Entertainment Media

One of the biggest takeaways from the reading for this week was this weird idea that entertainment has become an important part of news and that now, instead of facts presented from a neutral (at least in attempt-we will always reflect some sort of bias) position where the reporter tries to best explain a given story, we get news stories that go for edginess and gusto, often spewing out an opinionated narrative that presents a story from a very specific position. The problem with this, especially when you consider how partisan the news has become, is you get talking heads trying to get ratings rather than report stories. What this does is allow pop-culture/entertainment stories to get priority over less “exciting” news stories that actually affect people on a day to day basis.

In order to prove this point (for me personally) I decided to check out 3 news pages today to see what stories were highlighted. After looking at Fox News, CNN, and NBC news I could say there were some important differences that sort of get at this partisanship and entertainment based pundit-media that Manjoo was getting at in his book.

Here are the headlines of each website:

NBC: “Democrats Troll Trump’s Policies with Invited Guests”

CNN: “What Wall Street Wants to Hear from Trump”

Fox: “MARDI GRAS MAYHEM: A dozen hurt as car plows into parade – yet again

I find it really interesting that CNN and Fox both have the Mardi Gras story on the front page of their website, but the language CNN uses is much more muted and lacks the sensationalism that Fox has. It says “Car plows into band in Mardi Gras parade; 12 people hurt 

The Fox story decides to focus on the violence and highlight the fact that this happened before. However, when you read the story it sounds as if today’s situation involved a 73 year old man who was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that the incident was not intentional. The first time it happened (28 days ago) the person was highly intoxicated.

The CNN headline uses a word like plow, but other than that doesn’t really have a slanted tone in terms of sensationalizing the violence.

However, this is not to say that the CNN site was neutral and lacked sensationalism. It did. The entire left column had to do with Trump policies and how they are affecting people. The right column had to do with hate-based crimes labeled “Hate in America”.

NBC’s headline also takes an angle as it uses a word like “Troll”.

I think these are all good indicators of how partisan-based and sensationalized our media has become and I thought Manjoo’s line on page 148 was a great example of this as he said, “But Lou Dobbs is not a raving idiot. He just plays one on TV. Given the circumstances, he’d be a fool not to.”

This idea that entertainment is more valuable in media than an attempt at non-biased analysis has grown with social media as every news outlet aims for a catchy attention-grabbing headline. So much so, that we have an actual term for it: click bait. Now, I know that a lot of click-bait articles are that way because they are paid by clicks, but mainstream media is not above the click-bait headlines, as I hope the 3 examples above indicate. I think we can all think of these moments. I chose the Anchorman 2 poster for my featured image because this is a subject in the movie where they realize they need to be entertaining most of all.

Feeding Our Biases

The second theme in these chapters that is important to discuss is the concept of perception in media. I thought the examples he gave on the Palestine/Israel conflict were really interesting because I do think we are all stuck in our views most of the time. I think the concept of rhetorical listening is incredibly crucial when it comes to trying to maintain a level head (at least as much as possible). For example, yesterday I came across a story about Steve Bannon saying that “marriage lets us do all the other things we can’t do in a regular relationship” and that “it’s ok to slap your wife around a bit if it’s done out of love and I think some women even love this because it shows they care”. Based on the type of individual Bannon is in my mind, the only part of this I initially found surprising was that he would say this openly in an interview. However, something like this, even if it fits the perception of who you think he is, needs to be checked. If such an interview existed it would be easily verifiable. It was 100% fake. Even though I think Bannon is an immoral human being doesn’t mean that I should accept any story that “fits the preconceived narrative”.

I think this step is the single most important part of making progress and working together, but it’s also the hardest. It’s so difficult to put these biases aside and try and analyse the situation because like Manjoo pointed out, people see media as being biased against their opinion/side, and they view things through a lens that reaffirms their beliefs.

I don’t have an answer as to how this can be fixed, but I hope we can all try.

Speed-Reading Through Pessimism, Politics, and Post-Factualism

Post my weekend where I’ve come out wondering what will make me a real human being again… I’m met with finishing this book (an uber fast finish) and the views of Katie and Ram after finishing the book! (My feature image isn’t for the text specifically, just my general state of life right now) Wow, oh wow. (And if anyone has any help to regaining personhood and mental capacity post finally completing big long-term projects, please let me know! Or if you have any tips on finding out a grandparent has died from a Facebook post instead of your parents. That’d be helpful too.) I’m kinda left feeling like:

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In her post, Katie states: “Living under a rock seems the only way to avoid biased stories and information, thus making it impossible to stay informed as to facts at the same time. Manjoo only hints at in the earlier chapters, but there is also the occasion where we use our own experience to dictate I something is possible or true, linking with selective perception.”

 

This was definitely one of the larger take aways I saw in this book as well. But less in a bitter way, I can think of it more in the aspect of understanding the world around us and how it works and bringing skepticism into it. There are no great answers on how to deal with anything ever. But I certainly think that the work Manjoo is doing in this text is to elicit that response.

In Ram’s post, I really wanted more about partisans. Historically, it’s been pretty obvious the moments when people were out-rightly opposed to partisan behaviors and dichotomizing. And right now, post factual everything comes up everywhere casually. However, I think that Ram brings up a really good thing when it comes to the different ideas of “particularized trust” and “generalized trust.”

Manjoo states that: “Particularized trust can’t be captured well by surveys, so there is little data on whether it’s advancing in the United States” (225). Particular trust deals with people who are inherently similar to us. Generalized trust deals with people we see as different than us. It seems to all deal with bias in a way that’s not completely specific to our full-hearted choices. This makes me think about research being done on implicit biases.

I think the purpose of this all is to be skeptical and think critically. Things we probably should have been doing all along. It’s to not just take things at face value. Most people are well aware the memory is a dud, so why should we go all out and truly believe what other people are saying and projecting out there. In a world with alternative facts… should we have been trusting the information before now? I can barely tell what’s a dream, a memory, or something that I’ve thought up and written fictionally. I know it’s more complicated than that, but should we have even been going blindly through media consumption beforehand anyway? When things were “factual,” should we have believed them?

I guess that’s why we need to think about these things too.

Partisans are Lethal

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Farhad Manjoo, in the chapters fifth and sixth of his book ‘True Enough- Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society’, explained that we people have created the system/channels through which propagandists are driving the “naive realism” and we are enjoying it. People pretend that they want to listen reality, but they don’t know or perhaps don’t want to confess that they are already biased and this biasness prevent them to accept reality. People skim different creams with different taste from same milk and possess a rigid opinion. You may find your cream bitter at the same time others find it sweet and then you interpret that other people are false because they are not in accord you are. And this leads to new salesman in the market, the market that had only one salesman with sweet cream, now have two salesmen with different tastes and it runs very well, because salesmen find viable market and greater customer satisfaction.

To explain my understanding on how we perceive ourselves right and others wrong in the same situation, I want to extend Lee Ross’s example on the term “fundamental attribution error”. If you are standing in a long line outside the pharmacy and impatiently waiting for your turn to reach the counter, then you see a man comes and go directly to the counter and get his medicine. You curse him badly for his rude behavior because there are many who are already standing in line; he is such a bad guy. Time passed, one day you are in hurry and want some medicine and reached at the same pharmacy. What you see is that there is long line from the counter and it may take an hour to reach the counter if you follow the line. You convince yourself that you are in hurry and then without a second thought, go directly the counter and get your medicine. You feel no guilty because whatever you did, it was due to emergency. The time ago, you had not got such feelings, but now you got because now it’s about you.

The above example may connect to “particularized trust” and “generalized trust”, Farhad Manjoo described in epilogue. By proving yourself that you are right, may result the ignorance of the trust that surrounds you. In the above example, you convinced yourself that you were right by not following the line because you had an emergency, but you neglected that there were some folks in the line who might had emergency same as you or more than you. You are ignorant of a lot that justifies truth. We should bend from our biased opinion and think about “reality” that makes better systems for smooth running of a society.

One may think, what is wrong with current propaganda if we are getting easily what we want. The worst thing about these fake news is that they obscure reality. If you put a label saying poison on a bottle holding honey in it, it doesn’t change the honey into poison, but it does change its perception to honey seekers. Someone become starved of honey despite of having abundant. So, consider wisely and prevent the rise of propagandists for the sake of future generations.

People Are Awful and So Are You

Katie Kelly

Manjoo’s concluding two chapters and epilogue paint a bleak picture for the human race as informed participants in building their own social culture. He presents this idea in the epilogue that I had thought of the entire 2016 presidential with main stream media being denoted as liars by everyone and their mothers. If media is made to address peoples’ existing biases, using actual facts as a basis for pushing an agenda of sorts, and this leads to people being completely misinformed, then why even bother?

Living under a rock seems the only way to avoid biased stories and information, thus making it impossible to stay informed as to facts at the same time. Manjoo only hints at in the earlier chapters, but there is also the occasion where we use our own experience to dictate I something is possible or true, linking with selective perception. So to avoid our own biases from influencing the information we consume, and prevent others’ agendas from coloring the information we are exposed to, it seems being ignorant is truly bliss.

These options, be ignorant or be brainwashed, seem kind of limiting given this growth of possibilities over just the last 30 years. Is the answer to be completely skeptical of everything? Overly critical of even arguments that support your internal motivations? To spend so much time collecting information to be informed enough to make a clear educated conclusion about the topic, that we are risk of being left behind as more events and topics float in? Maybe it’s not even worth keeping up, perhaps at some point giving up is the best and sanest way to go about being influenced by the media. If you are aware of your personal biases and of the slant presented by the various news outlets, you can find a sweet medium between being informed and being ignorant. In being aware of potential influences one can be the right amount of skeptical to stay open minded when presented with conflicting information, but also not over expend resources in trying to reach the dirty details of every possible story out there.

My outlook on the subject is perhaps just as bleak as Manjoo’s on people and their ability to take information in a non-harmful manner. Can’t really give a defense to the contrary, and honestly I don’t really care. This book became exhausting to get through and frustrating to relate to, so I just took on Manjoo’s poor view of people as vehicles for information. And that feeds into the only conclusion I got from this book: we’re all awful and stupid. Cheers to us.