Do you remember a few decades ago when one of the main complaints about politics was that Democrats and Republicans were not so different? Not anymore. The news industry has found that polarization is a strong business model. The first group of pundits claim many times a day that Republicans are right about nearly everything and Democrats are stupid and evil, while the second group do the reverse. Voters tend to consume news that agrees with their opinions, thus reinforcing them. In this environment, you can’t reasonably expect the folks who voted for the losing candidate to warm up easily to the winner. In the past the differences between victor and vanquished in the political arena were mostly questions of policy. To partisans today, Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump are a lying, cheating murderer and a crazy, impulsive, lying, racist, homophobic, sexist narcissist. That’s a big gap.
And it’s not as if Mr. Trump’s opponents are eager to close it. Michael Jordan missed about half of the shots he attempted. That isn’t because he lacked skill, but because the opposing players were highly capable at defending. Likewise, the political and media professionals who oppose the president are playing unusually strong defense, and that works against his job-approval ratings.
Example: Anti-Trumpers take it as a given that this president is a racist. As evidence, they point to a series of news stories and quotes that seem to support that position. Your common sense tells you that even if some of the claims are exaggerated or taken out of context, there are so many of them that they can’t all be wrong.
But as any cognitive scientist will tell you, they can all be wrong, and that wouldn’t be unusual. Confirmation bias looks exactly like a mountain of evidence. If that sounds crazy, consider how much solid evidence the press gave us in 2016 that Mr. Trump could never get elected...
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
There's a crisis in journalism.
We know that because journalists keep telling us that there's a crisis in journalism.
However, what the mainstream media considers a crisis may be, for the rest of us, something else entirely.
From the media's perspective, the crisis in journalism is declining revenues and fewer jobs.
They argue that translates to a less informed public.
Is that truly the case?
Just three decades ago, to the average person, news was doled out by a small cartel consisting of a few newspapers, radio stations, and a small handful of TV networks. All of them controlled by a coterie of wealthy people whose personal political and social biases frequently determined the way the news was reported, and even more frequently which stories their media outlets chose to, and not to report.
Those mainstream media organizations still exist, and still operate the same way. But they're losing market share and revenues.
Media's main revenue source revenue is almost always from advertising rather than from something like the amount collected from the sale price of a newspaper or magazine.
Ad revenues are down for mainstream media because now they have competition.
The Internet has revolutionized the way that news is delivered and consumed. Now anyone with a smart phone and a twitter account is a potential journalist. Anyone with a blog or facebook account can reach a wide audience and point out how the mainstream media is either publishing outright falsehoods or selectively reporting about issues, leaving out crucial facts.
The world is changing. Media is changing. For anyone interested in what is going on in the world, there's far more opportunity to get information from a variety of sources than ever.
That may be a crisis for mainstream news media, but it's good for having an informed public.
What we're seeing isn't a crisis. It's just a facet of changing times and the decline of an outmoded industry. It's the same sort of crisis buggy-makers faced when Henry Ford came out with the Model T.
It's a crisis we should welcome.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
These are very serious allegations by journalist James diFiore about corruption and abuse of tax funds at the CBC. He also alleges that the Toronto Star is involved in helping the CBC manage the matter.
He says that there are reports that the CBC used tax funds to pay hush money to cover up staff affairs involving Peter Mansbridge.
He says that there are reports that the CBC used tax funds to pay hush money to cover up staff affairs involving Peter Mansbridge.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
So, the President of the United States apparently had an affair with a porn star while he was married to the current First Lady of the United States, four months after she gave birth to their son. Now that porn star, the aptly-named Stormy Daniels, is slated to give a 5,500 word interview about President Trump’s habits in bed, his genital size (congratulations, Marco Rubio!) and pillow talk.
And this won’t change one thing about Trump’s support level.
There’s a theory in economics regarding the stock market: the so-called efficient market hypothesis. That theory states that attempting to “beat the market” is silly — the market, at any given time, has already factored in all available information, and so prices accurately reflect fair value. There is no such thing as an “undervalued stock,” in this view. The “strong” hypothesis suggests that even hidden information has already been priced into markets.
the strong efficient market hypothesis applies to President Trump’s political fortunes. No new information, barring actual changes in the underlying economy or a war, will dramatically change Americans’ views of Trump. Everything has already been baked into the cake.
That’s why the puzzlement of the Left over the Right’s apparent disinterest in the latest scandalous reports about Trump having sex with porn stars while married misses the point: we already knew this was Trump. The man had an affair with his second wife while married to his first; he had an affair with his third wife while married to his second. He used to call up newspapers in New York, pretending to be his own press agent, and lie to them about his sexual peccadillos. He’s appeared in a Playboy soft-porn video.
What about charges of racism? Nothing will change opinions there, either. He made his political bones on birtherism; he was accused of racial discrimination in the 1970s. If Democrats think Trump will go down over his comments regarding “s***hole countries,” they’re crazy.
What about suggestions that Trump is nutty? Nope, already priced in. Look at his Twitter feed. Anyone who truly thinks that Trump supporters haven’t taken into account his volatility and eccentricity (in their view) ought to have their head examined.
You’re not going to beat the Trump market. You’re just not...
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
...There is something unmistakably perverse about the bizarre appetite many Canadians, particularly those on the left or in elite positions, seem to have for tales of outlandish Islamophobia, an appetite that causes otherwise sensible people to turn off their faculties for caution and skepticism and adopt the credulity of a supermarket tabloid reader. At best, they gobble up such anecdotes as a variant of so-called “decay porn,” in which weird cravings for tales of a hellish world can be satisfied only by increasingly outlandish stories cooked up by fabulists. At worst, these are mini-Gulf of Tonkins of the mind, emotional pretexts that rationalize backing politicians or legislation that erode free speech, due process or national security in the name of fighting some unprecedented enemy.
As the Toronto Sun’s Anthony Furey observed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a long track record of erring on the side of radical Islam, a pattern seemingly born from a larger tendency to frame Muslims as creatures without agency and deserving reverence for all claims of persecution, no matter how dubious or ambiguous. This, in turn, animates many of the man’s marquee political promises, from a generous intake of Syrian refugees to eliminating judgmental language from the Canadian citizenship guide to ending bombing raids against the Islamic State, all of which have, at their core, an implied need to redeem the Islam-skeptical character of Canadian society.
Phony or exaggerated charges of Islamophobia, in other words, are not merely victimless non-crimes. They inflate the resolve of a certain flavor of progressive whose political agenda aims to sacrifice much of traditional liberalism in the name of a bigotry course correction, as well as the denialist ignorance of the reactionary right, like those who peddled conspiracy theories about last year’s mosque shooting in Quebec City. The end result is a society whose politics have been agitated to polarize around the Muslim issue in a deeply inaccurate, unserious way...
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
David Brooks in the New York Times:
...the anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber. It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information. More anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a “Madness of King George” narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally, intellectually and psychologically inferior to people like us.
I’d like to think it’s possible to be fervently anti-Trump while also not reducing everything to a fairy tale.
The anti-Trump movement suffers from insularity. Most of the people who detest Trump don’t know anybody who works with him or supports him. And if they do have friends and family members who admire Trump, they’ve learned not to talk about this subject. So they get most of their information about Trumpism from others who also detest Trumpism, which is always a recipe for epistemic closure.
The movement also suffers from lowbrowism. Fox News pioneered modern lowbrowism. The modern lowbrow (think Sean Hannity or Dinesh D’Souza) ignores normal journalistic or intellectual standards. He creates a style of communication that doesn’t make you think more; it makes you think and notice less. He offers a steady diet of affirmation, focuses on simple topics that require little background information, and gets viewers addicted to daily doses of righteous contempt and delicious vindication.
We anti-Trumpers have our lowbrowism, too, mostly on late-night TV. But anti-Trump lowbrowism burst into full bloom with the Wolff book...
Sunday, January 7, 2018
...For the most part, Western attention focuses on what Iran has — centrifuges, ballistic missiles, enriched uranium — as well as what it does — fund Hezbollah, assist Bashar al-Assad, arm the Houthis, or imprison the occasional British or American citizen. Administrations of both parties have spent most of their Iran energies trying to cajole or coerce Tehran to relinquish and desist, without much success.
Not nearly enough attention, however, goes to the question of what Iran is. This isn’t just about whether it’s a dictatorship. What kind of dictatorship? To get the answer right is to know what kind of pressure can change its behavior or break its back.
The conventional wisdom is that it’s a dictatorship with democratic characteristics, and that it’s riven between hard-liners who want to make it more repressive and militant and reformists who want to make it less. Western policy, according to this analysis, should do what it can to encourage and reward the latter at the expense of the former.
But the analysis fails to explain why, for instance, the number of executions in Iran rose under the ostensibly reformist leadership of President Hassan Rouhani. It doesn’t account for Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif laying a wreath in honor of Imad Mugniyeh, the Hezbollah terrorist responsible for killing hundreds of Americans. And it doesn’t explain Tehran’s hyperaggressive foreign policy in the wake of the 2015 nuclear deal, which was supposed to inaugurate its opening to the rest of the world.
A better way of describing Iran’s dictatorship is as a kleptotheocracy, driven by impulses that are by turns doctrinal and venal. Note how quickly the provincial protesters turned their sights on the supreme leader: Maybe it’s because they know better than most how thoroughly he’s fleecing them...
Saturday, January 6, 2018
xfam is one of the world’s most respected charity NGOs whose field workers in the developing world have contributed to famine relief and poverty alleviation since the early nineteen sixties. Yet lately it is has taken to officially “partnering” with British based organizations that preach radical Islam and probably funnel money to UK government designated terrorist organizations. No one has taken them to court and the UK parliament has taken no action against Oxfam. What is going on and why?
In its own words Oxfam is, “An international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in 92 countries as part of a global movement for change to build a future free from injustice and poverty.” Its average annual income is 1.1 billion Euros. Sixty per cent of its funding comes from private donations. The rest comes from the UN, the EU and other bilateral donors in the OECD.
The institutional history of Oxfam can be summed up in three stages. The first was an exclusively British effort in support of famine relief during and after WWII. The second focused on disaster relief and rural development in the former colonies and territories of the British Empire, as their political independence gained through the 1960s did not usher in the hoped for rise in living standards. The third stage, now the dominant stage, is to harness Oxfam’s international coalition of partners around the world to persuade both citizens and institutional donors (in the West and at the UN) to provide the financial and institutional assistance for Oxfam’s selective aid to disempowered groups based on the latest “rights based development” theory of international development.
This explains why an enormous amount of Oxfam’s third stage efforts have become overtly political, since they argue it is the misguided economic and social policies of the OECD that are the “root cause” of poverty in developing nations...
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
From the land that irony forgot—which earlier gave us microaggressions and trigger warnings—comes a new and surprising movement, this time to combat civility. Civility, you see, is a manifestation of the white patriarchy. Spearheading this campaign are a duo of University of Northern Iowa professors, who assert that “civility within higher education is a racialized, rather than universal, norm.”
Their article in the Howard Journal of Communications, “Civility and White Institutional Presence: An Exploration of White Students’ Understanding of Race-Talk at a Traditionally White Institution,” describes a need to stamp out what they call “whiteness-informed civility,” or WIC. The pervasiveness of WIC, it seems, erases “racial identity” and reinforces “white racial power.”
Their thesis can be a tad hard to follow, unfolding as it does in that dense argot for which academia is universally beloved. But their core contention is twofold: One, that civility, as currently practiced in America, is a white construct. Two, that in a campus setting, the “woke” white student’s endeavor to avoid microaggressions against black peers is itself a microaggression—a form of noblesse oblige whereby white students are in fact patronizing students of color. Not only that, but by treating black students with common courtesy and expecting the same in return, white students elide black grievances, bypassing the “race talk” that is supposed to occur in preamble to all other conversations. Got it?
Something similar is happening in collegiate debate, where historically high standards of decorum are under siege as manifestations of white patriarchal thinking. So are the factual and logical proofs that debaters are normally expected to offer in arguing their case. Some participants are challenging the format, goals and ground rules of debate itself, in some cases refusing even to stick to the topic at hand...
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Iran is convulsing. with the largest mass uprising since the 2009 Green Movement. Demonstrations that began last week in the city of Mashhad, home to the shrine of the eighth Shiite imam, have now spread to dozens of cities. And while the slogans initially addressed inflation, joblessness, and graft, they soon morphed into outright opposition to the mullahs. As we write, the authorities have blocked access to popular social-media sites and closed off subway stations in the capital, Tehran, to prevent crowd sizes from growing. At least 12 people have been killed in clashes with security forces.
What is happening in the Islamic Republic?
After nearly four decades of plunderous and fanatical Islamist rule, Iranians are desperate to become a normal nation-state once more, and they refuse to be exploited for an ideological cause that long ago lost its luster. It is a watershed moment in Iran’s history: The illusion of reform within the current theocratic system has finally been shattered. Iranians, you might say, are determined to make Iran great again...