Holy Truths

Since the United States remains corporate capitalism’s flagship and proving ground, the forms of publicly-subsidized waste that sustain it have long been sacrosanct in American culture. When it comes to discussing these vital flows in public, rational questions are forbidden, and cover stories consist of the wildest fictions.

Consider what The New York Times says about today’s Congressional over-ride of a Presidential veto of the Pentagon’s new $740,000,000,000 budget:

The vote reflected the sweeping popularity of a measure that authorizes a pay raise for the nation’s military.

NYT, January 1, 2021

It would be very hard to cram more untruth into fewer words.

Is there, in fact, “sweeping” support for increased military spending? There certainly is among Congresspersons. But there absolutely is not such a sentiment among the population, as the slightest fact-check shows:

It is also difficult to decide which is more petulant and hateful: The appeal to raising soldiers’ compensation, or the use of the phrase “pay raise for the nation’s military” to denote this topic.

This is the kind of thing that makes it rather hard to get much worked up when this supposedly canonical source carps about other entities’ disdain for basic facts and logic. On topics where power requires it, prevarication here is just as brazen as it is in certain Floridian brothels and country clubs.

Facebook’s One True Fear

According to The Washington Post, as a move in its defense against now-pending anti-trust litigation, Facebook has recently done this:

In an attempt to illustrate its commitment to competition, the company’s top lawyers signaled that they would be open to changing some of its business practices, according to three people familiar with the matter. One of the ideas Facebook floated would have allowed another firm or developer to license access to its powerful code — and its users’ intricate web of relationships — so that they could more easily create their own version of a social network, said the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity

The Washington Post, December 22, 2020

The Post, of course, never for a second considers what this action ultimately discloses. Yes, Facebook dislikes being sued for excessive market power, as this report has it. But what Facebook really fears is the utterly obvious thing that would actually kill it: a public, not-for-profit version of itself.

As this Post report confirms, Facebook will be quite happy to have its would-be competitors arise from the private sector. That’s because the private sector will never dare do the things the public-sector would do as a matter of course — and hence will never do more than slightly dent Facebook’s artificial dominance.

Only if and when the public modernizes the United States Postal Service and includes in that effort a non-commercial, reliably private forum for quick interpersonal internet communication will Facebook’s empire face its true comeuppance.

Alas, in our almost completely corporate media ecology, this simple prospect — despite surely being an object of serious worry inside the Facebook boardroom — remains unmentioned and unmentionable.

Facebook v. Apple

When they start talking about small business, you know you’re hearing bullshit.

Facebook, which exists to harvest data and place images on behalf of mostly-huge corporate capitalist organizations, is about to start running full-page ads objecting to Apple’s pending decision to make Facebook and its clients ask for permission, with in its mobile data environment, to gather marketing data from software users. The change is apparently coming in iOS14.

(It will be interesting to see if Apple follows through with the change, which it has already delayed at least once…)

Unmentioned in FB’s effort to stop the Apple change is: a) what share of FB revenues come from big businesses, and b) what people who use software actually prefer, in terms of advertising-versus-privacy issues.

New Media

addiction spoof on Facebook logo

“Facebook might have won already, which would mean the end of democracy in this century,” [Jaron] Lanier said. “It’s possible that we can’t quite get out of this system of paranoia and tribalism for profit—it’s just too powerful and it’ll tear everything apart, leaving us with a world of oligarchs and autocrats who aren’t able to deal with real problems like pandemics and climate change and whatnot and that we fall apart, you know, we lose it. That is a real possibility for this century.”

A major hypothesis.

Nota bene: New media are new, but also not new. Both the incessant expansion of data-harvesting and the shift away from print-dominated media are major marketing (read: corporate capitalist) imperatives.

The Sourcing Filter: Strong as it Ever Was

herman and chomsky faces

Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s “propaganda model” of the functioning of the U.S. mass media is surely one of the few great achievements of twentieth-century social science. Its explanatory and predictive force is as strong today as it was in 1988.

One test of this claim resides in the remarkable Presidency of Donald John Trump.

Trump is obviously multiply pathological and virtually incapable of telling the truth, except when it happens as a mere coincidence. He lies so often and so freely that both the quantity and the audacity of the lies tend to defy their tracking.

This, as well as Trump’s frequent irrational attacks on mainstream media, offer a good way to judge whether it remains true, as Herman and Chomsky argued in explaining their “SOURCING MASS-MEDIA NEWS: THE THIRD FILTER,” that major corporate media will tend to give far too much interpretive weight to people in high public and private posts.

With this in mind, consider a very peculiar headline from today’s edition of The New York Times.

Yesterday, Donald Trump said, plainly and on the record, that he was going to discontinue the “task force” that has played such an important role in keeping him from severely worsening the domestic impact of the ongoing global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Today, Mr. Trump has — entirely predictably — said he will, in fact, leave the task force in place.

The NYT‘s headline on this simple reversal? This:

“Seeming.” That, of course, is a counter-factual exculpatory adjective. Why is it there?

The only reasonable explanation is the one that comes from the Herman-Chomsky model: Treating TPTB with special reverence is so important to corporate mass media, that even such an extreme case does not break the “filtering” rule that inheres in the system: Official sources always have the benefit of the doubt, even when they are inarguably grossly unreliable.

Why NPR Sucks

Alexander Cockburn used to argue that, under corporate capitalism, one function of the major mass media is clever misreporting of important stories.

With this powerful hypothesis in mind, take a listen to this little ditty from today’s version of NPR’s Morning Edition:

The story is about how Bloomberg News instructed its own award-winning reporters to stop probing the wealth and power of China’s ruling class [story behind paywall, of course], and went so far in the effort as to try coercing its journalists’ life partners into signing NDAs.

So, important story, for sure. But what, pray tell, is it about?

Surely, the story is about the severe limitations placed on journalism by private, for-profit media ownership — right, National Public Radio?

Nope. Not even close.

What, instead, does NPR — the supposedly alternative content “made possible” by its constantly-mentioned private sponsors — say their own story is about?

Mike Bloomberg might be a weasel.

What else at Bloomberg News is being hidden if such contracts exist that require such secrecy?