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"Information Ecosystems" and the political divide

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Evangelicalhumanist, Jan 15, 2021.

  1. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    It has occurred to me, more and more over quite a few years, that the way the people get information has a great deal to do with how we perceive and react to the political world we live in.

    When I was much younger, there were just a few television stations, a few more radio stations -- and everybody and the budgie read the newspaper -- usually a morning and afternoon edition. And often enough, more than one paper. Now that I'm older (alas), I've retained that habit, and though my political views are generally on what might be called the "libertarian/left" of the political spectrum, I'm not all that partisan. I've voted on the right, when I felt it was the right thing to do based on the needs of my society at the time. Or when I thought, like fish and guests, my party was due to be tossed out.

    When there were so relatively few sources of news, it could spoil a journalists reputation to badly misrepresent a story, to be dishonest and discard "inconvenient" facts. Editorials could, of course, take any stand they wanted and we all respected that. So we learned to read the news as factual, and the op-ed as take-it-or-leave-it, and we were pretty much all fine with that.

    Since the arrival of social media, I no longer think this is the case. There's very little actual "news" out there -- everything is present (and misrepresented) from the opinion-driven POV of whoever is presenting it.

    And people choose their favourite channels, and stick with them -- so they only ever see one side of the story. How can we expect to bridge that political divide when nobody even has access to the same "facts?" (By the way, that was the subject of another thread today: the notion that to get along, those who rely on "facts" must accept and believe "alternate facts," which seems to me to be a nonsense proposition.)

    Just interested in member's opinions and discussion on the topic -- I don't think it merits a heated debate.
     
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  2. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    The past 40 years have been so bizarre in historical terms. Each year, crazier than the last. Half, maybe more, of the people around me are moderate Republicans voting for Democrats these days and hoping for the day to come that they can find a sane Republican to vote for again. Me. I put it down -- a whole lot of it -- down to what you call "information ecosystems".
     
  3. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise
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    I feel like this is more of an American thing.
    Don’t get me wrong plenty of news channels are known to have a political bias. And you can definitely count on hyperbole to sell news.
    But if you’re watching the news, then it’s the news. If you want something sensational you watch a current affairs program. You want a political debate you watch a panel show. All of them fall under the label of “news” but everyone more or less knows how much political bent each will offer.

    I notice this because the journalistic standards in America is hella lax.
    A political pundit from the US goes onto a news circuit in another country, they are often quite shellshocked. Because there are often no softball questions. The journos have to (often by law) fact check regardless of their political opinions. So they are less likely to allow their guest to put on the show, as it were. Not saying it doesn’t happen outside the US because of course it does. But usually within the context of a program known for bias.

    Americans can get away with a lot more than some simply by hiding behind “entertainment” claims. They do this online as well.
    I used to regard a lot of online personalities as just giving info to me. That was a mistake on my part. But even when I thought that, the American pundits who claimed to be giving “news” didn’t even try to hide their rhetoric. And I took all their claims with a large dose of salt. Which I realise is odd, I just have different expectations of a news commentator than other types of commentators I guess
     
    #3 SomeRandom, Jan 15, 2021
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  4. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    We evolved in an information ecosystem where almost all information had value, whether socially or in terms of survival. Being 'addicted' to information was a good thing.

    We currently exist in an information ecosystem where most information has little to no value, and much is actively harmful. Being addicted to information is usually a terrible thing unless one takes great care to avoid low/negative value information (inc mass media).

    Many people think they can carefully cultivate and filter this low quality information via their powers of 'Reason', this is merely a conceit though.
     
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  5. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Thank you, SR, that was a very helpful, constructive post.

    You might already know this, but in 1982, Reagan repealed the "Fairness Doctrine", which had until then required all broadcast channels to present an opposing point of view immediately following any presentation of an opinion. The channels could broadcast facts without putting someone on the air to counter them, but they could not broadcast opinions without doing so. That is, there were broadly accepted standards for what made a fact a fact and an opinion an opinion.

    Something like two months after Reagan repealed the Fairness Doctrine, Rush Limbaugh launched a radio program that was unprecedented at the time. As you might expect, Limbaugh didn't bring people on his show to offer opposing views to his own. But what most people even today fail to fully appreciate is he was not at all bashful to present his own characterizations of those opposing views as straight up and indisputable fact.

    Thus, this was the message or spin of his broadcasts. "Unbelievable, folks! The Democrats think the stars are out at noon! Now, maybe you agree with me or maybe you don't, but I just don't think that's true."

    And it has more or less been that way ever since. Today, there are not many people on the right who could pass a fact-based test of how well they know the views, positions, and policies of people on the left. But if you tested them on, say, Sean Hannity's take on the left's views, positions, and policies, most of them would pass easily. Not that everyone listens to Hannity, but his views of the left are in general every other commentator's views. You've got to be pretty far down the rabbit hole to see many significant differences.

    Unfortunately, every day it seems the reverse is becoming increasingly true of people on the left. I doubt there are all that many on the left at this hour who could name more than two or three planks of Trump's 2016 platform, but we on the left all know now the only reason he rose to power was because he appealed to the base, the foolish, and the flawed in people.

    That, at least, is how I see it.

    We need laws requiring journalists to fact-check. For a start, we need at least that much.
     
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  6. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise
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    Yay me!! Look at me being all constructive like an adult.

    Oh, I had heard it mentioned quite frequently actually. But I didn’t really fully understand the e context

    You know, I’ve heard people talk about Rush Limbaugh my entire life. Never actually seen a pic of the guy. He was always mentioned with a sigh and an eyeroll though. Guess he never had an early meme like Bill O’Reiley :shrug:

    Yeah, that’s the sort of rhetoric I’m talking about. For some reason, maybe cultural, maybe because of my exposure online. But as soon as some figure claims to be some sort of news person or adjacent news figure, it’s like I’m ready to scrutinise their word choice a lot more. I dunno why. But yeah a lot of right wing pundits (and those who claim to be centrist or “classically liberal” but obviously are pushing right wing talking points) use very specific language. Sometimes it can be more subtle, but even then there is a slight sense of anger and fear to it. With American leftists this is also the case but more introspective, weirdly. And sometimes kind of moralising-esque. But not in a religious way, like someone telling you off for being rude.
    Although interestingly I’ve also noticed a sort of “dirtbag” left response to the rise of GamerGate and the edgy dude bros. Where leftists will act more aggressive and kind of douchey, but in a “leftist” sort of way. Does that make sense? I hope so.

    Yeah. I think a lot of that can be blamed on algorithms as well. Not all of it, mind. But today Google and social media in general take note of your searches and try to cater accordingly. This can have an unfortunate side effect of essentially creating echo chambers. Though I don’t think that’s necessarily the intention. There’s this thing called (I think) colloquially “the Alt right pipeline.” Which has been responded to by Leftists having their “BreadTube” equivalent? Response? Whatever.
    It’s interesting to still hear stories of “Ex chuds” being pulled out of the rabbit hole or stories of people’s friends falling into them hard.

    Honestly I’m not entirely convinced that many hardcore Trumpers can either. Some (not all) seem more happy that he’s “owning the libs.”

    Fair enough

    Yeah that would be helpful, I think
     
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  7. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    @SomeRandom. Rush Limbaugh did something for Republican politicians that they had been unable to do for themselves. He opened their eyes to the reality they had little or no need to improve the lives of their constituents in order to get reelected.

    I suspect some knew that already, but before Rush there were few who were so sure of it, that they just stopped doing things to make a difference in people's lives, confident there would be no political consequences. Following Rush, Republicans turned obstructionists on roads, bridges, and schools. On universal health care, raising minimum wages, and numerous other programs, most of which they had supported in the past.

    Instead, they learned from Rush (at first, then from so many others), the key thing to do was to toss their constituents social issues, such as opposition to abortion, gay marriage, firearm regulations, and efforts to expand or enforce civil rights for minorities (see the knee-jerk rejection of the entire BLM movement). The only thing needed beyond giving their constituents social issues was to endorse and amplify the messaging from Rush (and other's like him) that leftists were radicals out to take away liberties, destroy families, oppress Christianity, etc., and must be feared. Very feared.

    Most of us don't have long enough memories today to recall when the country got along just fine without that sort of thing.

    Curiously -- given the left's perception of itself -- almost the same strategy was quickly adopted by Democratic politicians. In a sense, the core difference between the politicians these days is that the Republicans will tell you why it would be wrong, very wrong, to give you something that might improve your life, while the politicians in the dominant liberal wing of the Democratic Party will tell you that they wish they could give you what you want, that you sure have a point to want it, but by golly, it just isn't practical to have it right now. Maybe later. We'll keep trying.

    The progressive wing of the Democratic Party might be actually trying to get people stuff like universal health care and a 15 dollar minimum wage, but they are decidedly marginalized and largely powerless at the moment. It's an open secret, for instance, that Pelosi hates them. You can find videos of her talking about progressives to reporters. 'Hate' is the right word here. She's got lots of company among the liberals.
     
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  8. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise
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    So is this why I’m constantly hearing from American Lefties that the Republicans constantly convince people to vote against their own self interest and stoke the fires of division?
    Also why do I seem to know more about the drama of American politics than that of my own country?
    Like yours is like a soap opera. Mine is.. well have you actually ever seen parliament? (Or the US equivalent.)
     
  9. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
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    I also remember that back in the day news was quite uniform.
    They had rules about integrity...honoring it, yes, but also to
    cover up things, eg, agreement to not report on presidential
    sexual dalliances. Would something like Wikileaks have
    been possible back then? Unlikely. TV & radio stations
    who misbehaved could have their licenses revoked.

    The downside to our diverse sources today is the echo
    chamber. But I'll take it over managed news. Ain't nuthin
    perfect. It's just personal preference.
     
  10. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    Darn it, Sunstone, you stole my post!

    There's also the fact that TV news programs used to be loss leaders, but as soon as producers were free of "government regulations," they cut back on their investigating and reporting budgets and redesigned the news as income generating entertainment programs.

    Then there are the "social media" algorithms, which analyze a user's viewing/listening habits and tailor content to keep him online as long as possible by feeding him content consistent with his biases, and nothing challenging them.
    I daresay most of the MAGA crowd honestly believe in the stolen election, voter fraud and a deep state conspiracy, as they're bombarded on all sides with these messages and have seen nothing to the contrary.
     
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  11. Wandering Monk

    Wandering Monk Well-Known Member

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    More sources of questionable information and underdeveloped critical thinking skills are also a really bad combination.
     
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  12. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
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    I wonder....would you prefer to return to government
    regulated news from days of yore? Is it even possible?
    Government has long since lost the hammer of licensing
    of primary sources such as radio & TV. (Newspapers
    were less vulnerable, but they did have the weakness
    of having a large investment in facilities.) Contrast this
    with internet sources, which are cheap & mobile.
     
  13. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    Maybe let 'em broadcast what they will, but mandate an independent fact-check be included?
     
  14. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
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    For all sources, eg, internet, print, radio, TV?
    I speculate that government regulation would be
    such that Wikileaks would be denied any access.
    We'd receive only news accurate per government
    standards, but remember that those standards
    would be promulgated by different administrations,
    eg, Trump, Nixon, Clinton.
    Would you trust Trump with such control?
     
  15. Rival

    Rival Veteran Member
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    Would you suggest, though, that one could to some degree control which kind of information to which one becomes addicted? For instance, there are those of us who may be said to be 'addicted' to religious information with little to no addiction to much else, or an active avoidance of other kinds of information, for better or worse, or simply see them as non-useful? In the same way we see many folks who proclaim the BBC is biased so they never watch it but then switch to ITV?
     
  16. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    I think you're spot on, except ...
    ... that it wasn't the arrival of social media. Social media may have intensified the trend but it started much earlier. @Sunstone mentioned the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine and the resulting "opinion news". That, together with more and more channels to choose from, was the starting point, imo.
     
  17. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    I daresay you have very valid points here. I watch essentially zero television anymore, and get my news just about eclusively from newspapers (I read several -- left and right, local and national).

    I am just one of those weird people who want to hear content that challenges my biases -- so long as it's presented fairly, which is probably why I've given up and electronic media. At least with my papers, I can easily make the choice to go back and forth to compare how each frames whatever news I'm currently reviewing.

    And this, as I've said in other threads, is my greatest fear for America right now -- and for some of Europe in the future. A little less so for Canada at the moment. I'm not quite sure why we seem to be a little less susceptible. That fear is that as long as the "big lie" (whatever it is today) cannot be shown to be exactly that, it seems just about impossible that any nation can heal the divisions that all those big lies cause.
     
  18. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    Or perhaps rather than mandating anything, just leave open the possibility of fines or other penalties for publishing or airing, under the guise of news, anything which can be shown to be false.
     
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  19. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    Good idea -- in theory, but you can see the potential for abuse. Read: Government censorship or management of the poitical narrative.
     
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  20. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    It's like food I suppose. You can fill yourself up on Snickers, coke and big macs or steaks and veg, one is healthy one is harmful. And if you don't like eating healthily, the more unhealthy food you avoid the better.

    Low quality information is basically anything that is frequently updated such as the daily news (although social media can be different if carefully curated).

    'Slow' information is the best filter, read a book that's been around for 20, 200 or 2000 years and its highly likely there is at least some merit in it.
     
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