Analysis

Media Bubbles Have Replaced the Blogosphere

Bloggers from across the political spectrum used to debate each other.

Frederik deBoer:

So when I started blogging in 2008, a thing that would happen would be that a conservative writer would publish something on a conservative website, and then liberals at liberal publications would read those conservative websites, write up their own liberal responses and publish them on their liberal websites, and conservatives would write responses to responses, and so a decent number of people got to be employed.

And what I can’t scientifically say but which seems screamingly obvious to me is that this is almost unthinkable today. It just doesn’t happen. Liberals don’t even bother to read conservative publications, and they certainly don’t respond to them. I can’t say what conservatives do because, unlike in 2008, I barely read conservative publications anymore. It was a thing I felt honor-bound to do and now I just… don’t do it.

I remember that time, and it was nice!

But, like deBoer, I’ve stopped reading conservative blogs and websites that have turned into mouthpieces for Donald Trump. Nor do I read Jacobin or The New Republic. I make an effort to read left- and right-leaning publications, from Talking Points Memo and Vox to The Bulwark, The Dispatch and National Review, but they have to fall within what I consider to be parameters of reasonableness.

Lies

It’s unhealthy in a democracy when people live in different information universes. Worse when you live in a two-party democracy and the dominant information universes overlap with those two parties.

For example, consider these headlines from conservative groups on Facebook highlighted by Judd Legum:

  • “Dems CAUGHT — 100,000 Illegal Ballots Found”
  • “Video Shows ‘Huge Pile’ Of Mail Just Being Dumped Out”
  • “Judge Sides With Trump — 50,000 Ballots TOSSED in Swing State”

They’re fabrications. But if you’re American and only get your “news” from conservative Facebook groups, and maybe Fox News and right-wing talk radio, you could end up believing such things.

Distorted

Left-wing media are less likely to lie. Probably because they have more overlap and interaction, in terms of the stories they write and the journalists who write them, with mainstream media. But if you only read Jacobin and Twitter, and watch Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, you will still get a distorted view of the United States.

Same if you’re British and only read The Guardian or only read The Telegraph.

Or here in Spain; if you only read El Mundo or ABC, two right-wing newspapers, you will soon develop a negative view of the current, left-wing government as well as the Catalan independence movement.

Recommendations

My recommendation: pick one or two authors or outlets from the other side, whatever that side might be. You don’t have to read American Greatness if you’re a Democrat in the United States (neither do I), but Andrew Sullivan, The Bulwark, The Dispatch and Quillette publish reasonable, right-of-center, Trump-skeptic commentary.

Conservatives in the UK should consider reading the excellent Marina Hyde. Lefties may appreciate Matthew D’Ancona.

Spaniards opposed to Catalan independence ought to occasionally read a column in La Vanguardia, the largest newspaper in Catalonia — which is neither for nor against independence — or El Nacional, a pro-independence outlet, to understand why half the Catalan population wants to secede.

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