Media Deception: Covid-19 Clickbait: Read the Whole Thing (Joe Rogan)

that have like their here’s a deceptive
01:53
one that i’ve read it was really fucked
01:55
up they were talking about this kid who
01:56
was I think he was 17 who died from
01:59
kovat and they said he was and they were
02:03
said he was healthy no under no other
02:05
health issues they said but then we read
02:09
the article deeper it turns out he had
02:10
diabetes he had
02:13
type one diabetes and he was 400 pounds
02:15
and it’s like wait a minute
02:17
the that’s not no issues these articles
02:21
are full of shit and they write those
02:23
articles just so that you click on them
02:24
because they get the the fucking ad
02:27
revenue from clicks and so they’re
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incentivized to trick you into being
02:31
scared they’re like oh my god a 17 year
02:33
old died what happened my 17 year old
02:35
can die
02:36
holy fuck and then you click on it and
02:38
if you don’t read you know six seven
02:40
paragraphs into the article you don’t
02:42
find out that this was a 400-pound
02:44
diabetic kid that you know that’s what
02:48
have died from the flu three months
02:49
earlier it would have been the same shit
02:51
yeah yeah you know so the numbers are
02:53
fudged so I don’t want to believe your
02:55
numbers don’t come to me with more scare
02:57
tactics about like the numbers are
02:58
spiking well you already said that 50%
03:00
of the positives are false positives
03:02
well at least finally they’re saying
03:04
when they’re said the numbers are
03:06
spiking I haven’t heard the 50% fault
03:08
video there was the the chick that is
03:11
ill with Falchi the other one she was
03:14
saying 50% yeah I don’t know how old the
03:16
video was with it our testing is we’re
03:18
coming up and if you have one percent of
03:21
whatever and we test it and 50 you know
03:23
about half of the positives or false
03:25
positive Jesus and then I don’t wear a
03:28
mask
03:29
and you have to wear masks they said the
03:31
whole reason we have to flatten the
03:32
curve is because you can live on
03:34
anything for up to like nine days and
03:36
even an asymptomatic person can still
03:39
transmit it then it comes out they say
03:41
the exact opposite yeah now they’re
03:43
saying asymptomatic people very very
03:45
rarely twelve-minute I don’t choose to
03:46
believe that Joe I’m gonna relieve what
03:50
they told me the first time not gonna do
03:51
it not the new facts that they have now
03:54
so we’re still gonna wear masks all the
03:55
time yeah people get mad at you if you
03:58
suggest differently there’s a lot of
04:00
people that like being scared too and
04:02
you’re like fuck you love it we’re your
04:03
goddamn masks we need to protect people
04:06
love it but meanwhile snow policed who’s
04:08
gonna protect you and you who’s gonna
04:10
protect your family me meanwhile there
04:13
was no be these people weren’t freaking
04:14
out when you’ve seen these mass protests
04:16
and the spikes guess what happened right
04:19
after the protest and at least they’re
04:21
saying that now at least they’re saying
04:23
they’re being forced into saying is
04:25
probably connected
04:27
the protests well of course it’s just
04:30
one way to get attacked to get people to
04:31
skate let’s scare them to stop revolting
04:34
let’s give them let’s get them chill out
04:36
you got you know now the numbers are
04:38
spiking guys do you think it’s that
04:39
calculated that that’s what they’re
04:41
doing I think there’s a lot of
04:42
calculated shit going on
04:43
there’s too many weird things going on
04:44
I’m like who’s calculating I’m though I
04:46
think that it’s dr. evil I think it is I
04:50
think that they’re in like their thing
04:51
and next we’re gonna launch the sharks
04:54
with laser beams on their head what
04:56
happened to murder Hornets they came and
04:57
went real quick I was really worried
04:59
about them aliens bro fuck I put it out
05:01
there and you come well ends are coming
05:04
before before the election Dave’s like
05:06
listen man I got to do something I got
05:09
to figure this out it’s all been
05:10
approved by the governor everybody’s you
05:12
know distanced six feet apart they all
05:15
maintain social distancing during the
05:17
show they wear masks during the show how
05:19
long what’s this how long are we to keep
05:21
doing this Texas governor is people to
05:24
stay home states report surges of nuke
05:26
ovid 19 cases yeah you want to see the
05:29
photo of the Austin protests you’ve seen
05:32
it it’s crazy
05:33
you know Austin which is the most
05:35
progressive city in Texas had this
05:37
insane protest which listen I think is
05:40
great I do I think it’s great that
05:42
people want to show solidarity that
05:44
people want to to get out there and and
05:47
let everybody know that they’re they’re
05:49
not down with police brutality and that
05:52
they’re there they’re down with racial
05:54
equality and that you got all these
05:56
thousands and thousands of people
05:58
together to have the same positive
06:00
message I love it however that Co vid
06:04
doesn’t give a fuck about racial
06:07
equality or social justice if you’re if
06:10
you’re not healthy it’s gonna get you I
06:12
don’t know and the case is spike but the
06:15
other thing about Texas is a giant
06:17
percentage of it I think somewhere in
06:19
the neighborhood at 50% is actually in
06:20
prisons so when they’re talking about
06:22
statewide issues did you have an image
06:25
so I can get an image for you I got a
06:28
good one for you oh that’s a good one
06:29
yeah that’ll cause problem
06:32
look at his fucking people but one thing
06:36
they have found out if you guys if you
06:38
guys are gonna protest protest during
06:39
the day and this is why there’s been a
06:42
new study that came out that said that
06:43
kovat 19 dies almost instantly in
06:47
contact with sunlight
06:48
no Trump’s say that like two months ago
06:50
and everyone said he was crazy no he was
06:53
saying like put lights to the body no he
06:55
said when the summer comes that he knows
06:58
it but it’s not but it’s not the heat
06:59
it’s actually light so the nighttime is
07:04
just as dangerous in the summer it is as
07:06
it is during the day it’s not heat it’s
07:08
not a temperature issue I’m sure some
07:09
temperature kills it Joe this thing is
07:11
not real bro this is not real it’s not
07:15
really a joint it is the fucking flu
07:17
yeah let’s do it dude it’s not real you
07:21
don’t think it’s real I think that the
07:22
flu is real I think that people get sick
07:25
from the flu every year and die I think
07:26
that it’s a it’s a bad thing I don’t
07:29
think that all of this nonsense is going
07:31
on and they keep keep perpetuating it
07:34
and keep perpetuating keep perpetuating
07:35
it come on I just not buying anything I
07:40
just you guys you change your views and
07:43
change your opinions it’s like it’s like
07:45
if you were the writer of a TV show say
07:47
friends your job would be to write a 30
07:50
minute episode that was funny and
07:53
intriguing and dramatic and fucking
07:56
scary or whatever the fuck
07:58
and like the the media just writes an
08:00
episode and then the next day they like
08:02
write a new episode and write a new
08:03
episode and like change their shit I
08:05
understand
08:06
such bullshit I understand what you
08:08
saying I’m gonna give you a different
08:09
perspective okay this is the different
08:11
perspective the different perspective is
08:13
legit biologists have analyzed the
08:16
actual virus itself and they find all
08:18
sorts of problems with this virus I had
08:20
Brett Weinstein on the podcast the other
08:21
day he’s a professor a legit biologist
08:24
and he was discussing all of the
08:27
indicators in the virus that seemed to
08:30
point to the fact that this has probably
08:31
been leaked from a lab and explained it
08:34
in terms of the way viruses evolve I’m
08:36
gonna do a terrible job of paraphrasing
08:38
it because I’m a moron and he’s
08:39
brilliant but when he said in the long
08:42
run what he’s basically saying is this
08:44
is a very legit virus
08:46
it’s very complicated because of the
08:48
fact that it’s been fucked with because
08:50
this is not a virus like you know like a
08:53
regular cold or like anything else that
08:55
we’ve encountered before this is
08:57
something that’s really complicated and
08:59
may have evolved because it came from a
09:02
lab his perspective is it may have
09:04
evolved to transmit better indoors and
09:08
it’s very vulnerable to UV light which
09:10
also might be part of you know it being
09:14
from a lab and not something that
09:15
existed in the wild that actually just
09:17
jumped from a bat to a Pangolin to a
09:20
person or what have you so legit
09:23
scientists and biologists who are not a
09:25
part of the narrative they’re not
09:27
working for any government agency
09:28
they’re not a part of the news media
09:30
that’s trying to transmit propaganda
09:33
they are concerned with it and they’re
09:35
concerned with it for very specific
09:37
scientific reasons now me as a person
09:40
who doesn’t know what the fuck any of
09:41
that stuff I just said means really I
09:43
just repeat it
09:44
it sounds like I’m smart but they the
09:47
the smart people actually are worried
09:50
about it for very specific reasons that
09:51
he could explain to you now it’s not
09:53
vulnerable for a lot of people they’re
09:56
not gonna be vulnerable like pro
09:57
athletes we were talking about those NBA
09:59
players to get it listen those are top
10:01
of the food chain stud athletes they
10:04
shake it off they’re not experiencing
10:06
any symptoms you know over and over and
10:08
over again there’s a lot of people that
10:10
get injured selber shook it off there’s
10:11
a lot of people that get it shake it off
10:13
they barely get it they barely even know
10:14
they have it
10:15
but they’re really robust healthy people
10:19
the concern is people that aren’t old
10:22
people
10:23
people that are vulnerable when they get
10:24
it man they get it bad and I was reading
10:26
an article today about a woman who’s
10:28
been sick with kovat for a hundred days
10:29
now and she still has days she has like
10:32
these horrible flu-like symptoms and she
10:34
gets real wheezy but I think she has
10:36
multiple sclerosis and she’s got some
10:38
other underlying health conditions so
10:40
those people have to really be worried
10:42
about this because it’s not predictable
10:44
and they don’t know how to treat it
10:45
totally especially in the beginning
10:47
turned out when they put people on
10:50
ventilators my buddy Michael yo got it
10:51
and he got it early on and his doctor
10:54
told him if I put you on a ventilator
10:55
you’re probably gonna die because your
10:57
body’s gonna stop breathing for itself
10:59
it’s good to let
11:00
but the ventilator do all the work the
11:02
ventilator like 90% of people put on
11:05
ventilators I think or 80 80 per side
11:08
for anything ever died is that true I
11:12
don’t know that’s what I said
11:13
80 to 80 percent so when the question is
11:16
almost like we need 40,000 ventilators
11:18
because we’re who are you saving when
11:20
80% of those people are gonna die
11:21
the thing is though like I think the
11:23
ventilator one way you could look at it
11:25
the ventilator is such a last-ditch
11:27
effort that by the time you get that
11:29
what is that was it
11:30
ice-cold why is it school delicious what
11:32
happy for you much what a good man he
11:34
brings his own beer you fucking study
11:36
with all kinds of um I brought you some
11:39
ignite stuff too Oh Danson found out the
11:42
Dan Bilzerian tell me he’s writing a
11:46
book yeah I think he did write his book
11:50
yeah that one’s for Marshall my dog’s
11:54
been using it too it’s really good stuff
11:57
you know Dan everything’s the best he’s
12:03
he’s jumped balls deep into weed and CBD
12:06
yeah right look at that dog CBD it even
12:09
says it on there I fucked up with CBD MD
12:12
and I took some of their dogs CBD was
12:14
delicious peanut butter flavor
12:15
I think it’s final I’m sure why not CBD
12:19
but they make it flavors for dogs what’s
12:23
up cool ass more shit what is the RAM
12:35
said I think it’s a goat head I asked
12:39
him once about and I care member what
12:41
the answer was I think it’s always been
12:42
like his thing that’s that’s like Satan
12:45
right what is the one the the devil that
12:48
has the goat head is it Beelzebub sounds
12:52
good it sounds like they’ll be correct
12:57
Thank You Satan no what is it
13:00
which one
13:03
you gotta be careful you know you get
13:06
people so high that they get super
13:08
paranoid and they look down that goat
13:09
head Baphomet
13:10
Oh Baphomet that’s right I’ve seen him
13:12
on things before that’s like something
13:14
Duncan would know a lot about come on
13:18
man hey Dan why is that guy on the cover
13:20
your fucking partner where’s that goat
13:24
dude with with eagle-wing go dude oh
13:27
look guys creepies fuck with his
13:28
pentagram on his head houston I see you
13:34
capacity could soon be exceeded as kovat
13:37
19 hospital agents worsen command and
13:39
all the videos come out and it’s like
13:41
people and going to the hospitals and
13:44
there’s no lines that they’re trying to
13:46
make it out to be you know there’s a lot
13:47
of there’s a lot of fuckery going on
13:49
with this misinformation and that’s
13:52
there’s a little bit of the newest of
13:54
the newer but there’s also real shit
13:56
going on okay dr. Peter Hotez he’s been
13:59
on the podcast before National School of
14:00
Tropical Medicine diseases Tropical
14:03
Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine
14:05
he’s a brilliant guy yeah it says the
14:07
city of Houston which is known for its
14:09
medical schools has a large
14:11
concentration of beds and research
14:13
hospitals and whatnot and they’re very
14:14
close to running out of all of their ICU
14:16
beds he said he called on the state to
14:18
reimpose more aggressive social
14:20
distancing restrictions so he’s not a
14:22
he’s not a foolish person if he’s saying
14:24
this he’s a legit scientist and a doctor
14:27
and he knows a tremendous amount about
14:29
diseases I met him many many years ago
14:36
[Applause]

How Trolls Overran the Public Square

Since the invention of writing, human innovation has transformed how we formulate new ideas, organize our societies, and communicate with one another. But in an age of rapid-fire social media and nonstop algorithm-generated outrage, technology is no longer helping to expand or enrich the public sphere.

BERKELEY – Since 1900, human technology and organization have been evolving at a blistering pace. The degree of change that occurs in just one year would have taken 50 years or more before 1500. War and politics used to be the meat of human history, with advances in technology and organization unfolding very slowly – if at all – in the background. Now, the inverse is true.

The impact of technological innovation on the marketplace of ideas has brought about some of the most consequential changes. The shift from the age of handwritten and hand-copied manuscripts to that of the Gutenberg press ushered in the Copernican Revolution (along with almost two centuries of genocidal religious war). Pamphlets and coffee houses broadened the public sphere and positioned public opinion as a powerful constraint on political rulers’ behavior.

As John Adams, the second president of the United States, later pointed out, the “[American] Revolution was effected before the war commenced … in the minds and hearts of the people.” The decisive intellectual battle, we now know, was won by the English-born printer Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense. Still, even during the revolutionary period, the pace of change was far slower than it is today. In the space of just two human lifetimes, we have gone from mass-market newspapers and press lords to radio and network television, and then on to the Internet and today’s social media-driven public sphere. And most of us will live long enough to witness whatever comes next.

There is now a near-consensus – at least among those who are not completely steeped in social-media propaganda – that the current public sphere does not serve us well. “Social media is broken,” the American author Annalee Newitz wrote in a recent commentary for the New York Times. “It has poisoned the way we communicate with each other and undermined the democratic process. Many of us just want to get away from it, but we can’t imagine a world without it.”

Western societies have experienced a similar sentiment before. In the 1930s, my great-uncles listened to their elders complain about how radio had allowed demagogues like Adolf Hitler, Charles Coughlin, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (that “communist”) to short-circuit the normal processes of public discourse. No longer were public debates kept sober and rational by traditional gatekeepers. In the new age of broadcast, unapproved memes could spread far and wide without interference. Politicians and ideologues who may not have had the public interest in mind could get right into people’s ears and hijack their brains.

Nowadays, the problem is not a single demagogue, but a public sphere beset by swarms of “influencers,” propagandists, and bots, all semi-coordinated by the dynamics of the medium itself. Once again, ideas of dubious quality and provenance are shaping people’s thoughts without having been subjected to adequate evaluation and analysis.

We should have seen this coming. A generation ago, when the “net” was limited to universities and research institutes, there was an annual “September” phenomenon. Each year, new arrivals to the institution would be given an email account and/or user profile, whereupon they would rapidly find their online communities. They would begin to talk, and someone, inevitably, would get annoyed. For the next month, whatever informational or discursive use the net might have had would be sidelined by continuous vitriolic exchanges.

Then things would calm down. People would remember to put on their asbestos underwear before logging on; they learned not to take the newbies so seriously. Trolls would find themselves banned from the forums they loved to disrupt. And, in any case, most who experimented with the troll lifestyle realized that it has little to recommend it. For the next 11 months, the net would serve its purpose, significantly extending each user’s cultural, conversational, and intellectual range, and adding to the collective stock of human intelligence.

But as the Internet began to spread to each household and then to each smartphone, fears about the danger of an “eternal September” have been confirmed. There is more money to be made by stoking outrage than by providing sound information and encouraging the social-learning process that once taught net newbies to calm down. And yet, today’s Internet does offer valuable information, so much so that few of us could imagine doing without it. To access that information, we have tacitly agreed to allow the architects at Facebook, Twitter, Google (especially YouTube), and elsewhere to shape the public sphere with their outrage- and clickbait-generating algorithms.

Meanwhile, others have found that there is a great deal of money and power to be gained by shaping public opinion online. If you want to get your views out there, it is easier to piggyback on the outrage machine than to develop a comprehensive rational argument – especially when those views are self-serving and deleterious to the public good.

For her part, Newitz ends her recent commentary on a hopeful note. “Public life has been irrevocably changed by social media; now it’s time for something else,” she writes. “We need to stop handing off responsibility for maintaining public space to corporations and algorithms – and give it back to human beings. We may need to slow down, but we’ve created democracies out of chaos before. We can do it again.”

Such hope may be necessary for journalists these days. Unfortunately, a rational evaluation of our situation suggests that it is unjustified. The eternal September of our discontent has arrived.

Mark Zuckerberg, Let Me Fix That Op-Ed You Wrote

I can tell the people what it is you’re really trying to say.

Mark Zuckerberg has written an op-ed, and I wish he had not.

It was titled “The Facts About Facebook.” I would give that one tweak. I’d call it “Mark’s Facts About Facebook.”

In a piece for The Wall Street Journal timed to the social networking giant’s 15th anniversary, its once-young, now-not-so-young chief executive and founder tried and tried to persuade readers that they shouldn’t be afraid of what he has wrought.

But the post was essentially the greatest hits that we have heard Mr. Zuckerberg sing for a while now. He focused on the enormous advertising system that powers Facebook, while ignoring almost entirely the news from the last disastrous year, including Russian abuse of the platform, sloppy management of data, recent revelations that the company throws some pretty sharp elbows when it needs to, and more. You kind of get why Mr. Zuckerberg would want to forget it all.

Should I be annoyed by this? One person who favors Mr. Zuckerberg told me no, pointing out that the media is irked when he says nothing and even more bothered when he says something, so he cannot win whatever he does.

.. O.K., so instead of just criticizing, I thought I would help him with his piece, given I do this for a living and he does not, by rewriting his work. Here goes:

MARK WROTE: “Facebook turns 15 next month. When I started Facebook, I wasn’t trying to build a global company. I realized you could find almost anything on the internet — music, books, information — except the thing that matters most: people. So I built a service people could use to connect and learn about each other. Over the years, billions have found this useful, and we’ve built more services that people around the world love and use every day. Recently I’ve heard many questions about our business model, so I want to explain the principles of how we operate.”

KARA TRANSLATES: We old now. We big now. It came from my one really good idea: AOL sucked and I could do better and I did. Now the noise has reached me up on Billionaire Mountain, so I am going to have to pretend that I care.

MARK: “I believe everyone should have a voice and be able to connect. If we’re committed to serving everyone, then we need a service that is affordable to everyone. The best way to do that is to offer services for free, which ads enable us to do.”

KARA: No rich person is going to pay too much for this muffler, um, social media service, and poor people aren’t going to pay us at all because they apparently don’t have money. So everyone will have to endure the ads that we shovel out and stop griping, because free ain’t free, people.

‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ And ‘Nanette’ Brim With Heart And Humanity

I don’t know about you, but I find American life these days positively exhausting. Everything is always trying to wind you up, from political tweets and cable news to sports debate shows, thrill-ride movies and Internet headlines that will say anything to make you click on a link. Small wonder that many people are looking for things that don’t do that, but that offer what we might call counterprogramming to our whole troll-infested culture.

Audiences have found that in what may be the summer’s most surprising and beloved hits – “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” Morgan Neville’s moving documentary about Fred Rogers, the creator and star of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and “Nanette,” starring the Australian comic Hannah Gadsby, which has been called transformative by viewers, critics and her fellow comedians.

.. Born into money, ordained as a Christian minister, registered as a lifelong Republican, Rogers turned out to be a gentle radical whose mission was to embody and promote humane values.  As Neville shows, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was inspired by Rogers’ dismay at the existing television shows for children, which he thought degrading, fatuous, thoughtlessly violent and designed to transform kids into consumers.

.. Then, she shifts gears, and we discover a value she shares with Fred Rogers, a refusal to play along with the rules of the medium of which they are a part. Just as he thought ordinary TV demeaned children, Gadsby explains why she can no longer do stand-up. She argues that stand-up works by ratcheting up tension with psychologically fraught material then releasing it with a punchline. And the demands of this process, tension and release, keep you from saying anything that doesn’t fit into that pattern.

.. neither Gadsby nor Rogers are scolds who hate art, which is, after all, a way of expressing feelings and truths that can’t be fully expressed any other way. In fact, both are consciously artful in what they do. But they also suggest that too much commercial entertainment is dehumanizing because it’s all about prompting an instantly pleasurable reaction. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Nanette” do precisely the opposite. They’re humanizing.

 

The Bannon Fallacy

First of all, people who create mottos about how they don’t care what people think tend to be precisely the sort of people who care what other people think.

Another dead giveaway: When you repeatedly invite reporters from places such as Vanity Fair to follow you around and record your Stakhanovite disregard for the opinions of others.

Similarly, people who famously call back every reporter seeking a quote are the kind of people who love being buttered up by journalists.

.. Likewise, people who hungrily cooperate with authors looking to turn them into political celebrities are really into the idea of being political celebrities.

Staffers who take credit for their bosses’ political victories, on the record, tend not to be aloof islands of self-confidence either. People desperate to let you know that their philosophical lodestars are obscure mystics and cranks — he studied Evola and Guénon! — tend to be compensating for something.

.. If Bannon truly didn’t care about the “Opposition Party,” his term for the mainstream media, he wouldn’t have lost his job in the White House, the favor of the Mercers, and what was left of his reputation. But he just couldn’t resist talking to reporters and claiming credit for the accomplishments of others.

.. Bannon is a common character in Washington: a megalomaniac who made the mistake of believing his own bullshit.

Bannon believed he was the intellectual leader of a real grassroots movement, and all that was needed to midwife it into reality was to Astroturf as much rage and unthinking paranoia as the Mercer family’s money could buy.

.. Bannon’s self-proclaimed Leninism was mostly the kind of b.s. one spouts to rally the twentysomethings in their cubicles to churn out more ethically bankrupt clickbait fodder.

.. Lenin was a real radical who wanted to tear everything down. But his motto wasn’t “Honey badger don’t give a sh*t” — it was “The worse the better.” Both men share a theory that by exacerbating social tensions — heightening the contradictions in Marxobabble — they would emerge victorious. The biggest difference between the two men is that Lenin knew what he was doing.

.. There is a Nietzschean quality to both Bannon and the host organism he fed off. Rhetorically, Trump extols strength and power and denigrates rules and norms. But Trump’s Nietzscheanism is almost entirely in service to his own glory. He simply wants praise for its own sake. Bannon’s fetishization of strength and power and his denigration of rules and norms stems from a potted theory about how to burn it all down so he can rule the ashes.

.. He marveled at the performance art of Milo not because of any intellectual merit, but because it was transgressive, which is its own reward to the radical mind.

.. People spend too much time trying to figure out if Bannon is a bigot. Who cares? Isn’t it even more damning that he was perfectly comfortable to enlist bigots to his cause simply to leach off their passion and intensity?

.. Because Bannon consistently confuses means and ends, he was fine with forming an alliance of convenience with the alt-right when he thought it could help him.

.. Bannon likes to talk a big game about the importance of ideas, but his idea of how politics works is entirely anti-intellectual, and that’s what spelled his doom.

.. He talks a lot about the Trump agenda, and yet he’s made it his project to destroy any politician Trump actually needs if they dare stray from public sycophancy to Trump or fealty to Bannon’s dog’s-breakfast ideology.

.. He goes around the country stumping for crackpots and bigots, claiming to be the Joan of Arc of Trumpism, boasting incessantly of his courage and loyalty to Trump as evidenced by his willingness to stick with Trump during “Billy Bush Weekend.”

.. There’s just one problem: Bannon can’t stick to it. He just can’t help but boast to liberal reporters about how great and brilliant he is. He can’t resist talking smack about his rivals and denigrating the reality-show nationalist that plucked him out of relative obscurity, because despite all the impressive verbiage, Bannon can’t help but make himself the story.

Anatomy of a Moral Panic

On September 18, the British Channel 4 ran a news segment with the headline, ‘Potentially deadly bomb ingredients are ‘frequently bought together’ on Amazon.’

.. The real story in this mess is not the threat that algorithms pose to Amazon shoppers, but the threat that algorithms pose to journalism. By forcing reporters to optimize every story for clicks, not giving them time to check or contextualize their reporting, and requiring them to race to publish follow-on articles on every topic, the clickbait economics of online media encourage carelessness and drama. This is particularly true for technical topics outside the reporter’s area of expertise.

And reporters have no choice but to chase clicks. Because Google and Facebook have a duopoly on online advertising, the only measure of success in publishing is whether a story goes viral on social media. Authors are evaluated by how individual stories perform online, and face constant pressure to make them more arresting. Highly technical pieces are farmed out to junior freelancers working under strict time limits. Corrections, if they happen at all, are inserted quietly through ‘ninja edits’ after the fact.

 

There is no real penalty for making mistakes, but there is enormous pressure to frame stories in whatever way maximizes page views. Once those stories get picked up by rival news outlets, they become ineradicable. The sheer weight of copycat coverage creates the impression of legitimacy. As the old adage has it, a lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is pulling its boots on.

Earlier this year, when the Guardian published an equally ignorant (and far more harmful) scare piece about a popular secure messenger app, it took a group of security experts six months of cajoling and pressure to shame the site into amending its coverage. And the Guardian is a prestige publication, with an independent public editor. Not every story can get such editorial scrutiny on appeal, or attract the sympathetic attention of Teen Vogue.

The very machine learning systems that Channel 4’s article purports to expose are eroding online journalism’s ability to do its job.

Moral panics like this one are not just harmful to musket owners and model rocket builders. They distract and discredit journalists, making it harder to perform the essential function of serving as a check on the powerful.

The real story of machine learning is not how it promotes home bomb-making, but that it’s being deployed at scale with minimal ethical oversight, in the service of a business model that relies entirely on psychological manipulation and mass surveillance. The capacity to manipulate people at scale is being sold to the highest bidder, and has infected every aspect of civic life, including democratic elections and journalism.

Together with climate change, this algorithmic takeover of the public sphere is the biggest news story of the early 21st century.