"A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier"
-H. L. Mencken, newspaperman
That said, I was a little surprised at
Facebook and the manufacture of consent
The FT reports on Wednesday that “Facebook and Google have announced they will restrict advertising on online platforms with fake news, after a furore over the role of such stories in last week’s US presidential election.”
The following is a personal view and thus not representative of the wider views of the FT, so no doubt biased to whatever cultural norms impacted my formative years — among them being of Polish descent, being brought up Catholic, having staunchly anti-communist parents, experiencing a youthful rebellion against that framework and later moderating to a middle ground. With that out of the way…
Surely having Facebook and Google restrict advertising on subjective grounds is the worst possible outcome of this entire affair?
The idea all-powerful platforms like Google and Facebook should be charged with the responsibility of strategically filtering and determining what constitutes fake news is not just questionable but frightening in the Orwellian Newspeak sense of the word.
The rot at the core of media has little to do with the propagation of fake news on the fringes. Alternative news sites and underground press with questionable journalistic practices have been a phenomenon since forever. In free societies, the public sphere tolerates single-issue publishers, special interest groups or anti-establishment newsletters, because we know that for every outlet which propagates nonsense there’s another that might be ahead of the curve on a topic of great cultural, commercial or political significance.
Accepting the fringes — which includes fake news — is what liberty and a free press is about. It’s our greatest strength, especially when positioned within the constructs of a fair and reasonable slander, libel and defamation framework. Suppressing marginal views is not the answer.
To the contrary, what really underpins the malaise of modern digital media is the medium’s inability to properly contextualise the news as well as the commercial impulse to prioritise comment over everything (because that’s where the money is).
What the web model did, even before the Facebook and Google phenomenon exacerbated the echo chamber, is de-contextualise news and place it in a silo.
Like it or not, reading a physical newspaper frames the facts with other facts and opinions. So, even if a single issue dominates a reader’s mind, a turn of the page can expose him to other ideas, stories and issues. The web has failed to synthesise this serendipity factor and, with the rise of targeted advertising and news profiling algorithms, has seemingly stopped attempting to do so entirely.
So while it’s true newspapers have always been partisan, it’s also the case that old media models strove to segregate news from comment, and editorial output from advertising content. As far as the news sections were concerned, meanwhile, the first rule of serious journalism was balance. Both sides of the argument must always be represented because a lot of the news simply isn’t governed by strict and quantifiably provable “fact”. Facts and stats can’t and don’t express feelings, let alone capture the propensity of human beings to change their minds....MUCH MORE, sort of like Ravel's little ditty, Bolero, it just keeps building and building.
Leonard Hofstadter: And that's a lie, right?
Sheldon Cooper: A big fat whopper. I hope it breaks.
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Study Showing "Fake News' Beating 'Real News'" Is Fake
the riddle in "The Labyrinth", with David Bowie:
There are two doors, each with a guard standing in front of it. One door leads to wealth and riches, while the other leads to death and despair. One guard tells only lies. The other guard tells only the truth. You have no way of knowing which guard is which. You are allowed to ask one question of one of the guards.
What question would you ask in order to determine which door leads to the wealth and riches?
-from Teach me like I'm five.