Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: News

The Problem With Fact Checkers is that They’re Journalists, Not Academics

The row between the fact checking websites and Medicare-for-all supporters has continued over the past couple weeks. I briefly weighed in to point out that, studies aside, it’s difficult to estimate the cost because it’s impossible for us to know what level of healthcare spending will, in the long-run, be politically acceptable. The attempts to get an estimate all involve assuming particular levels of spending ex ante. The Republicans can claim that we would need to continue spending 18% of GDP, but they don’t know. Bernie Sanders can claim that we would be able to impose Medicare’s level of compensation, but he doesn’t know. Just like in other countries with systems like this, the level of expenditure would constantly be up for political renegotiation. Britain spends 7% of its GDP on its National Health Service. Will we spend 7% or 18% or somewhere in between? Anyone who tells you that they know for sure is lying.

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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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3 Reasons We Should Stop Watching TV News

Over the past several months, I’ve been paying increasing attention to an interesting phenomenon–voter tunnel vision. You may have noticed in recent months that mainstream media–particularly cable news networks–have devoted a remarkable amount of air time to a very narrow list of political issues:

  1. Russia/Ukraine Conflict
  2. Israel/Palestine Conflict
  3. Michael Brown Shooting/Ferguson Protests
  4. ISIS
  5. Ebola

Now, these issues are, to varying degrees, important. But why do they get so much coverage compared with more severe long-term problems like heart disease, malaria, poverty, climate change, education, and so on? Essentially, it’s because TV is a terrible medium for news, and I can show you why.

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