Polarization & New Media

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Kentonio, Mar 19, 2018.

  1. Mar 19, 2018
    #1

    Kentonio Full Member

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    If I remember your age correctly, you’re not old enough to make a sweeping statement like that. Do you even remember the pre-internet era?

    Yes people have always bought newspapers that conform to their pre-existing political views, and people naturally socialize with likeminded people. The difference is that with the mass explosion in cable TV offering vastly more choice for partisan news sources, and more importantly the new social media phenomena where people are seeing a constant barrage of extremely partisan propaganda, they don’t have a reasonably unbiased arbitrator of what is real or not. In the past people might read the Guardian or the Sun but they were almost without fail also seeing one of the mainstream TV news shows like the BBC which provided a stabilizing influence. Now we see people denying the reality of those sources in a way we just didn’t see before. ‘Fake News’ wasn’t a Trump invention, it has been a slow and steady delusion that the internet has played its part in spreading. Now we’re seeing the previously neutral internet trusted fact sources like Snopes come under heavy attack too, largely based on social media attack campaigns intended to undermine their reputations to allow the flow of disinformation to spread even more freely. We’re literally living in a time where a majority of people can believe things that would once have been the preserve of extremist whackjob conspiracy theorists, and that is massively the fault of social media (reinforced by cable TV).
  2. Mar 19, 2018
    #2

    oneniltothearsenal Caf's Milton Friedman (and Arse aficionado) Scout

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    JFK assassination seems like an odd example to draw any sort of general conclusions because of its unique nature:

    "It’s hard to believe now, but the Warren Commission initially received a warm reception and the public seemed willing to accept its conclusions. Before the release of the report a Gallup poll found that only 29 percent of Americans thought Oswald acted alone, while 52 percent believed in some kind of conspiracy. A few months after the release of the report, 87 percent of respondents believed Oswald shot the President.

    "Over the next few years however, critics turned public opinion against the report. In 1966, Mark Lane published his bestseller Rush to Judgment. Later that year, a New Orleans district attorney, Jim Garrison, launched a highly publicized, but deeply flawed, investigation of his own which purported to reveal a vast conspiracy. At the same time, Life Magazine published color reproductions of the Zapruder film, a graphic home movie of the shooting by a local dressmaker, under the cover: “Did Oswald Act Alone? A Matter of Reasonable Doubt.” The editors questioned the Commission’s conclusions and called for a new investigation.

    "By the early 1970s, many Americans were skeptical of the commission and its conclusions. The most serious threat to the Commission’s credibility, however, came not from the army of investigative reporters and self-styled assassination experts, but from a new government investigation. In December 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, after two years of work, concluded that although Oswald was the assassin, there was a conspiracy involving a second gunman.

    "Before the 1970s most conspiracy theories focused on the Russians or possibly the Cubans. By the 1980s, polls showed that large majorities of Americans now believed their own government was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. A Newsweek poll taken on the 20th anniversary of the assassination showed that 74 percent of Americans believed that “others were involved,” while only 11 percent thought Oswald acted alone."

    https://www.history.com/news/why-the-public-stopped-believing-the-government-about-jfks-murder
  3. Mar 19, 2018
    #3

    Brwned Have you ever been in love before?

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    The quotes above more or less alluded to my point:

    It's not a comment on the validity of the claims either way, but it is acknowledged to be a conspiracy theory - and at multiple points a very popular one. It is a special case, certainly, but I don't think it's a unique one - the comments about conspiracy theories on the Russians or Cubans allude to that as well. Conspiracy theories on a wide scale are not a new thing. The particularly niche conspiracy theories now get thrown at us through a much larger loudspeaker so we're more aware of them. That's not to say that there hasn't been a growth in the phenomenon but it's a much more complicated matter than Kentonio was portraying it. Or perhaps I misunderstood.

    On a broader level I think you can find a lot of striking material in here from newsreels back in the day illustrating a lot of things that are now being suggested as new phenomenons. Fake news and the politicisation of that is not a new phenomenon. There is a lot more of it because there is a lot more of everything. That doesn't mean new media hasn't played a role - that particular organisation has been set up in reaction to some of the worst parts of the news media, which are unquestionably accelerated by digital media. However the narrative we're being told over and over again is greatly exaggerated. The idea that social media has created social bubbles is absolutely absurd. It has facilitated the maintenance and protection of them in a way that typically involves a lot less violence than the tools used previously. We just live in a tech-obsessed point in time and see society through that lens. Y2K 2.0.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018
  4. Mar 19, 2018
    #4

    Grinner Fat gutted, hairy shouldered, stinky Arse. Staff

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    Well what you might not know is that in the 1970's there was a major shift in trust in the institutions of power. Obviously you know about Watergate and how that led to Americans hearing their POTUS use racial slurs and salty language not to mention the illegality that he and his henchmen were engaged in. It was eye-opening stuff and it was broadcast live daily to millions of Americans. It gripped the nation for a year.

    Then the fallout from that led to the Church Committee which revealed the massive scale of illegal surveillance and criminal activities of the FBI and the CIA. We all know about it now but the stuff that came out then was astounding. Americans were stunned by the oil shock too, which illustrated a loss of control over day-today life. OPEC was effectively deciding how much you could drive on a daily basis and how much your fruit and veg was going to cost. It was a traumatic time and explains why a homey plain spoken peanut farmer from Georgia got elected out of nowhere. Yanks needed to be comforted and have a stable, trustworthy hand on the wheel. All those movies from the 70's about big government fecking people over...it was a huge cultural shift based on what was actually happening. Things have just gotten worse since then. The media were reporting the truth back then, it wasn't fake news. It was jaw-dropping news, but all true. Cronkite telling you that the attorney General was considering a plan to kidnap US citizens, drug them and blackmail them, Nixon signed off on firebombing domestic targets, using the IRS to pressure journalists, FBI agents writing to MLK and telling him to commit suicide or they would release tapes of his illicit sexual adventures. Assassinations of foreign leaders sanctioned by the White House...really dirty stuff.

    To be honest, there was far more turmoil and internal strife back then than there is now. Domestic terrorism, race riots, police brutality, political hanky-panky (ratfecking as Nixon's crew called it), huge civilian protests all over the nation. We're nowhere near that level currently.

    I guess you can say is it crazy to think they are all out to get you if they really are? That's how many thought after all this came out back then.
  5. Mar 20, 2018
    #5

    Brwned Have you ever been in love before?

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    Didn't know half of that! Very interesting. To be honest I think anyone who spends just a little bit of time looking into what the CIA have done in their 70-year history can find a whole lot of reason to think they're out to get you!

    I still disagree with the media angle, unless we're using loose definitions of the truth and very specific definitions of fake. It exists on a spectrum doesn't it?

    On one end of the spectrum you have irresponsible reporting leading to widespread panic:"1,400 children have been ritualistically abused", "By the year 2005, we may well have a bloodbath of teenage violence" or "It's very difficult for me to see things [on earth] holding together for more than a decade or so". Further along the spectrum is something like the reporting of the "German Corpse Factory", which if we're being generous to the British newspapers of the time, was an example of overly receptive press to convenient propaganda, going back around 100 years ago. And then at the very end of the spectrum, at around the same time, there's things like the fake picture of Cubans' strip-searching American women to help justify a war in the New York Morning Journal. Or the New York Sun's 6-part series on a bunch of bizarre moon creatures, going back almost 100 years more.

    The media landscape has undoubtedly changed but I don't think it has been reinvented, personally. The content has always been out there but there are different channels, different audiences and different levels of exposure now. I don't think people are trying to whitewash the past issues, I just think people are exaggerating the present issues. The fact that things are much more fragmented means that an individual piece of fake news is less potent than it was then, which is a counterbalance to there being much more of it. Almost real-time fact checking means stories about moon creatures are quickly laughed off too, for the most part. The decentralised model also reduces a kind of bias - old white men in America in the 60s and 70s reporting on things from the civil rights movement to the Vietnam war led to a certain slant on reporting which had very real effects on public perceptions and government action. The issues with new media are there but I don't think they're placed in context.

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    Last edited: Mar 20, 2018
  6. Mar 20, 2018
    #6

    oneniltothearsenal Caf's Milton Friedman (and Arse aficionado) Scout

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    I feel like there is an important angle that you are missing here. Fake news is old, probably older even than official 'news'. In the US there was famous "yellow journalism" in the 1890s between the competing newspapers of William Randolf Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. Its not that fake news is a new thing, its that modern medium's penetration and saturation is at a completely different level with the evolution of internet and 24/7 online connectivity.

    In the 1970s, you had evening news programs on TV and you had a daily newspaper. These were the only windows each day where new information would be available to the masses. Most informed people would read the morning newspaper then carry on their day. It was impossible to live completely inside an echo chamber of information. In media studies, they call this the watercooler effect of media. When you gather with co-workers, neighbors, family, friends, there is a common exposure to events and perspectives that people can talk about. People might be conservative or liberal but with television news and newspapers, there is a common gathering point for information.

    This is the major thing that academics have shown is radically different today in the modern social media 24/7 online culture. In 1975 you and your co-worker might have completely different views but the events individuals are exposed had much more relatively in common than today. In the 1970s you would have had to physically remove yourself from normal society to truly live in an informational bubble. Today it is far easier.
  7. Mar 20, 2018
    #7

    Grinner Fat gutted, hairy shouldered, stinky Arse. Staff

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    Right, you could at least trust the basic facts back then. These days you don't have that. News divisions needing to be profitable, large mergers leading to media conglomerates under a particular editorial bias, the decline of print media (most hometown newspapers are dead or in terminal decline), the rise of infotainment, reduced attention spans and the fact that people really are getting stupider. I don't see us coming back from it quite frankly.

    I get far more information from the CE Forum than I get anywhere else. This place should be cherished because we get an incredibly diverse array of posters informing us on events and issues all over the globe. Sadly most people are getting theirs from Facebook and the Daily Mail. Truth is getting lost in noise.
  8. Mar 20, 2018
    #8

    Brwned Have you ever been in love before?

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    The points about yellow journalism and media penetration echoes what I said in the post you've just quoted, so I haven't missed anything. I'm just framing it differently. However what you're saying and what I was discussing are not the same thing. I agree with you it's easier to live in an information bubble. I said the same thing in an earlier post in this very thread: new media has facilitated that.

    If someone is saying that new media has created more media bubbles then that doesn't even seem worth pointing out. If someone is saying that new media has created this phenomenon of societal bubbles, or intensified the worst aspects of it, then I'd argue they're ironically just buying into the media hype. Societal bubbles existed in all shapes and forms throughout the history of media and before, and the form they're taking now is in lots of ways much less dangerous to society.
  9. Mar 20, 2018
    #9

    Javi Full Member

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    Maybe someone with more time than me can figure out what this actually means @Brwned @oneniltothearsenal :
    _____________________________________

    https://www.brown.edu/Research/Shapiro/pdfs/age-polars.pdf

    Is the internet causing political polarization? Evidence from demographics Levi Boxell, Stanford University∗ Matthew Gentzkow, Stanford University and NBER Jesse M. Shapiro, Brown University and NBER March 2017

    ______________________________________

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1428656

    The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media. Elizabeth Dubois & Grant Blank

    ______________________________________

    They don't directly challenge your points since it's all relative anyway ('how big is the echo chamber effect') but they do seem to suggest that it's not new media/the internet that is the primary reason for polarization. What is it then?
  10. Mar 20, 2018
    #10

    Kentonio Full Member

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    Seems unlikely given that I've closely followed US politics and media for the best part of 25 years. Who knows though.

    I think you're still not quite understanding the major differences. @oneniltothearsenal had a good post above about it. Pre-internet you simply didn't have any way to constantly reinforce your biases in the way you do today.

    Let's say you saw a newspaper article about something, and that article was slanted towards a particular viewpoint. You got worked up about it. You mention it to various people throughout the day, most of who don't know what you're talking about, or if they do then very likely don't care. You watch the evening news, and there's a more moderate version of the story. Let's say you're still angry about it, so you go down the pub and rant to your friends. They probably don't care either. You get drunk and go home. No-one understands you. You feel sad.

    Now lets look at today. You wake up and read a provocative news article on the internet. You feel angry so you go on several more news sites that conform to your existing world view. They confirm how utterly wrong and terrible things are. You share this news on Facebook and Twitter where your like-minded friends are equally enraged. You visit your favourite forum/discussion board where people share other similar linked stories that show you just how right you were to be enraged, and give you some new things to be enraged about. Someone tries to disagree with you. They are clearly evil partisan scum and you spend an hour explaining how utterly evil and fecked their worldview is. You don't go to the pub because its now 3am. You feel strong and intelligent. Everyone that matters agrees with you. You feel vindicated.
  11. Mar 20, 2018
    #11

    Brwned Have you ever been in love before?

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    I don't know if you're being deliberately nitpicky or not but hey-ho. The way the UK media and US media operate is different - there isn't really an equivalent to the BBC - but fundamentally they function in the same way. In most parts of the world they don't and haven't functioned that way. They are not and were not the bastion of truth, a pillar of society, etc. If you step away from thinking about how you consume the media, and think about the world historically has, it challenges some of the assumptions about the consequences of this supposed fundamental change.

    What was it you were saying about anecdotal evidence? The research posted above by Javi suggests that not many people do follow news the way you're proposing. There's a small and segment of the population that are being represented as either the current reality or the future. There's not a lot of evidence for that. Similarly, the way you're proposing people interacted in the past is based on the fundamental assumption that mass media was a critical part of everyone's lives, and shaped how they viewed and interacted with the world. That might have been the case for your social circles - your bubble - but there are millions upon millions of people that simply didn't apply to. Lots of people lived in their own bubble, talking about the same thing week after week with friends and family, echoing each others' views, rejecting the mainstream narratives and getting angry about it. Entire villages have functioned that way across the world. That's for those of them who even had access to popular media at that time.

    Quantifying how many were part of the mainstream, part of that shared consciousness, is a very complicated thing which, as far as I can tell, no-one has been able to do yet. That fundamental assumption never gets challenged and so this echo chamber of the news media being the source of society's ills pervades. Until the next thing comes along and everyone forgets that was even thought to be yet another pillar of society being destroyed.
  12. Mar 20, 2018
    #12

    Kentonio Full Member

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    You might want to do a little research into the Fairness Doctrine which was eliminated under Reagan in 1987. America and the UK are different in many, many ways, but there are certainly commonalities. If anything though the differences make the case for the intensive effects of the internet even more pressing.

    What you're missing however, is that back in those days there was much less shared consciousness about national or international issues. While a village might indeed all live within a shared bubble on lots of issues, those issues were generally quite locally focused. People cared about the things that were directly affecting their daily lives, and that generally extended to national issues in cases where those issues could also affect people locally. When national issues were discussed there was more much trust placed in quite stable national media who themselves felt a responsibility to report honestly (even though they didn't always succeed or live up to those lofty expectations).

    The huge outpouring of information (both real and fake) from the internet has changed that dynamic substantially. It may start with a local issue (say someone is worried about immigration after they start seeing foreigners arrive in their local area to work), but the social media bubbles now extend far beyond that immediate issue into a whole international narrative. That person who was worried about hearing foreign languages in their supermarket is now buying into a whole theory about the inherent evils of globalism, criminal immigrant gangs roaming the streets murdering and raping, and buying into theories about how the other political parties are facillitating the demographic takeover of the country by foreigners just so they can win elections. Things that are frankly fecking crazy and would have had you laughed out of the room a couple of decades back, are now being treated as fairly mainstream acceptable opinions that can be debated without ridicule. Hell, the President of the United States shares half of them on his fecking Twitter feed.


    This is not a wailing and gnashing of teeth thing about the oh so terrible internet ruining todays youth (like novels/radio/tv/pop music/video games etc before it). The internet has however had an impact on society that is so vast and unprecedented that it's fundamentally changing the very fabric of society and human understanding, comprehension and communication. The last thing to have anything like this kind of effect was probably the printing press, and even then the effects didn't hit everyday life with anything like the speed or impact that the internet has had. I really wouldn't be so quick to wave away the effects its having.
  13. Mar 20, 2018
    #13

    devilish Juventus fan who used to support United

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    Anyone watching Hitler's and Mussolini's speeches to the masses now would struggle not to laugh. It feels so fake and exxagerated. Mussolini used to mirror his poses from a famous Cinema character of his time known as Maciste. Maciste the Italian version of Hercules. You can imagine how ridiculous that must have looked. I mean can you imagine Theresa May or Donald Trump copying poses from Wonder Women or Superman?

    Yet.....in their time they were brutally effective. People were so gullible those days weren't they? Well....not exactly. I was raised in the golden age of TV advertisement. God knows how much I salivated at new toys advertised on the Italian media. These days, tv adertisement is dying out. Fewer and fewer people are buying stuff because of them. If few words We got sanitised.

    Social media is the thing. However it won't last for long. Soon enough people will get used to their BS and act accordingly. This thing is already happening. Its not unusual to see people posting articles from some third rated website only to end up being laughed at.
  14. Mar 20, 2018
    #14

    Il Prete Rosso Prete, the Italian Pete

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    Please be reminded that the internet was not built with security in mind. As someone who's into cyber security you have to understand that all the security layers were placed on top of the protocols we use to communicate via the web/internet. It's up to the hacker to figure out whether they get the data during transmission or when it's at rest and as humans, we all should know which of those two is easier. How does this relate to Facebook, well..you can go into the settings on the website or the app and secure your account all you want. If Facebook has lax security protocols and procedures around people's data then it's all for nought to be honest. And it's all a numbers game to be honest....If I have close to 1 billion users' data, we can spend less money and "allow" 50 million users to be exploited. (.05%).

    I am 100% sure that they employ a tier system securing users' data; hence, people like me and you they don't really care if we get exploited or not. Who actually cares if someone in Russia sees a picture of your dog?
  15. Mar 20, 2018
    #15

    Brwned Have you ever been in love before?

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    Did you even read what I said? The point was if you step outside the UK and the US and think about other countries, it presents a very different historical perspective on the media landscape. Which can lead you to question the wider implications being hypothesised (and often presented as fact).

    At this point it just seems like you're loudly making the same point, without really having any interest in a discussion. Do you have any evidence that this exists on a wide scale? Do you have any thoughts on the papers that @Javi presented, which directly address some of your points?
  16. Mar 20, 2018
    #16

    Pogue Mahone Poster of the year 2008

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    Just skimmed this thread and looks like an important point being missed is that “new media” is interactive, whereas old media was not. Anyone who spends time on the caf can see how differing opinions get more polarised and entrenched when you’re constantly defending them online. The nature of online vs real life debate means it gets snarky much more quickly and it’s much easier to see yourself as either “us” or “them”, waging the war of the righteous.

    I mean, I basically dislike Mourinho intensely. I’ve always disliked him. As a person and on the basis of the anti-football he gets his teams to play. Thanks to a combination of my fear of a managerial merry-go-round, dislike of football fans being impatient and the polarising effect of online arguments I have found myself defending a manager I despise way more than I would without the existence of this place. I reckon a lot of caftards can relate to this. Well it’s exactly the same with politics. Message boards and twitter beefs railroad people towards having more extreme and fixed views.
  17. Mar 20, 2018
    #17

    oneniltothearsenal Caf's Milton Friedman (and Arse aficionado) Scout

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    Those comments sound contradictory. If you accept new media makes can facilitate living in a bubble easier does it not then follow that new media can intensify the worst aspects of it?


    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. The second link doesn't work for me so I'll briefly just comment on the first.
    I think these studies are good but they are limited in meaningfulness. The Brown study uses a self-reporting survey method. That's generally considered the weakest type of research that can be conducted and any self-reported survey needs to come with some heavy caveats.

    For instance their method is very similar to political polling. This has inherent problems that we saw in Brexit and US Election polling - both polling greatly underestimated the silent voting block that swung the elections whereas people that conducted focus groups like Michael Moore and Frank Luntz believed Trump had a far greater chance of winning than the pollsters because the focus groups revealed some of the hidden attitudes that polling doesn't reveal. To show this more, there was/is a documentary on Netflix (I forget the name) on white nationalists and when you watch it and see how most of them live, its easy to see how they not represented in the polling. They simply fly under the radar of the polling methods.

    I would argue that a self-reported survey method is not well equipped to even capture a representative selection of the people most likely to live in echo chambers. Then there is the psychological effect that people will moderate their views to a pollster, even anonymous polls - hence why self-reported surveys should be taken with a lot of skepticism.

    There are other, multiple studies coming out from neuroscience related fields that are starting to show the proven effects heavy internet use has on how our brain operates. I'd say over the next 50-60 years we are going to learn a lot more about how our brains actually process information and I predict the "conventional view" is going to go through a number of adjustments and corrections as new studies reveal new information.

    I should say though I am not arguing the echo chamber effect is solely caused by the internet, its much more nuanced than that. There was a great book written in 2007 before social media really became so prevalent called The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America which offers the best study on polarization in the US even though its 11 years old imo. The current trends were starting before social media and some would argue with the Southern Strategy and the continued rise to power of amoral operators like Roger Stone. But I think its clear new media can accelerate these problems if left unchecked.

    Hyperpartisanship and polarization is clearly much more complex and nuanced than simply "internet is causing polarization" and I hope none of my posts are taken in such a manner. But there are clearly aspects that should be discussed as we move forward as a civilization that most people probably haven't thought about.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2018
  18. Mar 20, 2018
    #18

    Grinner Fat gutted, hairy shouldered, stinky Arse. Staff

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    Too much of anything is a bad thing. I guess it applies to information too.
  19. Mar 21, 2018
    #19

    Kentonio Full Member

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    Did you even read what you wrote?

    "I don't know if you're being deliberately nitpicky or not but hey-ho. The way the UK media and US media operate is different - there isn't really an equivalent to the BBC - but fundamentally they function in the same way."

    You said this, before moving on to some random comment about the media in the rest of the world. The above is wrong, the UK and US media do not fundamentally function in the same way, and haven't since the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine.

    To be honest I'm not really interested in expanding out to the rest of the world, because I don't have any real knowledge about how media operates in most countries. Given that we appear to be seeing increased political polarization across a huge number of countries at present though, I'm not sure how them having longstanding trust issues with media would help your case however.
  20. Mar 21, 2018
    #20

    Kentonio Full Member

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    I think probably the most dangerous thing it's causing is making people think that because they read a small bit of information on a subject online, they are qualified to disagree with experts who've spent their entire careers studying something.