Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Media

What Really Happened on Super Tuesday

Unlike the British press, which openly acknowledges and parades its biases, many American news outlets like to maintain a pretense of objectivity. But this doesn’t mean that they’re objective, it just means that their biases are more insidious. Many media outlets clearly like Hillary Clinton and dislike Donald Trump, and these views have quietly colored their reporting on the presidential race. Last night Bernie Sanders won as many states as Donald Trump lost, but Clintonites will try to paint the democrats’ race as effectively over while anti-Trumpsters will look for excuses to say that the republicans’ race isn’t finished yet. These media narratives are used to give the press’ favorites “momentum”. If the public believes a race is over, it often is, regardless of whether or not the numbers really make it so. So by crowning a nominee (or refusing to crown one), media outlets exercise power to shape the races grounded in their biases. To understand what really happened last night, we have to look at whether candidates are meeting or exceeding their projected paths to their respective nominations.

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Why the Media Pays More Attention to Some Tragedies Than Others

On social media, the reaction to the Paris terrorist attack is steadily devolving into a compassion competition in which people try to prove that they are nicer people than their friends by parading how empathetic they are on the internet. They write sentimental statuses, they change their profile pictures to the tricolor, they send their “thoughts and prayers”, and so on. None of this does anything to make the world a better place–it’s all about using tragedy to self-promote. It’s just another way for people on the internet to say “Look at me!” But perhaps the most obnoxious form of self-promotion is when people claim they are too good to care about Paris, because they care about less mainstream tragedies, most commonly the recent Beirut bombing. These people are tragedy hipsters who engage in tragedy one-upping. They may be well-intentioned–these folks argue that the media fails to cover attacks like the one that occurred in Beirut because of systemic racism. But while systemic racism certainly is a significant problem in our society, their argument mischaracterizes the social forces that cause the media to pay more attention to some tragedies rather than others.

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Why Lazy Pundits Keep Comparing Sanders and Trump

In recent weeks, I’ve observed a troubling trend among America’s pundit class–the tendency to make really lazy Bernie Sanders/Donald Trump comparisons. You see, Sanders and Trump are both political outsiders, they both tell it the way they think it is, they both have experienced significant growth in their poll numbers in recent months, and they’re both causing problems for their parties’ other candidates. Revelatory, right? Pundit centrists love to draw strained equivalencies between the left and right in American politics and they love to focus on elections as narrative struggles between good guy centrists and bad guy extremists, so it’s natural for them to see these two figures as analogues. In truth, Sanders and Trump could not be more different–not merely in terms of their ideologies and policies, but in their whole approach, in their very attitude toward the public.

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Candidate Evaluations: Donald Trump

Donald Trump is running for president. A few people have told me I shouldn’t do an evaluation for Trump, that to write one for him treats him with a level of seriousness he’s not entitled to. But here’s the deal folks–as of late May and early June, Donald Trump polls at 4% among republican primary voters. That may not sound like a lot, but he has roughly twice as many supporters as George Pataki, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, or Rick Santorum. In some polls, he also tops Rick Perry. And as we’ve seen over the course of this series, there are a great many serious candidates for president who have said outlandish things or taken reactionary positions. So I’m going to do an evaluation for Trump, because he really isn’t that much crazier or that much less popular than many of the republican candidates I’ve already done. Before we begin, here’s a quick reminder of what we’re doing. I’ll be evaluating Trump’s background, policy history, and explicit statements to determine whether or not he would make a good president. I won’t be paying attention to electability or likeability, as is often common elsewhere on the web. Read the rest of this entry »

Fun.gov: How to Make Art Free without Starving the Artists

A few weeks back, pop star Taylor Swift pulled her songs off of Spotify on the grounds that free streaming services don’t compensate artists sufficiently for the value of their social contribution. You know who Taylor Swift is, right? If not, here’s a picture of her to help you out (and get more people to click on links to this piece–for some reason, people really like photos of young female celebrities):

Swift’s argument makes some sense–art certainly adds value to our lives and contributes to our society, and we can’t have art if we’re not willing to pay our artists. The trouble is that these days it’s very easy for people to avoid paying for art over the internet, and there’s no practical means by which laws would be enforced to ensure payment. Going forward, this is going to get exponentially worse, until the entertainment industry is left with a fraction of what it brings in today. Additionally, the age of streaming and downloading introduced a new principle that appeals to many young people–that all citizens, regardless of income, should be able to enjoy art equally in a free society. These two principles conflict. How can artists get paid for their art if their art belongs to society and individual consumers have the means to access the content for free with impunity? I’ve found a way to do it. I call it “Fun.gov”. If you’re a small government type, it’s going to rub you the wrong way at first, but hear me out. This could work.

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