Monday, November 2, 2020

The media-industrial complex

With the possible exception of access to nuclear codes there’s no greater threat than the media-industrial complex. It’s the commodification of the exchange of information. When you introduce a profit motive into speech it becomes tainted from a negligible to an incalculable degree. Whether it’s a dialogue about morals or objective relaying of factual information in journalistic reporting, a profit motive adds compromise. Some are driven to do the right thing for their own well-being and for social currency. This social currency can also be a compromised form of exchange. 

Much of the mainstream media left long ago from subscription models to advertising models. Television programs then required strict oversight and plotting. Opinions and topics got reduced to bite-size bits of vitriolic information that could be consumed in five minutes between eight commercials. This also means generally a program couldn’t insult the hands that feed them or even their sensibilities. This meant the subjects of adverts could not be criticized, and speech was generally watered down to avoid vulgarity and controversial topics. Eventually this became the online model.

The other aspect to this is social media. Of course it’s not seen as media, but it is. Everyone with a camera has become a citizen journalist. News stories break out on Twitter before legacy media has a chance to cover them. Much can be said over the endless polarization and contention found on said platforms. But this makes sense. In a world where 20 years ago mass communication was non-existent, now people video conference with others halfway around the world regularly, compete with each other in video games, and hangout together in virtual reality as it is monitored under the deafening faps of Mark Zuckerberg. Of course there were meant to be some growing pains during the meeting of the minds of billions of people, a stark contrast of violent opposition before the inevitable homogenization. That’s not even its biggest problem. 

The problem is work life and private life used to be separated. Social media brought about a social credit score, and a literal one in China. What people believe privately, socially, is now under the influence, too. Unbeknownst to many, algorithms are designed to maximize engagement, as social media platforms also exist because of a profit motive in advertising revenue. This leads to polluted opinions that tend to echo chambers and even more far-reaching extremes, and this subsequent vitriolic rage exists in a symbiotic cycle, of personal opinion, citizen journalism, and mainstream media, all driven by the limitless need for revenue generation. These social media monopolies of course have a legal obligation to create profits for their shareholders under the false assumption of infinite growth. This horror is further exacerbated and corrupting by the subliminal use of influencers. 

The things that can be so easily ruined by money can be solved when we value them. Until then I believe we’re in a dangerous fog, clouding our judgment and creating an atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia that pits people against each other. I don’t see an impetus for #integrity to trend or go viral. Generally, that happens after the disaster it could have prevented. 

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