In the last years of the last millennium, in my university, one of the causes that celebrated the progressive left was a concept known as "Manufacturing Consent", the title of a book and a film, starring Noam Chomsky. His central thesis was that the American media "are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a propaganda function supporting the system, relying on market forces, internalized assumptions and self-censorship."
It is fair to say that history has been very kind to this theory. Consider the support of the media for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. To quote the public editor of New York TimesFor anyone who read the newspaper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein owns, or was acquiring, a terrifying arsenal of W.M.D. It seemed unmistakable. Except, of course, it seems to have been a mistake. "Consider the dossier of September 2002 published by the UK government" to reinforce support for war "that turned out to be full of spectacularly incorrect information, and the failure of the media of communication to interrogate those statements.
It is difficult to exaggerate how cataclysmic these errors were. If the media had rejected false claims of weapons of mass destruction, we could have avoided the war in Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands and cost billions of dollars. Saddam Hussein was not exactly a difficult act to follow, but the United States managed to continue its falsely motivated war with a failed occupation that turned Iraq, and possibly the largest Middle East to this day, into a bloodbath.
An interesting question is: what would have happened if today's social networks had existed in 2003? Today, if the media promotes an erroneous claim, subject matter experts will not take long to appear on Facebook and Twitter, correcting them and becoming viral or becoming subjects of compensatory medical stories.
This does not necessarily mean that the catastrophe had been avoided. But at least there would have been a possible corrective to the mass hysteria of the media, unlike 2002-3. (Yes, those were the days of Blogspot and LiveJournal, but they had nothing like the reach or importance of today's social networks).
Consider a more recent event: the 2016 US presidential election. It has become an article of faith, in certain sectors, that was won and lost by the diabolical use of Facebook ads, especially in conjunction with Cambridge's psychographic superscience. Analytica This is ridiculous. First, nobody credible believes that CA's supposed ability to mentally control Facebook users by showing them ads "psychologically" was more than just a silly snake oil.
Second, like Nate Silver Seala, the impact of social media ads was enormously less than the impact of the media. Do you remember the months of hysteria about Hillary Clinton's emails? Do you remember how it turned out to be a complete non-story? Doesn't this remind you of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
One of the strange things about the press campaign is how it greatly overestimates, in order of magnitude, the importance of paid media (advertising) in relation to "won media" (the volume and tone of press coverage) . https://t.co/BRcQpVpOBD
– Nate Silver (@ NateSilver538) November 28, 2019
"The media coverage of the Hillary Clinton email scandal was probably literally 50 times more important to the outcome of the 2016 election than Trump's Facebook ads." Perhaps, my colleagues in the media, the fault is not in our psychographic artists, but in ourselves
Social networks have many drawbacks. I do not have to delve particularly into my own catalog to discover that I am a hard critic of Facebook myself. But let's not pretend that the media, simply because they are older, are perfect. It has its own modes of catastrophic failure in s. In fact, I whisper, maybe we are much better, net, with social networks and mass media, since each can act as a corrective counterweight in the defects and failure modes of the other.
The progressive left may have gone from "the media is the enemy" to "the social networks of Big Tech are the enemy", but maybe, and this sounds crazy because it is on the Internet, but hold me here, maybe there space for a little nuance; Perhaps both have good and bad aspects, and possibly they can balance each other. If you do not believe that the mass media need a correction, let me remind you once more of the Iraq War and But Her Emails, to name just two of many, many examples. Perhaps there is a future in which social and mass media are a cure for what affects the other.