As someone who’s a fan of entertainment, have you ever been craving to see less from Instagram influencers and more from your own government? The 9 simple tricks to get a juicy tax return?
Influencers and conspiracy theorists can be intriguing and captivating, even if our brains are telling us that it’s not in our long-term interests to keep watching.
Governments are boring and untrustworthy. They are prepared to lie to their citizens when it comes to the effectiveness of N95 masks; and government media spending can often be directed towards promoting the policies of whoever happens to be controlling the purse strings that day. The government is a poor choice for making decisions about media and entertainment, and yet, there is still a need for them to have some involvement in the space.
Wider society needs to be informed about what’s going on; and they also need content produced from their own perspective, so that the nation can continue to exist as something other than just a patch of occupied land. With its bias towards creating unexciting content, governments have typically leaned towards news, but even then, since radio and TV are no longer the only ways to distribute content, it’s increasingly questionable whether government paycheques are really enough to maintain any prominence in the zeitgeist.
In this article, we’ll see why it’s necessary for the government to generate clicks; and how it can happen!
Erectile Dysfunction is Cured!
In 1918, John Brinkely was putting his diploma-mill qualifications to good use, by devising a procedure to transplant goat glands into the testicles of human men. This unorthodox procedure aimed to cure any men who were “sexually weak”; and soon an equivalent procedure was devised for women too. Building upon the medical prowess of Dr Frankenstein from 100 years earlier, Brinkley’s operation seemingly proved effective, with some patients going on to produce offspring.
Not to let curable diseases go untreated, Brinkely started a publicity campaign and expanded the procedure as a treatment for 27 ailments in total, including dementia and even flatulence.
The full story is a fascinating read, but the crux of it, as it pertains to clickbait, is that the government had great difficulty in putting a stop to Brinkley’s persuasion, and in turn, his ability to continue his practice. He went as far as setting up a radio tower in Mexico, transmitting across the US without needing to ask the US for permission anymore.
An obvious question is why Brinkely needed to be stopped anyway − why did patients have such a bizarre understanding of physiology? Why couldn’t they see that many of the patients under Brinkley’s unqualified care were dying? Why did the government have to use such blunt, combative and slow tactics to put a stop to this chaos?
To this day, the medical industry still maintains a disdain for “Dr Google” and acts like it doesn’t need to answer to outsiders. So this explains why patients were left susceptible to the lies.
In terms of patients failing to be informed about the dire outcomes for previous patients, information just didn’t flow as readily as it now can. The dead patients would have to have living relatives who would report their case to a local newspaper, forcing the hand of the government to do something. “Local person dies after operation” isn’t an especially compelling story on its own though, so it’s too easy for the story to go unreported or just ignored by readers. Let’s not forget too that for patients who had unsuccessful operations, many of them would’ve died of embarassment in telling the local newspaper that they had paid for their sexual impotence to be cured.
When the medical board eventually got involved, Brinkely was shielded by his state government, since he was bringing in so much revenue for them. The solution then is so obviously that the government shouldn’t be relying on legal stouches − they should be getting facts directly to the potential patients. This medical chaos is 100% a breakdown of society; and the whole raison d’être of governments is to ensure social harmony and prosperity.
Alex Jones at a press conference in 2018. 📸 Jared Holt
In 2012, there was reportedly a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, resulting in the deaths of 26 students and staff. We’ve discussed this incident previously in relation to the depressing neighbourhood that set the stage for such a tragedy, but the focus now is whether the incident was real, or just staged.
Alex Jones pushed the theory that the shooting was staged; that nobody actually died; and that the performance was organised by those wanting an excuse for stricter gun control. It would be difficult to pull off such a stunt, but we have seen pretty significant resources thrown behind the moon landing for instance.
In 2022, Jones lost court cases in multiple US states, including one where he’s required to pay at least $965 million to families of victims. How the money is connected to an apology, a retraction, or really anything to do with the original incident is unclear. It’s not like Jones can even afford this payout: his company InfoWars has filed for bankruptcy.
Reinvention of Culture
Sure, school shootings are bad and everything, but they’re also a great opportunity for survivors to get some attention! At least this was the perspective of CNN, in reporting the unfairness in how the coverage of the shooting was skewed towards focusing on the white students, even though there were so many black students at the school! 11% in fact.
Survivors at Parkland, speaking at a vigil. What are the chances that none of the three would be black, even though 11% of the population was black?! Hint: 70%.
This bizarre tangent of an issue raised by CNN is consistent with America’s obsession with race and their regular redefinition of foreign cultures, whether it be African or anything else.
When applying for jobs, loans or even an apartment, Americans will typically ask you about your race, offering just 5 mutually exclusive choices. This is their effort to make racism go away: by drawing more attention to it and by defining everyone by their one race. If you nominate yourself as “Asian” for instance, then that gives you carte blanche to make jokes about Asians. It’s self-deprecating right?
The imperative to choose some sort of bloodline is so strong that Americans will identify with the nationality of their grandparents − even if they and their parents were born and raised in the US, speaking only English, an American will literally tell you, “I’m Italian”; or “I’m Asian”.
These fake origin stories give more interesting biographies to attention-seekers who would otherwise be undifferentiated; and it gives them permission to write the narrative of what it means to be Italian or Asian. It also lets them write the narrative about the apparently massive amount of immigration (13%, compared to Australia’s 28%), framing it as a success story, rather than a way to get a population of workers without as many rights.
Some might say that there’s an unstated disclaimer, “my ancestry is Asian, but I am American”. I’m not convinced that this is entirely true, as there are incidents showing that an American’s ancestry really does define them now: in early 2022 for instance, actor and musician Awkwafina (who was born and raised in Queens, New York) was labelled “Asian-American” or even just “Asian”; and was criticised for using “blaccent” in her rap songs and acting. She was simultaneously criticised for refusing to play Asian characters.
How dare she! Nobody who grew up in New York City and makes hip-hop music should sound like 90% of previous rappers, unless they also have black skin!
Despite being a strained and misrepresented connection, at least the American entertainers do actually have some Asian or African ancestry. Compare this to the iconic “crying Indian”: an American of Italian descent, wearing Native American attire and crying about uncaring consumers throwing litter onto his cherished land. It wasn’t the manufacturers' fault that so much litter was being produced − it only becomes waste once the consumer chooses so. The advertisement was sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, a group funded by glass and can manufacturers.
A man pretending to be Native American, crying about the fate of glass bottles and cans.
With America producing so much of the content in the zeitgeist, about what it means to be Italian (passionate, with silly accents) or Native American (eradicated), then the reputation of these groups gets completely reinvented. Don’t think that good friends like Australians are immune: Australia is portrayed as Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin. Americans have no interest in our potential cultural contributions, whether it’s ranked voting, liveable wages, or reconciliation: they’re satisfied just thinking that Australians wrestle crocodiles.
Everybody has a reputation, whether or not they choose to be involved in its curation. Do we really want our nation’s reputation to be entirely based on what Americans (who rarely visit) happen to remember about us?
Funding for Content Creation
Government-funded corporations like the British Broadcasting Corperation (BBC) or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) have served not just as a way of entertaining the populace, but also as a means of “soft power”: as a way of spreading our ideas and values to the world.
Some might see this as imperialistic, but I think there’s certainly a difference between imposing your culture by force, versus simply offering entertainment and a point of view. If you have a nation and a culture to be proud of, why wouldn’t you want to make your way of life accessible to the whole world?
A major problem with government broadcasters though, is that like anything the government touches, they’re slow-moving beaurocracies who struggle to stay afloat in a competitive market. Their presenters are boring and just can’t compete with the likes of Alex Jones, so governments try to ban him and websites are willing to de-platform him.
If the “truthful media” was better at proving facts and better at conveying their findings, then the Alex Jones saga would’ve been no different to someone trying to convince you that the sky is falling − you can just look up and see that it isn’t.
What if CNN spun up a Facebook app where you could see how many degrees of separation there are between you and any of the victims? If you thought that Alex Jones was lying, you could just ask your friend Alice if she really does know a “Bob Smith” who lives in Parkland, or if Alex Jones is right and the whole thing is a hoax.
The Australian government acknowledged the need for proper journalism when it introduced the unprecedented laws forcing Google and Facebook to “negotiate” payments to Australian news organisations for spreading links to news stories. The links that these news sites willingly presented for indexing, in their
Should the government really fund newspapers? Can’t we cut out the middleman and just move newspapers to a subscription model? The New York Times has managed to do it; and look at their reporting:
The New York Times reporting the beheading of a teacher by a Muslim terrorist.
The New York Times reporting on a US commando raid to kill an 8-year old American girl in Yemen.
The New York Times reporting on Israeli troops fatally shooting an Al Jazeera reporter in the face while she was wearing a press vest.
The New York Times admitting to publishing unverified lies about there ever being “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq − the whole basis of the Western invasion.
These issues arise because the existence of the New York Times is predicated on civilians paying for a stream of juicy articles. When governments provide guaranteed funding to a news organisation such as Al Jazeera, it grants a bit more freedom to spend time actually investigating the facts; and reporting on it impartially; not having to toe the line to appease biased readers or patrons, like the Democratic war hawks of New York.
Funding news organisations with government funds is not a panacea to impartial reporting though − just like any monopoly, such a news organisation can easily veer off course, developing undesirable behaviour that goes unchallenged. The ABC is regularly accused of leaning towards the Liberal Party for instance, ever since the party bypassed the recruitment panel and chose for the ABC to be headed by a Liberal-party donor!
Much of the media is still stuck in the olden days of facts being correct because of the authority of the publisher, not the truth of the underlying facts. Why aren’t we making the most of citizen journalism and crowdsourced contributions?
Let’s summarise the paradox so far, to see the logical answer: government funding is needed for truthful, unbiased journalism; but putting it into one organisation leads to stagnation and bias.
The logical answer then is for the government to match the funding that the public is providing to their chosen content creators.
With Wikipedia and Wikileaks, getting the truth is the easy part. The hard part is making it interesting, which the government is incapable of doing.
Crowdfunded creators, with tax incentives or matched funding, are the answer to the problem.
However the goverment chooses to go about this, there is likely to be an opportunity for manipulation. If the goverment said for instance, “we’ll chip in $1 if you send $2 to this YouTube creator”, then how would the government know whether the YouTube creator was just giving the money back to their patron and taking the government for a ride?
Maybe the government could pay the creator based on views, but only YouTube knows the real number of views, and besides, if the idea is to generate Australian content, why would the government endorse YouTube as a moderator, capable of de-platforming someone who the government might actually like? YouTube might even choose to deliberately inflate the prominence of anti-Australian content, just like the New York Times has a vendetta against France.
Such a scenario points to Australia creating its own alternative to YouTube. We’ve previously floated the idea of governments funding the development of open-source alternatives to the pillars of our online life: Google search, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
With a capable, open-source alternative to YouTube, we can imagine it eventually incorporating more and more advanced AI, so that it could answer impartially, “does this content have a character who is believably Australian?" or “is this content discussing Australia, in a truthful way?"
Only an AI could impartially answer such questions, to decide on who is eligible for the government payments. Only a system with access to government identity services could differentiate between human viewers vs robots.
Rather than having to build all these mechanisms to protect against scammers, what if the government just lowered its citizens' cost of living by so much that creators didn’t need to be paid for their content? All the copyright rules around who owns the creations of DALL-E or GPT-3 would be a lot simpler if it was simply a question of status and not one of royalty payments.
Sure there’d be less pressure on people to produce good work, but considering how many artists and performers have suffered long stints of poverty, we can see that there is no shortage of people dead set on achieving something they can be proud of.
Dancers in the pursuit of fame
If the government funded agriculture and commissioned content-creation tools, enabling zero-cost existence for content creators, then would it mean that sticking to the truth is an increasingly crowded space and an inadvisable strategy for standing out? Not necessarily: we saw previously in The Virtues of Being a Dole Bludger that a side-effect of zero-cost existence (or equivalently, UBI) is that it is less tempting to pursue immoral paths, like lying.
If people feel that lying is necessary to put food on the table, then there will end up being a lot of liars. With this pressure removed, I predict that there will be increased shame in lying; and that just like the notion of a criminal history, societies will make a permanent record of the fact that Alex Jones for instance made incorrect claims about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. The bizarre situation of him having to pay money as punishment for speaking is resolved: the shame of having these untruths on his public record is already sufficient punishment, like how our current society treats convicted sex offenders.
Some readers would scoff at the idea of the government subsidising clickbait, but what’s the point of funding content that nobody is watching? If the end goal is informative and popular content, then let’s start at popular, because that’s proving to be the harder part of the equation.
When it comes to news, there is not enough competition amongst those telling the truth. Besides funding the ABC and SBS, the Australian government should be contributing funding to Al Jazeera and to any other entity that surfaces truthful, deep reporting that can benefit Australians.
Popularity cannot be forced and any funding must always maintain the element of competition. If governments do not fund news and media, then their citizens will be misled and their culture will become nothing more than a Halloween costume.
If you feel your culture and your way of life is worth protecting; or if you feel that your perspective could benefit the world; then you need to be controlling your reputation yourself, not leaving it to the whim of plastic people in LA.
Australian content can be interesting and informative.