Monday, June 20, 2005

How Supreme is the Internet Court of Appeal? The MSM is a Puppet on how many strings?

Response to PressThink, The Downing Street Memo and the Court of Opinion in News Judgment

Internet as Supreme court of appeal--an interesting angle, Jay.

I think the critical point is the claim of internet sovereignty. No doubt there is a news process that continues online regardless of where the MSM goes. To the degree that newer online news coverage continues to displace conventional MSM outlets the claim of internet sovereignty will become more and more true as time goes on. Still, I'm a little hesitant to embrace the court of appeal paradigm.

I'm more tempted to compare the internet to parliaments in constitutional systems where sovereignty lies with the monarch. Such parliaments have an advisory capacity that works only to the degree that the monarch respects or fears popular opinion, but they have absolutely no direct means of effectively enforcing their will upon the King (read MSM) outside of trying to influence opinion at the margins (somewhat similar to the state at which the US court system increasingly find itself as the Republican congress begins its novel and probably unconstitutional strategy of defunding enforcement of court decisions it disagrees with). Doesn't Parliament advising at the pleasure of the King take us closer to where the internet is today--a player, but at the mercy of the MSM's unilateral respect or contempt for competing interpretations, the truth, and the will of the people? For example, how do we know if or when a ruling has been issued by the internet in the event the MSM chooses to ignore it (or even scoff at it) indefinitely?

It also seems important to remark that even granted we agree on this diagnosis as to why both the Swift Boat story and the Downing Street story eventually got mainstream play after initial news blackouts by way of a similar internet to MSM feedback loop, this conclusion regarding what empirically caused the MSM to behave in this way has no necessary bearing whatsoever on the comparative legitimacy of the stories as journalism or news.

It tells us that in addition to corporate self-interest, obeisance to polls, and political party intimidation, we now have an additional system of feedback in play. There is absolutely nothing that guarantees this new internet feedback loop will generally be used to drive stories toward the truth as opposed to toward disinformation and organized propaganda beyond the efforts of those of us who push it in the former direction to the best of our ability.

This is why it is so essential that the MSM get past the view from nowhere. As it stands, the MSM is still a puppet on a string--one more string than before the arrival of the internet--but still in denial of its own agency. Until it recognizes and takes responsiblity for its own agency, its own decision-making and implication in setting the agenda, it will continue to be played, sometimes for better (as I would argue it was in this case), and sometimes for worse (I'll let you fill in your own blank here).