I’ve tweeted a few times about my observation that there is what I call a Media Bubble.
By Bubble I’m not intending to make the media immediately analogous to events like the dotcom bubble, the housing bubble, the supposed crypto bubble.
But it’s not dissimilar from these events.
The metaphor becomes more apparent when you apply it to concepts such as ‘safe spaces’, echo chambers and narrative biases.
We all believe in these media bubbles, that’s why we differentiate between the papers we read, the news channels we watch, and the parties we vote for.
However, if you think that one is more trustworthy than another then you’re still in the overarching Bubble.
Schopenhauer would identify this as the fallacy of restricting the options. That means that it’s a false assumption to think choosing one as better than another means that what you have chosen is actually good — there may in reality be more options to choose from.
If choosing a narrative, if you’re buying in to the identity which that narrative offers you (of being on the “right side of history”), then you’re still playing the game.
The Matrix is a good example of this. Morpheus offers Neo the Red pill or the Blue pill. Neo accepts the Red and everything seems to change.
And that’s where most people stop with the metaphor. Yet in the films there comes a point where you have to ask if the Red pill itself is a feature of the system, rather than an escape from it — how else does Neo telepathically stop the Machines while Outside of the Matrix?
This distinction is significant but by its nature subtle and initially elusive to see.
Once it has been seen, however, there’s an absence of a clear path forward.
The issue is this:
As it stands, reality and the media bubbles have become symbiotic.
The thing known is primarily known through the medium which reveals it.
AKA — Event A occurs and the Media report it. Sometimes the Media reports on it before it has even happened; “Person B will say ZYX at 1pm”.
Yet the reality which is known primarily through the Media is still reality. In fact there are many realities which should be equally significant to us which we are unaware are reality because the Media hasn’t (and won’t) tell us are realities. And by Media here I include the so-called ‘Alternative Media’.
So how will this media bubble collapse? And what will follow it?
Well, it’s already collapsing.
I’ve been asked why I think it will be a whimper rather than a bang, and it’s because I believe the mortal shift happened a couple of years ago. Everything else we see is simply outworking the consequences of that moment.
What, precisely, that moment was I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone does or will. But it’s like navigating. I know we live in the world of Google Maps and GPS, but imagine you’re navigating with a compass and map. You need to be sure of your bearings. If you’re a couple of degrees off but only walking 50m then it makes no real difference. Walk 50 miles though and you’re going to be in the wrong place.
The shift in the emphasis happened a couple of years ago and it has manifested a slender wedge between reality and the media, and the greater that wedge becomes the more diminished the authority of that media.
It is in the gap created by that wedge that we have the first signs of something new.
Much has been made recently about the concept of decentralisation, particularly in connection with blockchain tokens and apps. All too often this has been speculative ramblings by those who try to run with the talking points rather than born out of genuine understanding. Apply the concept of decentralisation to the media instead and I think we have a useful concept by which we can describe something of what is beginning to happen.
Media Decentralisation, put simply, is the process whereby the gatekeepers of information are narrowed from teams (political parties, corporations, newspapers) down to well networked individuals who are perceived to be credible — not because of who they work for but because of who they are.
Joe Rogan is a good example of this.
Host of one of the most viewed/downloaded podcasts out there, Joe Rogan has become a networked individual with a highly visible social media presence whose podcast, with its long form conversations with a range of people who excel in their own fields, whether that be comedy, MMA, science, sports, philosophy or technology, has become a source of education and information for many people.
Mike Cernovich is another good example.
During the last election cycle his twitter impressions grew from the millions to tens of millions. Writing on his own websites and also here on Medium Mike developed an online presence which fulfilled his intention — become too big to ignore. Despite being disliked by the Media they had no choice but to engage with him, especially with his breaking of the Susan Rice story.
My last examples are first that of LouderWithCrowder, a project led by Steven Crowder which has now gained more than a million subscribers on YouTube — and that growth doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. Secondly, The Rubin Report, another YouTube project — one which focuses on discussions which take free speech seriously, hosting conversations between all sorts of perspectives. What makes these two examples particularly interesting is that they are entirely (predominantly?) funded by their fans, either through Patreon or their own subscription model — #mugclub. The continuation of these projects depend entirely on the recognition of value that the individuals provide and the willingness of people to compensate them financially for that value.
I’m not holding these figures up as The New Gatekeepers of Information. Rather, I’m pointing to them as signs of a shift from corporate owned and commercially funded Media (and even the alternative media set ups) to a focus on particular individuals who are perceived to be ‘in the know’.
These figures, and those who join their rank, are not yet at the end point. While individual, they still rely on the Bubble’s Mediums — YouTube, Twitter, Medium etc. It’s unlikely but not inconceivable that they could each be shut down, denied access to the platforms they’re present on or even, at an extreme, the Internet itself.
What is the end point?
The end point is the individual. Not as credible source of information, but as the central node of a network of information.
It will remain true that what counts is who you know.
The Media Bubble will fade not because of commercial greed or political agenda but because it cannot escape one of the most fundamental philosophical questions: What is truth?
And how does it relate to me?
The relationship between the general and the particular, the community and the individual, the eternal and the temporal is. It simply is.
Philosopher’s have wrangled over this since Plato and Aristotle. Scientists have done their best to bridge Lessing’s ugly ditch and yet, in moments of humility, have to acknowledge with Einstein that the greatest mystery of existence is that it is intelligible at all.
The Media is pretending to engage with this question via its own meme of ‘fake news’ but it is by its very nature incapable of depicting reality truly.
And so it is fading.
Someone disagreed with my assertion that the end will be a whimper, not a bang. They suspect that there will be a significant event which will force the end of the media as we know it. To that I would respond in two simple ways.
- As the wedge grows between reality and the Media the scale of the event will become independent of the scale of the response by the Media.
- America recently suffered its largest mass shooting to date. It faded from the headlines within a month, and the ongoing updates trickle out with barely a curious murmer.
If I am right, and I will be, that The Media shall pass away and that the end point will be the individual at the centre of their own network of information then how can we best prepare to engage with this reality?
- Learn to think critically.
- Develop Social skills (real world and virtual)
- Prioritise what information you need to know, and invest in that information first.
- Find a sense of mission and purpose
- Become a person of value
If you can do these things now, you’ll be able to navigate the cascading matrix of fading narratives and keep your footing as the science fiction of the past becomes the living reality of the human race.
If you learn to do these things now, when the Media does finally whimper you probably won’t even notice.
If you liked this you might like my recent piece reflecting on Hobbits and Brexit.
Interact with me on Twitter @SamuelSThorp