Last week a new friend in Kyiv related an anecdote. He was discussing the topic of Ukraine online when one individual came in spouting off all the usual Kremlin talking points. In spite of regurgitating said talking points virtually word-for-word, he insisted that he doesn’t consume Russian state media. For me it was a familiar story- person spouts off every Kremlin-crafted talking point while swearing that they don’t consume any Russian or Russian-aligned media. In fact, I’ve encountered similar behavior in America.
A certain family member of mine back in America would often espouse the same viewpoints that one typically gets from conservative talk radio, Fox News, and conservative news websites. Yet when I’d bring up the fact that their worldview seems to perfectly align with those media outlets, they would swear that they don’t rely solely on conservative media.
This is quite a strange scenario. After all, if one doesn’t consume a certain media that is known for touting a consistent line, how does one end up toeing that line almost to the letter? If you gather your news from a variety of sources, it stands to reason that chance alone would lead you to take different, sometimes conflicting positions on various issues. Ideally, you’d be more nuanced in your talking points. I for one have certainly encountered such people with more varied opinions. We sometimes agree, sometimes differ, and sometimes debate. This is normal because we’re not forming our opinion based on one very specific set of outlets that is pushing a certain line.
Going back to our original example, all this seems to cast doubt on the protestations of those who espouse Kremlin talking points and insist that they don’t consume the media that is typically the only possible source for talking points. I’d go so far as to say they’re lying, which leads us to another question as to why they feel the need to lie about what media they consume.
If you buy into the idea that the poorly defined “mainstream media” is so biased and phony, and that the Russian “alternative” media is supposedly more objective or truthful, then wouldn’t it make more sense to defend that media instead of disowning it? To be sure, there are those who do defend it, yet I can’t help but notice their defense always seems to be pointing the finger at some past transgression of particular Western news networks and say that this justifies a deliberate, consistent propaganda line like what we see from outlets like RT and Sputnik. The funny thing is that I never see people who consume the BBC, CNN, NY Times, and other such “mainstream” media defending such outlets with that kind of fanaticism, nor do they deny consuming their news.
And speaking of Western “mainstream media,” I can’t help but notice how often consumers of “alternative news” eagerly announce that “even the mainstream media reported this!” On those occasions when the news report actually says what they claim it does, a troubling question arises. Why did the mainstream media, which we’re constantly told is in the pocket of the corporations, the shadow government, Deep State, or whatever, the mainstream media that is totally untrustworthy and responsible for zombifying most of the population, even report this story in the first place? What editor screwed that up?
Are we supposed to believe that the same people who are allegedly responsible for keeping the population in a trance-like state of consumption and docility would somehow regularly let “the truth” slip onto the front page of a major publication? There are plenty of people in America alone who believe that the powers that be in their country engineered the murder of roughly 3,000 of their own citizens on 11 September 2001. The same people allege that the media played a key role in the conspiracy and the cover-up. So with that in mind, what reporter would be stupid enough to write anything that seemed to support the “alternative news” point of view? If the reporters don’t know the terrible secret, what editor would risk letting out anything that contradicted the government line?
Of course I’m really indulging these conspiracy theories far too much for the sake of illustration. It’s clear as to why those who consume “alternative news” and state propaganda lie about consuming it, just as it’s obvious as to why the same people are only too happy to tell you about a “mainstream media” report or how the Russian state media puts so much weight into “Western media” when it suits their purposes.
The answer to the first “why” is that many of those who consume alternative news know, on some level, that their sources of news are not respected, and I suspect a great many of them harbor doubts about their sources that they try hard to suppress. They know that they’re espousing a specific, consistent political line and if others were to note that this just perfectly synced up with the editorial line of say, a certain state propaganda outfit, they would come off a dupe, a gullible rube.
As for the reason why such people and alternative media outlets put so much stock in “mainstream media” reports, that is quite simple. This is a tacit recognition of the fact that certain media outlets, in spite of their flaws or mistakes, are simply more reputable, more respectable. Those outlets don’t need to constantly refer to other outlets for comparison.
And having answered that, I want to address my conclusion to any of those “alternative news” consumers who might have stumbled upon this column somehow, possibly because you saw my name in an alternative news report that claims I’m funded by the CIA, George Soros, Willy Wonka, or the Keebler Elves.
My message to you is this- if you’re really a critical thinker, someone who forms their opinion based on cold hard facts, you shouldn’t have to lie about your sources of news. More importantly, you shouldn’t constantly have to cherry pick stories from media outlets you insist are utterly untrustworthy propaganda outlets in order to defend your claims. If your alternative news outlet is really engaging in actual investigative journalism and coming up with the facts, their findings will eventually be reported by other, reputable outlets. Lastly, if your favorite media outlet spends an unusual amount of time insisting that all the other major media networks are engaged in some kind of conspiracy to conceal the truth from you, you might want to exercise a little more skepticism when it comes to their news.