Accomplices

???????? OVAJ TEKST JE DOSTUPAN NA SRPSKOM JEZIKU

An American Alex Jones is a conspiracy theorist. He began as a radio host in his hometown Dallas, and with the advent of the Internet, he launched the InfoWars website. Together with the blooming of social networks, his theory continued to expand using all the possible formats that these platforms offer.

His conspiracy theories had a very wide range of themes – from the fact that the US government controls weather conditions and can direct hurricanes and storms wherever it wants, through the “discovery” that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are members of the secret demonic cult that controls America, to warning parents that vaccination of children seriously endangers their health, claiming that one character in the popular Sesame Street sitcom was intentionally portrayed as autistic in order to present autism common and readily accepted, as more and more children will be affected by autism due to compulsory vaccination.

One of his theories is that mass shootings in American schools, in which pupils and students were injured or even killed were invented, in order to justify the restriction of the right to possess weapons. Thus, he claimed that the incident that occurred in February of this year at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and school staff members were killed, had also been invented, and that one of the survivors, David Hogg, was actually a paid actor who was engaged after this incident as an activist to advocate the restriction of the right to possess weapons.

Some of the directly charged and offended in these theories sued him and won the court, which was just another proof for Jones and his followers and admirers that their guru was right and which gave him more reason to continue in advocating his theories with even more enthusiasm. His site reached 10 million views a month, which is more than the Economist and Newsweek have. During the US presidential campaign, he hosted Donald Trump, one of the candidates in the elections, in one of his shows. On that occasion, Donald Trump said that Jones enjoyed “a great reputation.”

And finally, in August of this year, the global social networks and services through which Alex Jones acted removed all the content created by him and cancelled his accounts. This was first done by Facebook, YouTube, Apple and Spotify, and then Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Explanations given by these companies about the reason for such a reaction are interesting, but we will leave them for another occasion.

Now we’re wondering where all that fuss around Alex Jones suddenly comes from. Media analysts are busy reporting on this phenomenon, the “serious” media are being broadcast by the news, without missing the opportunity to address to their audience with a bit of joy: “This is what happens when there is no order in the media world as it used to be in good old times, so everyone can publish everything and anything.” But let’s leave it for now.

Conspiracy theories and their advocates are not a new phenomenon; there were always “geniuses” who came from nowhere to enlighten the world, but they still remained mainly on the media margin, even though there were the media through which these theories were publicized back then. There were newspapers and books, photos and movies, radio and television. The content type itself, therefore, has not changed. But what has radically changed is the unlimited availability of this content, due to the change in the way it is distributed.

Before the Internet media platforms appeared, the prerequisite for a text, photo, movie or message to reach the consumer was that the content exists in a particular distribution channel. And those channels had limited distribution. Newspapers were bought at newsstands, books were available in bookshops and libraries, films were watched in cinemas, on television or on videotapes and on DVDs. Limited distribution, by its nature, imposed a limited amount of content. Not everyone could publish newspapers, print books, shoot a movie or a sitcom. The content was determined by distribution. Therefore, a content selection process existed, which was based on an estimate of the people that will consume it. Most watched movies in cinemas were promoted, the hit TV series was advertised, the film and TV stars were actually a guarantee for the success of the next film or sitcom, the best-selling books and the most influential writers were published. There were rules.

And then everything changed. There is no longer a barrier to launch online newspapers tomorrow. If you write a book, you can easily publish it in an e-release, even at Amazon if you really want. One click on YouTube is enough to make your video or movie available to the whole world. Thanks to technology, the distribution of media content is unlimited. Modern media platforms are not bothered whether your movie will be viewed, read or visited. They are interested in consuming as much content as possible, no matter which one. Today, only 300 hours of videos are uploaded every morning on YouTube.

But the rule that distribution determines the content has not changed. And there’s a key turning point here. Now, when each of us is a distribution channel, the mostly consumed content will be the one shared most, and the content that we share is the one we believe that will be most consumed by those who we share that content with. And the circle comes full here. It is no longer important whether we support or agree with the content that we share, the only thing that matters is to believe that by sharing or liking this content will make us be noticed.

So why did I write about Alex Jones? Because it is a story that illustrates well how the changed way of distributing media content defines the type of content. At first, Alex Jones had some elementary base of those who accepted and believed in his conspiracy theories. But they were shocking, bizarre, crazy, and everything else that went along with it was the reason good enough for those who disagreed with him, who were laughing at him, thinking he was crazy. They also shared the content that he produced, and the social networks that are the key media platforms today are happy to count views, likes, shares.

And what am I doing now as I am writing this text? Do I contribute that more people find out what Alex Jones is preaching by pointing at danger of such people? And how many of those who read this will say for themselves, “Watch out, really, see this, this Jones is crazy,” and then horrified by what he says, as I left wordless when I first read and watched what he prattled, will want to point out the danger of people like him and for the same reason share information about him? Are we all who do this, whether we agree with Alex Jones or not, in fact, his accomplices who have led to the point that a bizarre conspiracy theorist becomes a media star who presents himself now as a victim of censorship? And how many other Alexes Jones have we already promoted and advertised so far?

I don’t know the answer to that question. So please, just in case, keep this text for yourself. Do not like it, nor share it. Deal? Thank you!

1 comment

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