‘If the ideology of democratism continues to replace the older understanding of democracy as rule by the people, then we can expect the concentration of greater and greater power in the ruling classes. That may include elected or unelected political officials or more nebulous but arguably more powerful interests, such as those who control our media and forms of communication- the so called tech giants and corporate media. The proclaimed need for these bodies to have greater control, including over ideas, will invariably be couched in the language of protecting democracy.’
~Emily Finley, ‘The Ideology of Democratism’
I once had a fun drunken conversation with some friends. What is the worst profession for every generational cohort? In which life direction does the lowest form of scum from a particular age group drip and congeal in the largest proportional numbers? It was surprisingly easy to answer this question. Boomer: Small business owner. Gen X: Silicon Valley. Zoomer: Streamer. And of course, most relevant for this post, Millennial: Journalist.
Culturally speaking, there is little to say that differs from what I once said all the way back in 2015. These types fly between Eurozone and North American mega-cities interacting with the same people from the same class and professional backgrounds endlessly and, no matter all of their accrued flight miles, never learn a damn thing about the beautiful cultural and ideological diversity of planet Earth. They are mostly mediocre English literature majors whose experience of difficulty and challenge comes from ‘needing mental health breaks’ when someone makes fun of them. They value access to prestige over even their own salaries and especially the truth of the ‘scoop’ they pursue, selling their services to trends in pursuit of an ultimately empty and vacuous currency which is paid through social media clout and ‘influence.’
It wasn’t always like this. Social media has compromised this profession. And it is a necessary profession. Back in the 90s, jokes about lawyers being the scum of the Earth were common, but few doubted they had a utility in the functioning of society. Likewise, in present day discourse those of us in the U.S. who have had any experience with the police here know how awful they can be, but most of us do not doubt the necessity of law enforcement to exist. The debate is merely how it conducts itself towards the public. So too is this the case with the journalist. Or journoid. Perhaps journoscum? We need them. But for them to function we need them to have certain attributes. Much as a sense of civic responsibility makes the lawyer and police officer more bearable, so too might a sense of intellectual curiosity salvage the journoid and return them to their pre-millennial roots as challenging asshole muckrakers.
Something happened around 2010. A certain coffee house loving, smooth jazz listening, insufferable twat had to grow up and did so by proportionally infiltrating one particular profession. Think the hipster is dead? No. The hipster is still alive…and dominates the mainstream media in English speaking countries. This song was memetic in 2010. You might think it dates poorly given its age, but give it another listen. You know who this is about, and where those people are today professionally. You know they will still chase clout until they die of old age, buried in a tomb covered in corporate Memphis bas-reliefs, even though chasing clout is normally just a thing for people under 25 and Hollywood types.
If I was willing to put in the effort, I would do a full study on how this profession became so proportionally obsequious and pathetic. I am not willing to put in that effort right now because I have more interesting things to deal with. The reality is undeniable though and I can give a quick theory: Social media. That thing so many journoids believe to be the end all and be all of influence, impact, and substance. It is none of those things. Additionally, sources now look at an entirety of output rather than a personal relationship. There has been an elite overproduction in the humanities so any unpopular opinion can be punished with termination. So desperate over-educated mid-wits clamber over each other, devouring the corpses of their kind in order to make it to that point they all crave: The Garden Party.
The Garden Party, perhaps hosted by The Guardian, perhaps by The New Yorker, is the Bohemian Grove of the journoid. Unable or unwilling to do proper reporting on anything larger than the local level (lest they be fired for rocking the boat) the average journoid’s only recourse is to rub elbows with the very people they should be viewing critically. This would be understandable, were it not for the fact that if anyone else does this for any reason it is inherently ‘problematic’ in the declarations of that own class’ mores. Especially since the Millennial Journoid’s mission in life is to stalk random non-powerful people and try to get them fired for minor transgressions against Current Year, but never to do this to CEOs or politicians. The journoid will judge you for making the necessary compromises to achieve results, but cannot be judged for doing the same in turn. Possibly because they almost never actually achieve the results they are supposedly seeking. Partly also because they will be the first to deny they are seeking results aside from objectivity. A claim that has been turned into farce long before the particular crop of professional activists.
Overly attached to their image in the public eye, the journoid often finds that they have no inner self whatsoever. No anchor but a desperate seeking of fame. No direction but that of being recognized. These are people who, in my experience, cite twitter threads as if they are equivalent to peer reviewed articles or books. Because it is ‘The Discourse’ that matters to them, not actionable policy goals or outcomes. And especially not the truth. God forbid, the truth is dangerous to this new type that rules the profession, as any concept of factual truth would call into question their failure to critically interrogate the Iraq, Libya, Syria wars before it was too late-to say nothing of the financial system that makes even their lives precarious. You see a current version of this playing out about the reticence to even have the temerity to ask questions about all the various suspicious narratives coming out around the Nord Stream pipeline bombing. If you want a totemic image to crystalize this in the mind, just picture Chuck Todd’s face looking smug and baffled at hearing anything that would never be said out loud at The Garden Party, on loop, across every media platform, forever. Needless to say, this is not the behavior of intellectuals. Yet they insist on being treated as such. Let us consult the words of Machiavelli for a riposte:
‘There are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, the third is useless.’
And if this critique is put to them, I can tell you from experience how they would respond. ‘Its still better than in a country with a state run press.’ In terms of the practice of the profession, this is usually true. But in terms of the character of the people in that profession, it is actually worse. I know an RT journalist is a propogandist. And I suspect they know it too. The Anglo-Journoid, however, is deeply convinced that believing in a state sanctioned narrative voluntarily and perpetuating falsehoods as a matter of ‘defending democracy’ or some such nonsense is superior to having one mandated to them. I disagree. Self delusion is in fact more damnable in a person to me than mercenary work ever could be. The mercenary knows they want money and gets it. They might have to lie to others but not to themselves. The true believer, however, is a cultist used as tissue paper to wipe the ass of the cult leader, all while believing it is the right thing to do and castigating you for not doing the same. This is far worse. The dignity of the mercenary is heroic compared to the cowardly clergy of stenographers that presently dominate the journalistic profession. And no amount of maudlin refugee memoirs and Kite Runner tier cultural commentary is going to close that gap.
As a member of the realism and restraint community, I have long held that before being able to badger politicians to do what we want, we first must break through the consensus building of a professional class based around narrative shaping. My radical position, which is not yet remotely popular but is getting increasingly acknowledged privately, is that we must also wage a public struggle against much of the press. Not because they are the press, but because we deserve a better press. There are individuals who represent the craft of journalism well even today (some are even Millennials, believe it or not) but individuals matter little without coordination and communities. When non-mid-wit journalists are found, they should be supported. When those willing to question monolithic narratives arise, give them credit. Because, as I said before, we need this profession in society. But what we don’t need is people who believe they are critical thinking and investigatory when they are in fact a preaching priesthood interested only in imparting their (subjective) values onto morally neutral information, and even hiding other information that contradicts a teleological narrative uncritically inherited by the sheer osmosis of being an Anglo.
To come so directly against this in my profession is uncommon, but the sentiment behind this is not. Those who desire personal ambition and prestigious appointments simply cannot state how they really feel. And since I want more restrainers in power, I can’t fault them here. But for me, personally its the art of strategy I’m interested in. My personal professional outcome is a far lesser investment to me than being good at seeing the bigger patterns. If it becomes more expedient to switch paths once again I am more than happy to do so.
No matter the issue or professional field, if you are of a similar disposition you might enjoy this sentiment. Its the only thing we have in an era where social media clout takes over and consumes so many professions. Lets just hope this trend need not advance much further into even more careers.