Blaming social networks for political polarization is like blaming firearms for mass shootings
There are very few things that fire me up to supernova levels when free speech is attacked, but when a nerve is hit, the explosion is inevitable.
The mainstream media cannot stop the democratization of information so they portray freedom of speech, among other rights ingrained in the lives of all free human beings as threats to democracy and democratic states, which is what the mainstream media themselves are.
The true threats to democracy and nation states are the carefully filtered absolute truths imposed by large multinational corporations, that own most major propaganda mouthpieces.
It is precisely because mainstream media cannot compete with the decentralized spread of news and information that they feel threatened by independent media operations and how rapidly social media help disseminate their content.
One of the results of the democratization of information via social media is the newly found reality that mainstream media are outdated pieces of junk that can no longer survive in a world where information is at anyone’s fingertips, unfiltered, uncensored, raw and ready to be consumed.
According to Gordon Hull, a Philosophy Professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who calls himself an expert in social and political repercussions of technology, “social media are weakening some of the social conditions that have historically enabled the existence of democratic nation states.”
Professor Hull would be proven right if you believe that mass ignorance and filtered information are best for society. Perhaps he is unaware of the complicity between governing elites and the mainstream media that intends to keep the public as ignorant as possible.
Loss of Control and Russophobia at the heart of it
People like Hull have a collectivist view that information should be censored if it is done for “the benefit of society”, as supposed to let the public decide what they believe based on their own best judgment.
The basis for professor Hull’s statement is the widely spread lie that Russia intervened in the US election in 2016 and that such intervention affected the result in favor of Donald J. Trump.
“I understand that it is a drastic statement, and I do not expect anyone to believe it immediately. But, considering that almost half of all possible voters received false news promoted by the Russians on Facebook, it is an argument that must be discussed,” said Hull.
Hull explains that mainstream media such as newspapers play a significant role in providing national identity in any country and that democratic states depend on this feeling of national identity to be cohesive.
It is funny that Hull brings such a novel idea up because it is precisely the mainstream media who he cites as purveyors of national identity the ones that have, for the past 8 years or so, attempted to destroy the national identity of western countries by promoting and in many cases demanding the forced assimilation of illegal aliens.
It is the feeling that we are all the same and that we all row forward on the same boat what has allowed governing elites to pacify the masses.
A society is not cohesive or egalitarian because its members are all equally ignorant, which is what Hull seems to provide as the reason for that mass feeling of identity.
Cognitive Infiltration to acquiesce the Public
Cass Sunstein is a well-known pro-censorship liberal who supports cognitive infiltration as a way to control people’s minds. According to ‘scholars’ like him, it is insane for people to talk to each other to exchange information on what they read or watched on TV and how this may a bunch of lies.
People like Hull, Sunstein, and others would rather the public get their information directly from the mainstream media, as supposed to have the ability to talk to each other, to dissent and to question whether something is true or not.
People who dissent and question official stories are often called ‘conspiracy theorists’, a derogatory term used to ridicule them.
The problem these self-proclaimed experts have is that with more people involved in gathering news and information, it is harder for the mainstream media to lie without being caught.
Hull and Sunstein are all for social cohesion as long as it is a controlled system. That is because it served the purposes of the governing elite, which they probably feel a part of.
In their minds, it is positive when people have a sense of belonging as long as that feeling is controlled by the media and their owners who want society to be composed by conformed, uninformed robots.
Neither the mainstream media nor so-called scholars want the public to shape the discourse because that role has been reserved for them over hundreds of years.
See this video as an example:[media url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhzdUY_7mCA” width=”650″ height=”350″]
Social Networks allow self-empowerment
Although mainstream media have been caught as the main carriers of fake news, Hull cites social media as a threat to real information.
“Individuals only receive basically the type of information that they themselves have previously selected or, and this is more dangerous, that third parties have decided that they are interested in knowing,” he says.
Professor Hull is a believer that people do not possess the ability to read information and make a decision by themselves. Instead, he seems to imply, the public should be told what they need to know.
“Specific advertising used on Facebook news helps create bubble filters. Advertising on Facebook works by determining the interests of users based on the data they collect from their searches, their likes, and so on. It is a very complex operation,” Hull explains.
I cannot believe that professor Hull does not know the difference between advertising and information, but I am sure the public is getting much better at making that difference and the Internet and social media themselves are big reasons for that.
Getting around censorship, disinformation and Fake News
Today, people are not only able to block information they understand as not helpful, but also to choose what information they want to see first, for example, in the same way in which a cable subscriber can switch channels with a remote control.
For example, getting through Google’s censorship and tricky algorithms is as easy as using Startpage.com instead. Overcoming Twitter’s censorship is as easy as using Gab.ai.
According to Hull, clicking LIKE or SHARE on a Facebook post implies the person will not independently verify the veracity of the information he just showed love for.
“The trouble is that inside a bubble filter the person never receives the news with which he does not agree. This raises a problem: there is never an independent verification of that news,” he states.
How did professor Hull get to that conclusion? No one knows because no study can properly determine every single person’s way of thinking. However, Hull cites a study by unnamed psychologists who explain the term confirmation bias.
Hull believes that people who get information via social media are negatively affected by confirmation bias, so they are not qualified to make a decision as to what information is real and what is not.
Hull cites another piece of research carried out by Yale that explains how “people are inclined to interpret the new evidence in light of the beliefs associated with their social groups.”
Is this not what happened and continues to happen with people who watch mainstream media news? Don’t they get conned by lying talking every single night on the evening news?
Information, not Polarization
While trying to deconstruct Hull’s article, published first on The Conversation, I realized that he bases his criticism of social media on Facebook’s business model, which according to him, “manipulates the emotions of users, who are more satisfied when they see things with which they agree.”
Firstly, Hull underestimates the public’s ability to discern between fake news and real news, as if everyone on Facebook were equally incapable of making that distinction.
Secondly, he continuously associates his argument against the role of social media in democratizing information, as imperfect as that role is, to truly fake news that claims that Russia influenced the US election. Hull is, indeed, a purveyor of false news. What credibility can he have as a scholar or as a commentator?
Despite Hull’s beliefs, social media are not the main sources of fake news, mainstream media are. Most mainstream media reports are as real as a $3,00 bill.
In his article, Hull decries the end of demographic groups and the birth of merely political groups. That kind of separation has existed for decades, it is not something new.
People have not voted their conscious for years. They always vote for the horse that is apparently winning, according to what mainstream media report. People have always voted in favor of their political beliefs and never based on their demographic or ethnicity.
The wealthy always vote for the candidate who promises to cut their taxes and the poor in favor of the candidate who promises to tax the wealthy to transfer money to them.
The type of polarization Hull speaks of is that generated by political parties, their key figures, and the mainstream media, not by social media. In fact, polarization is more frequent in people who use the Internet the least.
Lack of agreement about healthcare, the environment, energy policy or any other issue of social importance has nothing to do with polarization, but with personal interest, and personal interest depends on an individual’s situation at a specific time.
Blaming social media for political polarization is like blaming firearms for mass shootings. Information is a weapon, but it is what people choose to do with it that matters.
The real threat against the nation-state is having an unchallenged ministry of truth, composed by mainstream media that only serve the interests of the governing elite.