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How Facebook Is Fueling the French Populist Rage (mondaynote.com)
74 points by ilamont 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments

I don't like Facebook more than anyone else, but at this point aren't we just blaming them for enabling communication?

By all means, criticize Facebook for privacy issues, but not for stuff like this, unless you actually want censorship on the largest scale ever in history.

It’s odd because they pick and choose which “violence” is right and wrong. When Arab spring (in the end a very destabilizing movement) was facilitated by FB and Twitter it was great. When it facilitates caravan protests it’s great. When it facilitates anti-tax movements that threaten viability of an unpopular (vis a vis locals) but popular internationally (ie elites) then it’s seen as facilitating “bad” protests. Obviously media like to pick their narrative and winners and losers, deserving of freedom and those who don’t rather than let the masses decide for themselves.

That’s manipulation by traditional media upset their worldview and power to project it is slipping away from them.

This may be my reading only, but "populist" seeems to carry a negative connotation. I wonder, what is the opposite of populist? Is it "elitist?"

If you agree with decision taken by the majority then it's "democratic". If you disagree, it's "populist".

I'm from India where we have a similar term in the political lexicon - "vote-bank politics". It's means a policy that a plurality of voters (the "bank") like and want, but you don't. If you're within the vote bank, then it's no longer vote-bank politics, it's democracy in action.

The bad kind of populism is when an elite says they speak for the masses without actually consulting them. The public at large in such populism is a passive entity. The masses become a strawman used to pretend a majority support the autocrat's actions even if you cant find any particular person who does.

The sort of "populism" without a leader discussed in this article is nothing like that. But there are political powers that wish to ignore that a lot of people can be legitimately angry at the same time.

Media has always been biased like that, because they report the news relative to the established opinion at the time and place where they are published. It is easy in hindsight to pick examples that paints a picture of manipulation.

This also extends to which incidents of police violence are approved and covered or not. If circumstances were different we might see cries of authoritarianism and calls for regime change!

Exactly, they'd be decrying the use of “chemicals weapons” by police (i.e. tear gas/pepper spray) and ask if it violates treaties against its use on civilians, etc. It’s all so blatantly political and partisan by a group which sets itself up as paragon of impartiality, truth, etc., but it’s all about world view, power and exerting that power to project that world view.

Now of course editorials and editorializing _is_ understandably different but unfortunately that wall has been completely breached and demolished.

Who is “they”? Your little anti-media ciclejerk here seems to target “the media”. But you can’t all be so dense as to not notice that this is just some guy on medium.com, right?

Please omit name-calling from your HN comments, as the site guidelines ask: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

He's actually much worse than a media member, he's a professor of journalism.

It's not just plain communication. Facebook controls what you see and their algorithms encourage rage because it gets users engaged.

It's monetisation of the little rush of chemicals your body injects when you feel outraged. Apparently its quite addictive!

See also: Fox News.

See also: Any international conglomerate that own a piece of the mainstream media apparatus.

Well if you're gonna go that route then you might as well toss in CNN, NBC, ABC, etc, etc.

CSPAN and arguably PBS are probably the only TV "news" networks that don't use every trick in the book to try and keep you watching so they can make more money by showing you more ads.

And the media does the same.

Hasn't the majority of the criticism of Facebook been about enabling communication? Indeed, hasn't that been the cause of most of the Left's pearl-clutching about social media's influence on politics over the last few years? Many, if not most, of the complaints about Russian "interference" in the US election and Brexit that I've seen the Left being so distressed about consisted primarily of Russians saying things about politics on Twitter.

Advocating for outright bans on voicing disfavoured viewpoints is so obviously illiberal and thuggish as to be politically unpopular, which is why it is always platforms targeted rather than individual speakers, and why there is always some rationalisation for the complaint other than the viewpoint being expressed (Russian bots! Fake news! Algorithms optimising for rage! Harassment!) but in the end the root cause of the complaint is always that someone said something that progressives didn't like.

No, a key part of this is misrepresentation: Russians saying things about politics as themselves would be one thing, but Russians pretending to be Americans en masse with thousands of fake accounts and promoting obviously false rumours and driven by audience-targeting ad technology starts to become a problem.

(This is not an argument against anonymity; I don't need to know where these accounts really live. I do need to know where political advertising is funded from, because there are laws about that.)

> Russians pretending to be Americans

While I don't claim to have researched this issue in depth and it's worth taking this with a pinch of salt, I'm yet to see any evidence of this, nor has it been a part of most of the leftist reporting I've seen. The only instance I've heard of where a specific Twitter account has been accused of being a Russian misrepresenting their nationality was ian56789, and that accusation was false, as he demonstrated by going on Sky News and giving an interview.

An example of the sort of thing I mean: https://www.ft.com/content/333fe6bc-c1ea-11e6-81c2-f57d90f67... (in this case Macedonians, not Russians, but where did the money come from?)


What counts as "misrepresenting their nationality"? I'm sure russian bots aren't going around saying "I, John Smith, an American citizen, think that Hiliary is bad". It's probably going to be some user named @johnsmith2009 saying "Hilary is bad".

If your name is Misha Ivanovich, you're working out of Moscow, and you've got an American flag avatar, post mostly about US politics, and go by the name @johnsmith2009 on Twitter, I'd say it's clear you're doing some deliberate misrepresentation.

I'm still really unconvinced by this whole "Russians influenced the election" narrative. I doubt a few articles written in poor English about how Hillary runs pedophile sex rings would have had a greater influence on the electorate than Hillary being actively endorsed by nearly every respectable establishment media outlet.

People really wanted to hate Hillary, and to some extent this was because she was endorsed so heavily by the media. So they latched onto every little thing that could be used against her.

There's really two parts to the populist wave: "establishment politics isn't delivering what we need" and "we must turn to what seems like a Man of the People". The first has some extremely valid points, the second has (mostly) been a total disaster.

> Hasn't the majority of the criticism of Facebook been about enabling communication?

Enabling horizontal communication, not controlled by the Mainstream Mass Media.

It's ironic, because FB, Twitter are famous for censoring conservatives for years and promoting liberal worldviews. Suddenly they are the biggest enemy of liberals in the US.

>unless you actually want censorship on the largest scale ever in history

that's what they want. The media and many government officials have been implying that the citizens are simply too stupid to be trusted with filtering their information so the glorious government must restrict what they're allowed to see. At what point will they decide the common man is simply too dumb to vote and get rid of democracy as well?

All this talk is demeaning and shows what our cultured elites really think about us, that we're a bunch of dumb cattle that need to be controlled

> the common man is simply too dumb to vote

This is foundation of American democracy actually. In the early history of the U.S., most states allowed only male adult property owners to vote (about 6% of the population).

And even then, there's an additional escape hatch.


I think it is fair to criticize unedited internet communication in general, as we have just recently learned that this form of communication did not result in the improvement of public discourse that everyone might have hoped. Facebook just happens to be the largest platform offering that.

I don't think it is fair to consider large-scale censorship as the only other alternative. Having some kind of neutral editorial process to filter out the unsubstantiated, hateful opinions and leave room for a more nuanced discussion raises the level of discourse, and is the model that have been offered by traditional media for a long time.

> I don't think it is fair to consider large-scale censorship as the only other alternative. Having some kind of neutral editorial process to filter out the unsubstantiated, hateful opinions and leave room for a more nuanced discussion raises the level of discourse, and is the model that have been offered by traditional media for a long time.

The problem with this view is that one person's hateful opinion is another person's oppressed minority opinion. There aren't many objective truths, moderators just end up enforcing their own world view (which we've already seen Facebook do).

I did not claim that it was a perfect system, but it is better at avoiding devolving into the hateful rage-soup that unedited online forums often do. It is virtually impossible to have a system that is "perfectly balanced" (can we even define what that means?), so rejecting alternatives on those grounds is holding them to unrealistically high standards.

To be fair, 'unedited internet communication in general' shouldn't be expected to improve public discourse any more than telephone calls or emails or any other form of uncensored expression.

If the internet is meant to be a platform on which people can express themselves freely (and I believe it is) then unsubstantiated and hateful opinions are a given, not a sign that the internet has failed, but that it's succeeded.

What failed is the naive, idealist expectation that the internet would raise the level of intellectual and cultural awareness of the planet, but I don't think many people really believed in that to begin with.

> I think it is fair to criticize unedited internet communication in general, as we have just recently learned that this form of communication did not result in the improvement of public discourse

It depends on how exactly you define 'improvement'. Millions of people, speaking freely to each other, finding new friends sharing common interests would disagree with you.

It is not universally bad, of course. The question is if the bad consequences outweigh the good ones.

The improvement I was talking about was the hope that the increased access to online communication would engage more people in constructive public discourse, include the voices of minorities and bring people with different backgrounds to a greater understanding of each other. Platforms like Facebook have utterly failed at that.

I'm with you. I haven't used Facebook for years because I think it's unhealthy and disagree with their business practices. I believe that that is the correct response when you have a problem with a service that isn't necessary.

I'm of the view point that censorship is exactly the point of articles like this. They want Facebook to enforce a very bias view of what is acceptable speech, and intentionally conflate being a communication platform with being responsible for the outcomes of that communication.


How The Paper And Writing Is Fueling the French Populist Rage

How The Ability To Speak Is Fueling the French Populist Rage

Damned if they do, damned if they don't. Personally, I feel that a lot of this hate towards Facebook is done by media types who are jealous that Facebook has stolen their role as a place to find news, no matter if it's fake or real.

Yeah, as much as I dislike Facebook, at this point I'm kind of concerned about how much bad press is coming out about one company.

Most other tech companies (especially the ones still in the "hustling" phase) are just as bad as FB if not worse. It's starting to feel like a coordinated smear campaign, even if all of it is accurate.

> It's starting to feel like a coordinated smear campaign, even if all of it is accurate.

I don't get it. If it's all accurate then what is the problem exactly? That all the anger is directed at FB? They are the largest social media company, and in the good times I have never heard them say "but other social media companies deserve some love too". Running a business is not supposed to be easy.

> I don't get it. If it's all accurate then what is the problem exactly?

Selective reporting is a huge problem. You can distort almost any topic by selectively reporting only truthful things.

Yup. In addition to this, for every extremist/unsavory group that gathers on FB there are probably a bunch more wholesome (or at least unsavory) groups that have a chance to congregate for almost free (minus the cost of some privacy). Facebook is accelerating volunteer orgs, philanthropies, and all sorts of other organizations that do good, but that doesn't necessarily get reported on, an even when it does the cynical.

Again, I'm not defending Facebook, but it's pretty peculiar -- they just seem to have been in hot water every day for the last few months. Maybe it's a vicious PR cycle where regular media outlets are now being incentivized to report on FB's negative press because that's what's getting clicks.... because negative press is being produced.

[EDIT] wanted to add that this is part of how people get sucked into conspiracy theories... No one has time to verify and fact-check every single fact, and editors/media outlets are doing it less and less these days. A few lies mixed in with a bunch of facts are sometimes really hard to find but can have lasting impacts on your world view/view of some subject. Of course, sometimes conspiracy theories, outlandish-seeming claims, and smear jobs are sometimes true and justified.

You can distort almost any topic by selectively reporting only truthful thing

You mean like, determining what users see on their timelines?

True, but it happens in a company's good times as well as bad times. Emphasizing this distortion only now would introduce a bias.

Bad news naturally tends to snowball. Scrutiny results in further scrutiny, insiders decide to leak or whistleblow, other media organizations start taking a look, etc.

"Others are just as bad" may be true, but they largely (barring Google/Amazon/etc.) don't have the power Facebook does.

I agree that this type of headline would've been written like:

"Facebook Gives People A Voice in France" - or something along those lines, a few years ago, if the Arab Spring is anything to go by.

The writer's perspective very much matters in this type of articles. It's especially obvious in politics (although many people still don't notice it, and think they are just being served "the facts").

That said, I'll hardly spill a tear over people "over-criticizing" Facebook. If there's one company that's worthy of waves and waves of criticism, Facebook certainly qualifies for that role.

It certainly deserves it more than Tesla, which, with the exception of the criticism of the reckless promotion and implementation of Autopilot, I think the criticism of Tesla lately has been largely off-base and undeserved.

But for some reason, people seem to assume that both good news and bad news should be delivered evenly throughout the year, or something. Like they get surprised when there's a lot of bad news/negative press continuing for many months about something (whether it's Tesla, Facebook, or cryptocurrencies), but forget the same has been true about the good news about those things in the past, too. The good and bad news are almost never evenly distributed over a period of time. They are far more likely to come in bursts of either positive or negative stories.

Not long ago, I remember reading on this very site comments dismissing the idea that Facebook will suffer over the Cambridge Analytica. I said then that Facebook will likely not see an immediate effect, but will likely see it over the long term, when it starts declining, the Cambridge Analytica will be one of the reasons for that decline.

All of these negative news stories you see now are connected to the Cambridge Analytica story, which seems to have opened a kind of "Pandora's box" for Facebook. It's all downhill from here for Facebook. Some people just haven't realized it yet.

yeah, google and amazon and dare I say it apple have access to a similar amount of data about their users. Apple is the one I trust with privacy the most, but how are you going to prove that they aren't selling my profile...?

The only way to know this is by not providing companies with your data in the first place. Unfortunately auditing this is kind of difficult to do today with most operating systems being closed-source and hard to inspect, but it’s still possible to do general checks on what they are sending out.

I wonder if it'll ever be possible to reverse the paradigm -- when Facebook needs some of my data, they ask me (or some proxy Iv'e set up) for my data and use it with a lease.

All the EULA legalese that companies use to enforce their will could be turned in the opposite direction and we'd found out it's real worth -- I can dictate how FB uses the data they pull from my server just like they try, to the extent that anyone can tell someone else what to do with data instead of having near zero power as people who live in non-GDPR regions do now.

I mean I don't think this kind of scheme would actually work but I can still dream.

100% agree. Facebook is making some traditional media outlets very scare of becoming irrelevant moving forward.

It's like the old RIAA battles of the early-noughties, Napster et al.

Instead of spotting the market, buying up the company who built it and slapping a fee on "unlimited music for a month" (a la Spotify), they sought to legislate it out of existence and in turn had their lunch eaten for them.

Dinosaurs trying to avoid the asteroid.

These dinosaurs are not even trying to avoid the asteroid, they just keep yelling "bad asteroid, go away!" at it.

It's not Facebook's fault, I agree. Or at least not just Facebook. It's our society, it's capitalism, it's the fact that we've accepted for decades that as we all collectively get richer and richer we'd accept that some would earn 100k$ a month and others would earn 600$ and that's all fine and acceptable. It's bound to break. It's obscene. The fake news are just a convenient way for people to find scapegoats. As long as people will look up and see people who earn a 100 times as much as they do how can we ever imagine that they'll accept even more sacrifices? Is it fake news that every time somebody talks about raising taxes on the riches they respond with threats of job cuts and moving away? How can you expect any kind of solidarity in this situation? This can only lead to a revolution.

The gilets jaunes is not a political movement, it's a fuck you movement. Like many of Trump's electors in the USA, like Bolsonaro's electors in Brazil, like many of the M5S electors in Italy. Populists and fascists always have a simple answer to everybody's problem, if we can't give the people a solution, they will, and they'll win.

Greed is killing us all. It's killing the climate, it's killing democracy, it's going to be the end of us. Merry Christmas everyone!

It's really not about jealousy.

Facebook is indeed a huge distribution model, one that's defective and one that's become a vector for disinformation. That is newsworthy, it's one of the biggest and most interesting media stories of the past half century.

Facebook's reach is why it's newsworthy, but Facebook's actions (and inactions) are why you hear more about them than Google, etc.

> Sometimes, the social network carries obvious fake news, such as images of bleeding protesters taken two years ago in Spain or spreads the rumors of tanks ready to move against the Yellow Vests (15,000 interactions).

This video of senseless police brutality looks in fact to be pretty real and from the latest events: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK8b4plAlJQ&feature=youtu.be . Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's lots of fake news related to the recent events but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater by saying that everything that gets shared on social networks is fake news.

People getting their ass beat for trying to set fire to a McDonalds while protesting the high cost of living deserve no tears, I'm sorry.

Also, if you're going to pick a fight with a crew in full riot gear it's best to not get cornered by them.

There's a very good reason why there are even international treaties forbidding an army force to physically molest the opposing side once the latter has surrendered, because that way the conflict doesn't need to escalate to the point of total destruction for both sides.

More to the point, the protesters seeing this video will know that surrendering to the police will probably get their arms and feet broken so next time they protest they'll do almost anything in order to not let that happen, i.e. they'll become even more violent or/and they'll come better prepared for physical confrontations (better body-gear, actual weapons).

> the protesters seeing this video will know that surrendering to the police will probably get their arms and feet broken

The ones getting their limbs smashed weren't protesting, they had destroyed and broken in to property with the probable intent of causing more damage.

All of this in a setting where police is massively outnumbered while being pelted with 10 pound rocks, bottles, fire crackers and tear gas.

Giving someone a beating to incapacitate them (no time for arrest & paperwork) is fair game in my eyes.

> Giving someone a beating to incapacitate them (no time for arrest & paperwork) is fair game in my eyes.

This is a very wrong view to hold, imho. Modern political concepts like the German Rechtsstaat or the English "Rule of law" depend on the police not doing what they're seen doing in videos like this one. If the general populace feels (or even starts to feel) that the police and the powers that be play by no rules then we'll be in a world of hurt and anarchy.

Let's hope the general populace can see the difference between peaceful protestors and people just wanting violence and destruction.

Macron's body guard getting filmed (out of context) beating a protestor led to him being arrested, suspended and then demoted and profuse apologies from France's head of state.

So I think police is still being held accountable the way they should.

By all accounts of those events, the people being assaulted by the riot police in this case went inside the restaurant to seek shelter from the tear gas. Restaurant employees were giving them water. Are you deliberately spreading lies or are you just just misrepresenting your wild guess as sound information ?

> "to seek shelter from the tear gas"

Of course they would say that.

You can clearly see the restaurant wasn't open by the way the sliding doors were being pushed open (0:06), and a "fermé" sign on the door (meaning "closed") at 0:16. No employees visible anywhere.

To get away from the gas, why not run down the road the camera man was chased down by the cop? No gas there, no resistance from police and much easier than breaking & entering a restaurant.

In fact if you look on a map, the location of that BK is on a roundabout with no less than 10 roads branching off it.

But yes, those are my guesses based on the information available and I may be wrong.

There have been multiple account of what happened as several journalists were present.

Here is one of the many articles that have been published, I am linking this testimony by two journalists since liberation is a reputable publication, but you'll find more articles and more witness interviews if you look around.


Everybody present has told that the riot police just waltzed inside and starting beating people up, then let people leave but only going through a tunnel of cops beating them up some more. There are also more videos from different angles.

Assumptions are dangerous, and so are these stormtroopers.

I'm not going to argue with journalists from la Liberation and have no doubt their testimonials are true.

It's still not clear why they would enter a BK (full of tear gas, according to the journalist) while at least some of the surrounding roads were free.

If they really were beating innocent bystanders then they should be punished to the full extent of the law, while at the same time I understand the violent reaction of the police after having been pelted with rocks for hours just for wearing a uniform.

I've been in these kind of protests before, you can tell well in advance that things are going to get ugly. When you have police being attacked from all sides and you intend no harm, you know it's time to gtfo because you will get caught up in the violence.

This is not some troublemakers breaking things for fun anymore : this is full on state repression, and the violence is not there to stop crimes in progress but to dissuade people from voicing their rejection of the government.

There were highschool protests today. Just look at the videos from this feed, and even with great sympathy for the police, even keeping in mind that context can be missing, I believe you'll see that we are beyond maintaining the civil peace :


I would argue that the protesters' violence (and i'm not denying there is) is a response to the state's own violence. I was still living in Paris about 2 years, when the protests were peaceful gatherings and the cops were unleashed without provocation, just to prevent people from being together. Repression and disdain form the people have grown the peaceful protests into violent protests, and now the protests are growing into an insurrection.

That's not blind rage, or an appetite for destruction : that is a democracy self-correcting when its government has consistently been too far over the line. That is standing up to the bully.

Let me guess, burn-down-the-state anarchist protesting about how oppressed they are in W-Europe? Anyone hiding behind @riseup is just insufferable.

There's plenty of violence from the other side https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jx8CjZv8-HA

> Anyone hiding behind @riseup is just insufferable.

It's actually you who is hiding behing the fact that there is a riseup email address, as if that allows you to ignore anything, and just "guess".

> There's plenty of violence from the other side

Yeah, collective punishment goes great with police brutality. Anything else?

> It's still not clear why they would enter a BK (full of tear gas, according to the journalist) while at least some of the surrounding roads were free.

It's also not clear why you're excusing police brutality, but you're still doing it.

> I've been in these kind of protests before, you can tell well in advance that things are going to get ugly.

That's all true, but doesn't excuse the police brutality.

> When you have police being attacked from all sides and you intend no harm, you know it's time to gtfo because you will get caught up in the violence.

Oh, so they didn't means you can deduce they "meant to cause harm", and that in turn excuses the harm we see?


> It's also not clear why you're excusing police brutality, but you're still doing it.

The comment you are replying to clearly says that unjustified police brutality should be punished at the full extent of the law.

Violence toward police, bystanders and property is never criticised. Burn down Paris! But as soon as they raise their batons everyone starts crying. If you're going to fight the state at least do it like a man.

If you're convinced France is a totalitarian state your ability to reason is probably quite limited.

> The comment you are replying to clearly says that unjustified police brutality should be punished at the full extent of the law.

Yeah, and you still leave it open whether it might be "justified", it goes on to say "When you have police being attacked from all sides and you intend no harm". Which prompted the following question you seem to avoided:

> Oh, so they didn't means you can deduce they "meant to cause harm", and that in turn excuses the harm we see?

So you think "unjustified police brutality" should be punished, (by the full extent of the law no less, how very generous and princpliped!), but you still leave this on the table:

> People getting their ass beat for trying to set fire to a McDonalds while protesting the high cost of living deserve no tears, I'm sorry.

> If you're convinced France is a totalitarian state your ability to reason is probably quite limited.

That's a total non-sequitur. Right now, you're not even up to speed on the meaning of your own comments heh, no need to insult me to distract from that. I'm not talking to France as a nation, I'm talking to you. If you think you can just handwave a bit and play sophistry games and call me stupid you're mistaken.

It's not the job of the police to administer "punishment" like that on the spot.

It's called riot control

How so? Is it just "France is not a totalitarian nation", so it's riot contol by definition?

Or is it because "the other side" also rioted in other instances and/or previously in that scene, and you think collective punishment is a thing -- while talking about the "full extent of the law" at the same time no less?

Just by all the stuff you brought up to excuse and distract from it, by how bankrupt it is to just go "France is not a totalitarian nation, if you think that you're stupid bai" -- I would guess you know what this is.

When I saw this a few months ago


which is so cute and harmless in contrast, I was called all sorts of names for saying this is totally uncalled for, unaccetable. Everybody else in that thread was super righteous about protecting the upstanding police blah blah blah. (When in fact the opposite is true, being spineless and excusing this stuff is supporting thugs, and stabbing ALL professional police in the back.)

They called it riot control, too. Self-defense, even, someone understandably snapping at their poor colleagues being so horribly mistreated by the crowd, so kicking at a guy who is already held down by 500 guys is obviously normal. Just like you, they mentioned what "the other side" was doing. NO TEARS for someone resisting arrest near an angry crowd! How principled they were, what upstanding, well educated, democratic, intelligent citizens they were, and what a little hoodlum I was for talking back.

The most hilarious plot twist there was it turned out it was civilians that stopped other civilians from throwing bottles, the police with their liberal use of pepper spray, and kicking that guy, achieved jack shit in that regard.

Anyway, the Berliner Polizei saw it more like me rather than the people who had defended the abuse. Their press release actually was amended with something about an officer "arriving and kicking at the fixated person", and started an investigation about that. It sounded serious too, they didn't use any euphemisms at all. They made no effort to call police brutality anything but that, in total contrast to the posts that had defended it.

I don't know how good or bad the French police is, but I know potential for denazification when I see it. Which has nothing to do with whole nations, but by definition with individuals and individual actions. Cops like that need to be punished period, if the law shields them, then the law needs to be changed.

It would be funny if you went to say, Uzbekistan or N-Korea and explained to people there why you think France is a totalitarian nation.

I’d also recommend not picking a fight with people in riot gear.

"Fake news" is sometimes a real photo/video falsely attached to the wrong event. Here's why the Spanish protest pics were "fake news": https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/10/06/inenglish/1507278297_70...

The same thing is happening in the French protests: https://observers.france24.com/en/20181129-debunked-videos-y...

No, those pictures of brutal Spanish police action to block people from casting ballots were fake. There are plenty of real ones. As a casual but interested observer, I personally don't remember seeing any of those fake photos shared.


The fake photos were self-evidently shared enough to receive some media coverage, and the article cites retweet counts. I'm not clear on the relevance of you not having personally spotted these specific ones.

I took a look at the Atlantic link you included, and I'm not seeing any photos of bloodied protesters like the fake ones had. I don't doubt that with rubber bullets and batons flying there were some injuries, but the "fake" photos still aren't accurate depictions of them if they're from previous incidents.

I know that, I've been part of the Romanian protests for almost two years now and I've seen my good share of fake news attached to similar events. It was just that the article was somehow hinting that all news shared on Facebook and other social media about the protests were fake news (which is obviously false), or at least that was my feeling when reading the article.

Genuine question: Is it just me or the whole 'fake-news' concept seems like an excuse for ~old~ traditional (failing?) media to continue to act as gatekeepers of information ? I've seen an increasing number of alternative / independent journalists and websites being given the label of "fake-news site" recently and I'm a bit worried to see that trend continue.

There are different types of things being conflated as "fake news":

- fiction not labelled as such: items invented from whole cloth with no regard for evidence. Conspiracy garbage. "B52 FOUND ON MOON".

- correctly reporting an official statement that turns out to be false, without checking the underlying facts ("WMD in Iraq": the newspapers accurately reported what the officials said!). Various other sorts of bad, sycophantic or "yellow" journalism.

- hostile propaganda, malicious lies, racial slander, and the like: protocols of zion/blood libel/etc material. Similar slander of Muslims. QAnon and Pizzagate. Previously the mainstream media refused to touch this stuff, but now it's being spread to a large audience via social media. Various sorts of government psyops, including but not limited to Russia.

The problem is that people correctly see the "old fake news" (2), but then replace it with even less accurate news (3).

I'm sure it's not just you but you could still be wrong. :>

What you consider alternative / independent journalists could be charlatans by journalistic standards. It's hard to say in the abstract.

Yeah, establishment journalists consistently provide accurate information, like the time they discovered that huge stockpile of WMDs in Irak.

When journalists fail to adhere to journalistic standards they should be criticized for that. What's your point?

I guess the fact that we have to separate independent journalists from the ones working for privately owned outlets is problematic in itself.

Right, what I'm saying is that we should uphold objective standards rather than just saying independent journalists are generally more/less trustworthy than established ones.

Yes this is very true. There are honest journalists and frauds on both sides. (wink wink Alex Jones)

Any examples that aren’t old enough to have finished high school by now? And were not a major public scandal, that cost the people involved their jobs?

How the Legacy Media is fueling discontent toward competing sources of information.

How government officials are panicked over losing control of narratives.

Please trust us Plebes. we'll give you the information you need.

Not sure why you are downvoted at the bottom, because you are right. As long as media continuously and relentlessly post articles about how terrible facebook is (as a "news source"), the legacy organizations will stay relevant. They are fighting for survival and it's more obvious now than ever.

Brazil had such an outburst in 2013, also seemingly spontaneous and enabled by social networks.

Fast forward a few years and the president-elect is a far-right idiot who ran on a platform of conspiracy theories and attacks on the press, supported by a huge disinformation campaign on anonymous, encrypted and widely popular messengers, completely bypassing all forms of campaign accountability.

Ignore the symptoms at your peril.

What's with all this defense of facebook in the comments on hacker news lately?

World is not black and white. You can always criticize Facebook for their brutal user information sharing practises, or lack of curation to try to avoid fake news. But at the same time its possible to recognize that not everything on FB is fake news. Or in this particular case, that letting people share and communicate is not reprehensible.

I'd argue it's more a defence of accuracy than Facebook per se.

Just because you don't like a person or company or country or whatever doesn't mean that it's reasonable to accuse them of all the ills of the world.

I'd even argue that it can be detrimental. If you get enough "Facebook killed my puppy" stories, folk will start ignoring stories about Facebook and miss the stuff that's genuinely a problem.

The issue described in the article is not an issue with Facebook. Filter bubbles are an issue that's much larger than Facebook. Blaming it all on Facebook would mean we ignore the fact that they also exist elsewhere.

They employ a lot of programmers, I imagine at least some of them are here.

Two wrongs don’t make a right? It’s possible for both the media and Facebook to have faults.

Facebook is proving to be a bestseller with the media. Not a day goes by without 3-4 of those stories becoming "news for hackers"

It seems that this content source is only concerned about news about prominent tech companies, which matches their Palo Alto location. Facebook’s been going through the grinder because they’ve recently had a lot of evidence against them come out; of course technically interested people care about a leader in research and industry.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=mondaynote.com

doesn't explain why there are at least 2 similar stories at any time in HN frontpage

I mean, from an entrepreneurial standpoint,maybe "antifacebook as a service" is a valid idea?

250 pages of documents being released contradicting prior statements could reasonably be expected to cause an increase of coverage.

I would subscribe to that service.

I'm leery of any movement that the media refers to as "populist" as it seems many of these movements in the past years have been fueled by concerted efforts by despotic governments to destabilize democracies (Ukraine, US) or spread internal discord (Myanmar).

Facebook and Twitter play a key role in these influence operations by not adequately detecting and removing accounts controlled by these despotic governments until after the fact.

Traditional media outlets are not blameless as they frequently treat the results of these intelligence operations as though they were authentic grassroots movements.

Frankly "populism" has been a code word for nationalism/racism/xenophobia my entire life.

Or the other way, by governments of democratic countries to destabilize nondemocratic countries, which is arguably easier.

> the worse civil unrest ever seen in France

It's major, but quite far from the worst we've ever had.

How about not cutting out a key part of the sentence?

"in one of the worse civil unrest ever seen in France"

The article even mentions the French Revolution!

During the French Revolution, the police didn't run out of tear gas. This one is clearly bigger.

"France has riots" is hardly news, since '68 onwards. This time it's not the banlieus or the students, but what in the UK we'd call "white van man"; the self-employed working class.

The spread of fake news at viral speed is somewhat new, but people taking to the streets is a much more normal part of French politics.

Poor analysis by a journalist who works for the most corporate French newspaper (le Monde), which is largely subsidized by the government (21 millions euros a year). Nothing to see, really. 72% of the French population still supports the movement, albeit all the efforts from the government and media, the insisting on violence... and the explanation still is "people are stupid and manipulable?". No, the explanation is simple, the People is right, and its Will is just; and the smug Parisian journalists are just displaying their class contempt for the unwashed masses, and this is frankly disgusting. "Macron, démission".

> Zuckerberg controls its board and his number two, Sheryl Sandberg, can’t decently be fired, protected by the “Lean In” flak vest.

That's a poor, cheap shot at women's rights. How sad that an article that wraps up with this can sit at #1 on HN.

I see; now that mass unrest has reached the doors of the rich world, social media is a serious problem and requires immediate regulation. I don't recall any such hand-wringing during the 2011 "Arab Spring", itself a darkly comical title given what later unfolded in Libya, Egypt and Syria.

Back then, the narrative among western governments and press was that Twitter was a beacon of hope, allowing free democratic expression in dictatorial regimes. Not a word about the potential for bad actors to leverage the power of such networks to create political instability so they could take the throne.

Can someone explain the nuances of these protests?

Am I wrong to find it weird that the seemingly liberal, "woke" French are rioting over a carbon tax? Aren't carbon taxes progressive and environmentally responsible?

It's very complicated to explain because it's not a "traditional" movement run by a leader/political party/union. Protesters are all over the political spectrum.

It's the combination of (real and/or perceived):

- rise of inequalities

- new taxes (including the carbon tax)

- removal of taxes impacting only the rich

- sentiment of neglect of the rural areas by the government

- disdain for lower classes by Macron

- lower purchasing power for low/middle class

and probably some other stuff. It's really an aggregation of all that. Add the fact that there is no leader, no precise demands, this makes a nightmare for the government to fix or contain.

And maybe interesting, or dangerous depending on the point of view, amongst the rioters you got both far-left and far-right movements on the same side, which is something that does not happen that often.

it'd be helpful to explain what far right and far left mean in the context of France, as I doubt it's the same thing as in e.g. USA.

Far left would be anarchists, black-blocs, and a few communists in there too.

Far right would be openly pro-nazi, or Vichy nostalgic small organizations like Oeuvre Française and other dissolved and then formed again groups. Add unaffiliated fascist skinheads in the mix.

Then again, almost every nuance of the spectrum between those two is represented in the protesters.

Right now the right wing media in the US is gleefully attributing the protests primarily to the carbon tax.

The french are not one uniform group. Same in Belgium: in Brussels last week, there were violent protests by a few thousand "yellow vests". The next day, there was a much larger (65K people) climate change manifestation without incident. I personally saw multiple moms feeding babies during that march.

We're at a point now where we have to give up priviliges to slow down climate change. Even if the majority agrees to do it, some will refuse and turn violent. And unfortunately, the violence will cause more headlines.

They're also a burden on poorer people, especially from rural regions (where cars are necessary), proposed by a government that's generally been seen as helping the rich and burdening the poor. It's less a protest against that specific tax in isolation, and more against the general trend, that was triggered by the proposed tax as the last straw.

These particular carbon taxes are not revenue neutral and as a result are perceived as greenwashed regular taxes. If you are trying to change public behaviour it is best to just change the balance of taxes otherwise the general tax increase becomes a distraction from the ultimate goal.

Not an expert by any means, but to my understanding the carbon tax is only part of a series of taxes that the French people are protesting about, which they feel help the rich and hurt the poor disproportionately.

> Am I wrong to find it weird that the seemingly liberal, "woke" French are rioting over a carbon tax?

Yes, the French routing over taxes is not historically uncommon, and the French aren't unified ideologically, and particularly aren't uniformly left-wing. And, as I understand, it's not as simple as just carbon taxes, either.

I understand the french-are-liberal trope, but, as an American, I view countries like Canada, France, and Germany as way farther left than the US. Economically, and culturally.

We see much less representation of their conservatives here. Pardon me for being slightly ignorant on this, and thank you for the reminder.

Something interesting I caught on the radio this morning and that I find really relevant, is that while Yellow Vests have people from both ends of the political spectrum, the far-right is not anti welfare state at all.

LePen's Rassemblement National is anti-immigration, and anti Europe or anti globalization, so in this regard could be close to some of Trump's positions but is not at all against welfare state.

Most people protesting want less gas taxes, but not at the cost of lesser healthcare or education.

I believe this is a position that does not really exist in the American political spectrum.

So it was explained by the speaker that culturally French people are more on the side of "Social Justice" rather than "Freedom", but that does necessarily means there are more "liberal" than "conservative". It can look similar but if you are looking really close, you cannot really apply American labels. I believe this is one of the reason it looks confusing and it is hard to explain from an outsider perspective.

> I understand the french-are-liberal trope, but, as an American, I view countries like Canada, France, and Germany as way farther left than the US.

Sure, most Western countries are; by the standard of most other developed Western, the dominant faction of the Democratic Party is somewhere between center-right and right-wing, while the Republican Party as a whole (not just it's extremist fringe) is far-right. But that doesn't mean that other countries don't have as much (or, often, more) left-right range as the US, just different centers.

And it could merely be that folk on the edge of French society — truck drivers, provincial plumbers, builders, deliverymen, teachers, parents — are saying `Enough is enough. Stop making our lives harder.’

How exactly are truck drivers, provincial plumbers, builders, deliverymen, teachers and parents parents on the edge of French society? How are their lives being made harder?

Those classes seem disproportionately affected by higher transportation costs in already low-margin but nessarry jobs and careers. While the effect may be exaggerated, it is not imaginary by any stretch.

Thats not the favored narritave worldwide. We are being sold that the french are antarchist ingrates on american media. I still don't knkw how to get an unbiased view.

Facebook apparently :)

So really we need to grapple with the unexpected (or unfortunate)outcome that bad ideas easily win out when communication is greater than ever.

How Facebook is Fueling the Watts Riots... Oh wait.

How is this any different from the Arab Spring? Why should this be silenced while the Arab Spring had to amplified?

The cynical answer would be: Because it's inconvenient whereas the Arab spring was inconvenient to people we didn't like.

Because there is no moral equivalence between the despotisms of the middle east and the elected government of a secular democratic republic. Overturning tyrany is good. Attempting to overturn democracies in favor of mob rule is bad.

Democracy is not the perfect system that some people purport it to be.

You get someone elected, someone who is far from perfect but he's the only likely candidate to win, so what can you do. And then that person has 4 years to screw you over. That's not just.

Who said democracy is a perfect system? I certainly didn't. Democracy is flawed because people are flawed. But western representative democracy -- limited democracy supported by strong institutions -- is the best way to avoid autocracy on one side and mob rule on the other. There are no perfect solutions.

While not being perfect, that is still far better than regime in Zimbabwe, Venezuela or North Korea, where the head of state keeps the power as long as he is alive, or is replaced by force by another thug.

I'm pretty sure Venezuela was (and still is) a democracy.

I think people tend to conflate liberalism (in the classical sense), and democracy. You can have undemocratic liberal states (the Austro-Hungarian empire was a good example).

Undemocratic liberal states only stay liberal for as long as suits wealthy elites. Venezuala is technically a democracy, but, as I said in another comment, you also need strong institutions for a functioning democracy. Venzuala has a weak court system and Maduro didn't allow opposition parties to take part in the 2017 presidential elections, so it's not exactly a model democracy.

It's a lot more of a gray area than democracy vs. despotism. Much of this unpopular policy is emanating from Brussels, made by a chamber of unelected officials - closer to a Politburo than a Senate.

It's not. This is a phenomenon that'll probably keep going as long as we have pervasive social networks.


Because this is ‘bad’ while Arab Spring was ‘good’.

The French protesters are not risking a stay in the Palmyra prison. (Warning: even text descriptions of what went on there are NSFL)

Because the protests against the democratically elected leadership during the Arab spring... Oh wait.

You may hate something equally under any regime but there's a huge difference when that something is done in a democracy versus basically any other common form or government. In democracies issues can be (are?) solved at the election booth. Not so much in a dictatorship, a monarchy, or any "pseudo-democracy" (see China), etc.

Protesting is very democratic. South Korea showed that to the world.

Sure, South Koreans could wait one more year and solve the problem at the election booth, but protesting solved the problem faster.

Protesting yes. Breaking the law... maybe also democratic. This doesn't change the fact that there is no comparing this to Arab spring.

The same act can have very different meaning in different contexts. In this case it doesn't feel like those protesters have exhausted their options before jumping to violence. As such this is a condemnable act.

Protesting is one thing. Vandalism, looting, and firebombing are not legal protests.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

Macron isn't Hitler or Pol Pot or George III. He wants to put the price of diesel up to reduce environmental damage. He wants to reduce taxes on the rich to spur the economy. You can disagree with those aims, but he's not destroying the French system of government. For that, look to Venezuela.

He's a neoliberal who's screwing the working people, and now the working people are protesting. While I agree with the premise that they should've chosen someone else who cared about them like Le Pen, I don't see how this protest is illegitimate. (Not that I'm defending the property damage, of course.)

How do you feel about the US riots held for equal protection and rights from the cops? Morally inferior and less deserving of access to social media than the Muslim Brotherhood led riots overthrowing the Egyptian government and installing a (short lived) theocracy?

> In democracies issues can be (are?) solved at the election booth. Not so much in a dictatorship, a monarchy, or any "pseudo-democracy" (see China), etc.

These people were in these very same election booths last year so clearly issues aren't being solved that way.

<rant> Also, we need to step down our high moral horse and stop patronizing other nations by bringing up our holy "democracies". There has been an increasing and almost delusional portrayal of countries like Russia, China, Iran etc. That's not to say they don't have flaws but let's just take a good long look at the mirror before we hop on the <insert non western nation> bashing hype train. </rant>

Edit: formatting

I'm not patronizing any nation or bringing up the "holy" democracy. Even jumping the gun and introducing that "holy" in there makes betrays your message's very... zealoty nature. That is entirely your wording and understanding. If you want to make a point do it without distorting the message you're replying to into oblivion.

This being said, to this day there is no better real world alternative to democracy. I take it you know very little of how Russia and China work internally. It's going to sound cynical but if you did you'd appreciate the "lesser evil" of western democracy. Think at least of the fact that you're now free to express these opinions, as you do.

You know the upside of democracy? With enough people behind you you can easily install dictatorship. The other way around needs slightly more sacrifices. Pretty sure those people fighting in the Arab spring against their not elected leaders weren't doing it just to jump on the bashing hype train ;).

Go look in the mirror, you'll see much greater freedoms in western countries than any you've mentioned. The west doesn't actively persecute homosexuals, protects women's rights and supports a free press. The list goes on.

You're confusing democracy with freedom / progress my friend.

Then find me an autocracy with those freedoms.

The United States of America.

Populist has a derogatory connotation and insulting peoples will seems improper

The basic idea is that the will of the people may change at a whim, and that we therefore need safeguards to protect liberal parlamentarism and the basic order of society from changes that would otherwise be disruptive. This obviously protects the so-called elites from angry mobs, which is the main argument against this system, but it also make sure that our economies don't collapse due to various governments doing things like forced take-overs of international banks in times of financial unrest.

Alas, this order is often defended in the name of "democracy" when it's outright anti-democratic and patronizing.

Thanks, fair point. But then again that's democracy right? And riots aren't your weekend party- people are on streets because they are fed up of something.

Definitely. On the other hand, would this have been prevented if the desiscion to increase carbon taxes was taken through a referendum? I suspect many of the people that are currently rioting would do so even if the no-side had lost a referendum, especially if they are stuck in filter bubbles reinforcing the idea that everyone around them share their opinions.

That's also the point of the article, but the author blames it all on Facebook not preventing populist bubbles, when the main issue is that the entire industry has a problem with bubbles.

> Populist has a derogatory connotation

For a very good reason.

> insulting peoples will seems improper

It does seem improper, but drawing the connection between calling out people drawn to populism and insulting them is one of the least discrete attempts at muddying the waters I've seen recently.

What is that reason? Why should people not advocate for their own interest?

Socialism is populism on the Left (i.e. distributing wealth at the point of a gun). Populism on the Right is instead via a more democratic method of building a strong market that lifts all ships.

>Populism on the Right is instead via a more democratic method of building a strong market that lifts all ships.

...also at the point of a gun.

You're being disingenuous in evoking the monopoly of force but only applying it to "the left", in order to imply that, "socialist" governance is more coercive (and thus less legitimate) than any other.

If you live in a state that collects taxes or regulates the market, or any system other than anarchy, then you live under a regime that distributes wealth at the point of a gun.

And with anarchy, you're just trading the monopoly on violence for a free market of violence.

Socialist Populism seeks wealth redistribution for individuals by using force against people (in addition to organizations) via taxation.

Market Populism seeks wealth redistribution for organizations by using force against organizations exclusively to break up local maxima (monopolies, duopolies, etc.).

Both use force, but one operates on the individual level, the other at the organizational level.

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