The Cold War years added television to the mix of print vehicles that adorned favored newsstands across the U.S. Television, which replaced the radio, was good, too. You could come home from the office, prop your feet up while dinner was prepared and someone you believed in and trusted told you what you needed to know. The radio you used to gather around to listen to the news and hear politicians speak collected dust and the programming turned from content to playing the top 40 tunes of the day. Somehow, though, the television experience just didn’t compare with juggling a chat at the newsstand, a briefcase and a hot cup of coffee while searching for the two bits in your pocket to pay the guy for a paper to read. For commuters living in suburbia, the timing of the newspaper delivery was critical to starting the day off right. The newspaper was read over coffee in the kitchen or on the train or bus; news was absorbed, stock reports analyzed, personals and classified enjoyed, sales marked and editorial pieces debated all before the work day began.
Reality and Illusion
Somehow reading the news made it real, personal and, therefore, true. Through the print and broadcast media the world learned about the Soviet Union’s first atom bomb test, the wonders of landing on the moon, how amazing western athletes and those of the U.S. were, new sciences and medical breakthroughs, the horrors of Communism and how to duck under desks, the horrors of Vietnam and why it was vital the U.S. won. The world read, watched and mourned an assassinated U.S. president. In the U.S. protestors railed against Vietnam and preached peace, love, and rock and roll. And in 1970, I was an American in Wales who watched the fuzzy television in horror as the unthinkable happened when the National Guard mowed down Ohio State students protesting the Cambodian bombing. Surely not in the America I
believed in! Was the National Guard, a military unit, really brought onto an American university campus? The National Guard did what the military is trained to do, which is precisely why the military is NOT supposed to be used for this purpose in country.
The Fourth Turning: Crisis
Television and newsprint vied for the American mind and money; investigative journalists unseated a president and television added news magazines to their repertoire. Over the course of the Cold War’s six decades print and broadcast media settled into a peaceful coexistence that seemed to work for both. They were the mainstream media, the power brokers, and they were totally unprepared for the fourth turning-talk radio and the Internet.
Like winter follows fall, the fourth turning, crisis, had to come. Crisis, however, is a funny word. It is a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry; a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. Looked at from the other side, crises is the chaos of change from which order may emerge. William Strauss and Neil Howe identified a recurring generational cycle in American history. According to LifeCourse Associates, The Fourth Turning expands on the theory, focusing on a fourfold cycle of generational types and recurring mood eras in American history. To their detriment, the mainstream media failed to respond to the crisis and began to drown in their power pools without understanding they were dying.
Lights in the Tunnel
Like corn beginning to pop on a stove, first radio then the Internet began to stretch and come alive. In 1984, WABC hired the late Bob Grant who brought the airwaves alive with conservative talk radio and challenged the status quo. The radio pioneers used acidic attacks, logic and truth in various doses. Listeners responded by questioning the radio hosts, then themselves and finally the government. The die was cast by the money the listeners generated. A multitude of hosts rose to fill the seats of radio studios across the country accounting for airwaves filled to the brim with content of every shape and size. By the mid-1990s, the Internet was reaching adolescence and a whole new mechanism reached out and touched the body politic.
I was working for a defense contractor in Norfolk, Virginia when, in 1998, Matt Drudge broke the Monica Lewinski story following Newsweek’s refusal to do so. And I remember the sustained, vitriolic attacks on Drudge as he doggedly stuck to his guns. According to Wikipedia, Drudge began his career a couple of years before Monica became ‘that woman’. Drudge had a nose for news, an uncanny ability to pick the worst pictures possible of folks he didn’t like, and a way with headlines, so his readership grew and included me in its numbers. Drudge spawned some notables like Andrew Breitbart and others not so much so. Of significance here is that Drudge demonstrated that every person could be a news person. If you had a question, the mandate was to go find the answer and the Internet provided the platform to give a ‘shout out’ around the world.
Just a couple of years before the Internet came into widespread use in 1995, Art Bell syndicated a late night radio program that featured long-format interviews that lasted several hours. Listeners quickly learned that Bell’s addiction to the news coupled with his analytical talent and ability to identify the right people with the right credentials to interview was almost as good as having a crystal ball. The news headlines from several months in the future were yours to act on as you chose. Bell explored the paranormal alongside theoretical physics and private space ventures. Today the late-night radio tradition is carried on through Coast to Coast AM’s weekend hosts, John B. Wells, George Knapp and others like them who have the stamina and intelligence to conduct three and four hour interviews and tease content out of nervous callers.
As the Internet reached young adulthood it gave rise to a whole new crop of entrepreneurs, the ‘ordinary’ person driven by extraordinary destiny; Joseph Farah’s World Net Daily, Alex Jones’ InfoWars, Mike Adams Natural News, news docking stations like Full Spectrum Dominance; the birth of the blogosphere with the likes of WordPress and PJ Media; and alternative news sources like Black Listed News and Before It’s News. The founders of these sites pulled themselves through the Internet portal by their bootstraps, not with central funding, and that is important.
It takes money, lots of it, to run centralized news media. According to the Business Insider, six corporations control 90 percent of the media in America today. By comparison, fifty corporations controlled that same percent in 1983. Large corporations do not like boat rocking or losing access to sources in high places because they are upset at what is published. According to Yale University’s Nancy Qian and Harvard University KSG’s David Yanagizawa-Drott :
“…Mass media plays a powerful role in society. It reaches an immense audience, and its content can affect a wide range of outcomes, including political behavior such as voting.In democratic regimes such as the United States, the importance of the media is reflected in its being called the fourth estate, which is supposed to report on the activities of the government in the interest of the public and act as a “watchdog” of democracy. However, the ability of the media to perform its prescribed role has come under question as observers point to an increasing number of instances when media content is distorted by the government….”
The mainstream media continues to lose credibility as time after time, the Internet rogues catch them in deceit whether through commission, as in “Barack Obama will be much different from George W. Bush and will actually protect our civil liberties.”, or omission, as in “Frozen Out: 98% of Stories Ignore That Ice-bound Ship Was On Global Warming Mission”. Today’s mainstream media mocks Joseph Pulitzer’s idea that, “An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery…” The job now falls to the wild west of the Internet affectionately called ‘the alternative media’ and its myriad reporters from all walks of life. The responsibility to interpret the veracity of the reporting reverts back to the reader or listener, where it always belonged.
The Fourth Turning; A Good Cold War Legacy
The Fourth Turning is a Crisis….This is an era in which America’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up—always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression finds a community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group. In every instance, Fourth Turnings have eventually become new “founding moments” (See Footnote 1)
Matt Drudge says, “Those in power have everything to lose by individuals who march to their own rules.” And, judging by the severity of the backlash from both government and mainstream media on alternative media, he speaks the truth.
There is another truth and it is spoken by the founder of the Explorer’s Foundation, Leif Smith. He explains that the Explorers Foundation uses freeorder to state its conviction that orders arising from freedom work best for people intent on using their full powers of imagination, reason, and action in pursuit of their own happiness, and in service to people and things they love. People from around the world have gravitated to alternative media; perhaps, just perhaps, it is, as Leif Smith would say, a forge of freeorder.
 The Four Turnings; http://www.lifecourse.com/about/method/the-four-turnings.html
 Business Insider; Jun. 14, 2012; Ashley Lutz; These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America; http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6#ixzz2pUoaAc52
 Government Distortion in Independently Owned Media: Evidence from U.S. Cold War News Coverage of Human Rights; June 4, 2013; Nancy Qian, Yale University, and David Yanagizawa-Drott, Harvard University KSG; http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/dyanagi/Research/HRMedia_20130604.pdf
 The American Dream; January 6th, 2012; Michael Snyder; Mainstream Media Lies: 23 Things That Are Not What They Seem To Be On Television; http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/mainstream-media-lies-23-things-that-are-not-what-they-seem-to-be-on-television
 Newsbusters; January 2, 2014; Mike Ciandella; Frozen Out: 98% of Stories Ignore That Ice-bound Ship Was On Global Warming Mission; http://newsbusters.org/blogs/mike-ciandella/2014/01/02/frozen-out-98-stories-ignore-ice-bound-ship-was-global-warming-missi#ixzz2pUo1eyII