The recent spat between alt right news outlet Breitbart and capitalist breakfast combine Kellogg is indicative of a new cultural media reality in the Saxon axis. (What a sentence!)
After Kellogg decided to pull its advertising spend from Breitbart citing ideological differences, Breitbart responded by ordering a boycott of Kellogg’s breakfast mush by its loyal followers..
In the first instance, it is clear that Kellogg’s decision to put ‘money where mouth ‘ is a straightforward illustration of one of the central principles of cultural constituencies; that in the post free market world commerce follows culture and not the other way round (as free marketers and globalises tried to get you to you believe).
What is also interesting was the response of alt-right media organisation Breitbart by trying to damage Kellogg’s commercial interests. This is an insight into an emergent secondary aspect of post capitalist economy; the subscription model I wrote about last time.
I noted that Saxon nationalist organisations in the media and elsewhere will increasingly demand that their subscribers, (as opposed to consumers or investors), actively avoid supporting organisations that do not adhere to their culture. In other words, if you are not with us then you are actively ‘agin’ us and therefore we are actively ‘agin’ you.
You can bet that this will spread to other cultural constituencies.
The relationship between sponsorship, power, influence and editorial control in capitalist media has long been the source of debate.
In developed capitalist societies it is generally accepted that in media there is a tension between the commercial imperatives of advertising and editorial control. It is accepted that advertisers are allowed to control or influence aspects of what is printed in a newspaper, transmitted on TV or radio in order to maximise the revenue they can receive from advertising in that media. These are accepted parameters of capitalist control over media.
Offset against this is a supposed ‘ethical’ professional code of journalists and editors which means that they are able to some extent to circumvent the commercial pressure to comply with corporate interest.
Increasingly this journalistic ethics code has come under pressure, not least from the explosion of Internet-based alternative media outlets which means that there are now tens if not hundreds of thousands of ‘citizen journalists’ whose relationship to a supposed code of journalistic ethics is undefined.
And this changing relationship illuminates an analogy between the production of news and the production of money. Money production and distribution can be understood as a form of information dissemination just as news media is.
Traditionally newspapers are printed on paper and distributed in the same way that paper Government Issued Money is. The process is that a variety of information brands are delivered to the market to be taken up by different sections of the population at different times in different locations and at different prices.
So a certain section of society would buy broadsheets at a certain price and another section of society would by a tabloid title at another price and so on. Each section of society is not just buying a different news FORMAT but a different news CONTENT. Yet despite this segmentation, the totality of what they are buying is defined as ‘The News’. This implies that there is such a thing as ‘The News’ and various papers print various bits of it.
The same can be said of traditional government issued money, (including GOVERNMENT SPONSORED MONEY such as bank credits). Currency notes, letters of bank credit etc are provided into the market as concrete paper documents which are then taken up by consumers according to price and availability.
Together the totality of different newspapers made up the press and together the totality of different forms of money made up the currency. The NEWS is the TOTALITY of the output of the PRESS. The ECONOMY is the totality of the OUTPUT of MONEY PRODUCERS.
Note that the totality of everything that happens on Earth is not the News. In fact the majority of stuff that happens on the Earth everyday is categorised as NOT newsworthy and not reported on. Likewise the totality of everything that happens on the earth is not the Economy. In fact the majority of human activity is NOT regarded as the economy and not counted as such.
Given the significance of the ‘News’ for controlling any given society it is inevitable that the state will become involved in its production and regulation. In many cases, governments become directly involved in the production of news. State sponsored and controlled media organisations like the BBC are an example of this.
And it follows that given the significance of the economy in controlling any given society, government will be directly involved in the regulation and ultimately the production of money. In developed capitalist societies this is done by government sponsored private organisations like the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England which operate more or less on a BBC model of governmental control.
But if you are supposed to live in a free and open democracy you can hardly have the government clearly controlling what news you have access to . And if you live in a free market economy you can hardly have the government clearly controlling what money or economy you have access to.
It is this tension between the necessity of government control and the ideology of open and free that has shaped the relationship between the various elements in both media and economy in the capitalist world.
Now increasingly, news (as opposed to newspapers), is disseminated by electronic means. Given Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum that the ‘medium is the message’ the increasing pre-eminence of electronic media is transforming the way that news is disseminated and consumed. This affects what news is, who gets it and where and when they get it. And come to think of it, what they do with the news when they get it.
Digital news production means it is easier for ‘insurgent’ news outlets to appear because costs of production are rapidly falling. But distribution costs are NOT falling. This is extremely important and I will return to it later..
These developments in media have led to the emergence of powerful new media blocks that use the ideological rhetoric of the small producer but are in fact simply competitors to mainstream media. ‘Breitbart’ and ‘Infowars’ are two Saxon Nationalist examples of this.
This process parallels the rhetoric of Protestantism where a plethora of religious ‘start ups’ -the ‘SMRs’ , (Small to Medium Sized Religions), in the Reformation period was rapidly superseded by a relatively restricted number of larger competitors to the Catholic Church, which claimed they were from the ‘volk’ and of the ‘volk’.
Together with the effective collapse of the free market, electronic media has provided the medium for the emergence of cultural constituencies in the field of news .This gives rise to nascent culture, media and subscription wars.
It is not possible for these entirely private media conglomerates to provide news in the ‘public interest’. There can never actually be a free press, (in the real capitalist sense that it does not cost anything), under capitalism. They have to find a way to monetise news production.
In this context the digital distribution service becomes increasingly more significant as an additional cost or barrier to access. (See above) Facebook and Twitter are privately owned news distribution nodes and yet they are expected to act as a public interest conduit for privatised news production sources.
As such they are increasingly becoming the subject of territorial dispute. Are they entirely private? Do they have some kind of public interest mandate? Should they be state controlled in part or wholly?
This is the dynamic underpinning the debate about ‘fake news’. The ‘left’ wants some kind of government control on nodes like Facebook and Twitter in the distribution network, the ‘right’ wants to use commercial pressure (boycotts etc), to control them.
This development process in the media illuminates some of the outcomes that follow from the coming prevalence of electronic money (as opposed to the paper kind). Electronic money is of necessity privatised Democratised money in the same way that electronic news is of necessity privatised Democratised news.
I can confidently predict that just like the media the proliferation of small-scale digital money producers will lead to the emergence of medium to large scale competitors to the mainstream money conglomerates. This has always been a fundamental part of the Crackernomics analysis.
As electronic money is increasingly disseminated by electronic means it will affect what money is, who gets it and where and when they get it. And what they do with the money when they get it.
So lets draw some of the main strands of this argument together.
‘News’ is an abstract metaphysical concept derived from the concrete reality of news production. All the VALID news broadcasters and printers together in aggregate are said to produce the ‘News’.
But the concrete historical reality of news production is NEWSPAPERS which are then superseded by electronic media transmission (radio and television) which is in turn being replaced by electronic media.
Forget talking about ‘News’ as a metaphysical abstract. NEWSPAPERS were and are limited and defined by WHERE and HOW and WHEN they could be produced and distributed. (So are News transmissions and so are News (‘digitations’?)This specific combination of METHOD, TIME and PLACE defines what NEWSPAPERS were and are. NEWS is always a FUNCTION of METHOD, TIME and PLACE.
Here is a simple illustration. A bomb goes off in a city centre. The ‘news’ is that it is a terrorist attack. The news is gathered, processed, edited, printed and distributed in 12 hours. But by the time a customer buys the paper and receives the ‘news’, it turns out it wasn’t a terrorist attack, but a gas leak that caused the explosion.
So what is printed in the paper that the customer holds in his hand? Is it ‘News’ ? It can’t be News because it is not true! There is no metaphysical abstract news outside of the way it is produced and there never can be. Content is determined by form.
A concrete newspaper is concrete evidence of lying or making an error. (see 1984). News transmissions or digitations solve that problem. We have always been at war with Eastasia etc.
This is equally true for paper money. By the time that economic information is created, collected, processed by a central bank and turned into an interest rate that controls the production and distribution of Economy, the information in question may already be proved to be invalid! In fact it usually is….
So is the economy produced on the basis of that ‘counterfeit’ information money invalid?
The answer both in the case of News and Economy is that these are metaphysical abstracts that are accepted as both true and untrue at the same time. (Yet more Orwell)
The known facts and interpretation around any particular news event evolve over time. Interest rates and economic analysis evolve over time. Even though the MAJORITY of what is printed in the name of news and economy can be shown to have been wrong to a greater or lesser extent, this does not diminish the overall faith in the concept of news and economy.
(Note: Paper money hyper inflation is when there are simply too many lies and bad guesses to hide. Note 2: Except in India where they have recently embarked on a wholesale destruction of the paper money evidence)
Or it didn’t till recently anyway.
But that was before the arrival of Fake News.
So what has changed then? What now makes some news providers ‘fake’ and some ‘genuine’? The question might more usefully framed as: What makes a particular news provider VALID OR INVALID?
And the answer might surprise you.
I have explained that NEWS does not exist in the ether as an abstract. It is the concrete result of the production of different news formats. The same way that NEWS does not exist outside of space it also does not exist outside of time.
‘News’ as we see it now is the result of a clear historical process. As I described above this process is intimately linked with the commercial interests of advertisers. And this in turn is intimately linked with the development of capitalism.
The ‘modern’ press did not begin in Africa or India or China. This is not a meaningless observation, it goes to the heart of what ‘Press’ and ‘News’ really is. We can see that the ‘Press’ and ‘News’ is the product of German history and culture just as surely as Protestantism and Capitalism is.
Which brings us to the question of validity-not as some kind of abstract quality belonging to abstract ‘News’ argued about by differing interest groups, but as a concrete historical reality.
Papers that were published in the beginning of the News industry were the newspapers that received the investment necessary for obtaining news print, distribution and news gathering resources etc.
Investment was forthcoming on the basis that newspapers were a viable commercial venture. Newspapers were a viable commercial venture to the extent that they could obtain advertising revenue. They could abstain advertising revenue to the extent that they would comply with the needs and wishes of advertisers.
Simply put, traditional papers were valid to the extent they were given the blessing of commercial interests of advertisers. And that is all. Everything else said about the historical press – all the rhetoric about freedom of speech etc- is just someone trying to blow smoke up your backside!
We can see the accuracy of this observation by considering attitudes to the non commercial press/media. Two good examples of this are RT, the Russian sponsored media outlet and the BBC.
Both RT and BBC are regarded with scepticism or outright mistrust by large sections of the public in developed economies. They are regarded as suspicious (as in fake news) because they are held to have an agenda which comes from their sponsors which are governments..
This agenda is held to be more overt and controlling and less trustworthy than the agenda imposed on commercial press/media outlets by their advertisers. But why should this be so?
Because as I said above there is an accepted degree of commercial control that is allowed from advertisers and offset against this is the supposed journalistic ethics that allow journalists to report despite commercial pressure. This capitalist Germanic concept is embedded in the history and the ideology of ‘News’.
Central to this cult ideology is the concept of plurality of advertisers which works like this: Advertisers sell products into society which has a variety of groupings and individuals that represent a spectrum of thought and opinion on various matters.
The more and varied the advertising corporations are, the more likely they are to represent a variety of opinion which is the supposed endpoint of democracy. The ideal advertising profile of a media organisation would be one that contains a wide variety of large mass producing corporations such as Kellogg.
These corporations then advertise in and validate any given media organisation. If the media organisation produces ‘News’ that is against the tastes of the wide and deep variety of consumers that the advertising corporations represent, the advertisers threaten to withdraw advertising unless editorial policy is altered. We have a self sustaining self regulating commercial capitalist media!
And this brings us to the central problem. In modern digital media production costs are heading towards zero. This means that the potential commercial pressure that advertisers can exert is also heading towards zero. And since advertisers commercial power is heading towards zero, their position as representatives of society through consumption is heading towards zero. Death of capitalism!!
From this perspective we can look again at the story that prompted this piece: The Breitbart/Kellog spat.
Breitbart started out as an insurgent small scale Saxon Nationalist digital media operation with little or no effective media production costs. Under the terms of capitalist cult media it was invalid as it had no plurality of advertisers and therefore no commercial mediation of what it produced.
As it became bigger it attracted a plurality of larger scale advertisers up to the level of mush corporation Kellogg.
Kellogg received feedback that the content of Breitbart is offensive to some of the consumers it is supposed to represent.
Kellog expresses that offense with the threat and then the execution of removal of advertising revenue.
This is supposed to bring Breitbart back in line and serve as a warning to other digital media producers. But it hasn’t worked. Because fundamentally Breitbart’s production costs are close to zero.
So then pressure is applied to Facebook/Twitter etc, the distribution nodes that serve Breitbart because they CAN be controlled by large scale advertising revenue pressure. But even here, production costs are heading towards zero. This has limited effectiveness. So then the state is called in to regulate under the Fake News justification.
But there really is no such thing as FAKE NEWS only INVALID PRODUCTION which is production not regulated by large scale commercial advertising.
Its really all about FLAKE NEWS not FAKE NEWS.