When most people think of the news, they often think of television networks like CNN or FOX News, newspapers like The New York Times or The Washington Post, or perhaps even certain commentators like Sean Hannity or Van Jones. These outlets have been long established sources of journalism for decades. In the last 20 years, however, a new contender has emerged: the mediums of online and social media.
What started out as a niche group of forums and web pages has now become one of the most profitable means for the common person to get his or her message across. Internet news has gotten so big, in fact, that it has spawned several unique counter-cultures such as groups like Black Lives Matter and The Alt Right, as well as massive protests like The Women’s March on Washington. Even the President of the United States has a Twitter account and is constantly promoting his agenda and using the site as a podium to speak his mind completely uncensored.
Recently however, the corporate media has been fighting back and with a vengeance.
There is an interesting background to this conflict. The year was 2016, and Donald J. Trump was just elected to be our 45th President of the United States. However, on the trail to the White House, he started to really criticize the corporate media far beyond anything seen in recent American history. While these outlets have always garnered a decent amount of backlash from both left and right leaning individuals (and even many political leaders), Trump took the level of condemnation to an entirely new level, calling outlets like CNN “fake news” and “the enemy of the American people.” To back up his claims, he pointed to the ratings of many popular cable news networks that are now on a slowly-plummeting decline. Whether this trend will continue is anybody’s guess, but as it stands, viewership for the corporate (mostly liberal) media is slowly starting to wane.
Another reason for the rise of the independent media is a pure lack of trust. According to a Pew Research poll, 87% of people studied said they use Facebook as their main news source as of 2014, even though only 12% actually trust it. Although 12% might seem like a low number, and it is, the mainstream media is even worse at an astonishingly low 6% of people who trust it.
Towards the beginning of 2017, there were instances in which the corporate media manufactured a narrative in order to hoodwink the gullible and feeble minded from believing the independent media. A notable example was when a conservative outlet called Reagan Watch went after right wing journalist Milo Yiannopoulos. In this clip, he was quoted as saying, ““The law [referring to age of consent] is probably about right, that’s probably roughly the right age…but there are certainly people who are capable of giving consent at a younger age, I certainly consider myself to be one of them.” Even with the most basic of research, one will see that he is referring to his own personal experience from when he was 14. The Reagan Watch, and subsequent other news outlets thereafter (including CNN and MSNBC), deliberately took his quotes out of context making it seem as if he was condoning pedophelia. As a result of this, he was promptly fired form his job at Breitbart news, lost a book deal, and was banned from speaking at the Conservative National Convention (CNC). Despite these consequences, most of his fan base either didn’t know about the incident or were smart enough not to drink the Kool Aid that the corporate media was offering.
The thin skinned media may have ultimately lost the battle, but they were far from giving up. They soon realized that the vast amount of people could see through all the deception and that the mainstream media didn’t have as much of an influence over how people think as they once did, so they moved on to the group of people who would fold to them, the advertisers. On March 24, The Wall Street Journal published an article that claiming social media outlets were bad for ad revenue. The article contained screenshots of ads playing on videos from Neo-Natzis, Alt-RIght, and other reprehensible groups. These screenshots were cherry-picked at best and just downright fabricated at worst. As a knee-jerk reaction to this, YouTube decided to go on a massive campaign, demonetizing any videos having to do with politics, LGBT issues, race relations, or any controversial content both positive or negative to the ideas of the masses. Content creators, regardless of race, sexual orientation, political ideology, and so forth, who just wanted to speak their mind in an open forum, lost thousands of dollars in ad revenue, without the consent of the content creators or even the advertisers. This was a major blow to not just content creators but also to the public at large.
Unless you are a content creator on YouTube, you would be correct in saying that this does not currently affect you. Looking at the bigger picture however, is a completely different story. This change is in direct violation of your first amendment rights. Assuming that someone is verbally threatening someone, committing slander or libel, or otherwise impeding on another person’s rights, than that person is within every legal right to voice his or her opinion, no matter how controversial it might be. If it turns out that YouTube can embrace such a procedure as unethical and illegal as this and stay afloat, than it could potentially leave the door wide opened for other businesses to follow a similar censorship model, in order to maintain a more “advertiser friendly” approach, and maximize profits. This might seem bad enough, but moving to the even bigger picture reveals something even more disturbing. If people can no longer publicly espouse free thought, and speak about controversial political issues, than that means that the critics of the mainstream media could potentially also be more easily silenced, and could potentially control the narrative of current events, with less of a chance for opposition. Keep in mind of course, that this is the same media that had no moral objection to doing such a thing, as evidenced by the previously mentioned incidents.
As it stands, the future seems very grim indeed. However, we all can do our part in fixing it. For starters, donate to the ACLU, a massive organization dedicated to fighting against attacks of your freedom to say as you please, without fear of losing your livelihood. A lot of private news organizations also accept donations, so if you are in support of these groups, then every little bit counts. If you don’t have the money or just don’t feel like donating, there are other ways you can fight the power. If you have AdBlock and you watch YouTube, turn it off. Ads might be annoying, but it is the main source of income for many of your favorite e-celebrities. You can start a hashtag on Twitter or even a protest in real life. Most importantly though, the best way to maintain your rights to free speech is to stay clear of the mainstream media. If we attack the problem at its source, we will make great progress, because as a wise man once said, “The only winning move is not to play.” The mainstream media is set out to destroy out first amendment rights by controlling the narrative and using whatever means necessary to remain on top and insure financial gain. If we sit back and do nothing, trust in the media will get worse and our rights as individuals will slowly be stripped away.
-BY LOGAN DEINER
The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of the school district, the administration, the advisor, or the newspaper staff.