Post-Millennial Bug: NeoJournalism & the New Collusion

    [Recycled Rant to Art Appraiser & Michael Wolraich]

    This new social fact-challenged journalism is not a dissertation, is not your father's evening gazette, is not a bunch of freshman working at the college paper or cub reporter learning the ropes. It's war & politics by other means. It's eat or be eaten, except we're always so close to winning we're lulled into thinking we're almost not losing.

    There are elections being stolen, there are good policies being killed and bad ones being created, and just because we've made a slight dent in righting the record doesn't mean we're terribly succeeding or that the system isn't broke or needs a drastic update to function well in 2017.

    There's a meetup of a rigged media factory, politicians in permanent state of collusion, a bigger influx of money than we ever thought possible, then came a new-found acceptance of blatant lies as both palatable and even a positive to rally behind, and now hacking by a foreign government both stealing and spouting out fake "news" on a broad top-to-bottom scale to make it even worse, yet supposedly we just need to stay grownup and write the truth and we'll prevail. Not even much done on the psychological Kahnemann/NLP/other alternative ways of understanding how we digest (& don't digest) information and are easily deceived.

    We sat there reassured last Fall that Hillary had at least won the 3 debates overwhelmingly, except that in checking audience reactions, for people who thought the debates important or crucial for voting (or some such phrasing), Trump actually won among that group. How? People just see stuff different - it's no use trying to explain it unless we're going to dive into it to see what actually forms opinion, not just reeks of "the truth".

    The recent article by the activist on OWS was noting that nobody ever asked "is what we're doing advancing our agenda?" - instead it was all phrased in finding and fighting always for the exact policy, and with it defining who's in, who's out.

    We've taken the old journalist model and just plopped the internet/Facebook/Twitter on top, with an expectation that the same rules will always apply, that J School 1923 equals J School 2017, even as media giants have come and gone, been merged, been decimated, been coopted by General Electric and Microsoft and Amazon and Murdoch tied to a new generation of likes and sharing and mixing social entertainment with hard news, interactive opinion tied to mud slinging & internet free-for-alls, etc. As the line from Butch Cassidy went, "Rules? What Rules?"

    Nate Silver talks over and over about the liberal bubble, and few actually listen to him. His problem with pollsters and similar reporters was that they kept ignoring the cross-pollination across near borders, between similar papers, etc. - folks may think they're independent, but they ignore the interdependencies that bias the data, and multiply that in 4 different disregarded ways we can be working with 60-70% uncertainty - i.e. worse than a coin toss - rather than the 2-3% "margin of error" we typically see stamped on.

    From scientific work, sometimes a system works better with *more noise* injected into the system, not less - a bit too much analogically like the old intermarried royal families of Europe.

    Here's more Silver:

    I recently reread James Surowiecki’s book “The Wisdom of Crowds” which, despite its name, spends as much time contemplating the shortcomings of such wisdom as it does celebrating its successes. Surowiecki argues5 that crowds usually make good predictions when they satisfy these four conditions:

    1. Diversity of opinion. “Each person should have private information, even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.”
    2. Independence. “People’s opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them.”
    3. Decentralization. “People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.”
    4. Aggregation. “Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.”

    Now this is a bit different from running a political movement or the art of modern reporting, but there are seeds of the same ideas in all. There's some chaos needed in political movements - especially in fast moving modern times - or ideas and approaches become brittle and old-fashioned, even in as short a period of 5 years. Our idea of journalism is all on-the-record, properly vetted and run through the right brand stuff, and we don't seem troubled that we're all quoting the same NYTimes/WaPo/Huffpost/CNN/Guardian 95% of the time, and the journalists we're referencing are reading the same articles or carefully cultivated similars.

    The share of total exposure8 for the top five news sources9 climbed from roughly 25 percent a decade ago to around 35 percent last year, and has spiked to above 40 percent so far in 2017. 

    The Titanic was not to be predicted by a manual on "Proper Operation of Steamships Under Typical Sailing conditions". Referencing Kahneman, we seem to be masturbating our Fast Thinking brain regularly, and leaving our Slow Thinking analytical mind starved for real convoluted, contradictory, difficult to process brain food, basically the coarse fiber that would cleanse the gut, instead assuring ourselves that pre-processed nuourishment is a healthier diet than complex foods.

    We're being lied to all the time, and if not, the ones giving us info are making huge mistakes that are barely acknowledge except on page 27 next to the crossword. We're better off with a healthy mistrust of the system - political, journalistic, philosophical, economic, social. Instead of a semiconductor clean room to eat our dinner in, we need healthier metabolisms that aren't so sensitive to impurities, be they disease or fraud.

    I remember a friend in Tokyo saying he could walk across a dance floor bumping into people and no one would complain - and then did just that. In a society of hyper-agreeable, non-confrontational people, it's easy to see how they're setting themselves up like Asia before the Mongol Hordes. 

    But we're doing much the same way in acclimatizing ourselves to losing, and all the ways we can enable and justify that outcome. Yes, the end frequently justifies the means, and not every use of that equation is a slippery slope to Nürnberg or Soviet show trials. We need to embrace power and persuasion a bit better than just an appeal to cold intellectual reason.

    Many get inspired by Bernie wanting to shake up the party, yet curiously resist the similar needed change in other spheres. The DNC *is* slow, outdated, not helpful enough, not enough on the ball, etc. - as is government including law enforcement, journalistic establishment, and other stalwarts of our stable, conservative society. 

    PS - and yes, it's ironic and paradoxical that I would use such a classical form of long-winded literary response that will literally persuade no one that doesn't already agree. Still not post-modern nor post-millennial despite all my efforts.

    PPS - looks like journalist slamming will replace midget tossing as the the tyrant's first and last bastion of sick fun. No repercussions reads the new journalist carnet, only concussions (though Megyn Kelly and the other "Foxes" at Fox News have provided a bit of push back on the Roger's Angels funhouse - we'll see how long that lasts)


    There still seems to be a hole in your Menschevik apologia:

    1. Progressives start propagating unsubstantiated tin-foil hat suspicions about the other side (tba). 

    2. Progressives start falling for tin-foil hat paranoia 

    3. ???


    I spoke recently to a researcher who works with sufferers of Capgras Syndrome and trying to understand the cognitive and emotional mechanisms in the development of delusions of that sort. And I asked how successful rationally explaining their condition to the patient was. Apparently if you diagnose the syndrome early, rational interventions can be quite successful. If caught too late, any intervention from a third party usually just leads to suspicion being cast on that third party. So if a doctor tries sit down with the patient and lay out the nature of the syndrome, explaining how their affective and cognitive pathways of pattern recognition creating a sense of familiarity have been desynchronized etc, a long-term sufferer will simply come to see the doctor as part of the conspiracy as well. There is no longer a way out. I.e. in our current case, Mensch critics will quickly be seen as Russian Stooges (or are they already? I can't keep up). Sure, she serves to fuck with Trump's head, but in the meantime she fucks with everyone's heads. Irremediably. 

    And please don't serve up the reheated bull about her vital services as a crowdsourcer of journalistic nuggets. That works for Josh's TPM efforts from back in the day where its about bringing together local knowledge from around the country. Here it's about what documents Carter Page is ferrying around in his underpants. Not really optimal material for crowdsourcing. And any crowdsourcer should show some basic curiosity in the track record of the various claims she throws out there (and she doesn't get a participation medal for one admission of error) and a cursory knowledge of the background facts of the poltiical scene she is talking about. She cares about truth about as much as Trump. And you seem to think that is a quality to exploit! I find that horrifying. Both that you think so, and the possibility that others might come to agree with you. It is burning down the republic in order to save it. It is literally destroying the ultimate fundamental value of any polity going back to Homer - the basis of civiization being public discourse, which is not just talking at each other, but the public justification of one's stand-point with reference to a common standard. Truth. Mensch is a creature of Trump's America, embracing her is embracing that brave new world. 

    If you dagbloggers want to hop on that bandwagon to crazy town, could you please do it by adding a separate fake-news side-bar, to spare the few remaining alethic luddites around here. Let me just throw that in the reader suggestion box. 

    Crapgas Syndrome, eh? That's one for the ages.

    I referenced the Luddites not long ago as a misunderstood species, with concerns that seemed to parallel the current times. Donal also did a book review on them a few years back.

    That's all I got, except a tune, of course, since you seem to be in the mood for a bit of reflection on the good ol' daze.

    I'd like to add this on one of your points: At the time people like Josh Marshal were waxing poetic about "crowdsourced" journalistic practice & blogging, there was this crucial difference from a lot going on now, which basically made it little different from old school: there is an editor, an elite, that sorts the info. coming in and choses what the public should know. The hive's results were not meant to be judged by the plebian public. So different from old school only in that you have a lot more interns and research assistants plus lucky for you, they are all working for free. They work for free a lot of times because they have an agenda (I.e. help Valerie Plame or whatever) but they can't be sure that the editor will service their agenda.

    Josh went further than many: tips were never even made pubic, they were requested via email to be sorted by him alone. He was averse to even looking at comment threads, he'd prefer to get his crowd via private email.

    It's interesting now to look back on it big picture, because seems now that a lot of what was really going on in the early days of blogging is no different than like listening to Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow give an hour lecture telling you what news is important and why. Really very much personality based, people were fans of certain blogger's world views and would just trust them totally to interpret the news for them. In a way it's a good sign that many of those that survived are excellent analysts and/or compilers, not throw it at the wall and see what sticks conspirators, nor  rah rah salesmen for a political view or agenda, nor wanting just to rant about the evil other side.

    Nice summary, but you miss the bigger picture of what comes next and how it's evolving beyond the paternalistic older wiser brother shepherding the plebes through the briars.

    There are more ad hoc communities of serious journalist bloggers or lone wolves, augmenting thoughl not necessarily replacing mainstream news, but helping to address some of the inefficiencies and blatant errors that we've had. This is not guaranteed, as on the internet no one knows you're a dog, so you work with various other referential models - who brought in who, do we trust them because of that? - and informational models - how much does their data check out along with tips we get from style & format & behavior.

    Everyone's had good fun with Louise Mensch,who some suspect as a conservative mole to discredit citizen blogging and thus serious alt news rather than the often ineffectual mainstream news that Russia, Trump et al have had an easy time running circles around.

    Not that I want to present this as the only alt news option/format/approach available (that's be a shame), but would you accept an alt news that looked more sane, linear, referential such as this?

    (MEGA-THREAD) The plot to sell America's foreign policy for foreign oil _and_ steal an election in the bargain began at the Mayflower Hotel.

    — Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) March 24, 2017

    (THREAD) There's ample reason to believe Trump secretly met with Russian spy Sergey Kislyak in Trump Tower in December. Here's what we know.

    — Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) May 26, 2017

    Or discussing the unnoticed side of an important legal-political option in the news say like this:

    Peracles... Seth?

    Have you happened to have been peeking in the "saved" yet unpublished Reader Blogs here at DagBlog?

    Note the date that I first saved the following. One week ago on 05/20/2017

    Trump Russia Affair In The Wayback Machine To March 2017

    I just now posted that to "public."


    Sorry, swear I didn't. Nice coinkydink though. I took the liberty of adding the embedded tweet gif to you first item - delete if you don't like.

    Peracles... Thanks...


    Re: If you dagbloggers want to hop on that bandwagon to crazy town, could you please do it by adding a separate fake-news side-bar, to spare the few remaining alethic luddites around here. Let me just throw that in the reader suggestion box. 

    I'd sign on that suggestion! I'll admit I'm here to group analyze, it's so much better if you can interact on news with others, than trying to grope alone. So one could say I definitely buy into a bit of the hive thing. BUT what I dislike more the crazy conspirators is this: I am most certainly not interested in working with anyone that has a strong political agenda in what they push. I'm not interested in political activism, never have been and for the most part feel my politics are my personal business. In most cases, it just boils down to this: why would anyone care what I (especially being Miz Anonymous on the internet) thinks should be done about it, and why should I care what anyone else thinks should be done about it?. It's far more useful for me to read a poll on any topic than a single internet poster's opinion. I'd like to borrow your mind to analyze but I don't give a flying f what you think should result from that analysis, I'll decide that for myself and you should decide that for yourself now that we've figured out the situation together. Unpaid political punditry is surely no better than and usually worse than, the paid stuff.

    So maybe I am not as vehemently against the Mensch type thing as you are. It's just a case where you can see whether there's someone who's work is worth your time or not. With her I happen to judge mostly not, lots of wasted time for little result. And fanatic followers are a danger sign. Even the best journalists have faults and bias. Unless, as I implied elsewhere, you're not taking your fandom seriously, it's just that you find it fun to follow the writer, in an infotainment sort of way.

    P.S. I should add to be clear: I despise most serious conspiracy theorizing with my whole heart and soul, the JFK's, the 9/11's, the Mossad fanatics, the Trilateral Commission and Iluminati club, and the absolute worst: the Richard Simmons is being held captive by his housekeeper people! winkThe smarter they are the more they drive me nuts. If a friend admits to sympathy towards any one of them, they immediately lose a lot of respect in my eyes and it's real hard for me to think of them in the same way again.

    ANOTHER P.S.: so interesting on the Capgras thing, thanks for sharing. BECAUSE: there is a publicly contagious example going on right now! See @ The Guardian: Why fans think Avril Lavigne died and was replaced by a clone named Melissa

    Mensch just doesn't strike me that way. Does she show signs of paranoia and a tendency to make silly connections? Yes, but it's not organized. She's like the nut case at TPM Cafe who would repost anything bad she could find on the Bush family from Lexis Nexis, as if someone would come and edit it all for her and make a story. This would be interspersed with angry stories about family committing her against her will, so that was her conveniently warning everyone: mebbe you shouldn't totally trust the condition of my synapses.

    Great link to the Avril Lavigne revelation. Totally explains the incredible fall in artistic quality between Let Go and Under my Skin!! And why she slowly stopped dressing like a skater kid when she grew up. 

    The new "post-modern" is "meta modern", post experimental political fan-fiction? Or that's just an offshoot?

    You pegged it! I haven't heard the term itself, but the wikipedia entry pegs what I've been seeing and hearing from young people. Especially under the heading "Vermeulen and van den Akker".  Kind of a amazing actually.

    Excellent find. I've been wondering what it post pomo theory would look like.

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