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Social Media Vs Mainstream Media: There is No “Vs”, the Lines Are Blurred

Social Media Vs Mainstream Media: There is No “Vs”, the Lines Are Blurred September 5, 2021

The long and the short of it: they are both the same, only separated (in the UK at least) by regulation. “News organisations” is another term for “information source”, which is a far more nebulous and in some sense accurate term.

The modern person gets their information (some of which could be arbitrarily labelled “news”) from whole host of sources, most being sourced online. As we see a blurring of these lines of demarcation, we see conspiracy theories of anti-vax, climate science denial, Clinton paedophile rings, worming medicine is good for fighting Covid, and so on, becoming more widely perceived as credible.

Oddly, this is something I talk about in my Exodus book – normalisation through the mere exposure effect with a resulting increase in perceived credibility, fake news travelling six times faster than facts, and suchlike. It’s the Overton Window. Now, what is seen as fair game to discuss is far more ridiculous and extreme than it was twenty years ago as the envelope gets pushed. The more you hear a claim, the more normalised, the more normalised, the more credible.

We live in a time of threat to “epistemic security”, something that I will be discussing a great deal in the coming months. In the meantime, read this excellent primer from the BBC’s new Wiser Words series: “The greatest security threat of the post-truth age – BBC Future“.

James O’Brien, a bastion of rational thought in a desert of stupidity, discusses this blurring of the lines:

Ofcom, in the UK, now threatened with being run by the horrible Paul Dacre (as ex-editor of the Daily Mail, this would be the ultimate fox in charge of the henhouse), is an important tool for keeping mainstream media in an epistemically responsible position. Social media is not bound by such regulation. As such, any old claims can be made supporting any old lies and conspiracy theories.

As mainstream media looks to compete, to win back viewers, it looks to social media stars with their own individual reach and following, employing them to front or take part in panels on mainstream shows. And what with false ideas of fairness in representing views, we have a scenario where mainstream channels don’t challenge, openly and robustly, false claims made. Indeed, they often harbour such views with their choices of panellists on their shows. After all, MSM news organisations are businesses beholden to advertisers – they are no different to YouTube channels or any other social media information source. The only meaningful difference is regulation.

Going forward, we need to think long and hard as to how to combat misinformation and disinformation, falsehood and lies. These present existential threats to modern society.


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