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Things You Notice When You Quit the News (raptitude.com)
891 points by ysarbabi on Dec 11, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 487 comments

I haven't had a TV in the house for nearly 8 years now, and don't miss it at all. The biggest problem to me, seems to be the 24 hour news cycle for things like wars, elections and the like.

I was visiting friends during a couple of major air accidents in the past couple of years (The MH370 and MH17 incidents in particular), and was astounded at the propensity for news stations on ALL channels to fill every minute of the day with news 'updates' on the events that eventually descended into getting quotes and theories from just about anyone they could get to talk in front of a camera.

I was only exposed to that for a few hours at a time, but I found it absolutely exhausting to be bombarded like that. Not only that, I used to be a commercial pilot, and I could not believe the amount of disinformation and outright ridiculous theories being bandied about by so called 'reputable' news sources.

No thanks. I would rather control my own news firehose, and be selective about the information that I want to learn more about.

>Not only that, I used to be a commercial pilot, and I could not believe the amount of disinformation and outright ridiculous theories being bandied about by so called 'reputable' news sources.

This is true every time there is a news story on about anything that somebody around me is an expert on. It's always "what the hell are they talking about!?"

I've seen this directly, too. I've been on the local news quite a few times, and EVERY TIME what they end up broadcasting, and what I was explaining to them are different things.

What's really really scary to me lately is all of this talk about "fake news", which originally referred to outright lies that were part of click-farms, but is now being talked about as if CNN and MSNBC are somehow the only source of "real" news.

Frightening. Really truly actually frightening to me.

What you're describing is Gell-Mann Amnesia:

"Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know."

-Michael Crichton

My favourite example of this is the Economist news magazine. The Economist reports on a much larger range of country and topics than the typical magazine or newspaper. Many of its readers like it for that exact reason: it gives them information on stories they won't normally find in their local or national news sources and they want to be informed about, say, hydroelectric developments in the Congo.

The problem is that writing about 25 different countries in a single issue doesn't mean they actually have experts on most of those places or people on the ground to do original reporting. Often, it devolves into British or American writers regurgitating inaccurate information from the Internet. But if it's the only thing you read about, say, forest exports from Myanmar, you have no reason to question it.

The easiest way to see this is to be a non-US/UK/EU person and read an article in the Economist about your own country. Then you realize that all the other articles are just as simplistic and uninformed.

My experience is the opposite. And I'm definitely not blind to the Gell-Mann Amnesia, I notice it on Wikipedia all the time.

I've noticed that in The Economist the articles about my field of technology, work, and my small home country, have been accurate to the point that I suspect they have had experts in the field involved in creating them. That gives me confidence in the articles about issues I'm not intimately familiar with.

That is why The Economist is one of the few news sources I read after cutting out following daily news completely. As a result I'm much better informed about the facts and issues than I was when reading huge amounts of daily news. It boils down to a difference between consuming mostly noise and consuming mostly signal.

Interesting. My own area of knowledge is renewable energy, a topic which appears with moderate frequency in TE. I would say 8/10 articles are merely repackaging reports published by major global consultancies like McKinsey, Navigant, etc. that I had seen two or three months earlier through my employer (a large multinational energy company). I would not say the information is not correct, but it hardly insightful and often presents an incomplete picture which looks at the industry primarily from the perspective of financiers.

Well that's why it's not called The Technologist I guess :) It's hard to expect non-specialist publication to write anything non-trite to an expert in the field, but just not botching up the basic facts is often refreshing.

Repackaging reports and press releases (without attribution!) is major problem in news everywhere.

perhaps not insightful to you, someone with knowledge of the area. but how about others? how about me? where should I gain my insights into all of the various industries that I don't have direct knowledge of today?

I'd like to echo this sentiment. In fact, this is the exact reason that I happily pay for The Economist. Even when reporting on topics with which I'm quite familiar, The Economist nails it in terms of accuracy.

For instance, recently there was a writeup on quantum computing in which they made a somewhat hyperbolic claim regarding D-Wave. This gave me pause; however, the point was clarified in subsequent paragraphs, thus restoring my confidence in their analysis.

Much like the parent poster, I too have dropped many of my daily news sources, but not The Economist. I've yet to find a publication which matches it in terms of coverage and accuracy--not to mention their exceptionally high-quality audio recordings of each edition (perfect for commuting!).

yes and no.

Ive noticed the economist has a habit of playing policy games.

In that case they publish nonsense to further certain policy aims.

But often its well researched unbiased material.

not that easy to tell the difference.

but infinately better than the junk put out by the likes of the bbc fox cnn times etc.

Totally agreed.

But the nice thing about the newspaper (The Economist refers to itself as a newspaper, not a magazine) is that they provide pure opinion journalism and as a reader you know exactly where they are coming from.

While I agree a lot with the publication (for example: they argued to liberalize drugs, or advocated gay marriage literally decades before it was chic). I encounter my share of (what I lovingly refer to as) full-of-shit opinions, with which I wholeheartedly disagree.

Overall, though, it's one of the last remaining publications, on which I put a certain amount of trust because they usually know what they're writing about and even on the subjects on which I (partially vehemently) disagree it's always an interesting read.

Because they argue their position intelligently and competently. It won't make me a believer, but it's useful and interesting to get the counterpoint from a reputable and trustworthy publication and sometimes get your dogmas slightly shaken in the process.

Additionally, I feel they present opposing opinions with proper weight and fairness (before arguing against these points), so you never quite feel totally in the dark about the full controversy.

How is an opinion "full-of-shit? Do you not think that is their actual opinion?

I'll give you an example. The Economist has a few core principles that they hold very dear. Two of these are social liberalism and trade liberalism. They are strong believers in the free market. Applying these principles to issues in the recent past, the Economist took positions in favour of both legalisation of drugs and enacting the Trans Pacific Partnership. Most people (but not all) disagree with one of these stances but not the other. A Reagan Republican would favour trade and "just say no" whereas an Obama Democrat would demonise the TPP and demand the end of a failed, pointless war. It's easy to see how such people would find some stances taken by the Economist as "full-of-shit".

I'm a long time subscriber to the Economist, ever since I was in high school. I appreciate their breadth of reporting and their commitment to provide opinionated takes on news while also giving a balanced take on news. Very few times have I felt the "Murray Gell-Mann effect" while reading it. I can recall just one instance they have been wrong about a topic I'm knowledgeable about. That's a better record than any other publication I read.

I thought we liked BBC?

Reading the above quote from Micheal Chrichton, I immediately thought about The Economist and how they are usually well informed. I remember a short article on some legal case in rap music. I used to be very into rap, and while I didn't learn a lot from the article it did confirm that the writers take it very seriously whatever topic they are reporting on.

I stopped reading TE because I was put off by their too steadfast belief in monetarism as the be it end all. To their credit, they are pretty upfront about that though.

Actually, the Economist has about 400 reporters for a 50 page weekly magazine, about 8 per page, so they do have enough people to include experts for all those fields.

The times I read an Economist article about my country or my line of work the coverage was actually very good, but your milage may vary.

I am from a non-US, non-EU, non-UK country and the Economist coverage about my country isn't perfect but it's pretty decent.

Non-UK after non-EU already? the brexit hasn't happened yet :)

To be fair, I live in the such a country. Only, in my case, it is Norway, so it is kind of different altogether.

Very true, but TE is usually way less wrong than the alternatives. The journalists there at least seem to know how to use Wikipedia. I mean, what am I supposed to read instead?

The Economist also has a fairly evident political agenda.

I don't follow it that closely, but aren't they also pretty up-front about their own bias?


Indeed, and that is why I very rarely read it - for me, it would be too echo-chambery. I read the NYT quite deliberately and every day, enumerate why Krugman and Blow are wrong about whatever they are pontificating about...

Has The Economist shifted? I started reading it in about 2000, and at the time I really liked it because it seemed so intelligent and neutral. It seemed like such a pleasure to read something that went deep into interesting topics without an obvious axe to grind.

In the past ten years it seems to have drifted gradually leftward. Sometimes I can't reconsile The Economist of 2000 with the one of 2016. Did The Economist move gradually to the left or did I move to the right?

I think you've moved to the right, or this is another case of "reality having a leftwing bias". Or perhaps issues not reducing clearly to left/right.

The Economist were always Mill/Smith liberals, in favour of free trade, light but effective regulation, against the War on Drugs, pro-migration etc. They have a strong tendency to recommend economic liberalism regardless of what the problem is. These days the "right" have moved to "illiberal" positions - restricting free trade and migration. That may be what you're seeing.

If $xyz seems neutral to you, then it might mean you are politically and tonally aligned with $xyz ?

Left? The Economist has a blatant liberal slant.

I think it depends on your viewpoint.

I think The Economist is pretty open about their liberal slant (Adam Smith liberal, not US politics liberal).

I would think that a publication called 'The Economist' would be Adam Smith free market liberals.

Essentially it is, with caveats. The Economist was originally a publication set up to protest the Corn Laws and their distortion of the marketplace. The stance has shifted over the years but the tone is often inline with the founding idea that people and businesses should be left up to their own devices unless there is an excellent reason to intervene.

They have shifted over the past years, from small-business, fair/relatively-free market stance towards elitism/globalism.

My subscription is up in January, and -for the first time in 25 years- will NOT be renewed.

...compared to those outlets where is not that evident ?

Because I cannot think of any publication that I would call completely impartial (it also would make for pretty dry reading).

The Economist is not perfect but is the best news source I know, by far.

This quote has always bugged me a little bit. It does seem reasonable to expect that reporters and editors know more about the major world events that are the paper's bread and butter and less about other things.

The structure of a typical science section doesn't help. There are typically only a few reporters--often only one-- and they tend to cover whatever's timely (e.g., has recently been announced/opened/published), which doesn't let them build up much expertise. I think this also explains why pop-science articles tend to conflate background (here's what was known before this paper was published) and whatever actual result was: it's all new to the reporter.

That said, I was recently interviewed by CBC about my research and I thought they did a very good job. Everyone seemed prepared, asked reasonable questions, and the final product matched what I said!

I have also been interviewed by CBC (about floppy disks, oh well) and they were great. They put me in the best possible light, made me sound coherent, and got the facts correct.

It's funny to me the quote mentions Palestine. I once spent six months in Israel on study-abroad (I was a near eastern studies major). While there I saw certain things firsthand. When I came back I noticed that all the US newspapers I could find in the University library all reported falsehoods regarding the events. I actually found that the BBCs coverage was the most honest and accurate. This experience has always left me wondering, "If an event that I have personal knowledge of was not reported accurately in the newspapers, how do I know that other events that I do not have personal knowledge of are reported accurately?" It doesn't seem to be enough to use multiple sources since all of the US sources I could find were inaccurate and how would I know if the BBC was always accurate?

The main way I've found is to just read something from multiple countries. For a given article I care about or feel dubious about I always try to get at 3 or more country's take of it. While it doesn't help you find the 'truth' writers tend to misinterpret the same things different ways while things that are actually reported figures will lean more consistent.

Also for lots of things there is generally the direct source available if it is economic/legal/statistically relevant and a quick skim of that is a good get you up to speed thing. The writer made mention of something as 'interesting' so that's just a key to me to go looking for information in that direction where otherwise I would not.

One thing I should point out is that my story took place more than 2 decades ago in the pre-WWW days. It was a lot harder back then to check sources in multiple countries.

There's a bit of irony in this quote coming from Michael Crichton. When I started hanging out with the Science Online community in the early 00s, I learned that Crichton was widely regarded as spreading bad science by regularly citing discredited studies or fringe research in his books.

He was also known for getting even basic science wrong, like in "Jurassic Park," where the scientists fill-in missing dinosaur DNA by splicing it with reptile and amphibian DNA. Anyone who has studied dinosaurs knows that their closest living relatives are birds. How could someone with so many references and claims of research in his books miss such an elementary fact?

Then there was that embarrassingly awful book attacking the idea of climate change... but I think Crichton is a great example of this Gell-Mann phenomena. I know many people, even academics, who have read his books and will bring them up as having a degree of science fact.

>> How could someone with so many references and claims of research in his books miss such an elementary fact?

Because following that scientific fact would have ruined one of the major plot points of the story? Fiction authors do take some liberties to suit their fictional stories.

Jurassic Park was published 1990. I don't think that birds being the closest relatives of dinosaurs was established beyond doubt at that time as the theory of dinosaurs being ancestors of birds was revived only in the 1970s.

Funny. After reading this, I decided to comment that in my mind The Economist is a somewhat good counter example. Then I noticed that pretty much all other comments were already discussing TE. I guess I can keep on paying my subscription.

It seems rather ironic to me that this theory, which uses as it's basis that some journalists mix up cause and effect, then turns around and in essence posits that because some articles have errors it means that all articles have the same category of error.

It's not at all evident to me that every article in a more reputable news source will make errors in every thing they report on.

I have a couple of areas of interest where my knowledge is quite deep and I notice this whenever there's anything about those subjects written in the local or national press.

I see people asking why we can't have a meaningful dialog about the subject and it's because at least half of us don't understand the basics of the issue.

You see this all the time with startup news. Read a mainstream article about a startup you know personally.

Sure the main details are all there, but the small details are changed/ omitted to fit the mould of the story the author had in mind.

>read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate

This was not stated. The opposite was implied in GP's case.

It's relevant to mention this, but it is emphatically not what was being described.

I don't see this effect. The more inaccurate and biased stories I read makes me read the other stories actively looking for biases.

I think people are turning off MSM big time after this election.

Michael Crichton? The xenophobe and anthropocentric climate change denier? Pot, meet kettle.

He should have stuck to fantasy land, err, show business.

The quote can stand on its own merit. Discrediting the source doesn't change the words.

I've changed my mind. Thank you.

Who better to explain profiteering from misogyny, lying, hysteria, anti-intellectionalism, war-mongering, amnesia, obfuscation than Micheal Crichton?

More people are interested in world events than in science, so it's reasonable to assume a newspaper will set a higher standard of reporting for those events. A journalist who studied political science isn't equally inept at writing on all subjects; he might have some very good insights on politics. Similar to how most HN readers have very little expertise outside of software engineering, and have said some pretty ridiculous things on other fields.

> Similar to how most HN readers have very little expertise outside of software engineering, and have said some pretty ridiculous things on other fields.

Wow, that could hardly be more wrong. HN has repeatedly demonstrated expertise in a very wide range of subjects. Sure there is a bias towards software but that's hardly the limit. Even if HN was only read by SW exports assuming that they don't know about anything else is ridiculous. Not that HN is nonsense free. Your comment for example.

> HN has repeatedly demonstrated expertise in a very wide range of subjects.

Although I agree with this, there is also a lot of nonsense and factually incorrect statements. Not everyone is an expert in every field, and many people will make bold claims about topics in which they're not well versed – even on HN. Unfortunately, this applies to me as well sometimes.

The media is shocked even after all newspapers and TV backed a single candidate, she lost. I speculate internally they blame alternative media, so now they run a campaign against 'fake news'. Of course it couldn't just have been the fact that most states and rural counties did not like Clinton much at all - the media's headquarters are all located in big cities so they were all blind. They are now blaming and accusing 'fake news' instead of taking a good look at themselves.

The media wants to be shocked that covering Trump 24/7 yielded a victory for Trump.

And by complete coincidence, they now have a lot more to get people riled up about (and more clicks to sell) for the next four years.

That goes along with my thought that sometimes the NRA would rather have a Democrat in office for much the same reasons.

They covered the election 24/7, not just Trump, and why not?

It probably applies more to the Republican primaries, where Trump seemed to get as much publicity as the other candidates put together (and much more in international media)

Negative publicity from news sources the typical registered Republican had a fairly low opinion of almost certainly helped him greatly in what was arguably the more difficult contest for him to win.

This is pretty much the DNC playbook from the election, elevate a fringe candidate and marginalize the moderates during the primaries, to make it easier to tear down the candidate during the election. Problem is Dr. Frankenstein wasn't able to control her monster

Operation Pied Piper, The DNCs 2016 Strategy From Wikileaks part of Podesta release

1) Force all Republican candidates to lock themselves into extreme conservative positions that will hurt them in a general election;

2) Undermine any credibility/trust Republican presidential candidates have to make inroads to our coalition or independents;

3) Muddy the waters on any potential attack lodged against HRC.

Pied Piper Candidates

Ted Cruz

Donald Trump

Ben Carson


see the attachment with email for the Strategy.

Negative publicity can swing both ways though, it could just as well sink him.

Maybe Ron Paul should have gone for that kind of infamy :-D

It definitely is frightening at times. And frustrating at all other times too. I remember when news articles reported all the known facts up front, or they would do some research to post base facts. Talking about air accidents above, I remember when the first lines of a news article would contain the location, info on the airline as well as the aircraft type, departure and destination information etc.

But it appears that these days, the rush to post something that will get clicked on bypasses all the actual information that people might want to know.

Take the recent tragic crash in South America that wiped out a whole football team. When I heard about the scale of the accident, one of my first questions (as a former pilot, and knowing the carrying capacity and safety reputation of most aircraft) was "I wonder what aircraft model it was?".

I read through 3 articles on common news sites which didn't state this information at all. Two of them didn't even have the airline or carrier name published in their story. I ended up resorting to a pilot discussion forum, where I found out the information I wanted.

You hit the proverbial "nail on the head." Before 24/7 news channels and online access, the rush to "scoop" another newspaper still had a 16-hour cycle due to daily print runs. The infamous incorrect front page presidential election result made editors back up and double check things before rushing a story, but it didn't last long. Many years later, Dan Rather lost his job for not fact checking before reporting something he wanted to believe.

When television news first appeared in the US, some claimed the death unfiltered information, which was already filtered, while others claimed the death of newspapers. The first didn't change much and the second barely changed.

24/7 cable news was already in vogue before Dan Rather's incident, who I believe claimed the high road, which helped remove Dan Rather. All that changed when the revenue sources changed.

What I personally find hypocritical is the different standard for "breaking" news versus "regularly scheduled" news. Bryan Williams was excoriated for honoring veterans and having a normal, human memory. Breaking news and special updates are blatantly suspect and misleading, feeling line "spray and pray", with minimal or no fact or source checking, and there appears to be no consequence. I believe the Rather case was egregious and the Williams case trivial.

I have a link to a study I need to find and post relating to the amount of international news viewing by country. More international news generally means more sources, purportedly meaning more viewpoints and balance.

It feels like P. T. Barnum is running much of today's media outlets. Sensationalism combined with instant gratification gets more views = more ad revenue. "Always follow the money." as told to Bob Woodward in _All The President's Men_.

The Rather case really changed my view on the mainstream media. It isn't just that they went on-air with something without any fact checking, which even the most cursory fact-checking would show to be fabricated, because it fit the narrative that they wanted to tell. It's that not only them, but the entire rest of the mainstream media, continued to defend it, even as the evidence accumulated that it was not only fake, but a really lazy, badly-done fake. Aren't these companies supposed to be in competition? Shouldn't they call each other out for blatantly biased, shoddy journalism? I guess pushing their chosen narrative is more important than that.

Really makes you wonder how many other con jobs they've tried to sell us, before the tools existed for independent parties to get their own research out to the public. And now they're telling us to beware of "fake news", as if they haven't been publishing it themselves for decades at least.

> What's really really scary to me lately is all of this talk about "fake news", which originally referred to outright lies that were part of click-farms, but is now being talked about as if CNN and MSNBC are somehow the only source of "real" news.

I am surprised by that too. This whole "fake news" thing appeared out of thin air around the US election and is reportedly a new phenomenon - as if most of the "regular" news coverage wasn't already of various degrees of fakeness.

The fake news being talked about is actually fake, as in nearly 100% made up with the intention to misinform. It's definitely not new but I saw it way more during the election and it's very different from shittt reporting.

Maybe I am misreading you and other posters here, but I am getting the idea that people don't think this is a real thing or that it's no worse then actual news. This shit is real, harmful, and really not hard to find. I have a pretty trimmed down Facebook account but I would see multiple fake news posts shared by people every other week or so this past year. The way people talk about manipulative ads here could be applied to these articles. The worst part is they are incredibly easy to debunk, but no one gives a shit about checking what they read.

> Maybe I am misreading you and other posters here, but I am getting the idea that people don't think this is a real thing or that it's no worse then actual news.

Can't say for others, but personally, I do believe the phenomenon is real. But I don't see it as something significantly different than "regular" reporting. It's a difference in degree, but not in kind. Regular news already only pays lip service to factual accuracy.

It was an undefined talking point that has spread farther and faster than it was likely intended. I suspect it will disappear soon as the stupidity of it starts to affect the major news agencies and social media.

It referred to a real and serious phenomena, but now the phrase has been muddied by political rhetoric. It's still a problem, and it's different enough from the old clickbait sensationalism and conspiracy theory chain emails that it deserves its own name.



Nah, for the most part what some are calling "fake news" is still the old-fashioned clickbait.

I can remember several scandals over the years from the big news agencies that would be considered "fake news" by today's standards. They range from just being wrong to outright fraud. This is nothing new, this crap existed before there were websites. It's just that people simply choose not to remember to continue their desire to have something whine about.

It is also an old tactic by people wishing to discredit those that disagree with their agenda, whether it is political or economic.

I suppose fake news has been totally normal in the showbizz coverage world - and popular. Now it goes mainstream and people complain...

> is now being talked about as if CNN and MSNBC are somehow the only source of "real" news.

I believe that was the intent all along.

Blocking the bad ones and blessing the good ones are two sides of the same coin. We seem to think as long as government isn't doing it, it's not "censorship" and no problem. But we learn that time and time again, various governments major tech firms are actively working together.

Even more fun.. where did you hear the term "fake news" or where do you hear it regularly? Is it the same people who claim they're the "real news"?

Whether you agree or not, if you ask any suspect if they're guilty, the answer is "No!"

Sorry, but there actually are people who admit to writing fake news: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/503...





The first two were both NYT journalists - one a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1932 - and the third covers the 1890s, so let's stop acting like it's new, unique, or exists exclusively on one side or the other. This is how much of the modern press started.

Do I understand correctly that you would like to take back your earlier claim: >Whether you agree or not, if you ask any suspect if they're guilty, the answer is "No!"

I'm sorry but even I don't follow your logic. AFAICT your parent is simply pointing out the pot calling the kettle black.

He's saying that if the "suspect" is NYT, then his logic fails because they're reporting on their own fake news.

I believe the parent poster is saying that fake news isn't a new phenomena; I don't believe it was condemnation of any specific news outlet.

Any search of history can find fake news going way back; the difference today is the ease of producing it and how easy it is to spread rapidly.

Blame OJ Simpson and that fucking white Bronco.

That started this era of nonsensical analysis and up to the second coverage of random car chases, progressed to constant updates about other random things, and then the 9/11 ticker sent it to the moon.

> What's really really scary to me lately is all of this talk about "fake news", which originally referred to outright lies that were part of click-farms, but is now being talked about as if CNN and MSNBC are somehow the only source of "real" news.

I'm genuinely curious to know where it's talked about as if CNN and MSNBC are the pinnacle of reporting?

Honestly I never hear/read anything but hate for them?

>What's really really scary to me lately is all of this talk about "fake news", which originally referred to outright lies that were part of click-farms, but is now being talked about as if CNN and MSNBC are somehow the only source of "real" news.

this is an intentional ploy designed to conflate the issues of tabloid-trash and dissent.

we don't even need a ban for the tabloid trash... but once we link it to dissenting from the mainline and call it the deciding factor of the election (a huge leap...), we put the mainstream media who have proven to be incompetent and dishonest back at the wheel.

> frightening

Well, it's sad. But, in part, you can relax: The "fake news" is just a current meme and will go away in at most a few weeks.

You can hear so much about such a meme because the news organizations form herds, gang up, pile on.

Tribal instincts, competing for scarce resources?

Maybe you were responding to "form herds, gang up, pile on". My explanation for why they do that: For a newsie, if some of the bigger guns in the MSM are saying that some candidate is a dirty rat, then it is both safe and easy for all the other newsies in the MSM to do the same. Just one newsie calling dirty rat likely won't have enough credibility to get much traction, but, if all the MSM newsies are saying dirty rat, then they all get credibility, not just for a claim of dirty rat but maybe also even for little green men from Mars. More generally, gangs offer to their members some safety of numbers, and people in gangs are more willing to throw stones.

A friend of mine who remembers NYC some decades ago explains that the NYT wrote the stories and the rest of the MSM, especially the TV evening news, just went along -- easy, "no real work about it".

Yes, no doubt much the same applied to tribes. If everyone joins in, then can bring down an elephant, mastodon, bison, reindeer or some such, no one member of the tribe is at much risk of injury, and everyone in the tribe eats that day. If some guy in the tribe just wants to sleep through the effort, then maybe the rest of the tribe won't let him eat!

> Frightening. Really truly actually frightening to me.

Don't worry, Congress is going to fix that for you if the "Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 ", H.R. 5181 passes. We'll have trusty folks over at the "Center for Information Analysis and Response" [1] to help us by "disseminating fact-based narratives" (!) to aide in determining whats true and whats false. How handy!

[1] https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr5181/text


Done. It passed and we now have a Ministry Of Truth.

>"I've seen this directly, too. I've been on the local news quite a few times, and EVERY TIME what they end up broadcasting, and what I was explaining to them are different things."

Completely agreed from personal experience. Not new but always worth re-iterating.

The news can't even get the basic facts right without twisting through addition or omission.

How are we supposed to rely on them when factual sources are suspect/false in the age of fake/lie-news?

Find experts. Do your own research.

I have seen this happen to a friend. He was active in a political party, and was interviewed by a local station which was doing a piece on politically active millenials.

They sent a reporter with a camera crew and he spoke to them for over one hour about his political views and ambitions. In the end, only a single soundbite ended up in the piece. It was a metaphor he used somewhere inbetween, so forgettable that I can't even recall it.

In an extension to what I wrote above, I used to follow my local newspaper on Facebook a couple of years ago, just in order to keep in touch with local events seeing as I don't have a TV.

I noticed their feed back then starting to change from a simple and useful dissemination of their newspaper articles, into a conduit for posting tabloid style or inflammatory/unverified web links and popular memes.

I questioned them a couple of times on this in the comments area, but was told on both occasions by the page admins that their Facebook page was a 'fun and social' outlet for their paper, and if I wanted 'real news', I should just buy a copy of their actual paper.

Shortly after, I noticed that their print paper started to echo their Facebook feed, in terms of unresearched articles simple copied and pasted from other sources. I stopped following them on Facebook and stopped buying their paper shortly after.

When clicks, eyeballs and stickiness trumps good journalism, then that pretty much closes the door for me.

My theory is that profit destroys many news channels from the inside out.

The channel start with the best intentions of conveying legitimate unbiased news to inquisitive educated audiences... but eventually the supply of news seekers gets depleted, while investors and advertisers demand more. The channel is "forced" to keep expanding so they start catering to people that don't seek out news... steadily devolving into click-bait infotainment articles.

Low-brow content alienates the original news seekers, and they leave for cleaner sources of information... but by now the channel's legitimate reputation is lost. They must double down on the infotainment market to keep turning a profit.

Eventually that gets saturated too, so the channel abandons their original (expensive) legitimate news reporting and continue chasing low-brow audiences, competing against all the other devolved spam-news sites. If their name held enough trust, they might chase profitable corporate/political puff-pieces ("fake news" aka lies).

It feels like an awful game-theory scenario.

I'm sure this is what is happening. Income from readership of physical paper goes down, pressure mounts and even reputable news papers feel thsy have little choice... ask any journalist. It is brutal, earning a decent living is hard, earning it from actual quality reporting is impossible because the vast majority of customers can't separate anote article written in 10 minutes without any research or fact checking from the results of a 1 year research has undercover project...

So yeah, no surprise they deliver more of the 10 minute pieces and quality goes down. If we don't pay we get what we pay for - nothing. Hot air..

I'm not disagreeing with any of your post but one bombardment which I can't stand now that someone "helpfully" pointed it out to me, is when I was a kid and still watched news, "breaking news" complete with animation and breathless commentary and interruption to regular programming, this meant that a pope had died, or Reagan was shot, or a new Russian leader, another war or coup started, or at minimum a major airliner crash, Challenger explosion, that level of significance.

In the 2010s, "breaking news" apparently means early news cycle filler as opposed to late cycle filler that's already been reported 47 times in the last 24 hours, so after the attention grabbing fanfare, the breaking news is the national christmas tree lighting ceremony in DC, or surprisingly it snowed in the winter in the midwest yesterday, or congress is boringly making sausage as usual, while I'm sitting there waiting, come on, whats the breaking news part, did the ISS re-enter, has a political leader died, has a new war begun? And then they go to yet another old person pharmaceutical commercial, because those are the only people who still watch news channels, and I'm all question marks. Where's my important news?

At my place (me, my wife, 6yo and 1yo daughters) we have done the same (got rid of our TV about 5 years ago).

We watch the occasional TV show via on demand streaming (guilty pleasure="The Voice", food for thought="several long form journalistic features, tv documentaries etc")

The improvement to our quality of life at home as been significant. In the little free time our daily chores still leave us, we simply play with our daughters (lego, board games, silly play) or read a book with them.

The only concern I have is with the kids growing up. Is the lack of exposure to daily news going to make them less aware of the "world out there"?

After all we could make the choice to live without TV/News after growing up with it. All that news noise is part of our accumulated view of the world. How will this affect someone growing up?

Good move. How I counter this news awareness in our house is to actually have discussions with my kids about news that I know they are interested in.

For instance, my younger son is super interested in space and space exploration. Whenever I see a news article or announcement on the web (or even right here on HN), I read up a little about it and then seek him out with a "Hey, did you hear about ...". This often leads to a great discussion, and ends up with us sitting in front of the computer to visit the NASA or ESA websites to get more information, photos or videos direct from the source, without much editorial slant on it.

It's all about piquing their interests, without overloading them with a lot of garbage. They've got enough on their plates with school and social activities etc., so curating their news for them like this is I think useful, plus also leads to some good father/son bonding time where we talk about big ideas like adults.

With 1 daughter in university and 2 in high school, I do something similar, adding in listening to their viewpoints, and asking them critical thinking questions about their views without necessarily disagreeing with them. It doesn't matter whether I agree or disagree, I simply ask them to think for themselves and question the reason they feel the way they do. It's often quite interesting to go into a direction which I had not considered. I've also found flaws in my own views from the exercise.

As may be expected, they also get tired of this sometimes, and they know it's coming, so I try to pick and choose items at random and just let others go. I believe--well hope really, that this encourages them to think and ask questions themselves and not dread another dinner with dad :)

And if you have the technology to subscribe to video RSS feeds there's news such as:


Only two things to not like about TWAN, coverage of politicians photo ops, and for a weekly show its simply too short.

Thanks, that's great advice.

My advice to you would be to get a subscription to a quality newspaper, even if it's only on a weekly basis. Newspapers have come to terms with their position, as last in the news race, so they tend to make up for it with articles pondering the why's of news, rather than the what's. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and they will absolutely read a newspaper while eating breakfast, if you leave one out for them.

Yeah I thought about subscribing to a weekly newspaper. The problem is that over here (Portugal) all the weekly news papers are of a particular political "lean". To get a balanced view I would need to subscribe to at least 2 of them.

But I guess as the kids grow older they will inevitably come into contact with the mother of all noise machines... the internet. Then the problem will be to teach them how to filter...

> All that news noise is part of our accumulated view of the world

All that news noise is part of an unreliable, distorted view of the world. The article gave you the solution: read books.

With respect to the kids, its worth looking at the demographics of actual viewers leading to interesting commercial choices where the ads are mostly old people pills and old people cars. Meanwhile the content is aimed, narrowcasting style, right back at the old people to steal old people from other news channels rather than to try and appeal generally, so there's lots of coverage of the 2010s antics (or deaths) of 1970s child TV stars, 60s musicians, and so forth that mean nothing culturally to a 2010s kid.

No 2010s kid is going to get "street cred" socially by walking into school talking about how sick Buicks are and Crestor is awesome and its almost but not quite the 15th anniversary of John Ritter's death.

Don't worry over it, your local school will gladly accept that responsibility for you and play the news of their choice directly to the class room.

In general, I agree with everything you said. However,

> No thanks. I would rather control my own news firehose, and be selective about the information that I want to learn more about.

My worry is: Isn't this what caused the fake news / misinformation silos? By being selective about our information sources, aren't we distancing ourselves from how a majority of the world lives and thinks? And as product developers (as majority HNers are), isn't it in our benefit to understand as much of the world as possible?

You are correct. My viewpoint was mainly about being fed a constant stream of nonsense and/or distractions along with the general feed.

For instance, I absolutely loathe 'celebrity news', but most main news sites here that I go to have at least one or two articles on rubbish like that as their lead, and I have to dig to find the stuff that is relevant to me.

To use the example of air accidents above - I rarely find out anything useful that I want to know from popular news sources. Of course, I hear about the incidents on them, but when I want to dive deep, I go to specialist forums or sites where people in the know are talking about it.

Similarly for mundane things like sport. If I want to find out more about, say, Formula 1 races, I will visit certain sites that I know have motor heads discussing things. That way I can learn about future car developments, driver contracts etc. Mainstream sports news seems to want to talk about dirt and gossip for just a handful of drivers.

> gossip for just a handful of drivers.

They are using the technique of formula fiction, that is, what the ancient Greeks discovered as a sure-fire way to get and hold the attention of an audience.

So, in that formula, there is a protagonist the audience comes to identify with, that is, care about. Then the protagonist has a problem. Through various highly in doubt and improbable victories, from skill, guts, determination, smarts, luck, whatever, the protagonist wins and at the end gets the girl.

Can see a version of this formula fiction just as orchestral music with no words at all in the Richard Strauss Ein Heldenleben as at


So, to use some words, there is a man, the hero, aka, protagonist, nice guy, cruising along in life. Then he encounters his adversary, nasty, menacing, bad dude (flute, etc.). Then starting at about 10:00 in the performance above, he sees HER, the girl (solo violin -- IMHO one of the best solo violin parts in orchestral music)! She's a dream! But, soon, she's also darned hard to get and gives him a really tough time, a worse time than even Isolde gave Tristan in http://www.exoticitaly.com/images/Tristan-and-Isolde.jpg

where he wouldn't take his eyes off of her and she flatly refused even to look at him.

Near 14:00 she really chews him out!

Soon she starts to be nice.

About 15:00 they really start to smile at each other!

Around 16:00 they are together.

He keeps trying and eventually hear the music of the climax when he kisses her or whatever.

Teenage boys, your life is so much easier now: Have that climax music queued up ready to go at a single button click at just the right time with her on the living room sofa. Trust me: Richard Strauss understood her much better than you do!

Just about the time the hero is to settle down to a wonderful life of love, home, marriage, children, the adversary returns. The hero goes off to battle, maybe as in the Edmund Blair Leighton God Speed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Speed_(painting)

There is a big battle with the bad dude. Tough battle. Comes and goes. Finally the hero wins the battle.

Then there is victory music. Terrific victory music. As in art, the "communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion", the victory music communicates well what a really big victory must feel like, bigger than getting 10 KLOC of code to run, a Series A, a big M&A offer, an IPO, anything in business. Really great victory music. If want to do a foil deck with a mash up of some media content for a presentation to investors, maybe in the last slide in the foil deck use the Ein Heldenleben victory music as background. No words, but it would be tough to miss the message! Of course, not even a big IPO could come up to the Richard Strauss music, but, well, there were no words for lawyers to use to sue for breach of promise!

In the performance at the link above, the victory music is before 30:00 with the climax in the next minute or so.

At the end, after the hero has hung up his sword and is fading away, the girl is really nice to him.

If going to play with formula fiction, then might as well play with some of the best of it! Right, at one point the treble line suddenly goes up and the bass line, down. So, it feels, say, expansive, grand.

Ah, Richard Strauss, expert in applied psychology of human emotions! Good thing that human emotions haven't changed much since he wrote his music!

So, the race car drivers are made into protagonists people identify with. Similarly for what the tabloids do with celebrities. Similar to what a lot of TV news show producers try to do with their anchors.

Put all of it into various buckets, e.g., manipulation, light entertainment. But it's not information.

Mad props for the _ Ein Heldenleben_ reference. Richard Strauss was a genius, following in the footsteps and improving on Wagner.

Side note: I'm continuously amazed at the breadth of knowledge and reference on HN. Is it perfect? No. It is, however, frequently a breath of fresh air. It reminds me that polymaths still abound, and fondly reminiscent of the old /.

> Richard Strauss was a genius, following in the footsteps and improving on Wagner.


For some more good Richard Strauss, there is


with the scene of the presentation of the rose from his opera Der Rosenkavalier (rose carrier) where the two women are Anne Sophie von Otter (Octavian) and Barbara Bonney (Sophie). So, in the story Octavian is dressed as a man and is delivering the rose to Sophie, the one dressed as a woman. Super nice singing by the female voices with a super nice duet. Bonney is cute as a kitten.

>"Teenage boys, your life is so much easier now: Have that climax music queued up ready to go at a single button click at just the right time with her on the living room sofa. Trust me: Richard Strauss understood her much better than you do!"

While I appreciate your commentary on the music of Strauss, I disliked this particular comment. Is encouraging emotional manipulation really what we want for the younger generations?

If mood-setting music is unacceptable emotional manipulation, we'd better all stop interacting with one another to avoid the great crimes we're all (apparently) constantly committing, because that's about as benign as it gets.

Not really.

There's nothing wrong with sharing music with others, what matters is the intent. Sharing music to enjoy together, great. Sharing music you may not enjoy just to get your rocks off, not exactly the best thing in the world.

I don't know what social interaction generally, and especially relations between the sexes, would look like absent anything that's at least as "manipulative" as mood music, of all things. It'd be some extreme sci-fi material, probably considered highly dystopic by most exposed to it.

You don't get it. There's nothing wrong with mood music. It's about the reason you put it on.

Anytime a woman puts makeup on her face, or a man takes a date to a nice restaurant - isn't this manipulation of the same type?

Only if the enjoyment is one-sided.

> Is encouraging emotional manipulation really what we want for the younger generations?

You are fully correct. We don't want that.

But, then, is there an alternative? My first girlfriend, she was 12 and I, 14, I regarded as an angel. She was and remains the prettiest human female I ever saw, in person or otherwise. She was burned into my brain: For the rest of my life I will no more be able to forget her than I will be able to forget my own name.

My goal with her was for us to be early teen boyfriend-girlfriend, with some protection against being lonely, some additional affection and compassion, one more person who really cared about us, some romance, security of knowing that our relationship was going to continue, hold hands, hug, and kiss, with nothing wrong and nothing dangerous.

I never tried to manipulate her emotionally, but there were a few times when she got emotional anyway; those times, I declined to take advantage of her; i guessed that a day later she or her mother would be angry. No way did I want her hurt, in any way, from any source, for any reason, at any time, and I was ready to risk my life to protect her from being hurt.

So, in reality, what I actually did was what you want teen boys to do.

My remark, the one you didn't like, was partly a joke, but there is a germ of inconvenient truth there -- it can appear that too often there is such manipulation, taking advantage, or overpowering emotions or nothing at all. Or, maybe it's as in the Strauss music or too often just doesn't happen.

Maybe the larger lesson to teen boys is, really love the girl, no way hurt her, seek to protect and care for her, but realize what an expert once told me, "Of COURSE, women are MUCH more emotional than men. That is the cause of all the problems." So, net, maybe, the boy should try to let her be as emotional as she wants but stay rational and prudent himself and do his best to let her have, help her have her emotions with full safety.

Usually it appears that not many people in our society are quite as sensitive to protecting girls, emotionally or even physically, as you are, or I was with that girl I loved, but I can partly agree with your point.

But I will say, there is evidence that some girls very much seek some of various possible forms of emotional experiences and will resent a boy who does not so contribute and respect a boy who does.

Ah, someday I'll write a book, Girls 101 for Dummies -- Boys.

The Strauss music was about all of life, and I was just mentioning the part where the two fell in love! I was mentioning the Strauss music as a grand example of formula fiction, and that is one of the pillars of the news business which the OP was talking about.

After being married over 20 years, which I still find shocking that anyone has put up with me for so long, I find that "to let her be as emotional as she wants but stay rational and prudent" frequently backfires because she wants emotional _involvement_ and support. Being rational doesn't meet her needs, even though as a man, a geek HFA man at that, I'd rather stay in the safe, predictable, rational realm. Staying married and supporting my wife is more important to me than my comfort zone, just like apologizing means you value the other person more than your own ego.

I'm not sure it's possible to invent a method of letting users select their information sources that doesn't immediately let them create their own misinformation silos.

I've only truly learned about people in other places by traveling. Anything else is mostly caricature.

Try learning foreign languages. To understand a language, one must possess a level of understanding of the underlying culture and history.

Then one discovers that dialects arise from a common language with differences in geographic or societal culture and history.

Linguistics and etymology are fascinating topics, _almost_ as much fun as building (and test breaking) fault tolerant distributed systems.

>aren't we distancing ourselves from how a majority of the world lives and thinks

If I wanted to know how majority world lives and thinks I would go and sample this information in real world by traveling and talking to different people, and not getting this info from people who have their own agendas to push onto me and who call themselves journalists.

> I haven't had a TV in the house for nearly 8 years now, and don't miss it at all.

I hear a lot of people say this these days but it doesn't really count for much if you regularly watch Netflix or other ondemand Internet based TV instead.

Well, full disclosure, we DO watch the odd NetFlix shows etc., but I think the biggest difference is (a) no ads at all (b) no news blasted at us and (c) we can choose exactly what we watch, and when we watch it. We can happily go weeks without turning the thing on, and we do the occasional weekend binge of a TV series.

The difference is that it is totally under our control, and we can select the content (and reject it) at will. The pure lifestyle changes around this (i.e. we as a family would far rather be caught up on other creative endeavours rather than watching TV) have been significant.

In Germany we have the term "Zeitsouveränität" which means time sovereignty.

That term originally appeared to describe workplace conditions and biography.

However, nowadays it is mostly used to describe media consumption. You decide when to listen to news or watch a certain show, the same way you decide when you read the next chapter of a novel.

Very nice. I saw the word "Zeitsouveränität" and knew the literal meaning but didn't realize it's modern usage.

In reality, time sovereignty is the only worthwhile thing wealth gets us, because time is our most valuable resource, a non-renewable one at that.

One particularily popular example are German podcasts of radio stations, which are advertised by "... zum zeitsouveränen Nachhöhren", which roughly translates to: ... for time souvereign listening.

I'm not really criticizing. I've not had a TV in the house for 20 years but I watch plenty of TV via the Internet. It's better for all the reasons you mentioned. I just don't feel right saying I don't watch TV.

ha yes! I don't have a TV but waste hours on the internet instead. Streaming shows, skimming think pieces and their comment sections (that's a form of masochism), clicking through listicles with funny pictures (that's a form of retardation). It's bad in different way. The only advantage I think is that the internet is not "loud", fewer pundits yelling, or bit narrators yapping in that childish cadence. It's a huge time-suck nonetheless.

>I haven't had a TV in the house for nearly 8 years now, and don't miss it at all.

You enjoy watching movies, sitcoms, documentaries, etc, on a 27" computer monitor? Just buy a TV and external hard drive, it's so much better watching stuff on 55" TV on a couch...

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. That was an upgraded size, and it is at my feet when my feet are on the table.

Also, my couch is a floor. It isn't as glorious to stretch out on as one might think.

I don't watch TV either (don't have a subscription or connection).

But your criticism of television does not support the idea of disengaging from news altogether.

> I used to be a commercial pilot, and I could not believe the amount of disinformation and outright ridiculous theories being bandied about by so called 'reputable' news sources.

This is what I hear from real experts every single time their subject is dealt with by the news. I've experienced it first hand myself with certain technology-related news where I've been heavily involved in the real thing. So when they report on economics, health or anything else I'm not an expert in, I assume that the real experts are shaking their heads just like I shook mine.

5. You are being manipulated by mainstream news.

You can learn Arabic or Russian and go to Ukraine or Syria or Iraq and inform yourself talking to the people there, both sides of the story, or you can let the TV media tell you what is happening.

I have done it(I don't know much Arabic and a little Russian but I have traveled there) and it is quite an astonishment that what TV shows you has nothing to do with reality. I remember talking with a Syrian showing me a CNN video from US News of a Syrian manifestation(from natives that were being flood by foreigners with bad intentions), they reduced the audio volume and told everybody the manifestation was from the other side(the side that US was supporting).

The fact is that people that understood Arabic could listen what the protesters were saying and they(CNN) DID NOT CARE.

They did not care because it is a numbers thing, most Americans don't know Arabic, and millions of them will watch the channel and make themselves an idea from the eyes and ears that people in power have chosen for them.

The city where the protesters went into war and was bombarded for years and nobody displayed it on the news. Now it is displayed every single day because the people the US is supporting is losing there. Now it is so important civilians in this city, when for years they simply did not exist.

If you control the perception, you control the emotions that people will feel, and you could make them do exactly what you want. They will even believe they are "free", because they are to behave as they wish, but they are not because emotions are quite automatic.

Look at recent events if you need further evidence of this. The term "fake news" has exploded in just under a month in the mainstream media.

If my memory serves me, tabloids like The Enquirer have been sitting on news stands for as long as I can remember. So how did this fervor over "fake news" coalesce so quickly and uniformly?

Mainstream outlets move in lockstep with each other and these are the final, desperate death throes of an outdated and superfluous institution. Don't expect they'll go down without a fight though.

The whole FUD campaign regarding "Fake News" is comically hypocritical in my opinion. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article calling them out for it:


Edit: Ironically, that post was doing great until it got flagged.

Edit 2: It has been unflagged

Edit 3: Flagged again.

Greenwald's "excellent" piece is itself fake news. It deliberately misrepresents the reporting done by Kurt Eichenwald about the leaked emails. We know it's deliberate because he's distorted the story the same way in the past and it's been pointed out to him. Eichenwald did not claim that the leaked information was false, but showed, to a high degree of certainty, that Trump campaign staffers were working with Russian disinformation operatives. It was an amazing story.

Eichenwald did not claim that the leaked information was false

When I follow a link from Greenwald's piece I see this tweet that was sent by Eichenwald: "Russian gov manipulates email to @johnpodesta. Publishes disinformation. Takes it down. Trump recites false info." https://twitter.com/kurteichenwald/status/785676641880027136

I interpret "manipulates" as claiming that the emails to Podesta were changed by the Russian government before they were passed to Wikileaks. Referring to them as "disinformation" also claims that the contents of the emails have been modified. And I take "recites false info" to be reiterating once again that the emails are not genuine.

From the outside, it certainly seems that Greenwald is justified in saying that Eichenwald claimed that the emails were fake. But apart from reading this quote, I'm not familiar with the details here. Could you be more specific, and specify a exact quote from Greenwald that you feel is deliberately distorted, and a corresponding quote from Eichenwald that shows the undistorted truth?

Greenwald is claiming that Eichenwald is reporting that the emails leaked by Wikileaks are fake. In repititions of this claim he either refers to Eichenwald's article directly[0] or indirectly by linking to a tweet that mentions it. Greenwald's claim is a lie. Eichenwald never says that the emails are fake. Read the article. Greenwald certainly did. If you actually read the article in Newsweek you will learn that "manipulates" means that the Russians distorted the meaning and content of the documents in their propaganda, and Trump repeated the identical distortions nearly simultaneously. In fact, Eichenwald's story only makes sense if the Wikileaks version is unaltered, and this is implicit in his reporting.


Thanks for the very reasonable and persuasive response. Based on Eichenwald's original version of the article (as linked by 'nostrademons' https://web.archive.org/web/20161010235349/http://www.newswe...), it does look like Greenwald was wrong, and that Eichenwald was instead claiming that the leaked documents were unaltered but intentionally being used in a misleading manner by taking quotes out of context.

This isn't in itself proof that Greenwald was lying, since this requires additional knowledge of his internal mental processes, but it leaves open the possibility. I still think the phrasing in Eichenwald's tweet implies alteration, but with knowledge of the specifics of the article I agree that it can be interpreted differently.

But as 'nostrademons' points out, the current version of the article reads differently. I'll switch to a Dec 1 archive.org link in case it changes again: http://web.archive.org/web/20161201141729/http://www.newswee....

This version starts with a photo caption that includes the words "faked document". It's been changed to include the words "altered documents" multiple times. While couched in a hypothetical, it explicitly says "the Russian effort to quote an altered email". I feel certain that that the new version has been written in a manner that encourages the reader to conclude that leaked emails may have been altered and should not be considered authentic.

I don't know if these changes were made by Eichenwald or by someone else at Newsweek, but I think the post-publication changes strengthen rather than weaken Greenwald's overall claim that there as a strong media narrative to discredit the authenticity of the leaked Podesta emails. While the original article seems accurate, I find the changes that were made to it to be substantial, disingenuous, and worrisome. I'd be very interested to know how these changes came about.

I had the same question as you and skimmed Eichenwald's article. He claims that his own words were attributed to someone else (Blumenthal) in these manipulated leaks, and subsequently parroted by trump. He had written a long article about Benghazi, and the email leak takes Blumenthal's quotation of that out of context, misattributing it.

It checks out, and at least on that point Eichenwald seems to be closer to the truth than Greenwald is (Greenwald hardly has anything to say in his own article about the details of the Eichenwald situation, only name-drops and sneers). It looks like this is Greenwald raising his hackles because he perceives his work with wikileaks to be under attack from Eichenwaldl.

Eichenwald's article is significantly rewritten from when it first came out, and you're probably not reading the version Greenwald was responding to:

First publication: Oct 10, 2016: https://web.archive.org/web/20161010235349/http://www.newswe...

Today: http://www.newsweek.com/vladimir-putin-sidney-blumenthal-hil...

Differences start around paragraph 6.

It's not "significantly rewritten". Some details were added and clarified. Most relevant is the fact that the most recent version, and all other versions (I read them all) make it completely clear that Eichenwald has no reason to think, and does not say, that the emails as leaked by Wikileaks are fake. So Greenwald is still lying, no matter which version you are looking at.

How Orwellian.

"showed, to a high degree of certainty, that Trump campaign staffers were working with Russian disinformation operatives."

Can you show me what warrants a high degree of certainty for that claim? Because as far as I know there is no evidence for this beyond the tenuous circumstantial nature of Clinton's dirty laundry helping Trump, and a Trump presidency is less likely to start a war with Russia.

Not the piece above, but here it is. This article has a lot of links/sources on how Trump's campaign statements and Russian propaganda are almost word-for-word identical, and in general complementary. This is from back in August. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/underst...

I was talking about Eichenwald's reporting that is pointed to by Greenwald. You're quoting my reference and commenting on it without having read it.

Eichenwald claims on live TV the email in question was "manipulated" by Russia. Just watch the video that Eichenwald himself embedded in his article (at 01:49).

> There are two possibilities: One is that both the Russians and Donald Trump were tricked into believing of a manipulated email or the Russians manipulated it and Donald Trump fell for it

Greenwald counters emails were not doctored/manipulated and that saying they are is "Fake News" itself.

Greenwald is actually right: The emails were not manipulated as far as we know, and there is strong circumstantial evidence that there was no manipulation (e.g. thanks to gmail DKIM signatures).

The quote taken from the email that Trump and RT/Sputnik attributed to Blumenthal was indeed misattributed and actually a quote from an Eichenwald piece that Blumenthal merely copied in full into his email. That criticism is very valid, but that misrepresentation by Trump and/or RT/Sputnik does not make the email itself "manipulated".

The gmail DKIM signatures are not a reliable verification that the contents of an email have not been modified. The algorithm and key length of the signatures used by gmail (sufficient for anti-spam) are cracked with an honestly trivial amount of hardware according to RSA in 2003 [1]. Since the premise here is that a state-backed adversary is involved, we can reasonably expect that the keys are compromised.

[1] https://www.emc.com/emc-plus/rsa-labs/historical/twirl-and-r...

Gmail DKIM uses rsa-2048 keys (their key has a selector named "20120113" suggesting this key was in use since 2012, but I didn't do DNS historical digging to confirm). 2048 bit is still believed to be secure enough, even against a state actor, and even the article you linked says it. Either way 2048 bit does not just require a "trivial amount of hardware" (even from a state actors perspective)

The keys in at least several of the Wikileaks emails are 1024-bit. Those are specifically what I was referring to.

Others are signed by hillaryclinton.com, which was likely compromised as well.

The leaked Podesta content goes back quite some time, so yes, there are old emails in there that still had DKIM signatures from a 1024 key.

The email in question is not one of those, and uses the 2048 bit key (emailid/2038).

Also, your assertion that hillaryclinton.com was compromised ... where did you get that? Those emails were released by the govt because of FOIA requests. The DNC was hacked and therefore "compromised" by persons unknown (but some people did a lousy job of attributing it to Russia). The DNC is not hillaryclinton.com, tho.

Yeah, you're correct a lot of the emails use 2048-bit RSA for the DKIM signature. I trust those more than the 1024-bit signatures. I have a pretty heavy distrust of all of this, because from the sidelines I can't tell who is manipulating what. I don't blindly trust the cryptography because I don't know the capabilities of the adversary or what side channel attacks were present. That probably sounds stupid, but I'm feeling a whole lot of distrust of everyone involved.

Following that, my assertion that hillaryclinton.com was compromised was completely evidence-free. That's a personal assumption due to the significant lack of security expertise by the maintainer of the server. There are plenty of emails sent between clintonemail.com and the DNC gmail accounts that CC Podesta and were included in the Wikileaks dumps.

The DNC was hacked by two Russian actors according to CrowdStrike. I trust CrowdStrike in this assessment.


When you have a "nuh uh, YOU'RE the one that's fake" situation between two apparently reputable news sources, on a topic with which you have no personal experience or expertise, how are you supposed to figure out which ones are fake?

The instances of so-called "fake news" that I have seen are quite easy for me to "verify" as fake with relative confidence: it's generally an explicitly partisan source with a shady-looking website making an outlandish claim that is not corroborated by any traditional news outlet. The situation you've just described sounds much more difficult for me to verify.

Did you actually read the two articles in question, or did you just look to see whether the sources were "reputable"? In this case, there is a clear discrepancy of facts between the two, and it's not hard to come to an informed opinion. Just read.

Greenwald's fake news is his false description of Eichenwald's reporting. If you read Eichenwald's article, then you have all the "personal experience" you need to see that Greenwald is misrepresenting what he reported. And when you look up Greenwald's past, identical lies, you see that this misinformation campaign is deliberate. It's not a matter of opinion or of trying to judge competing claims. It's laid out right there in front of you if you want to look.


Please don't go on about downvotes: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

HN largely views Snowden as a martyr, and thereby canonizes his confidants.

Snowden can be a martyr, and greenwald can still be wrong.

All news is fake news, we get it..

Great article. Although I wonder why it fails to criticize Trump's side...

Probably because the people that read the intercept already think poorly of trump, and the article had a word limit

You could also say the opposite about every Washington Post article released since the election.

I can't fathom why an article calling the fake news phenomenon an FUD campaign would fail to critizice Trump's side...

Seriously though, the article is comically bad. It oozes bile and anger and it's so comically and blatantly one-sided it's almost funny in a so-bad-that-it's-good way.

An exact opposite equally excellent article from the same publication calling out the FUD we know as 'Fake News'

And this one avoids words like 'shameful' and 'disgusting'


Because this is the first election where "spirit cooking" and "pizzagate" conspiracies were put on equal footing with foreign policy and economic positions.


>The supporters of Andrew Jackson began spreading a rumor that Adams, while serving as American ambassador to Russia, had procured an American girl for the sexual services of the Russian czar. The attack was no doubt baseless, but the Jacksonians delighted in it, even calling Adams a “pimp” and claiming that procuring women explained his great success as a diplomat.

When MSM pushes false/sponsored narratives to start wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and Libya as part of "foreign policy", I can see why "pizzagate" gets equal validity.

Don't play the false equivalence game: it's part of the problem.

Pizzagate had nothing other than fever dreams.

In contrast, all of the wars you talked about were based on real things. The Iraq war was started on falsehoods but the media was reporting what government officials were saying and attributed those claims to them. They should have been more skeptical, yes, but that's a completely different level of discussion compared to a bunch of trolls and gullible people free-associating completely unfettered by reality.

I recommend the following Planet Money episode if you want to know a bit of the economic background of fake news. They even got a fake news publisher to speak.


I thought this episode was rather funny, because they found that a right wing fake news site was actually run by a liberal who wanted to prove there was right wing fake news (and that it would be shared on social media, which they ensured by spreading it themselves).

It turned out to be rather profitable for him.

The part I found hilarious is that there was one particular quote from the NPR coverage which spread like wildfire on social media - the one about how he tried to write fake news for liberals, but it just didn't catch on. Except that when I went looking for more information, one of the first successes I found reference to - via the Denver Post's article[1] about the FBI agent suicide fake - was "ATLANTA OFFICER KILLS BLACK WOMAN, INJURES CHILD, FOLLOWING BREASTFEEDING ARGUMENT"[2]. The site used was even stuffed full of the kind of conservative-targeted fake news that liberals mock conservatives for believing, and it still worked.

A self-confessed fake news creator made a dubious yet flattering claim about liberals not believing fake news because they were too smart, which fell apart upon a brief check, and liberals everywhere believed it. Brilliant.

[1] http://www.denverpost.com/2016/11/05/there-is-no-such-thing-...

[2] http://www.citypaper.com/blogs/the-news-hole/bcpnews-someone...

I don't think the claim falls apart on inspection - the fake FBI suicide story was shared 2.5 times more on Facebook than the fake Atlanta shooting story. Do you have any examples of liberal fake news that were as popular as conservative fake news?

FBI suicide, 569k: https://graph.facebook.com/?id=http://denverguardian.com/201...

Atlanta shooting, 222k: https://graph.facebook.com/?id=http://baltimoregazette.com/a...

This reminds me of a joke where an oilman goes to heaven and is warned by St Peter that because there are so many oilmen already in heaven, space for him will be rather limited. The oilman, undeterred, ventures to the oilmen district and proudly proclaims: "OIL DISCOVERED IN HELL!"

Everybody leaves in a mad rush, and soon the oilman is alone with a surprised St Peter who says that he may do as he pleases in this now-empty oilman district of heaven.

The oilman turns to St Peter and says: "You know, there might actually be some truth to that rumor..."

Yeah, I got the feeling that they fake news author was feeding his agenda with that narrative. It was really strange to see so many people taking the statements of a confessed liar at face value.

Naivity and foolishness are not partisan traits.

Yep, that's why I recommend it - I didn't want to spoil it though ;).

It coalesced when the "MSM" managed to get the election outcome in the US so comically wrong. The only possible reason for the mistake was "fake news". It turns out "fake news" has been a driving force since roughly the time twitter arrived. I can only hope the (in theory) REAL media will eventually give up on "first is best" and instead focus on ACTUAL REPORTING. Relaying what twitter has to say about a world event is borderline useless. Put someone on the ground and tell me what's REALLY going on instead of "twitter reports say..."

That's not what this is about.

It erupted across every news channel precisely as Pizzagate did. If you searched on Google News for "Pizzagate", what you would get was "FAKE NEWS!" "FAKE NEWS!" "FAKE NEWS!"

The MSM hasn't been this desperate since it was shrieking to high heaven there was no chance in any universe in which Donald Trump could possibly win the US election. Whether this is because the MSM is desperate to cover up this issue - like the Pizzagate investigators allege - or there is some other coordinated motive at play (like not losing control of the narrative), its obvious the campaign is coordinated and aimed at some specific desired outcome, one way or the other.

Pizzagate itself is just a mountain of circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is not necessarily evidence of a crime, and often leads people looking at it to jump to incorrect conclusions. But trying to sweep it under the rug with frantic cries of "FAKE NEWS!!1!" does nothing but make conspiracy theories grow.

There are some extremely strangely-worded emails that came out of John Podesta's Wikileaks. All kinds of bizarre pictures on Comet Ping Pong's Instagram. They use code words identified by the FBI as pedophile code words - but it could be coincidence. One of the neighboring pizza restaurants to Comet Ping Pong had an FBI-identified pedophile symbol in its logo (since removed) - but it could be coincidence.

What a real journalist would do is say, "Huh. There's a lot of odd circumstantial evidence here. Let's get to the bottom of this and either rule it out or see what questions are still on the table."

What the MSM is doing instead is taking down articles on high level pedophile rings, like this one that no longer exists on NY Times:


Then trying to tar and feather anyone who asks questions as a "Fake News" personality.

I don't know if there's any merit to the claims around Comet Ping Pong and the Podestas. It could just be some people are REALLY into pizza and when they talk about having small children in pools as entertainment those kids are there to sing Christmas carols or something. But the MSM's frantic efforts to drown it out by screaming about "fake news" is the Streisand Effect in action. They're giving anyone who wants to believe in a conspiracy even more reason to think there is some deep cover up that extends to the highest levels, and giving this thing legs it wouldn't have if John Podesta broke his tweet silence and just said, "This is all ridiculous and none of it is true," or the MSM did an investigative piece that conclusively explained away the things the Internet sleuths pursuing Pizzagate are hoisting up as evidence of a conspiracy.

This has nothing to do with how mainstream media actually act and everything to do with the thought processes of people that want [others] to believe the Democrat party elite is running a paedophile conspiracy act and the MSM is trying to hide it

So a mainstream media source - the AP is as mainstream and widely syndicated as it gets - running a story on an unrelated and probably actually real paedophile conspiracy in Norway after the Pizzagate 'revelations' becomes "MSM is taking down articles on high level pedophile rings" because the NYT removes news agency articles after a fixed period (even ones about fake news - e.g http://archive.is/760xP http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/11/15/technology/ap-us-...)

And the many reports into the story aren't proper investigative journalism because - shock horror - the journalists don't agree with 4chan that "cheese pizza" is a term identified by the FBI as a pedophile codeword that nobody in their right mind would ever use in a pizza store.

That disappearing NY Times article is from Associated Press. It's not unusual for AP articles to disappear from sites, because I think news organisations often only have a license to publish them from a limited time. Obnoxious, but not uncommon.

Have you read Ryan Holiday's "Trust Me I'm Lying"? I found it a great read on the current media situation.

Yeah, fake news is a narrative being pushed by the mainstream media to try and discredit alternative news sources (like say, popular YouTube channels, independent blogs and social media profiles) as well as to solidify their role as 'gatekeepers'.

Heck, it's basically the non gaming equivalent of the 'gamers are dead' stories that become suspiciously widespread after GamerGate took off.

>Mainstream outlets move in lockstep with each other and these are the final, desperate death throes of an outdated and superfluous institution.

So far, non-mainstream outlets have proven a whole lot worse. Call me a small-c conservative, but I'm going to keep supporting civil society over the conspiracy theorists.

This commercial used to air in Canada in the late 90s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TijcoS8qHIE

And grown adults bombarded the organization qith phone valls asking where to buy a house hippo.

> The term "fake news" has exploded in just under a month

That's a rather normal phenomenon, sometimes when someone coins a new term, everybody else jumps on the bandwagon.Sometimes the term makes it into the fixed inventory of the language, sometimes the fad goes away. That's as true for "fake news" as it is for "abso-fucking-lutely" or "glashole".

> Mainstream outlets move in lockstep with each other and these are the final, desperate death throes of an outdated and superfluous institution.

What an utter nonsense! You must have been brainwashed by social media and shitty blogs that sell opinions as news.

There is a fairly good reason why mainstream outlets "move in lockstep with each other": They let one and the same reality dictate their news rather than making it up like the online trolls from St. Petersburg. I'd be rather worried if they didn't "move in lockstep" and each of them was reporting something else as news...

The Enquirer was bullshit news, not fake. They always sourced their stories and were often sued, but rarely lost.

Supermarket tabloids can't go viral, so their impact and and lucrative adsense payout isn't there.

The president elect is a birther and anti-vaxxer. Bannon had a leadership role in Trumps campaign. His cabinet is a clown-car of conspiracy peddlers. Google and Facebook are taking action to squelch fake news. Fake news is a subject of interest to many influential individuals and organizations. If it weren't covered by mainstream news it would be irresponsible.

>So how did this fervor over "fake news" coalesce so quickly and uniformly?

Do you honestly not see the difference between creating fake stories about celebrities and then creating fake stories about people in the government, stories that end up having far reaching real world effects?

>of an outdated and superfluous institution.

Oh brother. If anything this last year has proven exactly why the publication and editing model should flourish for quite some time. Because as of this year, I guess whatever makes you feel better is clearly more valued over what is actually true (see all the reports from Breitbart and company, especially in regards to the Clinton emails, or even global warming), especially with people who believe that "fake news" is just some kind of conspiracy theory accessory for the "MSM" to keep their grip on the industry.

"Fake news" is just yellow journalism by another name, and "fake news" is "uniformly" being talked about because it became readily apparent over the course of this last year that people believe and act on the information presented from yellow journalism. And _apparently_ for some people any action taken to correct yellow journalism is decried as censorship. Truth is not oppression.

> And _apparently_ for some people any action taken to correct yellow journalism is decried as censorship.

No, but automatic removal of fake news is censorship, since all of us in here should know that determining truth by algorithms is really an unsolvable problem in _very many important cases_.

It could/would probably be reduced to a source credibility score, but credibility is subjective.

Using facebook as an example, Facebook had editors and then got slammed with the completely useless "bias" label because they sought stories from actual, reasonably credible sources. Their algorithm was not responsible for removing content, their editors were. Until they got rid of those editors because of "bias" and "censorship." Then fake stories/yellow journalism flourished on Facebook's trending news feed for quite some time during the election.

True, but by using "external fact checkers" they are more or less reverting to the old system. Similar, anyway.

>> both sides of the story

That there is part of the problem. That is a very western phrase that reflects an ingrained system at the root of the problem. Binary is for silicon. There are multiple sides, or there is one. There is almost never exactly two. But we are trained to expect equal time for "both sides". It makes people think they are well-informed, when in reality if you are hearing exactly two stories you are almost certainly being hoodwinked.

This isn't Hotelling. Hotelling occurs where the proponents choose their sides, their stances in a debate. When a news organization wants to inform people that a meteor is heading to earth, picking a pro and con pundit isn't hotelling. That's just manufacturing a controversy where none exists. Note that weather forecasts rarely give "both sides" ... until one wants estimates beyond next month. Then they have to bring in the pro/con people in that manufactured controversy.

A careful citizen should dismiss two-sided debates, or at least realize that "both sides" is a marketing trick. Read the research. Read, and understand, the statistics.


Related - the truth doesn't have any obligation to fall exactly in the middle between two extremes, or in a geometrical center between many points of view. It can really be, that one side is mostly wrong, and the other mostly right.

Both sides is not a marketing trick. And comparing this with weather forecasts is a false equivalence.

I believe what parent is claiming is 'both sides' is a black & white gimmick that does not depict the spectrum between two polarized extremes.

I think even more that most issues are multi-dimensional, and you can't even explain it as a spectrum between two extremes -- you can reasonably be in one of a half-dozen different takes on the issue, depending on how you feel about particular aspects or sub-issues.

"Both sides" is just a shorthand expression for principles otherwise better understandable as "due process", but this is hard to summarize in just some words or a couple sentences.

It basically means there are two sides (at least) to everything, that can't just be disregarded. Exceptions prove the rule, of course.

On another point, Hotelling's law is a really poor example when it comes to debates or questions of politics, in my opinion.

Funnily enough, trying to convince people that mainstream news are not trustworthy, that it's impossible to know who's telling the truth, those are well known tactics of the Russian propaganda machine.

Then you get people who lack critical thinking reading crap published by anonymously owned (read: Russian or Russian sympathizers) "news" websites, and they believe it because, "you need to decide for yourself what you believe" and "everyone lies anyway".

Maybe it's less noticeable in different countries, because Russia is not investing as much into distorting the public opinion there, but in Central and Eastern Europe you can see it quite easily.

>The city where the protesters went into war and was bombarded for years and nobody displayed it on the news. Now it is displayed every single day because the people the US is supporting is losing there. Now it is so important civilians in this city, when for years they simply did not exist.

Reusing old/different footage and claiming it's something else. What else is new?

>The city where the protesters went into war and was bombarded for years and nobody displayed it on the news. Now it is displayed every single day because the people the US is supporting is losing there. Now it is so important civilians in this city, when for years they simply did not exist.

You don't mention any specifics, so it's impossible to disagree.. "Now", what is now? Since when? Bombarded for years? Starting when?

What is this manifestation you speak of, where did it happen?

Note that in English we don’t use the word “manifestation” to mean march/rally/protest gathering, the way the word is used in French.

Thanks for posting this; it really helped me parse the parent comment properly when I reread it.

I also noticed that. Manifestation is popular word in Russia. He says he knew Russian a little, so it can influence his vocabulary.

(I'm non-English speaker, cannot judge, just my opinion).

If you think Russian mainstream news have anything to do with reality, you're really naive.

You can learn Russian to be exposed even to more lies and propaganda :) Source: I know Russian.

>nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. the real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knolege with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time: whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. general facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will &c &c. but no details can be relied on. I will add that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. he who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.

-From Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 11 June 1807


To be fair, in Jefferson's time newspapers were overt instruments of a political faction. You started a newspaper to spread your point of view.

We have at least a veneer of nonpartisan purpose to the major newspapers of today, although you can argue they still have a bias. Online news/blogs/etc. are more analogous to the newspapers of the early Republic.

There is no such thing as no-bias reporting. For every topic reported on by any given publication, several others are ignored, simply because there is not enough time in the day nor is there advertising revenue to report absolutely everything, and we haven't even started on article lengths or story placement.

Those biases were on full display this year, not even bothering with the normal veneer.

One of the contributors of FiveThirtyEight made an observation that, along with this article, has convinced me to start filtering out the news. They were discussing what public policy initiatives we could expect from the incoming administration, and she said that she could not speculate on the subject because Donald Trump's signal-to-noise ratio in his public statements was so low as to render forecasting initiatives impossible.

That's the problem here. The signal-to-noise ratio is too low in the news in general. I've spent the whole last year reading speculation about Clinton's emails, Trump's cabinet picks, and shocking news from "anonymous sources" that turned out to be 99% noise when the final draft of the news came out. Why did I waste so many hours reading baseless speculation masquerading as authoritative information?

I'm not wasting my time on noise anymore.

I check the news roughly once a day just to get a feel for the headlines. I check the left-leaning sources and right-leaning sources and don't read any of the articles.

I don't get sucked in, and also just get an idea of what people think is important that day/week. Usually it is just noise but it can be at least helpful to know when things have happened. The headlines are enough for me.

amazing what kind of bias exists in headlines alone. when you filter down, it becomes so much more obvious.

I quit watching the news right around 1999. My family once challenged me how I knew about important events, and I told them that people in my life would let me know if anything occurred that I needed to know. They challenged me by quizzing me on major recent events. When they did find one that I had no idea about, they asked, "See? Nobody told you about that!" I replied, "You just did." And they have not argued about it again. They do continue to inform me, though, and it all works out.

The downside of this approach is that if we all did it then the world would be a much worse place.

Paying attention to current events and bearing witness to some of the darkest aspects of human history is important at a societal level and if you don't think it is important to you personally then consider yourself lucky to live a life where the real world doesn't creep in often. Understanding topics such as why refugees are fleeing conflict, the societal changes due to automation etc, and the consequences of climate change are critical to a healthy and functional nation.

Personally I can't stand the breathless hysteria/sensationalism of most mainstream American media organizations (particularly television) and prefer organizations that favour accuracy and historical context over clickbait.

> Paying attention to current events and bearing witness to some of the darkest aspects of human history is important at a societal level and if you don't think it is important to you personally then consider yourself lucky to live a life where the real world doesn't creep in often.

But, how do you even know what really happens? Mainstream news is ridiculous in its intent because it literally is "if it thinks it stinks, if it bleeds it leads". There is nothing good to get from mainstream news. Nothing. Sliced and diced to the most emotional snippets you could conceive of.

I feel bad for people that just get trampled on from all over the world, but that's as far as I let it go. During the 2nd Bush election I went all out, I was into trying to 'make a difference'. I protested, traveled, got involved with local and national groups, was surveilled, and literally was putting my safety on the line to try to make the world a better place.

In the end, he still got re-elected and some of the most corrupt people in U.S. history continued their rampage. It was bad enough the first time, but the second time completely just blew away my foundation of what I thought was just in the world. I never trusted the news or politicians after that. They are not here for 'us'. They ALL have an agenda whether you like it or not. There is such a disconnect between 'content' and real people - it's pathetic and there's no where that that comes out more than from tv.

After all of this, I've decided to just act locally and contribute to causes that want to fight the good fight but, in my mind, are in for a lot of suffering and struggle (eff, aclu, center for human rights, amnesty, etc). It takes a toll on one when you are struggling and it's nonstop uphill.

My wife and friends are always coming up to me with the latest tragedy that has surfaced on facebook. family members, the latest shooting or crash, or death or whatever. I choose to remove myself from all of this because it does _no good_ to me and for me.

Unless I actually go to those places and involve myself with those struggles (see point 5 in op), then I'm just fooling myself by being 'concerned'.

Tv and news is a waste of precious time and there are much better ways to affect and change the world than being sedentary and 'informed' yet doing nothing.

> But, how do you even know what really happens? Mainstream news is ridiculous in its intent because it literally is "if it thinks it stinks, if it bleeds it leads". There is nothing good to get from mainstream news. Nothing. Sliced and diced to the most emotional snippets you could conceive of.

The only ways to mitigate this is to use a healthy amount of skepticism, to educate yourself on the historical context of ongoing current events, and to be aware of the slant that even the most impartial news source may have.

I don't disagree in regards to acting rather than just being informed and that acting locally is probably the best way we can make a difference. Likewise with burning out on media!

Or subscribe to slow journalism


Interestingly, I took this quote to mean both that reported news is biased, but the decision of what events to report upon is biased too. Being a skeptic solves the first issue. For the second, filtering what you read doesn't help if you aren't reading stories that are valuable to you but aren't tragic / scary / interesting enough for the rest of the news source's readers. Since news sources are biased, how can you know what you aren't seeing?

> But, how do you even know what really happens? Mainstream news is ridiculous in its intent because it literally is "if it thinks it stinks, if it bleeds it leads". There is nothing good to get from mainstream news. Nothing. Sliced and diced to the most emotional snippets you could conceive of.

Our education system was supposed to deliver critical thinkers. Either the system failed you (and possibly a generation), or you have forgotten its lessons.

> The downside of this approach is that if we all did it then the world would be a much worse place.

I can't fix the World or the dark aspects of the human soul, but hopefully made my local area a better place since I dropped-out of the news-cycle a few years ago. I use my former news 'time-budget' to become invoved in Council business, to follow the activities of my local politicians and to just go and do stuff that benefits people around the town.

I feel better informed as a result and I'm no longer surprised and enraged by 'unexpected' changes in my local environment.

I helped to fix a pothole in a local road last week. Utterly irrelevant on a global scale, but then so is a plane crash in Colombia.

> The downside of this approach is that if we all did it then the world would be a much worse place.

Or not, maybe it would be better. Imagine country where people are mindful about their immediate surrounding and don't buy into ideological bullshit sold by mass media. Want to send young men to some war? Well tough luck, if there is no conflict at the doorstep then this move is probably to benefit someone else, not you.

Refugees overflowing streets? Common sense tells you to take a look at what kind of people they are and if they are good and acknowledge their situation and want to better it, then help them. But if they act like arrogant invaders then common sense would be to tell them to bugger off. Yet media adhering to its ideology would tell you that you are wrong to use common sense. That somehow WYSIWYG is not right here and that some abstract oppression these people are fleeting from is more important.

>and the consequences of climate change are critical to a healthy and functional nation

Lets see how in future china deals with climate change as opposed to societies with 'well informed' citizens.

Counterpoint: it's been shown again and again that continued exposure to outlets deliberately cherry-picking the worst aspects of humanity (commercial news outlets) has a pretty negative effect on worldviews.

And that in turn leads to negative outcomes.

More authoritarianism, more withdrawal into closed communities, more willingness to vote for leaders who will solve the "terrible state" of the country / world by any means necessary, more enthusiasm for punishment over empathy, more othering of whichever ethic/social group that's currently being blamed for Everything Being Bad.

If you're trying to gain an accurate understanding of the world, starting with sources with an extremely strong incentive to bias the hell out of your worldview is probably not the best way to do it.

And if you're just trying to understand and mentally experience the worst humanity has to offer, then history books have plenty of really horrible shit in them, generally far worse than the 21st century so far (thankfully).

I'd argue that mainstream news sources promote a false understanding of these topics. If you truly want to understand then you are going to need to do your own research. For example, The Sun is one of the most popular newspapers in the U.K.:


> The downside of this approach is that if we all did it then the world would be a much worse place.

I think on the way to that happening, the world would become a much better place before it gets worse. Only a very tiny percentage of us needs to try to understand events around the world and repeat to peers what they think is worth repeating, then those peers repeat to their peers what they thought was important to hear, and so on.

It's already kind of happening since journalists aren't a big percentage of the population, but instead of filtering out the important stuff, it's what we call the "media circus" and big business.

> Paying attention to current events and bearing witness to some of the darkest aspects of human history is important at a societal level

You are confusing reading/watching the news with being informed. Trusting superficial and biased news is disinformation. Being a witness, a citizen journalist, an activist, and reading books thoroughly is another thing.

Please don't conflate the news with the TV news, which "fell" long before the respectable national newspapers started to.

I agree it is not a good idea to watch the news. It's probably a good idea to read it.

But OP is talking about TV:

> To be clear, I’m mostly talking about following TV and internet newscasts here

Title is clickbaity, but that's not any commenter's fault.

Codingdave is talking about having no information about what's happening in the world (other than what friends tell him), which would imply cutting off all news sources, not just TV.

No, I am not. I am talking about my filter being actual people, not mainstream media. Once I know of something, I go out and look for more information. And I keep very informed of local events, reading everything put out by my city -- council meetings minutes, announcements, planning committee documents, etc.

I can see where the misunderstanding may have come from -- I could have explained it better originally.

I use this to justify blocking all emails from corporate at work.

I did the same thing years ago. Same reaction. Nobody in my home watches the news. We are better off

> I replied, "You just did." And they have not argued about it again.

This is just silly.

I don't get why everyone is downvoting this. Care to explain, down-voters?

> I told them that people in my life would let me know if anything occurred that I needed to know.

This is so true. I told my girlfriend the same thing after she got mad that I quit news and said "Oh, you'll need to know important local news (stabbings, crime in San Francisco, protests for traffic etc).

That 1 time where someone 4 blocks from my home got run over by some dummy doing facebook live in her car while driving, the convenient store guy in my block asked me "Hey, did you hear about that so and so got run over." I said no, but you just told me. :)

Here are a few reasons

* It puts the burden of collecting and summarizing relevant news on others

* You are at the mercy of the grapevine effect, which only gets worse as more and more people take up this solution so your news takes more hops before you receive it

* And, most importantly, your sources are also not getting their news first hand; their sources the very same crappy news outlets that you yourself rejected.

Not really though. If it's important, you have the option to do a dive and read up on something. At least for me, it's not about not paying attention. It's about not being force fed. The world can be an awful place especially when viewed through the lens of sensationalism. It's just not healthy for my household to be constantly connected to that. So what I do is try to pay attention on a meta level and only delve for details on my term. It requires intellectual honesty but in the end is healthier and more informative.

How does knowing that a train derailed and 300 people died, or that someone got stabbed, change your behavior in any way, shape or form? This may seem callous, but in my country the average person watches 3h of TV every day. That's 3 hours they could spend on a side-job, on a hobby, improving professional skills, getting fit, spending more time with their kids. Who cares that someone got stabbed? Most people care to "improve the world" (however dyfunctionally and pathologically) when they can't even be bothered to take care of themselves (75% of people in US are overweight) or to be good parents (1/3 of families in UK don't eat together at the dinner table, or even have a dinner table).

Not following the news is a perfectly rational choice. You'll be less stressed, much happier, less distracted therefore have better self-knowledge and a better capacity to self-actualize, and you can spend more time with your kids (who really need it).

In life, there aren't the uninformed and the informed. There are the uninformed and the misinformed.

You are addressing a point my comment didn't address. I didn't say that someone needs to know that stuff. My point was that relying on your social network to let you know about important news doesn't increase the quality of the news you do receive.

If there's only one source of news that feeds into the grapevine effect then you only need to tune into the grapevine.

There are like five journalistic camps that feed into my grapevine, and they all report the same stories, and spin five different opinions on the same daily topics. Thus, the grapevine provides the same complete set, five times, redundantly.

All of the stories from these camps are useless. The stories are not, in fact relevant, and so I do not care how slowly they appear at my feet. I usually just step over them anyway and go about my business.

Going one step further, I think 99% of the facts are irrelevant. It's the COVERAGE of the facts that matters. The presidential debates were a perfect example. WHAT was said was of absolutely no consequence. HOW it was said was equally inconsequential. What was important was all the chatter ABOUT what was said, and how it was said. The handful of media conglomerates TELL the vast majority of the population how to feel and what to think about what happened, and THAT'S the only important part to understand.

So you're relying on others (who are watching the news that you don't want to get contaminated with) to tell you the news? How is that any better than just listening to it yourself? It sounds remarkably worse to me: telephone, but with real events.

> I don't get why everyone is downvoting this. Care to explain, down-voters?

Please don't change the subject to downvotes. The HN guidelines already contain two admonitions against this and I'd like not to add a third.

But what if I really want to know. There is no explanation.

That's a burden we all must bear, for the sake of not degrading the site. At least we all bear it equally.

I managed to get answer from one of such downvoters: "I don't know, but it looks contradictory to general knowledge, so I downvoted you".

I hope, it will help.

If you have high IQ but lazy at explaining of basic things for regular Joe, regular Joe will downvote you, because he cannot follow you nor discuss with you.

At work, to check is my explanation is simple enough, I play a challenging game while thinking (I use sopwith, my IQ is about 140): if I'm able to think and play at same time, then my brain has some power to spare, so it is simple enough for people with IQ about 120. If not, then they will not be able to follow me. I use that technique for almost decade. Works well at work, when I have time to explain, e.g. in comments to tickets, emails, and so on.

I can't really get onboard with this. A lot of the comments here, and the commentary in the article itself, talk about how depressing the news is, how biased it is, about Gell-Mann amnesia -- and they're all right. But from my own experience, the people I know who don't follow the news (either at all, or extremely minimally) are spectacularly ill-informed; they get their news either third-hand (which suffers from all of the aforementioned problems plus being re-reported poorly), or not at all, and operate with only the sketchiest understanding of what's happening in the world. They aren't going to "read three books on a topic" (from the article), they're just going to remain oblivious. And that's far worse, in my opinion.

Some of the arguments here remind me of the puritanical strains of religions. For eg: I am against Wahhabi Islam.

They're just like other Muslims but they take percepts that are valid in Islam and run with them to the ridiculous extreme.

Same goes for cutting down on Social media or regulating your consumption of news. There is nothing to be gained by turning into a puritan. It makes you feel good about yourself for a while but you're just cutting yourself off from vast dimensions of human experience.

Its possible to read HN once a day just to keep up instead of refreshing it every few hours.

Its possible to stop visiting twitter every hour and perhaps use it a few times a week.

Its possible to restrict your reading to good long form articles in NYT or WaPo or The Economist.

If we started completely cutting out anything and everything that had a remotely negative influence the logical conclusion is that we end up turning into Puritan Wahhabis who don't drink alcohol , ruthlessly suppress sexuality and generally lead colourless lives.


Downvoters , I'd appreciate if you gave your reasons.

I agree to a certain extent on your point about puritans. However I know people that recognized they have a tendency to overdo news or social media as soon as they get a bit of it.

That might be partly due to the very nature of social media and news these days being made to be addictive eg. clickbait titles. Making people end up in a loop, without noticing and before they know it they've wasted hours on it or worse created a habit that is hard to control.

For which the only solution seems to be to go cold turkey in that case. As it seems much harder to reduce usage than to stop it entirely. So I guess it's a matter of what stage you identify yourself in, in this news and social media detox.

That is true of sex,alcohol or food or anything else.

You could go on a "fast" , ie avoid it for a while to break a destructive dependency but avoiding entirely ?

No thanks.

For some people, those things take over their lives in a horribly destructive way. Not everyone has the disposition to have "just a bit" of these things and no more. If you've got an addiction to something that's sucking the life out of you, avoiding it entirely makes a lot of sense to me.

I think that you are getting downvoted for implying that an extreme position is the only alternative. I don't think that is necessary at all.

Its not that you have to ignore all news sources because of the possibility of bias (or easy, emotion filled "emotional truth" nuggets that fill so much of the discourse), but that you should be aware of these issues and react accordingly. Take time to reanalyze whether the narrative being pushed really makes sense. Compare it to other sources and validate the findings.

Don't just throw out everyone and only trust "NYT" or "WaPo" or "Fox News".

Not a downvoter-the opposite in face.

From a rational, logical, and chemistry point of view, one cannot have a balanced view or understanding without positives and negatives.

The only thing that makes it work is critical thinking; or at least rational thinking, though rational thinking is easy enough to manipulate by any sophist. Recognizing the forms leads to recognizing the art of sophistry as it occurs. However, emotion is even easier to manipulate and inflame, ridding one of the possibilities of rational thought.

Well ... there's a flip side to this.

The people I know who are absolute news hounds end up knowing all the talking points of the talking heads, but don't actually think for themselves. I'm on the board of a small prep school and one of the most important things we do is teach critical thinking. This includes analyzing statements from a historical perspective, recognizing that the speaker probably has an agenda and memorization of the logical fallacies.

In the '80s I was a big fan of Rush Limbaugh ... he was entertaining and for the most part, did talk about current events. I felt informed. In '92 when Clinton was elected, his monologue quickly became hateful and negative. My mood was dramatically worse and I became hateful too. Funny since the Clinton years were coincident with a huge boon in my businesses. And then I found myself repeating his talking points without even thinking about it.

Finally I realized that I didn't actually believe much of it ... and when I looked at the vitriol the other side was spouting I didn't believe it either. I think it's pretty important to know the facts of what's happened in the world but you can't do that through news.

Now I completely ignore the news channels and generally skim through headlines. Some headlines are factual while others are purposely skewed to the writer's biases. It's easier to tell that someone has an agenda from the headline and I even occasionally read the first paragraph. I don't miss the period of my life where I was under the influence of the news channels, and I spend the time I've recouped in my community ... I find it easier and more useful to know the pulse of the area where I live.

You hit the nail on the head. There is real wisdom in your last sentence, and it's something I've come to know recently.

In the end, it is unlikely that all of us will have an impact that goes beyond our local community. What is the point of endlessly fretting over things far removed from us, and far out of our control? We can't all be heroes, and we can't all be a guiding light for the world, so what can we do?

We can be a force for good in our local community! I think it's the healthiest mindset to have, even if you do want to stay informed about world events.

The conclusion being:

You need a balance. Neither extreme works.

It's a rather universal principle.

I disagree.

In my experience, the people who actively don't follow any news at all are fully aware of their blindside. They just don't care (or have judged, quite reasonably, that they have more immediate personal concerns)

The worst people are those who are glued to the TV or net, closely watching things as if the future of the world depended on whether they knew politician X was fired right now or five minutes from now. They attach far too much drama and emotional involvement in matters which they have no control over. In addition, they're just as much in a bubble as the ones not engaged at all. The tragedy is that they don't realize it.

If you're in a discussion with somebody who doesn't follow the news, as long as they are reasonable, you can cover common ground fairly quickly, then get to whatever your point/question is. If you're in a discussion with somebody who is glued to the news, you can spend hours teasing out their bias and failing to reach any kind of common ground at all. That's because news promotes rhetoric instead of the dialectic. People are being taught to argue like lawyers over whatever beliefs they have because they spend hours invested in a medium that shows them lawyers arguing about events. They teach themselves how to have a closed mind.

Nope. I'll take a non-news consumer with an open mind over a msm news consumer any day of the week. Life is too short to program yourself to be so hard-headed and impervious to change.

I agree.

But I think someone's opinion on this will differ depending on where they fit on the political spectrum.

Right-wing thinks MSM has liberal bias - would rather people avoid it.

Left-wing wants people to consume more MSM - vice-versa.

Most of the people I know who intensely dislike the Mainstream Media (MSM, for anyone confused by the acronym) are either left-leaning or liberal-leaning.

(The two are not remotely the same.)

As a side note, I know precisely zero people who I would describe as "moderate" on the left-right spectrum who are at all enthusiastic about the state of 2016's news media. Of all political groups, I'd say that they're the most likely to be critical of the mainstream media.

I haven't intentionally ingested the "news" in any considerable manner in at least 10 years, probably more. That's by design; I just don't place a premium on it. Time, energy, and attention are all limited resources and I've decided that mine are best utilized in other ways. To the best of my knowledge, I can't say that my life has been negatively impacted at all by this decision. Sure, I'm left out of some cocktail party discussions, but those aren't very attractive to me in the first place.

A guy like me turns the "news" on and at best it feels like an advertisement wrapped in a reality show. At worst, it feels like a bunch of young children yelling at each other on a playground. There's an infinite amount of noise out there and it's my job to control the tuner and volume buttons.

All that said, I presume the real problem comes into play here when the ill-informed make decisions based on their position without acknowledging the situation.

>A guy like me turns the "news" on and at best it feels like an advertisement wrapped in a reality show. At worst, it feels like a bunch of young children yelling at each other on a playground.

TV news is the "at worst", but your description of "at best" sums up how I feel about all news better than I could have.

There is something distinctly off-putting about the sheer volume of advertising in news publications. It gives me this subtle sense that to be a "proper citizen" I must: read news; buy things.

I read on Quora from a senior editor at the Economist that the reason they charge the same rate for digital and print subscriptions is that because it's harder to ignore or block the full-page advertisements in the print, they are worth more to the advertiser, and therefore offset the cost of printing and delivering weekly subscriptions.

Isn't it a little weird that we place so much trust in our sources of information which, in turn, (almost) entirely rely on advertising revenue?

I agree. Ignoring bad news for the sake of feeling a bit better surely isn't a sign of being adult and mature.

However, I also believe that TV news and constant news checking are unnecessary and can make you depressed. You can easily get a wrong perception of mankind in general and the stupidity of other people by consuming too much news. This happened to me recently with news about Trump and the composition of his new government, for example. I genuinely got depressed from this. So I've limited my exposure a bit. It's not as if I won't find out who's in the new government anyway, and I don't need to hear about obviously stupid tweets, deliberate ignorance of facts and involuntary attempts to lead the world to WW3 every day. (What makes me depressed is ignorance, especially deliberate ignorance, not other other political views, and I'm sure I speak for many people in saying so.)

I've also found out that newspapers and their websites are much better than TV channels and their websites, so I'm now surfing to the Washington Post from time to time to keep me informed. Since I'm not living in an English-speaking country, subscribing to a good English international newspaper in paper form is a bit too expensive for me, but I've also found out that the International New York Tribune (formerly International Herald Tribune) is a great printed source for the weekend, and it's available at every international newsstand in the world. It's informative but not so long that you spend a whole afternoon on it. My girlfriend loves it and buys it all the time.

As for a bias of news, sorry I can't confirm that at all. Every news source is and always has been politically biased in one way or another, but in my experience the only people who complain about this are those who are unable to distinguish news from opinion and are heavily biased themselves.

News companies all have owners and management. I think it is important to be informed about who the owners of newspapers are, and what their political views are, because ultimately the owner will hire and fire the Chief Editor who sets the tone for the paper. It is also important to know what the Chief Editor's political views are too.

Its important to ask yourself why you trust a certain news outlet.

I disagree with you (a lot, actually). You can never trust just one news outlet alone, but only ever several news outlets+reputed press agencies. That doesn't mean that you need to compulsively check all of them constantly, though, and that was my whole point. If there is some real news to share, all newspapers will quickly jump on it anyway, which a quick comparison will easily confirm.

You can read any reputable well-established newspaper in the world whose language you understand and be well-informed enough for anything except for making particular business decisions. It doesn't matter at all whether the newspaper is right wing and conservative or liberal and progressive. That's because they report the same daily news which is based on the same reality, and any newspaper worth reading clearly distinguishes between opinion and news. I've compared many newspapers during my lifetime, and the only differences between them in the news sections is in the selection (what goes to front, what's on page 3) and some bias in the presentation, and neither small differences in the selection nor any bias in the presentation is of much relevance to any adult with a brain of his own.

The tone of the paper is vastly irrelevant for its news contents, it only influences whether you personally like editorials and invited opinions or not, and these are not news, of course.

That may or may not be true in the US. It's very much not true in the UK.

The far-right crazy papers, specifically the Mail and the Express, are notorious for leading with spurious non-stories and for making up post-factual "journalism" when it suits them.

You'll get a very distorted view of the world if you rely on them for accurate news reporting.

Non-political stories - major accidents, earthquakes, and so on - are more likely to be reported in a consistent way across all the outlets. But anything with even the faintest hint of a political angle - which includes a lot of news - will be mangled by each outlet's political slant.

That's interesting, I didn't know that. I didn't have yellow press (aka "boulevard journalism) in mind, though, to which I would definitely count Dailymail, Express or the German Bild. They tick differently and I wouldn't recommend any of them as a source of any information.

Try TheHill.com and AllSides.com. I find AllSides.com useful for presenting the same story from multiple sides and biases. The Hill aims to be apolitical and center biased, and does a fair job.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with either site, and I do not endorse either site. My opinions are my own.

There are a limited amount of things in the wide-world you should be informed about. I care about climate change because that is something that will affect me and my lifestyle in the long run. So I prepare for that and plan ahead. Knowing the state of Italy's economy, whether it is flood, drought of earthquakes killing people in Asia, and if California is still becoming a desert spotted by game-of-life like wildfires, does not benefit me at all.

What does benefit me is what is going on in my local (as in town/municipality) government and community. Living in a European capital, even that is too much. I just don't follow those news either. I do follow cultural events, bird rescue fundraisers, local IT meetups, farmers' markets.

You see, you may be saying I am spectacularly ill-informed by some third-party information that is even less trustworthy than the so called "official channels", however, you probably live in the same sort of informational bubble. You argue with people on Facebook, you read your left or right wing media outlets, you are getting biased google search result and go with those. Maybe you are aware that others are affected by these cultural glass-walls, but not you, since you are aware of these issues. Well, you are probably just another brick in the wall. Sorry, no ad hominem here whatsoever. I simply wish to raise your awareness that

1. On average, you are not better than the average,

2. What you think really matters is probably not what really matters to me.

3. What do you care if some people are oblivious? Chances are, you know nothing about nutrition and go with the usual recommendations, just to end up being fat, diabetic or a cancer patient. What do _I_ care about that, though?

I'll be here, reading books on programming, organic farming, evolutionary biology and micro-brewing fruit wines. Oh yes, and dinosaurs, because dinosaurs and paleontology are real fucking entertaining and interesting to me. You do your thing. But don't force your "informed" standards on other people.

>operate with only the sketchiest understanding of what's happening in the world.

What sort of practical utility do you gain from being "informed" by "the news"? Could you give an example or two of how being informed by the news made you operate differently in your day to day life?

Good question (apart from the scare quotes!).

I run a software consultancy based in the UK. I work with a variety of subcontractors, most of whom are based in Europe. The outcome of Brexit might potentially have a significant impact on my way of working with Europeans; I don't think it will, but keeping abreast of that (developing) situation is fairly important to me.

I'm going to Venice on Wednesday. If there had been riots following the outcome of the constitutional referendum, I wouldn't be going to Venice on Wednesday.

Weren't the newspaper polls misinforming regarding the Brexit result? Perhaps their interest in Brexit is contrary to yours.

And haven't news organizations been known to exaggerate/mischaracterize small peaceful protests as large scale riots? I would think simply looking up "Venice riots" on YouTube and filtering for the last week or month would provide you the information you'd need rather than watching a talking head read a teleprompter while the same short video clip plays on repeat.

But presumably you wouldn't even know to search YouTube for "Venice riots" if you hadn't been consuming any news?

Well, I suppose if you believe that the news is all inherently false, biased, and generally uninformative, then it probably isn't going to be a good choice for you.

(Incidentally, the Brexit polls were somewhat wrong, but they were not conducted by the newspapers.)

I vote with an informed mind of what's going on in my community.

I'm a fan of extremely selective news following - having tested, it makes me much happier and has very little negative effect - but it comes with an important corollary: if you're going to avoid a topic, it's very important to also understand that means you don't know much about it.

I make rather a point of saying "I don't know much about that" when the topic of current affairs that I'm not following come up.

Then again, that's partially because when I do want to know about something, I tend to deep-dive on it (https://medium.com/im-trying-to-fact-check-brexit). And it's largely because many of my friends are spectacularly highly informed on anything they're likely to comment on, and so any time I do slip and attempt to sound informed on something I'm not, I have about a 50% chance of sounding like a complete idiot.

So this may be much easier to do in my social circle.

Peer review feedback loops do tend to make one carefully consider what one says, however if the peers are too homogeneous, you may not get challenged on many things outside the bubble of their collective belief system. Heterogeneous peer systems, that is diversity, are more likely to keep you honest.

Has being well-informed about the news ever helped you in any way? Beyond, say, traffic and weather? National/international news, especially, since that's usually what people seem to care about for some reason? If it has, has it helped you enough to be worth the time and mental effort expended on it over the years?

I guess I can see how being unusually well informed in news relevant to a very specific economic sector might help one make a good investment choice or something, especially if you get that information before most others do, somehow. But general news? I think it's very unusual for that to improve one's life in any real way, especially compared to the time it takes. Knowing in detail the daily developments of e.g. the war in Syria or Trump's cabinet picks is of little more personal use than knowing who's backstabbing whom on Days of Our Lives. It's entertainment or a fairly low-value hobby, even when the reporting's well-done.

I'm going to disagree with you. I live in a country where the local politics always floods the news. There is always a corruption charge against the president or some other politician. I find it very repetitive. Nothing is new.

I'm a technology enthusiast, so I would rather read articles on that.

I also feel much happier when not informed about the politics about my country.

Eh, depends what's important to you.

Do you want to know about awful stuff people are doing to each other across the planet or spend an extra half hour on your pet woodwork project?

Choose the project most of the time and you'll likely be happier, though less informed. Why is it so important to be constantly reminded how awful humanity is every few minutes?

It doesn't have to be every few minutes. A few times per month would be enough.

I think this is inevitable. Even the effect of mass media going against so-called "fake news" won't have the effect they desire: In my estimation people will stop trusting and hence following all of it. It pays off, for as you and I have both gathered from the comments it is obvious that people do feel their lives improve once they "tune out". Since 2010 or so, this applies to me as well.

Besides, I don't know for how long mass media has existed in its entirety, but TV only existed for maybe 60 years. Before that we managed just fine without it and I think we'll manage just fine in the future as well. We'll find other ways to connect with matters we care about, which is the basis of news anyway.

When things such as what we need to spend our time on become obligatory, and enforced by social pressure, people will feel entrapped sooner or later. That's what's happening now. The media keeps dividing us into so many categories, and then passes judgment on all of us. To them, no one can escape, no one is free, no one is good - it's the only thing that sells. We're all stampeded on by editorials and pounded on by inducing guilt and forcing ads. Conflict is a cash cow.

Personally I think that the importance of news is terribly overrated - I've yet to hear of any reason for why it should be important that resonates with me. As I've said, I've tuned out for many years.

One thing to add: the only source I loyally follow is the No Agenda Show (http://www.noagendashow.com - a podcast which I help out technically, fully pro bono) because they are the only source of media that has no advertisers to keep happy, they get 100% of their income via donations, and they don't even digest the news as much as analyse where the news comes from, and what the interests and hidden agendas are of those that bring it. The show is interesting, fun, informative and thought provoking, so worth mentioning in its own right.

That being said — as it, despite my intentions, might be considered a plug because I am a volunteer with them (i.e. I am not benefitting from more listeners, though do get a kick out of seeing the numbers increase), it feels more appropriate to detach this bit from my parent response.

Sounds interesting, this is the kind of thing I have been looking for.

It took me all of a few minutes of listening to that podcast to realize that they're peddling conspiracy theories and consider themselves to occupy a similar space as Alex Jones' Infowars.

We didn't manage just fine before TV. We had two incredibly destructive World Wars, both following a much longer but even more violent history of colonial imperialism and domestic revolution.

In the UK we didn't get voting rights for all males until 1918, and voting rights for women until 1928. The US didn't get votes for women until 1920.

Before then, news had very limited popular political influence.

With the internet, we're increasingly seeing automated and industrialised fake "news" generation used for political leverage at the expense of impartial reporting of objective fact.

Yeah...this is how you have an even less-informed electorate. I follow the news because seeing what goes on helps shape my political views and decide how to vote. Not just for the president either. And not just to vote, I want to know if my congressman is doing something shady or damaging so I can make my voice heard with a phone call or email. Just saying "all news is bullshit" is horribly lazy.

> with only the sketchiest understanding of what's happening in the world.

For most of the things we do, we don't need to weigh in the geopolitical consequences in the other side of the world. Common sense works most of the time. The news media are in continuous war with common sense.

This is modulated by the fact that most people don't arrive at their opinions through critical thinking (I think it's overwhelmingly clear that humans are fundamentally irrational and not fundamentally rational).

So based on that, you could make a strong case that following the news will in the vast majority of cases turn an uninformed, dogmatic Democrat into an informed, eloquent Democrat, and same for Republicans, and therefore won't affect their vote. (Again, in the overwhelming majority of cases, not in all cases).

Then there's the issue of media quality. Is CNN high quality journalism? How much time did they devote to Yemen, then? (on the TV channel, that is) Is Trump eating KFC with a fork more important? The media blames Trump for this, but their ratings-obsession is their own responsibility.

The issue of Trump's phone call to Taiwan is a great example.

On CNN, you get pundit hysterics about Trump's "incompetence".

On Stratfor, you get an insanely good article[0] that goes in-depth on the historical context behind the US-Taiwan "non-relationship", the reasons why Trump "highly" likely planned the phone call carefully, why the Taiwan issue is a red-line issue for China, and why this play on Trump's part could signal a shift to put China back in their place. As Stratfor says: "In the Track II talks between U.S. and Chinese figures, it isn't uncommon for the [Chinese] to berate their American counterparts while the former offer declarations of cooperation and critiques of their own government's policies", so this Trump move may bring much-needed leverage back to the US.

This is just an example of very high-quality vs trash media coverage. Avoiding the mainstream press and seeking specialized press seems like a basic requirement if you want to be informed.

There are 2 "problems":

- People that stay in their bubble and only follow biased news (which includes mainstream news, which has a mediocrity bias. Most people are in this category)

- People that choose to follow almost no news, because there's no person al benefit (after all, if following the news doesn't directly earn you more money, you're wasting your time. This category includes probably quite a few people on HN, but few nationally)

The former cannot be "solved" without censorship. The latter is what very few people talk about, and it does not want to be solved.

We all want to live in a society where most people are informed, except the personal ROI of it is substantially negative. The smart choice is to be underinformed, if you value your time. The people claiming "we all have a societal duty to stay informed" never bring this up, and never offer a resolution to this dilemma. Kantian ethics (what I do is moral if and only if the world would still be fine if everyone did the same as me) disregards the fact that nobody wants to be the sucker.

[0]: https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/taiwan-trump-and-telephone-h...

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