In an Age of Propaganda, all paths are rigged in the fun house.

I

Hey, hey, we are The Monkees
You know we love to please
A manufactured image
With no philosophies

We hope you’ll like our story
Although there isn’t one
That is to say there’s many
That way there is more fun

You’ve told us you like action
And games of many kinds
You like to dance, we like to sing
So let’s all lose our minds

We know it doesn’t matter
’Cause what you came to see
Is what we’d love to give you
And give it one, two, three

But it may come three, two, one, two
Or jump from nine to five
And when you see the end in sight
The beginning may arrive

For those who look for meanings
And form as they do fact
We might tell you one thing
But we’d only take it back

Not back like in a box back
Not back like in a race
Not back so we can keep it
But back in time and space

You say we’re manufactured
To that we all agree
So make your choice, and we’ll rejoice
In never being free

Hey, hey, we are The Monkees
We’ve said it all before
The money’s in, we’re made of tin
We’re here to give you more
The money’s in, we’re made of tin
We’re here to give you…

— The Monkees, “Ditty Diego—War Chant”, 1968.

II

When I wrote the book OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism, I spent an entire chapter discussing Bill O’Reilly’s program The O’Reilly Factor.

It was pure theatre and a seeming battleground.

What it actually was, in fact, was a rigged fun house, and the host was far savvier than most of his guests. He knew what he was doing and knew how to get his narrative across the noise of ideologues.

These days, that fun house goes beyond the Fox News Channel.

It spans through the entire dead profession of journalism, but also social media.

And yet there is an illusion of diverse voices.

Social media today reminds me of the Monkees’ movie Head.

The movie is brilliant as it is disturbing. It is, in essence, a movie about nothing in a literal sense.

As in, how the Monkees self-destructed and lost everything in the bargain.

The movie begins with the four jumping off a bridge, committing suicide, and then after a pastiche of fragmented and surrealist vignettes, they are jumping off the bridge, but inside of ending up in a lake, they are alive and stuck in a fish tank.

This is what social media has become: a fish tank that is now actively confining thought and thinking patterns rather than expand them.

Because everything is rigged to force a binary outcome before the binary vies for a monolithic victory.

Because everyone has to fight for attention, the rig is competitive in nature.

And as they are no overt guides, people must guess what is acceptable, but in such a way that they are at the top of a pecking order. It is the reason why there is so much sophistry.

And propaganda.

Because it has become rigged for it.

Try to break away through extreme measures, you get thrown in the fish tank where you are trapped inside, and everyone on the outside can see it.

The trick is to break the cycle, and it is not difficult to do. O’Reilly’s rigs brought him ratings and clout, but his downfall occurred outside his show when his champion and protector Roger Ailes was ousted, and he soon followed.

With so much focus on social media, it seems as if there is no alternatives, and yet there are several.

And in the coming months, a big part of Chaser will be breaking away from traditional journalism and social media to create a new form of news that never falls for rigs or propaganda…