[Paleopsych] Gary North: Mainstream Media vs. Upstream Media
checker at panix.com
Sat May 28 19:35:53 UTC 2005
Gary North: Mainstream Media vs. Upstream Media
Recently, I was flipping through the local TV channels. I get four
stations clearly, but none is worth watching more than once a week. I
stopped briefly at an interview. Talking head #1 was a nationally
known TV news teleprompter reader, also known as an anchorman. The
other one was unfamiliar to me. He was a print media journalist - a
reporter. The anchorman began his questioning of the journalist with
this observation. "Were both representatives of the MSM: mainstream
It hit me. The MSM is at long last visibly on the defensive. The
moment you acknowledge that you are part of the mainstream media, you
are necessarily also acknowledging the existence of another media,
which I like to call the Upstream Media. It swims against the
mainstream, which is flowing downstream. Its easy to flow downstream.
You just let nature take its course.
The trouble with downstream rafting is that eventually you either hit
the rapids or go over the falls. In any movie about going over the
falls, someone in the raft asks:
"Whats that noise?"
The optimists say that the river will carry them to the ocean. Fine.
But if you dont climb off the raft, you will drift out to sea and
disappear. The point is, at some point you had better get off the
raft. The mainstream will eventually kill you.
Today, because of the Internet, hundreds of millions of people are
getting off the raft, all over the world. They grab a motorboat and
head back upstream.
There are lots of tributaries heading back upstream. No single
tributary that is feeding into the river is getting all of the
traffic. But hundreds of millions of people are now headed in the
opposite direction, at least with respect to some important issues.
Other issues will follow. Issue by issue, readers are concluding,
"Weve been lied to." They are correct.
The Establishment at some point will face the implications of
widespread disbelief in everything it says. At some point, people will
not voluntarily do what they are told when they perceive their leaders
as liars. When that day comes, political consensus will disintegrate.
So will the mainstream Establishments control systems.
Upstream media were not readily accessible to most people as recently
as a decade ago. The cost of locating alternative news sources was too
high. The economists' rule held firm: "When price rises, less of the
item is demanded." Now the same rule is being applied against the
mainstream: "When price falls, more of the item will be demanded." The
Internet has changed the relative pricing of media. This is a
revolutionary turn of events.
The price of obtaining alternative views is falling fast. In fact, the
main expense today is the value of our time. We have less and less
time for the boring, superficial, and lying mainstream media. They
know it. There is nothing they can do about it.
The monopoly that they have enjoyed for about 5,000 years is coming to
an end. So is the free ride of political parties that rely on the
mainstream media to keep the masses in line.
NEWSPAPERS ARE DYING
How much time do you spend each day reading newspapers? An hour?
How much time do you read on-line? More than you spend with a
Day by day, there are more people just like you.
A decade ago, I subscribed to three daily newspapers and about two
dozen magazines. I also subscribed to a dozen investment newsletters.
Since 2000, I have subscribed only to half a dozen paper-based
newsletters. More and more newsletters are digital.
Instead of reading newspapers, I visit Websites. We all do. We are in
news-overload mode. This is getting worse. Even with Google and
similar search tools, we have too much on our plates. The allocation
of our reading time has replaced the allocation of our subscription
money as our most pressing reading problem.
Year after year, the network news departments of the three main TV
networks are watching the Nielsen numbers fall. The same thing is
happening to newspapers. They are declining in circulation. This is
especially true of local newspapers. Readers are interested in
national news, and they go to the Web for it.
This is creating a major problem for certain retail industries, most
notably automobiles and furniture. Newspapers rely heavily on pages of
full-page ads for local cars and furniture. As newspaper readers
switch to on-line versions of local newspapers, as they are doing by
the millions, the full-page ads pull per dollar is fading. There are
little ads on-screen, which we have learned to ignore. There are even
PRINT THIS buttons that strip out most of the ads. When I post a link
to an article, I always link to the print-screen version.
Local car companies and furniture stores ought to have on-line sites
that are kept up to date hourly. A car is sold. Its photo should
immediately be taken off the Website. But retailers in these
industries have not yet made the transition to the Web. They do not
understand it. Web marketing is still in its shake-out period. Yet the
Web is replacing newspapers today. The Web shake-out will not be over
before hundreds of paper-based newspapers die. Subscriptions since
1990 have been steadily falling at 1% per year. This has now risen to
over 5% in some cases.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, large-circulation urban
newspapers shaped local public opinion in America. There were many
papers, morning and evening, and each one represented one of the two
major political parties. Then came radio and television, both
regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, which controlled
frequencies and station broadcasting power. Now the Web and for-pay
satellite TV and radio have unplugged power from the FCC. The FCC
legally regulates the content of only the no-pay airwaves. It does not
regulate the Web at all.
Politicians in the two parties have built their power base on the
basis of controlling local media. Today, local media are dying:
newspapers and local TV stations. Broadcasting is dying; narrowcasting
is replacing it. This will force a re-structuring of American
LOCALISM IS DYING
Two competing social forces are now moving in opposite directions.
Retail outlets along the main drag in every city are going national:
Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Office Depot, etc. Locally owned retailers of
physical stuff are disappearing. Price competition is killing them.
At the same time, information is decentralizing. Choices are
decentralizing. These are aspects of the same trend: anti-localism.
The decentralization of information is virtual, not geographical. It
is the radical decentralization of the Drudge Report: straight into a
guys apartment in Hollywood. It bypasses regions, states, and
townships. His apartment could be located anywhere. When information
can come from anywhere and be delivered to anywhere at the same
monetary price - zero - geography ceases to matter. We live in an
information-centered age. So, we no longer live in a
geography-centered age. This has never happened before. We are
entering uncharted social waters.
"Whats that noise?"
Localism is fading: local loyalties, local politics, local schools.
Higher levels of government absorb our tax money. Textbooks are
produced nationally. Local school boards are impotent. Local politics
gets the leftovers.
When I want to buy a new product, I go onto the Web and read reviews.
Then I use the Web to find the cheapest seller. For electronics, the
seller is usually located in the northeast, probably in New York City,
and is not open on Saturdays. (The seller is not a Seventh-Day
Adventist.) What do I care? To save 20%, Ill buy on Thursday. Besides,
I can order on-line 24x7. The phrase "24x7" is a sign of the times.
Locally owned stores are not open 24x7. Web-based digital shopping
Regionalism is also fading. People are mobile. They move every five
years. They do not establish local loyalties, which are costly to
break. The ties that bind no longer bind very efficiently - in
housing, occupations, regions, or marriage.
Regional mobility has been going on in the United States ever since
the earliest days. Free land meant the move west. The kids got in a
wagon and moved away . . . forever. Opportunity in America has always
trumped regional loyalty in the long run. Regional loyalties have
faded with every reduction in transportation costs. U-Haul and Ryder
have done their work well.
The South will not rise again. Similarly, the yankees of New England
have not visibly run the country since Jack Kennedy died. They do it
indirectly. After Lyndon Johnson, the Texas presidents have been
ersatz: both Bushes are of Connecticut stock, by way of Yale
University and Brown Brothers, Harriman, the investment banking firm.
George W. Bush bought his Crawford, Texas ranch in 1999 in preparation
for the 2000 Presidential campaign. I call it "Potemkin Ranch." Here
is a man who could afford to buy 2.5 square miles of land 25 miles
from Waco - not exactly prairie dog country. The mainstream media
never bothered to point out these incongruities. That is why they are
When I say that the South will not rise again, I dont mean the old
commitment of the South: resistance to centralized government. That
idea is spreading as never before by means of the Web. It just isnt
associated with a region any longer.
This is not just an American phenomenon. It is becoming universal. The
gatekeepers of every national government are on the defensive. The
gates cannot easily keep out electronic digits. The gatekeepers have
lost power ever since the invention of the printing press. They could
exercise some control over printing presses, ink, and paper. They
cannot control electronic digits.
Our political world will change, even as our retailing world has
changed. When it becomes obvious to voters that Washington, without
robbing us blind, can no longer supply the stolen money with which it
has bribed us for 90 years, mainstream politics will suffer a blow
comparable to what the mainstream media are suffering.
NEWSLETTERS ARE MORPHING INTO WEBSITES
I mentioned that by 2000, I had cancelled all paper-based
communications except for newsletters. They, too, are changing. They
are dying off along with their editors.
My favorite newsletter, Otto Scotts Compass, ceased publication in
January, 2005. Mr. Scott, now in his mid-eighties, could no longer
write it. His daughters placed him in a rest home. My second favorite
newsletter, Hilaire du Barriers report on European affairs, ceased
publication a year ago when the editor, age 94, died. Neither man was
famous. Both were lifelong journalists. Hilaire du Barrier was not a
well-known journalist. Yet I honestly believe that any historian who
tries to write about European affairs, 1945 to 2004, who does not have
a set of Hilaires newsletters will not get the story right.
Hilaire was an upstream media man. He had been captured by the
Japanese in 1941 in French Indo-China. He had been tortured for two
weeks. He did not reveal anything about the network of French spies he
knew about. After the war, they reciprocated. He had a network of
informants like no other journalist I ever met. Yet he was always in
the upstream. Almost no one knew about him.
A couple of years before he died, I persuaded a friend of his to put
all of his reports on a CD-ROM. At some point, this CD-ROM will go
on-line. Of this, I am sure. Then his lifes work will get the readers
it always deserved. The story of the insiders creation of the New
Europe will then get the distribution it deserves.
The gatekeepers have a problem. The insiders have a problem. The story
is getting out. As it gets out, political loyalties fade. The European
Union was sold to the voters by Jean Monnet and his successors on the
basis of greater economic opportunity, not the benefits of a new
political loyalty. There is still little political grass-roots loyalty
to the European Union. France will probably vote against the new
230-page EU constitution. Anyway, I hope so.
Websites are replacing paper-based newsletters. The flow of
non-approved information is becoming a torrent. This undermines
consensus. This process includes political consensus.
Think of what home schooling means for the intellectual consensus.
Think of the threat to the Powers That Be. The cost of textbook
production has kept upstream interpretations away from most students.
But now home school curriculum developers can get new views to
millions of students by way of CD-ROM and the Internet. Parents who
are sufficiently upstream to have pulled their children out of
Americas only established church - the public school system - are
ready to consider new interpretations. This is driving the academic
gatekeepers crazy. Their monopoly over the media is fading. Now their
near-monopoly over tax-funded education is slipping.
Today, American higher education absorbs something in the range of a
third of a trillion dollars a year, and this is rising by about 7% a
year - the sign of government-enforced monopoly. The
government-supervised college accrediting system keeps out price
competition. It also keeps upstream opinions out of most colleges. But
this monopoly is producing the familiar result: falling standards and
The young wife of a college professor (engineering) I know told me
that at the college, where she is finishing her bachelors degree in
June, several of her professors in the social sciences will not accept
as valid any citation from a Web site that does not end in .gov. These
people are crazy leftists. I mean really crazy - over the top
Democrats and statists who honestly believe that their students are
being corrupted by non-.gov political Websites. They are trying to
keep students away from non-government-approved digits. They really
are crazy. They have lost touch with reality. They are tax-subsidized
In January, I visited an old friend who teaches history at an obscure
state university. He and I were teaching assistants in the Western
civilization program at the University of California, Riverside, in
the late 1960s. That was back when all college grads had to take a
class in Western civilization: dreary, long-dead days indeed.
For 35 years, I have recalled that when he could not decide what grade
to give a student exam, he would have me read it. This was always an
A/B decision. Invariably, I could not help him. I always graded it the
same way: right on the dividing line. Yet he was a New Deal Democrat,
and I thought Reagan was a sell-out. (I voted for William Penn Patrick
in the 1966 Republican gubernatorial primary.) We had the same sense
of what constituted student competence. That world of semi-objective
standards is gone - buried in waves of political correctness.
He told me that his students today are extremely well-versed in
digital research. They have grown up with the Internet. But, he said,
there are two major problems: (1) they cannot evaluate the truth of
what they read; (2) they are prone to submitting term papers that they
have bought on-line.
So, we are seeing the result the triumph of official relativism in
academia: "There is no objective truth." The students have bought the
academic party line. They respond accordingly: (1) "One opinion is as
good as another." (2) "A purchased term paper may be worth the money
and risk." The Web is filled with conflicting opinions and cheap term
Problem: in engineering and architecture, this outlook can lead to
THE POOL OF TALENT
Year by year, a third of the labor pool emerges with a college degree.
Most of these degrees are in the humanities and social sciences.
Meanwhile, China produces over 450,000 college graduates a year in
science and engineering - as many scientists and engineers as the
United States has, total. Then, next year, China will do it again.
There are teamwork issues here. There are also cultural mindsets. If I
were an American manufacturer, I would rather employ a team of
scientists and engineers that individually graduated from American
colleges and whose members are entrepreneurial. Progress in commercial
product development is not just a matter of individual competence in
surviving formal education, based mainly on skill in mathematics. But
as the comparative supply of such graduates shrinks in the United
States, and as the American tradition of entrepreneurship invades Asia
- as it is invading - there will come a time when wage competition
from Asia will undermine the competitive advantage enjoyed today by
teams of scientists in the United States. Even if companies develop
products here, they will have them produced off shore. Only the most
creative science grads will be amply rewarded here for product
development. Civil engineers - road-builders - will have an advantage
based on geography. Electrical engineers wont.
Until the year 2001, Asia sent its best graduate students to study in
the United States. The post 9/11 tightening of immigration standards
(not on the border with Mexico, of course), coupled with the new
prestige of Asian technical training, has reduced the percentage
of foreign graduate students in American universities. This has never
happened before in the post World War II era.
Mainstream media are losing to upstream media. This is eroding
consensus among readers and TV viewers. Cable and satellite TV are
undermining the networks. The Web is undermining the newspapers.
Narrowcasting is undermining broadcasting. Home schools are
undermining the tax-funded schools, though only at the fringes. Only
the colleges seem immune, where government control is greatest. But
they are becoming a laughingstock, even though parents still shell out
far more than they need to (at least three times more) by sending
their children off to college. Parents who know the system can get
their kids through school for under $15,000 - maybe as little as
$10,000 - which means that the kids can pay for their college
educations by working part-time. The Establishment is on the defensive
even in the halls of ivy.
This is becoming clear: price competition is now unstoppable. If you
are not in a position to sell something cheaper, you are in big
trouble. This fact is killing the mainstream media, which lost its
ability to compete after 80 years of government regulation and
protection. It is going to kill every other cozy little arrangement
with the state.
Sell services, not stuff. Sell services locally, where Chinese college
graduates cannot compete. Sell information, where Chinese college
graduates cannot compete . . . and not many American college graduates
This is the era in which everything mainstream is hitting the rapids.
The mainstreamers thought they were cruising up a lazy river. They
"Whats that noise?"
Gary North is the author of Mises on Money.
Visit http://www.freebooks.com. He is also the author of a free
multi-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.
Gary North Archives
13. mailto:gary at kbot.com
More information about the paleopsych