Protesters march toward the Supreme Court as they demonstrate against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Inasmuch as I don’t particularly care for Steven Crowder – I’m not his target audience and my preferred brand of comedy is more sociological than political – I spent the bulk of this week ignoring the issue, other than to silently note that once again the mob dictates the rules, not the companies that supposedly wrote them.
However, there is so much happening in media right now that it all seems to be too much to be coincidence.
Let’s start with Crowder. In a spat with a Vox writer who goes by “GayWonk” on Twitter, Crowder got himself in hot water essentially by playing his foe’s game. The man goes by “GayWonk”, lives by his identity, and uses it to make his points. However, when Crowder plays up the man’s preferred identity (I can certainly see how some would take offense to Crowder’s methods), he gets in trouble for it. The mob moves in and gets YouTube to demonetize his videos, cutting off his revenue from YouTube.
YouTube is justifying the action by condemning Crowder as “hateful” speech, and perhaps the argument could be made. The problem is that YouTube is so inconsistent in applying this standard that you could easily find a dozen channels in minutes who are a hundred times more offensive, but they don’t draw the mob against them like Crowder does.
Meanwhile we have Facebook, as I mentioned yesterday, taking action against TheBlaze for what the social media giant said was “clickbait”. However, that term denotes a story whose headlines blows the actual content out of proportion. The idea is that the headline is meant to make you click on something because it sounds so outrageous, but the actual story is nowhere near as dramatic.
Facebook’s standard seems to focus on half of that, saying that the intent of the headline to make you click is what makes it clickbait. This could not be any more dumb, though, as essentially every headline written in this digital era is meant to do exactly that. Again, it is a poorly-enforce policy that, strangely enough, targets a conservative outlet.
Over at a more traditional outlet, CNN announced this week that it has hired Daniel Dale to be a fact checker for its political coverage. While you may not know who Dale is, a brief scan of his timeline since President Donald Trump took office will reveal that he is absolutely silent when it comes to “fact checking” specious Democratic claims while he is more of a well-actuallyer than a fact-checker when it comes to Republicans.
These three stories have a lot to do with each other. They form a pattern that has been growing more and more obvious for a while now: The mob, which typically leans in one particular political direction, has a greater say over policy and enforcement than the actual companies that write the barely-literate and rarely-enforced policies to begin with.
For YouTube and Facebook, theirs is a response to an outraged mob hellbent on proving they are right and everyone who disagrees with them is wrong. The Bulwark, in classic Bulwark style, seems to be fine with this, as a piece devoted to declaring the right and conservative thing to do is to condemn Crowder as a homophobe and bigot.
But, the writer of that piece, much like the mob in general, fails to understand that this isn’t about Crowder, TheBlaze, or any other conservative (and in their eyes, therefore, controversial) icon. Yes it is absolutely true that Facebook and YouTube, like Twitter and other social/digital media sites, are privately owned and therefore aren’t constitutionally obligated to allow all speech. But it is also important to note that allowing mobs to dictate how you run your business is a bad idea, because you do have a certain level of obligation to consistency in the market. Inconsistency breeds distrust and ultimately kills businesses. Allowing the mob to dictate what you should or should not do is not only bad for business, it’s just pure laziness.
CNN’s hire, meanwhile, may seem like it is unrelated to the issue at hand here, but in all actuality, it is yet another indicator that these media sites, rather than enforcing what they already say are the rules, are simply getting lazy.
The very act of journalism is “fact-checking.” Editors exist to fix grammatical mistakes and make sure your facts are factual and your opinion is separate. Fact-checkers, as they now exist, are used to inject opinion into scenarios in order to justify calling something “true” or “false”. Where facts are simply true or false, fact-checkers bring “if A, then B” analyzes into the equation to dilute the original point of the politician or political speaker and make it something that can be argued.
It is the diluting that makes all of this so chaotic in the long run. YouTube and Facebook have rules about “offensive speech” and “clickbait”, but those rules are so diluted by inconsistency and political bias that they only act on them when a mob gets loud enough. CNN has rules about accuracy in reporting and making sure the facts are in line, but those facts are diluted by fact-checkers with political agendas who want to obfuscate the truth just enough to get away with altering what the truth actually is.
The result is the insanity we see in our politics on a daily basis. The people who have caused this chaos – a vocal minority, a mob that is only as effective as it is loud, and it is very loud – will learn no lesson if this is ever turned around on them. After all, who would turn this around on them? These mobs are all leftists and the places that listen to them favor them anyway.
One thing they won’t realize until it’s too late, though, is that they’ll be running off their sources of income.
That is to say, you and I.