Thursday, September 13, 2012

Twitter & The End Of The Fourth Estate

Twitter has destroyed journalism as we have known it to date in America. The worst mistake anyone in the press or the media or journalism (do those words have sustained meaning today?) could have made in the age of the internet, smart phones and tablets was to have joined yet another new social medium which counterintuitively limited not just your words but your very keystrokes.

The mainstream media was reduced to its essence. The result was its demise.

On Twitter, journolists (shall we let them in on that word?) found themselves in the cyber presence of equally if not demonstratively sharper minds, much, much quicker wit & an ability to marshall facts as readily as the imagination of Bob Woodward. The few good ones from the herd shone. The rest, refusing to admit they were subtantially less special than before going on Twitter, gamely strode on.

Unfortunately, in doing so they brought the scenery down of what was left of the media game. The royal family in the United Kingdom, say what one may, did manage to survive its encounter with the media. Not so the media itself, which must be the definition of meta.

On Twitter, the media were defeated by journalism itself. Not by just the bright activists on both political sides but by the ability for other media from other countries on Twitter to link to a fascinating array of stories about the United States which our own press, as it were, kept from us. Why would they do that?

The question didn't last long and people starved for information instead of rubbish were off and running. It wasn't that these websites weren't online before Twitter; they were. What Twitter does is make the static web dynamic and with its rich content you have something unlike we've ever seen before. I've thought long enough about this to think the media as constituted today is at an end. I can see it from my house in my pajamas you might even say.

Media personalities, reporters and producers on Twitter, at various times and in sometimes quite revealing ways, eventually could not but help let their personalities come through. On the one hand, we were reassured that they were human. On the other, they themselves (take a bow) confirmed every known defect, vanity and shortcoming conservatives had long ago come to believe they possessed.

I'm not really sure if media and liberals on Twitter realize that the conservatives there stand around looking at the wealth of confirmatory evidence, wanting to shake our heads. Because we can't, we use avatars, our own buzzwords (this means you won't know you're being mocked), and hash tags (the pound sign #) which have almost become the exclusive provence of the right.

In hash tags conservatives reign supreme. Hash tag games are our most deadly weapon in this aspect of Twitter and largely for our own, self-congratulatory amusement. Again, some media standouts are in our league. See how the tables have changed?

Information is the name of the game though, no? Yes. Here marginal or clearly erroneous information is corrected quickly and efficiently. There is the speed of light, which we can't experience, and then there's the speed of Twitter, which we can. I recommend you experience it for yourself.

Tonight we're waiting to see what the American media will do with an explosive report from the British newspaper The Independent. From the material there, it seems very likely that Secretary Hillary Clinton was knowingly and grossly deficient in her prime directive as our Secretary of State: to safeguard the lives of her State Department employees. The story can be read by clicking here. This comes, of course, as we learn President Obama did not attend approximately 60% of his daily intelligence briefings.

The point is that much more information is needed and the media have no natural interest in obtaining it. They will be forced to report about their team. It has been a very long time since they did. It's at junctures like this that I recall the attitudes of those going into journalism: high minded if not prideful, certain of their commitment to truth and a belief that life could not inculcate in them sometimes wildly contradictory beliefs and opinions. And, of course, worship of that mythic goddess Objectivity.

What makes this development all the more remarkable is that it is coming at the end of a tumultuous week within Twitter & the media given the sickening and catastrophic murder and violence in Libya and Egypt.

Doesn't everyone know where they were when they learned "our Ambassador" to Libya had been murdered? I believe they do. I know I do. It almost never happens. When it does, that veneer of civilization is thin to the point of disappearing.

Without recapitulating days of back and forth, conservatives on Twitter were astonished to see the instinctive herd mentality of the media form almost immediately upon the news of a dead Ambassador, three more American citizens, and a consulate burned out if not to the ground. Carter! we heard their Borg-like minds shriek in the Twitterverse. We expected the usual apologies for incompetence that they'd automatically provided throughout the Obama administration.

What we could not have known is that in their feral, corrupt panic they'd have the shamelessness to attempt to make their journalistic reason d'etre the blaming and destruction of Mitt Romney. Ambassador Stevens died a horrible death: choking to death in a burning building. Romney put out a statement and the rest is well known: the media liked neither its content nor its timing. Obama condemned the statement before he condemned the violence at the American Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

Any number of misrepresentations and lies were made by the media in its ongoing attempt to sustain a negative narrative against Romney. But the various narratives kept suffering from factual, ethical cardiopulmonary failure and couldn't be resuscitated. One by one they were cast off. Those for whom the media pretend to write were having none of what they wrote.

On Twitter, for the first time, media encountered a kill zone with them and their biases the kill. It is said that information wants to be free and with Twitter the media were not able to contain all the information before it had been shaped to their desired narrative. I wasn't the only one who saw, in real time, journalists deal with being out journaled. Fascinating, actually. I'm wondering now if it wasn't even anthropological?

Because conservatives were looking for the facts, any errors were quickly remedied. Some facts might be bad news for our side but we wanted them anyway. Yet because the media were now hopelessly propagandizing for President Obama, their narrative held no weight, being made out of their political prejudices and professional, ethical betrayals. Contempt for the media was involuntary.

And for themselves? Media were largely unaware of the fatal damage done. Over four consecutive days, across every platform imaginable, most of this country saw institutions which pride themselves on the enormity of their duty to the public in regard to truth and veracity debase themselves for the most pedestrian of political reasons. Repeatedly. Stupidly. Mindlessly.

Twitter was where all the action took place because it was the unknowing kill zone for media lies. Because lies were, at times, what it became: conservatives watched most of the Fourth Estate lie in the interests of a failed democrat President and say to us they weren't doing what was manifestly the case. We thought we'd seen it all when NBC News deliberately edited audiotape of George Zimmerman to make him look racist because the overwhelmingly white, liberal, guilt-riden media are obsessed with race. If only their attention resulted in racial progress instead of tension. Progressives so dislike progress they make sure it rarely happens.

The story remains to be played out for some time. I'm hardly predicting media vanishes per se. But its encounter with its dishonest, dirty self is one it will not be able to withstand. This post is best seen as a downpayment on a longer essay on this topic.

In the meantime, Twitter, like money, changes everything. Between now and the enormously important election of November 6th, there will be more battles with the media. This week's battles, however, mark a turn from which things can never return.

Everyone tweets and blogs now. Everyone, so it seems, has a smart phone. Everyone's a journalist but Twitter makes it impossible for the old order to endure.

Because when everyone's a journalist, there is, mercifully, no journolism.