What is wrong with media and policy? A case by example from Germany.
I recently had a wonderful discussion on Twitter regarding a backlash against the Christmas regulation around Covid-19. As some might have noticed — I hope you haven’t -, there is a massive backlash against it on Twitter regarding the “political Christianism” that lead to that decision.
Insight the Media machine
It is quite obvious that social media enjoys jumping on controversial topics and a lot of hatred and criticism is voiced there. The arguments in this case all focused on why the the German government made special arrangement around Christmas, and not Hanuka or other religious holidays.
The simple answer to this message is quite simple. Well, the decision concerned the interest of a majority, and was made by a government elected by a democratic majority, representing the interests of the democratic majority. Quite simple.
But it is more interesting to think about this outrage. It appears, that despite being fully accepted and integrated into our society, minority groups appear to always have an issue and like to incite fights with the majority. Interesting enough. And very noble we accept this.
But why this confidence? Obviously there is a platform for such views on technologies like Twitter. Is that enough, though? It also bears mentioning that those discussions somehow make it — although not in this case — to the public mass media.
This is interesting. So minorities make obscure claims. It is covered by core media. Why is that?
It is rather simple. While the majority of the population is actually busy taking care of their civic duties, taking care of their families, and taking part in social activities in associations, political parties, in their community — e.g. helping the poor, teaching the children, re-socializing the prisoners and so forth — there seems to be a part of the community, which is not integrated in the normal social processes and institutions of societies. A part of the society that is isolated enough from normal life, they have time to lead discussions on social media.
So the first oddity is the fact that trends and discussions happen on twitter. And that it most likely by people who care enough and have time to do so. So by people not busy with or integrated in social networks in their environment. The outsiders.
The next oddity is : why are public media covering this? Well, it is quite simple. Their revenue comes from clicks and interaction with their content. Who would be the audience that engages with media content most? Well, it is the people who are not busy with being part of society that are alone and spend their time on social media.
So the revenue model of media companies and those isolated, disintegrated and lonely people for a symbiosis. The groups form opinions and noise in social media untill they trend. This is picked up by mass media, who thereby engage this audience and generate clicks.
One could argue, that those are only the topics of interest of people who are not engaged in society, outsiders, minorities, non-integrated people. Should this be covered? Should the media not cover majority issues? Well, yes they should. But that is more costly — it requires reaching out to busy people rather than reusing information in tweets — and less engaging — the loners who generate the clicks and media income of the media would not appreciate or understand this coverage, because they are not engaged and busy and would feel alienated and they would not understand the concept in the first place.
So in essence, the media and social media feed from each other. Media covers nonsense from loners to generate clicks. Loners take the coverage by media as an approval of their thinking and an endorsement of the relevance of their their visions and narratives forward.
This all makes sense. And the result is a parallel universe of people isolated and distached from society who discuss topics not relevant and also distached from society. Thereby feeding media with ad revenue, ads taking consumption power and savings out of the pockets of the isolated individuals. ANd the whole thing feeds itself foward. It is a loss of the meaning of mass media, but it is overall insane enough to say: ok, forget about it. let’s ignore it.
The problem for society now comes from two factors. The mass media coverage pushes this into the majority of society who start to believe this being a general issue. While political parties start positioning their programs towards these social phenomena. This crowds out the more relevant debates from the core information channels of mass media. And it detroys the foundation of political parties and their role as filters and educators on political issues that matter to society as a whole.
That being sad it inself is not the end of the dynamics. Rather this cycle of insanity is starting to actually affect policy. Such as the party program of the German Green party. Such parties cater to these feedback cycle of insane information to cater to a base of younger voters who in their collective turn more insane and “unmündig”. While using their popularity and presence to boost their votes in this demographic. Adding then some very misleading and controversial policies that focus on the older segments of society, generates a party that suddenly generates traction in the local and general elections.
The result of all this nonsense are quotas and pronouns for 0.001% minority groups in society becoming a political issue that is becoming regulated.
So this feedback cycle that connected economic interest with a bunch of loners and insane people suddenly starts to dictate policy for the majority.
And that is where this entire moster of interaction becomes dangerous and destabilizing for the very foundations of democracy.