25 October, 2020

Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda

https://www.cjr.org/analysis/breitbart-media-trump-harvard-study.php

 Rebuilding a basis on which Americans can form a shared belief about what is going on is a precondition of democracy, and the most important task confronting the press going forward. Our data strongly suggest that most Americans, including those who access news through social networks, continue to pay attention to traditional media, following professional journalistic practices, and cross-reference what they read on partisan sites with what they read on mass media sites.

To accomplish this, traditional media needs to reorient, not by developing better viral content and clickbait to compete in the social media environment, but by recognizing that it is operating in a propaganda and disinformation-rich environment. This, not Macedonian teenagers or Facebook, is the real challenge of the coming years. Rising to this challenge could usher in a new golden age for the Fourth Estate.

21 October, 2020

Lots of Overnight Tragedies, No Overnight Miracles

https://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/lots-of-overnight-tragedies-no-overnight-miracles/

 Pearl Harbor and September 11th are probably the two biggest news events of the last 100 years. Both lasted less than two hours, start to finish.

It took less than 30 days for most people to go from having never heard of Covid-19 to it upending their life.

It took less than 15 months for Lehman Brothers – a 158-year-old company – to go from an all-time high to bankrupt. Same with Enron, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Nokia, Bernie Madoff, Muammar Gaddafi, Notre Dame, and the Soviet Union. Things that thrived for decades can be ruined in minutes. There is no equivalent in the other direction.

There’s a good reason why.

Growth always fights against competition that slows its rise. New ideas fight for attention, business models fight incumbents, constructing a building fights gravity. There’s always a headwind. But everyone gets out of the way of decline. Insiders might try to stop it, but it doesn’t attract masses of outsiders who rush in to push back in the other direction like progress does.

The irony is that growth and progress is way more powerful than setback. But setback will always get more attention because of how fast it occurs. So slow progress amid a drumbeat of bad news is the normal state of affairs. It’s not an easy thing to get used to, but it’ll always be with us.

Tony Green, on dismissing, denying, contracting and spreading the coronavirus

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/10/coronavirus-denier-sick-spreader/

The party was my idea. That’s what I can’t get over. Well, I mean, it wasn’t even a party — more like a get-together. There were just six of us, okay? My parents, my partner, and my partner’s parents. We’d been locked down for months at that point in Texas, and the governor had just come out and said small gatherings were probably okay. We’re a close family, and we hadn’t been together in forever. It was finally summer. I thought the worst was behind us. I was like: “Hell, let’s get on with our lives. What are we so afraid of?”

Some people in my family didn’t necessarily share all of my views, but I pushed it. I’ve always been out front with my opinions. I’m gay and I’m conservative, so either way I’m used to going against the grain. I stopped trusting the media for my information when it went hard against Trump in 2016. I got rid of my cable. It’s all opinion anyway, so I’d rather come up with my own. I find a little bit of truth here and a little there, and I pile it together to see what it makes. I have about 4,000 people in my personal network, and not one of them had gotten sick. Not one. You start to hear jokes about, you know, a skydiver jumps out of a plane without a parachute and dies of covid-19. You start to think: “Something’s really fishy here.” You start dismissing and denying. 

20 October, 2020

Why Does the U.S. Have Three Electrical Grids?

https://spectrum.ieee.org/podcast/energy/renewables/why-does-the-us-have-three-electrical-grids

What about the financial benefits of tying together these three interconnects? Are they substantial? And are they enough to pay for the work that would be needed to unify them into a supergrid?

Peter Fairley The financial benefits are substantial and they would pay for themselves. And there’s really two reasons for that. One is as old as our systems, and that is, if you interconnect your power grids, then all of the generators in the amalgamated system can, in theory, they can all serve that total load. And what that means is they’re all competing against each other. And power plants that are inefficient are more likely to be driven out of the market or to operate less frequently. And so that the whole system becomes more efficient, more cost-effective, and prices tend to go down. You see that kind of savings when you look at interconnecting the big grids in North America. Consumers benefit—not necessarily all the power generators, right? There you get more winners and losers. And so that’s the old part of transmission economics.

What’s new is the increasing reliance on renewable energy and particularly variable renewable energy supplies like wind and solar. Their production tends to be more kind of bunchy, where you have days when there’s no wind and you have days when you’ve got so much wind that the local system can barely handle it. So there are a number of reasons why renewable energy really benefits economically when it’s in a larger system. You just get better utilization of the same installations.

19 October, 2020

The Mystery of the Immaculate Concussion

https://www.gq.com/story/cia-investigation-and-russian-microwave-attacks

Polymeropoulos countered by warning the Russians to stop meddling in American elections. The Russians denied they would ever do such a thing. It was the way most Russian officials behave in such meetings at all levels of government—a lecture about American racism, theatrical incredulity and hurt feelings that the Americans would think the Russians had meddled in American politics. Still, Polymeropoulos was stunned by how unabashedly combative his Russian counterparts were. He had spent his career in a region where people were exceedingly polite, rolling out banquets and plying him with tea, even as he knew they were plotting to kill him. He knew the Russians didn’t like him, but “I would have expected them to be a little more polite,” Polymeropoulos told me.

The Prophet of the Revolt

 https://pullrequest.substack.com/p/the-prophet-of-the-revolt

In fact, the public, which swims comfortably in the digital sea, knows far more than elites trapped in obsolete structures.  The public knows when the elites fail to deliver their promised “solutions,” when they tell falsehoods or misspeak, when they are caught in sexual escapades, and when they indulge in astonishing levels of smugness and hypocrisy.  The public is disenchanted in the elites and their institutions, much in the way science disenchanted the world of fairies and goblins.  The natural reaction is cynicism.  The elites aren’t seen as fallible humans doing their best but as corrupt and arrogant jerks.  The public, I said, is mired in negation.

The pandemic crisis has been a striking illustration of all this.  Information about the virus moved at the speed of light, but the institutions that were supposed to protect public health moved ponderously and were always playing catch-up, while the experts contradicted each other and sometimes themselves.  In the US, the CDC kept changing its mind about surgical masks.  The FDA seemed to think its mission was to throw out regulatory obstacles to treatment and cure.  Given that lives were at stake, these were not trivial confusions.

Elites like Fauci might become more credible if they admitted that they, too, are dwellers in Plato’s cave, like everyone else, even people with multiple PhDs who are awarded long titles by federal agencies.  We are all trying to make sense of the flitting shadows.  A little humility would go a long way.

18 October, 2020

As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/18/technology/timpone-local-news-metric-media.html

 A site called New York Business Daily ran the article, saying the creditor was squeezing the finances of a struggling Manhattan hotel.

What the article didn’t mention: Mr. Bennett owned the hotel and dictated the article.

His spokeswoman said in a statement that Mr. Bennett “has no relationship with the websites.” She added that he had spoken to numerous news outlets “to obtain economic aid for the hotel industry.”

After The Times presented evidence that he directly ordered articles, lawyers representing Mr. Timpone sent The Times a cease and desist letter, demanding that it not publish the information.

17 October, 2020