Tectonic Rumblings: What’s Going to Happen to the Alt Media?
For some time now, there have been tremors moving through the Alt Media; foreshocks of a coming seismic event. Recently these shocks have been coming more frequently, and are increasingly evident to audiences, as well as content creators. There have been several attempts to fight back against the growing wave of censorship, but thus far they’ve been reactionary: an attempt to fight back against a single node rather than the entire network, with the goal of maintaining the “Wild West” status quo of the internet, while ignoring the inevitability that periods of chaos always return to order.
The Internet changed our communication infrastructure in a fundamental way; over the past five years we’ve seen it mature into its final form, but how we’re going to deal with it as a species is a question which remains to be answered. The effect it’s having is equivalent to that of the machine gun on trench warfare, or guided torpedo swarms on the current paradigm of carrier ships. The thesis of formal, centralized communication is battling with the antithesis of distributed, informal chaos, and the resultant synthesis is still up in the air. Each node of contention is inter-related to all the others, and what we see are contradictory forces battling not only each other, but themselves as well.
The conflict can be broken down into six primary nodes – or contradictions – each of which is moving towards an unknown resolution.
1. Wealth, Investment, Crowdfunding, and Financial Anemia
Since the stagflation of the late 1970s, every economic policy that’s been attempted has failed. Trickle down resulted in a trickle up. Wages as a share of GDP have decline by 10%. The aggregate wealth of the top 0.1% is now the same as that of the bottom 90%. The income gap is on the rise, as quality of life (adjusted for technological development) is on the decline. We get 1700 new Millionaires each day, but the middle class suffers, while trillions of dollars are disappearing into offshore accounts.
Hypothetically, all of that money should be finding its way back into the economy, getting re-invested into businesses and home loans, but that isn’t what we’re seeing. Instead, it’s just sitting around in storage, while crowdfunding becomes the norm.
This is an irony that can’t be overstated. Crowdfunding tools like KickStarter, Patreon, and IndieGoGo would have been brilliant tools during the 1950s when one-income families were flush with cash, but they’re poorly suited to this anemic age. They’re tools designed with the experimental entrepreneur in mind, and yet it’s the large and experienced development teams who are benefiting the most. Mighty No. 9 and Broken Age come to mind; games from famed developers who ought to have been receiving investment – and guidance – from moneyed interests, but who instead relied upon micro-donations from the fans. Both of these projects suffered as a result. When the project lead is distracted by the fundraising and managing, instead of developing – the skill which brought them fame in the first place – an organizational nightmare is the result, and the lacklustre nature of the finished products is a testament to why adult supervision is needed.
Both of these games could have been wildly successful, and would have offered a substantial improvement on whatever negligible interest the locked-up Trillions are receiving in offshore accounts – but they didn’t. The funds remained locked up, the projects were mishandled, and two great developers released flops onto the market.
This isn’t a repeat of the 1983 video game crash, where over-investment in bad products tanked the market – instead, we’re seeing under-investment in good products. It isn’t an echo, but it certainly rhymes.
There’s wealth to be made out there, but nobody of substantial means wants to invest. When it comes to the alternative media, there is a dearth of editorially consistent, professional magazines that are keeping up with the voice of the times: Infowars, Heat Street, and Breitbart are all examples such magazines, but only the latter has an Alexa rating over 1000. The populace is sick of the politically correct fake news coming out of the mainstream, but with the anemic funding going towards the alt media, quality inevitably suffers.
There is a major opportunity to create a new media platform, but the only people putting their money where their mouth is are in the bottom 90%.
2. Advertisers are Growing Nervous
One of the paradoxes of human nature is that desperation makes us more conservative. When options are winnowing away – when starvation is setting in – when a radical change is called for, lest the situation become dire – we freeze like deer in the headlights, and double-down on the behaviour which brought us to the brink in the first place.
Advertisers are being hammered with a negative trifecta. First there’s the rising tide of poverty, which reduces consumer spending. Second, there’s the rising hostility of the population, who are happy to target anyone. And third, the irreverency of Internet culture is entirely outside their ken. What this boils down to is that advertisers have become an easy punching bag and they don’t know how to take a joke. Levis freaked out over Pewdiepie making jokes about Hitler, Pepsi upset everyone with Kendall Jenner’s idiotic commercial, and in the past week I’ve managed to get Me Undies to block me, and CIBC to remove an image, just by tweeting about how stupid their ads were.
Advertisers are becoming reactionary; obsessed with the impossible goal of appealing to everybody, bending over at the first bit of criticism, while simultaneously failing to appeal to the demographics that would actually buy their products (your average blue collar cowboy might think that Pewdiepie is a douche, but they’ll think Levis is an even bigger douche for being butthurt over Hitler comments).
Pre-Internet, advertisers could target a specific demographic, and the rest of the populace would remain ignorant of how they were selling their product. Advertisers could put out a risible commercial about female douching during daytime television, an embarrassing Axe Bodyspray commercial during late-night sportsball, and neither sex would be the wiser. These days – as many have learned to their chagrin – the Internet is forever. And no matter what demographic you target, some other demographic will hate your product, and will subject you to ridicule for how you’re trying to advertise it in the first place.
Aside from Wendy’s, nobody seems to have figured that Hate is online currency. Instead of embracing the derision, they’re trying to shut everything down. They’re demonetizing YouTube over false and temporary outrage, completely oblivious to the actual bad will they’re generating in the process.
After what they did to Pewdiepie, will you be purchasing any more Levis jeans?
3. The E-Celebrity Bubble
It’s worth considering how this E-Celebrity bubble rose in the first place; it all comes down to the fact that Baby Boomers are unable to retire due to their mismanaged finances.
Aaron Clarey has covered this topic, specifically in regards to his own “failed” radio career, but also with the population at large. Despite his success on College Radio, and his current success with podcasting, he was unable to find a position at an AM Talk Radio station. He calls it the Hannity Cartel:
But if Joe Blow, aspiring public speaker, or Jane Doe, superior-but-unknown author writes a great treatise on economics, even if their work is superior, they will NEVER make it into “The Hannity Cartel.”They are not interested in hiring the best or finding the best. They are only interested in protecting their little club. in other words, despite the capitalist political ideology, they really aren’t as interested in finding “the best,” as much as they are continuing to propagate their little network or club.
The immediate result of this is a massive brain-drain: the next generation of talented commentators is being denied entry, overlooked in favour of obsequious “Yes Men” who are more than happy to echo thirty year old talking points.
The same holds true for other industries – from banking, to manufacturing, to law. With the economy no longer expanding, and the Boomers unable to retire, the rising generation is graduating college without opportunity for advancement or – more importantly – the acquisition of social capital.
Working at Starbucks might pay well enough, but it leaves you at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy.
The result is a swathe of underemployed millenials; the talented tenth, as well as the mediocre majority. The past few years have been a Gold Rush of YouTube shekels and e-fame, and how fast you move has, in many cases, been more important than how smart you are. As the Tragically Hip once sang:
Well, sometimes the faster it gets
The less you need to know
But you got to remember the smarter it gets
The further it’s going to go
When you blow at high dough
Shock value has outperformed content. The already loose language restrictions of the Internet gave way to the rise of extremism for extremism’s sake, which led to the nervousness of advertisers, the YouTube demonetization, and – ultimately – the bubble has effectively popped; people just don’t realize it yet. Those who survive will be exceptionally charismatic (breadth), exceptionally talented and/or niche (depth), or they’ll be the ones who manage to monetize their presence with a product or service which is related to their commentary, rather than relying upon the good will of advertisers.
4. The Legacy Media Zombies
In his post, The Surplus Value of Superman, The Z Man comments on the ephemeral nature of wealth in late-stage Capitalist societies:
We live in a a credit money era, where capital can be conjured out of thin air and just as quickly be made to vanish. Money is not the store of labor value. It is the store of intellectual and social capital. The banker is not worth a billion dollars because his labor sold for a billion dollars. He is worth a billion because his social connections and knowledge of the financial system places him at a highly valuable node in the system, allowing him to skim from the traffic on the network, like a highwayman.
What’s happening in the comic book business is a systematic strip mining of the value created in the golden age of comics. The first stage was to use credit money to blow a massive bubble, drawing in stupid money that the smart money players then ran off with before the bubble burst. That’s the essence of a credit bubble. Credit fuels artificial growth, which attracts real money looking for a quick return. Instead, the sharps take out the real money leaving the credit money behind, which is back by the worthless assets.
This helps explain why the Billionaires are storing their money in offshore accounts, at near-zero interest rates. SJW infestation isn’t the cancer that kills the industry – it’s the mouldy growth on an industry that’s already dead. The recent dismissal of Bill O’Reilly, coinciding with Fox News’ turn towards the Left, is an example of this; the creative bankruptcy of Star Wars; the degeneration of modern gaming into embarrassments like Mass Effect: Andromeda. While it varies from property to property, none of these IPs are in the business of producing good quality content,either for the sake of the product itself, or for attracting advertisers. With Fox News and CNN, they receive the majority of their funding directly from your cable bill, whether you watch it or not.
Cable channels, like Fox News, exist on subscription revenues, not advertising dollars. FNC gets $1.50 from every cable home each month. That’s roughly $1.8 billion a year whether people watch or not. Their ad revenue is less than a third of that number. In the case of ESPN, for example, ad revenue is around one billion, and they have an audience about ten times the size of a cable news operation, even Fox News.
Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, and the Marvel Movies have a guaranteed audience because there’s nothing else out there to compete with them. Indie Gaming was co-opted, sold out to the major game studios, and what remains is so flooded, that little of quality is being produced (QuQu explains this here) and even the projects that do succeed will not expand into franchises. Back in the heyday of gaming, Star Control led to the critically acclaimed Star Control II, but today’s equivalent FTL: Faster Than Light is unlikely to ever see a sequel.
All of the major industries are subsisting off of momentum, artificial credit, and monopoly. They are little more than corpses reanimated with dark energy, the SJWs being the legion of psychotic personalities infesting the rotting corpse.
5. Controlling the Algorithm
Algorithmic content is the current paradigm. It was once called Web 2.0, but the ubiquity rose so fast that it no longer has any name at all; you might as well ask a fish about water. When you combine it with the dearth of good content being produced by establishment industries, the service itself has become a liability for the companies who offer it.
The initial goal of algorithmic content was to provide you with the information and products you wanted, before you even knew that you wanted them. By creating a massive database of people, and placing you into a completely customized demographic, Amazon could find you books you’d love before you’d even heard of them. Instead of relying upon referrals and word of mouth, or expensive advertising campaigns, the algorithm could fit you to whatever would fit you best.
This is now a problem.
The decline of the establishment industries has led to the increased quality of the alternative industries; but the alternative media has been relying upon advertising dollars, and it’s the establishment media which pays for advertising. The establishment industries have effectively been paying to destroy their consumer base. Furthermore, the technology itself undermines advertising. Why pay for a $6 million advertising campaign, when for a few hundred dollars you can advertise on Tom Leykis, and the algorithm will do the rest?
So, the companies which sell algorithmic content – Twitter, YouTube, Google, Amazon, and Facebook – are undermining the establishment industries whose advertising campaigns are bankrolling their algorithms. Thus, to maintain profitability, they need to destroy the very algorithms they offer. They’re currently subsisting off of their First-Mover Advantage, but that’s a foundation which is quickly eroding away.
6. The Inability to Organize
In a corollary to the paradox of the desperate man who doubles down on his errors, the Alt Media – at a time when co-operation and unification would allow them to decisively tumble the establishment press – is resorting to desperate, crabs-in-a-bucket in-fighting over the last scraps of advertising dollars and ego-validation.
The Alt Right has become a sea of petty squabbles, while the Alt Lite has organized under their anti-Antifa banner, and have managed to achieve unity of purpose. They managed to do so by eschewing traditional Christian values, embracing porn and the infantilized adult, it’s led by out and proud homosexuals, and it espouses a generalized attitude of “Don’t judge me for being a straight, white, male, and I won’t judge you back.” A regular mantra which is heard from them states that the “Regressive Right” is just as bad, or even worse, than the “Regressive Left”.
One should be forgiven for mistaking them for the Democrat party of ten years ago.
The traditional right, meanwhile, is largely deserving of the title “Regressive Right”; it has become a temporary bastion of misfits who cannot conform to the moderate position, or even the Libertarian position, and who think that “traditionalism” means yelling racial slurs with a megaphone.
The few groups who are organized seem to receive their funding from suspicious sources.
Both sides are seeking the impossible. The mainstream wishes to crush the multitude of voices which the new media is creating, while simultaneously benefiting from the data-mining and expanded distribution which the new media offers. They’re even going so far as to shut down financial transactions for major hubs of alt media information. This is an effective tactic in the short-term, but self-defeating in the long-term. The logic of shutting down financial services would eventually mean shutting down finances entirely; the end goal is some form of Communist infrastructure built off of modern systems, but the very nature of these systems means that the more onerous they become, the easier – and more profitable – it will be for individuals to switch to a black market, for finances as well as data.
For it’s part, the Alt Media, wishes to continue leaching off of, and attacking the mainstream, while profiting off of mainstream advertisers in the process. They want the freedom to yell at the top of their lungs in an air-conditioned, private mall.
Meanwhile, the economy is becoming more anemic by the day as the value of the money pumping through its veins thins to water.
Where and how the shift happens is still unpredictable. When it happens, it will be a Black Swan; unpredictable, irrelevant even, but thanks to the time and place of it, the whole system will change overnight.
Systemized tyranny is no longer possible. But neither is subsidized freedom. 20th Century Communism and 20th Century Capitalism are both off the table; they’re as dead as the cavalry charge. Something new is coming – something new and very interesting – but how it gets here remains to be seen, and in all likelihood will be extremely painful, even bloody, for all involved.