Trends

The U.S. Media’s Problems Are Much Bigger than Fake News and Filter Bubbles

“The media did exactly what it was designed to do, given the incentives that govern it. It’s not that the media sets out to be sensationalist; its business model leads it in that direction. Charges of bias don’t make the bias real; it often lies in the eye of the beholder. Fake news and cyberattacks are triggers, not causes. The issues that confront us are structural,” Bharat N. Anand writes for Harvard Business Review.

Did Media Literacy Backfire?

Danah Boyd: “Anxious about the widespread consumption and spread of propaganda and fake news during this year’s election cycle, many progressives are calling for an increased commitment to media literacy programs. Others are clamoring for solutions that focus on expert fact-checking and labeling. Both of these approaches are likely to fail — not because they are bad ideas, but because they fail to take into consideration the cultural context of information consumption that we’ve created over the last thirty years. The problem on our hands is a lot bigger than most folks appreciate.”

“Media literacy asks people to raise questions and be wary of information that they’re receiving. People are. Unfortunately, that’s exactly why we’re talking past one another.”

The Origin of Your TV Set Is a Simple Lesson in the Dangers of Ignoring Globalization

Quartz: “Donald Trump is right. The US doesn’t make TV sets anymore, and it’s mind-boggling that an industry that once supported as many as 100 American manufacturers churning out millions of devices each year went from startup to standard-bearer to extinction in 50 years’ time.”

“But the US president-elect is wrong when he casts the sector’s demise as a failure of globalization. US television manufacturing wasn’t killed by bad trade deals or competition from cheap labor abroad. It was done in by its own inward focus on the domestic market and its own failure to see the global opportunities at hand—and it won’t be resurrected by protectionist trade policies that encourage businesses to repeat these mistakes.”

A Framework for Stopping Short Termism in Business 

The Atlantic: “A growing group of business leaders is worried that companies are too concerned with short-term profits, focused only on making money for shareholders. As a result, they’re not investing in their workers, in research, or in technology—short-term costs that would reduce profits temporarily. And this, the business leaders say, may be creating long-term problems for the nation.”

“The Aspen Institute and its signatories have come out with a framework that they hope will discourage this kind of short-term thinking. Short-term thinking is bad for America, they say, because the country’s economic health depends on long-term investments that will pay out over time. What’s more, they argue, short-term thinking shouldn’t be paramount for the majority of investors; most equity is held by pension funds and other institutional investors who need their assets to perform well over the long haul.”

The World Today Looks Ominously Like It Did Before World War I

Washington Post: “To some, it looks ominously like another moment in history — the period leading up to World War I, which marked the end of a multi-decade expansion in global ties that many call the first era of globalization.”

“In a recent report, Josh Feinman, the chief global economist for Deutsche Asset Management, says that the world could see a substantial backsliding to globalization in decades to come. After all, he writes, we have seen it happen before, in the years of chaos and isolationism that encompassed the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression.”

“As before World War I, the second great wave of globalization led to a surge in immigration and increasing inequality in some countries, which likely helped to trigger the current backlash.”

When Leaders Are True to Their Lies

Ricardo Hausmann: “What does the Venezuelan domestic payments crisis have in common with the death of the North American Free Trade Agreement, announced by Wilbur Ross, US President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be the next US Secretary of Commerce? These two seemingly disparate events are linked by the odd relationship with the truth that both Trump and the Chavista regime seem to share.”

“All governments lie. A few believe their own lies. But things get dangerous when they act in order to be true to their lies. That is the trap into which Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government has fallen, and it seems to be the logic behind the decision articulated by Ross to withdraw from NAFTA.”

If the U.S. Won’t Pay Its Teachers, China Will

Bloomberg Tech: “Mi is 33 and founder of a startup that aims to give Chinese kids the kind of education American children receive in top U.S. schools. Called VIPKid, the company matches Chinese students aged five to 12 with predominantly North American instructors to study English, math, science and other subjects. Classes take place online, typically for two or three 25-minute sessions each week.”

“In China, there are hundreds of millions of kids whose parents are willing to pay up if they can get high-quality education. In the U.S. and Canada, teachers are often underpaid—and many have quit the profession because they couldn’t make a decent living. Growth has been explosive. The three-year-old company started this year with 200 teachers and has grown to 5,000, now working with 50,000 children. Next year, Mi anticipates she’ll expand to 25,000 teachers and 200,000 children.”

The Internet Is Broken. Starting from Scratch, Here’s How to Fix It.

“My big idea is that we have to fix the internet. After forty years, it has begun to corrode, both itself and us. It is still a marvelous and miraculous invention, but now there are bugs in the foundation, bats in the belfry, and trolls in the basement,” argues Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute.

“There is a bug in its original design that at first seemed like a feature but has gradually, and now rapidly, been exploited by hackers and trolls and malevolent actors: its packets are encoded with the address of their destination but not of their authentic origin. With a circuit-switched network, you can track or trace back the origins of the information, but that’s not true with the packet-switched design of the internet.”

“The lack of secure identification and authentication inherent in the internet’s genetic code has also prevented easy transactions, thwarted financial inclusion, destroyed the business models of content creators, unleashed deluges of spam, and forced us to use passwords and two-factor authentication schemes that would have baffled Houdini.”

“If we could start from scratch, here’s what I think we would do.”

U.S. Power Will Decline Under Trump, Says Futurist Who Predicted Soviet Collapse

Motherboard’s Nafeez Ahmed spoke with Nobel Peace Prize-nominated sociologist Johan Galtung about the future of American power.

“Galtung told Motherboard that Trump would probably continue this trajectory of accelerated decline—and may even make it happen quicker. Of course, with typical scientific caution, he said he would prefer to see what Trump’s actual policies are before voicing a clear verdict.”

Galtung: “He [Trump] blunts contradictions with Russia, possibly with China, and seems to do also with North Korea. But he sharpens contradictions inside the USA…”

“As a trans-border structure the collapse I am thinking of is global, not domestic. But it may have domestic repercussion, like white supremacists or even minorities like Hawaiians, Inuits, indigenous Americans, and black Americans doing the same, maybe arguing for the United States as community, confederation rather than a ‘union’.”

Trump’s Threat to the Constitution

“On July 7, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, met privately with House Republicans near the Capitol. I was present as chief policy director of the House Republican Conference,” former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin writes for The New York Times.

“A congresswoman asked him about his plans to protect Article I of the Constitution, which assigns all federal lawmaking power to Congress… Mr. Trump interrupted her to declare his commitment to the Constitution — even to parts of it that do not exist, such as ‘Article XII.’ Shock swept through the room as Mr. Trump confirmed one of our chief concerns about him: He lacked a basic knowledge of the Constitution.”

“In our nation, power is shared, checked and balanced precisely to thwart would-be autocrats. But as we become desensitized to the notion that Mr. Trump is the ultimate authority, we may attribute less importance to the laws, norms and principles that uphold our system of government, which protects our rights. Most dangerously, we devalue our own worth and that of our fellow Americans.”

Fake News Isn’t a Recent Problem in the US—It Almost Destroyed Abraham Lincoln

Quartz: “Abraham Lincoln was more than just a foe of slavery. He was also a mixed-race eugenicist, believing that the intermarriage of blacks and whites would yield an American super-race.”

“Or at least, that’s what newspapers in 1864 would have had you believe. The charge isn’t true. But this miscegenation hoax still ‘damn near sank Lincoln that year,’ says Heather Cox Richardson, history professor at Boston College.”

“The parallels to today are easy to see. Back then, telegraphs and other technological changes let news spread swiftly and gave rise to more starkly partisan newspapers. Public trust in government was in tatters. With little consensus or authority over the truth, the purest gauge of veracity was gut feeling. And in an America so deeply divided—especially over differences about race—what tended to feel real were stories that confirmed fears and biases.”

The Real Legacy in Jeopardy Under the New Congress? LBJ’s.

“To be sure, Obama’s legacy is very much on the line. Yet remarkably, so is that of Lyndon B. Johnson,” Josh Zeitz writes for Politico.

“With majorities in both houses, congressional Republicans under the leadership of House Speaker Paul Ryan have signaled their plans to disassemble not just the Affordable Care Act, but also Medicaid and Medicare; to steer federal education policy away from public schools and toward charters and vouchers; to roll back voting rights and civil rights enforcement; and to make steep cuts to nutritional programs. And, despite the fact that many of these changes could have negative consequences for Trump’s base, the president-elect hasn’t signaled any resistance.”

“But before the GOP sets about the work of dismantling Lyndon Johnson’s legacy, it’s helpful to look back 50 years and consider what America looked like before the Great Society. Spoiler alert: Much of it wasn’t great.”

Stanford Researchers Say Young Americans Have No Idea What’s News

Quartz: “Adolescents may be authorities on social media, but they’re not so good at identifying advertising: According to a Stanford University study, 82% of middle-schoolers failed to differentiate between news stories and ‘sponsored content.'”

“According to the study, more than two-thirds of middle-school students failed to flag as biased a post written by a bank executive and arguing for young adults to pursue more financial-planning help. Likewise, some 40% of high-school students believed a photo and headline that suggested deformed daisies were evidence of toxic conditions near Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The photo included no source or location tag.”

“Researchers found that what tripped students up most were posts with big, flashy elements, which tend to command more attention than the story’s actual source. Teens also ‘judged the credibility of newsy tweets based on how much detail they contained or whether a large photo was attached, rather than on the source,’ the Wall Street Journal reported.”