Remember the New World Information Order? Back in the late 1970s and early ’80s, you’d find torrid denunciations of the NWIO from right-wing columnists like William Safire. The proposed Order was put together by the nonaligned nations at the UN under the supervision of Seán MacBride, a very great Irishman.
The plan was to try to rectify the vast distortions in global information consequent on the First World’s dominance of global circuits. The NWIO itself was an offshoot of a much larger enterprise fostered by the nonaligned nations, the New International Economic Order. All these brave visions were swept away by neoliberalism. A generation later we can look across the world and see that despite the neoliberal counterattack, something vaguely resembling–at least in preliminary outline–a new world information order has arrived all the same.
Here in the United States the old world order is dying. I was reading a New York Times article not so long ago about the Washington Post’s future under its new publisher, Katharine Weymouth (granddaughter of the late KG). The NYT piece referred to the "heavy" audience for the Post‘s website, saying it "draws more than nine million unique visitors monthly, according to Nielsen Online, making it the third-highest for a newspaper Web site." In a strong month counterpunch.org, the site I co-edit with Jeffrey St. Clair, draws more than 2 million unique visitors–showing that the twelve- to seventeen-inch screen is a great leveler.
When I used to go out leafleting the US base at Upper Heyford near Oxford in the early 1960s, we counted it a good day if we could get 100 US servicemen to accept our pamphlets as they drove through the gates of the base. These days Jeffrey and I can check through the monthly audience totals and see that several thousand people at US military bases have read material on our site. I single out CounterPunch because I know the numbers, but there are many others.
The state does not relish the collapse of the old propaganda system. As always, it hates interlopers. The San Francisco Business Times reported recently that the FDIC is worried about the reporting on blogs. After the run on IndyMac, Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, had this to say: "The blogs were a bit out of control. We’re very mindful of the media coverage and blogs in controlling misinformation. All I can say is we’re going to continue to stay on top of it. The misinformation that came out over the weekend fed a lot of depositors’ fears."
Though the Internet is playing only a secondary role in an "old media" imbroglio, a particularly funny example of the sclerosed nature of the official press is unwinding right under our noses. It involves reporting by the National Enquirer, always snooted by the heavyweight press the same way the Star was in 1992 when it broke the Clinton-Flowers scandal.