Sunday, 11 August 2013

Outrage is the Desired Outcome

Naive liberals in a futile search for enlightenment demand coverage of important stories by news networks such that they will be enlightened. These same liberals are always shocked at the stories they read and fail to understand why the stories they read, the coverage they are exposed too and the unbearable stasis of contemporary politics seems to continue indefinitely. Why is it that the mainstream media (Regardless of political orientation) always says so much (lots of coverage) while saying so little (no valuable information can be discerned from the coverage)?

Viewership to increase ad revenue is the primary goal for any news outlet. Without viewers (or funding) the news outlet will cease to exist as profit is derived from viewership. There exist alternative primary goals for new outlets (i.e. some aim to provide quality journalism but these are a minority not a majority) but these news outlets typically derive their revenue from donations or through membership fees. These alternative news outlet structures cannot compete with main stream news outlets [1, 2, 3] so they will be left out of this discussion.

Since the primary goal of a news outlet is ad revenue it is necessary for a news outlet to provide content that produces the most views. Since people are inherently emotional the most view-producing content will be: 
1) Coverage of local events that are rare but emotion inducing (rape of a young girl, child pornography, etc)
2) Coverage of global events that are shocking and rare (Earthquake, tsunami, etc) 
3) Coverage of global events that are ongoing and fertile for fear-mongering (Fukushima nuclear reactor aftermath, swine flu pandemic, etc)
4) Coverage of controversial events (Evolution debate, Trayvon Martin case, racism, sexism, etc) [5]

The above content is view producing independent of spin but further spin increases the number of views. If it is coverage of a rape case one should [6,7] include people defending the rapist, victim blaming and psycho-analysis of the rapist. If it is coverage of abortion one should include religious protests and death threats to the gynecologist who performed abortions. If it is coverage of nuclear power it should include diatribes about the anti-nuclear left, bafflement with numbers and remarks about the rationality of nuclear advocates. If it is about religion... well, burn the infidels! [View Disclaimer]

It is for the reasons outlined above that most mainstream news content is devoid of content. To frame it in evolutionary terms: selection of articles covering events will not be determined based on the urgency of what the article is covering but based on survival of event coverage in an evolutionary landscape where page views is the determinant selection force. In such a case events which generate more page views will survive while those that do not will cease surviving. Outrage is the desired outcome!


[1] New outlets that derive revenue from donations typically provide service for free and maintain service through donations. Revenue streams from donations pale in comparison to that of ad revenue and these news outlets will subsequently have less resources available to optimize their performance in the news competition landscape. The main appeal of donation based news outlets is the quality journalism but over time political influence, the viewer desire to watch news conforming to their beliefs and other minor selection forces in the landscape will make quality journalism less of a priority.

[2] If a news outlet provided a membership structure the news outlet would not be competing in the same news outlet landscape as other news outlets. Most viewers will not pay for news or prefer to have their news for free. This limits the sphere of influence of membership based news viewership sites. Also, as with donation based news sites, there is also the desire for readers to have their views confirmed by the news they are reading. For example, the QXZ news is a news paper primarily read by X target market and over time QXZ news will produce more and more news for that target market. Eventually quality of news will decline (This does not mean it will become as poor as main stream news but rather that news quality will not be the sole determinant for retaining viewership).

[3] There exist news outlets that are heavily funded by the government/taxpayer dollars/other income source but these outlets will still face similar problems. Income source becomes limited by the fact that the news outlet is dependent on the income source. This prevents coverage of certain issues. Also, many of these news outlets will cover controversial stories in a slightly more balanced fashion then main stream news outlets but they still cover the controversy. [4]

[4] Controversy is emotion based otherwise it would not be a controversy. The desire of a reader to read the most polarizing coverage of a controversy such that it fits the reader's own biases is strong.

[5] We can include coverage of all isms in this category.

[6] Should implies that it is desirable for one to feel this way.

[7] Desire is merely the labeling of behaviors that we like based on socially constructed notions that maintain existing power structures. We are a society that worships profit maximization and it is considered a desirable behavior by many. From this perspective we can label feeling outraged about pseudo-events as good because it maximizes profit! 

Disclaimer: The above controversies have nothing to do with any of my personal views. If asked I will probably respond that I am pretty much apolitical. If pressed hard enough I will tell you I aspire to be the son of Hitler. I will not clarify whether I am being sarcastic or not. (I do not aspire to be the son of Hitler)

Making Good Straw-men: A Guide

Since I will never succeed in writing the blog post I've been trying to write about evolution here's a quick guide for all internet skeptics next time they want to straw-men their opponents! Enjoy!

Making a good straw man is an art that should be mastered by all master debaters. (Hurr hurr. Masterdebaters) The straw man is a useful tool in overpowering non-mainstream viewpoints on controversial topics. If you cannot make a good straw man here's your quick how to guide. Enjoy!

Step One:
If your opponent's thesis depends on how they define word A it is important you define word A in a fashion (in your response) such that the rest of their thesis makes no sense. Never clearly state your definition of word A and make sure you never quote your opponent where they clearly define word A. Maintaining a lack of clarity about word A is essential. If people realize you're both talking about different things they just may call you on your bluff!

Step Two:
Proceed to respond to out of context quotes with the distorted definition above. If you've defined A correctly it will be defined in such a fashion that it is incoherent. Make sure you point out how incoherent your definition of word A is and show your skeptic friends how incoherent your definition is. If you don't exclaim "Isn't it stupid how he defined word A to include the premise that he was trying to prove? Isn't that just like... fucking retarded? Hurr hurr" then your straw-man is not quite good enough.

Step Three:
This is the crucial step. It requires you have some credentials or know someone with credentials. It is also very convenient if your position is widely accepted by the majority of people. Proceed to cite important people saying that you are right and make sure your citations only point to important people saying that your are right. For example, a good citation would be "I, Dr. Joe, am a neuro-surgeon and I say that I am right about A because I have a degree that says I am right about A. I'm smart!". It is important that you cite no valuable information during this step. If you do someone might look at your citations and realize this is all just a straw man.

Step Four:
This is the fatality stage. This is the kicking them while they're down phase. If you're looking at including ad-hominem attacks this is where you include them. By this point you have distorted their view to such a degree that you can claim they believe pretty much anything. Call them hitler, call them a nazi or, even worse, call them a creationist. Once you've kicked them a few times run around the internet blogging ring such that your other blogger friends can tag-team them with you. Get a few fist bumps (and blog shares!) and make sure you all social network together to generate the maximum number of page views.

Step Five:
You have won! Congrats! The threat to your echo-chamber has been eliminated with style and flare. You are now a straw-man master. Very few of your readers care enough to actually understand what you are critiquing so your market share/internet popularity/readership remains intact! If somebody ever critiques you (Let's say by saying how do people say so much (lots of words) while saying so little (Lack of content)) just return to step one of the above guide.