Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Media

Facebook isn’t that Different from News Corp or Standard Oil

My Facebook is flooded with folks talking about Cambridge Analytica, the firm that bought access to Facebook user data and used it to help design political propaganda for organisations seeking to help the Trump campaign. But you know what I find most surprising about this story? The fact that people find it surprising in the first place. This possibility was always implied by Facebook’s business model. It creates a platform that makes communicating with people easier. We don’t have to pay money to use it, but in exchange Facebook takes our data and sells it to whoever wants to buy. Did we really think that political organisations wouldn’t be interesting in buying Facebook data? Did we really think that Facebook wouldn’t sell it to them? This implication has stood in front of our faces for years. It’s clearly implied by Facebook’s very nature–it is literally a firm which induces people to give it private information and then sells that information to the highest bidder. Why can’t the bidders have political motivations? Facebook is a transnational corporation. Why would even expect the bidders to be American?

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The War for Social Media: The Center is Trying to Diminish Diversity and Control Speech

There’s a story we tell about social media. Once upon a time politics wasn’t so divided and polarized. But then, social media came along–it let people retreat into bubbles, where they only talked to people who thought as they did. This caused them to get all extreme and nasty. And then the alt-right and the Russians figured out that they could inject fake stories into these bubbles and turn social media users into Trump supporters! Our beautiful liberal society was torn apart, and it’s all because people stopped trusting traditional news sources, like the big newspapers and TV networks. Companies like Facebook have a responsibility to do something about this–to call out the fake stories, or stop them from showing up in people’s feeds. Sounds familiar, right? I want to tell a different story about social media.

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Obviously Oprah Winfrey Should Not Be President

A number of pieces have come out suggesting that Oprah Winfrey should run for president on the strength of the speech she delivered last night at the Golden Globes. It’s very obvious that this is wrong, and it’s disturbing to me that it needs to be said. This is not to say that she didn’t give a nice speech–it was a fine expression of empathy for some groups that are hurting badly. But the ability to give speeches like this has nothing at all to do with governing a country, and the Trump presidency ought to have long since made this very clear.

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Trump Welcomes the Hatred of the Press

Remember back during the 2016 campaign when the media couldn’t stop covering Donald Trump? It hasn’t really changed, has it? The press hasn’t adapted much. Yes, there’s a lot of content about how bad Trump is, and some of it is even policy-oriented, focusing on some of the more odious bits and pieces of the Trump tax plan. But this is having no impact on Trump’s approval rating, which has hovered in the mid to upper 30s for most of the first year of his presidency–higher than the low 30s figures he suffered from throughout most of the 2016 campaign. Why is it that nothing the media says or does seems to seriously harm Trump?

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Morning Joe and CNN: How Trump Goads the Press Into Playing His Game

When President Trump was running, we talked about how he managed to force the media to give him free airtime by making himself ratings candy. Trump’s outlandish statements may have looked like gaffes, but they played an important role in helping him win, especially during the primaries. Was this deliberate or inadvertent? Either way, it worked. Since becoming president, Trump has continued to do the same kind of stuff–he’s gone after Morning Joe and CNN. This has resulted in a lot of pieces criticizing Trump for acting unpresidential, but relatively little consideration of how this kind of thing plays with Trump’s people. So let’s think about that.

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