Yesterday, a miracle happened: I read an article in THE WEEK that was universally negative.
In case you’re not familiar, THE WEEK is a magazine that summarizes editorials around the world, usually taking four or five takes on a given news story and boiling them down into a half-page “He thinks/she thinks.” It’s a great way of getting news you wouldn’t normally get – especially the International pages, where I get to see Indonesian takes on their new leader, or hear what the Pakistani take on Malala Yousafzai is.
And invariably, those boiled-down essays disagree with each other, because that’s the format THE WEEK has chosen.
Except for Gamergate. The Gamergate essays culled from mainstream media couldn’t find one person in favor of Gamergate, so instead THE WEEK’s essay was “Well, why are they so fucking terrible?” It was like watching an essay on the problem with ISIS – everyone agreed they had to be stopped, but how? Not one major newssource really thought that Gamergate was, as they claim, actually about ethics in games journalism.
And what Gamergaters are doing is huddling back in their basements and muttering, “The news media have turned against us.”
Lemme suggest something else: maybe your story fucking sucks.
Look, as a Democrat who’s watched the media constantly overlook and misrepresent things that were vitally important to me, I get how frustrating it is when Your Top News Headline gets buried. But the central truth about any journalism is that they generally don’t report news, they report stories. Human beings have a deep-seated, monkey urge for narrative – who’s winning? Who’s the good guy? – and a chronic allergy to dry facts.
But the traditional narrative you folks peddle whenever your take on the world fails to make world headlines is that the media have been “co-opted,” that they’re “turning against us,” that you can’t trust them because they have been infiltrated by people at every level.
Whereas the truth is simpler: Every news outlet is dependent on the good will of its audience to survive. If people don’t like what they’re hearing, they won’t tune in. And then, lacking either advertiser dollars or (in the case of outlets like the BBC) voter clout to keep the money flowing, they will close down.
So every news outlet – including the Breitbarts and the Huffington Posts – has to present stories in a way that pleases their audience. If you present them with a take that’s too far outside their reality – CNN blaring 24/7 headlines that ISIS are bold freedom fighters, the Drudge Report touting the successes of Obamacare – people tune out, and they lose money.
That requires no far-reaching conspiracy. That’s the hand of the market, and that hand is on your neck. The journalists aren’t controlling the message: the audience is.
And that’s not new. Your Gamergate take isn’t hitting the headlines? Shit, man, ask gay people who lived through the 1950s how their pro-gay takes played on CBS news. Ask the Afghanis who are getting mauled by erroneous drone strikes how they feel about things. The filter of the culture that we live in causes all sorts of biases, and that’s inevitable.
But what you’re gonna tell me is that the media is run by elites who want blah blah blah and fuck that. What’s happening is that your story, the one you’re trying to sell to the media right now, is not popular. You’re like the asshole who shows up at black-tie fundraiser in a “NO FAT CHICKS” T-shirt and a beer funnel hat, then concludes that because you weren’t well-liked there, everyone must have conspired to ensure your personal demise.
Maybe your story fucking sucks.
And it might fucking suck that your story sucks, because as I just said, “stories” are not “the truth.” The George Bush take that “Those terrorists attacked us, so we’ll take the fight to them!” was a great story, right out of the Hollywood playbooks, and it barely had a scrap of truth in it – but by God, the media fuckin’ loved it. (That turned out to bite Bush in the ass when his promises of bold quick-access freedom didn’t pan out, and then the story became “Loser can’t swing a victory,” but that’s the danger of peddling stories – if you can’t make the facts fit your narrative, the media will devise their own narrative to fit your facts.)
But Jesus, man, don’t mutter “The Colbert Report has turned on us.” No. You had a shitty story that wasn’t actually that compelling – yes, I know, you are positive that Zoe Quinn seduced all the judges in the world with her Pied Piper vag, but most people have looked at the evidence and not bought your take on things. And I know, we didn’t look at all the facts, we didn’t investigate every nook and crevice of email the way that you have, but…
…nobody fucking does that, man. If “Let’s look over the details” was popular, we’d have a prime-time show on NBC called “This Week’s Paragraph Of Obamacare,” where we’d investigate all the ramifications of each of one of the most complex laws ever.
You’re fighting the fucking tide of human nature, son.
And when I lost my big victory in 2004, when I wanted Kerry to kick Dubya’s ass, I didn’t go, “THE MEDIA STOPPED ME.” I looked at it and went, “Well, shit, the guy did vacillate, he ran a poor campaign, he wasn’t inspiring at all – he was a bad candidate. Who can we get to do better?” So when Obama, for all his flaws, showed up, I went, “Dude can make a great speech!” and voted. And I won.
But I wouldn’t have won if I took your whiny-ass take of “They’re out to get me! They suppressed the truth!” No. The media is a conglomerate of factors, and there’s little conspiracy aside from “People don’t like to be told things they don’t want to hear.” You told them something they didn’t want to hear. Maybe that’s because you’re boiling over with bullshit – don’t rule that out, buddy – or maybe it’s because, like 1950s gays and dismembered Afghani citizens, your truth tells us something that society isn’t ready to listen to yet.
And for all you whine about us Social Justice Warriors, what we did was to change society so that it did listen. More. There’s still a lot of stuff that we don’t get through. But we’re probably more effective because we recognize that hey, the media isn’t oppressing us, it’s simply as biased as the people who listen to it, and how do we change the minds of the listeners?
That’s how we win.
And that, Gamergate, is why we are currently kicking your ass.
Learn the lesson, or not.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.