“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”
Last year during a family event at my step-daughter’s college, I noticed that her TV was unplugged. We had given it to her for her dorm room. She didn’t have a cord to hook it up to cable. Instead of going out their way to buy a cord, she and her roommate just never bothered using it. In lieu of traditional television, they watch Youtube videos, use various social media platforms, and watch Netflix on their respective laptops. I asked her if she knew anyone her age who watched cable television and she couldn’t think of anyone. The year my stepson lived with us while he attended his senior year of high school, I noticed that he never watched traditional live television either. He played video games, watched Youtube videos and some Netflix, and used social media platforms. The only traditional television Sloopy and I watch are various sporting events. Outside of that, I watch Youtube videos, listen to podcasts, and read through Twitter. (I have been banned from posting on Twitter. Sloopy has not despite trolling people far worse than I ever did). The only people I know in my life who watch traditional television outside of sports is my mother and step-father. Even my father spends his free time watching Youtube videos and playing around online.
Traditional corporate media is dying. At first, it felt gradual, now it feels sudden. Not just newspapers, but television, movies, even corporate digital media is crumbling before our eyes. I would even add major corporate social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter onto the list as well. The death spiral is understandable. The age of centralized media, centralized narratives, centralized culture, and hence centralized power is done. The question now is: what will the effects be?
Scott Adams describes the current political landscape as like having one movie screen with two different movies playing on it. Half the country sees an evil bigoted man who stole the election by conspiring with Russia. Everything is going in the wrong direction as this evil usurper is allowing the rich to continue to exploit the poor and downtrodden and has given license to the evil white supremacists secretly living amongst them to hate crime. The other movie is an economic golden age with the evil deep state trying to take out the man who is defying them. Each news story that breaks is proof of each side’s version of the world. The two movies/two realities are the result of a split in primary consumption of news media. Those that follow right-wing news and those that follow left-wing news consume a different culture and a different reality.
Now what will happen when the media splits even further? What happens when it splits to a million separate cultures? Instead of two political realities, will we have millions? Will we reach an anarchist state? Will the US fraction into a million separate countries, will the power become decentralized again back to the states and individual counties, cities? Centralized media has allowed for the centralization of power. Two entities vying for control can work as long as they share core tenets, but what happens when they both no longer share the same core tenets due to consumption of different media? And what happens when the media decentralizes further and further until it is in the thousands or even millions? How can one government control such a large geographical area and vast populace when culture, reality, and basic fundamental principles are no longer shared?
Maybe I am mistaken, but doesn’t it feel like a mass disillusionment is taking place? I have never witnessed in my life so much general distrust from everyone from all corners of life. I have no idea what the future will bring, but whatever it is, we are in the midst of a massive and sudden change.