Behavior Economics

Finding the Silver Lining in Your Media Bubble: Call Your MoC

The frenetic manic hyperbolic pace of national scandals being issued from every orifice of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s is the defining quality of our times. It is as if the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is suffocating us with his sulfurous farts, drowning us in his acerbic diarrhea, and choking us on his bilic vomitus. He is eroding and corroding the soul of the nation by exposing us to his own black corrupted heart. Our national experience is his daily experience writ large.

The intense partisan battle that ensues around him is just another of his gaslighting techniques designed to further degrade our commitment to anything other than his corrupt intent. My fear, and that of many who are closely engaged in the partisan fight, is that it will consume the nation, but the sad reality is that most of our citizenry are not engaged in it at all. To the degree that they’re aware it all seems a huge messy tit-for-tat he-said, she-said kinda thing. Something that is impossible to figure out.

In many ways that is by design — designed by the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and allies and by evolutionary psychology. Disengagement is a design feature of our brain, not a flaw. Anytime we encounter something that is difficult, we will look for a simpler, but similar, version to use.

The example that Kahneman used to demonstrate this point — and in the experiments he ran to support it — went something like this:

How likely is that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber will be re-elected?

That’s a hard question to answer, it’s still likely a long way away, so we look for a simpler related question — not consciously of course; this is done completely outside of your conscious awareness — like, How do I feel about the Ol’ Pussy Grabber right now?

  • I hate the mo’fo’! Probably gets you a solid, zilch. He’s toast.
  • I’m afraid of the slippery sumbitch! Probably gets you a solid, it’s possible. I hope not, but it’s possible and I’m afraid likely.
  • We love to choke on the shit that slides down the walls after he slings there! Probably gets you a solid, he’ll win a landslide.

It is an energy saving strategy since our brain makes up 2% of our body’s mass but uses 20% of its energy. A design feature that was beneficial in the calorie-poor environment of hunter-gatherers but is not no longer needed in our calorie-rich urban environments.

Irony alert: Our disengagement with complex difficult problems is about to return us to a calorie-poor environment as the environmental calamity of climate change descends upon us. Ha ha! And, of course, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is doing far more than his fair share to ensure that climate change happens. Whether that is his intent or just an unfortunate side-effect of his malignant personality is the topic of another blog post.

Turns out, news of our bloated, biased media diets has been greatly exaggerated. It could even be said that the “media bubble” narrative is … wait for it … fake news.

Maggie Koerth-baker at fivethirtyeight

Don’t believe that most Americans really are not all that engaged and that most of us don’t get our news inside an echoing bubble of like-minded citizens? Check out the FiveThirtyEight article, Media Bubbles Aren’t The Biggest Reason We’re Partisans. It explains the research behind it. It is filled with enlightening gems like these:

“People have a notion from hearing about (information echo chambers) that most Americans are getting news and information from a very slanted media diet,” he [Brendan Nyhan, government professor at Dartmouth] told me. “Empirical evidence suggests that’s not true.”

There are about 122 million Americans who told the Census Bureau that they voted in 2018.

FOX News and MSNBC pull in around 3 million viewers when their top hosts are on air.

around 5 million people tune in to each of the network nightly news shows.

So, let’s see, that’s three million for FOX and three million for MSNBC, so that makes six million together… assuming there is no overlap. And five million for broadcast TV… hmmm… Garsh darn it! I have to take off a shoe and sock. Hah! That’s eleben million total… if there aren’t any cross-overs which only makes the total much smaller.

In 2018, Nyhan and his colleagues published a paper that found that, while Facebook really was a hive of fake news scum and villainy, the audience for those biased and often fabricated stories was relatively small.

Maggie… again

Let’s see here, that leaves a hun’ert and elebinty million not watching any news a’tall, but they is still voting! Now, how can that be! Are they getting there news from social media?

In a national sample of about 2,500 Americans, taken during the final weeks of the contentious 2016 presidential campaign, nearly 60 percent of all fake news visits came from the 10 percent of respondents with the most conservative media diets.

Guess, Nyhan, and Reifler, 2018

[R]esearchers tracked a sample of 50,000 Americans who heavily consumed online news and found that their reading was overwhelmingly self-directed (rather than algorithm-selected) and mainstream centrist in orientation. And, while the use of social networks and search engines were associated with a larger partisan divide — they were also associated with people being more frequently exposed to more opinions they disagreed with.

Flaxman, Goel, and Rao, 2016

But it isn’t all bad news. Nyhan, the political junkie from Dartmouth, tells us that a small percentage of partisans consume the largest amount of news — is this the old 80-20 Pareto thing coming back round? — and are all big-mouths, so politicians listen to them.

[T]he polarizing effects of talking to people who share your partisan political bent were more than twice as large as the effects of consuming politically biased media.

Druckman, Levendusky, and McLain, 2018

That’s the good news! If you’re spending all your time fretting about the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, you may as well, also spend some of that time on the horn to your MoC and influence the tune they sing wherever they are representing you. Or at least to whatever friends, relatives, and distant relations that will still go out for coffee with you!

So, go ahead, bop on over to FiveThirtyEight and get the nitty gritty on all the stuff I left out! Chicks dig the nitty-gritty! Drop a few of those nuggets down at the local dico, and who knows who you’ll be hooking up with!

6 replies »

  1. Thinking about those non-news-consuming voters, I have to remember that most people vote (or not) the way their families, neighbors, & friends do, or (particularly on the family side) rebel and vote opposite to their family. We are more influenced by our “tribe” and “peer-pressure” (which does not end after adolescence) than news coverage directly. The influencers, then, are the smaller percentage of our social network who do consume the news (or, “news”). In that light, the recent polling that finds increasing support for the impeachment inquiry and/or impeachment increasing, represents the spread of that support from those who are paying attention to their social networks. Another factor is, I think, the ever more obvious fear and frantic flailing of Trump and gang in the face of that news and the accumulation of evidence of their utter corruption. Polling in this next week is likely to reflect the subliminal effect on weak supporters and opportunistic supporters of the inescapable evidence that Trump has no loyalty to allies, like the Syrian Kurds. That should make many more nervous beyond the Afghans and Ukrainians, even some donors and MOCs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!
      The influence of friends and family is a good example of collective intelligence. If everyone or most people you interact with believe something, you are likely to believe it, too.

      Trump keeps harping on the corruption of Biden. He’s trying to seed the idea into the public’s mind taking advantage of the availability heuristic — the most easily accessed piece of information on a topic. He’s also trying to damage him enough to harm any potential administration he might lead a lot like the Russians were trying to do to Clinton. They’ll do it to the eventual Dem nominee.

      It is a form of collective intelligence, too. People will talk about it and strengthen the connection between Biden and corruption.

      It will also confuse the situation so that low-information voters won’t know what to believe and become more likely to stick with the status quo.

      Fortunately, the Dems seem to be winning the message war — this time and for now. Never trust the Dems not to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But, I think the piling up of corruption charges and examples around Trump is beginning to take its toll both on those around them and public perception. It may yet collapse his White House.

      I finally feel like I’ve got a handle on why Trump’s approval-disapproval rating fluctuates between 12 or 13 percent and ten percent. It’s regression to the mean. At the height of the Ukraine revelations last week, FiveThirtyEight had his approval rating by as much as 12.4%. Today it is at 11.6. Overtime, it will regress to the mean which lies somewhere in that range.


      Liked by 1 person

      • The Biden corruption story is both easy and attractive for Trump to believe, simply because in his combination of narcissism and sociopathy, he must (as in, it is necessary for him to) believe that everyone is just as corrupt and corruptible as he is (The sociopath lives in a Dog Eat Dog world) except for those who don’t understand how the world works, the ones known as suckers, losers, and prey (his base). He assumes that if Biden and Son had an opportunity to personally profit in Ukraine, they would make the most of it just as he is trying to do. Therefore, he can make his accusations with absolute sincerity and confidence.

        As for allies, it is very likely that Rudy G. will be going under the bus very soon. Barr and Pompeo should also be making sure their parachutes are handy and in goo order.

        Liked by 1 person

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