Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Social Media Is Supplanting Traditional News Media

What a day it's  been on Twitter so far; it's all a-froth over a viral video of a Planned Parenthood senior doctor casually discussing selling foetal body parts, there's rejoicing over the fox-hunting ban, there's a media feeding frenzy over the NHS's imminent collapse, and the Rolling Stone has a story on how stupid people owned themselves on an assortment of social media platforms. What have they all got in common? Each of these stories illustrates how social media is replacing the traditional news media as our main source of information.

Let's be honest here, I don't bother reading newspapers any more, and don't bother reading news websites as such. I only really know what's going on in the world because of what's in Techdirt, what's trending in the hashtags, or what's in my Twitter feed. Although I self-identify as conservative I tend to keep away from the conservative press outlets because they're too far to the right for my taste so I end up getting a left/progressive-leaning news feed. This affects my knowledge and influence, incoming and outgoing, and I am aware of that. So why the shift? I know I'm not the only one who doesn't bother with the traditional news media any more.

Partisan bias

East is east and ne'er the twain should meet. As I've pointed out before, the balkanisation of public opinion into binary opposing camps is a feature, not a bug. The idea is to divide us. It's basically this:

but with political parties. The one-or-t'other options presented us actually break us into smaller subgroups that then get devoured by predatory interests, but we don't realise this because we think they agree with us. No. We agree with them. Big difference. Allow me to explain. Again.

They use emotive arguments to manipulate us

Here's The Hill trying to take the centre ground on that foetal body parts story:

The undercover video, which surfaced Tuesday morning, shows a woman identified as Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's senior director of medical services, describing in detail procedures to retrieve body parts.

No amount of editing is going to make any of the statements made by Nucatola in that video sound right. I'm not exactly anti-choice but I am grossed out by abortion, and see it as a last resort for medical necessities, not routine birth control.

Reuters is at pains to inform us that Planned Parenthood don't just perform abortions between 3% and 10% of the time:

In addition to abortions, Planned Parenthood health centers across the United States provide healthcare and information regarding birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, cancer and other reproductive issues.

The Washington Post discusses the ethical implications of abortions for organ "donation," Gawker whitewashes the whole damn thing, the Washington Times goes full Godwin (I've seen a range of tweets along the lines of "abortion is racist/genocide!!11eleventyone1!!"), the Daily Caller and the Daily Mail present Nucatola as a butcher behind the counter slicing the meat to order, Newsweek portrays Governor Bobby Jindal as an opportunist chasing a chimera, and Townhall presents Nucatola as one muahahahah! short of being a moustache-twirling villain. What Planned Parenthood actually does is provide reproductive healthcare AND abortions. If you look a bit closer at the pro-life websites, etc., you will find sooner or later that any attempt to prevent conception is considered abortion, and behind that is the desire to fetter womens' sexuality and force us all to live like nuns until we get married and bear children in the pursuit of happiness, or something.

They're unreliable

It's a running joke that newspapers often print retractions or have to walk back misstatements, unless you're the Sunday Times, in which case you either edit your posts without admitting to it or you double down on your error, trusting your base to let you away with it. If we can't trust them, why read them? The trouble with the frantic partisanship is that they're not just misrepresenting or slanting the news, they're more interested in getting you on side with their agenda than in telling you what's really going on.

We're fed up with all of the above

Sooner or later you get fed up with being manipulated or made to choose between Team Red or Team Blue, and made to feel like a monster if you dare to disagree with the most commonly accepted screed. The danger of going off-road for news-gathering is the risk of ending up in an echo chamber. I generally read through the various left, right, and centrist news outlets to ensure I have a reasonable balance in terms of information, though what I mostly end up is more opinions than facts.

Digging down to the truth

Look, that woman either said she was taking special care during abortions to avoid damaging the goods to meet demand for livers, "extremities," and lungs, etc., or she didn't. From what I heard, she did.

I know this is a black-or-white choice but it's how I get to the truth; choose between absolute binaries, disregarding what is not true to get to what actually is. 

Be willing to "go there"

This is what I know to be true:

Women have abortions because they don't want to be pregnant any more for medical, financial, or social reasons, not because they think, "Oh, great, I'm up the duff. How much will I get for this little toerag if I let it stay inside till the limit?" Think about it: if the anti-choice narrative was in the least bit true, the abortionists would be encouraging women to get pregnant so they could have abortions to fulfill demand for "donor tissue" (wink!). Assume that's true. Where are the whistle-blowers reporting the abortion farms where women are knocked up so their aborted foetuses can be sold for scrap, or whatever? This is the missing piece of their puzzle, it's why their arguments don't add up. 

It's as creepy as hell that Nucatola apparently holds huddles to determine which "cases" are likely to yield them "tissues" for "donation," but if she was as awful as she is being portrayed, wouldn't she be advising pregnant women with viable foetuses to hold off on having the procedure till the fruit was ripe and ready to harvest? At no point have even the most vitriolic conspiracy theorists suggested that such a thing is going on. They're actually more concerned with controlling and containing female sexuality, accusing women who have abortions of being feckless and treating their potential babies — and motherhood itself — like trash. That's what gives the game away.

What now for the news media?

Well the ones that won't adapt are losing all but their most loyal readers. They really need to work with, not against the internet so they're taking advantage of it, not competing with it. When they actually start reporting the news again, just the facts, minus the partisan spin, I'll take more of an interest in them. Until then, I'll continue to get most of my news from my Twitter feed.

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