The Splinters Of Our Discontent: A Review Of Network Propaganda

from the epistemic-closure dept

Years before most of us thought Donald Trump would have a shot at the presidency, the Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez put a name on a problem he saw in American conservative intellectual culture. Sanchez called it "epistemic closure," and he framed the problem this way:

"One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they're liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!)  This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile."

Sanchez's comments didn't trigger any kind of real schism in conservative or libertarian circles. Sure, there was some heated debate among conservatives, and a few conservative commentators, like David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, and the National Review's Jim Manzi, acknowledged that there might be some merit to Sanchez's critique. But for most people, this argument among conservatives about epistemic closure hardly counted as serious news.

But the publication last fall of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics by Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts—more than eight years after the original "epistemic closure" debate erupted—ought to make the issue hot again. This long, complex, yet readable study of the American media ecosystem in the run-up to the 2016 election (as well as the year afterwards) demonstrates that the epistemic-closure problem has generated what the authors call an "epistemic crisis" for Americans in general. The book also shows that our efforts to understand current political division and disruptions simplistically—either in terms of negligent and arrogant platforms like Facebook, or in terms of Bond-villain malefactors like Cambridge Analytica or Russia's Internet Research Agency—are missing the forest for the trees. It's not that the social media platforms are wholly innocent, and it's not that the would-be warpers of voter behavior did nothing wrong (or had no effect). But the seeds of the unexpected outcomes in the 2016 U.S. elections, Network Propaganda argues, were planted decades earlier, with the rise of a right-wing media ecosystem that valued loyalty and confirmation of conservative (or "conservative") values and narratives over truth.

Now, if you're a conservative, you may be reading this broad characterization of Network Propaganda as an attack on conservatism itself. Here are four reasons you shouldn't fall into that trap! First, nothing in this book challenges what might be called core conservative values (at least as they have been understood for most of the last 100 years or so). Those values typically have included favoring limited government over expansive government, preferring economic growth and rights to property over promoting equity and equality for their own sake, supporting business flexibility over labor and governmental demands, committing to certain approaches to tax policy, and so forth. Nothing in Network Propaganda is a criticism of substantive conservative values like these, or even of what may increasingly be taken as "conservative" stances in the Trump era (nationalism or protectionism or opposition to immigration, say). The book doesn't take a position on traditional liberal or progressive political stances either.

Second, nothing in the book discounts the indisputable fact that individuals and media entities on the left, and even in the center, have their own sins and excesses to account for. In fact, the more damning media criticisms in the book are aimed squarely at the more traditional journalistic institutions that made themselves more vulnerable to disinformation and distorted narratives in the name of "objectivity." Where right-wing media set out to reinforce conservative identity and narratives—doing, in fact, what they more or less always promised they were going to do—the institutional press of the left and the center frequently let their superficial commitment to objectivity result in the amplification of disinformation and distortions.

Third, there are philosophical currents on the left as well as the right that call the whole notion of objective facts and truth into question—that consider all questions of fact to represent political judgments rather than anything that might be called "factual" or "truthful." As the authors put it, reform of our media ecosystems "will have to overcome not only right-wing propaganda, but also decades of left-wing criticism of objectivity and truth-seeking institutions." Dedication to truth-seeking is, or ought to be, a transpartisan value.

Which leads us to the fourth reason conservatives should pay attention to Network Propaganda, which is the biggest one. The progress of knowledge, and of problem-solving in the real world, requires us, regardless of political preferences and philosophical approaches, to come together in recognizing the value of facts. Consider: if progressives had cocooned themselves in a media ecosystem that had cut itself from the facts—that valued tribal loyalty and shared identity over mere factual accuracy—conservatives and centrists would be justified in pointing out not merely that the left's media were unmoored but also that its insistence on doctrinal purity in the face of factual disproof was positively destructive.

But the massive dataset and analyses offered by Benkler, Faris, and Roberts in Network Propaganda demonstrate persuasively that the converse distortion has happened. Specifically, the authors took about four million online stories regarding the 2016 election or national politics generally and analyzed them through Media Cloud, a joint technological project developed by Harvard's Berkman Klein Center and MIT's Center for Civil Media over the course of the last decade. Media Cloud enabled the authors to study not only where the stories originate but also how they were linked and propagated, and how the various entities in our larger media ecosystem link to one another. The Media Cloud analytical system made it possible to study news sites, including the website versions of newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, along with the more politically focused websites on the left and right, like Daily Kos and Breitbart. The system also enabled the authors to study how the stories were retweeted and shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, as well as how, in particular instances, television coverage supplemented or amplified online stories.

You might expect that any study of such a large dataset would show symmetrical patterns of polarization during the pre-election to post-election period the authors studied (basically, 2015 through 2017). It was, after all, an election period, which is typically a time of increased partisanship. You might also expect, given the increasing presence of social-media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in American public life, that the new platforms themselves, just by their very existence and popularity, shaped public opinion in new ways. And you might expect, given the now-indisputable fact that Russian "active measures" were trying to influence the American electorate in certain ways, to see clear proof either that the Russians succeeded in their disinformation/propaganda efforts (or that they failed).

Yet Network Propaganda, instantly a necessary text for those of us who study media ecologies, shows that the data point to different conclusions. The authors' Media Cloud analyses (frequently represented visually in colorful graphs as well as verbally in tables and in the text of the book itself) point to different conclusions altogether. As Benkler characterizes the team's findings in the Boston Review:

"The data was not what we expected. There were periods during the research when we were just working on identifying—as opposed to assessing—the impact of Russians, and during those times, I thought it might really have been the Russians. But as we analyzed these millions of stories, looking both at producers and consumers, a pattern repeated again and again that had more to do with the traditional media than the Internet."

That traditional media institutions are seriously culpable for the spread of disinformation is counterintuitive. The authors begin Network Propaganda by observing what most of us also observed—the rise of what briefly was called "fake news" before that term was transmuted by President Trump into shorthand for his critics. But Benkler at al. also note that that the latter half of the 20th century, mainstream journalistic institutions, informed by a wave of professionalization that dates back approximately to the founding of the Columbia University journalism school, historically had been able to overcome most of the fact-free calumnies and conspiracy theories through their commitment to objectivity and fact-checking. Yet mainstream journalism failed the culture in 2016, and it's important for the journals and the journalists to come to terms with why. But doing so means investigating how stories from the fringes interacted with the mainstream.

The fringe stories had weird staying power; in the period centering on the 2016 election, a lot of the stories that were just plain crazy—from the absurd narrative that was "Pizzagate" to claims that Jeb Bush had "close Nazi ties" (Alex Jones played a role in both of these narratives)--persistently resurfaced in the way citizens talked about the election. To the Network Propaganda authors, it became clear that in recent years something new has emerged—namely, a variety of disinformation that seems, weedlike, to survive the most assiduous fact-checkers and persist in resurfacing in the public mind.

How did this emergence happen, and should we blame the internet? Certainly this phenomenon didn't manifest in any way predicted by either the more optimistic pundits at the internet's beginnings or the backlash pessimists who followed. The optimists had believed that increased democratic access to mass media might give rise to a wave of citizen journalists who supplemented and ultimately complemented institutional journalism, leading both to more accuracy in reporting and more citizen engagement. The pessimists predicted "information cocoons" (Cass Sunstein's term) and "filter bubbles" (Eli Pariser's term) punctuated to some extent by quarrelsomeness because online media can act as disinhibition to bad behavior.

Yes, to some extent, the optimists and the pessimists both found confirmation of their predictions, but what they didn't expect, and what few if any seem to have predicted, was the marked asymmetry of how the predictions played in the 2015-2017 period with regard to the 2016 election processes and their outcome. As the authors put it, "[t]he consistent pattern that emerges from our data is that, both during the highly divisive election campaign and even more so during the first year of the Trump presidency, there is no left-right division, but rather a division between the right and the rest of the media ecosystem. The right wing of the media ecosystem behaves precisely as the echo-chamber models predict—exhibiting high insularity, susceptibility to information cascades, rumor and conspiracy theory, and drift toward more extreme versions of itself. The rest of the media ecosystem, however, operates as an interconnected network anchored by organizations, both for profit and nonprofit, that adhere to professional journalistic norms."

As a result, this period saw the appearance of disinformation narratives that targeted Trump and his primary opponents as well as Hillary Clinton, but the narratives that got more play, not just in right-wing outlets but ultimately in the traditional journalistic outlets at well, were the ones that centered on Clinton. This happened even when there were fewer available facts supporting the anti-Clinton narratives and (occasionally) more facts supporting the anti-Trump narratives. The explanation for the anti-Clinton narratives' longevity in the news cycle, the data show, is the focus of the right-wing media ecology on the two focal media nodes of Fox News and Breitbart. At times during this period, Breitbart took the lead as an influencer from Fox News, which eventually responded by repositioning itself after Trump's nomination as a solid Trump booster.

In contrast, left-wing media had no single outlet that defined orthodoxy for progressives. Instead, left-of-center outlets worked within the larger sphere of traditional media, and, because they were competing for the rest of the audience that had not committed itself to the Fox/Breitbart ecosystem, were constrained to adhere, mostly, to facts that were confirmable by traditional media institutions associated with the center-left (the New York Times and the Washington Post, say) as well as with the center-right (e.g., the Wall Street Journal). Basically, even if you were an agenda-driven left-oriented publication or online outlet, your dependence on reaching the mainstream for your audience meant that, you couldn't get away with just making stuff up, or with laundering far-left conspiracy theories from more marginal sources.

Network Propaganda's data regarding the right-wing media ecosystem—that it's insular, prefers confirmation of identity and loyalty rather than self-correction, demonizes perceived opponents, and resists disconfirmation of its favored narratives—map well to social-science political-communication theorists Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph Capella's 2008 book, Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh And The Rise Of Conservative Media. In that book, Jamieson and Capella outlined how, as they put it, "these conservative media create a self-protective enclave hospitable to conservative beliefs." As a consequence, they write:

"[t]his safe haven reinforces conservative values and dispositions, holds Republican candidates and leaders accountable to conservative ideals, tightens their audience's ties to the Republican Party, and distances listeners, readers, and viewers from 'liberals," in general, and Democrats, in particular. It also enwraps them in a world in which facts supportive of Democratic claims are contested and those consistent with conservative ones championed."

The data analyzed by Benkler et al. in Network Propaganda support Jamieson's and Capella's conclusions from more than a decade ago. Moreover, Benkler et al. argue that the key factors in the promotion of disinformation were not "clickbait fabricators" (who generate eye-grabbing headlines to generate revenue), or Russian "active measures," or the corrosive effects of the (relatively) new social-media platforms Facebook and Twitter. The authors are aware that in making this argument they're swimming against the tide:

"Fake news entrepreneurs, Russians, the Facebook algorithm, and online echo chambers provide normatively unproblematic, nonpartisan explanations to the current epistemic crisis. For all of these actors, the strong emphasis on technology suggests a novel challenge that our normal systems do not know how to handle but that can be addressed in a nonpartisan manner. Moreover, focusing on 'fake news' from foreign sources and on Russian efforts to intervene places the blame onto foreigners with no legitimate stake in our democracy. Both liberal political theory and professional journalism consistently seek neutral justifications for democratic institutions, so visibly nonpartisan explanations such as these have enormous attraction."

Nevertheless, Network Propaganda argues, the nonpartisan explanations are inconsistent with what the data show, which the authors characterize as "a radicalization of roughly a third of the American media system." (It isn't "polarization," since the data don't show any symmetry between left and right "poles.") The authors argue that "[n]o fact emerges more clearly from our analysis of how four million political stories were linked, tweeted, and shared over a three-year period than that there is no symmetry in the architecture and dynamics of communications within the right-wing media ecosystem and outside of it." In addition, they write, "we have observed repeated public humiliation and vicious disinformation campaigns mounted by the leading sites in this sphere against individuals who were the core pillars of Republican identity a mere decade earlier." Those campaigns against Republican stalwarts came from the radicalized right-wing media sources, not from the left.

The authors acknowledge that they "do not expect our findings to persuade anyone who is already committed to the right-wing media ecosystem. [The data] could be interpreted differently. They could be viewed as a media system overwhelmed by liberal bias and opposed only by a tightly-clustered set of right-wing sites courageously telling the truth in the teeth of what Sean Hannity calls the 'corrupt, lying media,' rather than our interpretation of a radicalized right set apart form a media system anchored in century-old norms of professional journalism." But that interpretation of the data flies in the face of Network Propaganda's extensive demonstration that the traditional mainstream media—in what the authors call "the performance of objectivity"—actually had the effect of amplifying right-wing narratives rather than successfully challenging the false or distorted narratives. (The authors explore this paradox in Chapter 6.)

Democrats and progressives won't have any trouble accepting the idea that radicalized right-wing media are the primary cause of what the authors call today's "epistemic crisis." But Benkler and his co-authors want Republicans to recognize what they lost in 2016:

"The critical thing to understand as you read this book is that the epochal change reflected by the 2016 election and the first year of the Trump presidency was not that Republicans beat Democrats [but instead] that in 2016 the party of Ronald Reagan and the two presidents Bush was defeated by the party of Donald Trump, Breitbart, and billionaire Robert Mercer. As our data show, in 2017 Fox News joined the victors in launching sustained attacks on core pillars of the Party of Reagan—free trade and a relatively open immigration policy, and, most directly, the national security establishment and law enforcement when these threatened President Trump himself."

It's possible that many or even most Republicans don't yet want to hear this message—the recent shuttering of The Weekly Standard underscores one of the consequences of radicalization of right-wing media, which is that center-right outlets, more integrated with the mainstream media in terms of journalistic professionalism and factuality, have lost influence in the right-wing media sphere. (It remains to be seen whether The Bulwark helps fill the gap.)

But the larger message from Network Propaganda's analyses is that we're fooling ourselves if we blame our current culture's vulnerability to disinformation on the internet in general or on social media (or search engines, or smartphones) … or even on Russian propaganda campaigns. Blaming the Russians is trendy these days, and even Kathleen Jameson, whose 2008 book on right-wing media, Echo Chamber, informs the authors' work in Network Propaganda, has adopted the thesis that the Russians probably made the difference for Trump in 2016. Her recent book Cyberwar—published a month after Network Propaganda was published—spells out a theory of Russian influence in the 2016 election that also, predictably, raises concerns about social media, as well as focusing on the role of the Wikileaks releases of hacked DNC emails and how the mainstream media responded to those releases.

Popular accounts of Jamieson's book have interpreted Cyberwar as proof that the Russians are the central culprits in any American 2016 electoral dysfunction, even though Jamieson carefully qualifies her reasoning and conclusions in all the ways you would want a responsible social scientist to do. (She doesn't claim to have proved her thesis conclusively.) Taken together with the trend of seeing social media as inherently socially corrosive, the Russians-did-it narrative suggests that if Twitter and Facebook (and Facebook-integrated platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp) clean up their acts and find ways to purge their products of foreign actors as well as homegrown misleading advertising and "fake news," the political divisiveness we've seen in recent years will subside. But Network Propaganda provides strong reason to believe that reforming or regulating or censoring the internet companies won't solve the problems they're being blamed for. True, the book expressly endorses public-policy responses to the disinformation campaigns of malicious foreign actors as well as reforms of how the platforms handle political advertising. But, the authors insist, the problem isn't primarily the Russians, or technology—it's in our political and media cultures.

Possibly Jamieson is right to think that the Russians' "active measures" were efforts that, amplifying pre-existing political divisions through social media, were the final straw that ultimately changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Nevertheless, at its best Jamieson's book has taken a snapshot of how vulnerable our political culture was in 2016. Plus, her theory of Russian influence requires some suspension of disbelief, notably in her theory about how then-FBI-director James Comey's interventions—departures from DOJ/FBI norms—were caused somehow by the fact of the Russian campaign. Even if you accept her account, it's an account of our vulnerability that doesn't explain where the vulnerability came from.

In contrast, Network Propaganda has a fully developed theory of where that vulnerability came from, and traces it—in ways aligned with Jamieson's previous scholarship—to sources that predate the modern internet and social media. In addition, in what may be a surprise given the book's focus on what might be mistakenly taken as a problem unique to American political culture, Network Propaganda expressly places the American problems in the context of the larger currents around the world to blame internet platforms in particular for social ills:

"For those not focused purely on the American public sphere, our study suggests that we should focus on the structural, not the novel; on the long-term dynamic between institutions, culture, and technology, not only the disruptive technological moment; and on the interaction between the different media and technologies that make up a society's media ecosystem, not on a single medium, like the internet, much less a single platform like Facebook or Twitter. The stark differences we observe between the insular right-wing media ecosystem and the majority of the American media environment, and the ways in which open web publications, social media, television, and radio all interacted to produce these differences, suggest that the narrower focus will lead to systematically erroneous predictions and diagnoses. It is critical not to confound what is easy to measure (Twitter) with what is significantly effective in shaping beliefs and politically actionable knowledge in society.... Different countries, with different histories, institutional structures, and cultural practices of collective sense-making need not fear the internet's effects. There is no echo chamber or filter-bubble effect that will inexorably take a society with a well-functioning public sphere and turn it into a shambles simply because the internet comes to town."

Benkler, Faris, and Roberts expressly acknowledge, however, that it's appropriate for governments and companies to consider how they regulate political advertising and targeted messaging going forward—even if this online content can't be shown to have played a significant corrosive role in past elections, there's no guarantee that refined versions won't be more effective in the future. But even more important, they insist, is the need to address larger institutional issues affecting our public sphere. The book's Chapter 13 addresses a full range of possible reforms. These include "reconstructing center-right media" (to address what the authors think Julian Sanchez correctly characterized as an "epistemic closure" problem) as well as insisting that professional journalists recognize that they're operating in a propaganda-rich media culture, which ethically requires them to do something more than "performance of objectivity."

The recommendations also include promoting what they call a "public health approach to the media ecosystem," which essentially means obligating the tech companies and platforms to disclose "under appropriate legal constraints [such as protecting individual privacy]" the kind of data we need to assess media patterns, dysfunctions, and outcomes. They write, correctly, that we "can no more trust Facebook to be the sole source of information about the effects of its platform on our media ecosystem than we could trust a pharmaceutical company to be the sole source of research on the outcome of its drugs, or an oil company to be the sole source of measurements of particles emissions or CO2 in the atmosphere."

The fact is that the problems in our political and media culture can't be delegated to Facebook or Twitter to solve on their own. Any comprehensive, holistic solutions to our epistemic crises require not only transparency and accountability but also fully engaged democracy with full access to the data. Yes, that means you and me. It's time for our epistemic opening.

Mike Godwin (@sfmnemonic) is a distinguished senior fellow at R Street Institute.

Filed Under: elections, epistemic closure, filter bubbles, internet, network propaganda, news, news media, politics, yochai benkler


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    Mason Wheeler (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 11:10am

    > and even Kathleen Jameson, whose 2008 book on right-wing media, Echo Chamber, informs the authors' work in Network Propaganda, has adopted the thesis that the Russians probably made the difference for Trump in 2016.

    Bah. There were two people who made the difference: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    Clinton lost a campaign that most people assumed was hers for the taking when she slandered roughly half of American society, claiming that everyone not aligned with her agenda was a part of a "basket of deplorables" full of racists, sexists and whatnot. This disgusting comment was received with all the disgust it deserved, swaying a lot of undecided voters to reject her.

    At the same time, Trump had a much more persuasive message, claiming that he would "make America great again," which was exactly the right thing to say at exactly the right time. Voters who spent the entire Obama administration being told that the economy was in recovery and things were getting better, while the evidence of their own eyes down on Main Streets throughout the country told them otherwise, were drawn by this message of hope.

    Of course, that's not how it's turned out since he took office, but it really is the best explanation for why the election turned out the way it did.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 11:43am

      Re:

      Clinton lost a campaign that most people assumed was hers for the taking when she slandered roughly half of American society, claiming that everyone not aligned with her agenda was a part of a "basket of deplorables" full of racists, sexists and whatnot. This disgusting comment was received with all the disgust it deserved, swaying a lot of undecided voters to reject her.

      That is a blatant misrepresentation of what Clinton said.

      You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic – Islamophobic – you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America.

      But the "other" basket – the other basket – and I know because I look at this crowd I see friends from all over America here: I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas and — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that "other" basket of people are people who feel the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures; and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but — he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

      First, she doesn't say half of American society falls in "the basket of deplorables"; she says that half of Trump supporters (so about 20% of American society). More to the point, her entire speech is explicitly saying that even though some of the people opposed to her policies are "deplorable," the rest are reasonable people who feel let down, and that they shouldn't be written off because they're, as you put it "not aligned with her agenda"

      In fact, your explanation and Clinton's explanation of Trump's message of hope to those who had been let down by the Obama administration are nearly identical.

      All of that said, I don't disagree that Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment was unwise and probably cost her a bunch of voters who heard it out of context (which was an entirely predictable result).

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      • identicon
        Baron von Robber, 18 Jan 2019 @ 11:55am

        Re: Re:

        And considering that the KKK, Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists supported his campaign, yea, they are deplorables.

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        Madd the Sane (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:14pm

        Re: Re:

        That is a blatant misrepresentation of what Clinton said.

        It would not surprise me if one of the "conservative" news outlets framed it as "Clinton calls 50% of the US population 'deplorable'", knowing their audience wouldn't fact-check what she said.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:55pm

        Re: Re:

        she says that half of Trump supporters (so about 20% of American society).

        She didn't even say that. Read it again: "You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

        The number is purely hypothetical aka. "grossly generalistic". The point, poorly worded, was that at least 50% of Trump supporters must be good people—that we can't dismiss the whole group, because there are millions of reasonable people there.

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    • icon
      Thad (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:42pm

      Re:

      Bah. There were two people who made the difference: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

      Clinton lost a campaign that most people assumed was hers for the taking when she slandered roughly half of American society, claiming that everyone not aligned with her agenda was a part of a "basket of deplorables" full of racists, sexists and whatnot. This disgusting comment was received with all the disgust it deserved, swaying a lot of undecided voters to reject her.

      I can't help noticing this is entirely different from your previous claim that Trump won because Obama was so unpopular, and that the last three presidents have been elected entirely as a rebuke to the previous president and not for any other reason.

      You keep oversimplifying. You keep claiming there's one single reason why Trump won in 2016. (It doesn't seem to bother you that that one single reason is not always the same one single reason.)

      Truth is, there are a lot of factors that went into the 2016 election. And the media's coverage of the race permeates most of them.

      You claimed, previously, that Trump won as backlash against Obama. Do you accept that outlets like Fox News and Breitbart may have played some role in stoking that backlash?

      You claim, now, that Trump won because Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment swung the election. Do you accept that the only reason people heard about that comment is because it was covered by the news media? And that the way in which it was covered may have influenced their reaction to it?

      Godwin's citing a well-researched book here. You're pooh-poohing its conclusions without providing any data of your own.

      And, while the focus of the book is on the 2016 election (and the year that followed it), the issue has far bigger implications than any reductive argument about why Trump won. The epistemic closure problem is real. And it is not symmetric.

      Indeed, your insistence that Clinton lost the election because she made a disqualifying comment -- and complete failure to mention any of the offensive things Trump said, from "they're bringing drugs, they're rapists" to "grab 'em by the pussy" -- suggests that you may have fallen for asymmetric reporting on the two candidates yourself and not even noticed.

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      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 2:17pm

        Re: Re:

        Wow. Just... wow. You accuse me of oversimplifying, in that massive wall of text that demonstrates you completely missed (or are deliberately ignoring) the context in which I made the two posts that you're trying to invent a contradiction between?

        Dude, grow some reading comprehension already! The other one was not about this particular election; it was about the clear pattern that our political system has been following for decades now. The pattern that allowed me to predict years before the 2016 election even got started that our next president would be whichever Republican most successfully presented himself as the antithesis of Obama, and that he would end up being even worse than Obama. And can anyone deny that that's exactly what happened?

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        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 3:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          If Trump's win was entriely predicated on being the anti obama, then your comment:

          Clinton lost a campaign that most people assumed was hers for the taking when she slandered roughly half of American society, claiming that everyone not aligned with her agenda was a part of a "basket of deplorables" full of racists, sexists and whatnot. This disgusting comment was received with all the disgust it deserved, swaying a lot of undecided voters to reject her.

          Isn't true, because if the election was decided because Trump was the anti-Obama, then it wouldn't have mattered if she ran a better campaign. If it was all about 'democrats are only enriching wall street', then Hilary would not have won. It wasn't ever hers for the taking, and the comment didn't matter jack shit. So yes, they are in conflict.

          And I will take the bait and say that is definitely not what happened. It was less about being anti-obama then you think. Trump got about as many votes in battleground states as McCain did coming right off Bush. Independents got about as many votes. Trump energized Republican voters no more than McCain. It wasn't about Trump being the Anti Obama.

          Trump won because fewer Democrat votes were cast in battleground states, plain and simple. There are debates as to why. Hillary might just not have energized the base, which was an issue noted in the primaries (When Hilary Delegates just didn't show up). Voting law changes could have suppressed voting in key areas. Voters may have lost hope between economic indicators not syncing up with their experience and constant claims of corruption and rigged elections.

          But it isn't because of how Trump marketed himself. That got him the candidacy. But the election could have had any number of factors. Trump himself was not the X factor. Your analysis is called simplistic because you assume simplistic motives to find simplistic patterns. When you look at the voting data you see that people are complex, and the upset might not be because trump was seen positively, but because Hilary was seen negatively. This filp flopping only goes back 5 presidents. the whole of US history suggests this pattern is more anomoly than law.

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          • identicon
            Qwertygiy, 18 Jan 2019 @ 6:02pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            While I agree with almost everything you just said, I want to put an asterisk on the last remark. This flip-flopping does *not* go back only 5 presidents.

            Since 1828, there have been 48 elections. In this chain of 48 elections, neither side has maintained a streak of more than 3 elections without a major catalyst: 1860 through 1880 during the Civil War and reconstruction (6 elections Republican), 1896-1908 during the peak of the Industrial Revolution (4 elections Republican), and 1932-1948 during the Depression and World War II (5 elections Democratic).

            Out of the 25 elections in the past century, there are 14 I think were heavily influenced by "who do I dislike least", and 9 of them were after the rise of TV and mass media.

            2016: Both candidates were likely the least popular combination of candidates in history, no contest.
            2008: After Bush leaves office quite unpopular, nation swings Democrat, Birthers be darned.
            2004: Both Kerry and Bush were attacked over military records past and present, but incumbent momentum prevailed.
            2000: Bush was a doofus, but Gore was with Clinton. Probably the closest election ever.
            1992: Perot added a wildcard to Yes New Taxes vs. Maybe I Cheat on My Wife (yes, it was a topic well before Lewinsky)
            1980: Iran drama and bad economy for Carter was worse than Reagan's "dangerous right-wing conservatism".
            1976: Ford's pardon of Nixon and handling of Vietnam was highly unpopular, while Carter was a complete outsider from a farm in Georgia.
            1968: Very complex, but nobody was truly well-liked in this election -- not Johnson, not Nixon, not Humphrey, and certainly not George Wallace.
            1964: It would have been hard to defeat LBJ anyway after his popularity post-Kennedy, but Goldwater deeply divided even the Republicans.
            1952: Truman was quite unpopular, and Stevenson struggled to shake the association, while Eisenhower was popular enough to shrug off accusations of McCarthyism.
            1948: Truman fought aggressively to fend off his own unpopularity and attack Dewey. Dewey was seen as too smug and aloof, doing hardly any serious campaigning.
            1932: The launch of the Great Depression spelled doom for any Republican, especially Hoover.
            1928: A large reason Al Smith lost was that he was Catholic with ties to New York corruption, while Hoover was mainly accused of supporting the end of segregation.
            1920: Harding was fairly unknown while Wilson was unpopular with too many groups that his successor, Cox, could never overcome their dislike of Wilson.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 4:27am

      Bunk

      The die hard voted with their party.

      For the other 70% most did not vote. But, a significant amount of left leaning voters, knowing that the DNC had robbed them of their beloved Burnie went "F*ck you" and voted for Trump as an "outsider". Additionally, and importantly, many right leaning voters who may not have bothered bought into the "fresh air" of "drain the swamp" and other concepts deftly slipped in by Trump.

      How wrong they both were and how screwed up the whole shenanigans is.

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  • identicon
    Glenn, 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:05pm

    The truth can only set you free [to accept reality] if you actually use your brain. The real guiding principle of most so-called "Conservatives" is fear.

    Fear makes you weak.

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    • icon
      ECA (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:39pm

      Re:

      Problem with this, is conservative to who? if you read it, its for the corps..NOT YOU.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:01pm

      Re:

      Typical liberal talking point. The core of conservatism isn't "fear;" it's wisdom. It's recognizing that "there is nothing new under the sun," that human nature doesn't change, and that things that were a bad idea before are therefore very likely to still be a bad idea now. It's recognizing that the most dangerous words ever spoken are "this time it will be different!" And that's why it's right far more often than it's wrong.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:15pm

        Re: Re:

        If that were the case, conservatives would never call for corporate tax cuts in the name of creating new jobs, because every single time this has been done, the extra money ends up lining the pockets of shareholders, rather than going towards hiring new employees. That sounds to me like the very definition of "This time it will be different!"

        Not to mention that your definition of conservatism would lend itself to science-based policy, but every time that I see self-described "conservatives" elected, they tend to gut or ignore any branch of the government that would give them objective facts on which to base such a policy.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 5:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          That old conservative book the bible has a bit about attending to the beam in your own eye before the speck in your brother's.

          This is relevant due to the fact that democrats and the left ignore just as much science and fact as the right does, they just choose different stuff to ignore. See the denial of basic biology inherent in ideas about gender being a social construct and transgenderism or the FUD about GMO foods. Oh, and lets not forget that the dems have their fair share of anti-vaxxers while we're at it.

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      • icon
        Thad (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:43pm

        Re: Re:

        Typical liberal talking point. The core of conservatism isn't "fear;" it's wisdom. It's recognizing that "there is nothing new under the sun," that human nature doesn't change, and that things that were a bad idea before are therefore very likely to still be a bad idea now.

        Is that why conservatives keep pushing trickle-down economics?

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      • identicon
        Baron von Robber, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:44pm

        Re: Re:

        It's fear.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 3:32pm

        Narrator: “It’s fear”

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 7:36pm

        Re: Re:

        The core of conservatism isn't "fear["]

        Conservatism — well, American conservatism, at least — is near-entirely based on the politics of fear. “The immigrants are gonna take your jobs and leech welfare you paid for with your taxes! The gays are gonna get married and indoctrinate your kids! The ‘thugs’ are gonna do crimes everywhere and take all the stuff ‘good people’ worked hard to earn! Women are gonna have abortions and abandon their already-born kids to get jobs! Obama is trying to put you in jail for not buying insurance and forcing you into death panels if you do! Poor people are trying to make you hate the billionaires who own the companies that employ hard-working people like you! The atheists are gonna ban religion and make you stop praying in private! The only way you can stop all this is by electing us!

        Conservatives in the U.S. thrive on the politics of fear. They make their bones not on showing a better path forward for all people, but on attempting to maintain an untenable status quo by scaring their voting base (and conservative-leaning centrists) into looking at progress toward a better society as a proposition to be feared and hated.

        It's recognizing that … things that were a bad idea before are therefore very likely to still be a bad idea now.

        U.S. conservatives tend to oppose comprehensive sex education, nationalized health care, legalized abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, non-discrimination ordinances, and even efforts to make voting easier for all U.S. citizens. How many of those were “a bad idea before”, and how many of them are “a bad idea now”?

        the most dangerous words ever spoken are

        …“we’ve always done it this way”.

        that's why it's right far more often than it's wrong

        Were conservatives “right” when they opposed the Civil Rights Movement, supported “trickle-down” economics, did nothing on gun control after shootings such as the Sandy Hook massacre, and all but kissed George W. Bush’s ass for shoving the country into Iraq? Were conservatives “right” when they allowed racists such as Steve King and Strom Thurmond to not just hold positions of power, but freely speak their racist minds without censure or rebuke? Were conservatives “right” when they opposed, and when they continue to oppose, granting LGBT people access to the same protections and privileges that straight people receive under the law (and in society in general)?

        I do not deign to believe liberals/Democrats are objectively “better”; they, too, have pulled their own fair share of bullshit. (Hi, Barack! How’d the drone strike program work out for you? Hey, Bill and Hillary! Do you regret signing the Defense of Marriage Act and using the phrase “super-predators”, respectively?) But if you are going to say something as asinine as “[t]he core of conservatism isn't "fear[",] it's wisdom”, you will be called to account for doing so.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 8:23am

        Re: Re:

        What of the studies that show conservative people tend to be more paranoid than others?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Igualmente69 (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:12pm

    Taking it as a given that the "conservative" propaganda sphere is guilty of the things the book and the article accuses it of, one needs to keep in mind that the idea that mainstream journalistic outfits are objective and fact-based is false.

    For example, if you read a mainstream newspaper, or watch local news, you would think there is an "opioid crisis." This is false, there is no crisis. There is no issue with doctors prescribing too much medicine, or companies lying about drugs being addictive. The vast majority of people who overdose are mixing pills with alcohol, which 100% of them are told not to do, or using illegal drugs in addition to their prescriptions.

    What about FOSTA(or is it SESTA?), which as Techdirt itself relentlessly documented, eventually passed based on straight up lies and distortions, primarily from established, mainstream sources?

    Again, as documented by Techdirt with regularity, mainstream outlets flat out say incorrect things about technology-related topics, things that could have easily been checked with a single phone call. Ditto for repeating claims by legacy copyright industries.

    There are many, many more examples. You can't just wave these things away; the idea that journalism could be mostly trusted before but now there is a subset that spews lies while the rest bravely clings to standards of professionalism is simply not the case. Journalism could never be trusted. The real issue is a lack of critical thinking in our society.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      That is not what the review article and book said at all. The entire point is that the study shows all the traditional media is responsible for spreading disinformation.

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      • icon
        Igualmente69 (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:14pm

        Re: Re:

        I read every word of the article. It actually said they did so, unintentionally, in the pursuit of truth and objectivity.

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        • icon
          Thad (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:53pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It also suggested that center-left outlets are inclined to overcompensate for their reputation as "liberal media" by engaging in bothersiderism, seeking ideological balance rather than factual truth.

          See as recently as earlier this week when NBC advised its reporters not to describe Steve King's comments ("White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization -- how did that language become offensive?") as "racist".

          This is a network that is generally concerned center-left demonstrating that it's gun-shy about using the word "racist" to describe something that is obviously racist, out of fear that calling it racist might offend racists.

          (NBC, to its credit, walked that stance back after the memo was leaked and rightfully ridiculed.)

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          • icon
            bhull242 (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 5:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Actually, it’s about the pursuit of the appearance of objectivity and truth-seeking. Furthermore, this is primarily about the 2016 election coverage, not FOSTA.

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  • identicon
    Reasonable Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:21pm

    Fixing the problem

    The problems highlighted in this interesting post stem not primarily from poorly-regulated political speech or lax standards of journalism.

    The root of the problem is the fact that large corporations (and their executives), Wall Street, lobbyists, and politicians stand to lose many, many billions of dollars if the problem is fixed. The stakes have gotten so high that these entities will resort to whatever it takes to keep the gravy train running. An extra, say, $50M in your pocket annually is a powerful incentive to keep the populace off-balance and deluded.

    In other words, all of the people who have the power to fix the problem have mind-blowing incentives to exacerbate, not fix, the problem.

    This self-propagating, insular, unholy alliance cannot be stopped with Band-Aid solutions. The #1 issue is campaign finance reform: finding the path to render lobbying irrelevant by ensuring that our elected officials are beholden to no-one but individual voters, and who seek their positions only for the good of the public.

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    • icon
      Igualmente69 (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Fixing the problem

      "...elected officials are beholden to no-one but individual voters, and who seek their positions only for the good of the public."

      There is no way to have "campaign finance reform" without eliminating free speech. People might say otherwise but if you reasonably analyse their proposals every single one of them fails.

      Even if you could, this is against human nature and will never happen. Politicians have power, and positions of power necessarily attract people who want power for non-altruistic reasons. Study history; there are no exceptions. No country has a good government staffed only or even mostly by people who seek positions only for the good of the public, and there never will be one.

      That's the point of the American system of limited and divided government. It isn't perfect, but it is better than the alternatives.

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      • icon
        ECA (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:45pm

        Re: Re: Fixing the problem

        Free speech is interesting..
        IF' you add to it FACTS/TRUTH.

        I love a democracy built on a 2 party system.. there are no other democracies that use a 2 party system,, there are 4-6-12 other groups...but the only way to get money for your cause is one of those 2 parties, that the corps(and other nations, yes its true) Back with lots of money.
        Evne Canada has more parties then the USA..

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      • identicon
        Reasonable Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 2:12pm

        Re: Re: Fixing the problem

        You wrote:

        >There is no way to have "campaign finance reform" without eliminating free speech. People might say otherwise but if you reasonably analyse their proposals every single one of them fails ... That's the point of the American system of limited and divided government. It isn't perfect, but it is better than the alternatives.

        ===

        There are certainly huge steps that could be taken to reform campaign finance without "eliminating free speech." Such as heavily subsidizing elections such that viable candidates are granted huge sums of public monies to work with.

        And/or, with respect to free speech, yes, some additional restrictions by way of amendment may be warranted (especially in light of Citizens United), just as there are already speech restrictions with respect to copyright, slander, extortion, et al.

        True, our country isn't perfect, but things have clearly gotten worse, largely because of the greed-based corruption.

        It would seem off-topic to debate here how campaign finance might be improved, but the point is that unless that can be fixed, the improvements the authors suggest will either meet with fierce resistance, or will be circumvented since so much money is at stake.

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  • icon
    ECA (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:37pm

    yes yes yes..

    Popularist..
    READING the people and feeding back to them..
    Making it Seem as you are saying something when you are just passing the Buck and pointing fingers.
    Trump is using a few persons that watch the people, and doing the Old salesmanship tricks to the n^th degree.
    He has an excuse and a scapegoat for everything..

    His trade deals are an old trick of walking in as either a monster or a 2 year old screaming he wants something. Has anyone read those deals? didnt think so, as we are only TOLD what they are, and will entail.

    I love all the trump supporters that THINK that every piece of paper he has sighed has passed to become real.
    It ends up being a Show, a soap opera. and he is keeping it up, and The bandwagon is still rolling along as no one looks under the cover, and see's the wagon empty, maybe a few cups of water..

    I suggested long ago, a strange thing..
    1. trump cant touch his Corp money without being taxed to death.
    2. he is only in it for 1 thing. The retirement fund.
    His money will goto his kids, and such. Its already being spread out so it cant/wont be traced. There are probably a few things he needs changed(laws/regulations killed) but with the Pres. retirement he will be set, and the corps will SWAP HANDS with nothing to show for taxes.
    3. In his corp he is only an employee. and gets a set wage. Proving otherwise is very hard to do. unless you look. and the IRS is so far behind in TECH and data sheets, its hard to catch up to ANY CORP..

    I wonder about the Conservatives, and their Understanding of how this is going.
    "..core conservative values (at least as they have been understood for most of the last 100 years or so). Those values typically have included favoring limited government over expansive government, preferring economic growth and rights to property over promoting equity and equality for their own sake, supporting business flexibility over labor and governmental demands, committing to certain approaches to tax policy, and so forth. "

    Limiting gov is interesting..Oregon had a bill to Force State workers to have a wage cap and so forth, but along with all the HIGH paid persons, 90% of those workers worked at min wage(really).. didnt work

    With all the cuts in Gov. They are very much like CORPS, where do you cut? NOT THE TOP. 3 agencies that cover our food processes from Farm to your table, can only monitor 8% of facilities..And you wonder where all the food poisoning is coming from.
    Most of these agencies are getting to be Major backstabbers.. cause the only job worth getting is at the top.(and how Pai got a job)
    Who is hiring and HOW to find the gov. job..I aint seen a gov. employment book in years..esp with one worth taking at min wage. so who is hiring these people.

    "preferring economic growth and rights to property over promoting equity and equality for their own sake"

    Basic econ, is very simple. its making the money GO AROUND, keep it moving and everyone benefits. And the stat says that the poor and lower paid will spend MORE per GROUP as a group, for every rich person on top. They have to pay out, as they cant survive unless they Feed their children, dog, spouse. pay rent...and so forth. Why pay a rich person to be rich?

    "supporting business flexibility over labor and governmental demands"

    THIS is dangerous. Labor and gov. demands..All those nice laws about pollution from the 70-80's..Almost gone. Safety laws? so we cant sue our boss because he DIDNT require a seat belt on the hyster?? or a harness while fixing a roof? OHSA is a good agency..
    Flexibility? comes with allot of things, but Iv never seen a corp that uses it. They DONT LIKE CHANGE, unless it favors them. Go look up the history of LLC. LLC(limited liability Corp) was for small companies. WAS NOT supposed to be for every large corp in this nation. It means you cant SUE the idiots at the top for being STUPID.
    You cant sue the heads of a corp because then authorized the use of a failed device in your car, that could SAVE YOUR LIFE..(which they did, with Air bags in cars, that could kill you, over 7 million cars recalled to repair, and still NOT DONE).. Or the ignition key that would flip and shut your car off, while driving...LOVE THOSE CURVES.
    Labor demands?? demands?? HOW about a comparable Raise to what the HEAD of the corp just got?? because WE DID all the work while he was playing golf..

    "committing to certain approaches to tax policy,"

    Now this is complicated..consider that To keep things together..Roads, bridges, this and that..Taxes are nice things...BUT does your do more damage to the rods or that 15000 ton truck, that the company uses?
    WE could have Corp roads and Fee's every few miles..because the CORP owns the road...
    Who charges MORE for the goods we get from China and other locations? WE ship wood to china at $$ price, and they make goods that get here at $$ price then are distributed at ?? price and the reseller doubles that price ???? and then we get state and fed tax on top for all the handling ???...and by the time we get it, its a PISS POOR quality that breaks 1 day after warranty.. why not use USA worker?? because GLUE in china is cheaper then here. And paying 1-2 days wages to 2 people is FAR to much to do in this country...

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    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 3:15pm

      Re: yes yes yes..

      I'd like to point something out - He is not an employee. Trump holds his money in LLC pass through corps. Thats why pass throughs got such a big tax cut - he benefits.

      He is a real estate developer. he avoids taxes by a lot of dubious approaches only legal for real estate. That is how he keeps his money.

      None of them are corporations like you are thinking.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:42pm

    translation please

    ...well, would someone here please translate Mr Godwin's ponderous essay into plain English?

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    • icon
      discordian_eris (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:49pm

      Re: translation please

      Clinton was right. The Republican party and its adherents are a basket of deplorables, as is the media who feeds their ignorance and racism.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:06pm

      Re: translation please

      I am sure that reading the book he is discussing might help.

      Or do you just need soundbites? If so, you are exactly the market which drives disinformation sales in all forms.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:30pm

      Re: translation please

      "Ipso facto" is Latin for "as a result of that fact." So, the quote is saying that conservative media tells its viewers that if a claim comes from the liberal media, the claim can be disregarded because of its source.

      "Et al" is an abbreviation of "et alia," which is Latin for "and others." In this case ("Benkler et al," repeated often throughout the article), it's referring to Robert Faris and Hal Roberts, who are, along with Yochai Benkler, the co-authors of Network Propoganda.

      Translation complete: The rest of the article is already in plain English.

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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 18 Jan 2019 @ 12:54pm

    Ask your doctor to increase your Adderall dosage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:17pm

    Having observed several instances of information cascades amongst left-leaning news outlets over the past 5 years, I find it incredulous for anyone to assert that the distributed nature of left-leaning news makes them impervious to such vulnerabilities.

    The key difference I'd argue is not the centralization (or lack thereof) of the news outlets but rather the topics. Right-leaning news sources are extremely vulnerable to information cascades regarding politics whereas left-leaning news sources are extremely vulnerable to information cascades about culture.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:22pm

      Re:

      Given the way the left has been blatantly politicizing culture for the last 50 years, is there really any difference?

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:29pm

        Re: Re:

        When I say politics I mean things related to policymakers. A great deal of what left-leaning outlets obsess over have little to do with legislative goals.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 1:31pm

        Re: Re:

        lol

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 3:33pm

        Re: Re:

        Culture is inherently political numbnuts.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Qwertygiy, 18 Jan 2019 @ 4:39pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I disagree. Any part of culture can be politicized, but not all culture is inherently political. In and of itself, there's nothing political about eating at a Chinese restaurant, attending a piano concert, fidget-spinning, or yeeting (whatever that may be).

          Politics are when someone with some form of power says something is good or bad and encourages or discourages it. Lots of parts of our culture are politicized, which isn't always a bad thing.

          But sometimes, roses are red and violets are blue because they're just nice flowers, not political clues.

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    • icon
      Mike Godwin (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 6:05pm

      Re:

      I think you mean "incredible" rather than "incredulous." But no one has asserted that "the distributed nature of left-leaning news makes them impervious to such vulnerabilities."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 18 Jan 2019 @ 2:15pm

    “Epistemic Closure” Is An Unstable State

    The Conservative world cannot close in on itself without collapsing. The trouble is that reality cannot be prevented from intruding indefinitely. Let me mention just two ways this manifests itself:

    • The fact that Donald Trump is just too flaky for even some hidebound Conservatives to stomach. Remember, they didn’t want him to win the Republican Presidential nomination; only when it became clear that he had overwhelming grassroots support did they switch sides. The main reason he gets support from the Conservative establishment now is because not to give it would strengthen the hand of the Democrats.

    • Poe’s Law. Aspects of the Conservative viewpoint are so prone to self-parody that even they sometimes suspect that someone is making fun of them. But these kinds of suspicions threaten the consensus, and lead to a loss of confidence.

    Then there is also the rejection of scientific evidence over healthcare, gun control, drug law reform, climate change, evolution etc. That kind of thing may take a bit longer to come back and bite them in the bum, but it will happen.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 5:59pm

      Re: “Epistemic Closure” Is An Unstable State

      I love the constant accusations of conservatives being science deniers to try to imply that non-conservatives aren't.

      Lets examine gun control. The facts show that gun ownership reduces crime levels. They also show that gun control does not prevent criminals from getting guns, only law abiding people. Conservatives aren't the ones denying reality there.

      Drug law reform is supported by many conservatives. Ever notice how the libertarians are considered conservative? Guess who has been supporting reform harder and longer than most?

      Climate change I'll grant you.

      Evolution denial on the right is a specifically religious thing, and not nearly as common as your sneering stereotype suggests. In fact, the left has its own versions of evolution denial in the insistence that all races and genders are exactly the same in everything ever and you're evil if you dare even ask otherwise. For a laugh watch an MtoF transgendered person dominating women's sports.

      And lets take a moment for those glorious morons the antivaxxers and anti-GMO activists. Those started on the left (although the right has them now too) with the rest of the psuedoscience holistic healing crap.

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  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 18 Jan 2019 @ 2:29pm

    First Things First

    The authors acknowledge that they "do not expect our findings to persuade anyone who is already committed to the right-wing media ecosystem. [The data] could be interpreted differently. They could be viewed as a media system overwhelmed by liberal bias and opposed only by a tightly-clustered set of right-wing sites courageously telling the truth in the teeth of what Sean Hannity calls the 'corrupt, lying media,' rather than our interpretation of a radicalized right set apart form a media system anchored in century-old norms of professional journalism." But that interpretation of the data flies in the face of Network Propaganda's extensive demonstration that the traditional mainstream media—in what the authors call "the performance of objectivity"—actually had the effect of amplifying right-wing narratives rather than successfully challenging the false or distorted narratives. (The authors explore this paradox in Chapter 6.)

    This should have been the 1st paragraph (or preface) of your review not the 19th so as to alert any potential readers to the fact The data was ambiguous and the authors of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics may have relied upon their own biases (knowingly or not) in forming the books conclusions.

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    • identicon
      Qwertygiy, 18 Jan 2019 @ 3:15pm

      Re: First Things First

      I would like to point out that there is a significant difference between "could be interpreted differently" and "ambiguous".

      "Last year, my company earned half as much as my competitor. This year, it earned twice as much."

      This is a completely ambiguous statement. Did the company earn twice as much as it did last year? Did the company earn twice as much as the competitor did this year? Possibly it could mean twice as much as the competitor did last year? You can't tell what it means even at face value.

      "Last year, my company earned half as much as my competitor did. This year, my company earned twice as much as my competitor did." This sentence is still slightly ambiguous. There are no words or phrases that are likely to be misunderstood, but it could be interpreted to mean several vastly different things.

      It could be intended to mean "my company's income is 4x greater than last year's" or "my competitor's income is 1/4 what it was last year" or even possibly "my competitor's income is half what it was last year and my company's income is double what it was last year".

      "Last year, my company earned $500,000 while my competitor earned $1,000,000. This year, my company earned $600,000 while my competitor earned $300,000."
      This statement is very unambiguous. There's little room for confusion about the facts it is attempting to state. But these facts can still be interpreted in different ways.

      Maybe the competitor made bad business choices and drove away buyers. Maybe the competitor downsized and is only a third as large as last year. Maybe the company improved their product over the competitor's. Maybe the company lowered their prices and poached a lot of sales from the competitor. Maybe neither company did anything to change their income, but the competitor is in a different market that fared poorly overall.

      You still need more information to be able to determine a reason behind the facts, despite the facts themselves not being ambiguous. For instance, if few other companies in the market as the competitor suffered a comparable loss in income, you could discredit the idea that the change was due to a poor market, because the information provided doesn't fit with that interpretation anymore.

      And presumably, the "extensive demonstration [...] in Chapter 6" is that extra information required to discount the opposing interpretation, as that information "flies in the face of" that viewpoint and hurts its credibility, while it does nothing to discredit the authors' interpretation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Godwin (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 6:04pm

      Re: First Things First

      When you take the trouble to read the book, it's clear that the data aren't ambiguous.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 4:59pm

    Consider that our media and our society is so broken, the author of this story felt compelled to pretend this was a problem only with conservative media at first. The first edit on this website was changing the title from one attacking Conservative exclusively. However, the first two paragraphs pretending this is only a "conservative media problem" still exist. Neat.

    So, political correctness in 2019, (and your Google ranking) now depend on unethical journalists pretending everything is a "conservative media problem" in the first two paragraphs before you get to the real truth:

    Liberal media copied Fox two years ago and are worse than Fox by a huge margin now.

    On the bright side, you can do what this website did and do your fake clickbait anti-conservative headline first, so it shows up in Google News the way google wants it (like this website did) then quickly change it after you see it propogate to Google News (like this website did) to make it more neutral.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 6:16pm

      Re:

      Whoa now, I wouldn't call liberal media worse than Fox. Parts of it absolutely, but not all of it.

      I think the biggest issue is that they hide their bias behind a claim of impartiality and objectivity. CNN for instance shits lies like a lieasaurus rex eating a diet of pure fermented liefruits. Alex Jones does the same. I trust Alex Jones more than CNN because he doesn't hide who and what he is. He's a nutjob who occasionally gets some shit right and he doesn't pretend otherwise.

      I trust Al Jazeera, The Intercept, Reason, Xinhua, Russia Today, or even Rodong Sinmun more than I do CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS/BBC precisely because the former are all upfront with their bias, while the latter try to disguise theirs with a veneer of objectivity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 18 Jan 2019 @ 10:27pm

      Re:

      The first edit on this website was changing the title from one attacking Conservative exclusively.

      We made no changes to the headline. I don't know what you're talking about.

      However, the first two paragraphs pretending this is only a "conservative media problem" still exist. Neat.

      The article is based on data. Are you disputing the data?

      On the bright side, you can do what this website did and do your fake clickbait anti-conservative headline first, so it shows up in Google News the way google wants it (like this website did) then quickly change it after you see it propogate to Google News (like this website did) to make it more neutral.

      Again, this is the original headline and nothing in it has changed. I'm not sure what you think you saw, but the headline has not changed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 10:40am

        Re: Re:

        The data is accompanied by conclusions which can easily be disputed.

        This is a basic conservatives-are-evil-and-stupid-because-they-don't-agree-with-us tone, except it seems that some liberal think tank had a meeting where an attempt was made to couch the anti-Trump temper tantrum in a more intellectual cloth.

        The notion that someone can be conservative without being evil, easily manipulated, or stupid is simply beyond the grasp of many liberals who act much more like fascists than those upon whom they attempt to project the label.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 7:22pm

          You played yourself.

          I love it when nunbnuts like you comment without reading the article. You aren’t helping the popular perception that conservatives are dumb as turds.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            NaBUru38 (profile), 22 Jan 2019 @ 3:49am

            Re: You played yourself.

            I agree that mainstream media is also to blame.

            These conglomerates search quick profit from clickbait headlines. They spread the disinformation that comes from the far right, because it gets larger audiences that moderate, reasonable pieces.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2019 @ 5:35pm

    I think they meant "colostomic" closure

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 5:29am

    No, David Frum is not a conservative

    I read as far as the third sentence and came to a screeching stop when I saw this:

    "and a few conservative commentators, like David Frum"

    So David Frum is a conservative, really? Let's examine this assessment by looking at a few of the core issues that most of us would agree define the conservative/liberal divide.

    David Frum, while nominally a Republican, has opposed the Republican party on numerous key issues. He has been a vocal supporter of Obamacare, abortion, gun control, and gay marriage. He was a critic of the Tea Party movement and he voted for Hillary Clinton.

    Anyone familiar with David Frum would know that he's often been thought of as one of the leading figures in the Neoconservative movement, a group that decades ago broke away from the Democratic party, and was perhaps most famous for spearheading the invasion of Iraq in 2003, from both inside and outside the Bush II administration.

    Despite the obvious similarities between the names, conservatives have about as much in common with Neoconservatives as socialists have with National Socialists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 7:24am

      Re: No, David Frum is not a conservative

      This is a perfect example of the effect the radicalization of right-wing media . You don't see him as conservative because he has positions you disagree with. Because you have been radicalized, conditioned to see that anyone outside of your bubble cannot possibly be called a conservative. Thanks for giving us such a great example.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 10:37am

        Re: Re: No, David Frum is not a conservative

        We conservatives are so lucky to have liberals to tell us how we think and feel.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 7:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: No, David Frum is not a conservative

          I don’t think the replying ACs political persuasion matters really. The original were wrong and got corrected. If you are projecting the title liberal to the person doing the correcting I think that says more about you than it does about “liberals.”

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2019 @ 5:08am

          Re: Re: Re: No, David Frum is not a conservative

          Let's not confuse liberals with progressives. Liberals were the freedom-loving people who broke the ideological stranglehold that conservatives historically held over most of the country. Progressives are the authoritarian far-left who, after basically winning the culture war against conservatives, then set about the process of applying their own ideological stranglehold on society.

          Many libertarian-minded folks consider authoritarianism from either the left or the right to be equally unpalatable, and as a defensive strategy will cast their vote to whichever side has the least power. Electing Obama served to purge the hated Neocons (like David Frum) from the executive branch of government, and electing Trump served to purge the hated progressives from the government.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 12:53pm

        Re: Re: No, David Frum is not a conservative

        One could argue that the PC-movement "radicalized" the left first.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 7:50am

    Apparently, introspection is not a trait common to the article author and the book authors. Then again, this is not particularly surprising given their association with the EFF and HU.

    Current political affairs are unfortunately polarized, but such polarization results from persons on both sides of the political aisle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 7:31pm

      Re:

      So all you got is a vague insult about the article author. That’s kinda sad bro.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2019 @ 5:51pm

      Re:

      Literally nothing in the article mentioned the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

      Did John Steele's arrest really put that big of a twist in your panties? Excuse me while I find a flea orchestra for my set of the world's smallest violins.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2019 @ 10:26am

    The fundamental problem is credentialism.

    We also can't identify "propaganda" as a problem without calling its targets stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Qunor, 21 Jan 2019 @ 1:27am

    Take it easy. Only rest from such information can help here. And rest is a tour. The tour is here giro d'italia 2019 route ma. Do not thank friends. I do it for the benefit of society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Jazz Hands mean I'm giving liberals ten fingers, 23 Jan 2019 @ 9:21am

    Neo-liberal Godwin attacks gullible "conservatives" same day as:

    BuzzFeed runs a story so fake that even Mueller's office denies it!

    After yet more unsupported allegations from two "sources requesting anonymity" last week:

    "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's Congressional testimony are not accurate," the special counsel's office said.

    It was, from this one unsupported source, gleefully picked up as the basis for impeachment proceedings.

    Until dashed to smithereens next day by The Establishment's onw designated attack dog.

    This is again just masnicks and godwins projecting their gullibility onto conservatives, while actually after so long of slanting to the corporate view and repeating Establishment lies, Godwin is unable to discern reality.


    You are a feeble propagandist, Godwin. Just another fool who's been trained to no more than stay out of the way, yet because uses obscure terms thinks he's a knave in on everything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    F.J. Bergmann (profile), 29 Jan 2019 @ 6:37am

    Sealing the gates

    The problem with conservative epistemic closure is that it drives a reflected liberal epistemic closure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Luke A, 29 Jan 2019 @ 3:06pm

    We've always done will be different.

    …“we’ve always done it this way”.

    vs

    "this time it will be different!"

    I think these both fail, for one specific reason.

    An example :

    What do you mean schools can't be segregated?
    "We've always done it this way".

    Let us re-segregate schools.
    "This time it will be different".

    Just an opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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