It’s not about you
It occurs to me that my first two posts (and another that’s percolating that I may also prove unable to restrain myself from writing) tend to support the view that I’m just about writing hitpieces on liberal media. Well, you know what they say: Write what you know. It seems to be what I generally consume and what the algorithms think I want, so they’re the fattest and most available targets.
I actually went out of my way to subscribe to an online service where I would pretend to be a conservative Republican to see what they’re consuming. It proved to be a hassle to maintain this alternate persona, but for the few days I kept at it I saw more or less what I had expected to see. Left/Liberal figures like Rachel Maddow may have the biases they have and report things in a way that tends to certain findings, but even she has her facts right at least half the time; most of what you hear on Fox is just baldly false — 100% of Brian Kilmeade’s statements were rated as either False or Pants on Fire by PunditFact. So I already knew that.
The truth-telling is about 60/40 overall. PunditFact
Since I appear to agree with the liberal media more than with the conservative media, I find it exceptionally upsetting when I think they’re making arguments that I think don’t hold up. I also fear that people who are granting any credibility to Fox and Friends are probably not available to persuasion by any rational means, and so I feel I have less incentive to address them directly. It’s not negligence as much as triage, but if anybody has suggestions about specific things I should address, message links should be available on the page.
It’s also somewhat unfortunate that I finally got froggy enough to give serious attention to a blog at this moment — I write this the week of new indictments against Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of Robert Gates, the same week as the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Russian propaganda and the Second Amendment are on the news today, so that’s what there is to talk about.
I don’t even mean to focus on the media, exactly. But I probably will to the extent that what I am actually worried about is what information people are getting and how they are using it. In my view, if your position is correct (or better than alternatives) the truth should suffice to it. But I’ve got people to the right of me insisting large numbers of schoolteachers should be packing heat at the same time as I’ve got people to the left of me outright refusing to engage the logical proposition that the possibility of an armed response might deter a criminal almost as an article of faith. It’s not a coherent dialogue, and if these are the terms we will keep failing to resolve anything except by outright political domination (which has some downsides).
So what is it about?
So what this is about for me is identifying when the information (or misinformation) being presented to us is what it is and supports what it is purported to support. We need to get our facts right, and use them in logically self-consistent ways, if we’re to have much hope of approaching optimal solutions to our problems.
And we have, at this moment, unprecedented challenges in doing so.
CNN reports that American adults now spend nearly 11 hours per day staring at one screen or another, 4-1/2 hours of which are spent watching television. Teenagers are spending an amazing 9 hours per day on the social Web. Much of the content has to be fiction or other entertainment recognized as such, for sure, but that is a staggering media diet.
And human beings, frankly, are not psychologically fit to deal with it. You ever notice what happens when you watch television for 9 solid hours and then go outside and look at the world? It doesn’t look real, does it? We seem to lose the feeling of reality — at least, for me, the world looks pretty strange when I’ve been immersed in a lot of video. Media consumption on this volume is wholly unprecedented so studies are still sparse, but experts are convinced that it contributes to depression, anxiety, and neurosis.
We are not in a condition to make wise decisions with this going on. Our brains are exhausted, overstimulated, flooded with more information than we can make sense of, and it’s making most of us a bit ill.
And that’s actually the least of it. More will be the subject of my next post, as this one is already getting a bit long.