FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Tag Archives: old fashioned

Comments Make Top-Down Journalism Obsolete

On news sites anymore, I skip articles with a gnawing sense of annoyance when I find they have no comments section.  Articles are limited in length and I find there’s no one person that knows so much that other people out there can’t expand on their points and further illuminate the topic.  Even where commenters are hysterical and stupid I get a valuable sense of the mood of the readership.
Comments serve as quality control.  I notice articles that lack a comment section are often opinion pieces with some wordy and smug aristocrat blowing wind out of their ass without having to face the contemptuous criticism they deserve.
When an article is poorly written, commenters point out the problems and shred it to pieces.  And when it’s well written they analyze and expand beyond what any one person has time for.

I often see the comments attract people far smarter and more experienced than the author. The very word “journalism” sounds like something limited to an age before the internet got big. That’s because the author of an article is no longer an authority talking down to the masses. They’re now just an OP that starts a discussion thread. It’s a good public service to start a thoughtful thread that attracts smart commenters, but it’s no longer a pulpit to form others’ opinions for them.
My parents still e-mail me articles from mainstream publications that either have no comments, or its obvious they didn’t read the comments section, where the piece they found value in is convincingly trashed and refuted by dozens of thoughtful people, or at least greatly refined and improved on.

Journalism remains as a sickly presence on life support mainly because older generations are stuck in their habits. But just as actual printed newspapers are disappearing, journalists recognized by society as ceremonial caretakers of truth with “expert” opinions will also phase out.
In a high-information world everyone can see the man behind the curtain and comments make it painfully obvious that average people on the street are often more knowledgable than the sheltered pets that write for big-name gatekeeper institutions. Well-connected mediocrities that have always hidden behind these information monopolies will not survive the transition.
Soon, only those who earn audiences will have them. There still are and will be gatekeepers—but they will only maintain their influence by maintaining their quality standards and jealously guarding their credibility.

I often hear disgust about comments and it’s true mob rule is no good. But the OP always gets to speak first without interruption even if there’s a crowd of thousands. I also find there is a natural justice in commentary. A low quality click-bait article attracts low quality commenters. A thoughtful piece tends to attract top notch analysis while the nature of its content weeds out people who just want to troll or scream in ALLCAPS.
The mob aspect of comments means it is a tool that has its proper uses. I might start out reading an article with its comments and later look up facts and numbers to see if what people are saying makes sense. I might find both the article author and the people are on the wrong track and come to my own conclusions. The psychology of why so many people are mislead creates interesting questions in itself.

The way crowdsourcing has developed through mediums like comments and wikis demonstrates how internet enables new ways of benefiting from the wisdom of the crowd while avoiding the downside of mob rule.
I suspect that the crowd structures we now use for navigating a broad range of opinions, or looking up facts will eventually prove useful to states that will be increasingly pressured to discover means of administration faster and more nimble than traditional bureaucracies.

The Obsolescence of the Nation State and ISIS

I found an insightful essay by an Israeli writer, Uri Avnery.  The trends of centralization until the World Wars and decentralization ever since has been a favorite topic of mine.
Excerpts:

“By the end of the 17th century, existing states could no longer cope with new demands. Small states were doomed. The economy demanded a safe domestic market large enough for the development of modern industries. New mass armies needed a base strong enough to provide soldiers and pay for modern arms.”

As I like to say: The main source of national cohesion is the fear of other nations.

“If I am not mistaken, it was Gustave Le Bon, the French psychologist, who asserted a hundred years ago that every new idea is already obsolete by the time it is adopted by the masses.

The process works like this: somebody conceives the idea. It takes a generation for it to become accepted by the intellectuals. It takes another generation for the intellectuals to teach the masses. By the time it attains power, the circumstances that gave it birth have already changed, and a new idea is required.”

“THE OBSOLESCENCE of the nation-state has given birth to a paradoxical by-product: the breakup of the state into smaller and smaller units.
While the world trend towards larger and larger political and economic units gathers strength, nation-states fall apart. All over the world, small peoples are demanding independence.”

“NATIONALISM WAS a European idea.
It never struck deep roots in the arid fields of the Arab world. Even in the heyday of Arab nationalism, it was never quite clear whether a Damascene, for example, considered himself first a Syrian or a Muslim, whether a Beiruti considered himself first a Maronite-Christian or a Lebanese, or whether a Cairene was first an Egyptian, an Arab or a Muslim.”

“The modern Arab nations were invented by European colonialists…THESE imperialist manipulations ran counter to Muslim history and tradition…THE HUGE attraction of the movement now called “Islamic State” is that it proposes a simple idea: do away with all these crazy borders drawn up by Western imperialists for their own purposes…With one swipe it clears the table of the nation-state and its derivatives. It carries a clear, simple idea, easily understood by Muslims everywhere.”

“THE WESTERN response is almost comically inadequate.  People like Barack Obama and John Kerry, and their equivalents all over Europe, are quite unable to understand what it is all about…They are facing a new phenomenon.”

The Obsolescence of the Nation State, Uri Avnery

Ottoman Empire before its non-Anatolian provinces were split up after WW1 into modern nations.

Ottoman Empire before its non-Anatolian provinces were split up after WW1 into modern nations.

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