OWhen I was a teenager, nobody pumped their own gas. You drove to a gas station, said “fill up,” and a local attendant filled your tank, washed your windows, and, if you asked, checked your oil and coolant levels.
Somewhere along the line, some gas station owners thought they could cut costs by firing gas attendants and forcing people to fill their own tanks.
This trend has skyrocketed, propelled by two very strong human emotions: the desire to save a few dollars and the desire to stay in control. Time is money and no one wanted to sit in their car and wait for an attendant to come free.
The same trend is now happening in grocery stores and pharmacies. That takes time. People need to learn how to scan their own merchandise. Scanning systems need to be improved. But it happens. One day almost everyone will scan their own medicines and groceries.
Although not obvious, the same trend is happening in the news industry. It used to be people who subscribed to a publication or watched professionally created TV shows.
These professional journalists went to school and learned to tell fact from fiction and to write clearly and objectively (or at least, as objectively as possible). Journalists were news hunters, closely following all events and reporting on them so you didn’t have to.
Somewhere along the line, websites realized they could publish content from elsewhere without hiring journalists and saving money. Why pay for a newspaper subscription when you could receive the information for free? More than half of the country’s journalists have lost their jobs.
These cheap news aggregators steal content from legitimate news sources. It is high time for Congress to change our copyright laws and stop this ongoing theft. Congress is doing it, but Big Tech is rich and powerful and it remains to be seen what will happen.
As a result, the average American is going to have to learn to be his own publisher, just as he learned to pump gasoline. There’s just one problem: learning to be a journalist is way more complicated than learning to pump gas.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the average person thinks they are much better at being their own editor than they actually are.
Occasionally I tried to be my own accountant, lawyer, doctor and carpenter. Sometimes I did well. But in the end, I would have been better off recognizing my limitations and hiring a professional to do the job.
I’m not whining here. This cat got out of the bag and won’t come back. But the American people still have a long, long way to go before they replace the professionals the Internet phenomenon has displaced.
Was the mainstream media biased? Of course, there are always biases. But that’s nothing compared to the fake news plaguing the internet and social media. And most people don’t know they’re being manipulated. And I’m not talking about the average Joe. I’m talking about extremely bright and capable people.
There are many conspiracy theories. Some have merit, others are ridiculous. But one conspiracy theory that has been proven by Congress is that Russia has for years used thousands of full-time bloggers to post fake news on the internet to sow political unrest and discord in the United States. .
It worked, creating an extremely divided American electorate that ultimately led to the first public storming of the US Capitol in our history. As the war in Ukraine rages on, you can still hear Americans spouting this Russian propaganda: the United States pushed Russia to invade Ukraine. Ukraine is the most corrupt country in the world. The United States staged a coup in Ukraine in 2014 and overthrew the legitimately elected government.
Russian disinformation everything. Bought and paid for with Russian oil and gas.
At first we thought the internet would be a big thing, creating an almost endless diversity of opinions, thoughts and reports. What we haven’t understood is how easily the Internet can be manipulated. The same technology that provided unlimited content finally provided unlimited manipulation.
There is an advantage. If Americans rose to the occasion and truly educated themselves in all the intricacies of information gathering and potential manipulation, we could become freer and more educated than ever. The first step is humility and recognition of the immensity of the task.
We must be extremely vigilant to ensure that this new digital ecosystem is open, free and diversified. We cannot allow a handful of companies to dominate. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We are on a dangerous path.
The Ukrainian War is another chapter in the age-old war between freedom and slavery. Like everything, it is infinitely complex. But you can’t miss the forest for the trees. I believe freedom will prevail. People will always choose freedom over tyranny, no matter how arrogant a dictator is.
The battle for freedom is fought on several fronts. Let us not remain blind to the less visible battle that is fought every day in our own country.
Wyatt Emmerich is editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a Jackson weekly. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected]