Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Joe Biden and the Little Creeps of Silicon Valley

(WARNING: NO BOURBON CONTENT.) This bombshell story erupted all over tech media yesterday. It was virtually the same headline and story in every instance. Many people on my Facebook feed posted it in one of its many forms. Many comments, mostly hostile to Biden, followed.

A simple Google search showed that reporting of this bombshell was pretty much limited to the tech media, though that is a very large universe in its own right. Biden made the statement during his meeting with the New York Times editorial board on December 16. The interview transcript was not released publically until this past Sunday night as part of the Times announcement of its endorsements for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Biden was not endorsed.)

Nothing prevented the Times from reporting Biden's statement back in December when he made it. If candidates make news during these interviews, the Times and other media outlets typically report that news right away, even if they don't intend to publish the full interview until later. Apparently, the Times didn't find it newsworthy. They still don't. No freestanding story about Biden's "little creeps" comment has appeared in the Times.

Because I became aware of the story from social media and couldn't find any mention of it in mass media, I was suspicious. A search for "Joe Biden calls game developers little creeps" returned dozens of nearly identical stories but did not return the original source. Therefore, it had the feel of something a Russian troll would push, an extremely negative story about a candidate aimed at a very specific audience.

It may still be that, which is the interesting part of this story. Misinformation doesn't have to be completely fake. In fact, what works best is a story that has what Stephen Colbert called 'truthiness;' "the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true."

We all know that, in social media, a large percentage of participants read and react to headlines without ever reading the underlying story, effectively accepting the story as true and the headline writer's spin as the true gist of the story. They rarely do any additional research.

In fact, Joe Biden did not "call game developers 'little creeps.'" He referred to one specific (unnamed) game developer as a "little creep," in the context of a comment about violent video games. It was the sort of unguarded frankness for which Joe Biden is famous, if not always admired.

If there is a lesson here, it is that we all need to up our skepticism game, especially in this election year. Hesitate before you comment. People who follow me know I'm reminding myself to do this as much as anyone else. This is one of the ways we participate in our participatory democracy. Let's try to do it well.

Also, it is not necessary to like or agree with the New York Times to appreciate it when they provide the unedited voice of the candidate. (Albeit behind a paywall.) They and the other mainstream media (including entities such as Fox News, which is 'mainstream' in this regard) provide direct reporting by reporters. That's different from media outlets that simply take stories reported by others and re-report them with their own spin. Think of them as second-hand news.

It isn't difficult to tell the difference. Ultimately, it has nothing to do with ideology. The Daily Kos is second-hand news just as much as Breitbart is. We  are better off when we get our news as nearly first hand as we can and make up our own minds about what it means.


Cary Dice said...

My BS radar has by necessity become a fine-tuned1 machine anymore. Ex: Tirade about Social Security making the posting rounds generating many angry comments...except the base "fact" is way off. It is that average woker pays in $1.3MM over 40 years compounded at 1% so with people dying before their "time" we are getting ripped off. Except that the number is more like $428k which at current monthly max payment only covers you for 13 years. "I could just scream".

Dave said...

> In fact, Joe Biden did not "call game developers 'little creeps.'" He referred to one specific (unnamed) game developer as a "little creep," in the context of a comment about violent video games.

The exact quote was "one of the little creeps sitting around that table." While his comments surrounded one specific game developer, he clearly referred to multiple parties as "little creeps." If you are going to post an essay about truth in media, you might try to be less loose with the facts.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Well, Dave, if you want to pick nits, the second part of Biden's headline-quoted statement was a reference to one, specific "little creep."

Anonymous said...

Chuck, I love your honesty and willingness to seek the truth, and speak out.

The message: think for yourself
is always worth re-stating in today's strange reality.

Although I am not sure what they meant when proclaiming "The truth will set you free..." it is certain that those perpetually deceived are not free at all.

Agent SJ said...

Thank you for doing the deep dive on this. I’d like to add that Fox News isn’t the news, it’s entertainment. The Fairness doctrine of 1949 was rescinded in 1987. Previously broadcast news was required to be fair and balance. I was in communications school when this happened. At the time I was aghast at the bottle blond, mini skirted, high heeled adjunct professor teaching “Broadcast Performance.”

Next up, the pay wall at the New York Times is pretty low. Year long teaser subscriptions are as low as $4 per month. After the teaser expire it balloons to $8 per month. That’s still a bargain for fair and balanced reporting.

Anonymous said...

Agent SJ, calling the NY Times fair and balanced reporting is the biggest joke I've heard in a decade. There could hardly be a more biased news source. Wake up you zombie.

Sam Komlenic said...

I';m guessing that anonymous above is a Breitbart and/or Drudge devotee. It has always been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These days, it seems, truth is also thus.


Anonymous said...

Actually no I'm neither. But I have a critical eye and anyone else with one can see the ridiculous bias of the NY Times. What's really sad are those like you who can only see one side.