Garbage in, Garbage outThat old computer programmer’s ode sums up how America now chooses its leaders.
How did Donald Trump win and what does that say about the future of America? No need to revisit all the reasons Trump is manifestly unfit to be president (though here’s a handy refresher.) The question is how so monumental a troll was able to hijack, smash and smash and bypass the filters supposedly in place to protect the nation from some reckless buffoon conning his way to power.
Another way to ask this question is to start by acknowledging that yes, certainly, of course, a wide swath of Americans felt deep unease and were searching for a change agent, and Hillary Clinton failed to connect. But how in hell did Donald Trump manage to successfully present himself as the solution?
The obsolescence of facts
When Obama managed to pull out the last election, the late, great New York Times media critic David Carr noted that “as the campaign draws to a close, it’s clear that it was the truth that ended up a smoldering wreck.” How prophetic that sounds today. If Trump’s campaign was not to be powered by facts, then what would take their place? Spectacle, posturing, emotion, appeals to base instincts and pack behaviour. It all sounds so pre-industrial, and yet the delivery system is as fresh, gleaming and digital as Facebook.
Indeed, two days before Trump’s victory, the website Vox put it this way in a headline: “Facebook is harming our democracy and Mark Zuckerberg needs to do something about it.” The piece asserts that “Facebook makes billions of editorial decisions every day. And often they are bad editorial decisions — steering people to sensational, one-sided, or just plain inaccurate stories. The fact that these decisions are being made by algorithms rather than human editors doesn’t make Facebook any less responsible for the harmful effect on its users and the broader society.”
Facebook’s labyrinth of echo chambers even has attracted, as Buzzfeed exposed, a cottage industry in Macedonia where teens make money manufacturing fake stories to feed Trump supporters.
Facebook, always eager to say that it is a tech firm rather than a media company so as to insulate itself from any responsibility for the sludge in its pipes, got back to Vox, saying “it’s important that we keep improving our ability to detect misinformation.” Yes, please do.
So Trump benefited mightily from the feast of paranoia that Facebook and other web platforms provide to their kool-aid drinking denizens largely out of view. But even in the bright light of day, in our supposed digital town squares, Trump bent the mediums to his own demented ends. A creature of reality TV, he received billions of dollars in free media as CNN, Fox and other networks. He goosed them with tweets and fed them hours of rallies spellbinding for their oafish hatefulness.
The myth of party ‘leadership’
Bruce Bartlett, who advised Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, last night succinctly identified where we’ve arrived, tweeting: “The lesson of this election is that when the media normalize racism, sexism, fascism, lying & stupidity, it has political consequences.” Later, he tweeted: “I am not just upset by tonight’s results. I am upset that everything I know about politics & public policy is worthless. Idiocracy rules.”
THE ABOVE COPIED from http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2016/11/08/Garbage-in-Garbage-out/