12 August 2007

Journalistic Culture--Vacuous, Jejune, Absurd

It is obvious that there is something wrong with modern journalism. Fewer intelligent people trust the news media every day--with good reason. Journalistic fraud is so commonplace as to become a redundant phrase. How did this happen?

We saw ourselves as part of the intellectual elite, full of ideas about how the country should be run. Being naive in the way institutions actually work, we were convinced that Britain’s problems were the result of the stupidity of the people in charge of the country.

This ignorance of the realities of government and management enabled us to occupy the moral high ground. We saw ourselves as clever people in a stupid world, upright people in a corrupt world, compassionate people in a brutal world, libertarian people in an authoritarian world.

We were not Marxists but accepted a lot of Marxist social analysis. We also had an almost complete ignorance of market economics. That ignorance is still there. Say “Tesco” to a media liberal and the patellar reflex says, “Exploiting African farmers and driving out small shopkeepers.” The achievement of providing the range of goods, the competitive prices, the food quality, the speed of service and the ease of parking that attract millions of shoppers does not register on their radar.


Modern journalistic culture is a culture of authority from ignorance. It is fiction and propaganda served as objective reporting. Who in their right minds would accept anything produced by this culture at face value?

And that cuts to the heart of the problem. In a world of the psychological neotenate, the academically lobotomised narcissist, what does it mean to be of sound mind?

Groupthink breeds groupthink. Next level humans think for themselves.

Journalistic culture and university academic culture both fall neatly into the groupthink category. The self-censorship of both groups extends to membership restrictions--who can become a tenured member of the in-group (and who will be ejected if they display sufficiently independent thought). Think about it:

* Having an illusion of invulnerability
* Rationalizing poor decisions
* Believing in the group's morality
* Sharing stereotypes which guide the decision
* Exercising direct pressure on others
* Not expressing your true feelings
* Maintaining an illusion of unanimity
* Using mindguards to protect the group from negative information

This describes collectivist thinking very well. George Orwell in 1984 (chapter summaries and fulltext) portrayed a society where groupthink was unconscious and all pervading. If you have not read and contemplated the society of "1984" . . . nevermind.

Thinking for one's self is time consuming and requires effort. Many people are unwilling to devote the time and effort required to become independent thinkers. This has always been true, but is particularly true in cultures where the educational system discourages independence and encourages consensual groupthink.

That is where North American culture finds itself now. Dominant forces in society--the news media, government education, much of higher academia, popular media, many church organisations--all of these encourage immersion into the group mind at the expense of developing independent thinking.

Those of us who can see beyond what exists today, and a simplistic extrapolation of modern trends into the future, can identify each other by several means, and carry on a generally "beneath the radar" conversation about realities and necessities.

It is a many dimensional problem. The solution will probably contain at least as much complexity.

Update: More on the absurdity of journalistic culture here.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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