Answering Criticisms of My Post About Crappy Liberal ‘News’ Sites

On Sunday I published a post entitled “Please stop sharing links to these sites” and all hell broke loose. As of this writing, it has almost 500 comments on it, most of them either completely missing the point or just outright dumb. This post will answer some of the most common responses.

Let me start, however, with a mea culpa. One site that was on my list did not belong and I must have been confusing it in my head with another site. I went through The Intellectualist for a while this afternoon and didn’t find anything objectionable or that fits the criticisms I made of the other sites. So my apologies to the people behind that site for including them unfairly. Now, on to the typical responses:

1. But you didn’t list right wing sites!

Why arent all the fake conservative sites listed? Biased much?…

There are far fewer sites like these on the Left versus the hundreds of sites on the Right, think tanks, right wing radio hosts blogs,Fox news and so on. Categorizing these sites as being like Newsmax or Breitbart is FALSE EQUIVALENCY. It’s just NOT true. Never was. Never will be….

Because the right wing doesn’t do this as well?

It goes on an on like that. The irony of this is those commenters were actually proving one of the key points of my post, which was that people — 60% of them, according to a recent study — don’t even read an article at all, they just go by the headline (which is exactly why inaccurate and wildly exaggerated clickbait headlines are so dangerous). Had they actually read the post, they would have seen this:

This is something the right has been doing for a very long time. Sites like Newsmax, Breitbart and many others have had this as their core strategy for making money from the moment they were created — use outrageous headlines and highly distorted articles that match the mindset of their audience, wind them up into a frenzy, and watch the pageviews roll in. It’s highly disappointing to me that the left has begun to emulate them, as if accuracy simply doesn’t matter as long as it advances their ideological agenda. I expect better from the people on my side of the fence.

Not only did I not say that the right doesn’t do this, I said that they pretty much invented it and the left is now borrowing it. And the reason I published a list of liberal sites that do it but not conservative ones is because I’m a liberal and nearly everyone on my Facebook feed is too, so those are the sites I see shared. Virtually everyone who shares them can immediately spot the bullshit on a site with a conservative viewpoint, but many of them fall for the same techniques of disinformation and exaggeration if used by liberal sites. As I pointed out, this is a simple case of tribalism and confirmation bias — if the headline says something bad about the person they oppose political and thus fits the narrative in their heads, they share it — without bothering to read the article, as the people quoted above didn’t bother to do.

2. You’re a right wing troll!

Closely related to the first type of response is this second one: You must be a right wing troll, a conservative plant, trying to tear down liberals! A few examples:

The problem you repugcons have, Ed Brayton, is that most of your kind are far less well educated than we LIBERALS, so whenever you decide to lie, it only comes across as the most obvious, ignorant type of hate mongering, so you can’t fool no one…

You must be a right wing troll…

I bet this is a conservative troll because there is some good stuff on those sites that need to be shared like John Cena, pro wrestler redefines patriotism on Occupy Democrats.

I have no idea what the hell all that John Cena stuff has to do with anything. As for me being a conservative, right-winger or troll of any kind, that’s simply laughable. I’ve spent the last 13 years as a political blogger wading in the right–wing fever swamps and exposing the dangerous ideologies found there. I’ve spoken twice at the Netroots Nation conference. I worked for an unabashedly liberal non-public news organization. Anyone who thinks I’m a conservative is, quite frankly, too fucking stupid to tie their shoes.

3. You included satire sites, which don’t belong on this list.

Politicalo, politicops and others go to newslo, which take part of a real story and embellish it. That would be more under satire than true liberal “news” sites.

Yes, I did include both dishonest, clickbaity “news” sites and “satire” sites, and for good reason. We have seen a huge proliferation of these “satire” sites over the last couple years, sites that aren’t satire at all but only use that as a defense for lying. Most of them don’t even attempt to make what they do funny, which is of course what satire is, they just present fake quotes from people. And since 60% of readers don’t read anything but the headline and don’t see any sort of disclaimer calling it “satire,” these articles get shared thousands and thousands of times by those who take them seriously.

Now you may say that this isn’t the fault of the site but of the reader who links to it without doing any checking, and you’d be right. But for my purposes, I just don’t care. My goal is to get people to stop spreading false information, regardless of the reason why they share it. Those sites are only adding to our overall political ignorance and misinformation.

4. Your title is clickbait!

A bit ironic. I think that Patheos should be added to the list. This article is pure click bait.

This one really baffles. By what possible definition is “please stop sharing links to these sites” a clickbait headline? It’s a simple statement of the viewpoint expressed in the article. This one just reeks of desperation.

5. Patheos does that stuff too!

Amusing that Patheos would write “don’t look at our competition…and here’s a list.”…

Add Patheos to your list. There is more than enough crackhead claptrap here to last one a lifetime.

This is another baffling one. Do they realize what Patheos is? It’s not a news site, nor does it pretend to be. It’s a massive blog network, the largest one I know of. There are hundreds of blogs from every religious tradition and one non-religious one. “Patheos” didn’t write anything. And is there a whole lot of shit content on the site? Of course there is. It would be shocking if there weren’t given the sheer number of bloggers. But every blogger is responsible for their own content and headlines. The fact that Bristol Palin and Stacey Dash spout their ignorant crap on the same platform has precisely nothing to do with me.

6. He holds a grudge because he tried to write for those sites and was rejected.

Based on the sites he targeted, and the ones he left out, I am guessing he used to work for some of them, was unsuccessful, and this is more of a grudge-posting than anything else. — John Prager, writer for Addicting Info

Agreed. I mentioned this in my previous post. Sounds like someone is angry that his material did not make the cut because 100% preachy opinion does not sell ever. — Christian Drake, writer for IfYouOnlyNews

This may be the most amusing one to me. Just evidence-free speculation as a means of dismissing me and it is 100% pure, unadulterated bullshit. I have never written for any of those sites, or tried to write for any of them, nor would I. But nice try.

And I’m including this one because it made me lean my head to the left and say “WHA?” to myself.

Since you appeared on the Rachel Maddow show, how do you feel about the way she teases good stories early in the show and before commercial breaks, in order to keep viewers watching till later? Would you call that view bait? How do you feel about view bait? Would you decline appearing on her show until she cleans up her act? “We have a huge story!” — 35 minutes later we didn’t hear what it is yet.

You have been reported to the Department of Missing the Fucking Point.

And what is the point? The point is that we should stop helping spread misinformation, lies and wild exaggerations. We should stop rewarding those whose entire business strategy is based upon doing so. We should be skeptical of all claims, but especially of those that so easily fit into our preferred beliefs or narrative, because that’s when we fool ourselves the most easily. We should believe that accuracy matters more than political convenience, that means matter more than ends, that tribalism should never trump principle.

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