There’s a lot of REALLY great points raised in this article here, by a Georgian journalist and media scholar, but unfortunately I disagree with most of the author’s conclusions. She claims that noise (ie everything from clickbait to fake news – all the bullshit online, basically) is the new censorship, because it’s drowning out the signal, ie all that is truthful.
Let me clarify. Noise is a major problem, but it’s still not the new censorship. The old censorship is very much still censorship (just ask Chinese people, or North Koreans, or indeed any citizen of a nation propping up the Global Press Freedom Index, or indeed a few near the top too.)
And new forms of censorship are the new censorship – ‘cancelling’ people for holding different opinions, ‘deplatforming’, boycotting, and so on.
This article blames Big Tech for the logarithmic rise in noise online. But to my mind, journalism has only itself to blame for the endless acceleration of the noise-to-signal ratio. In the democratised field of modern tech-enabled communication, journalism could and should have thrived as the pure signal offering. Instead, it allowed itself to become (even more) partisan, skewed, and untrustworthy than it already was.
The general public are not as stupid as journalists (who aren’t as smart as they think) think they are. They have learned how to ‘read between the lines’ of stories which often make little coherent sense, and glean what the missing data points are.
This has eroded trust in their former gatekeeping role.We’re now in a ‘boy who cried wolf’ scenario. The public remember every instance when the media got it wrong, or deliberately misrepresented factuality, or presented partisan viewpoint as objective reportage. So when the media, as it does, presents legitimate and reliable work for public consumption, many people simply no longer trust it.
And so they turn to the charlatans’ parade of liars, cynics, clickbait peddlars, conspiracy theorists and ideologues online instead, thereby amplifying those noises and drowning out what little truth there is.
It’s a shitshow, no bones about it. But it’s disingenuous to put the entire blame at the door of Big Tech, much as I loathe them. Journalism needs to take a long look in the mirror to find the cause of its own woes. And I don’t mean the British redtop.
A staple tabloid story in recent times has been the Only Fans rags to riches yarn, wherein our plucky heroine, often a former cubicle drone or till girl at the supermarket, packs in her life of drudgery for the freedom of posting saucy pics on Only Fans, and instantly reaps lottery cheque money.
However, these almost weekly tales of smut instamillionaires simply don’t add up, despite the ubiquitous pics of lasses in their smalls posing in mcmansions or draped over luxury cars. In fact, the OnlyFans millionaire story is one of the great alternative histories of our times. Or to put it another words, more fake news.
OnlyFans, like most things in the attention economy, functions on a hockey stick graph. A very small number of users make nearly all the money, in other words.
This latest yarn may be a tad more honest than most, claiming to be in the top 2% of earners on the site (as do they all) but only stating an income of approx £1,000 a week, far below the usual footballer salaries claimed by her peers. Interestingly, her testimony matches the analysis done by TSNFA as we can see on the graph.
If this one is remotely correct, we can assume that almost no one other than established porn stars or former Hollywood people are making six figures annually. There have been a few macroeconomics analyses of OnlyFans which seem to concur with this. Here’s the latest.
Which suggests in turn that most of those cubicle-to-camgirls are bringing in a few hundred a week at most, but are prepared to amplify their income a hundredfold if it gets them a mention in the redtops, which they hope in turn might bring in a few more punters. In fact, if TSNFA’s version of the OnlyFans hockey graph is correct (above) then about 95% of OnlyFans users are making less than $1,000 a month.
Also, there’s likely a certain amount of ego protection in this too. If you strip for cameras, you’d like to think that it was worth more than the market may necessarily provide. But you can salve that ego by ‘faking it till you make it’, claiming the money you want to be making in the hope that somehow the headlines make it true. This is somewhere between cosmic wishing and casting spells in terms of career strategy, but doesn’t make it any less prevalent.
All in, I’m unconvinced about the morality of this. It’s just page three without payment. And it’s selling a dream of financial freedom which pretty much doesn’t exist. Journalists ought to be doing their due diligence and demanding to see bank statements before publishing such claims.
The media is increasingly giving up all pretence at reportage in relation to the conflict in Ukraine. So immersed in propaganda are we now, that the media are now offering us cathartic dreams to resolve the anxieties they themselves fostered and promoted.
Let’s ignore for the moment the lack of grammatical punctuation and acknowledge that at least the key data is presented in scare quote marks, indicating that this is opinion of some kind and not factual assertion. That doesn’t always happen, so kudos for remembering to do that.
So, whose opinion is this? “Former British officer”, Dr Mike Martin of Kings College London, is who. Dr Martin is a visiting scholar at KCL, which means that he borrows their name in order to publish academically. In return, he provides some PhD supervision for students. This is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, and I’ve done it myself incidentally.
He appears from his KCL profile to be very interested in an evolutionary psychological approach to understanding warfare. It’s a little difficult to gauge his quality as an academic from a paperchase, as he’s not published a lot academically. By far his most impactful work was an oral history of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, where he appears to have done his own tours of duty as a soldier. Some of the other things listed on his Google Scholar page, such as articles on leaf-cutter ants, may not be his at all.
So then I looked at his own website, which seems primarily aimed to promote himself as a public speaker and commentator to the media. There we can see that he’s written two other books as well, one on his interest in evo-psych and war, and the other on an adventure he had crossing the Congo river in a landrover.
A lot of his work looks back to, or builds upon his experience as the British Army’s first ‘cultural understanding officer’ in Helmand. There’s a Sunday Times article about that here. I’m not going to dwell on how poorly the British Army’s cultural understanding went in Helmand.
Nor will I dwell on the many narratives of British and American success in Afghanistan that the media published adoringly. Nor will I dwell on how the minute Western military forces, exhausted by conflict, decided to pull out of Afghanistan, it reverted immediately to the Taliban once more.
I will solely point out that the conflict was a huge waste of resources and lives, and had also been the subject of an enormous and persistently reported lie in the media in the West.
Let’s return to Dr Mike Martin. He is a former British Army reserve officer who, after leaving the army, embarked on an academic career. He’s formulated a theory about war’s evolutionary origins and now researches that at KCL. Good for him. It’s an intriguing question, how hardwired the lust for war is.
What he’s not, is any kind of expert on Russia, Russian history, or Ukrainian history; nor has he any expertise about the Kremlin or Russian politics; nor on Russian military forces, on Ukrainian military capacity, or any on the ground knowledge of the current combat theatre.
So what is this story, this headline? Dr Martin likes to see his name in the media, and it helps promote his own work, so he appears more than happy to speak to the press about issues like this where he has no apparent expert knowledge whatsoever. His opinion, based on zero knowledge and expertise, is then inflated by judicious reference to his academic credentials and military background by the newspaper.
From there, it gets promoted to headline, and suddenly a readership fed on months of existential fear of Putin has hope. The hope of his overthrow. This is wishful thinking, it seems to me. After all, Putin’s popularity has actually risen in Russia since the invasion.
Why then is the Express printing this? Because it’s the narrative they want to promote. It’s the narrative they want their readers to experience. It builds on the existing narrative that they and the rest of the media have been assiduously creating since the start of the conflict.
How does it build on it? Well, having created a monstrous, satanic image of Putin, it is now essential to offer their readership some catharsis – specifically that he can and will be defeated in some kind of moral justice. We’ve seen other iterations of this in the Western media recently, mostly speculating about his health and possible imminent demise.
In reality, there’s nothing there. This is the opinion of one guy who has zero expertise in any relevant topic, inflated into a headline by a newspaper which is cheerleading this war endlessly. I don’t mean to pick on this particular paper, or this particular talking head. I understand their various reasons for doing this. I could have chosen so many others.
This example is merely symptomatic of the sick and sickening media environment we now find ourselves in, one entirely divorced from reality and endlessly blaring in favour of war.
As Orwell once wrote, “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.” Too much of our media would drive anyone mad, and indeed already appears to have driven much of the population mad.