DDOS Attack on the Media

Will Oremus from Slate perfectly captures Trump’s news cycle on On The Media:

The Trump campaign is a denial of service attack on the entire media.
If you have enough outrageous stuff going on at once, there’s no way the media can cover all of it, and all of it gets covered much less than it would otherwise.

The same thing is happening in my brain. I’d love to write about going to see the live Paw Patrol with my family tonight, or post a picture of an awkwardly-worded sign I saw downtown, or even something something brands, but I’m not sure what I could possibly write about that wouldn’t seem frivolous in the face of the badly written, unrealistically-over-the-top movie that’s currently governing the US.

Fake news is spam, except that we like it.

Fred Wilson on fake news: 

So when I hear of some new bad thing like fake news, I immediately think of spam. And I think of the things that have been done to manage and mitigate spam. There is a roadmap for mitigating and managing this sort of thing. It seems like we need to replicate it around fake news. And we should.

Impressive how fast the problem of fake news descended on us. Maybe it’s been simmering, slowly increasing in temperature, but we didn’t notice because we were the frogs in the pot.

Well now it’s boiling.

Interesting to think of this as a tech problem in the same way email spam was attacked as a tech problem.

Another take is that the problem isn’t the distribution of fake news. It’s that we like it too much. We are lazy monkeys, with lazy monkey brains, and we are drawn to exciting, bias-confirming, ideas.

We get the same dopamine hit whether the news is accurate or 100% tapdancing-horseshit.

Email spam was a problem because we didn’t like it. News spam is a problem because we like it too much.

Which way is up, and can “up” be trusted?

This year’s Thanksgiving will be a special one, as we can be thankful in real time for every moment that we are not strangling or being strangled by those we care about most.

The problem isn’t just the political divide, or moral divide, or healthcare divide. It’s that our post-fact media wonderland has left us without the ability to agree on the fundamental conceit of the argument. There’s no bedrock for either side to push against. We’re up to our knees in arbitrary opinion-goop that sucks us further in when we try to touch bottom.

As real journalism disappears, belief systems have become houses of cards. Nonsense citing nonsense all the way down to wriggling foundations of emotional jello. It’s been well-documented that the political fringes have been serving up and subsisting on what is essentially erotic-fiction for political extremists. We know that Fox News and MSNBC have differentiated themselves and built their brands according to partisan viewpoints. There isn’t a news organization out there that is credible enough to bring to an argument.

There is no debate in the true sense of the word. Just two sides making angry noises at each other. For all of our technology and sophistication, we’re still what we were: a bunch of monkeys throwing excrement at each other.

Now we’re all living in our own bubbles of perspective. Nuance has been relegated to academics. The inconvenience of having to deal with people that think differently has been mercifully limited to election years. Oh, and national holidays.

How does anyone move forward from this?

I suppose it’s the same way we move forward from everything: by having extreme anxiety while time does its work.

The right answer seems to be something about “getting to work.”

But that’s hard to do without knowing which way is up, or if “up” can be trusted at all.

The less noble, but more realistic answer, at least as we head into Thanksgiving, is to try to keep the raw emotion of right now from breaking the relationships of the long-term.

Fake News, Social Media, and Avoiding End Times

Buzzfeed News ran a piece a few weeks ago(?)(can we start using dates again on the internet?) making the case that the best way to grow a Facebook page is by making up inflammatory nonsense.

Buzzfeed News tells us what we already know:

The best way to attract and grow an audience for political content on the world’s biggest social network is to eschew factual reporting and instead play to partisan biases using false or misleading information that simply tells people what they want to hear.

I know, I know. Shocking.

But to see the evidence they put forth brings it into perspective. Technology companies are going to have to figure out how to solve for their coexistance with really important real world events.

This is going to be hairy business.

Facebook isn’t a media company. Facebook proper is an advertising company. They sell ads that are run against content. They don’t actually make content.

So how much of an editorial role should they play? Is it their business to edit for content or truth? Frankly, given the power they have over what almost everyone sees on a daily basis, getting into the fact checking game could lead down a scary road of its own.

But something has to give.

Sisyphean News Consumption

I still miss the TV news as it was. A run down of some important things that happened in the world today. It had a beginning and a clear end.

My kids will never know a world where you can finish the news.

There is no done.

Not in the news.

Or in information.

Or in media.

Infinitely scroll through an ever-growing amount of articles and listicles and articles that reference listicles and listicles about articles about listicles. It’s endless. And in the need to fill space and get people to watch, it’s also garbage.