I'll quote the relevant part of the article:
> The real story in this mess is not the threat that algorithms pose to Amazon shoppers, but the threat that algorithms pose to journalism. By forcing reporters to optimize every story for clicks, not giving them time to check or contextualize their reporting, and requiring them to race to publish follow-on articles on every topic, the clickbait economics of online media encourage carelessness and drama. This is particularly true for technical topics outside the reporter’s area of expertise.
> And reporters have no choice but to chase clicks. Because Google and Facebook have a duopoly on online advertising, the only measure of success in publishing is whether a story goes viral on social media. Authors are evaluated by how individual stories perform online, and face constant pressure to make them more arresting.
A general comment: while it is important to draw attention to the perverse incentives journalism is subject to, it is also important not to fall prey to the fallacy that people must act according to perverse incentives. Nothing justifies publishing unsubstantiated nonsense. Journalists are morally bound not to do so.
Almost every publication is beholden to someone, and often to several entities, usually the owners. Bloomberg News treads carefully with Michael Bloomberg, and the same is true for every billionaire-owned outlet. You can't avoid it, and as long as there are enough publications, it doesn't matter. They all make up for the others' blind spots.
While it may be a fallacy that people must act according to perverse incentives, it is not a fallacy to expect that they probably will. Statistically speaking, moral bounds are not strong arguments when confronted with power and wealth. Those who decline on moral grounds are easily replaced.
represent criticisms of the seriousness or competence of journalism, in various cases going back somewhere between decades and centuries. We should probably not think that there was ever a golden age in which all journalism was sober, cautious, and informed. But it also seems like the pressures facing journalism that Maciej points to are quite real.
How can we get a better historical perspective on how well different kinds of journalism have worked over time? (I guess a similar problem confronts anyone who wants to criticize -- or try to redeem -- institutions that seem to be in decline.)
Also, I don't actually "remember" the Spanish-American war. I understand what you mean, but this is an awkward way to put it.
There have always been crappy tabloid publications. The new development is the fall of the respectable/professional outlets. (Some national papers are hanging on, but most smaller cities' city papers have been decimated).
Reminds me of this: https://xkcd.com/1227/
"A reporter should not be assigned to cover subject X unless he has as good an understanding of X as a baseball writer is expected to have of baseball."
Shouldn't media outlets be embarrassed into retracting stories written by people who know nothing about the subject? Shouldn't the reputation of the media outlet suffer?
1 - https://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2007/08/the-bas...
(Story often told about Reagan, but he's not the only one. https://www.thoughtco.com/ronald-reagans-radio-career-284336... para 5-7)
There are 5 PR hacks for every reporter in America. And that counts people who are functionally equivalent to PR hacks as reporters because of their job title.
The market has spoken, and actual journalism has been deemed unnecessary. The short era of actual journalism, with journalistic ethics classes and investigative journalism and the "baseball test" was a short term market inefficiency that has been solved (the idea of this era was also always very overblown).
Oftentimes PR firms are happy for you to print their copy - but they answer no questions and offer no insights.
But then under what condition should a writer not be assigned to write about baseball? (Unless he or she as knowledgeable about baseball as a baseball reporter?)
Or, take finance. If a financial journalist truly understood finance, wouldn't they be running a hedge fund instead of scraping by pumping out articles?
They're just expected to understand the rules of the game, know what the various acronyms mean, and generally be able to converse intelligently about the game. That's the standard being suggested for reporters covering other topics.
Because barring the entrance of one of these as-yet-unimagined alternatives, it seems we'll need to lean on regulation...but then we get into messiness of regulating free speech.
There was Beacon Reader, the crowdfunding journalism platform, but they shut down. 
Then there's Google's "Fact Check", but its reach is limited 
To me, these examples indicate that the profit motive in journalism is actually good. It creates an incentive for publishing the truth and a disincentive to spreading lies that does not exist in other models of journalism.
I think part of what makes our modern situation different is that mass hysteria has a denser network on which to propagate (yes also means remedial measures also propagate faster) and is propelled via a more ruthlessly efficient propellant (expression of consumer preference in a frictionless, free-market, internet-enabled system)
But I'd argue that, generally, whenever feedback loops are tightened, systems tend to lose stability, increasing risk of very bad events.
So my point still stands, something should be done about this... I just don't know what. regulation feels kludgy, building a competing product/model that somehow encourages more pro-social outcomes, per my business model fixation in parent comment, feels nice--but likely is too naively optimistic.
So what else is there? Some old-time religion? "Don't lie and don't hate each other...". Also doesn't feel like a good route, for reasons too many to enumerate.
So what is there?
Which, of course, is harmful to literally everyone in power and most of the people with the power to steer culture. Any system remotely like we have now is systemically opposed to good journalism.
Nobody, because the "underlying business model problem" is that, contra their stated preference, people don't want real journalism, or at least don't want it enough to pay for it. They want easily digestible fluff that validates the opinions they already have, and if they don't get that, they'll leave an angry pseudo-profound comment about "bias" and then go somewhere else where they can get more acceptable opinions. The internet is not lacking for such places.
Facebook and Google are not blameless here, but while they are accelerating these trends by making the market more frictionless, at the end of the day they can't be blamed for the fact that people's revealed preference is for opinionated clickbait and not fact-checked serious journalism.
So, we're in a tricky situation.
1. fundamentally we are just a rabid pack of stimuli seeking animals on a ravenous, desperate hunt for our next emotionally titillating hit
2. we've decided that in our (U.S.) implementation of liberal democracy, for the most part, freedom of speech is super protected and businesses are free to peddle pretty much whatever titillation they want (as long as no harm to others, per JS Mill On Liberty, etc..) unfettered by governance
how do we ensure that the public sphere doesn't devolve into a savage, mindless flurry of pure vitriol, slander, and falsehood
in the past we've leaned on a few structures to overcome these tendencies: an aristocratic taste-maker class steeped in classical tradition; authoritarian dictate; religious institutions that appealed to moral orders beyond earthly sin
obviously these structures had deep, DEEP issues, and we've rightly moved towards casting them aside
so what's next?
how to we bake reason into our societal architecture without relying on the problematic structures of yore?
Or should we just have faith that, despite these trying times, the better instincts of humanity shall prevail and we'll lift ourselves out of the morass--perhaps brought to our senses by some charismatic, enlightened leader utilizing moral-suasion and a made-for-tv personality....or some other mechanism of mass-englightenment
Another angle is that "real journalism" is fiction. Stronger than "people don't want it" is that it doesn't even exist.
Suppose Zuck, Musk, Gates, Bezos, and Bloomberg pooled their cash, with matching funds from Uncle Sam, into a blind trust to fund "real journalism." What then?
OK. I'm on break, I'll make it a big longer to translate and sum up what I think has been the most underrated video of the 2016 french presidential election discussing how to «fix» political press. (reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GspZxQGRAXw ). Be warned, the proposal is pretty radical, but compare them to the radicalism of people who first proposed to separate the three branches of power. Here we are trying to make the media into a 4th one, independent as the others are.
The speaker is the director of a famous left-wing newspaper, "Le Monde Diplomatique" (not related to Le Monde). His goal is to substract the media from 2 influences: political influences exerted through public aids and funding, and market influences exerted through shareholders and advertisers.
He first proposes to separate media into two categories: entertainment and information (well information, general interests and political debates). He wants to avoid having a government agency arbitrarily sort between them so instead, he proposes 3 (radical) objective criterion to identify information media:
- non-profit. They are forbidden to give dividends to shareholders.
- non-concentration. One economic agent can not own more than one media in the "information" category (I did not know that until 1984, this was the rule in France)
- no advertisement.
Not fulfilling these criterion would lead to be classified as entertainment. 100% legal but makes one unsuitable for public aid.
Then he proposes to replace public aids by a pooling of means, financed by the state, that would provide services that all these media need: printing, distribution, office space, servers, storage, distribution, accounting services, juridic services, commercial services, subscription databases, correction, etc...
He mentions that, in France at least, most media already outsource their subscription database, to a few big private operators. Also that semi-public pooling of distribution networks is already in place to allow small publications to exist.
How does this make it independent from the state if the state is the payer? Well he propose to organize that as a «régie publique» which could be translated as "autonomous public authority" and reminds that the French healthcare is managed that way and oversees masses of money more important that the State's budget.
The key there is twofold:
- Money does not come from a tax but from a "cotisation" (contribution). It is often seen as the same by payers, but it follows a very different circuit: taxes go feed the state's budget that is then debated to fund the various public efforts. A contribution goes directly into the authority's budget and it does not need the state's approval for spending it one way or the other. It only needs state's approval to be in deficit.
- The authority is managed by representatives elected from its employees and service users as well as some representative from the newspapers' readers.
This is a very radical proposal, but so far that is the only one I saw that takes seriously the claim that the media is a branch of a similar importance than justice and that it needs to be as independent as possible from market and political influences and proposes realistic means to prevent market and politics influence as well as respecting the freedom of speech.
It is a well-thought proposal by someone who knows the press industry well. It of course has leftist bias but I suspect that while there can be political criticism, it is probably pretty solid.
I don't know how applicable it is in the US though.
The US far left would maybe, possibly, pass as moderate left in France. Obama would be considered... center right? OK, centrist.
These ideas will not easily translate into a US political context :)
For those curious, his movement, FI, proposes also a rewriting of the constitution, Frexit, withdrawal from TTIP, sustainability as law. It's... interesting. It's a very uniquely French party.
Clinton and trump are on https://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2016
I find the site reasonably unbiased.
There are a lot of interesting intellectual discussion on the far-left here. A good amount of crackpots and conspiracy theorists too, but historically France has always been a crucible for leftist ideologies. On the other hand, there is a certain anti-technologism, a brand of eco-conservatism that seem to be less common in the US.
I use "far-left" to describe FI concisely but I am of the opinion that this is a misnomer. For me, far-left means communist and means collectivization of the means of productions. Only Force Ouvrière and the NPA propose that in France (and together they make 3%) Mélenchon is a more classic left-wing, just a bit more radical than Hollande but maybe less than Mitterand.
Yes, Obama would be considered centrist or right-wing moderate but French politics, like US politics, did shift right in the last decade. Many people compare Macron to Obama. People like me, who are pretty on the left, consider both to be center or right-center but many media put Macron on the left here.
It is muddied by the fact that he (like Obama actually) was vague enough on his campaign promises to not know who he will side with on issues that oppose employees and employers.
> These ideas will not easily translate into a US political context :)
It would be interesting to try though. Here the speaker talks to someone who does not mind leftist ideas but it would be doable to say the same things using a more libertarian mindset. After all, people like Alex Jones would probably be empowered by these too. If you have a leftist audience, focus on the independence from shareholders, if you have a right-wing audience, focus on the independence from government. If you have a conspiracy alt-right audience, wink implying that you get independence from the jews/reptilians/globalists that control the big media companies.
Semantic-field translation is a very useful exercise that the left must master :-)
But you can't just ignore the law like that like you can in USA, the French taxi drivers started attacking and burning Uber cars.
Most people also see that Uber violates important labor laws so most people did not take sided there.
The reason why taxi drivers could get away with so many violence is because the owners of the main taxi companies are VERY well connected to the political world.
I mean, on the one hand it's certain that there are people who will happily spend their days writing conspiracy theories or lies about certain minority groups without any financial incentive to do so, and I'd rather this didn't get money from my taxes and a government stamp of approval that such garbage is actually "information". On the other hand, I don't really want a situation where it's really easy for "independent" journalists to get distribution and an income stream, but only if they write stuff the government approves of.
This is the double-edged sword of plurality. But consider that: if you were pro-transgender rights in the 60s there were no way to sort you from the crazies: you would have been advocating as a choice what was officially a mental disease. They still existed and in 2017 their voices seem much more acceptable.
Finding the voice of 2040's progressives comes at the cost of letting the conspiracy theorist and the lizxardmen spotters have a say too.
And frankly, I'm far less worried about people promoting unfashionable views (who, whether trans activists or "911 truthers" tend to be pretty self-motivated anyway) and far more worried about the amount of people that want to spend their life writing generic rants about whatever has annoyed them most recently who could really use a thin veneer of credibility and government-subsidised libel lawyer...
Say a narrow set of "information" sources follow this model and produce quality journalism. Meanwhile the vast majority of traffic continues to go to "entertainment" journalism and shoddy reports spread widely.
I think that the most important point for the US situation is the non-concentration condition, preventing one person or company from owning several information media posing as different entities, masking the lack of plurality. It would prevent this kind of things:
Arguably this is more a solution to the situation we have in France. In the US it looks like you have people like the Koch brothers who would not mind running newspapers at a cost to promote propaganda. It would still make it more expensive as it would have to compete against people who would have little costs and privileged access to primary sources.
It does not solve all the problems of society and information though. IMO, the fact that so many Americans confuse information and entertainment is an education problem, not a media one.
Then there's the Tesla vs. Top Gear case. Top Gear spewed bullshit about Tesla's car, got sued, and won, with the court saying that Top Gear is an entertainment show and has no obligation to be factually accurate. And yet, it's widely known that people treat this show as an information source, not a comedy.
And then there's British Tabloids vs. EU case. A British tabloid will write some utter and complete bullshit about some EU regulation, and then it gets picked up by countries on the continent and reprinted in the quality news sources as facts. So what's understood as entertainment by the Brits gets presented as facts elsewhere.
I think this is not an American problem, and not people problem. It's a media problem too.
> it's widely known that people treat this show as an information source, not a comedy.
It would have helped Tesla to be able to point out that Top Gear is not real journalism but entertainment and point at the actual reviews made by actual journalists.
> And then there's British Tabloids vs. EU case
I don't know how it happens in other countries but most of the time when a French news quote a UK tabloid it is mostly to point fingers at them and laugh.
> I think this is not an American problem, and not people problem.
Sure, it is a people problem. That US has and makes less efforts than other countries at solving. I mean, EU is not perfect, but there are not many countries where the biggest political party downright opposes teaching critical thinking skills in schools:
page 20 (12) of this document: http://archive.is/QbV60
The idea that all media gravitate towards low-brow outrage clickbait because it sells better is quite obviously wrong. Just as there is fast food as well as organic granola, or porn as well as independent conceptual arthouse cinema, there are publications of all levels of quality. And that didn't actually change dramatically, because tabloid journalism wasn't just invented. If people were attracted only to the yellow press, it would have taken over the market long ago. Instead, journalism has been, just like history, bending towards quality (/justice).
What changed is that the barriers to entry have fallen. It used to require capital to publish, and those capable of reaching the masses had to have seen success in other walks of life, or convinced the establishment of their credentials.
Now, the internet allows the Breitbarts of the world to reach an audience as deranged as them, and that is putting some pressure on parts of the market. But that affects not so much the top end of the spectrum, but local papers and publications like the National Enquirer.
Only if you agree with the political stances those sources are biased towards. Perhaps it has always been that way, but something like the NYT is hardly unbiased and it bleeds through on everything from article selection to point of view, etc if you're not an American Liberal.
All five of those sources are biased, but in different ways. It is helpful to "look outside your natural bias" sometimes, so assuming the NYT maintains its quality standard it probably is worthwhile for an American conservative to peek in that direction every now and then. (This goes vice versa, eg it is helpful for American liberals looking at more sober quality news sources with a more American-business-conservative bias like the WSJ.)
The important key here though is accuracy and sober analysis. So the fact that the NYT is "American liberal" is not a problem. The issue described in the linked article, that they did a poor job of fact-checking on a relatively sensationalist article, is a problem. The BBC also has its own bias too, but at least they showed a little big more skepticism compared to the other outlets. So props to the BBC here.
IMHO if the New York Times values its current "quality journalism" rep, they need to watch this more carefully. There are plenty of clickbait sensationalism-driven "news" outlets, and only a relative few with decent reporting reputation. "Quality journalism" is more expensive, but I feel it is also something some people actually would pay subscription money for. Few people are going to want to pay money these days for sensationalist clickbait they can get on the Internet for free.
EDIT: I also forgot that referring to smokeless gunpowder as just “gunpowder” is mostly a U. S. thing. But smokeless gunpowder is what I mean, in contrast to the stuff old school muzzle loaders use (black powder in the U. S.).
No, that was primarily the Wall Street Journal that started that.
reporters can screw up. like everyone else. heck in the IT security industry we have a mantra that you should not punish mistakes, because over time that makes people more prone to hide mistakes instead of disclosing.
why isn't journalism the same? in the past they would publish erratas and mea culpas.
now, they get the clicks, ad revenue, and on to the next "mistake".
They still do. But it doesn't matter (and I don't think it ever mattered) - if you lie on the first page, and next week put an errata on the second page in small print, that correction isn't doing anything. Most people will not read it anyway, and by the time it's printed, the damage to readers' cognition is already done.
And mistakes that actually matter do have consequences, and not of the "don't punish" variety. See the recent firing of two CNN producers for publishing a story they later had to retract (something about some Trump associate's business dealings in Malta, I believe)
Funnily enough I get the same sensation when reading Maciej's Twitter.
Trump is going to go to war to approve his ratings, apparently. And it seems Twitter employees have an obligation to prevent Trump from using the 'Block' button. for some reason. Also, Peter Thiel (a pet hate/obsession) runs a company that 'powers ICE deportations' and needs to be ostracized for his beliefs.
Some 'sense of proportion or realism' would be nice. That aside, great writing, as usual.
I have a wholesaler dealing in closeouts (end of life products) that sends out emails with new inventory. I noticed once when looking at one item, that 2-3 entirely unrelated items showed up under "Customers who viewed this item also viewed", all that had been previously offered by the same wholesaler.
I don't know how big their email list is, but it's probably in the double to low triple digits. So several dozen people, at best, viewed all of these items, and that was enough for Amazon to pick up and correlate them.
A different time, I was advertising multiple entirely unrelated products with the same associates ID. One of them ended up, similarly, on the other item's page, presumably either due to the same people viewing both ads or them correlating by associate id.
Because newspapers never did this kind of sloppy reporting before the interweb thingy.
I'm kinda surprised that the hobby hasn't been shut down completely given how hysterical some of the media can be about this stuff.
I fear it will be incredibly difficult to improve the existing incentives.
Doubt that even google could build such a curating search engine.
It's also, interestingly, had some of the most outrageously claimant-friendly libel laws in the world, which hasn't made much of a difference either (though defaming somebody rich and bloody-minded can get pretty expensive).
Yes, it's a bit sensationalist, it's the news. Have you seen the UK news scene? This won't even be in the top 5 most misleading things said or printed in the news that day.
Please also bear in mind the law on explosives precursors: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/supplying-explosi...
That said, if someone was really set on creating the opening scene of the movie Swordfish, they could make those ball bearings deadly if they got them going fast enough. A 3/8" ball bearing moving at a few hundred meters per second has enough energy to fuck up persons and property. I didn't pick those numbers completely at random -- 3/8" is about 9.5mm and common 9mm handgun rounds have velocities in the 300-400 m/s range.
Edit: I want to call attention to other replies to this comment pointing out that ball bearings can be good shrapnel for other reasons I'd not considered. Today I learned a thing.
I guess that lines up with the other reply about the shrapnel being aerodynamic, something with less air resistance will have more range.
maxerickson, how did you find this post?
It's actually a bugger to get the stuff to ignite.
You have to stick a length of magnesium ribbon into the mixture, and I'd usually make a little well of magnesium powder that this would feed into. Then I'd use a Bunsen burner to ignite the ribbon, as often my lighter wasn't hot enough to ignite the ribbon unless I'd sandpapered the ribbon first to remove the oxide layer.
I was shocked to discover this first hand some years ago: http://olivernash.org/2009/11/12/fun-with-thermite/index.htm...
I can still recall the echoing boom of that (copper) thermite.
Moreover, are you sure this was a detonation (shock wave) rather than a deflagration?
That's not to say it isn't worth a footnote to explain that "doesn't detonate" does not mean "won't go pop and propel burning material everywhere." Even a campfire can do that, but I could understand if someone heard "doesn't detonate" and drew the wrong conclusion.
As I commented above, I was rather sloppily using the words "explosion", "detonation" to mean flash and boom.
On the two occasions on which I witnessed this event, it was stunningly powerful but I now believe most likely just a deflagration.
From the clarifying comments below it seems likely it was a deflagration but I confess I've been using the words "explosion", "detonation" rather sloppily to mean "flash and boom" till now.
Thanks again for a marvelous article.
I carried out two rounds of thermite "experiments", both times using oxides of iron, manganese, and copper. I witnessed two "explosions" (I now presume deflagrations) and they occurred with the copper oxide. I've occasionally wondered if that was a coincidence that it was the same metal that "exploded" both times. Mystery solved: apparently not!
I'd stop short of claiming that flour "detonates" or that flour purchases are terrorist indicators...
(We must now put all bakers on terrorist no fly lists...)
I stopped reading news after Trump got into office and I have no shame about it. It feels great and I don't I miss out on anything.
When people talk or ask me about politics I just say I don't know because I don't read. They make s surprised face and then continue talking and arguing about absolutely pointless topics and about the upcoming apocalypse.
I just hope someone tells me an hour beforehand. I'd pay for a service that emails me only once s month and only about topics that matter. Just a brief overview. If I want details I can study history later.
Ignorance of politics is a luxury afforded only to citizens of authoritarian regimes. You live in a democracy (assuming that discussion of Trump in politics means you live in the US). Politics is how society chooses to make and use government.
People pretending they are morally superior or lead better lives through ignorance never cease to amaze me.
This article talks about sensationalism in news. Sure, avoid it. Be skeptical of bold claims. But right now Trump and Republicans are talking about making gigantic changes to the nation's healthcare system. Regardless of where you sit on the fence, this absolutely matters.
Pay attention. Find less sensational news. Pay for good journalism and also look for balanced analysis.
> People pretending they are morally superior or lead better lives through ignorance never cease to amaze me.
First of all, we don't have a direct democracy. This concept that everyone has to be 100% engaged (or even 90, or 80, or whatever subjective figure in your head that qualifies good enough is, which is another issue, your concept of being engaged enough doesn't match another) need not apply. Just enough people have to be engaged, which historically speaking has happened.
Second of all, I don't think anyone is claiming a moral high ground here, and if they are you are correct to say shame on them.
Third of all, people who place the same onus of keeping up with whatever the hell is going on in the world as some moral duty never cease to amaze me because it is so easy to flip the script on you and say you don't know enough. There is an endless amount of information out there. "News" as a concept is not even a fraction as old as the concept of government and democracy. We face information overload. How can you blame people for just wanting to live their lives? What if I never signed up for this system? Most people care more about their issues locally (which is in line with human psychology, we weren't meant for these large social networks) but people who sit here and cast stones at people who aren't keeping up with what happens with the Mueller investigation, for example, (which something happens every 2.5 seconds) is what never ceases to amaze me.
This isn't an argument against being informed, it's a pointless debate over semantics. You and anyone reasonable understood what GP meant, they meant democracy as a "national built on foundations of democratic values, such as freedom of press, freedom of speech (to varying extents), right to assemble, etc" in contrast to "authoritarian regime where those values are not enshrined in the government legislature or cultural values".
> There is an endless amount of information out there. "News" as a concept is not even a fraction as old as the concept of government and democracy. We face information overload
The concept of modern news may not have been a invented at the same time, yet it remains a fundamental core part of many democratic-leaning nation's values.
> How can you blame people for just wanting to live their lives? What if I never signed up for this system?
You're probably free to move to an authoritarian regime if you cared to. No one chose to be born into a government system, but to claim no responsibility in a system that you've benefited from since you were born is passing the buck.
Ah yes, the "if you don't like it, you can go back to where you came from" argument, in different clothing of course. This is just never a good rhetorical device. What a person did or did not benefit for is up for debate -- even North Korea provides basics -- but that's not what is being argued here. If I was born into an environment I had no say in building, and I find it incompatible with my way of life (imagine being a white boy from the south on a plantation and against slavery, then shoved into the Civil war), I am, by definition now oppressed -- I am forced to be subservient to a system I had no say in building. I brought this up not to argue it but as a counter example to the person who just says "I am fine just living my life"
I really don't think that is a fair analogy to what he was saying. He's saying if you grow up in a particular system you can't just ride it out and claim willful ignorance.
Go back to where you came from is different, that would be saying you chose to come here and therefore why are you trying to change it.
I don't necessarily agree with either argument, but they are definitely significantly different ones.
The post you're replying to is less a thoughtful disagreement and more mental-gymnastics made literal.
The actual context here is someone talking about how they pay zero attention, while mocking people who talk about "the apocalypse" or anything, really. So clearly not people worrying about their local issues.
Additionally, many states have several elements of direct democracy. For instance many states have direct referendums.
As to your second point, I will concede the first person did not claim to be morally superior, but they are included in the second category included in the sentence. The individual, like many others I've met, spoken with, and who broadcast their opinions loudly, claim to lead better lives by ignoring politics nearly completely.
Voting is a fundamental responsibility of living in a democracy. Like paying taxes, serving jury duty, etc. Yes, I consider it a moral imperative to fulfill your obligations as a citizen. And part of your obligations of voting should be for the voter to try to be informed on the matters they are voting on.
I don't need people to be policy wonks, but I do need people to know what the person they are voting for plans to do. Instead we have a situation where a sizable percentage of people are confused about whether Obamacare and the ACA are the same thing. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/upshot/one-third-dont-kno...)
How can I blame people for just wanting to live their lives? Easy. When they either vote for something abhorrent without knowing or don't show up to vote against something abhorrent because they're just wanting to live their lives. Especially when either group then complains about the something abhorrent.
My problem isn't with people who are ignorant, it's with those who put a high value on ignorance. Yes, we have limited time. Yes, we have limited attention. But reading a few headlines and articles once a week isn't going break anyone. Oh, and if someone has new bit of information about something you don't know and wants to talk about, don't claim they should avoid reading news.
Since this is hackernews, I think we can move the discussion from politics to something like programming. I don't expect a programmer to know everything about all of the latest frameworks, but I do expect them to be familiar with current trends in programming and have spent at least a little time evaluating the impact of those trends and events to their work. Imagine hiring a full-stack developer who doesn't even know about React nor that it has some potentially troubling patent-litigation language in the license?
Mightn't this be a worst of both worlds scenario? If you totally ignore politics and abstain then you have a neutral impact. If you only "read a few headlines" as you suggest, and base your actions off those then you're highly susceptible to fake news and easy manipulation (while having a false sense of satisfaction for "participating").
What follows is that, only those who steep themselves in the minutia of each issue should have strong opinions, which actually seems about right.
Which means that if you only skim headlines, you're learning bullshit.
Especially with our first past the post voting system and the two parties ignoring the plebs whenever they decide on a candidate, ala the DNC pushing Hilary over Bernie. Trump getting picked when the Republican establishment didny want was probably the most democratic part of the previous election, but it wouldn't have happened if he was not independently wealthy
The american media were bad before Trump, and they have remained bad as far as I can tell. They completely fail to disentangle the serious from the merely ridiculous.
The issue here is, you paint too broad a brush saying this.
I don't want this to seem like I am aiming this at you necessarily, because I am more just piggy backing a comment to write about rather than aiming this at you so take the rest of the comment with that in mind.. but..
You can follow particular journalists that have a high reputation, and disregard ones that have a bad reputation without disavowing all journalists and the media in general.
Similarly, you can treat bias in journalism the same way you treat a review - you know what journalists see things particular ways and therefore view their slant on things as a bent on an already established world view. Some journalists are so unbiased that you can almost ignore this. Some journalists are so biased you can use them as the canary in the coal mine for how a segment of a population is likely to view the issue etc etc.
There are majority mediocre people in every profession, media is an industry that has picked up a huge proportion of hacks and automated articles in the past 10 years, instead of viewing it as an overall industry - look for the good ones and the interesting ones, not just "all media bad".
This is too easy an answer to serious problems. It is similar to saying 'all American developers are bad', because a lot of my software is buggy. It depends on the developer and on the news source. Some news sources are exceptional, though like all human endeavors they are always far from ideal. Some are far better than others; to lump in the National Enquirer with the New York Times is to "completely fail to disentangle the serious from the merely ridiculous."
But I still like to be informed. A monthly summary of goings-on in the world, written specifically according to my general (but not immediate) interests, why, yes, that'd be something I'd pay for as well.
So this isn't "ignorance of politics": when the next election comes around, then I'll make my assessment based on what I've read, and play my part in choosing the next government.
In the meantime, I've got work to do.
I've migrated to books primarily for my information and this was before Trump was a serious political contender.
If I was an American, I would read politics even less since you already know who to vote for, you pretty much have 2 choices. It's a bit more complex here.
Where? He that is without sin among them, let him cash the first check.
I’ve checked out too. The S/N ratio is way past what my filters can handle. I either need algorithmic filtering or noise attenuation.
The fact is we’re all part of an intersubjective reality. It’s impossible for me to determine what is fake news and anyone who claims they can is fooling themselves or has primary sources.
This characterization is not pejorative, it's just that inarguably real and serious events (hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters, whether natural or man-made) are presented with as much gravitas (or excitement) as merely scandalous (or, more likely, scandalized) news.
One gets so tired of perceiving this, one could be forgiven for throwing one's hands up in disgust and sheltering from the torrential wordpour.
 A favored phrase from, IIRC, the original K&R 'C' book.
Do you really think that participating in scuttlebutt about the reality show of presidential politics has anything to do with governance?
The first step is to turn off the noise and take direct action to help the people around you.
I do however have a heightened sense of empathy and awareness of the things going on around me, which means I'm not well suited to caring or paying too much attention to global or even national-level politics, because it would literally make me physically ill.
So I might be superior to you when it comes to caring about local politics, whereas you might be superior to me when it comes to caring about broader scope politics.
I also don't watch any news. I listen to the 5 minute local radio news channel on my way to work, since this covers local news I should know. Once in a while if I have time I read journals like Oxford's Foreign Policy Analysis.
I used to pick up local community papers but they jumped on the moral panic bandwagon too and they're filled with international political hit jobs and talking points now instead of anything local.
I'd rather view the news as a troubled friend who is always mired in drama. While I respect its role in my life and the importance to society, news delivers too much drama to be invited around every evening, let alone all day long.
Basically every subset "topics that matter" is available, yet there are arguments like this one, bemoaning the fact that "topics that matter" is somehow an unfilled void.
Don't shift your unwillingness to become an informed citizen on the media.
Edit: I am fine with answers that talk about average Americans. I just want to understand the issue and hear different perspectives.
It seems to be better thought out than the previous iteration, which is a low bar. Personally I don't think that a focus on health care is a good idea for either party at the moment, but Republican success in repealing the ACA seems likely to be a Pyrrhic victory at best. However, it's far from a certain thing at the moment, and the actions of two or three Senators could change the picture entirely.
---my original answer:
Here's one example: If the current bill passes, every health insurance plan that offers coverage for elective abortions will stop being eligible for subsidies on December 31. Every plan in California is required to include this coverage, so effectively all subsidies for individually purchased plans in California will end this year.
Another: most federal funding to Planned Parenthood will be banned, leading to the closure of almost all their facilities. About 1 million Californians visited Planned Parenthood last year, perhaps you or your partner were among them (more likely if you are lower income). Or perhaps you weren't, but any medical care you needed was better because your doctor wasn't also trying to meet the needs of all those people who did use Planned Parenthood.
Some links which cover these in more detail: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-tax-credits-abort..., https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/03/05/if-feds-strip-planned-p..., http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/09/graham-cassid...
I think people should probably be aware of something like not being able to afford coverage because of a pre-existing condition before that protection is taken away.
And you complain about the news media now...
If you were involved you would know that the number one reason that bad things - and many are obviously bad - happen is that so many people don't pay attention. They let the sharks and con artists run rampant over them, use them like suckers, and of course they complain later.
Please don't post acerbic personal swipes to HN. They violate the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.
EDIT: Or maybe mods just can't realistically every comment.
The way to get us to see the comments is to flag them. To flag a comment, click on its timestamp to go to its page, then click 'flag' at the top. Alternatively, email email@example.com in egregious cases.
Or did I completely miss the point you're trying to make?
1. The suggested materials are not for building bombs.
2. No one would be radicalized to build bombs by following shopping recommendations.
 is False. The materials ARE for building bombs. The "bearing balls" ARE what author says they are not (using an extremely unconvincing argument), and Mr idlewords is mistaken wrt how much data is used to build recommendations engines.
 is True
The article also provided a far more plausible explanation for the recommendation than people building bombs.