Stage Six: Process-Analyzing Thinkpiece; Stage Seven: MetaFilter Post
December 3, 2018 9:37 AM   Subscribe

A Guide to the Content Cycle, looking at how online content goes from minor meme to major news network outrage, using the model of last week's most pressing issue according to the right-wing media, whether the SJWs are trying to ban Rankin-Bass Christmas specials.
posted by Copronymus (23 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
“Liberalism is a disease” is something that is invariably said by a full-size glioblastoma that got big enough to wear a suit.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:54 AM on December 3 [8 favorites]


Stage 1: Any opinion, no matter how stupid, silly, or inflammatory can be found via a twitter search.

Stage 2: There are no twitter tags or "conversations," that are too stupid to be turned into a "trending" story by low-effort news and blogging sites like Huffington Post.

Stage 3: There's no "trend" described by low-effort news and blogging sites too marginal for performative outrage by Fox News.

Stage 4: There's no performative outrage by Fox News that's too banal or stupid for people on twitter to complain about.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:08 AM on December 3 [7 favorites]


I'm grateful for this article. Yesterday I opened the Washington Post front page and was shocked to see an article about how liberals were against Rudolph. Obviously liberals are not against Rudolph; I know this because I am a 'liberal' (or at least I am what they are referring to when they say 'liberals') and I am not against Rudolph. I thought to myself "I guess WaPo thinks this is news because it's showing up on Fox News etc." and of course that's exactly it. But the response is so obvious I practically shouted it out loud: "It's only news if you choose to make it news. Stop choosing to make it news!"

This is a legitimate crisis -- not the Christmas War of course, but the descent into... whatever we're descending into. And it's freaking me right the heck out.
posted by dbx at 10:10 AM on December 3 [15 favorites]


Not to abuse the edit window, I'd like to add:

Stage 5: There's no performative outrage by Fox News that's too banal or stupid for other major news outlets to 'report the controversy'.

Would that the backlash were restricted to Twitter ratios.
posted by dbx at 10:12 AM on December 3 [4 favorites]


Liberalism is a disease. And the only cure is: less conservative cow shit.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:13 AM on December 3 [1 favorite]


"Some people might complain that the Content Cycle is corrosive and demeaning"

Water erodes its landscape, but it gave us the Grand Canyon. What would be the media equivalent?
posted by adamrice at 10:27 AM on December 3


So, the media equivalent of steadily, incrementally eroding a huge divide in the landscape.
posted by cortex at 10:34 AM on December 3 [3 favorites]


Stage 5: There's no performative outrage by Fox News that's too banal or stupid for other major news outlets to 'report the controversy'.

It's not about stupidity or banality. The actual content doesn't matter. The problem is that the media's incentives are messed up: these outrage storms generate views and clicks for every company that promotes them. If a company ignores them, it will lose out on those while its competitors make money, and the current media environment is too brutal for anyone to be able to afford any losses.

As long as the media structure is this way, there is no way to stop this. Everyone that's tried has failed. The only institutions that can stand above it are ones like PBS that don't rely on that form of revenue to survive.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:55 AM on December 3 [8 favorites]


This article is great, specifically for its discussion of how stuff jumps from dumb jokes on the Internet to dumb culture wars on the TV, and then back. It's like a parasite that has a larval stage and an adult stage.
posted by Nelson at 10:58 AM on December 3 [1 favorite]


I’m not sure who is the biggest problem in this, but I’m hovering over it being “people who think Fox and Breitbart are real” or “people who ironically pretend Fix and Breitbart are real to own the libs”. I suspect demographics means the first group are going to trail off over time but the second seems like a growing problem.
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on December 3 [4 favorites]


It's not only conservatives who whip themselves into a frenzy because someone said something stupid on twitter.

Another dimension here is that Carlson replaced O'Reily, so maybe taking over the annual Fox News ritual of ginning up prejudice against atheists and other non-Christians during Advent is part of his job description. For most people, the office holiday involves dips with chicken and beans. At Fox News, it's not Christmas without hatred and misplaced paranoia that someone will wish you well with a non-specific winter holiday greeting.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:08 AM on December 3 [3 favorites]


You know what would put a stop to this? Requiring media organizations to pay the original poster when they "aggregate" their "content".
posted by SansPoint at 11:21 AM on December 3 [9 favorites]


In the 90's I had a moment of newsworthiness, and a magazine editor who was a Columbia Journalism grad acting as my "press agent". At that time, the remuneration to the writer for writing a story on this was: $800 for a full-page article, if it included exclusive quotes and exclusive photos.

After the phone interview, where the exclusive quotes were gotten, the journalist was expected to find a conflicting or doubting view from some other expert, then a "follow up" phone interview would give me a chance to refute the opposing viewpoint.

That was the formula for six or eight articles. Now, my story would be an online story, would be based solely on the contents of my press release, and the author would be paid $40.

Journalism has been devalued, and I guess that's just as much caused on the demand side as on the supply side.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:42 AM on December 3 [4 favorites]


"Some people might complain that the Content Cycle is corrosive and demeaning"

Water erodes its landscape, but it gave us the Grand Canyon. What would be the media equivalent?


The huge gaping empty space where funded quality journalism used to be.
posted by srboisvert at 11:48 AM on December 3 [9 favorites]


One alternative is actual editorial control beyond picking maximum click-bait, which includes the principle that a story doesn't run unless you interview the sources involved. But that would require other people to say, "that ain't news" and move on.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:01 PM on December 3 [3 favorites]


The huge gaping empty space where funded quality journalism used to be.

To fully extend the metaphor: the content cycle is less like the Colorado River carving land into geological majesty and more like the implacable wave action that erodes our pleasant beaches down until we all collectively run out of the sand we need to rebuild our beaches.
posted by halation at 12:13 PM on December 3 [3 favorites]


I think these analogies are upside down. This isn't a subtractive or even divisive issue, it's an additive and multiplicative issue. Nothing is being carved or washed away, it's being buried. Buried in an endless, rising tide of shit.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:49 PM on December 3 [6 favorites]


Trying to keep this neutral so that I can use this in discussions with people on the other side of the aisle (even though the problem does seem to be more closely aligned with the news sources mentioned in the article), but basically I think there are a few parallel steps to this happening outside the media that really contribute to how corrosive this has been to our democracy.

So cycle 1 basically from the article,
1. Posters: *exists*.
2. Aggregator: *Takes path of absolute least resistance towards turning this into content*
3. Cable News: *Performative outrage at the immorality of the other side.*
4. Social Media: *Performative outrage at the ignorance of the other side.*

MEANWHILE, a cycle 2 occurs in parallel,
5. Politicians: *Stoke this outrage at all costs so that you can maintain visibility as someone opposed to it.*
6. Primary Voters: *lol, idk, just nominate the guy with the most money or something.*
7. Democratic Candidate and Republican Candidates: *Be the deepest, but also the second deepest, in the pocket of disney villain scale oligarchs*
8. Election Voters: *Ugh, lesser of two evils it is.*
9. Donald Trump: *exists*
10. Everyone: surprised_pikachu_meme.gif

Who benefits from both cycles: oligarchs.
Who suffers from both cycles: Repbulican and Democratic voters.
Who doesn't give two shits about the consequences of both cycles: Mainstream Republican and Democratic Politicians.
posted by cirrostratus at 1:27 PM on December 3 [2 favorites]


It's not only conservatives who whip themselves into a frenzy because someone said something stupid on twitter.

Over here in my bubble the closest I get to this aspect of the content cycle is people who hang onto Seth Abramson's every word. Which honestly is quite annoying enough thank you.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:09 PM on December 3


It’s annoying and dumb but, I’d argue, rarely actually harmful in quite the same way.
posted by Artw at 5:36 PM on December 3


Tucker Carlson doesn’t really run his show. He has producers. They’re the ones that choose the focus, write the zingers and book the guests. Those chyrons? Tucker didn’t write them. Someone at the studio sat down and wrote, “Are any holiday traditions safe from attack?” Then someone else clicked a menu button to display it.

Forget Tucker. Who are these people? How do you reach them?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:05 PM on December 3


Someone at the studio sat down and wrote, “Are any holiday traditions safe from attack?” Then someone else clicked a menu button to display it.


Folks, this is exactly the sort of thing "the banality of evil" was coined to describe. It perfectly encapsulates what is wrong with our society. It's sort of like the Milgram experiment in a lot of cases. The boss says to write it, so they do, even when (as is often the case, I'm lead to believe) they don't believe it.

The same thing happens in small ways and large in much of corporate America where people leave their ethics at the door because the boss says so. Sometimes the boss actually does say so and is fully on board with being as exploitative as possible. Sometimes the boss isn't explicitly saying anything of the sort but our mental framework has been so poisoned by decades of right wing propaganda about how institutions are that everybody just does it that way by default. (Business must prioritize profit over all else! Government is dysfunctional and always the problem!)

The system is sick. Trump is forcing us to see what has previously been at least somewhat concealed with dog whistles.
posted by wierdo at 2:27 AM on December 4 [1 favorite]


But the real question is, why did Tucker Carlson choose to devote so much of his valuable airtime to a HuffPost video about tweets, instead of, say, to educating and empowering his viewers to take action in their communities?

But the real question is, how does Tucker Carlson get any airtime whatsoever after the Jon Stewart showdown
posted by standardasparagus at 9:11 AM on December 4


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