Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda
March 3, 2017
WN: This is a fascinating study, discovered in this article in the New York Times by : Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn’t Buy It.: Inside the White House’s secret, last-ditch effort to change the narrative, and the election — and the return of the media gatekeepers. That article itself is fascinating.
In 1988, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky published Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media: The Wikipedia article explains:
The authors propose that the mass communication media of the U.S. “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”, by means of the propaganda model of communication. The title derives from the phrase “the manufacture of consent”, employed in the book Public Opinion (1922) by Walter Lippmann (1889–1974). The consent referred to is consent of the governed.
The book was revised in 2002, 14 years after its first publication, to take account of developments such as the fall of the Soviet Union. There has been debate about how the Internet has changed the public’s access to information since 1988.
The study below is an instance.
I have close family members who rail against corporate media, while swallowing hook, line, and sinker stories in media listed in the first paragraph below “excerpts”.
We must indeed ever be watchful of media sources, while not automatically disavowing any (analysis is another matter).
When we map media sources this way, we see that Breitbart became the center of a distinct right-wing media ecosystem, surrounded by Fox News, the Daily Caller, the Gateway Pundit, the Washington Examiner, Infowars, Conservative Treehouse, and Truthfeed.
What we find in our data is a network of mutually-reinforcing hyper-partisan sites that revive what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics,” combining decontextualized truths, repeated falsehoods, and leaps of logic to create a fundamentally misleading view of the world. “Fake news,” which implies made of whole cloth by politically disinterested parties out to make a buck of Facebook advertising dollars, rather than propaganda and disinformation, is not an adequate term. By repetition, variation, and circulation through many associated sites, the network of sites make their claims familiar to readers, and this fluency with the core narrative gives credence to the incredible.
Use of disinformation by partisan media sources is neither new nor limited to the right wing, but the insulation of the partisan right-wing media from traditional journalistic media sources, and the vehemence of its attacks on journalism in common cause with a similarly outspoken president, is new and distinctive.
Rebuilding a basis on which Americans can form a shared belief about what is going on is a precondition of democracy, and the most important task confronting the press going forward. Our data strongly suggest that most Americans, including those who access news through social networks, continue to pay attention to traditional media, following professional journalistic practices, and cross-reference what they read on partisan sites with what they read on mass media sites.
To accomplish this, traditional media needs to reorient, not by developing better viral content and clickbait to compete in the social media environment, but by recognizing that it is operating in a propaganda and disinformation-rich environment. This, not Macedonian teenagers or Facebook, is the real challenge of the coming years. Rising to this challenge could usher in a new golden age for the Fourth Estate.
The election study was funded by the Open Society Foundations U.S. Program. Media Cloud has received funding from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Open Societies Foundations.
Please click on: Right-Wing Media Ecosystem