Wikileaks goes hunting snakes (aka propagandists)

Posted: July 10, 2010 in Chomsky, Internet, Media
Tags: , , , , , ,

Traditional journalism is dead. We all know it. The body is still warm, to be sure. Stinking gases still noisily leak out of the orifices; reporters write columns –but with fewer and fewer readers. Online articles, blogs, and reports now dominate our information delivery. Media analysts scratch their heads in an attempt to discern the reasons. Most websites are free to view they reason; this trumps quality. The masses are too ignorant to understand the importance of professional writing anyway. Don’t they get that the health of democracy depends on a “reputable” journalist class? But the public does get it. They get it in a deeply intuitive manner. The commercial media does not have their interests at heart. But the internet: now, there’s something they can believe in.

As I wrote in last week’s blog entry, in 1988 Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky published “Manufacturing Consent”, describing how the Western media conforms to a model of propaganda comprising five elements that filter and distort the news stories: 1) ownership, 2) funding, 3) sourcing, 4) flak and 5) ideology. The power structures in society –chiefly corporations (including the media firms and their advertisers) and governments –pursue their shared, overlapping interests while propagating only a narrow spectrum of thought that supports their values. And it has worked –until recently.

But then along sauntered the internet, that completely incoherent techie marvel with its cacophony of muddled messages. Ask it a question, any question whatsoever, and listen to the chaotic jumble of answers it produces. It’s as if God Himself has returned to Earth in the form of your eccentric ol’ Uncle Hank. It’s hard not to be seduced by Uncle Hank: liked by all, understood by none, and always generous with his rambling, sometimes self-contradictory, opinions on any subject under the sun. The internet’s truly sublime traits are its lack of condescension that it knows best, its non-possession of an ideology, and the freedom it gives us to form our own threads of understanding. It supplies the information; make up your own mind.

Wikileaks exists in this online territory as a revolutionary news agency. And the propaganda system described above contains it about as well as a shoe box would hold a mongoose. Being a non-profit outfit with no advertising, wikileaks runs off donations and has no particular compulsion to surrender to flak or abide by any ideology other than the one of bringing naked information to the public. However, its true genius is its sourcing. Not only doesn’t wikileaks rely on official pronouncements by the elites for its information, but it exposes information that the elites specifically do not want exposing, their non-official views.

Other alternative news agencies will dodge the elite sources of information and bring news from the grassroots, but their information always comes with element of speculation. Maybe the interpretation of what the powerful are doing is wrong. Or when we are sure that the interpretation is correct, we’re never certain that the government or business leader isn’t just committing a mistake and really, truly means well. However, a wikileaks leak can remove all speculation about interpretation and may even reveal shameful lies. A mongoose is just the thing for snakes-in-the-grass.

Clearly the future of reporting will rely on the internet with its independent thinkers and whistle blowers. It will exist as a product of all of humanity and not as an item for mere consumption by us. And wikileaks fulfils the role of greatest importance, for it most effectively makes the elites’ propaganda impotent.

  1. Jolly Roger says:

    Very nice blog, I will add you to my blogroll. Im new here on wordpress, but check out my blog (with only a few posts) if you have any time. Thanks!

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