L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

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17 September 2009 Blog Home : September 2009 : Permalink

Inside the MSM's OODA Loop

The MSM in the US (except for Fox News that is) has been having a bad summer. It has been repeatedly scooped by less traditional sources of news and indeed seen to be not so much lagging as hiding critical stories. If this continues, and I suspect it will, the MSM are simply going to end up losing their audience and then their advertisers and then their jobs. I've thought this might happen before but the events of the last few months make me think it could happen rather more swiftly than I, or most people, would have expected.

I have no doubt that one reason for the MSM being caught flat-footed so often is their general "liberal" bias, but I'm fairly sure that the other reason is that their competition has essentially got inside their OODA loop. The OODA loop comes from the military and it refers to the reaction process (see link for much more detail) that any (military) force follows when faced with new events/circumstances. Essentially it takes time to process the new information, come up with a response and then implement the response. Forces with long OODA loop times usually end up at the mercy of forces that can respond quicker because the faster force is able to cause new events while the slow one is still responding to the ealier ones and the act on the responses it sees. Examples of this in military terms include the US invasion of Iraq, in particular the "thnder run" through Baghdad.

It seems to me that this is what we are seeing here. Just as the MSM gets its story "straight" on Tea-parties they go and change into health-care criticism and town-hall protests. Then folks start looking at presidential appointees, then the protesters go and have an enorous rally in Washington and others start digging up dirt on ACORN. Each time the focus changes the MSM have to react and report and each time they are left further behind. And each time they are left further behind their credibility drops.

I think the problem the MSM have is two-fold. Firstly they are institutionally accustomed to the multi-day breaking story. This held true, for the most part, up until about 2006. Some blogger would break a story about Trent Lott or Dan Rather, then there'd be a few days or weeks while the story circulated the blogosphere and the cable networks and then many days later it would be major news. If the MSM missed the first couple of days it was no big deal. Now it is true that on areas where they are concentrating (e.g. presidential campaigns) they can react faster but for stories that don't come from places they expect they take a while to notice - this is almost a classic symptom of the OODA loop problem. Secondly there is an institutional blindspot regarding politics and genuine grassroots activism. The MSM don't expect it and can't adjust to the idea that these days anyone can be a reporter if they want and that anyone can organize a protest using blogs, twitter, email, SMSes etc. without any need for MSM publicity.

Combined this leads the MSM to be continually thrown off balance by the recent anti-Obama efforts. The various exposés and protests are coming from a place the MSM doesn't expect to find such stories and they are coming fast and faster because new technology means that almost anyone can do it. The ACORN sting series apparently cost about $3000 to produce. I don't know how much 60 minutes or other investigative journalism shows pay per episode but one suspects it's considerably more. The problem here is that there is almost certainly a huge amount of other low hanging fruit awaiting plucking so once the MSM has adjusted to ACORN being attacked instead of attacking it will find that attention has moved to some other taget - college professors perhaps? - and then it will go back to Obama appointees or Congressional representatives or...

Right now there are at least 4 different scandals fighting for attention. There's Acorn, there's Rep Charlie Rangel and his failure to declare various sources of income, there's Murtha and his lobbying/pork and there are the past histories of other Obama appontees. There are also at least two separate, but related, protest movements one on health care and one on the TARP and other bailout money. We'll see what happens but I suspect we're going to see the MSM playing catch up for months, and that could well be fatal because they'll lose even more market share in the process.