14 votes

Five things the media does to manufacture outrage

19 comments

  1. [9]
    nacho
    Link
    This is more like a five-step process used to create outrage. Where things go wrong is that journalists, for whatever reason, publish tweets and social media posts from people whose identities...

    This is more like a five-step process used to create outrage.

    Where things go wrong is that journalists, for whatever reason, publish tweets and social media posts from people whose identities they don't know. Outlets also intentionally omit context to have things seem larger or more important than they are.

    That's just bad journalism. But people aren't punishing outlets who do this, so they're incentivized to just keep going.

    • Who said xyz?
    • What possible agenda could they have?
    • Why did they say xyz?
    • What impact did saying xyz have?
    • What audience did saying xyz reach? How did this audience respond?
    • Should we worry about xyz?

    When you quote unverified social media without looking into who's saying what, you will end up spreading actual corporate shill accounts or state-run propaganda accounts. It's just a matter of a short amount of time.

    But if you have to interview the people saying things, verify and talk to them before posting, well that'd require actual journalistic work and you'd kill a ton of non-stories.


    But when people aren't willing to pay for news, we get what we collectively don't pay for. In democracies news has an important role beyond simply as a means of being entertained or passing time.

    But it also takes a certain amount of focus and engagement with society for each and every one of us to prioritize time into getting involved with how our society, on a neighborhood-level, on a local level and possibly on a systemic state/national level.

    9 votes
    1. [8]
      TheJorro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I've been pruning all my algorithm-driven news feeds over the last four or so years with something I call the 5AT rule: if an article's sources are a random assortment of people on Twitter (5...

      I've been pruning all my algorithm-driven news feeds over the last four or so years with something I call the 5AT rule: if an article's sources are a random assortment of people on Twitter (5 Assholes on Twitter), I ban the whole news outlet.

      It has dropped the outrage level of my news feeds almost completely. The thought is that actual journalistic outlets would not do this, but there are tons of tabloid sites that would and are better at getting a foothold on things like Google News. It used to be that they'd hover at the bottom of Cracked or Gawker media articles, or search engines, but then realized they could take advantage of algorithm-based news aggregators like Google and Facebook News, so they are incentivized to report things this way as it generates clicks. I figured the only solution to a leech is to get rid of it entirely, not hope it does better.

      9 votes
      1. [3]
        Deimos
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I thought this was a great Onion article about this style of "journalism": Reporter Who Found 3 Angry Tweets About Issue Guesses That’s An Article Right There

        I thought this was a great Onion article about this style of "journalism": Reporter Who Found 3 Angry Tweets About Issue Guesses That’s An Article Right There

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          Gaywallet
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          getting 404 post not found on this edit: found the link you lost a number at the end

          getting 404 post not found on this

          edit: found the link you lost a number at the end

          2 votes
      2. [4]
        pumasocks
        Link Parent
        May I ask what your current outlets are that meet your criteria?

        May I ask what your current outlets are that meet your criteria?

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          TheJorro
          Link Parent
          Well, it's more that I only specify what I don't want to see, which specifically is dishonest tones and attitudes. I don't choose what news subjects and outlets I do want delivered because, to me,...

          Well, it's more that I only specify what I don't want to see, which specifically is dishonest tones and attitudes. I don't choose what news subjects and outlets I do want delivered because, to me, news shouldn't be entirely curated by interest or agreeable perspectives and is a form of media for discovering new things and perspectives on issues that are happening. Journalistic standards are important and I want to see more of it in my news, not less.

          Right now, my algorithm feeds are giving me a lot of local news and then what seem to be some quality international news sources, along with some local foreign news. Right now, my Google News feed is serving articles from:

          • CTV
          • Global News
          • Globe & Mail
          • Toronto Star
          • The Guardian
          • Rolling Stone
          • Variety
          • Stereogum
          • BBC
          • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
          • Deadline
          • BNN

          This list changes significantly a few times a day, of course. I know there are frequently articles from other places such as the Washington Post, NYT, Independent, the Register, and more. There are also usually more hobby-related ones like Polygon, Kotaku, Genius, and more but I guess they're not coming up right now. Sidenote: I ban a lot of hip hop "news" sites, that's one field that seems to have a lot of garbage journalism.

          Are all of these good? No idea, but the articles all seem fine. Written in proper journalistic tone, with research, and proper headlines. Many of them are tackling the same subjects, so I'll read a couple and see a few different perspectives that mostly overlap. None of them seem like a tonal outlier.

          An example of a local newspaper I have banned from my feeds is the Toronto Sun, which is a newspaper that is infamous for yellow journalism and will stoop the level of fabricating news to paint refugees in a bad light.

          6 votes
          1. [2]
            cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Ugh. "Babes" in bikinis with big boobs (boomer wank material) on page 6, and rage/race baiting bullshit every other page. It's the absolute worst of the convenience store checkout line...

            Toronto Sun

            Ugh. "Babes" in bikinis with big boobs (boomer wank material) on page 6, and rage/race baiting bullshit every other page. It's the absolute worst of the convenience store checkout line "newspapers" here in Ontario, since at least the tabloids full of celebrity gossip, and conspiracy rags full of alien abduction and samsquanch sighting stories, don't pretend to be legitimate sources of important news.

            1 vote
            1. TheJorro
              Link Parent
              Even on things they should cover reasonably decently because it's something everyone can get behind on the same page about easily enough, they're just so fucking crass about it.

              Even on things they should cover reasonably decently because it's something everyone can get behind on the same page about easily enough, they're just so fucking crass about it.

              2 votes
  2. Adys
    Link
    Man, i want this article pinned. It should be required reading for people getting outraged at twitter outrage. Seriously, i don't know what the fix is. This crap is toxic. Are we going to...

    Man, i want this article pinned. It should be required reading for people getting outraged at twitter outrage.

    Seriously, i don't know what the fix is. This crap is toxic. Are we going to eventually catch on, the way people caught on to chain emails? If they even did, really..

    Maybe a legal fix? In the US the author might have grounds to sue the authors of the original article. Enough people retaliating against this type of abusive tabloidalism might give the media some second thoughts over time.

    And i don't think the fix is "people learning not to fall into the traps". Sure, better education is always good, but you can't blame people for stepping on mines in a minefield especially if they're not aware it is one.

    I try to call out non-articles when possible (most recent example: https://tildes.net/~life/x4k/finnish_huawei_vp_suggests_7_day_80_hour_work_weeks#comment-6jf5). But we all fall into the trap of believing one at some point, and that is how they get shared. And it's a mistake that can happen multiple times as there is no direct feedback to learn from when you make it.

    I also hope some tilders will recognize themselves in having fallen into the outrage trap. I've too many times seen people make a huge deal out of what ends up being a non-issue if you dig a bit.

    It's exhausting. It feels like there is no more room for .. like .. having an opinion on something without being hyper-vigilant and putting in tons of research work into just about everything you read.

    8 votes
  3. kfwyre
    Link
    For anyone interested in a book-length read on this, consider Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. It was published in 2012 which simultaneously makes it a bit...

    For anyone interested in a book-length read on this, consider Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. It was published in 2012 which simultaneously makes it a bit dated by today’s standards (some of the methods he identifies are no longer current) and also quite prescient (he was on the leading edge of techniques that are now essentially everywhere).

    6 votes
  4. [8]
    knocklessmonster
    (edited )
    Link
    It doesn't help that news outlet audiences are receptive to this stuff, and uncritical. An example I know of personally was a friend who made national news for something he did. He was...

    It doesn't help that news outlet audiences are receptive to this stuff, and uncritical. An example I know of personally was a friend who made national news for something he did. He was simultaneously an "angry Trumper" and a "fragile libtard" in every comment section I saw. People created entirely new stories based on this irrelevant political dichotomy, and any other non-existent factors they imagined. While I'm only talking about comments, consumers of news media are the means by which it spreads, and the people who make the news are also just people. What's worse, outrage culture is also largely self-driving: Look at the vast amounts of subreddits on Reddit that exist solely for people to be "justifiably" outraged. The media may be spoonfeeding us outrage, but we, as a global society, are also walking up to the buffet and asking for more.

    EDIT: I realize she addresses this point in her post, but it's also a critical factor in how outrage is manufactured.

    In this story, Parker started a ball rolling that she wasn't even aware she pushed. The same thing happened, but it was pushed by another part of the system. She tweeted basically "Wtf? Underage red?" and people spun it their own way.

    There's also the issue that started with sites like Buzzfeed, which largely based their "stories" on social media, either through listicles or treating random activities on social media like some sort of breaking event, sort of a perverse extension of gossip pointed at an anonymous everyman. Parker's story is just another instance of that, and we start to see a situation that creates all sorts of societal ills with a cycle of media outlets referring to other media outlets that are discussing things mentioned by further more outlets, etc. A great example of this would be any moral panic situation we've seen play out in the past thirty years (Momo and Blue Whale are excellent recent examples).

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      We can't underrate the roles that social media plays though. The interaction design is structured to play these things up, elevate the most controversial voices, and incentivize the most...

      We can't underrate the roles that social media plays though. The interaction design is structured to play these things up, elevate the most controversial voices, and incentivize the most incendiary or controversial version of every take. It's like saying "It's out own fault for getting diabetes" and, while it's technically accurate at the immediate level, it's a set of choices being structured by a whole bunch of macro-level stuff outside out hands. We're always going to be going uphill if we try to work against it.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        knocklessmonster
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        The system is designed to boost popular content. Content becomes popular because people willingly engage in it initially, and it is presented to more people after it has become popular. People are...

        The interaction design is structured to play these things up, elevate the most controversial voices, and incentivize the most incendiary or controversial version of every take.

        The system is designed to boost popular content. Content becomes popular because people willingly engage in it initially, and it is presented to more people after it has become popular. People are how these systems work.

        The existence of outrage media (social and news) is a failing of the people who drive these systems: The people generating the content, the people boosting the content, the people not correcting for this sort of content in their systems, and most unfortunately, the people who willingly exploit this content for profit. If any one of these parts of the system did the right thing at a given time, the world would look very different right now.

        The issue is we are all equally responsible for this. The January 6th didn't happen because of a rogue AI, it happened because people spread, believed, and rationalized conspiracy theories. Moral panic or outrage doesn't happen because a rogue AI started printing newspaper articles, it is all the decisions of people to create and consume this content, as much as it is the failure of the publishers to prevent the dissemination of it. Every system we interact with is a system comprised of people who each make their own decisions based on a given set of rules.

        5 votes
        1. NaraVara
          Link Parent
          Casinos, narcotics, tobacco. . . all of these are businesses that have very strong incentives to lean into taking advantage of flaws in peoples' brains to extract money from them against their own...

          The system is designed to boost popular content. Content becomes popular because people willingly engage in it initially, and it is presented to more people after it has become popular. People are how these systems work.

          Casinos, narcotics, tobacco. . . all of these are businesses that have very strong incentives to lean into taking advantage of flaws in peoples' brains to extract money from them against their own best interests. We tend to expect some amount of responsibility and care from those companies to not take things too far and encourage people to indulge responsibly. And those only affect individuals and their families, not the basic fabric of society.

          We're definitely not all equally responsible for this. There is definitely a lot more power to affect things and responsibility for outcomes in some very specific agents.

          4 votes
    2. [2]
      kfwyre
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Agreed. It’s very easy to point fingers and blame someone else (which is what we’ve been trained to do by all the posts that stoke our outrage by trying to make us justifiably angry at others’...

      The media may be spoonfeeding us outrage, but we, as a global society, are also walking up to the buffet and asking for more.

      Agreed. It’s very easy to point fingers and blame someone else (which is what we’ve been trained to do by all the posts that stoke our outrage by trying to make us justifiably angry at others’ actions and simultaneously assured in our own), but it’s a lot harder to confront that part of ourselves that wants to join in.

      It’s comforting to tell myself that I’m “better than that”, but that’s a lie. The truth of the matter is that I still occasionally hate-surf for the purposes of activating a sense of smug vindication. I seek out things I know will bother me because it can feel invigorating — intoxicating, even — to be given an excuse to sharpen my metaphorical pitchfork.

      2 votes
      1. knocklessmonster
        Link Parent
        That pretty much hits it on the nose. It's the power of smug indignation, or even unbridled rage in the worst of circumstances that sucks us in.

        I seek out things I know will bother me because it can feel invigorating — intoxicating, even — to be given an excuse to sharpen my metaphorical pitchfork.

        That pretty much hits it on the nose. It's the power of smug indignation, or even unbridled rage in the worst of circumstances that sucks us in.

        2 votes
    3. [2]
      EgoEimi
      Link Parent
      I decided to give Buzzfeed a look: Inside The Microsoft Teams Meeting That'll Determine What Happens If You Get Sexually Assaulted On Campus Microsoft Teams is mentioned only once in the article...

      I decided to give Buzzfeed a look:

      Inside The Microsoft Teams Meeting That'll Determine What Happens If You Get Sexually Assaulted On Campus

      Microsoft Teams is mentioned only once in the article and is not relevant to it.

      ...did I just read a product placement in a news headline? :p

      Up next: Man Killed In Collision With All New, Four Wheel-Drive Ford F-150.

      2 votes
      1. knocklessmonster
        Link Parent
        Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed News are very different organizations, and Buzzfeed News generally does good work. The organization in question used Microsoft Teams, so I would wager it's actually relevant...

        Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed News are very different organizations, and Buzzfeed News generally does good work. The organization in question used Microsoft Teams, so I would wager it's actually relevant to the topic at hand.

        I'm referring to the original Buzzfeed organization that started, or at least popularized, the major trend of recycling content from social media sites.

        3 votes