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Political Intolerance, False News, and the Modern World


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#1 kirant

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 09:57 PM

This is going to be a heck of a lot more rant-y than I'd like.

 

Anyways, this has been something slowly simmering for the last...year or so.  There's this growing idea of "false news".  News that not really news.  That the narrative now gets absorbed so quickly and people move on so fast that whoever has the catchiest headline will ultimately shape the world going forth as oppose to the truth determining the response. 

 

This strikes me as ridiculous.  It's crazy that the idea that we can write up stories such as "Trump likes to watch golden showers" or "Clinton attacks Yoko Ono" without actually holding any level of truth and can have a serious amount of effect on the world.  Well, without confirmation in the case of the former.  Many have gone on to say that such headlines tended to shape the USA 2016 election more than the actual policies themselves.

 

And to that level, I wonder what has changed to cause this shift.  This wasn't a big thing 10 years ago.  Or even 5.  Yes, we have had those stupid supermarket tabloids.  You know, the ones which had the sensationalist headlines like "House of horrors!".  But it didn't permeate into all aspects of news.  Even during the attack in Boston, the story was way more coherent and consistent.  We could generally get a good idea of what was going on.  Outside the reddit shitstorm that was them identifying the wrong person and almost ruining a man's life.

 

Now the question I have to ask is "why is this changing?".  What in the last few years has changed to cause this shift?

 

And to me, the big change has been how we get our news.  Twitter and Facebook have been things since I graduated high school but it's been mostly a talking platform for ages  It hasn't been until the last 1-3 years that such social media platforms have become real platforms for learning news.  And only the last 1-2 that news stations have picked up on the notion and have tailored their news for such rapid exposure.  I mean, we can hear something real quick on Facebook or Twitter and not hear about it ever again.  It reflects this flash in a pan that seems to follow the eye-catching headline culture we see these days. 

 

Again, it's nothing new.  I was playing through Persona 4 again because, hey, my Vita collection is very small.  This quote stood out to me:

People get excited fast and lose interest even faster… It goes 'round and 'round.

 

The symptoms are also quite clear in the news stations.  They now scramble on top of one another to get split seconds ahead of each other for news.  New?  No.  Media has been fighting since the advent of TV to be the first to break a story.  But taken to 11 for sure.

 

I guess where I'm going with this part is this question: do you think it's our growing dependence on social media is creating this sensationalist news culture where the truth is growing more and more outmoded for a flashy headline?

 

Why I bring this up now is because of the recent terrorist attack in Quebec City.  It hits pretty much all the above.very well.  For the basics of the story, the initial reports were that two men entered a Quebec City mosque and opened fire on those inside during the evening prayer.  Two people were arrested.

 

The instant reaction from both sides (if you use USA political models as your base) started going at each other.  One side blaming Muslim divisions being the source of terrorism while the other wanted to classify it as right wing terrorism right away.

 

Within an hour or two, an obviously fake Twitter account (and I mean obviously fake.  Its description uses the term "not real news") pretends to leak names of two shooters.  They get published in a real news journal article.  A 4chan group does the same but creates fake Syrian names.  This gets picked up by some heavily conservative groups and they use it as ammunition back.

 

Come this morning, the actual news organizations release the name of the two individuals taken into custody.  One is obviously Quebecois and the other an immigrant from Morocco.  Everyone blows up again.  All for confirmation of their side. The groups who thought it was a Muslim attacker point to the Moroccan and say that it's obviously his fault while the other group does Google work and finds out the guy "liked" Trump on Facebook so they validate their hatred of Trump and his policies.

 

Now hours after that, the police investigation release the Moroccan (it now being known that he was treated as a witness) and claim their only suspect is the other man, Alexandre Bissonette.  Now the floodgates open for those who thought this was a case of "right wing terror". 

 

This is probably the final straw for me on the matter and why I decided to formalize my thoughts above.  It really kills me that people aren't able to take a few steps back and calmly access the situation.  As much as we all like the newest and shiniest headline, taking time to consider things and wait is sometimes the solution.  Especially when it comes to matters as critical as police investigation.


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#2 Blue Leafeon

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Posted 01 February 2017 - 11:40 AM

I think one major problem is that America has an amendment saying that the press should have free speech or whatever.

 

News Stations have been becoming more and more corrupt for several decades now; it's just only jumped the line in being misinformative (for lack of a better word) more recently. They've always had this dumb habit of finding something potentially controversial and latching onto it for weeks. The more controversial it is, the better, because that brings in more views. A major example of this is when Michael Jackson died. We didn't hear about anything else for MONTHS. Meanwhile, other stars died too, and weren't even given a second of screen time. (In fact, I don't even know who they were due to this. I just know some really famous people died.) The major reason for this was that Michael Jackson was potentially murdered by his doctor. Oooh controversy! That sells well!


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#3 kirant

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Posted 01 February 2017 - 08:47 PM

I think one major problem is that America has an amendment saying that the press should have free speech or whatever.

 

News Stations have been becoming more and more corrupt for several decades now; it's just only jumped the line in being misinformative (for lack of a better word) more recently. They've always had this dumb habit of finding something potentially controversial and latching onto it for weeks. The more controversial it is, the better, because that brings in more views. A major example of this is when Michael Jackson died. We didn't hear about anything else for MONTHS. Meanwhile, other stars died too, and weren't even given a second of screen time. (In fact, I don't even know who they were due to this. I just know some really famous people died.) The major reason for this was that Michael Jackson was potentially murdered by his doctor. Oooh controversy! That sells well!

These two points don't really match up.

 

Freedom of the press is basically a safeguard against political muzzling of the press. That is, the government cannot tell the press to not report.  For those in the USA, this is wrapped in the First Amendment.  You cannot be told by the government that you cannot say certain things unless it is a direct harm to society or intended to stir fear (ex - yelling "Fire" the a crowded theatre).

 

Your second point is more about the attention and focus of media, something that has nothing to do with the government's inability to restrict what you say.

 

As to the second point, this is ultimately a consequence of a private market. Private organizations seek to maximize profits and therefore report what the highest number of people want to hear about.  If it's Michael Jackson, we'll give them Michael Jackson.  There's ultimately a market for this controversial stuff and the media knows it well.  And people like doom and gloom...the old saying being that "if it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead".  These two bring in readers/viewers. 

 

Public services exist.  CBC in Canada is an example of a publicly funded news station...well, media corporation with a massive news side.  It reasonably competes with other news organizations included private ones. 


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