Demise of the blogosphere and media bubbles

edited September 2020 in Speakeasy

Frederik deBoer:

So when I started blogging in 2008, a thing that would happen would be that a conservative writer would publish something on a conservative website, and then liberals at liberal publications would read those conservative websites, write up their own liberal responses and publish them on their liberal websites, and conservatives would write responses to responses, and so a decent number of people got to be employed. 

And what I can’t scientifically say but which seems screamingly obvious to me is that this is almost unthinkable today. It just doesn’t happen. Liberals don’t even bother to read conservative publications, and they certainly don’t respond to them. I can’t say what conservatives do because, unlike in 2008, I barely read conservative publications anymore. It was a thing I felt honor-bound to do and now I just… don’t do it.

I remember those days, and it was nice!

But, like deBoer, I've also stopped reading conservative blogs and websites that have turned into Trump mouthpieces. Neither do I read Jacobin or New Republic. I make an effort to read left- and right-leaning outlets, from Talking Points Memo and Vox to The Bulwark and The Dispatch, but they have to fall within what I consider to be parameters of reasonableness.

Of course, it's unhealthy in a democracy when people live in completely different information universes. Worse when you live in a two-party system and the dominant information universes overlap with those two parties.

For an example, consider these headlines of conservative Facebook groups recently highlighted by Judd Legum:

  • "Dems CAUGHT — 100,000 Illegal Ballots Found"
  • "Video Shows 'Huge Pile' Of Mail Just Being Dumped Out"
  • "Judge Sides With Trump — 50,000 Ballots TOSSED in Swing State"

They're complete fabrications. But if you only get your news from conservative groups on Facebook, and maybe Fox News and right-wing talk radio, you may believe these things.

The left-wing media bubble seldom lies outright, but if you only read Jacobin and Twitter, and watch Rachel Maddow, you still get a distorted view of the US.

Same if you're British and only read The Guardian or only read The Daily Telegraph.

Or here in Spain, you have people who only read El Mundo or ABC, two right-wing newspapers. They will have an extremely negative view of the current, left-wing government as well as the Catalan independence movement.


  • Many thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Nick.

    I think that the blogospher's health is reasonable, but it seems clear that it cannot scape the growing ideological polarization.

    One more idea to think about is the political/governmental influence in the media (as you mention Spain, there are fairly obvious examples like public TV "TV3" in Catalonia).

  • Yes, that's a fair point.

    Hungary and Poland are the worst. They have effectively turned their state-owned media into propaganda channels.

    I would argue Fox News has voluntarily converted itself into a propaganda channel for the Trump Administration.

  • Hah, as if others don't do exactly the same. Have a look at Belgian MSN, they're nothing but vicious, lying, state propaganda machines as well.

    I used to follow Japanese MSN because they were doing, overall, a really good job at properly reporting issues, and would often speak of EU events and issues that EU MSN wouldn't even touch with a 10 foot pole. But ever since Abe has stepped down and Suga took over there's a visible decline in fair reporting, which is not a good sign...

  • Mind you, try admitting you are reading "news from the other side" so to speak.

    You'll be cancelled in a heartbeat. The second the pottergram finds out I pay attention to both sides of the spectrum and GASP ocassionally agree with something a right wing politician says or does (even though I am NOT a right wing voter) I assure you that I'll be making yet another new instagram account. It'll be the internet equivalent of getting chased out of the village with torches and pitchforks.

  • This is another problem. It is of a piece with polarization, cancel culture and the unacceptability of admitting you're uncertain or were wrong. Fanaticism is taking over.

  • Good news! Substack is bringing back something of a golden age in blogging, and these you can have delivered directly to your inbox as newsletters as well.

    My recommendations:

  • As for the legacy media...

    Around 2,500 Americans are dying every day of a plague, while Donald Trump refuses to concede to Joe Biden and for the first time in at least a 150 years has threatened the peaceful transition of presidential power.

    Yet just before this last election, when the stakes were as plain as they ever will be, few journalists could summon the seriousness demanded by the occasion.

    As Election Day approached, the airwaves and headlines admonished us to celebrate Trump’s latest publicity stunt, or despair over Nancy Pelosi’s haircut, or rejoice over Kamala Harris’s choice of shoe. In late September, when the GOP was openly planning to steal the election and Trump himself proclaimed a desire “to get rid of the ballots,” White House correspondents asked the president in one of his rare press conferences for . . . his thoughts on the Duchess of Sussex. Journalists were even bored of the coronavirus.

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