Keen quotes social philosopher Jurgen Habermas about the internet and related technologies: "The price we pay for the growth in egalitarianism offered by the Internet is the decentralized access to unedited stories. In this medium, contributions by intellectuals lose their power to create a focus." Keen states that most of modern social culture has existed with specific gatekeepers analyzing and regulating information as it reaches the masses. He views this expert-based filtering process as beneficial, improving the quality of popular discourse, and argues that it is being circumvented.
Keen has been answered, very well I think, by Edwin Dyga (it's well worth reading the entire essay here and here). Keen wants us to believe that the mainstream media is objective and engaged in a "careful aggregation of truth". But it's clear, even to insiders, that the mainstream media is biased not only toward liberalism, but more particularly toward left-liberalism. Dyga writes:
In his exposé Bias (2002), former CBS senior executive Bernard Goldberg catalogues a litany of examples of how truth has become a casualty to the political sensitivities of the editorial boards in both print and television media. He writes that “the liberal media elites are not an alien species. They’re part of the bigger liberal community.” In Colouring the News (2002) William McGowan writes that reporters “have all attended the same universities and all been exposed to the same politically correct pieties”. Likewise, former sixties radical Harry Stein confirms that “a great many of us who similarly emerged from the campus culture of the sixties did our bit—and then some. For as we came to populate and then dominate the nation’s newsrooms, we remade the news media in our image” (City Journal, Spring 2008).
What Keen describes as the “craft of news gathering’, its “careful aggregation of truth” has become no more than a shallow pretence to objectivity. In the words of McGowan, “without counterbalancing influences, the worldview and prejudices of the liberal-left leaning newsroom majority manufacture what become philosophical ‘givens’”. This means that one of the most important pillars of good journalism, an inquisitive but strongly sceptical outlook, is exercised selectively, social controversy is analysed through an ideological prism, blind eyes are turned to the indiscretions of the in-group and outsiders are pursued with extraordinary zeal.
It is this lack of objectivity, argues Dyga, that has helped to fuel support for alternative media:
How the politicisation of the media leads to its ultimate demise should be self-evident to an individual of any political disposition. Claims to objectivity are hollow when journalists become advocates for a cause. A chronic lack of ideological diversity among the commentariat leads to fading public trust in “news”. This naturally leads to the gradual evaporation of the media’s authority as well as a popular reaction against the “philosophical givens” of the editorial board, or as McGowan puts it:
The increasing liberalism of the newsroom combined with more parochialism amplifies a disconnect from the rest of mainstream society ... By siding so openly with the cultural left ... the press has compounded the estrangement and anger of much of the electorate, unintentionally feeding the cultural and political backlash against that agenda.
...As the levels of trust for the traditional media dwindle, it should be no surprise that the public will take matters into its own hands and seek refuge in a far less restrictive medium.
There's much more to Edwin Dyga's excellent essay; I'll return to some of its other themes in future posts.