The Information War And The Battle For The Missoula Independent

by William Skink

Managing information has always been a part of waging war. People don’t naturally form large groups of armed human beings to slaughter other armed human beings without a compelling reason. Usually this entails narratives we’ve been indoctrinated to accept since birth.

War is now a constant aspect of modern life. This was accomplished by shifting wars from state violence directed at tangible targets–like tribes and nations–to intangible targets, like terrorism and drug use. To accomplish this domestic populations are kept in an information haze of propaganda intended to stoke fear and maintain the acceptable boundaries of discourse.

These boundaries appeared to be obliterated with the introduction of the World Wide Web. The champions of this great democratizing force were unperturbed that this paradigm shift in information creation/consumption had a military origin story and class access issues from the very beginning.

Who can afford the technology? Who makes the technology? Where are the raw materials mined? Who makes the money? Who controls the acceptable boundaries of discourse?

That last question is at the core of information warfare. Caitlin Johnstone has been making this point explicitly since June, using the Joy Reid controversy as a leaping off point in a post titled Whoever Controls The Narrative Controls The World.

Johnstone examines the seemingly odd defense of Joy Reid after her bigoted views were exposed by the trusty way-back machine. Reid’s pathetic attempt to dodge accountability would have necessitated the existence of time-traveling hackers. As absurd as this controversy was it exposed, according to Johnstone, why Joy Reid is still a valued asset of the corporate media behemoth she shills for:

While it’s easy to find someone you can count on to advance one particular lie at one particular time, it is difficult to find someone you can be absolutely certain will lie for you day after day, year after year, through election cycles and administration changes and new war agendas and changing political climates. A lot of the people who used to advance perspectives which ran against the grain of the political orthodoxy at MSNBC like Phil Donahue, Ed Schultz and Dylan Ratigan have vanished from the airwaves never to return, while reporters who consistently keep their heads down and toe the line for the Democratic establishment like Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid are richly rewarded and encouraged to remain.

The disempowered want change; those in power want predictability and consistency. The more you can guarantee predictability and consistency to those in power, the more those in power will reward you.

Those who report the news and shape public narratives are of particular interest to US oligarchs, who bought up the old media long ago and are doing everything in their power to secure influence over the new media as well. Pundits like Joy Reid are some of their most valuable assets, and they protect those assets accordingly. Because whoever controls the narrative controls the world.

In Missoula, the predictable gobbling up of the Indy by the callous corporate beast, Lee Enterprises (thanks to corporate sell-out POS Matt Gibson), and the pro-active reaction by the dwindled staff to unionize, has led to a stand-off that could shutter the Missoula Indy for good.

The staff at the Indy are appealing directly to the Missoula community for support. This could be letters to the editor of the Missoulian arm of Lee, or re-upping ad buys.

I’m not sure how helpful us bloggers can be for the Indy staff because we are a part of the problem. Over at Intelligent Discontent–sorry, I mean The Montana Post–Pete Talbot has a post about supporting the Missoula Independent. One thing they can do at their blog that re-branded itself to better resemble traditional media is stop pretending to be something they are not.

At the bottom of every post by The Montana Post there is an appeal for donations that reads like this:

If you appreciate our efforts to hold Montana Republicans accountable and the independent journalism here at The Montana Post, please consider supporting our work with a small pledge. (emphasis added)

I don’t pretend to be a journalist, and I don’t think bloggers that are obvious partisans holding ONLY Republicans accountable and ignoring their team’s transgressions should claim to be practicing journalism as well.

It’s not just bloggers pretending to be journalists that is a problem, it’s the negative pressure on financial compensation that unpaid/under-paid content creators have put on free-lance journalists actually trying to make a living telling the stories corporate media ignores/suppresses. In that regard I am a part of the problem as well.

I hope the Indy is not permanently shuttered by their corporate parent company. Like I said last April after the decision to unionize was made public, I’ve been a reader of the Indy for 18 years and look forward to Thursdays every week.

I also want to give a specific thank you to Susan Shepard, the Indy reporter who helped bring attention to the problems going down at Glacier Hope Homes. Despite being a little miffed (damn bruised ego) about my blogging efforts to bring attention to this scammer in the Flathead being mostly absent from the story, the result is what I was hoping for: shine a light and parasites will scurry for cover.

The capacity to shine an honest light is needed now more than ever. If we don’t protect that capacity then the narratives that serve the oligarchs and plutocrats and technocrats will entrench themselves in the coming generations already too coddled and indoctrinated to think critically about the national fairytales they are being told.

Is it too late to save the Indy from its corporate fate? I don’t know, but it’s worth trying. While the Missoulian is bad enough, its lone competition–the Missoula Current–is rapidly becoming a parroting, pro-development online rag not very distinguishable from its corporate competitor.

Who will push back against the dominant local narratives promoting gentrification as Missoula tries to become a little in-land silicon valley? The Montana Post won’t tell that story as long as local Democrats are running the show, and a self-interested blogger auditioning for the state GOP will only complain about it as it impacts his own sad little disenfranchised life.

Losing the Indy means losing more capacity to counter the corporate narratives intended to keep us divided and easily conquerable. If this battle is lost the one guarantee is that war will go on.

And on, and on…

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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8 Responses to The Information War And The Battle For The Missoula Independent

  1. Eric says:

    Reading between the lines it looks like the decision has already been made to close the Independent.

  2. Big Swede says:

    The first Ghostbuster movie was released in 1984.

  3. My wife follows Yellowstone wolves and like me wants them to thrive. “Scientists” who study them have embraced the concept of “alpha” males. As I discern it, alpha males are allowed to imagine that they are the only ones impregnating the females. They are delusional.

    In the same manner as I read about journalists and their imagined integrity, specially Columbia chiming in, I have a good laugh. I read Pete Talbot’s piece and thought of him as one of those people we meet in Yellowstone on the roads with telescopes watching wolves, talking about alphas and betas and not realizing they are just looking at life. Overthinking, and not even doing it well.

    There is no “journalism” in this land except in perhaps some blogs, which are slowly being shut down. Professional journalists are followers of alpha males. We can have a laugh at their expense without their knowing. Pete is clueless, as usual. I would have put this comment there, but as far as I could tell, comments were not allowed. The last refuge of the coward.

  4. dpogreba says:

    Thanks for reading!

  5. Pingback: Missoula Current’s Martin “Gomer” Kidston Bullies KGBA Into Shutting Down Outer Limits | Reptile Dysfunction

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