Facebook echo chamber: Or, the British media and the election

Daily Mail readers created the Daily Mail, not the other way round


Comment Given that the election results are nearly all in it's going to be some few femtoseconds before Guardian writer Polly Toynbee starts claiming that it's the right wing media that woefully misinformed the British public and that's why the forces of all that's good and proper didn't win.

Given that that's not actually how the media works, Toynbee is – as usual at The Graun – wrong about everything all the time. The truth is that media outlets chase the prejudices of the audience, they don't shape them.

We can see this in this interesting new paper from Facebook. As The Register has already pointed out we do tend to select stuff to look at on the adslinging network because we know that it already agrees with us. Not entirely, we're prepared to think outside our box a bit, but content that assuages our ideological priors gets chosen much more often than that which challenges it.

As El Reg has also pointed out in the past this is OK, as reading balanced neutral stuff turns one into a complete dullard, creates nihilistic despair in fact (although how much of that was down to American journos using the New York Times style book is unknown).

This also accords with what we know from proper economic research. This particular research actually got the John Bates Clark which is somewhat more difficult to get than the Nobel as there are only ever single awards, not multiple.

Looking at media consumption, Matthew Gentzkow shows us that it's driven by the pre-extant biases of the readership, not by whatever nefarious plans the owners of the media have to shape said thoughts or emotions. This isn't completely so, of course, both effects exist (as so often in economics) but the media chasing the vaporous thoughts of us, the readers, predominates over their setting that agenda.

The outcome of this is that Rupert Murdoch did not instruct, from his hollowed out volcano lair, The Sun to picture Ed Miliband as a gurning moron being outmanoeuvred by a bacon sandwich so as to change voting intentions. Rather, a significant portion of the British populace would and did pay good money to see Miliband pictured as a gurning moron failing to take charge of a dead pig.

It conformed to what we already (rightly or wrongly) believed and that's why it sold.

That then leads on to the observation that if the nation's largest circulation newspaper, aimed at the working class, likes a lass with a nice pair of tits and is, socially at least, small c conservative then the working class of this country is, in large portion, socially conservative and likes a lass getting them out for the lads.

That The Guardian sells in whatever pitiful handfuls it currently does equally shows that not much of the country is bothered about this or the rest of the Social Justice Warrior manifesto.

The fault is not in the media, it is in us, the populace.

Unfortunately this leads us to something of a problem. Because the fact is that the Daily Mail also sells rather well. Which, as Mr Gentzkow tells us, means that the British people corporately have willed it into existence. Daily Mail readers created the Daily Mail, not the other way round.

What in buggery do we do with a country that naturally produces Daily Mail readers? Nuke it from orbit? ®


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021