Monday, 7 November 2016


Exile on Mainstream

Last Wednesday morning after the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, I stared out my backdoor watching the woodpeckers, magpies and blue jays, still a little fried from watching a mind blowing four and half hours of baseball. The sun rose a little higher, the hot orange sky warmed into a Cubs blue. Despite the sports story of this young century, everything was the same as it ever was, just like the day before, and tomorrow was sure to be.

Sometime this coming Tuesday night the grotesque that is the 2016 American presidential campaign will reach its denouement. I expect next Wednesday morning will be much like last Wednesday’s, birds flitting in the backyard, black coffee in my Rolling Stones mug and the tabbies going out, coming in and going out again. Even though we’ve just turned back our clocks, I don’t anticipate a mushroom cloud in lieu of sunrise.

The modern Republican Party reminds me of scenes from an abusive marriage, an unfathomable alliance between the super-rich and those they exploit. During a prolonged unhinged bout of batshit craziness its members managed to select an inexperienced, buffoonish vulgarian as the Grand Old Party’s White House nominee. Half of that country and the rest of the world (Russia excepted) looked on in horror. The near universal negative reaction was of course the fault of the “mainstream media” who will also be complicit in rigging the November 8th vote in favour of the Democratic Party and its corrupt, criminal and crooked candidate.

Coincidentally, the strident Left, the anti-everything-vaguely-capitalist and pro-Earth Mother contingent, complains about its depiction in “mainstream media,” its miniscule profile and the vacuum of coverage its agenda garners. Mainstream media: more or less strange common ground for complaint for two radical extremes who also share the same thoughts on globalization and free trade.

A couple of weeks ago a Facebook friend shared a meme featuring Adolf Hitler. Refreshingly, the embedded image contained no typos or spelling mistakes.  It read in all caps something like: HITLER WAS TIME MAGAZINE’S MAN OF THE YEAR IN 1938. PROOF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA DOESN’T ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT. I sat back dumbfounded, taken aback. Had partisan discourse on social media descended to this? Who could possibly confuse “Man of the Year” or more properly “Newsmaker of the Year” with some sort of popularity award especially when its subject was a dictator goose-stepping Europe toward yet another world war?

The Adolf meme intrigued me for another reason. Was its creator swilling Pabst Blue Ribbon in a Rust Belt city or sipping latte on Vancouver Island? Did they want to work on a pipeline or protest one? What is the definition of mainstream media in this day and age, I wondered, since the fringes on either side of the spectrum sneer at it?

The traditional press and modern electronic media are commonly referred to as the Fourth Estate. That term is a late addendum to the hierarchical structure of society as it existed in the Dark Ages. The First Estate was the Church, and there was only one. The Second Estate was literally that, the landowners, the nobility. The Third Estate was the common people, the vast majority of souls unlucky enough to be subservient to the whims of the First and Second Estates. The invention of movable type and later the mechanized printing press gave rise to the Fourth Estate whose mission was to be a voice for the Third Estate and call or hold the First and Second Estates to account. Democracy cannot exist without an unshackled and independent press.

Prior to the Internet turning itself on asking what mainstream media was was not a particularly tricky question. Mainstream media was the newspaper of record in your city or town and its competitor, it was network news, it was weekly news compendiums published for the establishment. The alternative sources of information were equally obvious, counter-culture weeklies and magazines that questioned the pervading ethos. But whether you were reading the New York Times or the Village Voice, Newsweek or Mother Jones, the facts were there, just interpreted and presented differently. A key element to remember here is that lunatic New Journalism scribe Hunter S. Thompson and legendary investigative maverick Seymour Hersh had honed their craft and understood their topics better than any mainstream reporter.

Tomorrow night a misguided and pathetic attempt at revolution might be televised. Today I will define mainstream media as traditional outlets purveying properly vetted information, from the Washington Post to Rolling Stone, organizations that deal in facts and who have somehow managed to stagger through the hysterical, screeching “Me!” rise of social media while scoffing at Fox News, a comedy sketch without punch lines. In other words, blatant ideology and outright lies have no stake in the turf of the Fourth Estate; they never have.

Propaganda in the media is best left to the brain-washed, the editors of China’s People’s Daily or Russia’s Pravda and such. While we may not always agree with the informed views expressed in a free and independent press, and a mainstream one at that, there’s no doubt that accurate information is essential in the formulation of our opinions and ultimately, our critical decisions. There are two sides to every story; we require balance and common sense to orient ourselves on the highwire above the abyss, the yawning, thirsty maw of digitized ignorance. There’s nothing wrong with being mainstream sometimes.

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