So far in this series of commentary I have been very harsh on wonks and those who love them, but recently there has been a rash of talk about the “post-fact” world. Let me tell you something: we have always been in a post-fact world. The consensus media that everyone seems to bemoaning does have more things to responsible to, but that was not a good check for “factuality.”
I remember in the Bush 43 days when liberals, under the humor aegis of John Steward, started calling themselves the “reality driven community” in response to a certain strain of Neo-conservative cynical belief that people needed to be controlled for liberalism to maintain itself. This is often missed about neoconservatives: Yes, many of the first generation were former Trotskyists around either Max Shachtman or Commentary Magazine, but the Straussian elements aimed to save liberalism from itself. The paternal esotericism in Strauss was aimed at saving liberalism from its own populist tendencies. That cynicism about truth was easily used for other purposes.
Yet, many well-meaning tendencies in left-liberalism have themselves been enemies of truth. For example, mansplaning (or insert demographic or ideological typology-splaining) is that it comes from a real place of people’s qualitative experience being ignored, but it also is easily used to shut down conversation where information plays against ones identity. Furthermore, liberals themselves have plenty of fake news sources or hyperbolic news sources. These play into their confirmation biases as well.
So is fake news really the problem with confirmation bias? One, biased, outside of the ideological consensus post-cold war was an American and European tradition. Freedom of press in from 1800s to around 1920 was freedom of bipartisan press and the high point of “yellow journalism.” Two, the consensus media was highly selective in its reporting and still is. What was reported from the Wikileaks scandals all revolved around Clinton, but there were tons of facts about Obama that leaked that were largely ignored, including that Citigroup shortlisted a lot of his Cabinet. Three, fake news is not new and its popularity is not new?
So, tell me, are you really going to trust Silicon valley, not even the government, to filter what is fake and not to you to rebuild a consensus that only existed in the US for one generation? And you really think mainstream news is a whole better when they don’t have the money or business model for investigative reporting anymore? Do you really think conservatives are the only people who are building confirmation bias filters into their interpretative heuristics?