The significance of the concept, and why it is needed
For many years now, political and cultural dissenters in North America have developed diverse ways of referring to the media organizations owned by corporations and/or subsidized by states, or are financially assisted by private foundations. As is well known, some of the largest of the news media also have strong financial ties to banks, hedge funds, military contractors, and Big Pharma.
Some call such media “mainstream,” which can unfortunately suggest that they are somehow average, the norm, and in tune with the majority of citizens. The term “mainstream” may be used with a critical intent, but it has the unfortunate effect of stigmatizing opposing and dissenting views as being somehow intellectually or politically marginal, abnormal, or even freakish. Given the spate of surveys over several years that show collapsing trust, or even interest in the so-called “mainstream media,” it is doubtful that the term “mainstream” is warranted or even earned.
From the notion of “mainstream,” one may get the sense that such media are the dominant ones, but the term does not suggest why they are dominant or tell us about how they serve a dominant system.
An alternative has been to call them the “legacy” media. Yet this can suggest a badge of cultural distinction, as if such media occupied prestigious, honorable roles. Legacy sounds antique, venerable, very Oxford-like. One frequently finds “legacy” associated with concepts such as heritage and tradition, or vintage. “Legacy media” implies that their primary feature is that they are somehow “old”. The intention may be that in using the term “legacy” we will come to recognize such media as “has beens”—the Norma Desmond of media. Point scored? Not really: better to be a “has been” than a “never was”. The term has the same limitations as “mainstream” in that it fails to suggest why such media occupy a position of dominance.
Of course, there have been other epithets, such “the fake news media”. Even when technically appropriate and accurate, this phrase is too closely associated with a specific, partisan political interest, that it will likely resist being institutionalized, at least for now. There is also “lamestream,” but that is not likely to be used as anything more than a jab.
Regime media, on the other hand, tells us that such media are both dominant, and dominating, because they serve a project of domination. It does not mean that the media belong to a state structure alone (not necessarily), or that they serve “a regime” understood in the figure of a lone dictator. A regime is “a system of compulsion and control” rather than merely a specific government, led by a particular party or a specific leader. A regime, properly understood, refers to a system of governance, and as a system it possesses certain rules and norms, and brings together a combination of mutually reinforcing interests, institutions, and actors, both “public” and “private”. Similarly, a regimen refers to a prescribed course, to which one must rigidly adhere—such as a prescribed course of medication. Regimentation involves the strictest possible organization and control of people. Etymologically, the Latin regimen means rule, guidance, or government, which stems from regere which means to direct, to guide, or to move in a straight line.
Given how the media have functioned, since at least 9/11, and with especial intensity in the last two plus years of the so-called “pandemic,” it would seem that “regime media” is a much more significant phrase than mainstream, legacy, or even state or corporate media (which are too narrow), or “corporatized” (which is not only narrow, but also confusing). Regime media can incorporate state media funded by taxes, media owned by private corporations, and sometimes brings them together (as has also been the case in the last two years). The Trusted News Initiative is an excellent example of regime media at work.
For some excellent investigations of how regime media have operated during “the pandemic,” I recommend the following resources:
“How the Media Fueled the Lockdowns,” by Michel Betrus, Brownstone Institute, June 19, 2022;
“A History of the Persecution of the Unvaccinated in Covid Era Canada: How an overwhelming majority of Canadians came to support unprecedented policies targeting people who decline the Covid vaccines,” by Koen Swinkels, Medium, April 5, 2022;
“COVID-19 and the Shadowy ‘Trusted News Initiative’,” by Elizabeth Woodworth, Global Research, January 22, 2022.
[Edited and updated from the Telegram archive]