I don't know exactly when the term "mainstream media" became a pejorative, but I know it has grown in recent years thanks to the weaponization of "alternative media," especially social media platforms, which have used it to marginalize mainstream culture -- you know, "prevailing currents of thought" -- as somehow being suspect.
The truth is that perceived trust in media has never been perfect, and in recent years has eroded slightly -- although two-thirds of people still trust it at least to some degree, according to various tracking studies.
The one highlighted below is from Global Web Index, and shows that trust in media trails banks/financial institutions, major brands, and religion, but ranks just below them and at about parity with government -- all of which rank significantly higher than social media.
So it's more than a little ironic when forces -- often clandestine ones -- use social media to undermine confidence in mainstream media.
At least Elon Musk is doing it out in the open. Since taking control of Twitter, he has used his new toy to orchestrate a high-profile campaign to undermine society's confidence in mainstream media, including this week's sensationalized release of the "Twitter Files."
Actually, Musk didn't release the files, which purportedly contain details and communications of Twitter's internal decision-making process that led to its suppressing The New York Post's story about Hunter Biden's laptop leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
Instead of releasing them publicly, Musk gave them to anti-mainstream media journalists: Matt Taibbi (last week's Part 1) and Bari Weiss (Part 2 on Thursday).
While the files show some questionable internal practices, and judgement calls by Twitter executives, they do not -- as Musk has implied -- reveal any effort by the mainstream media to squelch news or provide a biased perspective.
Of course, that is my biased perspective, but this is an opinion column about politics and media written by me, so take it for what it's worth.
You can check the "Twitter Files" threads for yourself, and tell me what you think, but there wasn't any "shocking" news as one friend suggested to me, and they are mostly a snoozefest.
The most interesting part for me was following Musks and the journalists' followers who devoured the red meat and used it to justify their own confirmation bias that there is a conspiracy among mainstream media outlets to provide a slanted spin on what is really going on.
My concern is that it's based largely on belief, but not on substantive facts, and that it is being reinforced by underlying conspiracy theories that also run rampant on social media -- especially Twitter.
And far be it for me to engage in the kind of whataboutism that anti-mainstream media mob so often like to cite, but I thought an investigative piece that also published recently by The Intercept makes the case that Musk has been "silencing left-wing voices" on Twitter, even as he liberates some of the platforms most extremist right-wing offenders.
The real truth probably falls somewhere in the middle, although maybe just a little left-of-center. You know, mainstream.
And for all his assertions that Twitter is the kind of "citizen journalism" that will supplant mainstream media's, my sense it that t's just coming from some extremely right-wing citizens.
That said, I was heartened by a tweet by Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales linking to a Vice.com story about how Wikipedia has been using its pages -- including one devoted to the Twitter Files -- to fact-check the conspiracy theories of Musk and his followers in real-time.
Thank you @jimmy_wales for proving citizen journalism actually works -- just not on Twitter.