The Borgias of Media: How THE MSM SPUN the Chicago Facebook TORTURE story

Yo, Sparti­cles!

A little hi-octane to get your Tuesday motor running.

Rod Dreher over at The Ameri­can Conser­v­a­tive decon­structs (a little cultur­al appro­pri­a­tion from the Acade­mic Left there)  how the Journal­is­tic Clerisy furious­ly spun the Chicago Facebook Torture story:

The Cathe­dral in a nutshell

  1. The Cathe­dral (aka the Clerisy, the Megaphone) is basical­ly the Western world’s intel­lec­tu­al fashion indus­try. It consists of almost all of the respectable or even semi-respectable parts of the news media, the enter­tain­ment indus­try, and the softer social science and human­i­ties parts of the educa­tion indus­try.

  2. Basic econom­ic theory predicts that these indus­tries should be diverse in their approach­es to polit­i­cal­ly sensi­tive topics. Unlike the field of parti­cle physics, polit­i­cal fashions are not signif­i­cant­ly limit­ed by repro­ducible scien­tific exper­i­ments. The market should be fragment­ed, and the various firms should special­ize in appeal­ing to differ­ent segments of the market.

  3. But this does not seem to be the case. Instead, the Cathe­dral seems much more homoge­neous in its cover­age of polit­i­cal­ly sensi­tive topics than it is in cover­age of food, art, sports, religion, etc.

  4. The mecha­nism for this homog­e­niza­tion is not obvious. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Cathe­dral has no pope (although I read recent­ly that Warren Buffet owns 71 newspa­pers, and the New York Times is owned in part by Carlos Slim, whose vast fortune has a lot to do with his special relation­ship with the Mexican govern­ment). One factor is that the credi­bil­i­ty of a set of infor­ma­tion sources depends on their being able to agree on a story (coördi­na­tion games, the peloton effect, the parlia­ment of clocks). Anoth­er factor is self-dealing: people with high verbal skills tend to support a system of govern­ment that is controlled by people with high verbal skills, and once they control it, they tend to want it to be unlim­it­ed in scope. Anoth­er factor is self-selection: once an insti­tu­tion becomes dominat­ed by members of a polit­i­cal movement, it tends to become unpleas­ant and career-limiting for anyone else to work there. Anoth­er factor is that the easiest way to write a newspa­per story is to copy it from a politician’s press handout. To a consid­er­able extent, these insti­tu­tions are delib­er­ate­ly manip­u­lat­ed by politi­cians (broad­cast licens­ing, educa­tion­al and research funding, journal­is­tic access, selec­tive leaking of secrets, etc., aka Gleich­schal­tung; in many cases, journal­ists are liter­al­ly married to polit­i­cal opera­tives or are involved in “revolv­ing door” relation­ships with the polit­i­cal insti­tu­tions they write about, such as Jeff Immelt of GE, MSNBC and the Obama admin­is­tra­tion). But the two biggest factors are proba­bly that (1) intel­lec­tu­als are seduced by polit­i­cal power (the Boromir effect), and (2) these insti­tu­tions are quasi-religious, and have taken on the peculiar charac­ter­is­tics of the dominant quasi-religion of the day.

  5. Three things make an intel­lec­tu­al movement quasi-religious: (1) the outputs that they produce are credence goods, (2) they provide a frame­work for compe­ti­tion for social status, and (3) this basis is insecure. The fact that credence goods are involved means that conflict about them will tend to be irrational. The fact that social status is involved, and that the basis for social status is insecure, means that this conflict will be relative­ly vicious, and will carry a strong odor of a witch hunt.

  6. The Cathe­dral is power­ful partly because its relative homogene­ity allows it to serve as a gatekeep­er of polit­i­cal­ly relevant mass-market infor­ma­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion. But its real power comes from control of what ideas are associ­at­ed with high status. Every­one thinks, “I’m my own man. I think for myself.” But uncon­scious­ly, people tend to copy the opinions of people who are one step above them on the social ladder. This was explained in the Cerulean Top scene in The Devil Wears Prada.

Here’s the link to the whole post. 

Take a gander.

No second cuppa wet caffeine will be needed to get your blood a-jangling…

 

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