Digital media: The War of the Words

Something be rotten in the state of media, case and point: the digital media.  An old saw to be sure. Though being old does not make something untrue. The simple fact of the matter is that there have been issues in the media since is beginnings in the 1600s.

The term ‘legacy media’ is with no exaggeration or overstatement. It is also not an exaggeration to say that the members of said media, have expressed a general resistance to change and advancement.

Sounds strange, considering the mission statement of many media forms, particularly in the news dimension, but it is true, the battle lines always being quickly and clearly drawn.

Not being foolish, at least not that kind of foolish, the legacy media have learned the lessons of the past, have united and now are now declaring all out war of attrition on what they see as their common enemy. Digital media.

digital media
Stephen Glass

Digital media: Walking on broken glass

The first rattles of the saber occurred in the late 1990s in the wake of the Stephen Glass affair. For those of you born after the internet went public, Stephen Glass was a writer at old paper and ink publication the New Republic who was discovered to have partially or wholly fabricated many of his stories.

A blow in any case, both to Glass and the credibility of traditional media, the fact that the story was broken by journalists at the online version of Forbes, after Glass apparently scooped them on a hacker story, only poured salt in the wound.

The distaste caused by the case carried over into the early-parts of the 21st century, chorus of voices blaming ‘the internet’ for traditional media’s slow decline growing stronger by the year. Even though the so-called ‘Digital Revolution’ has a very similar trajectory to the ‘Industrial’ one.

To blame or even credit any individual person, business or innovation for ‘killing’ an older form is like shouting at the clouds to stop the rain. Not that this matters much. Narrative having long ago replaced facts in terms of importance.

The narrative among many in the legacy media, as according to their recent actions, is that digital media and the producers their of are their mortal enemies and must be at least discredited if not destroyed.

Charles C. Johnson

The face they see in their nightmares

One of the first salvos in the current media war is the attacks on independent journalist and owner and publisher Charles C. Johnson. On the most basic level, the legacy media, and other online types, like to go after Johnson’s credibility.

Trying again and again to dismiss him as ‘just a blogger’ and/or just another product of internet journalism which, lets be honest with ourselves, despite some changes in recent years has not always had the best reputation.

Except this is wrong. Not just factually but morally, possibly to the extent of slander. Johnson is, in fact, a trained journalist, holding a degree from Claremont McKenna College and while there was the recipient of the national Eric Breindel Collegiate Journalism Award and the Publius Fellowship.

A journalist in the traditional, pre-blogger sense who actually does research, gets sources and breaks stories, many of the ‘controversies’, a word so overused it is losing any real meaning or impact, were things that he published and stories he broke that went against the dominant narrative.

One of these was an expose on Elizabeth O’Bagy. A foreign policy analyst who attained her position at the Institute for the Study of War by claiming to have attained a Doctorate from Georgetown University. A degree which she does not possess.

The O’Bagy story was straight forward and unambiguous. The thing that really mobilized the pitch-fork and torches brigade was when Johnson published the name of a plaintiff in the now infamous University of Virginia sexual assault case.

A case promoted by rebellious, counter-culture music magazine turned establishment organ Rollingstone. The core allegation of which Johnson had already confirmed to be false.

The publication of the name got him attacked as someone who ‘outed a rape victim’, which she was not, back when the ‘real media’ was still acting as though it were all automatically true. They were all scooped by ‘just a blogger’.


A slice of the pie

On the other end of the digital spectrum is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known to the world by his screen name ‘PewDiePie’. One of the most popular producers on YouTube, Kjellberg focuses mostly on comedy videos that have little to no political elements.

How did he incure the wroth of the powers that be? He made a joke, actually a few that he himself admits ‘went too far’ and he now regrets, that were taken out of context and had people in all quarters literally calling him an anti-semite.

Making a satirical point about a new system on YouTube, putting priority on some videos over others. In it he posits the possibility that his numbers might be down because of his skin color.

The joke, of course, caused outrage among literalists all over the web, many calling him a racist. Finding this funny, Kjellberg reacted by making fun of them by slipping Nazi phrasing, such as saying ‘nein’ instead of ‘no’ and quickly correcting himself, into his videos. His comedy videos. That are not meant to be taken literally.

Starting out on the internet with minor sites, the story was picked-up by the legacy media, no less a grand old dragon than The Wall Street Journal publishing little more than a hit piece on him.

Careful not to outright defamation, the article focuses on the allegations and mentioning Kjellberg’s success, managing to gloss over that many of the millions attributed to him were raised for charity and that and that, as mentioned, is a comedian and very little of what he says is meant to be taken seriously.

Milo Yiannopoulos

Fall of the Boy Emperor

The elephant trumpeting in the corner of the room can no longer be ignored. Milo Yiannopoulos, please save your rage emails for the end, is a satirist. Both of society and himself. Sarcastic self-deprication being Britian’s third largest export after Doc Marten boots and HP sauce.

Am I defending him? No. What he says is indefensible. That is the point. Shock and sensationalism are his stock and trade. As they have been for every tabloid journalist since the reign of Elizabeth Tudor.

He was damned out of his own mouth to be sure but some of us still do not believe in kicking someone when they are down. Which is more than can be said for many corners of the legacy media.

Ironic considering the number of traditional media members, such as Michael Savage and Richard Little john, who have said things as bad and worse than Yiannopoulos, with none of the irony, though do not get nearly the same flack.

Savage works primarily in radio, the oldest among the broadcast mediums. Littlejohn, much Like Yiannopoulos, is a British journalist, occupying the pages of paper and ink newspaper The Daily Mail, founded in 1896.

Yiannopoulos, often using the in no way ironic screen-name ‘Nero’, had a primarily online presence, most notably on Twitter before, before being permenantly banned, and the online news magazine

To say the site is ‘right-wing’ is accurate but beside the point. Both talk radio and The Daily Mail are known for their conservative views. It is not the perspective so much as the format and possibly age, Yannopoulos is more than 30 years younger than either of them, that are the main factors accounting for the difference in the reaction to a Savage or a Littlejohn versus a MILO.

They all say outragous things and make some people angry. Only one of them has had active campaigns to end his career and shots fired in protest of his existence and it is the same one who is most strongly associated with the digital media sphere.

The bullet starting to fly and poice cars starting to burn only when he was poised to release a book with a Big 10 publishing house. Thereby being accepted into the cultural mainstream, having slipped past one of the few gatekeepers still at their post. Funny that.