What is the “alternative” media?
If we look at the phrase itself, it seems to mean the media that presents itself as the alternative to what we call the “corporate media,” i.e. the New York Times, the Washington Post, your local rag – in short, the Legacy Media that predominated in those bygone days before the Internet. And yet this whole arrangement seems outdated, to say the least. The Internet has long since been colonized by the corporate giants: BuzzFeed, for example, is regularly fed huge dollops of cash from its corporate owners. And the Legacy Media has adapted to the primacy of online media, however reluctantly and ineptly. So the alternative media isn’t defined by how they deliver the news, but rather by 1) what they judge to be news, and 2) how they report it.
And that’s the problem.
There’s been much talk of “fake news,” a concept first defined by the “mainstream” media types as an insidious scheme by the Russians and/or supporters of Donald Trump to deny Hillary Clinton her rightful place in the Oval Office. Or it was Macedonian teenagers out to fool us into giving them clicks. Or something. Facebook and Google announced a campaign to eliminate this Dire Threat, and the mandarins of the “mainstream” reared up in righteous anger, lecturing us that journalistic standards were being traduced.
Yet it turned out that the very people who were up in arms about “fake news” were the ones propagating their own version of it. WikiLeaks did much to expose their game by publicizing the key role played by the Legacy Media in acting as an extension of the Clinton campaign. However, the real unmasking came after the November election, when the rage of the liberal elites became so manifest that “reporters” who would normally be loath to reveal their politics came out of the closet, so to speak, and started telling us that the old journalistic standard of objectivity no longer applied. The election of Trump, they averred, meant that the old standards must be abandoned and a new, and openly partisan bias must take its place. In honor of this new credo, the Washington Post has adopted a new slogan: “Democracy dies in darkness”!
This from the newspaper that ran a front page story citing the anonymous trolls at PropOrNot.com as credible sources for an account of alleged “Russian agents of influence” in the media – a story that slimed Matt Drudge and Antiwar.com, among others.
This from the newspaper that ran another big story claiming the Russians had infiltrated Vermont’s power grid without bothering to check with the power company.
This from the newspaper that regularly publishes “news” accounts citing anonymous “intelligence officials” claiming the Trump administration is rife with Russian “agents.”
This from the newspaper that published a piece by foreign affairs columnist Josh Rogin that falsely claimed Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s trip to Syria was funded by a group that is “nonexistent” and strongly implied she was in the pay of the Syrian government or some other foreign entity. Well after the smear circulated far and wide, the paper posted the following correction:
“An earlier version of this op-ed misspelled the name of AACCESS Ohio and incorrectly stated that the organization no longer exists. AACCESS Ohio is an independent non-profit organization that is a member of the ACCESS National Network of Arab American Community organizations but is currently on probation due to inactivity. The op-ed also incorrectly stated that Bassam Khawam is Syrian American. He is Lebanese American. This version has been corrected.”
In other words, the entire story was fake news.
Rep. Gabbard’s “crime” was to challenge the US-funded effort to overthrow the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad as contrary to our interests and the prospects for peace in the region. For that she has been demonized in the media – and, not coincidentally, the very same media that is now an instrument in the hands of our “intelligence community.” For it is these spooks who, for years, have been canoodling with the Saudis in an effort to rid the region of the last secular obstacle to the Sunni-ization of the Middle East. That they have Tulsi Gabbard in their sights is no surprise.
And of course it’s not just the Washington Post: the entire “mainstream” media is now colluding with the “intelligence community” in an effort to discredit and derail any efforts at a rapprochement with Russia. We haven’t seen this kind of hysteria since the frigid winter of the cold war.
My longtime readers will not be shocked by any of this: during the run up to the Iraq war, the media was chock full of fake news about Saddam Hussein’s fabled weapons of mass destruction, which all the “experts” told us were certainly there and ready to rain death and destruction at any minute. Who can forget the series of articles by Judith Miller that adorned the front page of the New York Times – which were merely Bush administration talking points reiterated by Donald Rumsfeld & Co. on the Sunday talk shows? Miller has now become synonymous with the very concept of fake news – and yet how quickly we forget the lesson we should have learned from that shameful episode in the history of American journalism.
So fake news is nothing new, nor is the concept of the “mainstream” media as a megaphone for war propaganda. What’s different today is that many are waking up to this fact – and turning to the “alternative.” I’ve been struck by this rising phenomenon over the past year or so: Matt Drudge gave Antiwar.com a permanent link. Our audience has increased by many thousands. And I’ve been getting a steady stream of interview requests. I was quite pleased to read the following in a recent piece in The Nation about the media’s fit of Russophobia and the key role played by the journalist I. F. Stone during the 1950s:
“To conclude where I began, think for a moment about I.F. Stone during his haunted 1950s. While he was well-regarded by a lot of rank-and-file reporters, few would say so openly. He was PNG [persona non grata] among people such as [New York Times publisher Arthur] Sulzberger – an outcast….
“Now think about now.
“A few reporters and commentators advise us that the name of the game these days is to sink the single most constructive policy the Trump administration has announced. The rest is subterfuge, rubbish. This is prima facie the case, though you can read it nowhere in the Times or any of the other corporate media. A few have asserted that we may now be witnessing a coup operation against the Trump White House. This is a possibility, in my view. We cannot flick it off the table. With the utmost purpose, I post here one of these pieces. “A Win for the Deep State” came out just after Flynn was forced from office. It is by a writer named Justin Raimondo and appeared in a wholly out-of-bounds web publication called Antiwar.com. I know nothing about either, but it is a thought-provoking piece.”
Well, we aren’t quite “wholly out of bounds,” except in certain circles, but all in all this is a great compliment – and it’s illustrative of author Patrick Lawrence’s point, which is that
“We, readers and viewers, must discriminate among all that is put before us so as to make the best judgments we can and, not least, protect our minds. The other side of the coin, what we customarily call ‘alternative media,’ assumes an important responsibility. They must get done, as best they can, what better-endowed media now shirk. To put this simply and briefly, they and we must learn that they are not ‘alternative’ to anything. In the end there is no such thing as ‘alternative media,’ as I often argue. There are only media, and most of ours have turned irretrievably bad.”
We here at Antiwar.com take our responsibility to you, our readers and supporters, very seriously. We’re working day and night, 24/7, to separate fact from fiction, knee-jerk “analysis” from intelligent critique, partisan bullshit from truth. And we’ve had to work much harder lately because the profession of journalism has fallen on hard times.
Blinded by partisan bias, all too willing to be used as an instrument of the Deep State — and determined to “control exactly what people think,” which is, as Mika Brzezinski put it the other day, “our job” – the English-speaking media has become increasingly unreliable. This has become a big problem for us here at Antiwar.com: we now have to check and re-check everything that they report as fact. Not that we didn’t do that anyway, but the difference is that, these days, we have to be more careful than ever before linking to it, or citing it as factual.
The day of the “alternative media” has passed. We are simply part of the media, period: the increasingly tiny portion of it that doesn’t fall for war propaganda, that doesn’t have a partisan agenda, and that harkens back to the “old” journalistic standards of yesteryear – objective reporting of facts. That doesn’t mean we don’t have opinions, or an agenda – far from it! However, we base those opinions on what, to the best of our ability, we can discern as the facts.
And we have a pretty good record in this regard. Back when everyone who was anyone was telling us that those “weapons of mass destruction” were lurking in the Iraqi shadows, we said it was nonsense – and we were right. As the “experts” said that war with Iraq would “solve” the problem of terrorism and bring enlightenment to the Middle East, we said the war would usher in the reign of chaos – and we were right. We warned that NATO expansion would trigger an unnecessary conflict with Russia, and we were proved right about that, too. The Kosovo war was hailed as a “humanitarian” act – and we rightly predicted it would come back to haunt us in the form of a gangster state riven by conflict.
I could spend several paragraphs boasting about how right we were, but you get the idea. Our record is a good one. And we intend to make it even better. But we can’t do it – we can’t do our job – without your help.
There’s one way in which we are significantly different from the rest of the media – we depend on our readers for the financial support we need to keep going. The Washington Post has Jeff Bezos, one of the wealthiest men in the world – not to mention a multi-million dollar contract with the “intelligence community.” The New York Times has Carlos Slim, another billionaire with seemingly bottomless pockets. We, on the other hand, just have … you.
A group of our most generous supporters has pledged $31,000 in matching funds – but that pledge is strictly conditional. What this means is that we must match that amount in the short time left in our campaign in order to get the entire $31,000.
To be frank with you, our fundraising campaign has been less successful, so far, than I had hoped. We’ve been getting lots of smaller contributions, but the numerical total is disappointing. We really need to ratchet things up, and I’m appealing to you, my readers, to put us over the top. Some of you have been coming to this space for over a decade: I know, because I get letters and Twitter messages from you all the time. Now I’m asking for your support, because we really do need it.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.