Political bullshit amplified in social media by opponents

Political strategists are using social media is being used like a dirty jungle.

Danyl Mclauchlan (The Spinoff): In the attention economy, bullshit wins, and you’re helping shovel it along

Twenty years ago access to media coverage was controlled via the notorious gatekeepers: editors and senior journalists who decided what the news was and who got included or excluded from it. And this system had plenty of downsides but did make it harder for transparently bad actors like Cummings to swing crucial elections in advanced democracies.

As the world keeps reminding us, that media model no longer exists: the news value of a story is no longer defined by its palatability to gatekeepers, or anyone else. Instead, in a world of basically infinite content, news value is created by the ability of a story to maximise audience attention as it competes against rival forms of content: every political story vies for attention against stories about wildfires, Trump, celebrity feuds, evil Daenerys, the relentless white noise of coups, protests, riots, counterrevolutions, along with video games, streaming content, group chats, infinite cats, infinite sports, infinite porn.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned this decade, I think, it’s that social media activism is not activism. Liking and sharing stuff; telling people with different value systems that they’re morons and you hate them is not politics. The endless torrents of call outs and sneering are not emotional labour. All you’re doing is producing free content for global tech companies. There’s an exception to that, though: if what you’re doing is amplifying your opponent’s worst messages, elevating them to the mainstream media where persuadable voters can see them, then congratulations. You’re an activist. For them.

So what do you do when you see your political adversaries telling lies?

I think you have to speak up and stand up against bullshit and deceit and attempts to stoke division, but it’s a challenge to work out how to do this effectively without playing into PR hands.

Leave a comment


  1. NOEL

     /  18th December 2019

    “Twenty years ago access to media coverage was controlled via the notorious gatekeepers: editors and senior journalists who decided what the news was and who got included or excluded from it.”

    Back in the day during my Army career someone got the frequency for Reuters.
    On exercise where there were no newspapers we download Reuters teletype feed.
    On return home when reviewing the old newspapers was always amazed how the context could be changed when editing for brevity.

    Later a trip to the Warkworth satellite station revealed similar editing of the feed to fit the evening news.

    On the plus side today there are “fact checking” sites.

    • Pink David

       /  18th December 2019

      “On the plus side today there are “fact checking” sites.”

      Isn’t this just adding another layer that can also be twisted? ‘Facts’ are just as subjective as opinions. All you need to do is move the context.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  18th December 2019

        Not necessarily.

        An event either happened or it didn’t. if someone claims that someone else has a criminal conviction, this can be checked.

    • Corky

       /  18th December 2019

      Army intelligence..old boy?

  2. Duker

     /  18th December 2019

    Just as the Greens have access via the gatekeepers ( who because of identity journalism means the political journalists are ‘twentysomethings’ like Cooke or new millennial sites like Spinoff and Newsroom) they find that channel doesnt matter anymore
    How sad.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  18th December 2019

    Two hatefilled idiots who deserved each other.

    What WaPo/Stuff carefully avoids mentioning is that the “victim”‘s tweet that triggered the attack was a straight out lie that he had known Trump before he was famous and Trump had been in a mental hospital.

  4. duperez

     /  20th December 2019

    A man has been summonsed to appear in the Auckland District Court next month for breaching the suppression order to do with Grace Millane. I wonder if he’ll seek name suppression.


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