Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pando to Go All Gonzo and S*!t

One of the New Media ventures that have cropped up over the last couple of years is something called "Pando" -- dubbed "the site-of-record for Silicon Valley." It is primarily focused on tech-business news, a topic which has a somewhat limited appeal, but since acquisition of NSFW and its infamous stable of malcontents and dissidents, including Paul Carr, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine (the fate of War Nerd is yet to be determined), and the addition of David Sirota to its reportorial staff last year, Pando has vastly expanded its capabilities and its news content to encompass fierce and pointed media criticism (including New Media), corruption and deceit in ever higher places -- not just in Silicon Valley, and the power politics that is subsuming us all.

Within the last few days, Sarah Lacy and Paul Carr, the commercial and editorial heads of the enterprise, have announced a new and expanded mission for Pando, to encompass the World, I guess, and to do it Full Gonzo. Suckers!

Given what Pierre is up to over at his New Media start up, and given all the other rearrangements of the New Media firmament, if Pando expects to survive, let alone flourish, Going Gonzo is probably the way to do it. Sounds like Ames and Levine chattering away in the background.

But from a strategic standpoint, it makes perfect sense to continue to make as big a splash as possible, with as many OMG! investigative stories as possible, and to make them as hip and shit-kicking as possible, so as to distinguish Pando from the run of the mill New Media sites, some of which, like Pierre's baby, were born out of breath and barely moving.

What the public will gain from all of this media ferment, rearrangement and going Gonzo remains to be seen. Pando and many of the other New Media sites provide pretty decent coverage of particular topics of interest to their specific market/audience segment, though few of them are known for breaking new ground. They rely as much as Legacy Media on the same news wires, and consequently much of their content duplicates the same news that's found everywhere else in the media, sometimes with exactly the same stories.

The main difference between the Old and the New is the splash and the flash and the fact that the New Kids are on the internet more or less exclusively. I say more or less because the internet news sites are more and more integrated with radio and television news and opinion programs as well as more traditional print outlets. There is no real dividing line any more between the internet and ("") Legacy Media. They've long interacted, and now are homogenizing to the point that they are pretty much indistinguishable.

It's just that the traditional media formats are being de-capitalized and the upstarts are being over-capitalized -- on the premise that the Future of News is Online;  that's where the money is to be made in the future.

And there are, of course, The Billionaires, Our Own Private Oligarchs.

Pierre isn't the only one. Far from it. The fashion among the billionaires now is to purchase an already extant media enterprise and remake it into something more suited to Billionaires' tastes, or to create something from (almost) scratch that will appeal to the rubes almost as much as it appeals to the Overclass.

All the yabbering about "independent journalism" from staff is obvious bullshit. When all the media outlets become the private fiefs of particular billionaires, we will hear what they want us to hear, see what they want us to see, believe what they want us to believe. That's the game plan.

No longer will the Rabble be subjected to propaganda and lies that haven't been filtered through the billionaires' lens, and won't it be grand?

Pando has a lot of venture capital (though not even a fraction of the initial funding Pierre has dedicated to his New Media startup, nor is it close to the funding some other New Media ventures have raised), but the billionaires behind the scenes are kept well in the background, and they are said to have nothing to do with the content of the site.

Yet the fact is that one is not truly "independent" when one is dependent on the good graces of someone behind the scenes for one's sustenance and quite possibly one's prominence.

It's silly to claim, as FOX News does, that he who pays the piper doesn't call the tune. It's disingenuous. It's a lie. It's a pious fraud in some cases, an outright deception in others.

A way I've long looked at these matters is that "The Media is not your friend."

Media seeks to identify and exploit your vulnerabilities and fears to sell you something, whether it be products or propaganda. Media wants nothing less than control over your actions and beliefs. Your loyal attention is demanded and soon enough, it looks like it might be required.

In the old Soviet Union, the people were quite aware of the propaganda being fed to them by state media, and they were widely and openly contemptuous of it. They read and watched the official "news" -- but they also knew how to read and watch it in order to suss out the real story, if there was one. They also practiced informal person-to-person news dissemination (the famous "samizdat") that provided something much closer to the truth than could be found in the official media.

Americans are not used to thinking the way Soviets did about their media. In the United States and the West in general, it is an article of faith that there will be at least one major mass media outlet available "that you can trust." Building brand loyalty to that "one" media outlet is a full-time marketing job.

But that's how it's done. So long as enough people believe they are getting unbiased or at least accurate news from a mass media source they trust, all is good, and their loyalty to that outlet is assured.

It was recognized long ago, however, that if your trust is placed in any mass media outlet, your trust is misplaced, because they are all propagandizing, generally propagandizing the same things as their rivals, the only difference is they're doing it in a way that will develop your brand loyalty to them. In the process, they tell you lies.

Consequently, an alternative media developed as a companion to the mass media (sometimes actually owned by the same companies that owned the mass media) wherein it might sometimes be possible to find Gonzo investigative journalism that actually exposed what was really going on at a deeper level than even the most high profile award winning investigations in the mass media.  Nevertheless, it was necessary to remain skeptical of these alternative media stories, because even if they did get closer to the truth, they were still intended to support the agenda of building brand loyalty, though often enough there would be other agendas as well.

"Pando Goes Gonzo" is all well and good, but nevertheless, I wouldn't put any faith in it. It's a marketing tool, one that shouldn't be sneezed at because it often works, but the results may not be any more informative or useful than anything else that turns up in the New Media.

Be skeptical, be critical, be wary.

"The Media is Not Your Friend."

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