Writing recently on the ABC website, journalist Jonathan Holmes gave a terrific summary of the differences between old (analogue print and broadcast) media and new (digital online) media and their corresponding protagonists.

He described traditionally trained journalists as ‘the priesthood of communications in the analogue age’ and contrasted them with Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, who he describes as ‘a child of the digital age and a journalistic anarchist’.

Traditional journalists are mostly morons who have been trained to communicate to morons, and many of them have excessive and unrealistic perceptions of their importance and abilities. Commercial print and broadcast media are aimed at a low literacy level to cater for the average reading age of the barely literate and cognitively mediocre masses.

Commercial media insults the intelligence of the cognitive elite with its clumsy, tedious and repetitive ‘inverted pyramid‘ writing formula and its banal, narrow-minded focus on sensation and celebrity.

Holmes notes that ‘many natives of the digital world are becoming increasingly impatient of the ‘gatekeeper’ role claimed by the mainstream media’. Yes, we are. The cognitive elite are often digital natives because they have the capacity to quickly learn and manipulate digital communication tools, and they have found the failure of media corporations to adapt to the digital age to be incredibly tedious.

Of course, football players photographing each others penises and sharing the pictures on Facebook could also be described as digital natives, but I believe the term is meant to imply a conscious, measured and sophisticated use of the technology.

Members of the cognitive elite don’t need the superficial editorial practices and inadequate interpretative abilities of media corporations. With our education and innate abilities we can interpret masses of information and data for ourselves with far less journalistic meddling.

In the digital age there is no single mass audience. There are many distinct audiences. The audience has fragmented and each different audience needs to be spoken to separately in a suitable manner. Unfortunately, because the cognitively elite are such a small percentage of the population, there is little commercial imperative to speak to us in ways that suit us.

The gatekeepers will never meet the needs of cognitively elite media anarchists. They are simply to slow, too boring, too conservative and too stupid to understand our needs. Commercial media is losing the cognitive elite as an audience because it offers us nothing. We’re making our own media now so that we no longer have to suffer being spoken down to. If commercial media wants to regain our attention, it will have to learn to speak up to our level.

gatekeepers vs anarchists

5 thoughts on “gatekeepers vs anarchists

  • 21 February 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Brian,

    I take some issue with your derisory and sweeping generalisation of traditional media, this paragraph especially;

    “Traditional journalists are mostly morons who have been trained to communicate to morons, and many of them have excessive and unrealistic perceptions of their importance and abilities. Commercial print and broadcast media are aimed at a low literacy level to cater for the average reading age of the barely literate and cognitively mediocre masses”

    I realise you state ‘mostly’ but still, it’s a pretty broad brush stroke you apply. Besides a fairly large percentage of online news and, to a lesser extent, opinion is derived from printed media sources and taking into account the proud history of quality print journalism and it’s impact on all our lives over the years then maybe it’d be slightly more graceful to extend a tiny little bit of restrospective respect? Don’t you think there’s a place for both mediums to provide quality and ‘cognitive’ output?

    Surely your issue is with excessive commercialisation and ‘dumbing down’ of news and debate in some quarters, not necessarily with the medium itself? If that’s the case then you simply cherry pick your sources to suit you in exactly the same way as you would online, it’s a democratic thing, each to their own.

    Also, using purposefully provocative terms like ‘cognitive elite’, I think, undermines your core argument. It seems to me that it has the opposite effect of the one you attempt to portray, surely combining ‘cognitive elite’ with ‘anarchists’ is an oxymoron, regardless of the context? An inherent sense of superiority is in itself an ugly trait, especially when it comes to thinking. That isn’t a barb, just an observation.

    I appreciate this is your outlet for your opinion, one I quite often enjoy reading, I’m merely adding my tuppence worth, perhaps foolishly assuming that that’s what you intended the comment function for? (I’m pre-empting your ‘hairdryer in the face’ response here!)



    • 21 February 2011 at 7:52 pm

      Hi Davy, you’re right – this is deliberately provocative and deliberatively connects the cognitive elite with media anarchism. The cognitive elite are responsible for many of the dissenting voices in the contemporary world. An accurate sense of superiority is something to be proud of. I’ve lived my whole life being judged and bullied by morons who fear intelligence and try to destroy it and I’ve had enough.

  • 21 February 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Fair enough Brian, but don’t swing so far that you become the thing you dinnae like.

    I think passion and an innate sense of right and wrong are what drives dissent, not elitism, in any form. Yes, intellects contribute enormously to positive dissent but they’re just a (critical) faction of a bigger picture.

    Ultimately it’s ordinary people power that changes dissent from noise and peripheral activism to actual positive concrete change. Ultimately it’s ‘ordinary’ people’s sense of injustice that’s the catalyst for change,
    granted, often stoked by intellectual rhetoric, those same ordinary people become the canon fodder for revolution, the nameless champions of positive change. That’s fucking elitism in my book, anonymously putting your life on the line for something that you know, to your core, is morally wrong. The willingness to sacrifice everything for the common good.

    They’re the elites.

    And we see them every day on the news now, fighting for something that we scandalously take for granted. Giving their lives for freedom of speech, the simple act of freely voicing your opinion, as you do here.

    So fuck ‘cognitive’ elitism.

    Fuck the morons.

    Fuck anarchy.

    Fuck generalisations.

    Gimme society.

    Gimme mature, ‘cognitive’ socialism.

    Gimme images of Egyptians tidying up Tahrir Square after they had won their cause, the true opposite of anarchy.

    Power to the People.

    Ok, about to finish my bottle of wine, apologies for soap boxing, it’s my antidote for the evil that is Monday. The wine that is, not the soapy box thing….. ;-)

    P.S. Isn’t media anarchism the realm of virus creators and spammers, flamers and trolls? Or am I being too literal?

    • 21 February 2011 at 11:40 pm

      I think we’re talking about different things.

  • 22 February 2011 at 12:59 am

    Lol, put down. I’m merely trying to point out the flaws in your argument, albeit in a long winded way. Just don’t mention the ‘elite’ word again, maybe…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *