When I was a kid we had 6 TV programs, of which 2 were from Austria. I learned German very soon and it was a window into the world. I also listened to Austrian radio that had more music from the West. But all in all, it was a very closed media space. There was news you could watch, and depend on foreign correspondents to tell you the ‘truth’ about the world. That was it.
When the war against Yugoslavia came in 1999 there already was the internet, but the media coverage was very one-sided. No matter what you think about the causes of the war, and I will not defend what Serbs did in this dreadful affair, it was obvious who was the one shaping the media space and who was dismissed and made invisible. The media giants like CNN, BBC, The New York Times were pushing their news, and others in the West went along. Sure, they had the same interests. It was very hard to hear alternative news, except on the Internet, but not many people were getting news from there and for many, it was just the place where some conspiracy theorists were spreading their nonsense.
Of course, you’d have a Western reporter interview Serbs, but such interviews were most often made in a way, to portray them in a bad light or to support the assertion Western governments made about the conflict. Serbs were not really in the position to present their viewpoints.
Well, they had their TV station bombed by NATO as well.
Much has changed since. The internet has allowed for alternative viewpoints to be heard. Also, with the advent of Al Jazeera and RT, the Western media monopoly was shattered. Now there a more following in their footsteps. Sure, there is a lot of propaganda everywhere, but at least you can hear what other people have to say, unfiltered, not through some BBC correspondent or such.
Social media has allowed us to communicate directly with people all over the world. Even if some countries block some social media, there always is a way to circumvent it. The world is no longer the same, as when I was a kid and I can read what somebody in China or Russia thinks. I can get the news about the Syrian war from Damascus and am no longer constrained to sitting in my living room, watching CNN explain to me what is going on. I can even talk to people all around the world. And that makes me happy and content.
I fear, that this might end someday. Those in power do not like it, that they can’t control the narrative. They themselves control the big media and can push stories they want to have resonance in the society. But, more and more people are abandoning them and are finding out, that they don’t really need the star news anchor to tell them what to think. There are other, more interesting people online and besides, those amateurs online are often more correct in their predictions of what will happen, than all the well paid experts in the mainstream media.
As the free flow of information slowly destroys their authority, the elites in power are set upon purging alternative voices from the platforms they control and limiting the reach of those they don’t. It is a war lead against the enemies inside their countries, but also against those that can reach a wider audience from abroad.
It is my hope those in power don’t achieve what they are up to. They want to censor what they do not like, cut ties between people from different countries, and then shape the attitudes of the masses in the way it serves their interests. That is behind all the purges of Russian and Chinese ‘bots’.
Just like the Covid-19 crisis and lockdowns have forced us into bubbles, those in power want to force us into media bubbles as well. Of course, it is easier to control people if they can’t get far and see the world, be it physically or in their minds.