cj#243> Stahlman: New Media vs. Old Media

1995-07-17

Richard Moore

(Also published to cyber-rights as cr#804, as part of the thread arising
from the Time Magazine article on net pornography.  It seems to fit with
the political analysis series here on cyberjournal.)

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Date: Sat, 15 Jul 1995 01:00:36 -0700
Sender: Mark Stahlman (via RadioMail) <•••@••.•••>
Subject: New Media vs. Old Media

Folks:

TIME is and always has been a propaganda organ.  Henry Luce and his top
aides graduated from WWII psychological warfare and then very consciously
set out to use those same "weapons" on the civilian population after the
war.  TIME is, of course, only one of dozens of major media projects whose
roots and consistent practice is largely based on the same battle tested
psy-war techniques.

This is not meant to be controversial or contentious; it's just the facts.
Ask any of the old-TIMErs or read the history.  Shaping public opinion is a
well understood military/intelligence activity and its application by
magazines, broadcasters and other culture-czars is well established
practice.

I would argue that this propaganda approach -- craft a pointed message and
then hit your target is the essense of Old Media.  No number of letters to
the editor, retractions or negative PR fallout can fundamentally alter the
effect of that first story.  The psychology of driving public awareness and
setting agendas is simply what modern mass media is all about.  It is their
core competency.  It is their business model.

But, for many reasons, the effectiveness of Old Media is seriously eroding.
Sometimes it's an incident like the TIME cyber-porn cover that leads to a
loss in faith.  Sometimes it's due to personal involvement in events that
are spun into something completely unrecognizable in the "news."  Part of
it has to with people's rejection of the "media elite."  Part of it is the
increasing irrelevancy of the Eastern Liberal Establishment.  Some of it is
the belief that you need to titilate to get ratings.  And, part has to do
with the end of the Cold War and the end of the "need" for wartime
propaganda.

New Media and specifically the Net is an integral part of the anti-
propaganda rebellion.  The Net won't tolerate hypocrisy.  The Net forces
everything into the open.  The Net is an open system.  EFF was destroyed by
the Net because their actions would not stand up to scrutiny on the Net.
Intel's Pentium flaws were uncovered on the Net.  Even Usenet flaming, as
stupid and vicious as it often is, is a form of this cleansing action.

New Media is not just new technology.   New Media is a new approach, a new
attitude, a new psychology.  The new technologies are being madly
absorbed/deployed by Old Media operators.  These are the folks who think
that they are "content" (i.e. propaganda) companies and that they can build
"content" for any media. TIME online is not New Media.  The essense of the
New Media approach is the rejection of propaganda and psychological
warfare.  New Media is, instead, committed to finding the "truth" -- or at
least getting to bottom of things.

This New vs. Old Media conflict is the often expressed in terms like
"community" vs. "content."  It was the reason why the original HOTWIRED
team left (and have now launched the c-net site).  Reingold (or whomever)
wanted "community."  Rosetto (or whomever) wanted "content."  Sometimes the
conflict crops up in discussions about advertiser supported vs. subscriber
funded media.  The ad business is a propaganda business (in case you hadn't
noticed).  It's the reason why WIRED has been mainstreamed with a series of
corporate execs on the cover and now with Esther Dyson interviewing Newt
for the current cover article.  WIRED is now definatively Old Media.  EFF
was Old Media.  And, TIME has always been Old Media.

I'm not predicting that Old Media or, for that matter, propaganda will go
away.  I'm not even suggesting that you should feel guilty if it happens to
be your face on the cover or etched onto the psy-warhead.  And, by all
means, "hack the culture" with "media viruses" if you think turning the
propaganda engines against themselves will score some points.

But, I am suggesting that New Media must and can set its sights elsewhere.
Successful New Media projects will take advantage of the widespread
rejection of the core values of Old Media.  This rejection is likely to
turn into rebellion and that's the force which will fuel the growth of the
New Media industry.  And, if any of this is likely to lead to a
"revolution", New Media is already starting to build the barricades.

Mark Stahlman
New Media Associates
New York City
•••@••.•••

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moderator comment:

Mark & I have exchanged some bitter flames in the past, but I'd like to
congratulate him on what is, IMHO, a concise and articulate expression of
the democratic potential of cyberspace ("New Media"), vs. the
propagandistic nature of mass media ("Old Media").

It seems to me that what we've been dealing with on cyber-rights, is
precisely the threat to turn Internet into yet-another channel for the "Old
Media".  The current Internet is indeed an example of "New Media", but its
survival as such is highly doubtful.

If Exon-like censorship becomes the law, then open postings by large
numbers of citizens will become impossible, due to the costly liability to
which service providers would become vulnerable.  The world won't have been
made safe for children, but cyberspace would have been largely purged of
open expression.

And if cyberspace ownership vests in unregulated monopolies (as espoused by
Newt Gingrich, in his Progress & Freedom Foundation's "Magna Carta") then
cyberspace will be condemned to the same centrally controlled,
democratically sterile, and highly profitable "Old Media" business model
that television has succumbed to.  The Magna Carta characterizes cyberspace
not as a place that hosts communities, but rather as a place where
consumers can peruse, at a to-be-determined price, universes of proprietary
information -- information to be protected by enforceable, and strict,
copyright laws.

And if the so-called "anti-terrorist" bills become law -- outlawing
encryption, authorizing routine government monitoring of traffic, and
permitting a totally arbitrary and un-reviewable definition of what
constitutes "terrorism" -- then there will be no such thing as privacy in
communications, and no political expression will be safe from harsh
government suppression.  The Bill of Rights will have been essentially
repealed, both in cyberspace and everywhere else.

---

Mark's piece was apparently sparked by Shabbir J. Safdar's posting last
week, where Shabbir pooh-pooh'd the idea that political intent could be
behind the Time Magazine article on pornography.  Mark has strongly claimed
(and I agree) that mass media conglomerates, such as Time Inc., have a much
broader business model than simply catering to consumer demands.  I'd
invite Mark to cite a couple reference books so those who doubt can "read
the history".

My own "conspiracy antenna" are aroused whenever I see public policy being
proposed where (1) the avowed justifications and proposed mechanisms are
patently absurd, and (2) the actual consequences serve clearly-definable
interests, but this is left out of the public discussion.  This is the case
with the spate of anti-Internet legislation.  If these bills pass,
pornography and terrorism will not have been purged from our society, but
low-cost information and vibrant political discussion -- threats to
authoriatarian government and media-conglomerate profits -- will have been
suppressed.


-Richard K. Moore



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 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland (USA citizen)
                 Moderator: CYBERJOURNAL (@CPSR.ORG)

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