All posts filed under: Media

Against Big Tech Viewpoint Discrimination

This week, YouTube decided American conservative “shock jock” commentator Steven Crowder broke the rules of their Partner Program. Since YouTube is privately owned, shouldn’t principled free market advocates support the company’s right to purge videos Silicon Valley finds triggering, even if a disproportionate number are created by conservative commentators such as Crowder? Well, imagine electric companies stood up for progressive values by cutting off power to homes with pro-Trump yard signs. Even staunch supporters of free markets would likely object to these restrictions on expression by privately owned enterprises. When we examine why power companies shouldn’t be able to make service contingent on not violating political sensibilities, we see that analogous arguments should stop social media giants from exiling political dissidents. If Burger King won’t sell you a hamburger, so what—buy one from McDonald’s. Competition among businesses normally protects you from harm if one refuses you service. Some markets, however, are characterized by “bigger is better” where size bestows advantage. It’s much cheaper on average to hook up electric power lines to homes if the …

On the Vital Importance of (Good) Journalism

Editor’s Note: This is the text of a speech delivered by Victor Greto at the Delaware Press Association Awards banquet on May 2, 2019. My experience as a journalist for three decades, and as a professor for more than a decade, has given me at least one insight: that the core of journalism as a vocation and duty has been dissipating in an increasingly divided American society mesmerized by technology and social media. Teaching classes at Wesley College for the past decade has revealed to me declining knowledge among students of the importance or relevance of an independent institution which keeps tabs on the powers-that-be, from federal and state governments to college administrations. In fact, it seems to me that the majority of news acceptable to most of us must be that which confirms our own political and social prejudices and expectations for it to elicit any kind of approval and to be sharable on social media. This unfortunately encompasses many un-journalistic tributaries of journalism, including public relations and fake news. There is nothing inherently …

The Moral Panic Behind Internet Regulation

This is a contribution to “Who Controls the Platform?”—a multi-part Quillette series. Submissions related to this series may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. In the present era of growing polarization, one thing that people from across the political spectrum now agree on is their dislike of Big Tech. The political Left complains that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon have become “monopolies.” They also blame global technology platforms for Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump, and white nationalism. It is much easier, after all, to blame online manipulation for the downfall of the center-left than acknowledge the disconnect between the intelligentsia and the working-class voters that the Left once represented. Meanwhile, critics on the Right blame Big Tech for a comparable shopping list of evils, including being biased against conservatives, giving a platform to terrorists, enabling pedophiles to groom children and distribute indecent images, and boosting populist figures on the Left and Right who threaten the center-right’s own electoral base. This is mixed, particularly in the U.K., with a traditional conservative refrain of “Please, won’t someone think of the …

Is the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Politically Diverse?

Earlier this month, popular author and podcaster Sam Harris tweeted out a graph titled, “A Visual Breakdown of Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) Positions.” The graph purports to compare the political positions of six prominent members of the IDW on the main issues that supposedly divide liberals and conservatives. The tweet links to a blog post by cybersecurity expert and writer Daniel Miessler, where he explains his motive for producing the graph. Miessler was frustrated that members of the IDW often are labelled conservative or even alt-right, so he set out to gather information on the positions of six prominent members—Harris, Eric Weinstein, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, and Ben Shapiro—on some important political issues. The resulting graph indicates that all these people, with the partial exception of Ben Shapiro, are far more aligned with liberals than with conservatives on the issues that Miessler believes divide liberals and conservatives. The IDW members are not conservatives, Miessler argues, but “mostly a collection of disilliusioned liberals looking for a place to have honest conversation.” Now, this claim …

Giving the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Its Star Turn on Video

When we consider the way video has helped fuel the movement that’s sometimes described as the Intellectual Dark Web, we often think about famous thinkers such as Jordan Peterson delivering speeches or lectures on YouTube and other social media sites. It’s a phenomenon I wrote about back in September, in a Quillette piece entitled Amidst the YouTube Junkies of MythCon, wherein I described the extraordinary popularity of video pundits collecting millions of hits with thoughtful—but often simple and low-budget—monologues delivered from their basement, bedroom or kitchen table. But Washington, D.C.-based documentarian Rob Montz, co-founder and CEO of Good Kid Productions, takes a more ambitious approach. Montz has produced tightly narrated, inventively shot documentaries about American politics and campus life that manage to be both intellectually penetrating and surprisingly funny. One of his 2017 documentaries, published on We the Internet TV, won the 2018 Reason Video Prize. And his work has been covered in The Economist, The New York Times and the Washington Post. In late March, I interviewed Montz for the Quillette podcast—a conversation you …

News, Pre-News, Fake News, and Statistics

I’ve taken three lengthy Uber trips in the past month. Eventually, each of my drivers got around to asking what I did for a living. When I replied, ‟I teach journalism,ˮ two of the three reflexively exclaimed, ‟Ahh, fake news!ˮ It took the third a few extra lines of conversation, but she got there too in the end. For those of us engaged in showing young people how the media are supposed to work, there is no escaping the sturm und drang over fake news. Needless to say, the term has itself acquired a patina of inauthenticity, given its most celebrated user’s tendency to invoke it to mean, ‟This news makes me look bad…so it’s fake.ˮ In fairness, however, those of us who deal in the rules and rudiments of journalism understand that the fake-news meme cannot be dismissed simply as red meat that a pathologically insecure president tosses into his supporters’ den with discomfiting regularity. Actually, it’s an endemic issue in journalism, especially broadcast. The nature and baked-in presentation of news is such that …

Joe Rogan is the Walter Cronkite of Our Era

It is always tempting to believe that we live in historic times. It strokes the ego to think that decades from now, people will look back on current events as the starting point of some dramatic, epochal change. As a comedian, professionally cynical and distrustful of epic narratives, I usually dismiss such notions as the delusions of grandeur of an increasingly narcissistic generation. Yet as I sat glued to my computer last week, watching Joe Rogan and Tim Pool interrogate Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde (the company’s global lead for legal, policy, and trust and safety), I could not shake the feeling that I was witnessing a historic moment. It has long been an open secret that the mainstream media (MSM) is dying. Of all America’s major institutions and industries, only the U.S. Congress is trusted less by the public than the media. The MSM’s one saving grace was its ability to engage in high-end, investigative journalism by pouring millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours into complex, wide-ranging and secretive operations in …

Women Needed a Magazine that Doesn’t Lie to Them. So I Started One

 As founder and editor-in-chief of a new web site aimed at women, I often get asked: Why do we need yet another publication in this already crowded media niche? It’s simple: Until now, all of the major players have had one common characteristic. Can you guess what it is? When Bryan Goldberg announced in a blog post that he had raised $6.5 million to start Bustle.com, a site for women, many competitors weren’t happy. “Isn’t it time for a women’s publication that puts world news and politics alongside beauty tips?” Goldberg wrote. A Jezebel writer, Hazel Cills, responded that such sites already exist. And she was right—perhaps more so than Cills knew: All the publications mentioned in her Jezebel article—The Hairpin, The Toast, Bust, Bitch, xoJane, Autostraddle, Refinery29, AfterEllen and Jezebel itself—push a liberal, feminist message. The same is true of older outlets such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour and Allure. Go ahead and find me a single successful, mainstream women’s lifestyle-and-culture publication that doesn’t regularly exhibit a bias against conservative points of view. There’s been …

Headline Rhymes

Have you heard ’bout the horrible hate crime? A TV star is beat up by two white guys But the whole thing turns whack When the white guys turn black And YOU are racist for not buyin’ Views on the news, delivered so smooth. This week’s inspired by the confusing story of Jussie Smollett as it continues to unspool. As it does, perhaps sober thinking about race is in order:  Racism and Underdetermination by Evidence The Racism Treadmill Click for last week’s edition. And for more Headline Rhymes, follow along on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Agnès Bun’s Invincible Summer

Meeting Agence France-Presse photojournalist Agnès Bun is a disarming experience. She looks younger than her age, but her youthful appearance belies an intensity forged in her frequently dangerous and sometimes harrowing line of work. As we talked about her career and her reluctant memoir, There’s No Poetry in a Typhoon (translated from the French by Melanie Ho), she spoke quickly and wasted few words, which made our interview a challenge and a pleasure. What is a reluctant memoir? It’s one written as a result of benevolent pressure from her peers and admirers, who implored her to aggregate a series of blog posts she had written for the AFP website about her experiences in the field. Eventually, she agreed but she hasn’t looked back since. “I wrote most of the chapters in one go,” she says, “and I haven’t reread it since it was published.” She isn’t the type of person to be detained by self-aggrandizement—she seems to be endowed with more humility than egoism. Instead, she reports and moves on. But sometimes her work leaves …