Before you go off and say that I am doing what everyone else has been doing and mining what has happened for clicks, hear me out. I got me degree in Journalism and Public Communication. I have an understanding of this medium better than most. And it is because of that that I feel a great sense of shame and pity for what has happened here. Everything about what has happened was a sign of how the medium that I grew up loving, who was supposed to be the vanguards of democracy, is failing. And there is no coming back from it. But here’s the thing – we all should have seen this coming. From a long ways off, this was apparent to me. It’s happened before, and it now it is beginning to happen again.
Where did it start? You could make the argument that it most recently started with the Wall Street Journal putting out a video which was an unfounded hit-piece on the YouTube personality PewDiePie. There was no defending that video. None. It was such blatant bullshit that you felt ashamed of yourself watching it. To think that a news outlet that was once believed to be a very respectable source could make an attack video against a YouTuber for a video where he was blatantly satirizing the people calling him racist and making a joke about finally giving in and becoming a Nazi. It was all so obvious, and the Internet tore the Journal to pieces over it. But that isn’t where it started.
Maybe it started back in 2014, with a little uprising known as GamerGate. Indeed, the parallels between what happened to Felix and that instance are rather shocking. We have a corrupt press colluding together to take on an Internet culture that is clearly a threat to their industry, and now we see the beginnings of a new culture war. And just like with the “Gamers are Dead” articles, now we have every major media outlet releasing a barrage of articles lambasting Felix and his politics. Also just like GamerGate, this is blowing up in the media’s face so badly that not one person involved is walking away clean. I don’t think this is where it started either.
The first time I truly got a taste of the downfall was looking at a video on NPR. I didn’t believe what I was seeing. There was a link to a video that was, quite literally, an unboxing video. That’s right, NPR, one of the most respected journalism outlets who does some truly biting work from time to time examining critical issues. was doing an unboxing video. It was of a PS4. A lot of people tried to make the argument that they were trying to talk about unboxing videos. That’s wrong. It wasn’t a video about unboxing. It was a fucking unboxing video. I was so embarrassed for them at that point. However, that most certainly wasn’t where it started.
So where was it? Where was the great downfall of the media’s beginning? The beginning of the Internet? Getting closer, but still no bueno. It was actually around the time when Princess Di was killed. The news at the time wasn’t talking about the facts of her death. Instead, they were creating narratives. It couldn’t be enough that a great woman died. No, the narrative had to be that a wonderful, fantastic woman died. And her passing needed a good catch phrase and sad music to be played over it. It was when cable news decided to come into the picture and turn the news from a discussion about the events of the day that transpired, to a narrative telling their audiences how to think about the news.
Here’s the thing – this idea of unbiased reporting is bullshit. There is no such thing. You can strive to be as unbiased as possible, have a rigorous vetting process to remove the scruples of bias to whatever extent you can. But the cold hard truth is that you still have to deal with the fact that bias exists, and it will always be there. Edward R Murrow admitted his bias, but his way of counter-manning it was to let the other side have its day. He let Joseph McCarthy come on his show and give a very passionate defense of his position, where he called Murrow and his ilk all sorts of unprofessional names. In giving his stage to his opposition, Murrow did more to cement how right he is in the eyes of the public. Still, Murrow was biased. The best minds are. Walter Cronkite told some harrowing stories about the war in Vietnam, but he did so with an agenda to get the troops out of there. He had a bias, but he had enough dedication to his craft to make sure to get people to the truth as close as he could. It wasn’t hard to sell people on the war in Vietnam being a bad idea.
PewDiePie is the victim of a medium that is lost. Print media is dying. I feel it all the time. I am just one of a thousand blogs that are ignored by the masses. My audience is still pretty awesome, but I realize that I am part of a bygone era. I don’t have video-making chops. This is the best I can do. Like all animals that feel their end coming, the media is lashing out. PewDiePie makes for an easy target. His popularity cannot be overstated. Traditional media has to work very hard for all of their stories. Felix basically just gets in front of a camera and plays video games, then he makes millions. He makes astronomical amounts of money just by exaggerating his expressions while playing video games, and now making more original content. Of course the media who has to work hard to make any content would despise such a person.
And for those who will say “it’s not anything to do with that! It was the fact that he used Nazi imagery in his videos!” First, the video they went after was so cherry-picked and avoided context where Felix showed that he has no love for Nazis, but decided to give the media who attacked him to no end what they wanted. They do everything they can to take his videos out of context. And when the Internet took them to task for it, the media overall decided to try and make it in to a big deal about how context doesn’t matter. Actually, dumb fucks, it does. It really does.
Old media is dying, and its final death throes will not be pretty. But I don’t miss them. Sure, the person who spent $40,000 on a degree like me would be pissed that some guy on YouTube can make boatloads of money. But I don’t see any of them trying to make a niche for themselves. I mean, when a high school dropout can become the biggest atheist channel on YouTube and last for longer than anyone else on the site, that means that if you can keep a fresh idea and change up for your audience enough, then you can make a new brand for yourself. Media has to change with the times. Its refusal to do so leads to some unbelievably sad things.
Until next time, a quote,
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” – Buddha