Sovereignty of interpretation
These days we are experiencing what I would call „information warfare“. Two parties, in this case the well-known opponents „mainstream journalism“ and „alternative media“, have relatively opposing views on one topic, in this case „Corona“, and are engaged in a lively exchange of blows, which, however, is more like the fight „David against Goliath“ than „King Kong against Godzilla“.
The „mainstream“, and by this I mean all media and media professionals grouped in and around the following network (see Fig. 1), has what I call „sovereignty of interpretation“. By „sovereignty of interpretation“ I mean the prerogative to authenticity of published contributions, which is recognized by the majority of the public. In plain language: What is written/said in the newspaper/television/radio is (rather) true.
However, while this clumsy statement loses its force in the course of the generational change, the Internet, in turn, gains in importance. However, since the Internet is more or less (unfortunately more and more and less) free, obtaining information in this way requires a higher level of media competence, since sources have to be checked for their trustworthiness by consumers themselves.
(Abb. 1: https://swprs.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/netzwerk-medien-deutschland-spr-mt.png – Die Verflechtungen des Goliaths)
Influencer – The new media power
These tendencies have long been recognized by the mainstream, which is why the so-called „influencers“ are increasingly promoted by media industries. One example would be the well-known youtuber „Rezo“, who generated almost 17 million clicks with his video „The Destruction of the CDU“. The blue-haired influencer belongs, as few people know, to an influencer network called „Tube One“, which in turn belongs to the large advertising group „Ströer Media“ (see page 6 for proof).
So it is obvious how these millions of clicks can be attributed not to the outstanding work of a single young YouTube user but to the support of a multimillion company. There can therefore be no question of complete independence here.
This also means that the social significance of a Rezo is not based on his own outstanding research skills but on those of a professional media team. This means that, among other things, his appearances on television talk shows can be seen in a different light.
Rezo’s not alone. For every area of life there are now long range YouTubers that share their „personal view“ on political issues with millions of people or recommend certain products from different manufacturers. Thus, one can speak of a nationwide expansion of the influence of the „mainstream industry“ on the area of social platforms on the Internet.
The state media thus enjoy natural interpretative sovereignty with the older generation, while influencers maintain their credibility with the youth through highly professionalised video appearances and well thought-out advertising strategies. Moreover, their contributions were initially exclusively entertaining content, with the politicization of a LeFloid or a Rezo being developments that only occurred when they already had a high reach.
Somehow the very isolated videos with political content, which are very elaborately designed for this purpose, seem strangely out of place, especially in the case of a Rezo, between all this entertainment stuff, or is it just me who thinks so?
In addition, there are many other channels which they claim are mainly crowdfunded and self-funded and would therefore be independent. This is often reflected in their manageable click-through rates. Lower click rates and a more unprofessional presentation, which are due to lower financial means and accordingly amateurish production, make it easy for critics of these media to attest them a lower credibility.
Then, of course, there is an unmanageable number of videos whose credibility can be questioned without a doubt, because there is no fact-based argumentation or simply nonsense. That is simply a by-product of freedom of opinion. If everyone is allowed to express his or her opinion, one has to expect unqualified contributions.
But what is the right consequence? Do we switch off these contributions or are we, as consumers, in a position to develop a reasonable media competence that allows us to identify dubious sources and evaluate them as such?
Comparison: do we put a pupil who asks a stupid question or gives a stupid answer to a question out of the classroom or do we do our best so that this pupil also learns to ask right questions and give logical answers?
Either politicians do not trust the population to be able to learn to this extent or they are not interested in reasonable and critical citizens. If you believe the former and also agree with it, then you are supporting the creation of a „two-tier society“ in which the stupid sheep (the population) must be guided and protected for their own good by the wise shepherds (experts/politicians/mainstream journalists). If you believe the latter, you are a „conspiracy theorist“.
Generalisation instead of differentiation
Of the public media, which automatically enjoy a natural credibility through their ties to the state, only the most wacky, unbelievable and dangerous examples from the unmanageable universe of the „Internet“ are of course cited as examples of so-called „conspiracy theories“. The most famous example is the alleged worldwide conspiracy of the Jews against the rest of the world. Of course, this is especially well suited as an example in Germany, because it activates a tragic national trauma and therefore the argument is not based on facts but on emotions.
These theories do of course exist, I do not deny that. But now a term is so emotionally charged with a blatant example that reasonable argumentation can no longer take place as soon as this term is brought into the field – I therefore call these words „fighting terms“.
Back to the topic of credibility: if a „free“ or „alternative“, i.e. crowdfund-funded channel appears less professional than, for example, a Rezo and, without going into their content in more detail, is labelled with the term „conspiracy theory“, then this activates the emotional connection I have described above and a sober discussion of any facts that may have been expressed can no longer take place.
If individual statements are then torn out of context and „conspiracy theory = anti-Semitism = right-wing radicalism = Nazi = lie“ is seen in the thought frame („Frame“), then this has nothing to do with an objective and sober discourse.
Thus, individual extreme examples are used to draw conclusions about a myriad of possible sources, which initially have nothing more in common than that they can all be found on the Internet.
Comparison: That would be like taking one or two children out of a crowd of children who have really bad grades and then presenting them everywhere as representatives of that crowd and announcing that the whole crowd of children is bad at school. While such a generalization would immediately strike us as odd, this is exactly the way public law argues about „conspiracy theories“.
So while the average media consumer is denied the ability to think in a differentiated way, the public media mercilessly generalize – this is only one of the countless examples. I myself inform myself daily in „alternative circles“, but I have never come across such things in the context of „Corona“, which does not mean that they do not exist.
In my opinion you can find everything on the internet, if you search long enough. Everything that the human mind can somehow imagine, can be found on the net. But to deduce any valid tendencies from this, I think again, is exaggerated.
An example: „The refugee crisis“
As alleged evidence, controversial individual statements or perhaps even critical positions, such as on the subject of the „refugee crisis“, are then picked out, which are represented by AFD & Co in a similar way, and this is already taken as an opportunity to put all those in the right-hand corner whose statements go in similar directions.
So when a Ken Jebsen speaks of the Chancellor’s action bringing Germany „with an illegal flood of refugees“ into distress, this is often enough to activate the link with „Nazis“ conditioned by repetition. If one puts it in the context of „political right-left“, then this is also obvious.
But if one looks at this statement from a geopolitical and from the perspective of the Basic Law, then this statement can be interpreted quite differently. First of all, crossing the border from a country that is not part of the Schengen area, without identity papers and without proper asylum procedures is illegal according to the German constitution. Now, of course, one can criticise these laws, but why criticise those who refer to them?
From a geopolitical point of view, a massive exodus of the population from a war zone is of course a twofold military success. Let us take the most prominent example, Syria:
First of all, NATO forces (Germany is of course one of them, even if we „only do reconnaissance“) bomb a country, which is illegal according to the United Nations Charter, but unfortunately this does not matter, since the UN’s veto powers can avert criminal prosecution by a simple „Nope“.
In addition, an economic war is also taking place, which is being maintained with harsh sanctions against the Syrian state and thus its entire population despite the Corona crisis. Now one can argue that the democratic West is only doing its best to free the poor people from the evil Assad. Okay, fine, but how can we take the right to invade another country just because we have the feeling that things are not going the way we think they should be with our Western perception? And at what cost? The death toll from economic sanctions alone is a war crime in itself – a dramatic example: Iraq.
That would be like throwing stones at a house at the end of our street, bribing the oldest children of the family living there so that they rebel in the house and sabotage the car to make shopping impossible for the whole family, just because we think that the family father is an evil person.
We do not. Instead, we contact an independent institution (e.g. youth welfare office or police) and give an appropriate indication of our concerns. This is exactly the task of the UNO. If it were fair, the youth welfare office/police would investigate and act upon an investigation with the discovery of solid evidence.
But now stones are thrown, children are bribed and cars are sabotaged AND the youth welfare office/police comes along and tries to bring the person throwing the stones to his senses, because this form of vigilante justice is also against the law. The problem: the stone thrower has a veto power with which he can simply send the youth welfare office or the police or whoever else away – bad luck. Besides, he is after all concerned about the welfare of the children.
So now only a country is flattened with bombs and strangled by sanctions. Then one stands up and invites all the people who have been actively destroyed in their homeland to come to another, richer country. All they have to do is cross the dangerous sea or walk very, very far to get everything they need: „We can do it!
Nobody thinks about those who may not want to flee or who cannot. Only the strongest, wealthiest and most educated young people can embark on the perilous journey. And what is the consequence for the children, the old, the weak and the poor who are left behind in destroyed Syria? The state is bleeding dry. But those who could rebuild the country after the hopefully soon end of the war have long since found a new home in Europe.
This could create another tragic example of what is called the „Failed State“. A country destroyed by war, which is simply abandoned by the warring parties when the conflict ends, without caring about reconstruction – the best example is Libya.
So while „Refugees Welcome“ is a help for those who can afford it and physically make it, for the majority of the remaining population it is unfortunately an additional damage to the bombed out country.
It goes even further: In the country of destination (for example Germany), riots are now also occurring because some people are naming exactly these things that have been formulated up to here and thus criticize the government’s actions, and others are welcoming the refugees with open arms without critical questioning. The moral dilemma is obvious: Of course, no one who has a certain amount of empathy closes the national borders to a war refugee. Nevertheless, few people would offer their hobby room, guest room or sofa bed to a Syrian family, would they?
The critics accuse the „Refugees Welcome“ people of being fooled by deceptive politics, while for the „do-gooders“ all – critics like true right-wing radicals – are Nazis and AFD sympathizers because they would be against refugees. Yes, I am against traumatized refugees, because I prefer a person who comes to Germany of his own free will and without a war-torn background to live with us here, rather than thousands of people bombed into flight.
And then, of course, there are people who, in my view, form a minority, but who are without doubt what I understand by „Nazi“. They then of course say „We do not want refugees“ and the extremists among them commit terrible crimes against migrants. But now, through rhetorical tricks of the media, people like Ken Jebsen, who paint the big geopolitical picture and are therefore critical of the „refugee crisis“ issue, are simply equated with the latter, because both may use the expression „illegal flood of refugees“, call the government to account or, even worse, refer to the Basic Law.
Ken Jebsen neither calls for violence against refugees, nor does he simply want to slam the door in their faces. He and others of his ilk only want to show the double standards behind the actions of a government when it first helps to smoke out a country and then stages itself as Mother Teresa when it welcomes all the refugees. So the criticism is not directed at the poor people who are just the ball in this whole sick game, but at the geopolitical players who play this ball from A to B according to their own ideas.
It is understandable that not everyone is aware of the complexity of the refugee issue. In my view, the mainstream media is not interested in a sustained transfer of knowledge, but only in an opinion that will put the population in the mood for the government’s actions.
And there it is of course more than dangerous to listen to people who point out the international legal background and the dramatic consequences of the „selfless actions“ of governments.
The call from the camp of the rational ones is not: Let the refugees on the EU borders starve to death, but finally end the war operations all over the world, do not arm UP and look carefully when someone reports ABOUT someone and not talking TO someone.
This dynamic can be applied one-to-one to the topic of „Corona“. One simply exchanges the terms „Syrian war“ for „Corona virus“, „Nazi“ for „Corona denier“ and „do-gooder“ for „Corona believer“. There is no objective debate in sight.
The information war continues. While Youtube is currently constantly updating its guidelines, the mainstream media’s battle against „conspiracy theory“ and „fake news“ continues and the „alternative media“ and many other Youtubers have to fear for their existence, the passive consumer is drowning in the back and forth storm of confusion.
In my opinion, we as a community should work on developing common sense. And for that purpose, I think it is important to deal with platforms of the „free“ media landscape like KenFM or Nuoviso (example videos chosen arbitrarily), which might be threatened by censorship in the near future, as well as with the established media.
How are critical minds supposed to develop independently if they are deprived from the outset of the possibility to find their own way to a reasonable opinion?
„But learning to think independently is not an ability that comes from the template. It has to be acquired through your own efforts and with the help of a wise advisor. This is the method of doing your own research under guidance. Just as we know it today at our universities. It can be said that an academic institution fulfils its task to the extent that it promotes independent thinking and a spirit of contemporary prejudice and bias in free research. If a university fails in this task, it falls to the level of an educational institution. Yes, such failure has quite serious consequences. For where independent thought dies, whether from lack of courage or from inner want of discipline, the evil herbs of propaganda and dogmatism proliferate unchecked. Suffocation of criticism is much more alarming than many people think. If no living unity of aims can be created in a society, a kind of boring and weak uniformity in politics is imposed. It is a pity that people of power and responsibility so rarely want to admit this.
Education should therefore lead to independent thinking under the guidance of a teacher.“
– Bertrand Russel (1959): „Denker des Abendlandes“ – translated by Kàroly Földes-Papp (1970), p. 68.
People are not as stupid as politics and mainstream media would have them believe. Of course there were catastrophic errors in human history, but there were many more glorious spiritual achievements. From the invention of writing, to the erection of gigantic buildings, to the broad ideas of philosophy, which provided us with the foundation for all the scientific knowledge and theological beliefs – all this was accomplished by people like you and me.
Let us not allow ourselves to be deprived of the faith within ourselves, for those who try are only human beings.
by Marco Lo Voi
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