Monday, May 02, 2005

Weapons of Mass Misinformation

In his latest telegraph column, Steyn points to Hollywood's pathological avoidance of any referrence to the GWoT, and pronounces it a symptom of a loss of civilizational confidence. He had me right up until the end, when he asks (comparing present day soldiers to their forebears 60 years ago) "Where's their soundtrack?" Go read the column first. It's better written than anything here.

There. Done? Okay, lets continue.

It turns out the troops in Iraq are composing their own soundtrack, mostly in the key of hip-hop. Sixty years from now, when the veterans from Iraq get together, they'll be listening to their own music.

That got me to thinking, though: how important is it, really, that so much of the media (and the film industry, and music industry, etc) is completely against the war? A lot of conservatives make a big deal about it, and worry, as Steyn does, that the total unwillingness of media elites to get behind their country shows a sort of rot at the moral core of Western culture. Islamists, they say, are successfully exploiting that weakness, and if they can't win on the battlefield, they'll win by dragging things out so long that we just collapse.

And maybe they're right. Certainly, media elites are hostile to the war; and, also certainly, the Islamists are exploiting - or at least attempting to exploit - that hostility.

But Western culture is a complex beast, and all is not necessarily as it appears. What if the media's hostility serves as a kind of civilization-level fake out? I'm not talking conspiracy, here; just a sort of epihenomenon. Convince the enemy that we really don't want to fight, that we're softer than we really are, and thus more easily goad them into doing something rash which gives us all the excuse we need to eat their culture. Such a tactic could never have worked fifty or sixty years ago: people basically believed what the broadcasts and broadsheets said, and the enemy had access to that same information. Thanks to the internet, though, news can flow in far more complex ways, and the 'traditional' sources (ie, newspapers and network TV) can be given a hefty dose of misleading spin without seriously impeding the flow of information to those citizens who actually matter (one way or another, they'll find out what they want to know.) Odds are the enemy will look at the traditional sources first, and place the most trust in them as national barometers. Again, I emphasize that I'm not talking conspiracy here (though it's not impossible to believe that the Bush administration might, perhaps sensing this very principle, subtly encourage such behaviour); I am sure the newsmen who daily distort the picture out of Iraq believe sincerely in what they are doing and saying.

So, which is it? Is the media's odd behaviour a symptom of imminent collapse? Or just the re-purposing of an obsolete communications tool from intelligence dissemination to Weapon of Mass Misinformation?


Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

But the media is not opposed to the war. They make movies and TV specials about it, profile "heroes", SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, embed reporters, and report the Pentagon and government line without fail. Why? Because the media follows the money- and that's what's selling right now.

There is little credible opposition. The idea of constant criticism of the war by the Mosco-I MEAN Terror-loving "media elite" is largely a fiction made up by demogogues and shreking bloggers. And to say that "Islamists" are secretly engineering the media's opposition to the war (I think) puts you firmly into John Birch/Lyndon LaRouche territory. By believing and parroting back this fiction of the oppositional media you are showing how easy it is for the REAL media elite to manipulate you and create conformity. Even with the wealth of information at your fingertips and the evidence right in front of you, you fail to see things as the really are.

It's much easier to have someone else tell you think and believe, right?

Also, are you implying that total conformity in the media and tight control was much better because it does not allow dissent? Because that's just sad.

You obviously don't know enough about this topic to comment on in detail.

Please stop.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Decadent Leftist said...

Deleting me now?

That's sad.

Oh well, I still likes ya, ya big big BIG Dummy.

(PS: I am the only person who reads this site. You should be happy for the attention)

1:36 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Wow. You completely missed the whole point of the post. First of all, I'm not suggesting that the media's dissent is being engineered by the Islamists. I very specifically said that I wasn't suggesting a sinister conspiracy of any kind. And I'm definately not pining for the days of old, when the media would basically believe anything the guvmint told 'em, and the public got a uniform picture from every outlet; things are more complex these days, and complexity is a Good Thing.

I was a little vague, though, so I can see you (or anyone else) might misunderstand that.

The essence of the post is that the 'traditional' media has become something of a misinformation tool, directed not at the home front (as right wing bloggers like LGF are always saying) but, in fact, at the Islamists, by making them think we're softer than we really are. It doesn't really matter what the motives of individual reporters, anchormen etc are; what counts is the overall effect their efforts actually have.

re your second comment. I didn't delete anything by you. Never have, don't imagine I ever will. If a comment disappeared, that's a problem with blogger, not me.

11:11 AM  

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