I run into a lot of people who are deeply caught up in an old world way of thinking. I am somewhat of a natural skeptic (and I think most people should be, especially when dealing with governments and world power structures). These days people seem so caught up in conspiracies theories that they don’t realize their real power and influence.
“Cue The Rant!”
While “big media” has played and continues to play a big part in how we interpret and dissect news, the good thing about today is that “big media” isn’t in sole control of the narrative. Today, we as regular people in society have the ability to reshape conversations and give context to what happens in the world. And all of this is done in an instantaneous way — thanks to the Internet.
Take the events in Ferguson, MO. For two to three days Ferguson residents protested without any coverage from “big media.” No national media markets were picking the story up. But when I was on social media it was all I saw. People were tweeting and re-tweeting stories and live feeds of the protests. I saw the fierce police backlash against citizens and media professionals exercising their First Amendment rights.
It became a national story even without early buy-in from national media outlets. It was all over every social media channel. People were live streaming and blogging about it. There was so many people tweeting, Instagramming and Facebooking about it that the national media had no choice but to start reporting on it because it was what people were talking about.
Now I don’t know if it was because they were late to the party or because it was unplanned and didn’t fit into the national media’s narrative and story structure. But it happened because people were seeing these events unfold via the Internet and then tuning into traditional media to get context. In order to appease people and grow viewership, big media had to succumb to the simple system of supply and demand.
That’s our power. That was us. We all have cameras now and we all have instant access to each other. We still pay attention to and are shaped by traditional media but trust and believe we don’t need them. They now have to conform to what we think is news. Social media plays a huge role in storytelling and engaging their audiences and stats show that we have succeeded in reshaping news.
And while the powers that be may revel in the fact that they are the service providers, they can’t dictate how we use the services. Just check out how much stuff is pirated on the Internet daily. The only way that is really left to make money on or because of the Internet is to advertise. The powers that be have fallen prey to social media. Our presence there makes them money. They are constantly vying for our attention to try to sell things to us and advertise. So understand that the conspiracy theories are becoming dated. The media conforms to what we make a story because they want our eyes. They can no longer get away with creating stories and narratives without people on the Internet checking around and constantly asking questions.
Now whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing is a discussion for another day. Whether or not we are an advanced enough society to really understand news and its importance is another story. But there is no question that access to one another and the ability to discuss stories and cover them with an infinitely broader audience has brought more accountability to media organizations. If they do bad reporting or terrible stories, they are going to hear about it. Whether or not you like the new outrage machine that is the Internet there is no denying it has helped reshape and in some ways completely change traditional media.
So when it comes to the narrative that the news media is ‘trying to cause civil unrest’ because of all the recent coverage of police officers shooting and killing unarmed black men, that’s not a narrative that they control. While the media might value the story and angle because it’s good for ratings, it’s important to remember that this stuff didn’t just start happening with Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. This unfortunate reality has been very real and going on for decades for thousands of black people. Black men are constantly killed by police at an alarming rate. The only thing difference now is that social media and the Internet has shone a light on how prevalent this is in our society.
The Internet is the one medium left that isn’t controlled by one monopoly or corporation. There are certainly companies and industries that wield considerable power, no one entity controls it. They are all vying for a piece of your attention so that they can try to influence you. But you don’t have to feed into that. The Internet gives us the power to congregate amongst ourselves. We get to ask each other questions, share our worlds and comment on whatever is going on. And being the owner of a social commentary and political blog, I am glad.
That’s it for this week. Happy Friday. Don’t forget to cue the Sir Charles.