Reading Response 1
Reading Response One
Whitney Phillips describes the most potent problem facing our nation today, pollution. And while literal pollution is in fact a VERY real problem facing us today, I’m talking about media pollution. We see in the news today bad news after bad news, tragedy and scandal are commonplace, and a day WITHOUT incident feels abnormal. Why is that? Amplification. News that ordinarily wouldn’t get attention are getting it, and while it may be negative attention, it still makes it’s way into people’s lives. You hear about white nationalist rallies all over the country right? This stuff has been happening for decades, but they were usually only limited to local news, and could never spread their message further. With the advent of social media, these events can be publicized to audiences far beyond the normal reach, thus inspiring possible allies to the cause, even if the attention is negative. This doesn’t happen with just white nationalists, but with all facets of the far-right, and hate groups use these methods to broadcast their hateful messages to those willing to hear it, even if it's through the mainstream media’s criticism. To quote the author Robert Greene, “...Any attention is good attention, even if it’s bad attention.” The article by Phillips seeks to educate on how this process happens, and what can be done to curb it so to not fan the flames of hate groups and online manipulators, and can serve as a wonderful guide for up and coming journalists for how to properly report on these types of events.
Fire is destructive, powerful, and spreads easily. Small fires can be blown out by wind, but in certain situations, the wind can make the fire grow larger than ever intended. That’s a perfect way to describe the people Phillips calls “Extremists, Antagonists, and Online Manipulators.” In the very first paragraph of the reading, Phillps goes on to explain that national news coverage, no matter how negative, of local far-right events made it much more visible than if it just stayed local. Not only does it spread the word in general, but the possibility for misleading information spreading skyrockets in situations like this. Everyone is in a race to publish the story first, leaving little to no time to proofread and fact check articles, and with all of these news outlets piggybacking off of each other for the hottest story, that misinformation spreads throughout the nation. Another horrible truth to this is the desensitization that people experience when stories like this circulate. How many times a week do we hear that someone is holding a rally, someone got caught being a horrible racist, someone had sex with so and so? You’re used to it by now right? These stories used to peter out in local news, but amplification through social media gives these small fires oxygen to spread and influence, and ultimately cement themselves as normal. But there’s a far more sinister force at work here. The internet is a limitless source of contact, people can find other people ANYWHERE nowadays, and reporters are now being asked to reveal their identities when they publish, instead of being able to hide under the company name. This is especially problematic, for now journalists have metaphorical targets painted on their backs. According to Phillips, the case of Fusion reporter Emily Roller, the girl who put up a picture of Cassandra Fairbanks and Mike Cernovich, two far right advocates putting up “ok” signs at the white house, with the caption “Just two people doing a white power hand gesture in the white house.” Roller was later sued, and relentlessly harassed by far right groups all over the internet, some of which extended it to her family by posting hers and her family’s personal info online. Nothing came of the lawsuit, but it served as a scare tactic to reporters, and showed just how effective the far right is at getting their message out now, with many journalists hesitating before they hit the publish button, thinking to themselves are they putting their families at risk by doing this.
In conclusion, this article is very well written, and explains a lot of this nightmare hellscape of a political world we live in. An interesting comparison I thought of is the Beltran Representation article can come into play here as well, with far right extremists being stereotyped and labeled, it gives them all a way to connect and present themselves, fueling the fire even more. And that’s my take.