What is the future, if any, for legacy media?
Legacy media as we've known it is melting down both due to technological (and therefore economic) changes in the structure of media and the deepening divide among American citizens. What's clear is that media is about to change even faster than it has in the past decades. Many of these new attempts will fail on a large scale because they won't navigate the political and cultural divide well and they will remain based in a televisual cable model that is not truly digital. But when the right (likely younger) people come together with the proper backing to create new digitally based media with the right ideas for a mainstream effort that serves at least half the nation, the new media will be born. My focus now is aiding that process. It is now possible to attract the money and talent needed for such a thing as the market for non-woke media grows and the media we need is shut out by the powers that be. We need a new Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, etc. And we need them now.
Remember SKIP AD? Not long ago parents would tell me their kids referred to commercials on television as “skip ads” because of the button they had been habituated to seeing and using on YouTube. YouTube subsequently withdrew that feature, locking people once again into the familiar TV system where watching ads was the price of seeing the “actual” content.
The change revealed how even much of ostensibly “new” and “digital” media in fact just used digital technology to accelerate and consolidate TV media, toward a sort of terminal point. That point is one where everyone can be, and becomes, both the audience yelling at the people on TV and the people on TV being yelled at.
In this terminally televisual environment, people go crazy, saying online and eventually doing online things to one another built on virtual relationships disconnected from the affinities and restraints formed in person. And yet, these virtual antagonisms in part arise from how they can’t satisfy the longing for in-person conflict that’s part of our human nature.
Nevertheless, or perhaps because of all this, established media companies seek not only to turn antagonism to their own advantage but, characteristically, to use the fairy dust of their ethical beliefs to transmute or transcend antagonism into a kind of spiritual purity or perfection. Even media companies that lack any legacy of TV production or development are now racing into that medium; the New York Times now infamously regards itself as a channel of “juicy narratives” rather than a staid and colorless “paper of record.”
Marshall McLuhan said, rightly I think, that new media turn previous media into content within them. So in one sense truly digital media, for instance code, or the blockchain, obsolesces TV media insofar as it shifts authority and power away from the moral imagination of elite language masters and toward the super-powered memory of machines. But in another sense the digital medium fills out its vast archival spaces with huge quantities of video content, which people for now still crave and consume even as it loses the commanding cultural power it used to.
The development legacy media companies are now confronting is that people are losing interest both in ads and in “actual programming” that doesn’t cater to them—because the TV medium has lost the authority to make them feel that ads and programming are a sort of divine message that alone truly activates their spirit. (Think of how the nation once gathered around the oracle of the super bowl ads, which commanded the conversation around the water cooler the next day.)
So it’s inevitable that legacy televisual media companies—led by people convinced they have pure intentions, perfect ethics, and moral authority—are now convinced they must and should force us to consume content they “officially” approve, and force us not to consume content they “officially” disapprove of. This new vocation of theirs syncs up all too well with the rest of the ruling class. Whether Americans will submit to this new arrogation of power and authority, over not only us but our digital machines, remains to be seen!
My colleague James Poulos is the best authority on this question, so I don’t have much to add past a quick observation. For a good time, keep your eye on how the legacy media talk and write about themselves as they lay dying. This is instructive from a psychological point and hilarious from a comedic angle. But most important to look out for, however, is the tenacity with which they will fight to stay alive. Even though attempts are futile, this won’t stop them trying de-legitimize or outright destroy what they sense comes next. In this respect, we are in for a bumpy ride down to Hades.
Maybe The American Mind will host a Feature on this topic.
There is no such future. I refuse to countenance or think about one. Here is why: if anything like the censorious, disingenuous, vindictive lie-machine which currently harangues our people without cease day after day continues to exist in the digital age, we will be unmade. As a people, as individuals, as a nation, we will cease to understand even the merest elements of who we are or how we are meant to govern ourselves. That is the aim of the legacy media and has been for some time. The centralized control afforded these scoundrels by social media monopolists, if it is not effectively circumvented, will crush the American spirit for good and all.
I, personally, will not allow that to happen. Neither will anyone at The American Mind. Instead, we will destroy the legacy media. We will outwit it, outdo it, replace it, and ensure no such monstrosity ever arises in the public sphere again. As I argued at greater length in my article on Monday, there is evidence that we and other renegades are already mounting a more successful counteroffensive than you may have been led to believe. We will continue this offensive, because we have no choice: it is that or be crushed.
The first and highest-priority item on the agenda is a viable new internet platform which permits all those with an interest in truth to speak it freely according to constitutional principles. Parler, though a promising start, is not enough. We need a whole new internet. I am not the person to build it. But someone is. We will know him when we see him, and the minute we do we must rush to his aid with funds and content. Until then, we keep up the fight.