Part two: Alternative media, social media and psycho hygiene
In the first part of this analysis, we’ve looked at Coronavirus and its impact on the media industry. More precisely, we explored how some traditional media outlets cherry-pick the information their share to make their materials more viral as well as how disproportional the choice of headlines could be.
In this article, we’ll examine the role of the “alternative” as well as social media” in the context of the same game of capturing their audiences’ attention. We’ll also look at psycho hygiene, social bubbles as well as critical thinking when it comes to evaluation of the information received.
Alternative media and Coronavirus
When it comes to Alternative media, we are talking about a level that holds practically no ethical standards and/or responsibility for their content. A level that’s only about making money, regardless of the consequences, the information they spread might have, whether it’s hazardous for health or public safety. In other words, we’re talking about a level, where even The Sun appears like a respectful paper.
We live in an era of “post-truth“, “alternative facts” and the so-called “alternative media“, some of which were beyond the controversial practices of yellow journalism already before the pandemic. It, therefore, doesn’t come as a massive surprise, that the majority of the “alternative media”, especially those from its conspiracy-inclined spectrum just went in full on.
The pandemic has provided them with fresh blood. They feed on it like vampires, they weaponise every element of it from every imaginable angle possible: Nationalism, racism, alleged world-control domination, mind control or in fact any other conspiracy theories. Their strategies to capture new readers got more sophisticated and with the rising revenue, they are also able to reach further.
It is interesting that a lot of the so called aleternative media deployed the tone and tactics of the former illegal anti-dictatorship publications in various non-democratic countries. The “alternative media” emphasise that “we’re in this together against the system” a lot. While this might be a honest angle somewhere in North Korea, in the Western World it’s only a part of the strategy how to make more profit.
And last but not least, we have the so-called social media. Lately, they have been under heavy criticism, especially for the illegal use of data they collect from us (i.e. Cambridge Analytica) as well as for taking zero responsibility for the content they provide a publishing platform, such as the live streaming of the tragic mass shooting in New Zaeland’s Christchurch. Whatever brings the revenue. Mass shooting? Hatered? Bigotry? Holocaust denying? Whoever pays.
Rather than just allowing hoaxes for the sake of free speech, Facebook‘s algorithm has been recently found to ‘actively promote’ Holocaust denial. Mark Zuckerberg recently used the classic NRA argument, only adopted to Social Media. He said that it’s not the platform – it’s the people who abuse its potential. Imagine to apply that to anything else. What do we need the seatbelts for? It’s not the cars, it’s the bad drivers. Food standard norms? Drugs?
A weak sign of taking some responsibility?
Anyway. This time around, Facebook, Youtube and the lot, however came up with the certain innovative procedure of censoring hoaxes that were spreading hazardous, health-threatening information. I personally believe that on their behalf, it is just a calculated step to make them look good, rather than acting for the sake of doing the right thing. Regardless of what I think or how they’ve meant it, regulating the content to minimise the spread of potentially deadly misinformation is a positive step forward.
Well, that’s except Twitter. They don’t do much filtering. It is because their most successful and cost-free platform promoter is just not bannable for them, from the business point of view. Twitter, therefore, does selective censorship only, and that’s even when it comes to spreading health-threatening misinformation because they allowed him to do it over and over again. To be fair, I must say that Twitter‘s chief, Jack Dorsey donated $1bn of his fortune to fight the pandemic.
28 May 2020 update: Trump and Twitter clash over fact checks. That comes as a massive surprise for me and I’m sure I’m not the only one (:0 When it comes to Zuckerberg‘s reaction, there are exactly zero surprises. I have never doubted his moral qualities 😀
19 June 2020 update: Zuckerberg surprise! He removed Trump’s ad because of the Nazi hate symbol! Wow! It is a weak sign of conscience or giving up to the public pressure?
19 August 2020 update. Zuckerberg’s (no)surprise! In spite of its promises, the platform was found to funnel readers towards Covid misinformation ):
22 October, 2021 update: Twitter conducted an internal research only to admit that their home feed promotes rightwing tweets over those from the left, internal research finds.
I must point out that social media are not only about their negative impact. They don’t really care what kind of stories and materials they promote, as long as it makes money. It’s not like they intentionally promote Holocaust deniers, racism or bigotry.
Furthermore, to be fair, not everything about social media is just bad. Many of us use them daily as it helps to connect us with each other, or with like-minded people from within our opinion bubbles. The trouble with those bubbles is that not many of us reach out to other bubbles, which leaves many users with an imbalanced stream of information.
In other words, if you’re leaning towards conspiracy theories or white supremacy, you’ll most likely end up in such a bubble, where your beliefs will be encouraged by the likes (literally). Social media unfortunately offer only one-sided information within the particular bubbles. In the name of Free Speech (and money), there’s no counter information or some proper fact-checking mechanism at work to prevent the spread of misinformation.
In other words, unless you search for it yourself, you basically won’t get any fact-check or opinion-balancing information and that is – together with all Trumps, Bolsonaros, Orbáns or Maduros – a major reason why our societies keep becoming increasingly polarised. It is therefore up to an individual to balance his or her information with other opinions, angles and sources.
Some sort of conclusion
I don’t know about you but it took me a while to find the right psycho-hygienic balance under the current media carpet-bombing campaigns imposed on us in such an overwhelming and dark fashion. Even in such a gloomy period, we’re going through right now, there are some politicians and businesses that are there to gain more power and/or wealth. So in this sense, the world hasn’t changed much.
By providing a platform to share someone else’s work, Social Media simply took away some of the revenue the media industry used to enjoy and the media reacted the way they could: Rising revenues through pushing circulation, sometimes at the expense of quality, or in some cases even truth.
Coronavirus, therefore IMHO does play a role in the further decline of the media industry, it’s however just “another nail in the coffin”, rather than the prime reason for such unfortunate development.
As readers, we still rely on the good old critical thinking evaluation process, when it comes to processing the information we receive. Well, now we’re in it actually more than ever because the cherry-picking facts to fit the intended dogma is becoming more and more sophisticated, not to mention the spread the conspiracy theories and the effects of social bubbles.
On that note, I beg you, please make sure to balance the sources of where you getting your information from, especially if you’re about to share any content with your friends. Also don’t forget that it is important to keep your psyche intact. If you can, try thinking outside of your bubble as well to understand people from other bubbles, because they might have a point.
I am sure that you know what I mean. Make your own mind rather than having it made for you – after all, we are all individuals 😉
Quaint Planet and Coronavirus
Rather than focusing on basic political or media-response analysis, Quaint Planet is predominantly a travel website, and its main focus is life, travel and culture. Currently, it’s covering nearly 100 destinations from the so-called “Gringo Trail” in Latin America, between Tierra del Fuego‘s Ushuaia AKA “End of the World” up to Mexico’s Yucatán.
If you were however interested in Quaint Planet‘s rather unorthodox take on the moral part of the current pandemic is described in this “live coverage” piece. Another angle we looked at the Coronavirus was from the travellers’ point of view, how the pandemic affected backpackers. If you are however more interested into travel-related texts, please do not hesitate to explore some of the articles on this website 😉
Locations covered on Quaint Planet
Santiago de Chile ► Valparaíso ► Santiago de Chile ►Punta Arenas – Ushuaia – Punta Arenas ► Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales ► El Calafate (Perito Moreno Glacier, Arg) ► El Chaltén (Los Glaciares National Park) ► Chile Chico (Ch) – Puerto Rio Tranquillo (Marble Caves) ► Coyhaique – Puyuhuapi – (Carretera Austral) ► Puerto Chacabuco – Quellón/Castro ► Puerto Varas – San Carlos de Bariloche (Arg) ► Buenos Aires ► Colonia (Ur) ► Montevideo ► Punta del Diablo – Cabo Polonio ► Montevideo ► Salto ► Concordia (Arg) ► Puerto Iguazú (Iguazú Falls) ► Salta ► San Salvador de Jujuy ► Tilcara ► San Pedro de Atacama (Ch) ► Uyuni Salt Flats Tour (Bol) ► Uyuni ► Sucre – La Paz (Death Road Tour) ► Copacabana (Lake Titicaca) – Isla del Sol – Copacabana ► Cusco (Per) ► Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) ► Cusco ► Lima ► Máncora – Montañita (Ecu) ► Puerto López ► Quito ► Ipiales (Col) – Pasto ► Tatacoa Desert ► Bogotá ► Medellín ► Villa de Lleyva ► Santa Marta – Cartagena – Rincón del Mar Necoclí ► Capurganá ► Puerto Obaldía (Pan) ► Panama City ► Las Lajas ► Cerro Punta ► David ► Bocas del Torro ► San José (Costa Rica) ► San Juan del Sur (Nic) – Ometepe ► Granada ► Managua – El Rama – Bluefields – Corn Islans ► Léon ► El Tunco (El Salvador) ► La Antigua Guatemala – Lake Atitlán ► Lanquín (Semuc Champey) – Flores (Tikal) ► Belize City ► Bacalar – Tulum – Playa del Carmen – Mérida – Valladolid – Cancún ✈️ .
Stay safe and well everyone 🧡