Quote note (#136)

Fred Reed, on the media Balkanization tide:

Though I have spent a lifetime in journalism, I do not read a newspaper, not the New York Times nor the Washington Post nor the Wall Street Journal. Nor do I have television service.

Why? Because, having worked in that restaurant, I know better than to eat there. The foregoing media are quasi-governmental organs, predictably predictable and predictably dishonest. The truth is not in them.

Within the news racket, this isn’t news. More interesting is that a large part of the intelligent population agrees. We now have a press of two tiers, the establishment media and the net, with sharply differing narratives. The internet is now primary. The bright get their news from around the web and then read the New York Times to see how the paper of record will prevaricate. People increasingly judge the media by the web, not the web by the media.

ADDED: Another dimension of media agony. This also relevant.

ADDED: Mass media is over.

December 8, 2014admin 14 Comments »

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14 Responses to this entry

  • Quote note (#136) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on December 8th, 2014 at 9:51 am Reply | Quote
  • orlandu84 Says:

    I would make one implicit thought explicit in the above article: lateral communication begets complex social regroupings. As people circumvent the Cathedral for information, certain individuals will find themselves amassing great auctoritas without any imperium. Who is important where will not be predictable nor shall the stories that go viral. Accordingly, I would call the new environment “digital feudalism” since we will likely see connections between blogs based on individuals and not upon ideologies or parties. Think “Crusader Kings II” for the media.


    Posted on December 8th, 2014 at 3:42 pm Reply | Quote
  • scientism Says:

    It connects with this old article on the mass media anomaly:


    “The invention of the steam press in the early 19th century, and the emergence of mass-market newspapers such as the New York Sun, therefore marked a profound shift. The new technologies of mass dissemination could reach large numbers of people with unprecedented speed and efficiency, but put control of the flow of information into the hands of a select few. For the first time, vertical distribution of news, from a specialist elite to a general audience, had a decisive advantage over horizontal distribution among citizens. This trend accelerated with the advent of radio and television in the 20th century. New businesses grew up around these mass-media technologies. In modern media organisations news is gathered by specialists and disseminated to a mass audience along with advertising, which helps to pay for the whole operation. … The mass-media era now looks like a relatively brief and anomalous period that is coming to an end.”

    The mass media era and the era of democracy overlap. Call it the “demotic pause.”

    One interest aspect Reed appreciates is that the Internet is stratified across cognitive lines, lending credence to the idea that the end of the demotic pause is a return to elitism.


    Kgaard Reply:

    Scientism … Can you flush this out a little more? I liked that Fred Reed piece. Where are you going with your concepts about the interaction between the era of mass media and the era of democracy. It’s not clear to me how the dynamic your describing works …


    Kgaard Reply:

    Bad grammar there. Sorry. This black background makes it hard to see what I’m actually typing …


    scientism Reply:

    Think of the kinds of political arrangement that are compatible with mass media vs. lateral communication. As Reed points out, lateral communication is necessarily cognitively stratified; you’re going to have more clustering of cognitive elites, which is going to support an elitist, decentralised political arrangement. Whereas with mass media you have more of a top-down situation, where the cognitive elite preaches to the masses. This is because mass media is difficult to produce (so it’s produced by elites) but has to reach many people (so has to be tailored for consumption by the rabble). This is an odd kind of situation because the cognitive elite have to constantly signal that they’re not elite and that they have the interests of the masses in mind, so it’s not simply a case of being able to tell people what to do. The elite thought they could elevate the masses, but really they’ve become stuck in a weird co-dependency. This kind of “command culture” seems to be essential to democracy. For example, the concept of a “representative” doesn’t really make sense on anything but the most local level without mass media. Democratic pageantry is really kind of pointless without mass media, especially at the top.

    I think you could make the case that the whole thing is causal: somebody has to own the printing presses, the radio stations, the television studios, etc, and that’s inevitably going to be the financial/cognitive elite. But to give what they produce broad appeal they necessarily have to engage in pretence. There’s an inevitable cognitive dissonance to the whole arrangement, particularly when you try to do something “good” and intervene in the way the masses live their lives. It’s inevitable you’re going to gravitate towards theories of society and politics that reduce this tension between your position and the product you’re producing. Belief in progressivism is probably easier to swallow than just pushing garbage on people you have nothing in common with. That’s why we see so much blurring between what’s supposedly politically desirable and what’s desirable for the media. Good liberal politics always makes for good headlines, good television, good clickbait.

    So I think mass media played an obvious role in democratic (and more broadly demotic) societies and the end of mass media could mean the end of demotism. We’ll go back to more decentralised arrangements that support cognitive clustering and hierarchy, with an elite that talk among themselves rather than to the people and therefore don’t much care about signalling their populist credentials. The weird co-dependent relationship between the elites and the masses will finally be severed and we can return to sanity.


    Different T Reply:

    This seems relevant to your discussion (from Alrenous)…

    Capital is infected with Sophism, spreading it to its new home. This process is one of the things often called ‘globalization.’…
    Eventually, everyone in the new home develops resistance to Sophism, shedding its poison. In the meantime, much damage is done.

    Kgaard Reply:

    This is awesome, Scientism …

    ||||| Reply:

    A Novel Private Attitude and Public Opinion Dynamics Model for Simulating Pluralistic Ignorance and Minority Influence

    Deals almost exactly with what you’re describing. Pluralistic Ignorance is when a lot of people are thinking the same thing but don’t speak out because every one believes every one else thinks differently. The model isn’t perfect and you can see how it works better for older kinds of social arrangement (low-range communication between cell-like communities). Also big part of what’s behind some political structures in latin america, I believe.

    “We’ll go back to more decentralised arrangements that support cognitive clustering and hierarchy, with an elite that talk among themselves rather than to the people and therefore don’t much care about signalling their populist credentials. The weird co-dependent relationship between the elites and the masses will finally be severed and we can return to sanity.”

    That I’m not so certain of (the return to sanity, that is, the other part I think is true and good):

    Small Worlds and Cultural Polarization

    The range of social contacts made possible through technology also impacts the structure of individual social networks and thus social relations. Fig.8 puts it quite clearly. Where once people would more or less toe the line now they have long-range access to likeminded others as is the case with this little motley crew but also furries, SJWs and whatever other stray aberrations stalk these bytes.

    “There is also a third possibility overlooked by most previous research: long-range ties can reduce cultural diversity and at the same time deepen cultural divisions, leading not to consensus or cultural homogeneity but to polarization. By ‘‘polarization’’ we mean that a population divides into a small number of factions with high internal consensus and sharp disagreement between them. A perfectly polarized population contains two opposing factions whose members agree on everything with each other and fully disagree on everything with the out-group.”

    “However, assimilation and homophily also have negative counterparts—differentiation from and xenophobia toward those who are different. Almost all research on cultural dissemination, the diffusion of innovation, the assimilation of immigrant minorities, the evolution of norms, and even the spread of social protest have assumed away the possibility that social interaction can have a negative valence.” Gee, I wonder how that little weird assumption could have gotten there?

    Intergroup Conflict Escalation Leads to More Extremism

    Do you really see discourse around events the likes of the Ferguson riots or Gamergate becoming more sane over time? Maybe in the long term, but I don’t find that very plausible without technology and other circumstances stabilizing. I think things are going to get a lot weirder first, what with all the little tribes and groups emerging and interacting all throughout the net and that overflowing into meatspace. A lot of people more or less leading multiple lives with all kinds of mask/identities but without any superpowers. How amusingly ironic is it, though, that “redistributing the means of discussion” might be precisely the way to shatter democratic dogmas?

    “A body of literature has explored the idea that individuals’ beliefs that generate differentiation from out-groups create radicalization as intergroup tensions escalate (Deschamps & Brown 1983; Brown et al. 1986; Kelly 1988; Leonardelli et al. 2010). Their results show that conflict triggers identification and differentiation dynamics. Moreover, they find that the more intense the intergroup tensions, the more identification and, hence, the more differentiation occurs between individual’s opinions. That is, participants involved in intense conflict identified more with their in-group than participants in lower conflict conditions. The latter also identified more with their in-group than participants in collaborative relations. The main idea is that individuals may not follow rational decision making when they engage in intense conflict because they may consider some issues as sacred values and become unwilling to compromise (Atran & Ginges 2012).”

    Good things to keep in mind concerning potential or actual NRx catfights.

    “I think you could make the case that the whole thing is causal: somebody has to own the printing presses, the radio stations, the television studios, etc, and that’s inevitably going to be the financial/cognitive elite.”

    The network of global corporate control

    Good luck finding similar studies for similar relationships in, say, academia or media though. Closest I have is this but I haven’t really looked around anyways:

    When Can Governments Shape the News?: Insights from Social Network Analysis

    Man-eating Polyphemus arrives dismembered and technology is stitching him right up.

    scientism Reply:

    @|||||, thanks for all the links, I’ll have to go through them more thoroughly in future, but I think I can answer your questions. I see a return to sanity because the relationship between the university-educated cognitive elite and the masses is breaking down. Elite signalling will end because it will no longer be possible. Lateral communication means they’ll spend their time signalling to each other and not trying to signal to the masses (or, perhaps more accurately, each other via the masses) via the mass media. The first and most obvious thing to change will be that working in journalism and similar industries will become less attractive. This is happening now because traditional media is having a hard time adapting to the Internet, but I think it’ll also become less prestigious because it’s no longer an effective means of reaching the people (or even giving the illusion that you’re reaching the people). So it’ll no longer be a place to signal concern.

    One way to think of what’s happening now is that the last generation of cognitive elites who expected to enter a mass media dominated world are reacting poorly to entering a world with a lot of lateral communication. It’s kind of like a stand-up comedian who can’t see the audience has left but has stopped getting laughs, so he’s telling ever more off-colour jokes to try to get a response, but none is forthcoming. That might be what we’re seeing with feminism, SJWs, protests, etc. They’re escalating because they’re not getting the response they expected. People are mocking or ignoring them instead. But it probably won’t take long for this sort of thing to become low status.

    If you look at the make-up of the protests, the SJWs, the slutwalks, etc, it’s upper-middle-class white kids, university-educated and financially stable, and doing this stuff is for them a form of in-group signalling but with the important component that they’re supposed to be doing something good for the rabble. But that only works if they can get themselves on TV or in print and only if doing so still matters. Take that away from them and they’ll find something else to do. Moreover, a significant number of their peers are on Facebook and Instagram just having fun being snooty and well-to-do, and they’re no longer reading the New York Times and no longer care about protests. The signal of the apathetic elites is becoming much stronger. Lateral communication reinforces differences and, for elites, that’s status, education and money. So you have these two forces: the end of the effectiveness of populist signalling and increasing intensity of in-group signalling. I think there’s probably a lot of pressure there to stop marching for black lives and post photos of your latest shopping spree instead.

    At the other end, among the rabble, something is happening too. For us, the inanity of Facebook is depressing, but really it’s a positive sign. People talk about friends, family, food, sports, etc, and that’s what a healthy rabble should probably be concerned with. All these indicators that people are now less informed, more apathetic about politics, etc, are positive signs for us. Perhaps even the tendency to believe conspiracy theories and rumours, rather than the mainstream narrative, is a positive sign for us, since it indicates that the people no longer think they have a voice, they no longer think the state is something they can influence.

    Where does NRx come into this? Well, if you’re a cognitive elite who has realised things have changed, you need to look for new ways to manage things. The possibility of top-down control is no longer there. You can’t change the world by sending out a new signal, so you need to think of a new approach. The obvious answer is to use existing resources: you gravitate to solutions to problems that take advantage of human nature, rather than try to control it. You gravitate towards spontaneous order. You gravitate to institutions that are manageable, adaptive, autonomous and non-porous, rather than representative, responsive, with open agendas. Inevitably, you recognise that these solutions have a long history and democracy starts to look like a historical anomaly. So that’s where we are, in this optimistic scenario: the first among many to see where this is going.

    Posted on December 8th, 2014 at 4:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • Henk Says:

    The economics of old style media isn’t going anywhere: centrally produced content with wide distribution can still generate high returns on investment, while high quality audio-visual content still requires high investment when aiming at competitive production values. Taken together, we see the same economic feedback loops as before, moving the equilibrium towards an oligopoly of profitable operators dominating the mass market, at least in audio-visual content. The good old Megaphone structure remains in place. (And yes, when I watch members of future generations use the internet, I see consumption increasingly shift from text to video.)


    Posted on December 9th, 2014 at 11:13 am Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    @scientism This comments section is beyond brilliant.


    Posted on December 9th, 2014 at 1:53 pm Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    @ IIIII ditto this. I will check out those links. They look epic as usual.


    Posted on December 9th, 2014 at 1:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • Game Theory, The Asche Experiments and Mass Media. | The New International Outlook Says:

    […] with their unhinged ideologies and control of the media organs. @Scientism and @IIIII over on the Outside in blog have taken this even further with a deeper analysis and discussion of the social effects of […]

    Posted on December 14th, 2014 at 8:21 am Reply | Quote

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