Today’s mainstream media is a ravenous creature with an appetite for the exotic, the erotic and the extreme. There is perhaps no better source for content befitting these genres than the shady, shifting and anonymous sector of the internet often referred to in whispers and with tantalizing titles like the DarkNet or Deep Web.
While there is no doubt the underbelly of the internet is home to the outrageous and illegal as well as scandals of superfluous and newsworthy nature, the family friendly empirical networks of ABC, NBC, and CBS might want to be careful what they wish for, lest they be held responsible.
Welcome to the dark side. You’ve got mail!
For those that have yet to be informed by the burgeoning reports by “Nightline” and the like, The DarkNet is a collection of hidden websites that are not accessible with mainstream web browsers.
A special browser, known as Tor, supports the anonymous activity of users by enabling websites that list with alternate domain addresses to be accessed via temporary IP addresses not fixed to a single physical computer. With Tor, the familiar ‘.com’ ‘.org’ and occasional ‘.tv’ domains that Americans might be used to, are as useless as a Myspace page post-2008.
The true beauty of the network Tor enables users to browse, is its anonymity. Most people today realize that much (if not nearly all) of their internet usage is tracked by companies, and perhaps more importantly, intelligence agencies.
Many organizations, groups, and loosely affiliated peoples collect data via third party software, malware, keyloggers, cookies and more apps than most users know what to do with. The Tor browser enables users to utilize proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPN) to remain anonymous in their activities from posting to purchasing and beyond.
To crypto-currency! And beyond!
Especially important regarding the potential motivations of the mainstream media’s involvement in exposing John Q. Public to Tor, is its contribution to the genesis of Crypto-currencies, such as Bitcoin. These untraceable electronic currencies are nearly impossible to crack. They use a method of construction coding known as “Blockchain“.
While the financial establishment industry icons, like Forbes, work to undermine the potential, these invisible monies are becoming safer, more trusted, and increasingly valuable by the day. Companies large and small are starting to realize they are missing out on an early investment in a potentially very lucrative market.
The fact that Tor is the brainchild of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) is a widely acknowledged, yet little-known fact by those unfamiliar with the network, or clandestine history. Although many civilians are aware of its presence, most wouldn’t have the first clue of how to actually access the more obscure side of the net.
The media’s expanding coverage of the currently ambiguous topic is generating a greater awareness and interest of the secrets hidden on the internet. Finding the DarkNet is not the hard part, of course; it is knowing what to do once you’re there.
While the nightly news is spreading awareness of this stealthy world in the efforts to familiarize the general populace with its potentially righteous qualities, such as whistleblower sites, political activism blogs, and message boards for those suffering under oppressive regimes, these same reports are quick to select the choicest bits of red meat from around the edges in the hopes of exploiting the truly terrible and boosting their prime time ratings.
Mainstream media’s motivation? Money of course.
There is an endless list of reasons for the media to slowly bring to light the darkness hidden beneath the familiar pages of those like Google, Apple, and Amazon.
The reasons range from acceptable and understandable, to repulsive and repugnant. We all know the food chain of the supplier, advertiser, consumer and how the symbiotic behavior perpetuates an ever evolving and codependent reality in which exaggerated and exorbitant ends justify skewed, and often times insidious means.
Of course, this is not to say the intentions of the MSM are maligned; in fact, it may be quite the opposite. It doesn’t appear to be a pure drive toward depravity in a scramble to capture higher ratings.
It actually seems the intent of the current news coverage is mostly to create increased revenue for shareholders and improve the size of the coveted, quickly shrinking, 18-35 demographic. Nothing wrong there. That said, sometimes it is better to leave the lights off.
With the perception of the media’s honesty and bias suffering lately, perhaps those same networks which we trusted to inform us and were largely dependent on for the thorough research we hadn’t the time to conduct ourselves, should work to improve the quality of their reporting before venturing into the most obscure realm possible.
The DarkNet markets are real
Now the purity of motivation for the big network news shows to conduct their investigative expansion into the shady side of the internet is unclear. There is, however, one thing that is certain; the market is real.
The hidden side of the net first attained public notoriety when one of the largest black market websites, The Silk Road, was dead-ended. The MSM reported on its shut down in October of 2013. The FBI had been conducting an investigation into the underworld marketplace for years and were finally successful in tracking the site’s source and taking it offline. Not an easy task, mind you, in a virtually untraceable world.
The shutdown of The Silk Road was a stunning success but it also brought a whole new level of attention to its presence and a very long list of new clientele. The site was running again months later.
Figures and estimates came out of expected earnings and the value of transactions proved to be immense. The private sector did not fail to take note of that; nor did the government. It is an undeniable fact that cryptocurrencies are an existential threat to government-backed Fiat Currency.
The nature of money in this country, and around the world, is something of an oxymoron. We give it value because of rarity or equally assessed and assured cost to acquire. Basically, we all just agree that something mostly worthless is representative of something with value.
Economists give us reasons for shifts and swings in that value that we must accept. With the language of finance being so complex the general public has little choice but to acquiesce. These anonymous, digital funds, however, are defining their own value and threatening the dollar, euro, and yen; not to mention worrying actual physical banks.
The monopoly on money is no game
Governments are not like to let this new currency self-regulate without their input, but bringing attention to the matter lends the “pretend money” credence and that again threatens the established economic dogma.
So, like any shift in the application of resources, those with control over the dominant form must gradually and efficiently work to incorporate themselves into the new structure, thereby ameliorating negative effects to their bottom line.
Well, who is left to conduct this task? Who can speak from a position of independence and will not be viewed as potentially manipulating the market in either direction?
The nightly news for one. Reporting on the subject makes it tangible for audiences of all ages, races, nations and creeds. Already the economy is adjusting as stores that cater to the millennial demo and even some more mainstream marketplaces are using smartphone apps such as Bitcoin wallet as a valid form of payment.
As we move faster and further into this digital age of anonymity, ironically and paradoxically we also move toward transparency. This less opaque version of finance should seem like a good thing to almost anyone with eyes, but governments don’t have eyes. They have bureaucrats and people with a lot to lose.
With the Fourth Estate taking the lead role in normalizing this new arena and it’s accompanying economic influences, the temptation to delve into the headline-grabbing psychosis the media is accustomed to will undoubtedly cause lines to become blurred with regard to socially acceptable material.
The monsters that hide in those darkened corners of the Deep Web can be truly horrific. It seems, that we will be having a new discussion very soon, and #whatevernewannoyingthing, will seem like a wonderful dream.
Where do the MSM and its audience go from here?
The issue is multifaceted and so conversation needs to be as well. We must ask how far we are willing to go for the sake of ratings, civil liberty, and above all money.
Forgive the naivety, but at what point will the stories of the grotesque and reprehensible become worth more than common decency? Indeed, they may already be so because, in the murky avenues of the DarkNet, there is no decency.
As consumers, we will be tasked with conducting our own research and acting as responsible neighbors, friends, and family as the mainstream media approaches a very unstable ledge. Should they begin to tumble headlong into an abyss of unknowable depth, we must be ready to act as an anchor for those we call our fellow man.
Independent media may be a temporary reprieve for citizens inundated with biased information on a 24-hour loop, but it’s not like to be enough to make a dent in the popular conceptions being pushed by the mainstream.
Add to that issue, unverifiable, anonymous content with no credible sources to look to for confirmation and the very tenuous grasp our population seems to have on reality and the truth, may, in fact, be lost entirely.
Media for the people, by the people.
It will be up to those in the positions to moderate the descent into these unknown territories, to remain vigilant. And it will be up to us, as well, to offer or seek out alternatives.
The mega networks have an obligation to act with a sensible code of morality and ethical conduct. They must operate with an awareness of the weight of responsibility they bear, in the name of the people they serve. And we must be the instrument of their motivation, be it carrot or stick.
Either that, or we let ourselves be taken in by the dark side in the name of the new established Trinity: money, power and greed.