Matt Taibbi’s Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another (OR Books 2019) is an essential read for anyone caught up in today’s news cycles.
Taibbi traces the news media’s devolution since Noam Chomsky’s 80’s classic Manufacturing Consent.
Taibbi provides insider evidence to demonstrate that while the media’s overall purpose and function has remained relatively unchanged since the late 20th century, its means of achieving that have shifted. The aim remains to line its and its sponsor’s (big corporate America) pockets. It continues to do so by entertaining in a fashion that keeps the public’s eyes off the more significant issues facing humanity and thus ignoring its victims (most of the population). Instead, it distracts with non-stop coverage of the class of victims it deems worthy, or in current terms those liable to command the most eyeballs and clicks.
Taibbi shows that media has discovered a bonanza by tailoring itself to specific publics, right wing vs left wing, religious vs anti-religious, xenophobes vs immigrant friendlies, warnicks vs. peaceniks, etc. and plying them with around-the-clock tailored, hyperbolic bias confirmation that feeds their fears and prejudices. It has abandoned the façade of objectivity in order to overtly stoke and exacerbate conflicts between factions. Media is now in the business of manufacturing hate. It has enhanced its manufacturing consent function by ditching public-interest investigative reporting, leaving its corporate sponsors free to rape, pillage and plunder at unprecedented levels while its viewers do virtual war on one another. Parenthetically, see the BBC documentary The Century of Self available free on Youtube, to understand the mass psychology marketing trend that lead to this ‘have it your own way’ model’s inevitability).
This passage sums up the current picture and its effects:
We are always at war with each other. It never stops, not for one second. This is a profound expression of political instability at the top of our society. There is a terror of letting audiences think for themselves that we’ve never seen before. There’s no, ‘Go back home tonight, rest, and think it over.’
Even from show to show the viewer is asked to remain glued to the conflict at all times. In print media your eyes scroll down to similarly themed stories, stringing you from one outrage to another. Keep clicking, keep delving deeper into the argument, make it more and more your identity.
We don’t want you signing off until tomorrow because we don’t want you to even understand that you have an inner dialogue separate from the news experience. Click on, watch, read, tweet, argue, come back, click again, repeat, do it over and over, rubbing the nerve ends away just a little bit each time. With each engagement, you’re signing over more and more of your intellectual autonomy.
You’ll soon become dependent on the cycle, to the point where you’ll lose the ability to dispute what you’re being told, because disputing would mean diluting the bond with your favorite news sources. Once you reach this point, you’ve entered the realm of belief, as opposed to conclusion.
This without a doubt is a form of religious worship.
Taibbi’s conclusion is both ironic and telling. While he makes a snarky indirect reference to Scientology (although it could just as easily be read as a double entendre including its critics) in teasing out the religious worship angle, he finally concludes with something that Scientology’s founder was endlessly crucified for recommending:
It will be hard to keep concealed for long the obvious fact that turning off the news results in an instantly positive psychological change for most people. If you want to be happier, if you want to live in a world that may be thick with problems but is at least a sunnier place where people are more decent to one another and more willing to cooperate and show kindness, just turn off the tube.
It is no wonder you don’t see Taibbi riding the cable news circuit much these days after the release of his important book. He is just too direct and effective in removing media masks. After recounting the Iraq-WMD hype that was foisted on the public to garner its support of war, he distinguished that from what is going on today:
This current craze is far more intense, bipartisan, and open-ended. It’s not designed to be a temporarily blinding fervor This is panic you’re told not to excise from your life, ever, or else…
Or else what? We [the media] don’t articulate that, for a very good reason.
Of all the taboos and deceptions in media, this is the one we lie about most. The thing we’re most afraid to discuss has to do with precisely that question of what happens if you should stop following the news.
The answer, of course, is nothing. Not only can you live without us, you probably should, most of the time anyway.