On media bias and attempts at neutrality

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Institutions like journalism draw their authority from trust. With enough of it, journalism can become a true “fourth estate,” an independent power center with an existence separate and distinct from dueling political factions. Without at least some trust that bridges tribal lines, its authority wanes, and it can only passively report as tribalism takes over.

In the end, for building trust, there simply is no substitute for A) guild professionals with special expertise in gathering and assessing information, B) strong norms to govern their behavior, C) institutions to enforce those norms and vouchsafe good work, and D) social norms granting those professionals some transpartisan authority.

The US has lots of A, but not much of B, C, or D.

pub. 05/2017

 

It’s everywhere: Advertising, propaganda, and politics

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Becoming self-aware of these mental patterns, and actively seeking to rewire them, is the foundation of cognitive therapy, i.e. Psychiatry.

Remaining unaware of these mental patterns is the foundation of Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations, i.e. Propaganda.

The biggest mistake of those who don’t use Propaganda is that they underestimate its power.

pub. 05/2017

When lying is seen as a strength

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This research—and those stories—highlight a difficult truth about our species: We are intensely social creatures, but we’re prone to divide ourselves into competitive groups, largely for the purpose of allocating resources. People can be prosocial—compassionate, empathic, generous, honest—in their groups, and aggressively antisocial toward out-groups. When we divide people into groups, we open the door to competition, dehumanization, violence—and socially sanctioned deceit.

pub. 03/2017

Conservatives without religion are still intolerant, and without a church’s positive messages

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Why did these religiously unaffiliated Republicans embrace Trump’s bleak view of America more readily than their churchgoing peers? … Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.

pub. 04/2017

An easy-to-digest listicle version of smart guy Umberto Eco’s “Ur-Fascism”

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6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration.

That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old “proletarians” are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.

Excerpts pub. 11/1995, orig. pub. 06/1995

The Trump campaign, white supremacy, and the sliding scale of whiteness in America

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The Poles, in other words, were not considered white. Far from it: they were considered a mysterious menace that should be expelled. …

…Over time, the strategy of positioning Poles as “white” against a dark-skinned “other” was successful. Poles came to consider themselves white, and more importantly, they came to be considered white by their fellow Americans …[and w]ith that new white identity came the ability to practice the discrimination they had once endured.

pub. 08/2016