Wednesday, April 01, 2020

David Weinberger, of the Berkman Center, 2017
If you give people a choice among an infinite supply of media, argues Sunstein, they will gravitate toward content that confirms their existing opinions. Let people connect with whomever they want, and they will connect with those who share their views. Their conversations will then reinforce their beliefs — and, worse, drive them to more extreme versions of those beliefs. They will, in short, form echo chambers. 
The internet satisfies those conditions: it gives us access to a galactic selection of content and enables us to find others who share our beliefs, down to our micro-preferences. For Sunstein, this explains why our culture has become so much more fragmented and polarized. 
According to him, nothing less than the fate of the republic hangs on recognizing and forestalling this danger. At its heart, he argues, the United States is an experiment in deliberative democracy: “[T]he framers’ greatest and most original contribution to political theory,” he writes, was the idea that “heterogeneity, far from being an obstacle, would be a creative force, improving deliberation and producing better outcomes.” Deliberative democracy thus requires that people who disagree be able to talk with one another, constructively and openly, in this way collectively discovering which beliefs are worth holding. Echo chambers, he worries, polarize us to the point that we are unable to have those conversations, and they thus pose a severe threat to democracy itself.
John Quiggin 2008
I’m really, truly, not going to talk about Jonah Goldberg. Instead, I’m going to talk about Cass Sunstein and his idea, reprised in Republic 2.0 that the Internet poses a threat to democracy by virtue of it’s capacity to allow us to avoid information we don’t like. Conservatives are increasingly seeking only conservative views, liberals are seeking only liberal views, and never the twain shall meet.
Sunstein argues that the echo chamber effect tends to reinforce existing views and produce a poisonous partisan divide. 
It seems to me that exactly the opposite is true. The partisan divide in the US is being reinforced because people are more exposed to the other side than before.

Before the Internet, the average liberal or social democrat was largely insulated, on a day-to-day basis, from the kinds of views represented by Free Republic or Little Green Footballs. Similarly, unless we sought out rightwing magazines we were insulated to a large extent from commentators like Goldberg, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter. Now we can see them minute-to-minute and it’s obvious that the idea of treating them as part of a legitimate discussion is absurd. 
Quiggin reminds me of Jonah Goldberg's imaginary Pauline Kael, who famously said that Nixon couldn’t have won because she didn’t know anybody who voted for him. And that's understating it. Quiggin is defending the ignorance of Martin Luther King's white moderate.  "I suppose I live a sheltered life." And in 2008 Goldberg's opinions on Israel were just slightly to the right of Crooked Timber.

I always thought Sunstein's point was obvious, especially for any culture founded on individualist liberalism. It's that culture that's given us Facebook and surveillance capitalism and personalized marketing, the virtual store where the displays are changed and items moved to the front to fit your last purchases. Newsfeeds work the same way, reinforcing biases, from narrowcasting to microcasting to the narcissism where the world is reduced to a mirror.

Liberal technocrats see the problem not as lack of information but its excess, and the answer to anger in content moderation, censorship, and limits on speech.

Back to Henry: repeats. You really can't make this shit up.
Liberalism of the small-l kind goes together with a strong emphasis on free speech. The implicit assumption is that we will all be better off in a world where everyone can say whatever they want, to whoever they want, even if it is inconvenient, or wrong minded, or crazy.
"small-l". No, son. And I'll add another name to my list of idiots. I got my fill of her on twitter.

Kate Klonick The New Governors: The People, Rules, and Processes Governing Online Speech
...This Article argues that to best understand online speech, we must abandon traditional doctrinal and regulatory analogies and understand these private content platforms as systems of governance. These platforms are now responsible for shaping and allowing participation in our new digital and democratic culture, yet they have little direct accountability to their users. Future intervention, if any, must take into account how and why these platforms regulate online speech in order to strike a balance between preserving the democratizing forces of the internet and protecting the generative power of our New Governors.
Facebook and Google are functional monopolies, so the high priests are arguing that the techlords need their guidance. The simplest answer is avoided, because the powerful love their own power.

Ban Targeted Advertising
As Mark Zuckerberg testifies to Congress about Facebook's privacy failures, here's a wholesale solution for politicians to consider.
Tech Companies Are Destroying Democracy and the Free Press
Ad revenue that used to support journalism is now captured by Google and Facebook, and some of that money supports and spreads fake news.
The problem isn't t too much information but that there's not enough of it. And it's not about "fake" news.  "Real" news is a myth. The people who are conned will believe anything that confirms their worse suspicions and their anger. What made them so paranoid?

I grew up reading The NY Times. When I looked at the paper I saw the decisions of the editors, made for and in the name of a subset of the American public. It was the "paper of record". All the News That's Fit to Print, is a statement of authority. When I go to the library and look through a catalogue I see the record of the decisions of a wider subset and a wider authority. It would bother me if the library catalogue were ordered 'just for me', a subset of one. That's now the model of news and information for the majority, and it's seen as normal. And the liberal technocratic response to the new yellow press is to see it as more confirmation of their own status. Stoller and Dayan are middle class supporters of the middling middle class; they write from self-interest and empiricism not neutrality and rationalism, like Duncan Black but not as lazy and with less snobbery.
Elite liberals can't talk to the conservative base without admitting their own responsibility for disaster. The 'left' can't communicate beyond its base because that would mean to end of its idealism. A popular left can only be a movement reflecting the interests of its members. That their adoring middle class base is so central to Sanders and Warren is part of the problem. Again and again: the distinction between solidarity as idea and fact.
Meanwhile, a small group of senior aides had been pushing Sanders for months to go harder on Biden. 
The problem: Sanders actually liked him. Personally, they got along better than he ever did with Hillary Clinton, aides have said. (The former vice president falls into an exclusive category for the Vermont senator: the people who were nice to Sanders before he mattered, as two aides put it recently.) Back in January, it was the candidate’s decision to personally apologize to Biden after one of his surrogates, Zephyr Teachout, wrote an op-ed about Biden’s “corruption problem.”
Dayen: "The Zephyr situation was when you knew that Sanders wasn't willing to do everything it takes."
Attacking Biden would have kept his base happy, but it wouldn't have expanded it.  

Stoller
I’m just going to cut and paste comments from this story at the Huffington Post on white working class people dying of despair. Keep in mind, the suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse is causing deaths at the level of the AIDS epidemic at its height. This sentiment is common, I just picked comments from one thread on one article. 
“Sorry, not sorry. These people are not worthy of any sympathy. They have run around for decades bitching about poor minorities not “working hard enough,” or that their situation is “their own fault.” Well guess what? It’s not so great when it’s you now, is it? Bunch of deplorables, and if they die quicker than the rest of us that just means the country will be better off in the long run.”
The HuffPo article links to a dead NYT link, an AP article still up elsewhere. The source is Case and Deaton. Deaton: master of the obvious.

Stoller blocked me for reminding him too often how casually he's been consorting with fascists. If this were the UK he'd be a Brexiter, without quite being willing to call it "Lexit". He's a nationalist, an updated cold war liberal, and a Zionist. He's always been a self-important ass. Dayan's a reporter with no pretense; his anger is basic and grounded in experience. Stoller is an "intellectual".

I've always read right wing sites, and I trolled them as much as I trolled the 'left'. I was banned as I was blocked on twitter. I used to tell earnest liberals they should read more, but I always got one answer: "I'm on the web to talk to friends." I'm still following right wing sites and watching the anger that no one left or liberal wants to face directly.

"They are not intellectuals, but occasionally dream that they will be. That is their secret ambition." And 60 years later they got their wish.

Liberalism is a disaster. America has always been a disaster.
Every so often along 99 between Bakersfield and Sacramento there is a town: Delano, Tulare, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Modesto, Stockton. Some of these towns are pretty big now, but they are all the same at heart, one- and two- and three-story buildings artlessly arranged, so that what appears to be the good dress shop stands beside a W.T. Grant store, so that the big Bank of America faces a Mexican movie house. Dos PeliculasBingo Bingo Bingo. Beyond the downtown (pronounced downtown, with the Okie accent that now pervades Valley speech patterns) lie blocks of old frame houses—paint peeling, sidewalks cracking, their occasional leaded amber windows overlooking a Foster's Freeze or a five-minute car wash or a State Farm Insurance office; beyond those spread the shopping centers and the miles of tract houses, pastel with redwood siding, the unmistakable signs of cheap building already blossoming on those houses which have survived the first rain. To a stranger driving 99 in an air-conditioned car (he would be on business, I suppose, any stranger driving 99, for 99 would never get a tourist to Big Sur or San Simeon, never get him to the California he came to see), these towns must seem so flat, to impoverished, as to drain the imagination. They hint at evenings spent hanging around gas stations, and suicide pacts sealed in drive-ins. 

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