Social Media Sanity

Having read about, experienced, and contributed to a bit of post-election hot-take fatigue, I stumbled upon a fairly elegant solution I think everyone might benefit from. So apparently facebook doesn’t have to be full of half-baked ideas and “I’m a journalist! Promise!” articles from places like medium or vox or mic or whatever. You can see real journalism and real world issues written by actual professionals! All you have to do is go to the pages of the publications you want to see and click “like” then under the “following” drop-down bar click “see first.”

Maybe I’m slow on the uptake here and you’ve all already done this, but when I did this for 20+ real news sites I experienced a dramatic increase in the quality of my newsfeed. I have to scroll down quite a bit to even get to my first “OMG THIS!” post of an article blaming all the ills of the world on the microaggressions of some sitcom I’ve never heard of or some baby post or cat video or confusingly colored dress debate. Facebook can be useful! It’s really surprising! So if you want to switch your feed over to see actual real stuff instead of the latest word on the power of positive meme-ing, I’ve created this handy list (with links!) of at least what I consider a well-rounded news diet. Maybe you don’t agree with all the sources, but sometimes that’s the point! (Warning, some of these are behind paywalls, which…maybe you should pay for your news so these organizations can continue bringing you quality journalism from all over the world!)

In no particular order of preference…
Normal News:
1. Foreign Policy
2. Foreign Affairs
3. NYT
4. WaPo
5. WSJ
6. Economist
7. New Yorker
8. NPR (Also lots of sub NPR content)
9. BBC News
10. Al-Jazeera English
11. Xinhua
12. Free Press Journal
13. AllAfrica
14. The Guardian
15. Jacobin (If you have to have one, it should be this)
16. National Review (If you have to have one (and you should) it should be this)
17. France 24
18. Afghanistan Times (Don’t say you support the troops if you don’t know what they’re doing)
19. AP
20. Reuters

Then as a bonus, here are a few pretty wonky blogs I read that aren’t on facebook. These can get pretty technical, but the comment sections are usually other professionals in the field and are great:
Crooked Timber
Volokh Conspiracy
Marginal Revolution
Monkey Cage

So yes, I know my South American coverage is severely lacking, and I can’t find a decent Russian website that has a Facebook page (no thanks, RT) but overall I feel pretty well informed with this round up. If you think I’m missing anything, please let me know! Here’s to sanity.

We’re all journalists now

Professional news sources are supposed to act as a fact-check filter so that the information available for public consumption paints a relatively (within a few degrees at least) accurate portrait of reality. When that filter is removed and everyone becomes a national correspondent on their own experiences, the potential for an inaccurately reported reality greatly increases. There is a strong motivation to engage in this “altered reporting” due to the existence of instant gratification “rewards” (likes, shares, fame) which serve as a source of the endorphin releases that have become integral parts to so many of our psyches. When a news event happens the goal is to make that news event about you and position yourself in a way that leverages your experiences for greater “rewards.” If those experiences don’t precisely line-up with an expected narrative, the lack of fact-check filter or accountability on social media allows for significant alterations to your true experiences to fit a newly created experience into that narrative. We, as media consumers, then have our own bias and preconceived narrative confirmed by these unverified “experiences.” And because true news sources are now desperate for revenue streams (advertising and clicks), any popular, easy to report, cheap to produce story gets significant play.

So what this adds up to is a culture of extreme misinformation that severely muddies the waters of our political conversations and keeps all sides yelling about something that didn’t even happen.

So I’m begging you, everyone from all sides, as there is no going back in time and social media can be a great resource to spread knowledge if used well, please do your best to vet stories before you post them, maybe don’t believe everything you see on twitter or Facebook right away, and be careful with the stories you do share. Whether we wanted to be or not, we are all reporters now and have a place in the overall political landscape.

For reference on the hate crime issue from the reason article, the SPLC is what most news sites are citing with their “200 incidents since the election” stat. I’m very curious to see this compared to the average number of incidents during the same time period over the last 10-20 years.

Additionally, SPLC states, “Pulling from news reports, social media, and direct submissions at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, the SPLC had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country as of Friday, November 11 at 5pm. These range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents. There were many examples of vandalism and epithets directed at individuals. Often times, types of harassment overlapped and many incidents, though not all, involved direct references to the Trump campaign. Every incident could not be immediately independently verified.”

I’m willing to venture that maybe 25% of the incidents are false reports, which certainly leaves a lot of hate out there. However whether this is the sign of a permanent upswing is doubtful as the SPLC stats show the number of incidents seem to have peaked and are now declining.

Anyways, I just wish people would research stuff more before they post something demonstrably false.

Everyone’s still a person

Class, class, class, class. Remember that when you pillory large segments of the population on social media, everyone can see it and it can be used against liberals to create a wedge between races and sexes during elections.

Creating a society with equality of economic opportunity is not an identity politics issues. If we attempt to sacrifice working class whites on the alter of identity, we shouldn’t be surprised when they fight back.

A white factory worker in the Midwest who lost their job overseas is probably going to respond negatively to being told, in fairly esoteric and abstract language, that he is a racist and a bigot and privileged for being white. Is this person privileged for being white? In some ways yes and some ways no. But if liberals want to continue to pride themselves on their empathy and understanding of suffering, they really need to “get” why white people are feeling upset about all these things right now. Some are more justifiable than others, and some are definitely rooted in racism and sexism. However, shaming them and screaming at them and making them hate you is not going to help your cause. They are still voters and their voices will be heard, as they were this election.

The world isn’t fair or easy, of which this election has been a stark reminder. Whatever race or sex or group you find yourselves lumped into might be relatively more or less oppressed than a lot of Trump supporters, and some other Clinton supporters may be way more or way less oppressed than that group. It’s not a competition and trying to make it so will only bring heartache and failure. Building equality for all starts with making our economy more equitable for all. Claiming the moral high ground based on individual affiliation muddies the waters and drives away highly necessary. if not entirely comfortable. allies. There are so many issues dealing with racism and sexism this country must address. Creating equality of economic opportunity is a way to help all communities while removing motivations for resistance from a significant voting bloc (working class whites) forces opposing racial and gender equality consistently manipulate into voting against their own interests. Order of operations.

Moral Purity and Pragmatism sit at opposite ends of a spectrum. If we’re entirely morally pure, it’s doubtful we’re getting much accomplished. If we’re entirely pragmatic, we might get lots of stuff accomplished, but we’ve traded in on our ideals in the accomplishing, meaning those accomplishments might not mean very much. Navigating between these two points is where we find effective campaign strategy. We’ve lost our way for so many reasons, not least of which is the echo chamber of corporate media and social media. But if we want to change things, we’ve got to recognize this and carve out a real and discernible strategy that includes understanding and empathizing with those who disagree with us.

2016 Election Postmortem

Some Quick Election Postmortem Notes:

  • This is not about morality, this is about winning. And we didn’t win.
  • The liberal elite in America bought into the red herring that liberal politics can be built solely around identity politics and ignored the crushing problems that economic inequality, stagnant wages, and underemployment have wrought on the white middle and lower classes.
  • The corporate liberal is finished (or should be).
  • Neither party’s candidate nor the media explained the importance of the Panama Papers and the implications these revelations should have had during this election cycle. To me this is very revealing.
  • Oppressed groups will most likely become more oppressed over the next four years. Banding together with allies and looking at the greater good is more important now than ever.
  • Identity politics is important and should be part of the national dialogue, but a laser focus using academic language and purity tests will lose more votes than it wins in the current electorate.
  • Yelling at white males about how awful, racist, and sexist they are is, apparently, not a very effective political strategy.
  • Outrage culture, which has been erected as a tent pole in the liberal camp, pushed too hard and too fast and this is the blowback. Time to develop a new strategy.
  • Posting outrage and hatred for swaths of people will most likely entrench an opponent’s opinions.
  • Posting on social media is public. Temporary anger could very easily be used by an opponent to paint a side as more radical than it actually is, driving the narrative that political correctness is “out of control.”
  • Knowing how to positively engage with people who disagree with you and reach some point of human understanding is very important. Understanding people who disagree with you is very important.
  • The GOP now controls the House, Senate, most likely the Presidency, and soon the Supreme Court.
  • Welcome to the suck, Obama liberals. Let’s talk strategy, not feelings or outrage.
  • Finally, conspiracy theories and the ring-wing media machine are real forces to be reckoned with, and the liberal/corporate media must come up with a remedy. This is likely to get much worse before it gets better.