Recently I was thinking about how folks love talking about how the media “distracts” us with celebrity gossip and sports while not reporting on major issues. In a way, that is true. Of course many times if you ask why this is, the real reason is monetary. The fact is that the media puts this out there because people watch it, and people watching things is how they make their money. What is more, hard-hitting news is likely to contradict someone’s worldview, thus turning them off and ensuring that they won’t go to that source for news anymore.

Seeing as how many of the people who make this criticism of media tend to be a bit more politically radical, however, I sometimes wonder if they are guilty of indulging in another form of sensationalist, frivolous, and ultimately distracting news. Let’s start big, with Alex Jones. Here he is screaming about how the media distracts us with Justin Bieber.

Sure, celebrity gossip, entertainment news, and sports are not serious issues and people should try to avoid spending undue amounts of attention on any of them, but who is Alex Jones to judge here? Alex Jones distracts the populace by talking about serious issues and distorting them into idiotic conspiracy theories. At other times he talks about issues that don’t even exist. What is worse than with the mainstream media and their celebrity gossip, Jones is telling his audience that they are informed, in fact more informed than the rest of the populace. Jones’ conspiracy theories about the Federal Reserve actually distract people from learning about how the Federal Reserve and monetary policy actually work. Conspiracy theories about 9/11 don’t teach people about decades of shortsighted American foreign policy and the various ideological struggles in the Middle East. While people are busy “prepping” for the upcoming economic collapse/FEMA concentration camp roundup, they are ignoring all kinds of real issues they could actually have an impact on if they took the time to find out what they can do and went out and did something. They could do this, but instead a few of them will occasionally attend unrelated protests with signs reading “INVESTIGATE 9/11” or they will stump for Ron Paul. The vast majority of Alex Jones fans don’t do jack.

Of course the American mainstream media is more selective in its conspiracy theories. Aside from those you will see on Fox, most of the conspiracy theories you see will appear on supposedly “educational” channels like the History Channel. These American networks can’t risk alienating viewers with 9/11 conspiracies, but a lot of other things are fair game, from Nostradamus predictions to Templar-linked secret societies.

Russia Today, of course, isn’t necessarily bound by the same concerns as American media corporations. The conspiracy theories you see peddled on RT are but a small fraction of those which appear on Russia’s domestic TV channels, but despite this one can’t help but notice that many of the “alternative” viewpoints or conspiracy theories on RT aren’t necessarily related to Russia’s foreign policy goals. This is the case with domestic Russian TV as well; it’s not all political. Why is this the case?

My guess is that conspiracy theories, paranormal stories, and pseudoscience are basically just an equivalent to celebrity gossip and sports. If you aren’t into the latter, the former will get you. Of course unlike sports and entertainment, these materials serve another purpose- they break down critical thinking abilities. Like RT says, question more. But it doesn’t necessarily mean challenge things critically. I like to interpret it as “question reality.” As myself and others have pointed out before, Russian propaganda isn’t about getting you to believe a different viewpoint, but rather it is about destroying the very idea that any viewpoint could possibly be right.

Clearly the men who devised this kind of strategy consider themselves to be very clever. Indeed various Russia-watchers seem to stand in awe of their “information warfare.” I’m not going to doubt its efficacy, at least at the moment, but in the long run it will fail. Russia’s war on reality won’t simply lead to its downfall, but it will prevent it from creating a coherent political, cultural, and social system for quite some time. Like the child who keeps lying about their schoolwork, that report card is still coming.

In the mean time, I suggest people stop looking at chemtrails, fed conspiracy theories, or 9/11 “truth” as being anything significantly different from celebrity gossip or major league sports. And to the latter’s credit, at least it doesn’t break down your critical thinking skills and make you think you have superior knowledge to everyone else. Ultimately, you’d be better off watching the news about Justin Bieber than taking people like Alex Jones or networks like RT seriously.


4 thoughts on “Distractions

  1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    The Alex Jones argument was the same one Glenn Greenwald used after the amazeballs interview of Snowden by John Oliver [http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/06/edward-snowden-john-oliver-last-week-tonight-nsa-leaked-documents].

    ‘People aren’t interested in my stunning revelations because of Kim Kardasian’, or something.

    And Greenwald was just on Alex Jones’ show.

    Circle of life (or left) …

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Actually many Americans aren’t terribly concerned about the Snowden leak because they’re busy working their asses off and nobody comes to them with a concrete plan of what to do about that, or the leaks for that matter. Perhaps Greenwald should consider that.

      1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)


        I made the (lengthy) argument at the time that the Greenwald led campaign was a libertarian assault on the idea of government and that socialists should defend government. That we should have a plan for how we would control spies, recognising that they’re essential rather than living in some ideological fairy land where countries spying on each other is some sort of huge crime!

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I wouldn’t go that far. The issue was the government potentially spying on private citizens. That is a legitimate concern. We cannot forget that organizations like the NSA are notorious for falling under the iron law of institutions. From their point of view, nothing is more important than letting them do their job the way they see fit. Unfortunately from the forest perspective, that isn’t the case.

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