Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Worst of Us

Brietbart declares that "fake hate crimes" sweep social media. According to Gizmodo, Facebook's fight against fake news was undercut by fear of conservative backlash. Right now we can't decide what world we live in--what the underlying reality is--and are forced to go with what "feels right."

Unfortunately, due to confirmation bias, what "feels right" is what we already believe.

What we wind up fixing on is the small amount of material that can be validated on either side of the aisle--the most blatant. The most obvious excesses--in short, The Worst of Us.

The FBI says Hate Crimes rose from 154 in 2014 to 257 in 2015? Doesn't matter--since Brietbart has found a case of fabrication. Think that Trump protesters are righteous? More than half of the protesters arrested in Portland didn't even vote. Small chucks of believed news cycle around like random particles in our media environment, fitting like oddly shaped bricks into the specially created holes in the walls of information around our minds.

What gets through is a caricature of the other side helped out greatly by social media encounters with people who, whether due to some kind of malignant emergent structure of a sorting mechanism or due to the inherent anonymity and distance in the medium will exhibit the obvious stereotypes of the other side.

In this environment we can rarely get our heads above water long enough to guess at what the real spread of intent is. What are those people thinking? Did Hillary voters vote for her because of Social Justice and her gender? Did Trump voters vote for Trump out of a latent agreement with the overt racism of his Nazi supporters?

We know from exit polling that:

  1. Trump won 10% of Obama supporters. That's not a lot--but it's not nothing either.
  2. White women swung to Trump in the end. For all his misogyny, he won with white women.
  3. Trump did better with black and Latino voters than Romney did. 
  4. Trump got a larger share of the Jewish vote than Bush or McCain.
This indicates that the Trump coalition is not entirely full of racist Klansmen. On the other hand, Hillary won the popular vote by an increasingly wide margin--close to a million votes by now. Trump has enjoyed support unparalleled in the modern era from out and proud white supremacist groups. 

Hillary was certainly accused of lots of things and definitely mishandled classified information. Trump has been accused of lots of things and is trying to get his kids a Top Secret security clearance as we speak (they'll be running his enterprise). The idea that there is a bright-line distinction here exists only in the minds of the partisan.

The Omnivore was fairly unimpressed, for example, with Hillary's email--but he understands from some Intel people he follows that the CIA and NSA weren't happy with the emails at all (and the CIA was more friendly to Clinton, the FBI was more friendly to Trump). So who knows?

The answer is that we don't. Unless we can agree on a central point of news and agree to act on it and do our best to believe it, we will move further and further apart as the financial incentives to create information bubbles grow ever stronger.

Of course there is a solution to this: most of the mainstream media is slightly left-biased but produces news with the least-false ratings from people who survey it. The problem is that it doesn't carry sufficient water for the Conservative narratives--which Fox does--but has partisan problems (note: The Omnivore is suggesting ABC, NBC, and CBS here--not MSNBC, FOX, or CNN).

Would people agree to a news source closer to zero (Yahoo News? WSJ--note: WSJ news vs. it's editorial page are two very, very different things).

Maybe it's worth a try.


  1. If the mainstream media are left leaning, they are the stupidest, last effective allies anyone ever had.

    The way I see it is that they lean left on social issues, but lean right on economics and foreign polity. They also endlessly repeat any so called scandals manufactured by the right, as front page news.

  2. Not to mention their obsessive need to have coverage that's balanced, even when they are balancing between a centrist and a fascist.

  3. I like the way Greg Palast put it in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps (2012): "In place of news, we get, ‘Karl Rove says the moon is made of cheese and stolen ballots and the ACLU says that it’s not totally accurate’. This is what passes for a balanced report today, another sign of the stupidity virus that infects U.S. news reports."

    -- Ω