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The Daily Me
5 years ago

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

Some of the obituaries these days aren’t in the newspapers but are for the newspapers. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the latest to pass away, save for a remnant that will exist only in cyberspace, and the public is increasingly seeking its news not from mainstream television networks or ink-on-dead-trees but from grazing online.

 

When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.

 

Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. has called this emerging news product The Daily Me. And if that’s the trend, God save us from ourselves.

 

That’s because there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.

 

One classic study sent mailings to Republicans and Democrats, offering them various kinds of political research, ostensibly from a neutral source. Both groups were most eager to receive intelligent arguments that strongly corroborated their pre-existing views.

 

There was also modest interest in receiving manifestly silly arguments for the other party’s views (we feel good when we can caricature the other guys as dunces). But there was little interest in encountering solid arguments that might undermine one’s own position.

 

That general finding has been replicated repeatedly, as the essayist and author Farhad Manjoo noted in his terrific book last year: “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.”

 

Let me get one thing out of the way: I’m sometimes guilty myself of selective truth-seeking on the Web. The blog I turn to for insight into Middle East news is often Professor Juan Cole’s, because he’s smart, well-informed and sensible — in other words, I often agree with his take. I’m less likely to peruse the blog of Daniel Pipes, another Middle East expert who is smart and well-informed — but who strikes me as less sensible, partly because I often disagree with him.

 

The effect of The Daily Me would be to insulate us further in our own hermetically sealed political chambers. One of last year’s more fascinating books was Bill Bishop’s “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart.” He argues that Americans increasingly are segregating themselves into communities, clubs and churches where they are surrounded by people who think the way they do.

 

Almost half of Americans now live in counties that vote in landslides either for Democrats or for Republicans, he said. In the 1960s and 1970s, in similarly competitive national elections, only about one-third lived in landslide counties.

 

“The nation grows more politically segregated — and the benefit that ought to come with having a variety of opinions is lost to the righteousness that is the special entitlement of homogeneous groups,” Mr. Bishop writes.

 

One 12-nation study found Americans the least likely to discuss politics with people of different views, and this was particularly true of the well educated. High school dropouts had the most diverse group of discussion-mates, while college graduates managed to shelter themselves from uncomfortable perspectives.

 

The result is polarization and intolerance. Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor now working for President Obama, has conducted research showing that when liberals or conservatives discuss issues such as affirmative action or climate change with like-minded people, their views quickly become more homogeneous and more extreme than before the discussion. For example, some liberals in one study initially worried that action on climate change might hurt the poor, while some conservatives were sympathetic to affirmative action. But after discussing the issue with like-minded people for only 15 minutes, liberals became more liberal and conservatives more conservative.

 

The decline of traditional news media will accelerate the rise of The Daily Me, and we’ll be irritated less by what we read and find our wisdom confirmed more often. The danger is that this self-selected “news” acts as a narcotic, lulling us into a self-confident stupor through which we will perceive in blacks and whites a world that typically unfolds in grays.

 

So what’s the solution? Tax breaks for liberals who watch Bill O’Reilly or conservatives who watch Keith Olbermann? No, until President Obama brings us universal health care, we can’t risk the surge in heart attacks.

 

So perhaps the only way forward is for each of us to struggle on our own to work out intellectually with sparring partners whose views we deplore. Think of it as a daily mental workout analogous to a trip to the gym; if you don’t work up a sweat, it doesn’t count.

 

Now excuse me while I go and read The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.

 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/opinion/19kristof.html

5 years ago

Interesting, in an ironic way. I have no disagreement with Kristoff's premise that we are too politically segregated, and very much in need of dialogue with opposing views, but can't help but be a bit bemused by that insight coming from the NYT - the best known island of contemporary liberal thought. I find the NYT more one of the causes of this split into isolationist camps, whose approaching demise provides nothing to be mourned.

I love the internet and blogs because they allow exposure to opposing views, and sometimes even interaction with the proponents of those views. My hope is that this group might itself foster some of that dialogue between views at odds with each other.

5 years ago

Why fixate on the source of the message rather than the message itself?  A lot of people disregard your comments for the same reason, you know. 

5 years ago

I'm not sure pointing out the irony is quite the same as fixating. I did allow that the general point about segregation of viewpoints is a true and real problem. Kristof, however, self-servingly (and wrongly) attached the blame to blogs rather than the newspapers and network news organizations, which had imposed their left-leaning bias onto news judgments for years. The blogs are simply the rebellion against that.

5 years ago

And while some people may pretend to disregard my comments, they do seem to echo their way around Care2land.

5 years ago

I didn't get the sense that he was blaming blogs so much as readers themselves.  (But it's been awhile since I read that editorial, so what do I know?)

 

Of course blogs are going to be biased -- even more so than traditional media (not all of which is liberal).  But a consumer who truly wants to be well-informed should seek out all perspectives on a topic, no?  This was my first impression when I read this some weeks ago -- we as readers gravitate toward what we want to believe.

 

I daresay it's not so much your opinion as your private life that makes its way through the Care2 gossip mills.

 

5 years ago

I am quite a compelling character.


Regardless of the blame, I fully agree that the walling off into insular enclaves of like-minded is a dangerous thing. The internet has tremendous potential, however, to bring us face to face with opposing views (well, if communities would just stop banning me, that is).

Personally, I spend very little time on conservative sites. First, conservatives tend be boring, and second, I already agree with them on most things. I spend my time being amused by the lunacy on the far left.

By the way, what part of traditional media did you think wasn't left-leaning?

5 years ago

"conservatives tend be boring"

 

thou sayest


The Dallas Morning News isn't left leaning by a long shot.  Neither is Fox News.

5 years ago

I'm more of a libertarian. Being the single most talked about person in Care2land, I suppose I'm probably not that boring.

Dallas Morning News has Rod (Crunchy Con) Dreher for their conservative columnist. He's to the left of McCain. I didn't know you considered Fox News part of traditional media. I see it as part of the new media revolt.

5 years ago

Well, I admit I had some qualms about listing Fox News as if it were "traditional media."  I thought about adding a disclaimer; maybe I should have.

 

Your analysis of one person doesn't really do much to convince me.  I grew up reading DMN and am quite familiar with it.  They endorsed Bush, you know.  How many liberal newspapers would do that?

 

Of course you're not boring.  Just like the loony leftists who amuse you so much are not boring.

5 years ago

So there about 5000 newspapers on the left, and DMN (which is one of the few papers not on the verge of collapse).

My beloved looney leftists are never boring. That's why they have my full attention.

5 years ago

That wasn't a comprehensive list.  I figured one example was enough to poke a hole in your theory.  Of course there are many more.

 

Yes, my point was that lunacy isn't boring, and you're not boring. 

5 years ago

This has been fun, but I need to get going now.  Later....

From America's Finest News Source
5 years ago

If you still don't think the mainstream media is biased toward the Democrats, and the left in general, how do you explain this?


Media Having Trouble Finding Right Angle On Obamsa's Double-Homicide

April 14, 2009 | Issue 45•16

Media

The press hasn't figured out how best to display the gruesome crime-scene photos from the president's bloody rampage.

 

WASHINGTON—More than a week after President Barack Obama's cold-blooded killing of a local couple, members of the American news media admitted Tuesday that they were still trying to find the best angle for covering the gruesome crime.

 

"I know there's a story in there somewhere," said Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, referring to Obama's home invasion and execution-style slaying of Jeff and Sue Finowicz on Apr. 8. "Right now though, it's probably best to just sit back and wait for more information to come in. After all, the only thing we know for sure is that our president senselessly murdered two unsuspecting Americans without emotion or hesitation."

Added Meacham, "It's not so cut and dried."

 

Since the killings took place, reporters across the country have struggled to come up with an appropriate take on the ruthless crime, with some wondering whether it warrants front-page coverage, and others questioning its relevance in a fast-changing media landscape.

"What exactly is the news hook here?" asked Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the CBS Evening News. "Is this an upbeat human-interest story about a 'day in the life' of a bloodthirsty president who likes to kill people? Or is it more of an examination of how Obama's unusual upbringing in Hawaii helped to shape the way he would one day viciously butcher two helpless citizens in their own home?"

 

"Or maybe the story is just that murder is cool now," Kaplan continued. "I don't know. There are a million different angles on this one."

 

So far, the president's double-homicide has not been covered by any major news outlets. The only two mentions of the heinous tragedy have been a 100-word blurb on the Associated Press wire and an obituary on page E7 of this week's edition of the Lake County Examiner.

 

While Obama has expressed no remorse for the grisly murders&mdashoint-blank shootings with an unregistered .38-caliber revolver—many journalists said it would be irresponsible for the press to sensationalize the story.

 

"There's been some debate around the office about whether we should report on this at all," Washington Post senior reporter Bill Tracy said while on assignment at a local dog show. "It's enough of a tragedy without the press jumping in and pointing fingers or, worse, exploiting the violence. Plus, we need to be sensitive to the victims' families at this time. Their loved ones were brutally, brutally murdered, after all."

 

Nevertheless, a small contingent of independent journalists has begun to express its disapproval and growing shock over the president's actions.

"I hate to rain on everyone's parade, but we are in the midst of an economic crisis here," political pundit Marcus Reid said. "Why was our president ritualistically dismembering the corpses of his prey when he should have been working on a new tax proposal for small businesses? I, for one, am outraged."

The New York Times newsroom is reportedly still undecided on whether or not to print a recent letter received from Obama, in which the president threatens to kill another helpless citizen every Tuesday and "fill [his] heavenly palace with slaves for the afterlife" unless the police "stop the darkness from screaming."

 

"President Obama's letter presents us with a classic journalistic quandary," executive editor Bill Keller said. "If we print it, then we're giving him control over the kinds of stories we choose to run. It would be an acknowledgment that we somehow give the nation's commander in chief special treatment."

Added Keller, "And that's just not how the press in this country works."

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/media_having_trouble_finding_right?utm_source=onion_rss_daily
5 years ago

A shining example of why the mainstream media is in irreversible decline. Labeling Bush a fascist was idiotic, but this idiocy was rarely pointed out on CNN, or other MSM organizations. Calling Obama a fascist is equally idiotic, and I have recently drawn the ire of the Wackey Right for having pointed that out. This intrepid CNN reporter, however, is the clearest example yet of the unthinking bias of MSM - the proximate cause of their demise:

 

Susan Roesgen boorish behavior yesterday at a tea party:

 

 

But in January 2006 Roesgen showed an entirely different attitude toward calling a sitting president a fascist:

 

President Bush "Look-Alike" a Cross Between Satan and Hitler?
5 years ago

I guess The Onion is pretty mainstream compared to Fox News, anyway. 

5 years ago

It's America's Finest News Source. They couldn't say that if it weren't true.

Would You Slap Your Father? If So, Youíre a Liberal
5 years ago

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/opinion/28kristof.html?em

 

 

 

Published: May 27, 2009

 

If you want to tell whether someone is conservative or liberal, what are a couple of completely nonpolitical questions that will give a good clue?

 

How’s this: Would you be willing to slap your father in the face, with his permission, as part of a comedy skit?

 

And, second: Does it disgust you to touch the faucet in a public restroom?

Studies suggest that conservatives are more often distressed by actions that seem disrespectful of authority, such as slapping Dad. Liberals don’t worry as long as Dad has given permission.

 

Likewise, conservatives are more likely than liberals to sense contamination or perceive disgust. People who would be disgusted to find that they had accidentally sipped from an acquaintance’s drink are more likely to identify as conservatives.

 

The upshot is that liberals and conservatives don’t just think differently, they also feel differently. This may even be a result, in part, of divergent neural responses.

 

This came up after I wrote a column earlier this year called “The Daily Me.” I argued that most of us employ the Internet not to seek the best information, but rather to select information that confirms our prejudices. To overcome that tendency, I argued, we should set aside time for a daily mental workout with an ideological sparring partner. Afterward, I heard from Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia. “You got the problem right, but the prescription wrong,” he said.

 

Simply exposing people to counterarguments may not accomplish much, he said, and may inflame antagonisms.

 

A study by Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania found that when people saw tight television shots of blowhards with whom they disagreed, they felt that the other side was even less legitimate than before.

 

The larger point is that liberals and conservatives often form judgments through flash intuitions that aren’t a result of a deliberative process. The crucial part of the brain for these judgments is the medial prefrontal cortex, which has more to do with moralizing than with rationality. If you damage your prefrontal cortex, your I.Q. may be unaffected, but you’ll have trouble harrumphing.

 

One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty — and revulsion at disgust.

 

Some evolutionary psychologists believe that disgust emerged as a protective mechanism against health risks, like feces, spoiled food or corpses. Later, many societies came to apply the same emotion to social “threats.” Humans appear to be the only species that registers disgust, which is why a dog will wag its tail in puzzlement when its horrified owner yanks it back from eating excrement.

Psychologists have developed a “disgust scale” based on how queasy people would be in 27 situations, such as stepping barefoot on an earthworm or smelling urine in a tunnel. Conservatives systematically register more disgust than liberals. (To see how you weigh factors in moral decisions, take the tests at www.yourmorals.org.)

 

It appears that we start with moral intuitions that our brains then find evidence to support. For example, one experiment involved hypnotizing subjects to expect a flash of disgust at the word “take.” They were then told about Dan, a student council president who “tries to take topics that appeal to both professors and students.”

 

The research subjects felt disgust but couldn’t find any good reason for it. So, in some cases, they concocted their own reasons, such as: “Dan is a popularity-seeking snob.”

 

So how do we discipline our brains to be more open-minded, more honest, more empirical? A start is to reach out to moderates on the other side — ideally eating meals with them, for that breaks down “us vs. them” battle lines that seem embedded in us. (In ancient times we divided into tribes; today, into political parties.) The Web site www.civilpolitics.org is an attempt to build this intuitive appreciation for the other side’s morality, even if it’s not our morality.

 

 

continuation
5 years ago

“Minds are very hard things to open, and the best way to open the mind is through the heart,” Professor Haidt says. “Our minds were not designed by evolution to discover the truth; they were designed to play social games.”

 

Thus persuasion may be most effective when built on human interactions. Gay rights were probably advanced largely by the public’s growing awareness of friends and family members who were gay.

 

A corollary is that the most potent way to win over opponents is to accept that they have legitimate concerns, for that triggers an instinct to reciprocate. As it happens, we have a brilliant exemplar of this style of rhetoric in politics right now — Barack Obama.

5 years ago

I would never slap my dad, but I have no fear of germs or public faucets. I'm indestructible.

5 years ago

A corollary is that the most potent way to win over opponents is to accept that they have legitimate concerns, for that triggers an instinct to reciprocate.

 

I do that, in a way. I acknowledge that to the tiny far left minds, their concerns seem legitimate, then I politely and gently try to correct them.

5 years ago

I'd slap my dad and I wouldn't even wait for permission.

 

But I'm pretty easily disgusted.

 

I do that, in a way. I acknowledge that to the tiny far left minds, their concerns seem legitimate, then I politely and gently try to correct them.

 

How does that go over?

 

 

5 years ago

Would your sons slap you?

5 years ago

"How does that go over?"

 

Almost always, I see the light go on in their eyes and they thank me profusely. Many of them have named their children after me - even some of the girls.

5 years ago

"Would your sons slap you?"

 

I have a black belt in Hapkido and still do competitive kickboxing. My guess is, no they wouldn't.

5 years ago

"I have a black belt in Hapkido and still do competitive kickboxing. My guess is, no they wouldn't."

 

So your toughness didn't rub off on them?

 

How about with your permission as part of a comedy gig?

5 years ago

"Almost always, I see the light go on in their eyes and they thank me profusely. Many of them have named their children after me - even some of the girls."

 

"Jeffrey" is a pretty girly name.  That's the original name of my little (girl) stuffed duck, my pet toy that sleeps in my bed.  She was named after the gosling in Charlotte's web due to the resemblance, but the name somewhat morphed into "Jeffwie."  I'm sure you wanted to know that.  (You wouldn't hit a woman, would you?  Especially one who wears glasses?)

 

For some reason that I don't quite get, it seems fashionable these days to give boys' names to girls.  But not vice versa. 

5 years ago

The younger one is plenty tough, just not as tough as I am. The older missed out on the tough guy gene.

 

How about with your permission as part of a comedy gig?

 

Well, no because it wouldn't be funny.

5 years ago

"Jeffrey" is a pretty girly name.  That's the original name of my little (girl) stuffed duck, my pet toy that sleeps in my bed.  She was named after the gosling in Charlotte's web due to the resemblance, but the name somewhat morphed into "Jeffwie."  I'm sure you wanted to know that.  (You wouldn't hit a woman, would you?  Especially one who wears glasses?)

 

So you must have been one of those who I gently and politely corrected.

 

I'm a but mystified at the gender crossover of names too. I might hit a woman, but not one with a smile like yours. Glasses don't matter, though.

5 years ago

I thought I made it perfectly clear that I named my duck after a character in a movie.  But your conceit gave me a smile... though not as a big a one as would've come from seeing your son slap you.  'Specially the older one.  Anyway, you can't correct someone who's never wrong, you know.  And I'm never wrong.

 

5 years ago

Except on economic matters. But teaching you about that is going to take some time.

5 years ago

You might be surprised by what I actually believe about a lot of things, Jeffwie.

5 years ago

You have learned a lot since hanging with me.

5 years ago

Again, your conceit amuses me.  You might be surprised by what I actually believed before.

5 years ago

I know. You're too smart to be all that predictible. I'd surprise a lot of people too - as you know.

 

My conceit is one of my endearing qualities. I need it - I don't have your smile.

5 years ago

"My conceit is one of my endearing qualities."

 

I can't argue with that. 

5 years ago

And there's my sense of humor too.

5 years ago

Homer Simpson's response when confronted with his own hypocrisy is "it's cute when I do it."

 

Normally I can't abide arrogant people.  But somehow, arrogance is just so cute coming from Jeffrey.

5 years ago

So I remind you of Homer Simpson. You know, I do really like donuts. 

 

I'm not so sure it's arrogance as much as just healthy self-confidence, which some find serpintinely seductive

 

You do know you have a pretty smile right? Great hair too. And sometimes you're almost as smart as I am.

5 years ago

I just saw on your profile the things that bug you: Arrogance, Republicans, Litter, Cigarette smoke 

 

No wonder you like me - I don't smoke!

5 years ago

Do you litter?

 

Just between you and me, I'm becoming more tolerant of Republicans. 

 

With some exceptions, of course.  As they say of lawyers, 99% give the rest a bad name.

5 years ago

I like doughnuts too.  Especially when spelled pretentiously. 

 

My hair sucks.  It's way too insubordinate; I oughta just shave it all off and get a wig.  But thanks for the compliment. 

5 years ago

NO!!!!!!!! Don't cut your hair - it's great.

 

I don't really litter, but I like people to think I do. I drive a hybrid too: my car burns gas and rubber.

So what do you think of this?
5 years ago

,

5 years ago

Oh Sally! You ignored this. I thought it would be a good time to start your economics education.

5 years ago

I did, didn't I?  But I'm afraid it's not a good time, as I'm terribly busy these days.

 

The graph appears to predict that with the recovery plan, unemployment will be somewhat lower in the short term and the same in the long term, while showing actual data to be higher than both predictions (with/without recovery plan).  Is that correct? 

 

What do YOU think of it?

5 years ago

I think we wasted $800 billion dollars, which will have an inflationary effect, while the economy gets worse. Let this be a lesson to all of you who still believe in the myth of Keynesian spending as stimulus. And as the worry grows that cap and trade might pass, as well as other tax increases, US investment continues to dry up and move to India and China (that's where my money is now), which only further accelerates unemployment. The job loss rate increased significantly again in June.

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