On the 16/2 the US Department of Justice announced that it was indicating 13 Russian individuals for actively interfering in the 2016 US Presidential election. What had been suspected for quite some time, now seems sufficiently evidenced.
I have already read multiple great pieces on this new development that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
However, when I read about the ways in which these individuals went about influencing the election, it dawned on me that I have been underestimating the effect of the internet, echo chambers and social media manipulation on the generation of my own political views.
Echo chambers are an old hat at this point, but I asked myself a slightly different question: if the opinions espoused by X Y and Z are not factually supported or misrepresent certain events, how would I even know?
It is not just the fact that we do not listen to diverging viewpoints enough, we too uncritically accept what people say who voice opinions that we are sympathetic to. Just because an analysis of a situation feels right to me because I agree with the conclusion, does not mean that the facts support the conclusion. And if I just take the facts as given the way they are presented by the person delivering the analysis – well then obviously this leaves room for undue manipulation.
So there needs to be more clarity and objectivism on what actually happens out there and who the people are reporting on it or analyzing it, as well as what their agenda might be. Or at the very least I as a consumer should be warier and consider multiple viewpoints with equal interest.
As I am writing this I realize how unrealistic this seems. People will always be more sympathetic to analyses that confirm their biases. And so will I.
I am doing too little fact-checking and active research on other views on political issues. And watching a video of your favourite political commentator reacting to someone else’s viewpoint does not count here. Also, watching news coverage of presenters discussing what someone said, does not mean you actually heard what the original statement was about.
I think just now I realize that I need to download a few more news apps and subscribe to a few more YouTube channels.
I refuse to fall victim to social media manipulation and I think this is a major political issue that needs to be constructively confronted (I can recommend the Unhacking Democracy podcast).
This is not really a new issue – it is not an issue of the internet. The established media has the exact same problems and just because you know the name of the journalist doesn’t necessarily do much to protect you.
So, what’s to be done?
Honestly, I am very open to suggestions on how to deal with this..