Chris Hedges: The Mass Media Is Poisoning Us With Hate

Image: Mr. Fish/Truthdig

"The shaping of the public into antagonistic tribes works commercially. It works politically...social disintegration"

Common Dreams - May 28, 2019

... “MSNBC, which has gone through some interesting changes over the years, markets itself as a left-leaning network,” Taibbi said. “But it was so intensely pro-war in 2002 that it had to uninvite Jesse Ventura and Phil Donahue from the network. This latest thing was ‘Russiagate’ and the constant hyping of the narrative ‘If you watch, you might learn any minute that we, along with Robert Mueller, are going to take down the president.’ ”

The media model not only sets demographic against demographic, it mutes and destroys investigations into corporate systems of oppression and genuine dissent.

“You don’t have to make the news up for these people,” Taibbi said of the process of carving up the public. “You can just pick stories that they’re going to like. You start feeding them content that is going to ratify their belief systems. Fox did it first. They did it well. They started to make money. They were No. 1 for a long time. But this started to bleed into the rest of the business. Pretty soon, everybody was doing the same thing. It didn’t matter whether you were the food channel tailoring content for people who liked food or MSNBC who tailored content for people who leaned in a certain political direction, you were giving people stuff they wanted to hear.”

“Previously, you were looking at the illusion of debate,” Taibbi said of the old media model. “You would see people arguing on ‘Crossfire.’ On the op-ed pages, there were people who disagreed with each other. Now, most people’s news consumption experience is tailored entirely to their preferences. … If you’re only reading media that tailor to your particular belief system you’re not being exposed to other ideas. It’s going to be progressively more vituperative.”

“One of the first stories that taught the news business you can actually sell anger as a product was the [Monica] Lewinsky scandal,” Taibbi said.

MSNBC built its brand and its audience by relentlessly warning that the presidency of Bill Clinton was in mortal peril during the Lewinsky investigation. It repeated this formula by spending two years hyping the story of supposed Russian collusion with the Trump administration.

“What they were trying to do was basically create the impression that [a new] ‘Watergate was going on, you better tune in because at any moment this could all go kaput,’ ” Taibbi said of the Lewinsky scandal. “They got an enormous market share. Fox added a twist to it. Fox took the same concept and openly villainized the characters. They decided to make Bill and Hillary Clinton into caricatures and cartoon figures, aging hippies. They kept running clip after clip of Hillary Clinton talking about how she didn’t bake cookies. They knew their audience was going to react to all these images in a certain way. They sold people stories that make them angry. They told them, ‘If you keep tuning in, somehow you are a part of the process. You are a part of this ongoing prosecution of this culture enemy that we’re showing you. … We tell you about somebody you don’t like. We keep telling you about it over and over to dominate the ratings.’ ”

The result, Taibbi argues, is a marketing strategy that fosters addictive and aggressive behavior. The more the habits of readers and viewers on the internet and electronic devices are tracked, the more the addiction and aggression are fed. ...
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