OTHER AMERICAN DREAMS REPORT: THE WAR ON CONTEXT

by Sergio Monteiro, Cabo Verde Network:

Some of you may be wondering where I’ve been the last few months. My last article was about presidential pardons and we now have a US president whose cabinet looks like they may need one in eight years. Possibly four if the DNC can stop kicking itself in the knees. I would like to say that I had been fulfilling that famed author trope of locking myself in a cabin somewhere and writing the next political thriller, but that just wouldn’t be true, my next book is going to be far different.

But I had not planned to write it so soon. I had wanted to write a sequel to Other American Dreams and then a children’s novel before I tackled this nagging outline I’ve had in my head for a long time.  Something compelled me to do it now.  I wish I could say that like JK Rowling writing the first Harry Potter book, I wrote this new one from a continuous conscious stream of ideas with words that wrote themselves, but that wouldn’t be true either. The reality is that I thought to myself, “I need to write this now before western society collapses.”

Over the last four months I have had several frustrating moments with regard to what I call, The War on Context.Maybe you’ve felt this too. Something would happen in the news cycle. A fairly far-reaching event that deserves commentary like Trump’s January 20th Executive Order to expedite approval for high priority infrastructure projects, that worryingly makes no reference to the DAPL.  I might have even developed an outline for how I’ll break it down but no sooner than I’ve gathered the facts and am ready to put finger to keyboard, another far reaching major event happens. Like Trump’s January 27th Executive Order halting refugee resettlements for 120 days.

At that moment, and others, I become forced to make a judgment call. Asking myself; “Which is the bigger story here?” And while I’m busy weighing those pro and cons – the ACLU is busy protesting Trump’s Muslim ban; women are marching on DC in pink hats; FBI Director, James Comey is grilled by the Senate intel committee for five hours on Russian hacking allegations; a terrorist attack in Sweden sees at least four people brutally killed by a speeding truck and is ignored by the MSM; Israel bombs Syria citing intercepted Hezbollah movements; then they do it again a month later. Russia ramps up anti-globalist rhetoric; a sarin gas attack happens in Syria; North Korea starts testing long range ICBM’s. My attention is pulled in every direction but to what I need most – some space to catch my breath, preferably one decorated with a healthy dose of context.

Reading that last paragraph, you may be getting a sense for what I’m talking about. The Russian-hacking scenario alone deserves its own three part series. I’m sure someone, somewhere is writing a book about it already but before I can go into details about it, I have to go into details about why I can’t go into details about anything.

If you’re feeling confused like I was, don’t worry, you’re supposed to. Something has changed out there. The days of purposeful journalism by mainstream outlets are gone.  Where once the truth was wrought forward to the public with integrity, now is just an inconsequential side-show in a never-ending circus of public relations blitzes.  Where the judgment has been made that the act of hacking matters more than the content of the hack itself; where it is normal to bomb a country as punishment for allegedly bombing itself and where all the MSM requires of you is a reaction, preferably anger or fear. Your critical thinking however, you can check at the door.

According to Catherine Happer and Greg Philo of Glasgow University Media Group, “News may appear as a sometimes chaotic flow of information and debate but it is also underpinned by key assumptions about social relationships and how they are to be understood. At the heart of these are beliefs about motivations, cause and effect, responsibility and consequence.”

It wasn’t long ago that we looked to trusted journalists engaging in measured discourse to examine those assumptions. Often finding that somewhere, behind whatever was making headlines, stood a corporate interest profiting from exploitation. But now, with increasing regularity, we find the mainstream and geo-political narrative magically in line with corporate interests. Sorry MSM, the congruence of these interests is just too blatant now, people are simply not buying it.

Nor is the phenomenon a recent one. I first noticed the MSM’s shift to a more public relations stance back in 2003 during the start of the US led invasion into Iraq. Back then, it was clear that a concerted effort was being made to steer public discourse away from the annoying fact that Iraq had not attacked the US directly. Needless to say, it worked but the question now is, “Could it work again?”

For a start, the wider media landscape of the early noughties was very different compared to now.  There were no social media or outlets like YouTube. And especially, there weren’t that many video content providers or bloggers offering well-sourced counter points. Many of those doing so now have platforms that reach millions of context starved people. Which has led to a mini revolution in how people are getting their news. It seems the same PR bait and switch from the early noughties has a harder chance of succeeding now, and the MSM knows it.

Ratings at CNN and MSNBC have dropped significantly since the 2016 election. Nielsen data shows both news agencies registering a decline in viewership in their key 25-54-year-old demographic during primetime hours. Dropping by 47% for CNN and 42% for MSNBC. Conversely, FOX news has only seen viewership drop by 2%  but this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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