Saturday, September 8, 2018

Untrusted news increases the importance of affiliative groups

From 'Deep Fakes' and the Fight for Truth Online by Kalev Leetaru.

Deep Fakes is a bit too click-baity. The conference is on truth and accuracy in a technological environment where anything can be manipulated almost seamlessly, where the news cycle velocity is exceedingly fast, and where there is a low level of journalistic or editorial skepticism.
While fact checkers have become a central element in the war against “fake news,” Rubio mused that when it comes to a tight election, the right fake news could be enough to change the outcome no matter how much contrary evidence there is or how many fact checkers confirm it is false. He offered the hypothetical of a video appearing a few days before voters go the polls, allegedly showing one of the candidates making extremely disparaging remarks about a large bloc of voters. In our 24/7 news cycle and hyperpartisan politics, it is all but assured that the video would rocket to viral status as news outlets run the unverified clip while politicians and pundits condemn it.

No matter how much the candidate protests that the video is false and that he or she can document being on the other side of the country from where it was allegedly filmed, and no matter how many fact checkers confirm that it is a forgery, the damage will be done and before the news cycle corrects itself, the candidate will likely lose the election.

This is the world in which we live today, where dispassionate truth comes second to the emotional falsehoods that fire us up.
In such an environment of convincing falsehoods, there is a tremendous value proposition for the news media, helping in an informed and intelligent fashion, the public to sort the wheat from the chaff. Instead, they have ignored their business interests for the sake of partisan signaling and positioning. We need someone we can trust to filter out the cognitive pollution that is being pumped out but instead of filtering, the mainstream media are trying to use it for their own ideological and positional advantage, ceding any position as trusted provider, probably irretrievably.
As Rubio so aptly noted, in a world in which truth and fiction are so inextricably intertwined, it becomes impossible to trust anything. A fake video becomes truth and a true video can be easily dismissed as fake.
I lament the loss of our old half-way trusted journalists and media.

I am even more concerned as to what comes after. If the media is not to be trusted, indeed, must be actively distrusted, then what is the consequence?

I fear that we devolve into cocoons where we trust only those with shared world views, shared cultural markers. People whom we can trust to help us make sense of the polluted epistemic environment. Such group identification is anathema to our culture and traditions as a Classical Liberal nation of free people with god given rights as individuals. A world overly dependent on affiliative trust and cultural bindings is ripe for in-group and out-group conflict.

It is the logical outcome of the Gramscian ideology of deconstructionists, intersectionalists, multiculturalists, etc. It is also not a good outcome.

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