Remember when propaganda used to be straightforward?
It came in the form of leaflets, flyers, treatises. It was aired on state-run television and broadcast on state-run radio. In its more insidious form, it came via “independent media” -- without the audience being aware of how much that media may have been controlled by shadowy authority figures lurking in the background. At its worst, it was disseminated by covert agents infiltrating key opposition groups.
In July of 1993, the cartoonist Peter Steiner doodled a cartoon that he wasn’t particularly proud of. He submitted it, along with a batch of others, to his bosses at The New Yorker. They liked it more than he did, and published it. It had a slow start, but it also had sticking power. Twenty years later, it was the most reproduced cartoon in New Yorker history.
The premise is simple. A dog is sitting at a computer. “On the Internet,” he says to the dog sitting next to him, “nobody knows you’re a dog.”
Like you -- I assume -- I hope-- I was saddened and sickened by the events that unfolded in Charlottesville last weekend.
Saddened by the hatred. Sickened by the violence. Filled with grief, and despairing of our ability to soothe these tensions and heal these divides. How can people come together when their starting frames don’t share even the slightest shred of commonality?
It’s the age of machine learning, they say. Thanks to algorithms, we can finally eliminate bias. There was no subconscious prejudice -- the decision was made by a computer. After all, computers don’t have a subconscious.
Except, of course, they do.
Pick a random thing, and you’ll find a community of people who are into it.
There are people who are obsessed with cloud-watching. There’s a guy who corrected the same error on Wikipedia 47,000 times. There’s a whole heap of people convinced the earth is hollow, and a whole heap of others equally convinced it’s flat.
Last year, I wrote an article called “The real reason this elephant chart is terrifying.”
In it, I looked at the work of Christoph Lakner and Branko Milanovic, who charted change in real income, for every percentile of global population, across a 20-year period from 1988 to 2008. While lots of folks had their incomes go up over the period, there’s a big dip in the chart between the 75th and 90th percentiles. Those folks -- poor people in rich countries -- are seeing their incomes stagnate or decline.
You might not agree, but I believe most people want to know the truth.
Pro-Trump. Anti-Trump. Left wing. Right wing. Republican. Democrat. American. Russian. I don’t think anyone says to themselves, “What I really want is a news outlet that actively lies to me.”
We are not divided in wanting to know the truth. We are divided in whom we trust to tell it to us.Read More
An op-ed headline in The Washington Post this week intrigued me: “Our town’s newspaper was mocked for endorsing Trump. Here’s what we think now.”
The column was from Gary Abernathy, publisher and editor of the Hillsboro, Ohio Times-Gazette. It was accompanied by a photo of an idyllic rural scene: a field of soybeans, a combine harvester, a setting sun.Read More