resettlement efforts of Jews to Israel, leads efforts in Christian churches to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” which includes “providing them with the facts they need to advocate for the Jewish state and fight anti-Israel bias in the media”… and even includes assisting IDF recruitment efforts.
It is also one of FoxNews’ most prominent advertisers:
My god the comments on this YouTube video
I swear to god my dad alone has seen thousands of these Ads, like literally thousands! He’s seen at least 3 a night for over 300 nights a year for multiple years,,,. They run almost every Fox news Ad break… The problem? There are only a few thousand Jews left in eastern Europe!
Romania’s current Jewish population is only 9,500. Belorussia has only 20,000 (and you can’t send money to them, cause sanctions). Latvia has 10,000… but Latvia’s a middle income European country that you know, has social programs for its elderly, let alone the ones it is honor bound by EU treaties and international law to especially protect.
Which brings us to the main point: old impoverished babushkas are a distinctive minority amongst even these Jewish populations… there have been 80 years, the deprivations of communism, Chernobyl, a Holocaust… life expectancies aren’t great in former soviet countries.
Russia itself has a Jewish population of only 179,500 total…and a life expectancy of 71. Yet IFCJ claims to provide services to more than 200,000 destitute elderly Soviet Jews.
Its very possible The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has taken out more individual Ads on Fox over the past decade to donate to impoverished elderly Jews in eastern Europe… than there are individual Jews over 60 with below median wealth in Eastern Europe.
So why buy the ads?
Well you’ve probably guessed what I think….
Tucker Carlson and many Fox personalities are at the forefront of the “America First” ethos that taken over American right… but right as all these prominent personalities are questioning America’s entanglements in Europe and Asia, and the middle east… Just as they’re discussing rethinking their entangling alliances and calling countries like Germany or the Baltics freeloaders for not spending the treaty required amounts on defense… on the same panels you might hear someone speculate the US doesn’t need the Saudis anymore, that with the advent of Shale oil we can finally cut off that backwards, and basically totalitarian regime…
Well there’s one country you won’t hear Fox bad mouth: Israel.
No Fox news correspondent is going to follow up their denunciations of German dependency, or Saudi human rights abuses with an equivalent denunciation of Israel.
None are going to say Israel is a waste of billions in grants and subsidies, or ask why we’re subsidizing a nation with Israel’s human rights record… A daring Fox commentator might say that Saudi Arabia is an apartheid regime against women, or committing genocide against Yemeni children (as future libertarian presidential candidate Dave Smith does say when he’s on)… no commentator could say the same about Israel and the Palestinians and be invited back…. that is one thing Tucker could lose his job over.
Ironically for a movement so often accused of anti-Semitism, the sacredness of Israeli US relations is one of the few hard taboos of the America First/MAGA coalition.
And that’s before we get to Fox’s and Tuckers continued silence and abrupt changing of the subject when it comes to the Epstein story and exactly whose intelligence asset his blackmail ring was… I mean Maxwell’s father was a suspected Israeli asset… but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence…
And seemingly millions are being spent on Fox News Ads to keep it that way.
So if you simultaneously believe Tucker Carlson is and important political voice and want to subsidize his America First message, but also believe America should never question its relationship to Israel and Tucker should lose his job if he ever broaches the subject… well boy is The IFCJ the charity for you. (You know I joke but a significant mass of boomer-cons basically literally believe this… maybe it is just funded by boomer donations?)
Speaking of predatory charity cases…. Anarchonomicon is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
And then we come to perhaps the largest spender on legacy media ads:
Big Pharma, or at this point The Biomedical Security Complex (where these mega-corps end and government agencies begin and end is becoming murkier every day… its become its own version of the Military Industrial Complex, but directed towards the American heartland)
Anyway whatever you want to call it, it is by far the largest advertiser on legacy media outlets. Indeed stuff you might not initially think of as Pharma products absolutely are once you start looking at the org charts.
Adult diapers and most sanitary wipes are chemical laden things that get applied to the skin, and are thus regulated by the FDA and almost always get bought out and vertically integrated into Johnson and Johnson or another Pharma megacorp. Likewise I’m almost certain those home chairlifts the elderly install on their stairs are subject to some version of medical device laws, and thus naturally get mergered into some megacorp or another… then there are the ads that remain for women’s sanitary products, again FDA regulated and Megacorp owned… And then of course there are the drugs.
The elderly are not a healthy bunch, and they’re constantly on the prowl for something that will relieve one of their many conditions… and what do you know? their constant companion has so many suggestions for them.
In my estimation Its very possible that at this point 40-80% of any random sampling of legacy media is paid for by one of 4 Pharmaceutical mega-corporations or one of their subsidiaries.
Is it any wonder that these same legacy media outlets are so loath to do the kind of old school consumer reporting that made so many of their careers? Back in the 90s it was the norm for reporters to do biased and almost purposefully misleading reporting, but the other way. You can look back at shows and books from the era and it was the norm to go out of ones way to represent big-pharma or corporate brands in a negative light… That’s how you got views.
“Coming up. What’s in your medical cabinet!? What you don’t know might kill you! In 20 minutes this special report you won’t want to miss.”
That was the norm… not any longer. With the decline of viewership and volume based media marketing, controlling the message for the narrow band of voters who are still viewers becomes all the more important.
In the 90s something as big and controversial as the COVID mandates would have had round the clock, real debate on television… because that’s where the ratings are. YouTube and new media personalities have made vast fortunes off the viewership they got pushing back on mask and vaccine mandates…
But legacy media outlets, already in decline, are happy to sacrifice that viewership for the patronage of these deep pocketed clients.
Its actually not clear at this point if its even net profitable from a sheerly advertising perspective for Johnson and Johnson to be advertising on legacy media… some of the ads must be net profitable… but think about it… How many costumers does an individual adult diaper commercial convert from a rivalled brand to yours? Its not like with consolidation there’s that much competition… the elderly are quite set in their ways…and its not as if its a product you’d go without but for the ad…. Maybe these ads do a good job at converting viewers up into premium brands… I’m in my 20s, I have no idea what goes through the mind of a senior watching those ads… but it seems suspect.
Rather I think Big pharma has achieve its political and legacy media hegemony, because though most ads lose money (an oft remarked phenomenon going back to when TV demographics were young)… big pharma loses the least money buying these ads since the aging demographics favored their products. Thus they could buy influence at a discounted rate.
And of course, as soon as the pandemic hit, all their allies in government agencies started buying up their own PSAs…
Conclusion: The Banality of Literal Propaganda
We’re finally coming full circle…
How does one define propaganda?
If one defines it as media produced by a government or political interest so as to alter the publics behaviour using “moral”, aesthetic, non-factual, or even deceptive rhetoric then this is one of the great eras of propaganda.
Even if we want to define it as narrowly as possible and say it must be explicitly produced by the government… We’ve still witnessed one of the largest propaganda pushes in our lifetimes.
On the Canadian side of the border every TV, Radio Station, and newspaper was filled over the past two years with government purchased COVID PSAs… Now a public service announcement, you’d think, might be listing new regulations, the removal of old ones, guidances to safely avoid contact… but no largely not. Canada’s COVID PSAs were dominated by “uplifting” musical numbers of Canadians coast to coast singing pop songs (yes like those Hollywood celebrities, only not famous), others were filled with mere Affirmations that “We’ll get through this”… Utterly pointless from even a propagandistic informative perspective and having but the barest public justification: “Oh it will help everyone through the stress”… As if that is an efficient use of tax dollars to further mental health.
Rather, as I think is obvious by now, the point of these ads were to purchase the stations’ coverage and to send a clear message as to what the tone of that coverage should be.
On not a single Canadian Television program, Radio station, Newspaper, or Magazine could one find critical coverage of the lockdowns except for the “50 Stalins” argument that the government wasn’t locking down hard enough, or not enough money was being spent on health care.
During one of the biggest news events in history when millions were looking for debate… all these channels simultaneously torpedoed their ability to grab that market in favor of the government’s subsidies and ad dollars.
This is why legacy media is so boring and dead, its actively being paid at every turn to be be boring and dead. German Newspapers suffered a similar fate in the 30s, what had been a booming market in the 20s dried up since, quite understandably, Germans were no longer going to buy papers to read the exact same Nazi approved messages.
And why do governments, corporations and “NGOs” keep paying these media institutions when their viewership is in the gutter? Why does my government subsidize the Agenda with Steve Paikin to the tune of what are probably millions, when I often have more traffic and viewers?
Well because its Steve Paikin… He’s respected, and as late as 2015 he was able to get millions of viewers, Canadian viewers, when it came to big issues. In 2015 he had Jordan Peterson on to talk about the Trans stuff. It got millions of views.
This past Feb, at the height of the Trucker Convoy… the Agenda had episode after episode that had to cover the convoy… And they had no one on. The panel was 3 nobodies from left wing orgs, and a rep from a Canadian Civil rights org who took pains to distance herself from the truckers, while tentatively putting forward that maybe… possibly… the right to protest is important.
Trudeau’s money was well spent.
Back In 2015 or in the alternate world where Steve and Co were fending for themselves and wanted viewership? They’d have had Peterson, or Tamara Lich from the convoy, or Rex Murphy ( an old school journalist and Trudeau critic) on to rail at the Trudeau government and lockdowns.
If Governments and various orgs weren’t buying off every available media company its possible there might have been a populist revolution in the past 8 years… hell between Brexit, Trump, and the Truckers there basically was.
Now we should absolutely hold these “journalists” in contempt for being willing to be bought off… Back before 2016 a lot of these figures could pretend even to themselves that they had standards and would never be mere propagandists… Sure their most fundamental job role was ideological enforcer, but there was so little pushback, and the Overton window was not yet so narrow, that they could imagine themselves ideologically free, able to speak to anyone that wasn’t an obvious crazy… the tightening of ideological control has certainly revealed them for what they are, and a very few for their true quality…
But the thing is: there isn’t another generation of these guys being brought up.
Trudeau has to buy off the Paikins of the world because Paikin has enough of a reputation he could enable comments on his YouTube channel and start interviewing Peterson again if the payments stopped… But there is no next generation of Paikins, or Anderson Coopers, or even Tucker Carlsons that can be bought off…Joe Rogan, podcasters, and influencers have more than replaced them for everyone under 50 and increasingly under 70.
These “Respected” old media types are valued for an increasingly aged subset that still can’t take anything seriously unless a familiar man on television is saying it… and that voting block is going from decisive to mostly dead in the next 10 years.
However it does open an interesting Question… If an entity’s power comes from a threat… the semi-blackmail legacy media holds over regime institutions… and the power of that threat is disappearing… the optimal move is to reverse course and act on the threat before one is powerless. A gunslinger holding another gunslinger at gunpoint can keep him under his power indefinitely… but when he finds out he’s been slipped a sleeping drug, then the optimal move is to shoot the unarmed gunslinger before the drug can cause him to pass out.
If the media’s power is waning and dying the optimal move at some point would be to reverse course and go as hard as possible against the regime when they still have influence, to try and parlay that power into new media influence… most of these people have neither the intelligence of or the skill to do it… but don’t be surprised if some clever figures around the late 2020s suddenly become “based” over night as they realize they’ve plundered all they can from a sinking ship and need to escape.
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> Barely even concealing the open lies: “They know that we know that they know that we know they’re lying… and yet they’re lying”.
Heh, I'm from Poland and this made me think of a quote from a politician, about state television (to be clear; he is on their side, not trying to mock):
"Some may think that TVP's broadcasts appal intelligent people. But it is supposed to reach as many Poles as possible".
 Persecutor when we were communist, now a Constitutional Tribunal judge. Which is notable, given that the party which put him on this position uses a lot of rhetoric about lustration and whatnot.
> Even the plotlines of Disney children’s shows and something as supposedly serious as Law and Order, all share a narrative insistence on a legitimate authority to be trusted, and explicit or implicit moral instructions, with seeming ethical quandaries all being wrapped up in under an hour.