Post
10.16.2019

The case of CNN.

An undercover investigation has shown that CNN is indeed a biased news network from the top on down. As well they should be, some doubtless say.

This “reveal” might be important in a couple different ways.

The first way counts for a lot according to the televisual rules that politics has played by lo these many decades. TV rules dictate that whoever deploys the best experts at broadcasting visualizations to the masses, and moving the masses to act on them in a certain way, will win. TV rules dictate that what they win will be control of the globe.

In TV land there is always a world war going on for everyone’s hearts and minds—an “info war” or “Great Meme Battle” if you prefer. Ethics is an op. If you want to win you have to play, and if you want to play you have to fight—not necessarily “fair,” even, or especially, if yours are the True Ethics and you truly believe them to boot.

TV rules create a social surround wherein all opinions are created equal but some are more equal than others. Prestigious opinions are better weapons in the Great Meme Battle. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, anyway. If that’s not true, many prestigious jobs are subject to vaporization. And who wants to vaporize lots and lots of lower-upper-class jobs? Certainly not you, comrade…right?

So TV rules say that if you can drive a wedge between your meme opponent’s prestige and his or her opinions then you get closer to victory over them. One especially great way of doing this is by executing this attack within the televisual medium itself. You make someone say something, on television, that they want to say, but which is something they most assuredly do not want to say on television. They go from content producer—high status!—to piece of content—low status!

And since everyone in TV land is fighting with their weaponized image-inations, a.k.a. ideologies, everyone tends to want to lower the status of their opponents by reducing their opponents’ ideologies to mere content—without their opponents’ consent of course, and ideally without their knowledge…until it’s too late.

So if you are in political TV land playing politics by TV rules it matters a lot that this jutsu has been visited upon CNN in this way. If you’re an opponent of CNN, it marks a big victory in the Great Meme Battle. Even if you are “just an analyst,” you see that a big blow has been landed and you update your reports/books/balance sheets accordingly.

But there is a different way this event might matter to you.

Perhaps you are no longer in TV land, politically or otherwise, and you have stopped playing by TV rules. Perhaps you are now instead playing by digital rules. What would that mean?

Signs you are playing by digital rules: if you care about this event at all—it’s not a surprise to you—you’re concerned with why, sociologically, CNN and “the media” characteristically have moved so far and fast, in such a panicked rage spiral, away from the old Just the Facts model that in a bygone “golden age” cemented broadcast news as a prestige institution/jobs program.

Your concern of this type leads you to look beyond “greed” or “lust for power” or even “desire to abuse women in the workplace” for answers. You look past the institutionalized elite meme warriors entirely to the audience. To what has happened to the audience—how it has been shaped—as digital technology has grown ascendant over TV land and its rules.

You consider that digital rules remind audiences that the always-on fact machine that cable news once semi-honestly presented itself as long ago ceased actually to be helpful to living well. In fact, the fire hose of fact content actually became an impediment to living well. You started needing meta-newspeople to give you Just the Facts about which facts you actually needed to know—premium, prestige facts—and which were low-status facts better off ignored.

This bad infinity problem of violently overwhelming information overload afflicted the audience before “the media” pivoted to takes. The worse the problem got the more “the media” doubled down on becoming an always-on fire hose of takes, breaking takes, takes so powerful that you became the content, in the form of your tweeted reactions to the most weaponized takes, which were then increasingly just read aloud verbatim on screen. You became the content, audience member! The lowest status of all!

No wonder people have begun turning en masse against takes: they stop being funny when they start being you.

Nobody wants to be someone else’s take. But the media professionals stuck politically and otherwise in TV land are out too far over their skis to turn back now, no matter how hard they meme out to audiences that journalism is the fourth branch of government which will now heroically save the Republic by once again delivering Just the Facts. It is not possible to deliver Just the Facts in TV land. TV rules prohibit it.

And what is mandatory under TV rules—fighting the world war of ethical visualizations by memeing the masses into motion—is inoperative under digital rules. In digital land, people know that machines, with their all-encompassing memory, have already won the war for the world. Nothing dreamed up by imagineering professionals can compete.

So just as people are melting away from the “studio audience,” TV elites are infinitying down on their “core value” that only expertly manufactured ethical propaganda can save the world by capturing the mass imagination. But this is the very principle digital is laying bare as impotent, inessential, and therefore cringe. So our elite gets crazier.

And you?

is Executive Editor of The American Mind. He is the author of The Art of Being Free (St. Martin's Press, 2017), contributing editor of American Affairs, and a fellow at the Center for the Study of Digital Life.

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