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january 2022

The Media & Fake Media


by Hans Durrer

Right: Urn Plant, Santa Cruz do Sul, 5-1-2022 (photo by the author)

The media, and that includes fake media, reflect the world. Up to a point, that is, for most of what is taking place on planet earth is of no concern or interest to media makers. It might be fair, therefore, to say that the media reflect the obsessions of the media makers and, since we live in times in which profit trumps all other motivations, of media owners. These obsessions, it must be stressed, are very much in tune with what the general public does obsess about — gossip, that is.

Everything in today's media world is personalised. The preferred formats are the story and the essay; and, these work best with heroes and villains, who in the real world that is far too complex to conform to the wishes of individuals, however do not exist. In this sense all media are fake. In fact, we are only free to choose what invented reality we prefer.

Next Needless to say, there is a difference between, say, the BBC and Fox News. In my younger years, I felt obliged to listen to what both of them had to say, for at that time I thought, to be informed requires to consider a variety of news sources and that includes the ones whose ideology I do not share.
  These days are long gone. Nowadays I only turn to media that, in my view, make a serious effort to live up to basic journalistic standards, whose goal it is to tell the truth. For the truth exists, it is not relative, it does not depend on my beliefs. What Philip K. Dick once penned about reality — "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away" — can also be said about truth. And while we might never fully grasp it, we certainly can aspire to it.
Next Covid-19 has taught me that ignorance and the unwillingness to consider (seemingly unpleasant) facts is much more widespread than I had thought. For many, to rely on their gut feeling seems to be the natural thing to do. If our instincts were as good as the ones of animals this would of course be fine. Yet they are not. As Schopenhauer pointed out: we are animals whose intelligence must compensate for the lack of instincts and the inadequate organic adaptation to the living environment. In other words, we need to activate our brains if we want to survive — and when we deal with the media.
  This applies especially to intellectuals. Konrad Kellen wrote in the introduction to Jacques Ellul's Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes that Ellul designated "intellectuals as virtually the most vulnerable of all to modern propaganda, for three reasons: (1) they absorb the largest amount of second-hand, unverifiable information; (2) they feel a compelling need to have an opinion on every important issue of our time, and thus easily succumb to opinions offered to them by propaganda on all such indigestible pieces of information; (3) they consider themselves capable of 'judging for themselves'."
Next Although I do not think of myself as an intellectual — intellectuals tend to think in systems, believe it to be relevant where ideas come from — I'm without doubt a person who enjoys thinking. And, I'm aware that my thinking has its limits for there are problems that I never get to, that are outside my imagination. Virus research, for instance. Moreover, given the strangeness of the world, I'm not always sure what is a conspiracy theory and what not.
  So, what is there to do if I cannot rely on my own judgement, when common sense (which is not very common, by the way) isn't much help? I need to listen to people with more knowledge and insight than me. No, I do not believe in a world where experts should have the final word but I find it useful if we were to keep our emotions out of the way when making decisions on whether some news are fake and others not. To give in to our impulses spells disaster, to aspire to the sober mind of a decent adult would be beneficial.
  2022 © Hans Durrer / Soundscapes