On the media being the enemy of the people

They are, of course.  However, I wonder how many of those who believe this realize that it follows that democracy is the enemy of the people.  Equally true, less equally noticed.  Democracy = majority rule = rule by those who control the majority’s perceptions/beliefs = rule by the media.

Many are the baneful effects of the media, and they are nearly universal across time and space.  We may nevertheless distinguish those evils that are necessary and those that are inevitable.  Necessary evils follow from the nature of the thing.  In all possible worlds, news publications distract our attention from abiding realities to ephemera and from local realities where we might exercise meaningful agency to the global stage where we are passive members of a mass.  In all possible worlds, news is subversive, because bad behavior of esteemed and authoritative figures is more newsworthy than the bad behavior of those from whom such is expected.

On the other hand, does not follow from the essence of the media that they should all coordinate and push a single narrative, that this narrative should always be that of the political Left, and that they should maintain this propaganda even when it means refraining from their own characteristic activity (since news can undermine Leftist authority figures and sacralized groups as well as any others).  There are indeed exceptions to this pattern, but isolated and fleeting.  A unified aggressively proselytizing Leftist media establishment is not necessary, but it is inevitable.  Natural selection makes it so.  The incentives of democracy call forth the great mind-control apparatus.  Every step toward its creation is rewarded with greater money and power.  The reward system brings the monster into existence.

True, even in nondemocratic polities, the ability to control public perception grants numerous advantages.  All else being equal, any society incentivizes such power.  But then, in the biological world, more strength, intelligence, or speed is always good, all else being equal.  Everything else is not equal, though, and advance in any area comes at a cost in bulk, food requirement, and many other things.  So natural selection will drive each species to an optimal trade-off.  In the social world, mind control apparatuses also carry costs.  The money, personnel, and effort devoted to propaganda in modern democracies are enormous, unimaginable to earlier times.  Then there are the more subtle costs.  The difficulty of assimilating new information.  The inefficiencies of conspicuous virtue signaling and witch hunts.  But in a democracy, the mind control-power gradient is sufficiently steep that the cost is always worthwhile.  Worthwhile in the impersonal sense of survival value.  You may not think it worthwhile to keep up in the scapegoating rat race, but then you’ll be purged.  Your organization might decide against an atmosphere of hysteria, but then it will be devoured by the more hysterical.

Why will the media consensus always be Leftist?  The possibility of ideological intolerance and holiness spiraling are not limited to any political persuasion, although Leftism may be better able to accommodate those who have misplaced their religious devotion onto this world.  The ranks of journalists and their audience are disproportionately urban and middle-class, groups naturally more attuned to liberty and equality than throne, altar, blood, and soil.  Then there is the fundamental asymmetry of goals.  An orthodox Catholic news outlet ultimately desires to serve the Church and her existing authority structure; a progressive Catholic news outlet ultimately desires to rule the Church.

Certainly, the media is the most evil thing about democracy.  But we can’t get rid of the former without getting rid of the latter.  Of course, a media and related ideological zealotry may exist even in a non-democratic state.  If the incentives are right, though, such entities would be putting far more resources into mind control than would pay off, and they would be selected against, most likely settling into low-energy mind regulation institutions like the official Churches of previous ages.

3 Responses

  1. This is like saying wrenches are the enemy of the people. “The media” back in the Middle Ages was the Church. The problem is that the media are controlled by enemies of Christ, Christians, and Christendom. Mind control is a very good thing as long as the mind-controllers are the good guys.

  2. >True, even in nondemocratic polities, the ability to control public perception grants numerous advantages. All else being equal, any society incentivizes such power.

    This recalls to mind Moldbug’s point that right-authoritative rule does not care what people think about it as long as they DO what they ought and DO NOT what they ought not. Death penatly. Thus the authoritate regime is curiously missing the churchian dimension. The rulers of that country believe in their right to rule because of who they are — born warriors.

    It is democratic rule that is obsessed with what ‘the people’ think and is thus geared highly towards telling the people what they ought to believe. The modern deep state is a heathen ‘church’ aparatus with flexible morals engaging in purges. ‘Democratic values’ are whatever the heathen aparatus tells you they are.

    It takes the True Faith to counter that heathen totem.

  3. This recalls to mind Moldbug’s point that right-authoritative rule does not care what people think about it as long as they DO what they ought and DO NOT what they ought not. Death penatly. Thus the authoritate regime is curiously missing the churchian dimension. The rulers of that country believe in their right to rule because of who they are — born warriors.

    It is democratic rule that is obsessed with what ‘the people’ think and is thus geared highly towards telling the people what they ought to believe. The modern deep state is a heathen ‘church’ aparatus with flexible morals engaging in purges. ‘Democratic values’ are whatever the heathen aparatus tells you they are.

    This always struck me – even when I first read it from Moldbug – as the worst sort of historically-ignorant claptrap possible, that nevertheless hides a useful truth.

    Of course reactionary regimes care what people think. There has been a state church or at least a state myth in all states throughout history, and that is nothing if not social mind-control. (Speaking purely on the reductionist plane of social utility, here.) These organizations existed in medieval Europe (the Catholic and Orthodox Churches), the Dar-el-Islam (the various mullahs and their schools), the pagan empires and cities (the Roman state cultus and the civic gods of the Greek city-states), and the various feudal or imperial states of Chinese history.

    Examples could be magnified ad nauseum, if they haven’t been already.

    Nevertheless, I think there is a real point to be made there. Since the foundational myth of democratic states essentially involves the syncretic existence and direction of a Will of the People, such a Will must be created and maintained. This goes wildly beyond the normal role of a State church in coordinating public behaviour and maintaining the legitimacy of the status quo; in order to work it must convince (most of) the subjects of the State that they are active participants in its governance, as well.

    Furthermore, since this is both manifestly untrue and against the natural order of the relations of man, it must expend a tremendous amount of energy to do so. This goes part of the way toward explaining why, until modern communications (and, importantly, the Industrial Revolution creating huge efficiencies in our agricultural systems) democracies/republics were always small city-state affairs, and often senatorial and familial in their rulership rather than general.

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