Saturday, January 29, 2022

"What’s The Connection Between News—Fake and Real—And Opinion?"

From Discourse Magazine, January 24:

Contrary to settled assumptions, the media mostly reinforces existing beliefs rather than changing them

A telling schism in our fractured, post-truth world is that between “fake” and “real” news. Those who insist on this division associate fake news with Donald Trump, Republicans and the unvaccinated—and place great store in the causal power of information. Only because of fake news, many believe to this day, could a monstrosity like Trump get elected president. Starved of real news, democracy dies in darkness.

I have always found the evidence in support of these propositions to be pretty threadbare. The initial report that pro-Trump “fake election news stories” had “generated more engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major outlets combined” was put forward by Buzzfeed in November 2016. It was a methodological mess. Even if one accepted all the claims, the implications were left hanging. Suppose hundreds of thousands of Catholic voters read an article stating that the Pope had endorsed Trump: Was there any evidence that minds had been changed? The report provided none.

In fact, the subject was never broached. The magical power of the written word was simply assumed—a common failing among those of us who churn out words by the pound. That has been the typical maneuver of participants in the fake news panic. The proliferation of lies is shown to be a fact, while the “so what” is passed over in silence. And, of course, anyone wishing to quantify the spread falsehood will have a field day with the internet—where, as N.N. Taleb has observed, the digital information tsunami is composed mostly of noise.

The web is many things—including the mother of lies. But it’s a long leap from this description of the landscape to proving that “Fake news is bad news for democracy.”

Belief in the power of the word requires a parallel faith in the gullibility of the public. Fake news can only be dangerous if ordinary people can be made to believe in preposterous lies. That’s a risky posture for an analyst: It divides the world into the clever, which is mostly us, and the foolish, which is entirely them. More to the point, it’s almost certainly wrong.

The human mind is a hard object to budge. That is the conclusion Hugo Mercier arrives at in “Not Born Yesterday,” after reviewing the psychology of persuasion. If recipients of information “were excessively gullible,” Mercier writes, “they would be mercilessly abused … until they reached a point where they simply stopped paying any attention to what they were being told.” For good evolutionary reasons, the default isn’t blind faith but hunkering down. When deprived of the means to evaluate information, people “revert to a conservative core, rejecting anything they don’t already agree with, being much harder, not much easier, to influence.”....


That last point is similar to one I was attempting to make on a different aspect of trust last December:

The title of this piece was "Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction?" but that seems an incorrect characterization.

It's all about trust, which is one of the reasons globalists have a problem convincing ordinary people to share their grand dreams and visions. Many of the things globalists have promised turned out not to be true so people go to the population size they feel they can trust.

Can't trust the U.N. after the Oil-for-Food frauds and the Rwandan genocides? Let's try nation-state.

Can't trust nation-states because one part of the populace cheats or shows themselves to be hypocrites? 
(And it is this very point, Orwell's “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” where globalists lose the masses)

Let's try states.

And then city-states and if you can't trust your fellow metropolitans we'll go with blood relations, first tribes and if there are schisms there, to immediate family. Consanguinity and all that.

Tribalism isn't a "mal" anything, it's a survival mechanism for when you really, really have to increase the odds that you will be able to trust another person.....