what the media shows us

Nice quote from Ron Unz, and somewhat relevant to some of my recent posts on the subject of history:

“We naively tend to assume that our media accurately reflects the events of our world and its history, but instead what we all too often see are only the tremendously distorted images of a circus fun-house mirror, with small items sometimes transformed into large ones, and large ones into small. The contours of historical reality may be warped into almost unrecognizable shapes, with some important elements completely disappearing from the record and others appearing out of nowhere. I’ve often suggested that the media creates our reality, but given such glaring omissions and distortions, the reality produced is often largely fictional.”

freedom of the press – was it ever a good thing?

The bias of the mainstream media is much talked about but it often seems to be assumed that this is a fairly recent phenomenon. This simply isn’t true. 
Many of us cling to the illusion that there was once a golden age of courageous investigative reporters who cared deeply about the truth. That there was a time when newspapers and TV news tried to be objective. In fact there never was such a time. For as long as mass media has existed, from the very beginnings of mass-circulation newspapers in the 19th century, there has been bias. 
The bias comes from three sources. Firstly, the owners want their political views propagated. No-one has ever wanted to own a newspaper to make money. There are easier and more certain ways to make a profit. You own a newspaper because you want to influence public opinion. You want to impose your views on the public. It has always been this way.
Secondly, journalists have their own political agendas and they have never hesitated to advance those agendas in their reporting.
Thirdly, journalists are essentially whores. If in doubt they’ll conform to the wishes of the owners. They know which side their bread is buttered.
There is a difference between the media of the past and that of today. A hundred years ago a major city might support have a dozen newspapers pushing half a dozen political agendas. Today every media outlet pushes precisely the same political agenda. We have a unique situation today in which our elites across the world are united in their political beliefs, and they have no loyalty to anyone or anything outside the elite. In the past there was at least some diversity in the propaganda spread by the media.
But the fact remains that freedom of the press has always been a bit of a myth. A free press is simply free to spread the propaganda favoured by the owners. A free press is not a guarantor of political freedom or democracy. 

polls, the media and controlling the narrative

The big story from the US election has been the catastrophic failures of opinion polls and political pundits. This has implications that go beyond the future of opinion polls.
The mainstream media has a lot less credibility than it had fifty years ago. What little credibility it still has is to some extent dependent on its ability to tell us stuff like who’s going to win the next election. They can tell us this stuff because they have Science on their side. Opinion polls are based on mathematics so that makes them Science doesn’t it?  And they have Experts. They know more than we do.
Except that it’s now obvious that their Experts know less than we do, and that their scientific opinion polls are little more than voodoo. People are likely to start thinking that if the media can be so wrong about election results then maybe they’re wrong about other things. Maybe they’re wrong about everything.
Even more shocking than the failure of the pre-election polls was the failure of the exit polls.
There is another very significant implication. If the pollsters were totally wrong about the election then perhaps their polls on various social issues are just as worthless. Maybe opinion polls have been dramatically underestimating the strength of opposition to quite a few aspects of the social justice agenda. We might be dealing not just with a Shy Tory or a Shy Trump Voter effect but possibly a Shy Social Conservative effect as well. Politicians who are anxious to advance causes like transgender bathroom rights and mass immigration might care to bear this in mind.
For politicians this is the beginning of a frightening new era. They have been accustomed to relying on opinion pollsters. Now they are going to be realising that they might as well consult an astrologer. 
For the media it could be the dawn of an even more frightening era – how can they keep control of the narrative if they have no way of knowing how the people are actually thinking?
It’s not as if it’s just Brexit and the US election that pollsters and pundits got wrong. Remember those opinion polls that told the Australian Labor Party that Kevin Rudd was unbelievably popular and could easily beat Tony Abbott at the next election? And the media got all excited about it and assured us that Abbott was absolutely unelectable. And so Labor replaced Julia Gillard with Rudd and Rudd went on to lead them to overwhelming defeat. The opinion pollsters are getting it wrong more and more often, in more and more countries.
It appears that Trump won because he put his faith in old-fashioned political instincts. He had a message that he knew he could sell and he knew how to sell it and he knew which demographics were likely to buy it. He knew that if he stuck to the plan he could win.
There are stories floating about that Bill Clinton had been telling the Clinton campaign for months that their strategy was going to fail and they were going to lose. Say what you like about Bill Clinton, he’s a clever politician and he understands politics on an instinctive level. Luckily no-one in the Clinton campaign listened to him – after all he’s just a stale pale male so what would he know?

the 19th century roots of our cultural malaise

The great tragedy of western civilisation is that its very strengths are its fatal weaknesses. Openness, innovation, science, democracy and freedom are all no doubt wonderful things but they seem to lead inevitably to corruption, degeneracy, nihilism, despair, a loss of faith and finally cultural suicide.
Cultural marxism is often blamed for undermining the foundations of our civilisation but the process was already under way before cultural marxism began. By the time cultural marxism was in a position to exert any real influence the undermining was well advanced. 
One of the early manifestations of decline was the rise of modernism in art and literature. The exaltation of ugliness and squalor combined with an extreme hostility to traditional values made modernism a potent if subtle engine of destruction. Our cultural dynamism led to art and literature that corrupted and demoralised. Art and literature headed for the gutter, where they have remained ever since. Modernism produced music that was unlistenable, novels that were unreadable and art that was impossible to look at without being appalled. And modernism had already begun to exert its pernicious influence in the late 19th century, long predating cultural marxism.
Science has brought many benefits but it gave rise to a bleak inhuman and mechanistic worldview devoid of hope. It led us inexorably down the path to nihilism.
The growth of capitalism gave us prosperity but it destroyed communities. Rural areas became relatively depopulated while urban areas became hotbeds of crime and degeneracy.
Feminism in the 19th century promised to emancipate women but it enslaved them while destroying families.
Medicine made many advances in the 19th century but the medical profession developed delusions of grandeur, thinking that every social problem could be turned into a medical problem. As a result it gave birth to pseudosciences like psychiatry and psychology.
Democracy was supposed to usher in an era of unparalleled freedom. It has slowly but surely destroyed our freedoms and corrupted our governments. Democracy and corruption are like inseparable twins. 
The rise of mass media began in the 19th century with the explosive growth of newspapers. There were fond hopes that this would lead to healthy open debate. It led to propaganda and manipulation. Democracy and mass media were to a large extent responsible for the increasing madness of politics, as governments became steadily more short-sighted, cynical and reckless. This madness led to western civilisation’s first serious suicide attempt in 1914.
Cultural marxism succeeded so well because it took advantage of weaknesses and vulnerabilities that were already all too apparent. Cultural marxism could not have destroyed a healthy civilisation. The seeds of destruction were already present in the West. Cultural marxism did not plant those seeds although it certainly cultivated them assiduously.
If the remnants of our culture are to be saved we will need to address its inherent weaknesses and tendency to self-destruction. 

why I stand with Jeremy Clarkson

It seems that the BBC is likely to achieve one of its most cherished aims, the silencing of Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson. The fact that Clarkson is the wildly popular host of the BBC’s most popular program means nothing to the humourless Stalinists who run the BBC. Clarkson does not toe the politically correct line so he must be eliminated.
Why should this matter to conservatives? For the very simple reason that Clarkson is virtually the only dissenting voice left on the BBC. He is just about the only person you’re going to see on BBC television not pushing the monolithic PC line. 
I was rather surprised by the hostility towards Clarkson displayed by Peter Hitchens (a man for whom I have enormous respect). Hitchens’ argument appears to come down to this – Clarkson is not a real conservative, or even if he is a conservative he’s not the right sort of conservative, therefore he doesn’t matter. It seems to me that Hitchens is missing the point. It doesn’t matter what Clarkson’s actual political views are. Any dissenting voice is valuable. And the stilling of any dissenting voice matters. It matters a great deal. If we cherish freedom of speech we must cherish the freedom of speech of others, even if their opinions do not coincide precisely with our own.
I hope the day does not come when conservatives have to say, “First they came for Jeremy Clarkson and I did not speak because he was the wrong sort of conservative.”

around the blogosphere

Interesting stuff I’ve been reading lately on other people’s blogs:
In The Tyranny of the Bookish at Taki’s Mag John Derbyshire points out that too much education can be as bad as too little. I agree completely. The obsession that extending the dubious benefits of “higher” education to a larger and larger proportion of the population who neither need nor want it is somehow going to advance civilisation seems to me to be pure wishful thinking. 
On the other hand Hal Colebatch’s Celebrity Culture and Literacy’s Decline at Quadrant 
shows what happens when you pretty much abolish education altogether, as has been done in Britain. You get a country well on the way to joining the Third World.
Patrick J. Buchanan in The Price of Papal Popularity (at Taki’s Mag) makes some excellent points on the catastrophe to which Pope Francis is leading the Catholic Church. Buchanan admits that Pope Francis is extremely popular although I personally suspect that this pope is popular mainly among people who hate Christianity.
Frank Pledge’s Indigenous Culture and Vile Crimes (at Quadrant) exposes the horrific truth behind traditional aboriginal culture. 
It’s nice to read a good news story for once. And More Australians switched off ABC politically correct propaganda in 2014 at JoNova is very good news indeed. Perhaps eventually Tony Abbott will do what he should have done as soon as he was elected and pulled the plug on our noxious dinosaur public broadcaster.
Nice Deb has an amusing hatchet job on the egregious hypocrite Michael Moore who wins the coveted Weasel of the Week award.
Stuart Schneiderman in his post Men Who Crave Amputation at his excellent Had Enough Therapy? blog points out the eerie similarities between a bizarre mental disorder and the transgender madness.

fighting the mass media addiction

In Addicted to Distraction Bruce Charlton argues that “the mass media is evil – indeed in modernity it is the very source and focus of evil.” He believes that the only way to deal with mass media is to avoid it, and that “the most dangerous delusion is that you personally can filter the Mass Media, decode and see through its biases, selections and lies to discern the truth of the situation.”
He tells us that overcoming this addiction will be unpleasant in the short term but that the long-term rewards make the effort worthwhile.
I have myself tried, reasonably successfully, to break my addiction to the mass media. I do not watch any contemporary television. I do not watch any movies made within the past thirty years, and very few made within the past fifty years. I do not read contemporary fiction. I avoid newspapers. I cannot say that I have broken the addiction entirely but I think I can say that I have gone a long way towards doing so. And it is worth doing. 
I have to admit that my own cure has been a partial one. The difficulty with going cold turkey on mass media is to find a substitute. I’m not the sort of person who enjoys gardening or going for long walks. I’m the sort of person who avoids exercise like the plague. I have no interest in sports or games. My own solution is to immerse myself in the past. 
I still watch television; I just don’t watch the television of today. I still watch movies but the movies I watch are generally movies made seventy or eight years ago. I read novels, but I confine myself to novels written prior to the Second World War. I do not lack for entertainment. In fact I find myself facing an embarrassment of riches. Not only do I still get entertainment – the entertainment provided by the popular culture of the past is infinitely superior to that provided by the dreck that constitutes modern popular culture.
I’m not sure that Bruce Charlton would regard me as cured. He might well think that my cure is a bit of a cheat. I still consume popular culture even if I limit myself to the popular culture of the past. I have to admit that my approach is something of a compromise but then life is very often a matter of accepting compromises. 
My own view is that the mass media is certainly toxic, and that it becomes more toxic with each passing year. By confining my exposure to popular culture to the popular culture of the past I at least avoid the more virulent strains. There is still a good deal of propaganda in the movies and television of the past but opposing viewpoints do occasionally get a hearing. The propaganda is less strident, and not so remorseless. It is easier to avoid the more extreme propaganda. In the past there was still room for dissenting voices.
Avoiding mass media altogether is unquestionably a desirable goal. Those unready to take such a drastic step might find that my approach has something to recommend it. 
I have found that the more I focus on the past the more rewarding it becomes. My enthusiasm for the books, movies and television of the past has led me to create several blogs devoted to these subjects – Vintage Pop Fictions (devoted to pre-1960 genre fiction),  Classic Movie Ramblings (dealing with the movies of the past) and Cult TV Lounge (television of the 50s, 60s and 70s).

My main motivation in starting these blogs was that almost every existing blog and website I’d found devoted to these subjects had a leftist bias.