Reader: the American media consumer is being bamboozled 


According to the recent letter from Ted Breitenstein, things are just hunky-dory in America's current media landscape, where we're informed "these changes, while bad for long-standing news institutions, have greatly benefited the consumer." Whereupon I am compelled to ask: Which consumers? You mean the ones glued to FOX News? The ones who consume all the parallel universe codswallop about a Hillary-James Comey-Christopher Steele plot (involving the Clinton Foundation, Mueller Democratic lawyers and "Uranium One") to topple Donald Trump? If so, yeah, I'd agree.

But on reading the book Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics (by three scholars associated with Harvard University) I'd say there is a more profound take concerning how the American media consumer is being bamboozled in an asymmetric media environment wherein the right's crazies hold all the advantages.

Contrary to the usual malarkey (which the mainstream media often recycles) the three authors found — "No left-right division, but rather a division between the right and the rest of the media ecosystem. The right wing of the media ecosystem behaves precisely as the echo chamber models predict — exhibiting high insularity, susceptibility to information cascades, rumor, conspiracy theory, and drift toward more extreme versions of itself."

According to Network Propaganda, the primary consequence of this media asymmetry is a propaganda feedback loop. This loop, once established — as it is via FOX, Limbaugh, Breitbart, etc., "lowers the costs of lying and increases the costs of resisting in the name of truth."

In other words, it requires vastly more energy, time-consuming investigation and endless scrutiny to knock down all the lies already contrived and metastasizing like mind viruses in the media ecosphere.

No, today's media consumers— unless they are extraordinarily savvy and well-informed — are more often mind roadkill than beneficiaries of this "market-based economy," Breitenstein so avidly praises.

— Phil Stahl

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