The Free Press, Capitalism, and Tyranny

As I have noted since the earliest days of The Pandemic that Ate a Planet, none of the hysteria of this season, and therefore none of the political fraud and usurpation we are seeing each day, would have been possible without the willing assistance and very able wheel-greasing of the mass media. We are witnessing the perfect alignment of all of the media’s vested interests, and the result of this rarest cosmic event will be a permanent shift in the Earth’s political axis.

The perception of a growing crisis is actively fostered and sustained by a continuous flow of titillating horror stories and convenient propaganda: the abuse of statistics taken out of context to create popular feelings of enormous devastation where none exists; a daily barrage of vague “expert” warnings about ill-defined and unsubstantiated “disturbing effects” of this coronavirus, and unsupported projections of “even worse” second waves, deadly autumns and winters ahead; a steady stream of “information” about the unqualified benefits of social isolation and the unqualified deadliness of going out in public.

Public fear of the ubiquitous and invisible mortal danger is the ideal condition for promoting a progressive authoritarian agenda of unlimited paternalistic social control. At the same time, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing regulations also happen to be ideal conditions for keeping lonely, anxious, and bored people glued to the television and internet news, straining to preserve whatever is left of their dignity by trying to feel attached and involved, rather than merely submissive and enslaved. 

The media exploits this mass fear and helplessness to stoke even greater hysteria, and therefore an even more desperate need for the solace of connectedness through the unifying social center of the news media itself, the only entity permitted to travel freely into everyone’s home during this time of coerced separateness.

The media has thus established a perfect circle of supply and demand. Not coincidentally, this is also perfect progressive totalitarianism in the soft despotism mode. It is capitalism in the service of tyranny, a total victory for greed and power lust.

Drug traffickers, pornographers, and the scum-dwelling moguls of today’s popular entertainment industry (who combine the appeal of the first two groups) are geniuses at preying on human weakness to create a market of self-destructive demand, and then meeting that demand with their increasingly addictive and morally-blinding goods. Needless to say, these profiteers struggle with no concerns over the lives ruined or ended through their business model’s success. 

The news media, in their consciencelessness and culpability, are analogous to the drug traffickers, pornographers, and popular entertainment moguls. In their social effects, however, they are actually worse than the others, in part because their collateral damage is far greater and more insidious. For the media’s business model is explicitly protected and enhanced by both special legal status and every Western government’s official stamp of legitimacy as a worthy and vital source of public information. 

Everything about the current worldwide “crisis” serves the commercial interests of the news media perfectly (except, of course, the inconvenient little fact that it is not a genuine health crisis). And in this case, above all others, their commercial interests, the purest profiteering unmoored from any notion of moral rectitude or any quaint journalistic nostalgia about speaking truth to power, exist in a rare and complete symbiosis with their standard political agenda. In other words, what serves their financial interests also serves their dreams of progressive authoritarian government (which they crave for roughly the same reasons the “experts” they so happily publicize crave careers as senior bureaucrats). And so they pursue their profit with happy abandon, serving their authoritarian masters all the while, with hyperbolic fear-mongering buttressed by the deliberate suppression of all dissenting voices and narrative-undermining facts.

There is no defending this, no justifying it on free speech grounds, and no shrugging off the harm they are causing as “mere hype.” In this situation, the news media are operating as the knowing spokesmen and propagandists for totalitarianism, deliberately lying to help tyrants and paternalistic apparatchiks seize control of societies, undermine legal and constitutional structures, and subvert the political institutions and traditions of liberty. They have not merely stood by during this overt usurpation, but have actively assisted the usurpers by feeding unwarranted fears and exaggerated public anxieties, and then directly promoting “enhanced” state powers, and the indefinite and universal suspension of the natural rights at the foundation of Western representative government, as mankind’s only hope of surviving the media’s own intentionally fabricated illusion of an existential threat.

But for all the grand political crime involved in this surfeit of media cynicism, perhaps nothing exposes their shamelessness more clearly than their willingness to exploit even the most immediately pernicious effects of their dirty work for further profit. Every headline or feature article highlighting a “spike” in unemployment, in suicide and “depression,” in cancer or blood clots or heart conditions or kidney disease — in serious, often life-threatening ailments that are not being caught or treated in time because people have been strongly discouraged, frightened away, or outright barred from seeking medical help “during this coronavirus crisis” — every headline trumpeting such a story is spiritual usury. The criminal has not only returned to the scene of his crime, but has come to demand more interest from the victims and their families.

Regular visitors to Limbo may have noticed that the title of the above piece echoes the title of my 2017 essay, “The Profit Motive, Greed, and Tyranny.” The reason for the similarity is that I regard these observations as something of an addendum to that earlier essay. Here I have addressed some of the themes of that broader investigation, but concretized with a very specific example from today’s progressive feeding frenzy on the last scraps of modern liberty.

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