Technology and Avoiding Censorship

The world of news reporting has been metamorphosing since the Internet became easily available. Print journalism is dying. The newspaper and magazine news sources that have survived have moved onto the internet to some extent, though they may still have a print presence. But the Internet is a funny place, and it, and dwindling financials, have changed those venerable news dinosaurs. Making profits became dependent upon Internet advertising which was measured by ad views or ad clicks. It became more important to these institutions to have stories that received more views rather than stories of deep substance, not that the two are mutually exclusive. Inevitably, the businesses started catering to specific audiences or demographics, posting stories and headlines that would invite those users to click into the article to view the ads. Once proud institutions like the New York Times have become more of a television sitcom, where the stories are played to a captive audience with implied “applause” and “laughter” cue cards. CNN is more like People magazine than a news network.

Speaking of television, much the same has happened to news sources there. As viewers switched from advertising-supported television channels (or paid cable channels) to watching shows and reading news on the Internet, the financial support of the captive television audience dwindled. As that revenue dwindled, television companies had less money with which to subsidize their news. When once news was a point of pride of the stations that they gladly subsidized, the broadcasters now had to compete for advertising revenue for their news shows. These causes likewise led to a similar chasing after of sensational headlines as was occurring in the Internet space.

In short, the mainstream media news sources have turned into a wasteland as far as actual news goes. Instead they relay stories that will play well with their respective cash-cow herds. Or they run stories that are profitable for them to air, either because they are paid to do so or to ingratiate themselves with government agencies or corporations in order to have access or the personal prestige of being seen with later (for those persons high up enough in the pseudo-news organization). It is well documented, for instance, that the CIA has for decades worked with news organizations of all kinds in order to either relay or suppress the stories or propaganda that they want to shape public opinion. This is no less true for many large corporations and political parties who actively work with these organizations for their own propagandistic ends.

It should be no surprise to anyone, then, that people have turned to alternative news sources. This is a great danger to the power of all those organizations currently involved in mainstream news organizations – i.e. government agencies, political parties, corporations, foreign entities, etc. Controlling the media is a way to control the people. People cannot get angry over something that they never hear about, or better yet, they can’t believe anything that the media is portraying as laughable. Because people are, indeed, looking for real news, these interests are doing their best to prevent alternative news sources or at least people’s access to these sources.

In the past several months, we’ve seen many alternative news voices as well as individual users banned from various Internet social media platforms which they used to communicate with the people who followed them – a process called de-platforming. Because these social media platforms are owned by private corporations there is no first amendment violation, even when some of the corporations are counseled by advisory entities with close government ties. Little justification is given for these deplatformings other than vague mumblings from the corporations about hate speech, extremism, insults, Russian spies, and so forth. The corporations are under no obligation, currently, to provide any truth. They say something the content creator did violated their terms of use and that is the end.  So far these deplatforming actions have been overwhelming against conservative voices, though not entirely so.

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Liberty Blitzkrieg: US Media and Paid Foreign Agents

From Michael Krieger at Liberty Blitzkrieg, U.S. Media Refuses to Inform the Public When Its Commentators and Pundits are Paid Foreign Agents:

Unbelievably – Rothkopf has the audacity to criticize Trump for having “repeatedly shown great fondness for foreign leaders—even despots and known murderers, human rights abusers and criminals”, while Rothkopf himself is literally a paid agent working to disseminating propaganda for one of the most repressive regimes on the planet, one that does much of the Saudis’ dirty work for it in Washington. And the fact that the Daily Beast makes no disclosure of any of this is what makes this practice – having paid lobbyists and consultants for foreign regimes and corporations masquerade as objective and neutral analysts of the news – such a massive journalistic scandal and fraud.

– From today’s Intercept article: MSNBC and Daily Beast Feature UAE Lobbyist David Rothkopf With No Disclosure: a Scandalous Media-Wide Practice

Much of the American public despises mainstream corporate media, but rather than engage in some self-reflection and admit failure they just complain about Trump. It’s critical we recognize that mass media in the U.S. is very much part of the very same discredited establishment it’s supposed to report on, thus its response to justified criticism is likewise establishment-esque. Blame the readers, blame Trump, blame anyone but themselves.

This is why mass media’s gotten even worse since Trump was elected — not an easy feat. It’s been obsessed with a Russia-Trump collusion tale that appears to be going nowhere, while simultaneously cheering on Trump’s worst instincts such as when he bombs Syria. Moreover, one thing the U.S. media definitely seems to have no interest in doing is disclosing when its commentators and pundits are paid shills for foreign governments, defense contractors and other unmentionable interests.

Just last week, Glenn Greenwald highlighted how The Washington Post allowed Saudi lobbyists to regularly write opinion pieces, which subsequently led the paper to force these writers to break off financial relationships with the Saudis. Today, he’s back with an equally important piece about how mass media regularly invites foreign agents to discuss foreign affairs without disclosing that these individuals are in fact foreign agents.

It’s hard to put into words how despicable, unethical and pervasive this mass media practice is, but Glenn puts forth a valiant effort. He names several names, but the post focuses on a paid foreign agent for the UAE named David Rothkopf and the media outlets that enable him. The piece begins as follows:

On Thursday, the Daily Beast published an article about the Saudi/US relationship by David Rothkopf, a long-time member in good standing of the U.S. Foreign Policy elite. Until last year, he was the editor-in-chief of the establishment journal Foreign Policy, named to that position in 2012 when it was owned by the Washington Post. He’s also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting professor of international and public affairs at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He was previously deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade policy in the Clinton administration and managing director of Kissinger Associates, the advisory firm founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

But, unbeknownst to Daily Beast readers consuming his commentary about Saudi Arabia, Rothkopf is something else: a paid lobbyist for the Saudi’s close ally, the equally despotic regime of the United Arab Emirates. Last month, Rothkopf formally registered as a foreign agent for the Emiratis.

Of course, it’s not just the Daily Beast. The article notes how MSNBC, PBS and CNN have all recently given Rothkopf a platform without disclosing his lobbying. Moreover, it’s not like he’s getting chump change for his extracurricular activities on behalf of the UAE, the contract he signed pays $50,000 per month. I don’t care who you are, this sort of money’s going to influence anyone’s public opinion. For media outlets to hide such a relevant fact from consumers is nothing short of journalistic malpractice...

Click here to read the entire story at Liberty Blitzkrieg.

Media Control Warnings

Caitlin Johnstone at Media.com has an article up titled, Assange Keeps Warning Of AI Censorship, And It’s Time We Started Listening. The article discusses the need for the government and other elites to control information flow, how the internet loosened that control, and the efforts to regain control of discussion on the internet.

Throughout the near entirety of human history, a population’s understanding of what’s going on in the world has been controlled by those in power. The men in charge controlled what the people were told about rival populations, the history of their tribe and its leadership, etc. When the written word was invented, men in charge dictated what books were permitted to be written and circulated, what ideas were allowed, what narratives the public would be granted access to.

This continued straight on into modern times. Where power is not overtly totalitarian, wealthy elites have bought up all media, first in print, then radio, then television, and used it to advance narratives that are favorable to their interests. Not until humanity gained widespread access to the internet has our species had the ability to freely and easily share ideas and information on a large scale without regulation by the iron-fisted grip of power. This newfound ability arguably had a direct impact on the election for the most powerful elected office in the most powerful government in the world in 2016, as a leak publishing outlet combined with alternative and social media enabled ordinary Americans to tell one another their own stories about what they thought was going on in their country.

This newly democratized narrative-generating power of the masses gave those in power an immense fright, and they’ve been working to restore the old order of power controlling information ever since. And the editor-in-chief of the aforementioned leak publishing outlet, WikiLeaks, has been repeatedly trying to warn us about this coming development.

In a statement that was recently read during the “Organising Resistance to Internet Censorship” webinar, sponsored by the World Socialist Web Site, Assange warned of how “digital super states” like Facebook and Google have been working to “re-establish discourse control”, giving authority over how ideas and information are shared back to those in power…

Continue reading at medium.com