A long, in-depth look (three reports plus an executive summary!) at how extremists hijacked the media into promoting their views, circa 2016-1018.
From the very beginning, Ailes signaled that Fox News would offer an alternative voice, splitting with the conventions of television journalism. Take the word balanced. It sounded harmless enough. But how does one balance facts? A reporting-driven news organization might promise to be accurate, or honest, or comprehensive, or to report stories for an underserved community. But Ailes wasn’t building a reporting-driven news organization. The promise to be “balanced” was a coded pledge to offer alternative explanations, putting commentary ahead of reporting; it was an attack on the integrity of the rest of the media. Fox intended to build its brand the same way Ailes had built the brands of political candidates: by making the public hate the other choice more.
Chuck Todd on faux news.
It’s probably not exactly (a har) news to many people by now that Fox News was intentionally set up as a right-wing propaganda arm. But it’s something that’s worth repeating all the same…
The latest research on how fake news spreads on social media. Tl;dr, it’s pretty grim, although I think maybe the take-home is for all of us to start focusing more on “good reblog hygiene”, i.e. thinking before we reflexively reblog things that tug at our emotions, particularly emotions like vindication or outrage.
Also, personal quibble: journalists need to stop calling psyops units that intentionally spread disinformation propaganda “bots”. A bot is, like, all those _ebooks Markov chain accounts, or that electric eel’s account. A bot is not a dude who’s paid by a government agency (and/or shell company) to pose as a foreign citizen for the intent of infiltrating and undermining a political movement. That distinction matters.
I’ve spent 25 years as a journalist and have repeatedly seen the discomfort that journalists feel about proclaiming one political party to be more successful than the other on virtually any substantive issue. We journalists are much more comfortable holding up the imperfections of each and casting ourselves as the sophisticated skeptic.
Sometimes, though, one party really is doing a better job than the other. To refuse to admit it is to miss the story.
David Leonhardt on false neutrality.
And this is why we are now going through a phase of hysterical reaction to the “fake news”: because it is the first time that non-Western media are not only creating their own global narratives but are also trying to create narratives of America.
For people from small countries (like myself) this is just something totally normal: we are used to foreigners not only appointing our ministers but being present throughout the media space, and even influencing, often because the quality of their news and scholarship is better, the narrative about country’s own history or politics. But for many people in the US and the UK this comes as a total shock: how dare foreigners tell them what is the narrative of their own countries?
Branko Milanovic on narrative monopoly.
As an industry, the media specializes in the worldwide production of audiences. The artifacts of this industry have become our common culture, and this is why we worry about the effects of the media. Journalism is something different. It is a social practice essential to a democracy— and democracy is more than mere openness. What journalism produces is not an audience, but a public, and we should worry when journalism fails to have this effect on us.
What’s confusing is that both the media and journalism have an interest in news. But the media sees news as low-cost material— a cheap way to engage us in the moment. The purpose of journalism is to engage us, not in the moment, but in the present— especially the political present. Journalism falters when it loses its authority over the present, it’s ability to engage us in the public world as it presently stands.
Jay Rosen on journalism vs. the media.
This is the text of a lecture Rosen gave in 1993, of all things (the internet didn’t even exist in ’93!), but it remains startlingly and terrifyingly relevant.
Why Modern Journalism Is Terrible, Amazon-Recommended-Terrorism Edition.
My favorite quote:
The ‘common chemical compound’ in Channel 4’s report is potassium nitrate, an ingredient used in curing meat. If you go to Amazon’s page to order a half-kilo bag of the stuff, you’ll see the suggested items include sulfur and charcoal, the other two ingredients of gunpowder. (Unlike Channel 4, I am comfortable revealing the secrets of this 1000-year-old technology.)
If triple j wants to cover Charlottesville with a truly non-partisan approach, it could simply report on the facts: white nationalists armed themselves and rioted at UVA. Several counter-protestors who attempted to stem the flow of hate, and protect at-risk people of colour, were injured. A peacefully protesting woman was run down by a self-identified white supremacist. He has now been charged with murder. The rioters were armed with torches, guns and some wore swastikas. Some of them self-identified as Nazis.
This is the non-partisan approach to covering this news — not asking a white nationalist how he feels about being a white nationalist on the national broadcaster.
Matilda Dixon-Smith on shitty opinions.
Topically dated by the time this gets off the posting queue, but I still like this pull-quote nonetheless.
I think the “facts are the non-partisan approach” thing gets lost–intentionally lost–in a lot of “bothsiderist” journalism nowadays. “Balanced” news reporting is reporting objective facts; it is not regurgitating other people’s shitty opinions, simply because people have those opinions, and it’s certainly not allowing people with shitty opinions airtime to promote their shitty opinions.
I know it’s wild that a bunch of people just died and we’re all in our feelings, but let us never forget several essential items: 1. White men are the most common culprits of domestic terrorism in this country. Full stop. 2. People who murder in this way chose to murder in this way. This “incident” did not happen to them. They happened to other people. 3. People who choose to end their lives as a tool of mass violence do not get to have a public eulogy in which they are memorialized fondly for whatever the fuck they did before they decided to aim indiscriminately into the crowd.
Kim Selling is having none of your eulogizing.