Journalism’s Real Enemy: Propaganda

Just as the media industry has been engaged in collective handwringing over the loss of revenue, online strategies that don’t support the physical product, or a technological advantage from which they will never “recover”, subaltern voices have been undermining their ability to get back to a state of “valued sense maker.”

With the proliferation of voices – both fragmented and condensed into bite-sized memes – and the cyclical and amplification effects of memes on the Internet, journalism has missed the true enemy undermining its value in the marketplace or in sustaining democracy.

Propaganda.If journalists cannot make sense of the messages fast enough, nor correct the misinformation with a speed or tenacity that squelches echoes, then it may never regain its status as a recorder of history, let alone democracy. And given the existing machinery that can disseminate information quickly and store every communication, these digital artifacts remain floaters, disconnected utterances in a miasma of opinion, spin and misdirection. Which creates…Confusion.The “fog of war” has become the “fog of words” clouding discernment and real sensemaking by media organizations and audiences alike. Crowdsourcing may help or hinder efforts to reach clarity. Sophisticated tracking systems such as Politifact or identity verification systems are still in experimental stages or not widely used with the general public. Therefore, misinformation and spin continue to permeate our daily discourse.

Paralysis.The result of this systemic inability to recover from untruths results in a paralysis of attention and action as the people formerly known as the audience retreat to safe “truth circles” where their tribe, fans, friends and connections may help them sort through the confusion. However, these “truth circles” as advocated by Jaron Lanier may also become echo chambers that amplify existing misinformation and misdirection.This inability to suss out big T Truth is the biggest enemy of capital J journalism. And it is an endemic condition of our times and technologies that truth is partial and conditional and situational and messy. This condition erodes public confidence in institutions such as journalism that espoused an objectivity that no longer exists…or even if it does exist it is not believed.

There is no recovery from this postmodern condition. OR is there? What are your thoughts?


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