October 7, 2011

“The entire Occupy Wall Street movement needs a ‘[citation needed]’ footnote”

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:32

Robert David Graham does some independent reporting of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests and finds the mainstream media is being remarkably superficial:

It’s the quality of the coverage, not the amount that’s the problem. It’s been on the nightly news every night for the past week, but there has been little “serious” reporting.

By “serious” reporting, I mean such things as contacting the park’s owners asking for an official statement. The protesters are occupying Zuccotti Park, owned by the same company (Brookfield Office Properties NYSE:BPO) that owns the adjacent skyscraper. An obvious step would be to contact them asking for a statemen, but I could find no journalists that had yet done so. Well, if “journalists” aren’t going to do this, I can do this myself. I sent an email to their VP of Communications. I got a response, which I posted to my blog. When I posted it, I also Googled the sentences from the official statement, and found no results. I was indeed the first one “reporting” on this. Since then, others have mentioned the official statement, probably by picking it up from the #OccupyWallStreet Twitter hashtag that links to my blog.

[. . .]

In many ways, the press treats this protest the way they treated the Tea Party, completely distorting the story. Journalists ignored the mainstream of the Tea Party and instead focused on the fringe. Instead of showing the hundreds of signs calling for smaller government, reporters instead focused on the one sign showing Obama as Hitler. In the end, this reporting became self-fulfilling. The Republican fringe disaffected with the establishment were convinced by this reporting, believing that they, too, should join the Tea Party, thus derailing it.

[. . .]

In that way, it’s like the Internet. When the Internet appeared on the scene 20 years ago, it wasn’t like anything that predated it. Yes, you could define it in terms of the old, as a digital library, as an electronic form of mail, or as a communications network, but none of these descriptions captures the essence of what the Internet really is.

In particular, there is the problem with the “filter bubble”. While the Internet can expand a person’s universe, it gives people the power to shrink it. People create a “filter bubble” around themselves, using tools of the Internet to pass only those things they agree with. For example, Google watches what people search for, profiling them, and sorts the results for that individual. They see their own small universe reflected back, rather than the big universe.

[. . .]

I get the impression that the entire Occupy Wall Street movement needs a “[citation needed]” footnote. Wikipedia uses this technique to allow anybody to challenge an unsupported assertion. Anybody can insert this footnote, expressing to the reader that (as yet) the assertion isn’t supported. Anybody else can find supporting evidence, and replace the [citation needed] to a footnote pointing to a reliable source. If no citation can be found, the assertion is eventually deleted.

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