September 8, 2008
Damn Infowars and the blogs. I mean, they are wrecking the CIA’s favorite newspaper, the Washington Post. Late last month, in an op-ed piece published in the aggrieved newspaper (section B, third page printed on dead trees), Dusty Horwitt averred enough is enough.
First, Dusty basically declares there to be too much crap on the web, most blogs have few readers, and people skim anyway. “According to Nielsen Online, the average visitor to newspaper Web sites stops by for just 1.5 minutes per day on average. By contrast, the average print newspaper reader spends 40 minutes with each day’s edition, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism,” he argues.
For Mr. Horwitt, this “highlights the larger problem: The overload siphons audiences and revenue from newspapers such as The Post and other outlets that can spread important information, forcing these media to shrink and to rely increasingly on advertising to stay afloat.” Horwitt calls this “media fragmentation.”
I guess this means news websites like Infowars and Prison Planet do not post “important information,” although I’m sure the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Alex Jones’ websites every week would beg to differ. Many if not most of are sick and tired of corporate media spin and don’t trust big honking corporations to report news without bias.
Minus this “fragmentation,” the Post and other establishment newspapers would have had a far easier time selling us on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Post alone published dozens of editorials in favor of the neocon invasion and Walter Pincus once lamented that the newspaper ordered him to stop writing reports critical of Republicans. Even the establishment “liberal” Chris Matthews called the Post a neocon newspaper.
It’s not like the alternative media is blowing the Post’s solid standing on the internet away — it beats virtually all alternative news sites hands down with an Alexa ranking of 326, so I am not sure why Mr. Horwitt is complaining, although I have a good idea: it’s all about dominating information and opinion – thus consensus — an important aspect considering the Post was a vital link in the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird chain.
It’s also about the ridiculous cost of advertising. It costs over $800 a column inch for a black and white ad in the Post, whereas the nearest competition, the Washington Times, charges around a $100 for the same. Obviously, the Washington Post can’t get away with this sort of highway robbery on the internet, where ad rates are far more reasonable.
Second, Mr. Horwitt has an idea how to make the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, et al, more dominant and profitable again — make it more expensive, far more expensive, to own and operate a computer.
“Rather than call for government regulation of technology itself, perhaps the best way to limit the avalanche is to make the technologies that overproduce information more expensive and less widespread. It could be done via a progressive energy tax designed to keep energy prices at a consistently high level (while providing assistance to lower- and middle-income Americans).”
Notice how Horwitt believes there is an overproduction of information and it’s up to the government to create an artificial scarcity and jack up prices on equipment and energy so you’ll go back to feeding quarters into newspaper vending machines. Notice how he’s a compassionate conservative and wants to take even more of your money and give it to poor people so they can have what you’ll scarcely be able to afford.
As an “environmental analyst,” Mr. Hewitt also tells us this restriction of choice will be good for the environment.
“It’s possible that over time, an energy tax, by making some computers, Web sites, blogs and perhaps cable TV channels too costly to maintain, could reduce the supply of information. If Americans are finally giving up SUVs because of high oil prices, might we not eventually do the same with some information technologies that only seem to fragment our society, not unite it? A reduced supply of information technology might at least gradually cause us to gravitate toward community-centered media such as local newspapers instead of the hyper-individualistic outlets we have now.”
You know, those small local newspapers long ago snatched up by media conglomerates, mega-corporations such as General Electric, Westinghouse, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Viacom, Disney, Time-Warner, etc., corporations more interested in infotainment than actual news.
As if threatening to sic the government on us is not enough — and as if we don’t have enough government intervention in our lives already — Mr. Horwitt tries to scare us with the prospect of lost jobs: “If the thought of more expensive information technologies makes you flinch, consider economist Alan Blinder’s warning that the Internet could lead to the outsourcing of 40 million American service jobs over the next 10 to 20 years, including such jobs as financial analysts, lawyers and computer programmers. So newspapers aren’t the only ones to be hit by cheap information technologies.”
But let’s not belabor this more than necessary. Simply put, Dusty Horwitt is worried he will be out of a job if the trend toward decentralized and de-corporatized media continues without government intervention. He also probably realizes the establishment is threatened and must reign in the free flow of information and get us back on the propaganda teat.
Finally, socialist control methods such as those offered by Mr. Horwitt will simply not work. The former Soviet Union tried to dominate media technology as well and this in part led to the collapse of the Soviet government.
A Russian word comes to mind: Samizdat. Google it.
The corporatists may eventually make our technology too expensive to use, but they will not be able to stamp out the innate desire for information free of corporate efforts to turn it into crude propaganda to sell us wars and other bankster scams.
Mr. Horwitt’s draconian measure to eliminate the competition should not come as a surprise. He was Deputy Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. In 2000, Durbin served as Co-Chairman of the Democratic Platform Committee and also was Co-Chairman of the Atlantic Conference sponsored by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, according to his biography.