A few days ago, I watched the American media and the two leading presidential candidates stumble in confusion over whether or not they were allowed to call an explosive device a “bomb.” I watched Trump be criticized for using “the b-word” and then I watched Hillary, mere seconds after criticizing Trump for it, call the thing a “bomb,” and I watched the media frantically dance around and try to paint one incident or the other in a better light.
This election, I’ve seen CNN edit videos so that a young girl who explicitly calls for violence and the burning down of white people’s homes instead sounds like she’s advocating peace; in other words, they flipped her message 180 degrees, quietly issued an apology through a nobody affiliate on Twitter, and then buried the truth. I’ve watched CBS edit interviews with Bill Clinton to cut out things that they didn’t like, and then, as CNN did, hide behind the same bullshit “We edited it for the time allotted… It’s just an unfortunate coincidence that we cut out something that would, by itself, have been newsworthy.”
I’ve watched the Washington Post, which rode the tail of the leak to win journalism awards, turn around and condemn Edward Snowden with an editorial that argued he shouldn’t be pardoned. I’ve watched a presidential candidate’s son comparing Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles where some of them are poisoned, only to have someone stupidly respond, “Are you suggesting that we eat refugees?”
And, most remarkably, after following the analogy of Trump’s son (which we could discuss, and whether or not it is fitting) with such a horrendously dumb-ass remark, the idiot didn’t go and bury himself for the crows to come and feast on his eyes.
What in the hell has happened?
I’m too young to remember a time when journalists gave a shit about the truth. As long as I’ve been an adult, journalists have had angles, and the closest I’ve ever come to believing in the fairness of a journalist was just before Anderson Cooper got his own show on CNN. Prior to that, I thought he was just a guy trying to do what he thought was decent.
The entire thing is a game, as the alt-right has made clear. These people like Milo Yiannopoulos–they don’t believe the racist shit they say. They are professional trolls, and they’re good at it. There is overwhelming evidence of this. They are playing a game, and they know that they are playing a game, and that’s okay, because they’re good at it. When I see national news networks editing interviews and videos to drastically alter the message, it seems inescapable that it’s not just the alt-right that is trolling.
It’s the entire media.
It says a lot that one of the Tweet responses that Trump’s song received and that was broadcasted at Raw Story is the one that stupidly asks, “Are you proposing we should eat refugees?”
Motherfucker, do you have a brain?
I would be ashamed to say something like that. And while this person (gods willing) doesn’t appear to have been a journalist, it’s hardly important, because this is the world journalists have created, by pulling shit exactly like that.
Social media could have helped, but we immediately turned to the algorithms to protect us and create our own echo chambers. Go to any Trump supporter’s Google News feed, and you’ll find it filled with pro-Trump articles. Go to any libertarian’s Facebook page, and you’ll find their feed conspicuously missing pro-Hillary people.
They attempted to address this by leaving their algorithms “context-neutral.” That is, the algorithm doesn’t care if you liked a video or disliked a video; the algorithm doesn’t care if you +1’d a post, Liked a post, or left a scathing comment. Did you interact with the post? If so, posts like that are added to the “stuff you’re interested in” pile and become more likely to be served to you. This doesn’t help the issue with people being exposed to contradicting information; it only ensures that we have two types of echo chambers: those filled with circle jerks, and those filled with angry yelling.
The only way to fix this is to consciously look for the things you don’t want to see. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Youtube all exist to help you find the things that you do want to see. This isn’t a problem–it’s what they exist to do, after all. But more and more these are important tools of communication, spreading the DNC Leaks even as the media attempted to ignore them, revealing the truth of the video edits even as major networks obviously tried to hide them, and giving us a way to communicate directly, in a p2p way, bypassing the server altogether.
Social media networks were not made to accommodate that, though, and so the onus falls to us to destroy our own echo chambers. This is all the more difficult because half of everyone is lying, and the other half is stupid. You can’t rely on Facebook because it will serve you memes that are demonstrably false, because no one is willing to take ten seconds out of their day to fact check the damned thing–If it’s on the Internet, it must be true.
I’ve written about this before, and how, in the long-run, the prospects for American society are extremely bleak. We are all racing to the desert to bury our heads in the sand, and we’re somehow totally unaware that we’re doing. We are just a few decades from people who will go their entire lives without ever hearing the words “presidential election.” Such a bizarre thing to imagine today, I know. But just apply what we’ve discussed here and look forward.
These algorithms aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’ll only get better.
How can you express an interest in something that you don’t know even exists? That is the question that will bury our heads in the sand and leave us firmly under the grip of a ruling elite; it is precisely what will make us the disinterested proles of Orwell’s 1984. Furthermore, it is exactly what these algorithms will produce. It’s not simply journalism that is the problem; the problem with journalism is that it’s merely a reflection of American values.
And these are American values:
It’s actually worse than this. The first article is about the recent American bombings. The second article is about Trump’s response to it. The third, we finally get to the horrendous state of affairs in Syria–which deserves its own article, but I don’t have time for that right now. The fourth, an article about how George H. W. Bush is voting for Hillary. Fifth, an article about the wage gap that is probably 99% bullshit and 1% outright lies. I say this because the preview here cites the wage gap for women at around 19%, while research shows 1.9% would be much more accurate (but still too high in most industries).
This isn’t how humans were meant to live.
Isn’t it time we took back the world from these psychopaths and trolls?
That is the state. The other people were our parents and grandparents, who set up this world in the fucked state that it’s in, and we inherited it without questioning it. Just like they did, we started standing up when the bell rang. We didn’t ask “Why?” and we didn’t consider remaining seated. We just blindly followed them, doing what they did, even as the entire planet was engulfed in war. It’s so bad that I’ve heard people characterize this state of affairs as “world peace.”
No, really. I’ve been asked on Quora, “Isn’t Donald Trump a threat to world peace?”
A threat to–
A THREAT TO WORLD PEACE?! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!
What the hell part of the world is at peace? If this is what world peace looks like, then it is my deepest hope that someone will rise up and threaten it. But, like everyone else, he isn’t thinking, the person who asked that question. He’s just standing up when he hears the bell, just like his pappy and grand pappy did.
And we have the power to change it overnight, almost instantly, simply by wanting to. We just have to stop standing for the fucking bell.
It’s pointless, isn’t it? I just scrolled through my Facebook feed, and this is what I found:
I’m fucking stunned.
Americans spent the weekend dealing with the bombs of a Muslim terrorist.
The Cease Fire in Syria was Dead on Arrival.
Americans killed nearly a hundred Syrian “allies.”
Syrian “allies” killed dozens of UN humanitarian workers.
BUT ANGELINA AND BRAD ARE DIVORCING OMG OMG OMG OMG