Death of the Fourth Estate
Most people paying attention to the news can surely sense that something is amiss with the American media. Trust is at an all time low. Are we systematically being fed lies? Is it possible that the American system of news and information, the fourth estate, has ceased to exist wihtout so much as a decent funeral and a propaganda outlet inserted in its place in some sort of bloodless media coup?
The press was first referred to as the fourth estate by Thomas Carlyle in 1841 who deemed it as more important to a representative democracy than the other three traditional estates, the church, the nobility, and the townsman or commoners. The importance of the press is twofold: it informs the citizenry and also serves as a feedback loop between the government and voters.
Determining if the press can be trusted is an essential task for any true citizen. Highlighted below are two articles from a series by Ron Unz entititled, Our American Pravda featured in the Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection. In the first piece, Ron chronicles his own journey toward media distrust by highlighting the failure of the media to report on a number of well known, high profile scandals.
The second article is how the term “conspiracy theory” became a pejorative term of ideological combat used to bludgeon a legion of truth seekers.
Our American Pravda
The realization that the world is often quite different from what is presented in our leading newspapers and magazines is not an easy conclusion for most educated Americans to accept, or at least that was true in my own case. For decades, I have closely read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and one or two other major newspapers every morning, supplemented by a wide variety of weekly or monthly opinion magazines. Their biases in certain areas had always been apparent to me. But I felt confident that by comparing and contrasting the claims of these different publications and applying some common sense, I could obtain a reasonably accurate version of reality. I was mistaken.
Aside from the evidence of our own senses, almost everything we know about the past or the news of today comes from bits of ink on paper or colored pixels on a screen, and fortunately over the last decade or two the growth of the Internet has vastly widened the range of information available to us in that latter category. Even if the overwhelming majority of the unorthodox claims provided by such non-traditional web-based sources is incorrect, at least there now exists the possibility of extracting vital nuggets of truth from vast mountains of falsehood. Certainly the events of the past dozen years have forced me to completely recalibrate my own reality-detection apparatus. Read more…
American Pravda: How the CIA Invented “Conspiracy Theories
With the sudden, bizarre rise of the “Fake News” accusations throughout the entire Corporate Media megaphone and the equally bizarre and totally unsubstantiated CIA allegations that the Russians had stolen the election for Donald Trump, I’ve decided to republish this somewhat related article of mine from a few months ago while I’m preoccupied with software issues.
These factors of media manipulation were very much in my mind a couple of years ago when I stumbled across a short but fascinating book published by the University of Texas academic press. The author of Conspiracy Theory in America was Prof. Lance deHaven-Smith, a former president of the Florida Political Science Association.
Based on an important FOIA disclosure, the book’s headline revelation was that the CIA was very likely responsible for the widespread introduction of “conspiracy theory” as a term of political abuse, having orchestrated that development as a deliberate means of influencing public opinion.
But although the CIA appears to have effectively manipulated public opinion in order to transform the phrase “conspiracy theory” into a powerful weapon of ideological combat, the author also describes how the necessary philosophical ground had actually been prepared a couple of decades earlier. Around the time of the Second World War, an important shift in political theory caused a huge decline in the respectability of any “conspiratorial” explanation of historical events.
In fact, I would extend this notion to a general principle. Substantial control of the media is almost always an absolute prerequisite for any successful conspiracy, the greater the degree of control the better. So when weighing the plausibility of any conspiracy, the first matter to investigate is who controls the local media and to what extent. Read more…