Swarm Theory: How the Media Controls the Debate // Luke Stibbs // 12.06.2011

There have been few times in history when the media has been as incompetent as it is today.

One of the more sinister forms that this incompetence takes is something I call “swarm theory.”

Swarm theory is similar to the idea of the media echo chamber. One media outlet reports on a story, and the fact that one media outlet reported on it makes it ‘newsworthy’. Other media outlets begin to cover it. The original source goes back and covers all of the coverage; and the self-sustaining loop continues.

A good example of swarm theory in action is the Penn State sexual assault cases. When the story breaks, it is sufficiently horrible to capture some attention. That attention is then reported on and amplified. The coverage becomes a week long free-for-all, with the alleged perpetrator, Jerry Sandusky, being tried in the court of public opinion.

But did you hear about the scandal in Syracuse at around the same time? Bernie Fine, an associate head coach in the Syracuse basketball program, has been fired as a result of former students coming forward with claims of molestation that span two decades. The major difference in this story? The swarm did not descend on Syracuse.
But this serves to highlight a flaw in the media that most people still rely on.In this case, it turned out to not matter. Bernie Fine was fired. The police are looking into the allegations, and he will be dealt with by the courts. Good.

In sports media, the swarm can only impact the discussion; it can’t actually change the game. Tim Tebow may get more attention than he needs because the media is fascinated by the concept of open and proud Christianity. But in the greater scheme of things, sports journalism doesn’t really matter.

In political news, the swarm can make or break candidates. For example, there was a piece from Newsbusters earlier this month about MSNBC’s bias in reporting scandals and allegations of scandals.

The swarm of the media isn’t blind. It doesn’t settle on random stories to inflate. They choose the stories they want to catch on. They choose which stories they want to go away. How do they make that decision? Through liberal talking points.

They look at the “Fast and Furious” scandal and refuse to cover it. A few stories slip through, courtesy of the few honest journalists, but the vast majority of the media swarm ignores it, because it doesn’t match what they believe. Why should they bother looking into it? They already know that Eric Holder is virtually incapable of wrong-doing, right? They know that Eric Holder is wise, that Eric Holder would never do anything so stupid. This story must not matter, because if it mattered, it could hurt their cause.

They look at the racial slur painted on the rock on the property that Rick Perry’s parents leased 30 years ago and explode with outrage, bombarding us with coverage; and they (intentionally) critically damage his campaign. As everyone in the media knows, Republicans (especially Tea Party Republicans) are racist. This is just confirmation of a false-truth they already believe.

One of these stories is a currently running scandal with a growing body-count, ties to the drug cartels, and perhaps a sinister measure to implement gun control. It threatens the political career of Eric Holder, and possibly President Obama as well. But let’s not look at that. We need to spend all of our time examining the type of paint that Rick Perry used to paint over the rock.

The media’s reach and influence are huge, and hard to over-estimate; but our generation isn’t really watching broadcast news, so the swarm has found other ways to reach them. Instead of using shills in the media, the left has turned the university system—intended to be bastions of independent thought—into a trap-laden maze of political correctness and assumptions of liberal superiority. Whether or not we like it, the left’s training of our generation is being finalized at the university and college level. Rush Limbaugh was right (as he often is), when he talked about how university professors use their papers to codify liberalism. They classify conservatism as a mental disorder, and they treat it like one in class. They codify their falsehood in layers of research papers that are built on the faulty assumptions they continue to make.

At the moment, they are winning the battle for the hearts and minds of our generation. But we can stop them. When you see a fellow conservative stand up in class, only to have the swarm of the outraged liberal students shut down all discussion, don’t sit there in silence, be vocal in your agreement and strengthen each other. When you read a great story on your favorite blog, post it to Facebook. Share it on Twitter. Make your friends aware of the real stories that are out there. Bring up these major scandals in class, and be prepared to defend yourself (and others) from the professor. Join a Tea Party or 9/12 group. Write an op-ed for the school newspaper (or any newspaper), and make yourself a pillar of truth that the swarm can’t beat down. We are fighting for the truth. We won’t lose unless we lose heart.

Luke Stibbs // University of the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, BC) // @LukeStibbs


  1. Nice tagline. Allow me to make a revision that would make your article actually interesting (everybody knows conservatives hate the ‘liberal’ media, this article is just loaded with pot-shots): “There have been few times in history when *congress* has been as incompetent as it is today”.

    But more seriously, y’all need to get over the whole ‘liberal media’ shtick. Cause when you break it down, Rupert Murdoch and colleagues owns most of the English-language media outlets, and the so called ‘liberal media’ owns a much smaller chunk of the broadcasting and newspapers that we are exposed to. So be more careful about who you attack for polluting the media with their political agenda.

  2. Becky Rambo says:

    Kyle, you seem to be of the opinion that the liberal bias in media is a lie if I am to infer from your use of single quotations. If that is the case, then why is it that the incidences mentioned in Mr. Stibbs’ article are not apparent in the major media outlets? Why is there so little mention of Solyndra and Fast and Furious? I used to think it was an extreme point of view to think that the major media outlets held such a bias but it’s there in bold print for all to see. All you have to do is catch the whiff of one of those missing stories and you can find more information about it online, not necessarily from Fox news or one of Mr. Murdoch’s other sources. Is it because those stories are a lie, or are the major media sources lying by omission? Is it that much easier for you to believe that Rupert Murdoch is lying about the blemishes on this administration or that maybe, just maybe, you’re not getting all the information from your favorite sources?

    The safest thing to do is assume that all media has an inherent bias and refine the skills to identify what that bias is. I’ve seen plenty of bias in the major media sources, from flagrantly irresponsible assertions of who the Republican presidential nominee will be to glowingly adoring remarks about the President and his administration. I’ve also seen bias on Fox news and elsewhere. So I’m not going to defend Rupert Murdoch as being a paragon of virtue, but this article was about liberal media bias and Rupert Murdoch isn’t liberal. I am curious if someone could provide me with an example of a Right wing media source obviously omitting a ‘major’ story that was featured elsewhere.

  3. “The safest thing to do is assume that all media has an inherent bias and refine the skills to identify what that bias is.”

    Good idea! Ask yourself who is in control of the media. Well, there are varying answers, especially with the advent of independent online blogs and the like, but when it comes to mass media, the ultimate positions of power are shareholders and CEOs of the large businesses which own the media outlets. Are you honestly trying to argue that there might not be a pro-business, pro-free-trade, pro-capitalism slant inherent in the system?

  4. Also, are we supposed to take it on faith that supposedly liberal news media “refused” to cover Solyndra/Fast and Furious? The author doesn’t offer any proof for that other than his own word and the implicit assumption that most of his readers won’t even need evidence to believe something they want to believe anyway. Confirmation bias makes evidence unnecessary!

  5. Hello Paul,

    Did you read the link I posted in the articles? The piece from Newsbusters?

    Because (as I said in the article), they crunched some numbers. So I referenced them.

    I should have linked this in the article itself, Paul. You are right about that. It was my first article in this system, so I made a mistake. I apologize. Here are some numbers that Media Matters for America dug up. (You like them, right?)

    ABC: 11 minutes of airtime on Solyndra
    CBS: 7 Minutes of airtime on Solyndra
    NBC: 5 minutes of airtime on Solyndra

    Fox News: 8 HOURS on Solyndra
    CNN: 1.5 Hours on Solyndra
    MSNBC: Under an hour on Solyndra.

    Now, of course, Media Matters spins it as “Fox News cares too much about this!”, but I think it speaks to my point quite nicely.

What Do You Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: