In our American democracy-mythology, the Holy Grail is information, which is associated with a 'free press'. In this mythology information is the sine qua non of democracy. And in this mythology the evil opposite of sacred information is propaganda. But how do we define information in order to contrast it with propaganda?
We say that information is the raw, undistorted, non-slanted facts as best as we can perceive them. We want just the facts so we can make an informed decision so we can maintain the democratic process. But what is the process by which we become informed? How do we become informed about something happening outside of our direct perception and experience? How do we become informed about something happening in Russia, for example? The 'facts' come to us through some cluster of media that make up 'the press'. How many filters do the 'facts' go through on their way to us?
The important point here is not merely that the content can become changed or distorted in the process of transference of information, but that the process itself actually becomes part of the content and as such it necessarily becomes propaganda. And, in fact, the more technically efficient the transference process becomes the more propagandistic it becomes. The primary reason why so many people watch the 'evening news' is because it is efficiently capsulized to make the process easy to absorb. So the process is not merely about relaying of 'facts', it is unquestioned propaganda about how the society should and does function. So the deeper message conveyed here is that 'facts' must be conveyed in a process that is itself relatively quick and painless regardless of the content. This inevitably begins to distort the content. And because the propaganda dimension remains something that does not rise into consciousness, it becomes even more impacting than the information.
So, can a 'free press' in our society actually avoid propaganda? When efficiency and technique become more important than struggling to deal with a pluralistic reality then how can democracy be served by the process of conveying information? The information becomes indistinguishable from the propaganda. People efficiently capsulized and portrayed 'in the media' become a 'reality' that is preferred to real human beings who remain a mysterious challenge. Thus the propaganda of the actually functioning society takes unquestioned control of the environment and democracy-protecting information becomes a merely potential reality fading on the horizon.
The oligarchy is an efficiency machine that reduces real human beings to expendable statistics. The oligarchic technocratic society controls the super-structural networking means of expression in the society. This is a steady bombardment of unifying, human-neutralizing propaganda. So how does a free or alternative press survive and not become consumed by this control? Can real people even actually exist 'in the media'? It is the difference between the idea of democracy, which oligarchs love, and an actual democracy, which oligarchs do everything to avoid.
What is real information?