Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Rise of Fakectivism

What do the forced departure of Brendan Eich from Mozilla and #CancelColbert have in common? They are both examples of Fakectivism.

Fakectivism is social media activism by small numbers of people that is integrated into the news cycle because it matches the media’s political agenda.

Every Tea Party member knows that media coverage of actual protests is unequal. Twenty students, most of them volunteers at an environmental non-profit, protesting Keystone will get media coverage that a thousand Tea Party members protesting ObamaCare won't receive.

The same is true of online protests.

Many of the real life protests covered by the media are fake. For example, unions hire non-union protesters to protest on their behalf, a fact that the media organizations covering the protests rarely point out. (That same privilege wouldn't be extended to Tea Party members who hired professional protesters to yell at the cameras for them.)  Other protests pretend to be grass roots when they actually consist of members or even paid employees of a single organization.

During the Bush years, many anti-war protests were actually run by the same small number of radical left-wing groups, but were reported on as if they were mainstream marches of ordinary people.

The situation has become much worse online as the media applies this same selective sloppiness to internet Fakectivism.

Fakectivism online multiplies the problems with media coverage of left-wing activism by completely distorting the number of people participating in a protest and their credibility in representing anyone except themselves.

In real life protests, the media routinely reported higher turnout for left-wing protests and lower turnout for conservative protests. Online, Fakectivism dispenses with head counts. If it's a trending topic, then it's news. And sometimes it's news, even if it isn't.

Fakectivism begins with left-wing agitprop sites selectively collecting tweets in support or against something. Invariably the handful of tweets are described in collective terms as "The Internet" being outraged or supportive of something. The use of the collective "Internet" is a staple of Fakectivism because it conflates a manufactured story with the impulses and opinions of billions of people.

Successful Fakectivism moves up the ladder to higher end left-wing websites searching for teachable controversies. These websites have enough status that they are monitored by producers and editors from the mainstream media looking for stories.

The mainstream media harvests content from sites such as Slate or the Huffington Post and reframes it in biased but credible language while disguising its sources. Twitter Fakectivism is invariably described as a "backlash" or a "firestorm". Phrases such as "Twitter was lit up by outraged users" give non-technical readers the impression that the complainers represent the consensus of the site instead of a small number of overactive users.

The manufactured Fakectivism becomes a major news story by a successive filtering process that disguises the dubious source and the credibility of the originating event.

Eich's donation in defense of marriage had already become an issue two years ago. The same Twitter attacks were curated by left-wing Fakectivist websites, but the 'spark' that would allow the story to go mainstream was missing. Instead Eich walked away, mostly unscathed, because the protests did not gain traction in the media.

The Fakectivism directed at Eich in 2012 fizzled away because without media involvement the professional social justice activists are nothing more than their own feeble rage echo chamber.  It's the mainstream media that makes Fakectivism work by choosing to report on it. Its outlets put the final "fake" in Fakectivism.

It's not mythical grass roots outrage that seals the fate of someone like Brendan Eich. It's the mainstream media. The social justice Tumblr and Twitter activists like to think that they can claim scalps, but the only scalps that they claim are the ones that the media allows them to take.

Fakectivism is really a means of allowing media professionals to pursue their political agendas through selective reporting. The Fakectivists are only the hook that the media hangs its dirty fedora on. They manufacture the stories and are repaid with social justice fellowships at the left-wing agit prop outlets that pick up their manufactured stories and pass them up the media ladder.

The left-wing online ecosystem lives or dies by its ability to move "edgier" material and agendas into the mainstream media and the media decides whether the time is right to force the agenda on its viewers, listeners and readers.

Media and social media Fakectivists both calculate their stories and protests around a larger agenda.

It's the role of the social media Fakectivists to aggressively push their most radical agendas and of the media Fakectivists to moderate their tone. The media act as the formal gatekeepers of liberalism determining which radical agenda can be mainstreamed this week while the social media activists keep forcing the gates to open even wider.

It's never about the facts. The media and social media Fakectivists only care about emotional manipulation in the service of their agenda. Their stories are morality plays that expect the audience to view a human drama and come down on their side and for their agenda. The drama is the narrative which both sets of Fakectivists skew their way through misleading reporting.

In the Eich case, the media deliberately misreported  facts about the Mozilla Foundation. For example, media stories claimed that board members were resigning in protest over Eich's role. That was untrue. Mozilla was in turmoil and had been for some time, but the reasons for that had nothing to do with Eich’s views on marriage. Eich had stepped into a thankless role that he didn't want in an organization whose signature browser had been steadily losing market share.

Likewise the media failed to explain Eich's major contribution to the modern internet while highlighting protest Tweets from a handful of Mozilla employees, mostly non-technical and/or associated with the Open Badges Project.

Some of this can be attributed to sloppiness, but had Eich been a gay CEO targeted by Twitter protesters angry over his sexual identity, there is little doubt that the backstory would have been researched and accurately clarified. Media sloppiness is a calculated blindness on stories where research would only damage the narrative.

The media outsources much of its research to left-wing sites and often only rewrites their stories. A belated fact check may occasionally shoot down a false story, as with the Washington Post's Keystone attack on the Koch Brothers, but mostly content from Media Matters, Think Progress, Salon, Gawker and worse streams uninterrupted into the newspapers of record and the wire services with changes in style, not substance.

The media only truly goes into research mode when the facts fit a conservative narrative. If ocean temperatures are rising, then no research is needed. The talking points are rewritten and jammed in. But if ocean temperatures aren't rising, then suddenly research is needed to explain why the lack of warming is actually proof of Global Warming. This brand of counter-intuitive apologetics attracts the "brightest" figures in the media because it requires that they make an argument that disproves the facts, instead of rewriting a Media Matters release.

The traditional "prestige" media that we used to know still exists, but it exercises less influence than ever. The real media now mainly reports on trending internet content, whether it's Twitter protests, pop stars or cat videos. The distinction between CNN and any random website that collects the same viral content is that the viral site is likely to have it first. That's increasingly the same distinction between NBC News and the Huffington Post.

Fakectivism extends a convenient relationship in which the media acts as a gatekeeper for social media into the political realm. The difference is that while the media is agnostic when it comes to passing along cat videos or reporting on a pop star's trashy antics, it carefully curates which protests it takes seriously, which causes it advances and which people it gets fired.

The media has come to embody a decentralized relationship between different levels of left-wing content providers from major activist groups to random aspirants for social justice fellowships trying to get a hashtag going on Twitter. What we think of as the media is only the formal tip of the iceberg with its billion dollar brand names and national and international operations.

The real media isn't a station or a newspaper, it's an agenda. It's a network of relationships between open radicals and covert radicals. It's a pipeline for pushing a viewpoint through fake stories.

The media has become a closed loop of the left, inventing its own stories and reporting on the stories that it invents. Fakectivism has allowed it to manufacture its own system of non-profit content providers who have become an extension of it. It applies the political relationship between elected officials and non-profits who answer to community activists funded by national foundations rather than their own voters to the news business.

Fakectivism manufactures news. It frees the media from reporting on actual events and allows them to report on non-events manufactured by their political allies with a pre-made narrative. How many people really wanted Eich gone? It doesn't matter. The media takes refuge in abstractions. It treats the internet as a collective force that drives its reporting, when it's actually just the echo chamber for its agenda.


Anonymous said...


OMMAG said...

Fine and true .... but IMO you do not need that "c" to create the word faketivism.

William H said...

Agreed. Drop the "c". It makes the word unpronounceable.

Anonymous said...

Facketivism. A word that perfectly describes our culture, government, media, educational system, entertainment, institutions, and much of what many people use to make decisions. It is the fake, the unreal, the phony, the con, the scam, the propaganda that are lies, in which this world turns. Truth be damned.


Bobert Elliot said...

Two people protesting a coal power plant and they got local news coverage.

DenisO said...

He who can manipulate the increasing population of the ignorant wins, but only if they vote. Few of them do, fortunately, so the whole exercise, by the "enemedia", is not as effective as many think.
The longer they do it, the more obvious it becomes. It is idiots manipulating idiots.
People are most influenced by peer pressure, though they won't admit it. They go along with the herd, without really thinking. I feel it would be in our interest if a way was found to make an example of one of these herd-followers, who is dumb enough to believe something that is proven totally fraudulent and foolish. If one of that herd is spot-lighted and embarrassed for lazily protesting something dumb, he will feel he is seen as a "sucker" and expect to be ridiculed,even by his friends. That ignominy will be feared more than anything else, by others, and it's possible that a lesson will be learned.
I can't think of any other way of educating fools, other than showing them that lazy thinking can cause them to be a focus of ridicule. Evolution takes aeons to remove herd instincts; they're deeply rooted in our DNA, believe it or not.

Anonymous said...

Mass media today is no different than Pravda.

thor42 said...

Agreed that the "c" should be dropped - "faketivism" is much better.
It goes well with "fakestinians" too - one of the main areas of faketivism.

One of the worst recent examples of faketivism was Brandeis University's withdrawal of the honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Brandeis will now be a synonym forever for faketivism.

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