Self-styled local media guru Jeff “Podunk” Pelline keeps insisting that social media is changing the way we communicate, presumably for the greater good.
The driving force behind this “revolution” is Facebook, the same outfit that just turned over to Congress 3,000 pages of ads purchased by a Russian front organization during the presidential campaign, ads that may have reached between 3 million and 20 million people on the social network.
This follows on the heels of accusations that Facebook allowed numerous fake articles to gain wide circulation during the campaign that may have influenced some voter in a tight race, a claim CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as “crazy.”
All of this brought increased scrutiny from Congress and has drawn the attention of federal regulators, developments that can cause even the most arrogant mandarins of Silicon Valley to sit up straight and clear their throats. Some people think it’s about time.
“Increased scrutiny of Facebook is healthy,” wrote columnist Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal. “What went mainstream as a friendly place for loved ones to swap baby pictures and cat videos has morphed into an opaque and poorly understood metropolis rife with influence peddlers determined to manipulate what we know and how we think.”
Facebook is designed to prioritize thrilling posts and ads over dull ones, and rewards the cunning over hapless, sincere users. Algorithms like Facebook’s News Feed tend to reward content that is intended to arouse our passions “regardless of source–even veracity,” Mims wrote.
As if on cue, Facebook’s “Crisis Response” feature was plagued by spam and scam pages almost immediately after the Las Vegas massacre hit the news wires. Its news stories included an article from Gateway Pundit, “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with Anti-Trump Army,”
This is the same outfit that pushed the Pizzagate story during the election campaign, but this new gem apparently wasn’t flagged by Facebook’s new and improved vetting process. The story went viral before it was taken down.
But this sort of stuff doesn’t seem to bother New Age media hipsters like Pelline, who was particularly impressed with how “Facebook lit up with ‘citizen journalist’ reports of the ‘love walk’…” held is downtown Grass Valley last Friday to protest the alleged harassment of a black teenager while he was walking down Mill Street.
The incident went viral when his father posted a video describing the incident, attracting more than 26,000 viewers. The video, Pelline wrote on his blog, “is a reminder of the power of social media in our towns, opening up new channels of communication that didn’t exist before–with signed responses.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean these new channels of communication foster more enlightened dialogue than old media, as comments on Pelline’s blog about the love walk illustrated.
In an effort to no doubt create greater understanding in the community, Podunk picked up a comment from the blog of local conservative Todd Juvinall, who wrote that he attended a meet-and-greet for sheriff’s candidate Bill Smethers when the racial incident came up in a conversation.
“”It was a vivid memory of a couple of past NU footballer (sic) players about their travel to Grant (a largely black high school in Sacramento). Some were afraid to exit the bus as they were surrounded and called names.”
That prompted a heated response from Chris Bishop, a teacher at Nevada Union who attended high school with Smethers: “I find the post from Todd Juvinall extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing…”, then recounted positive experiences he had at Grant as a baseball player.
“For Bill to ‘reminisce’ about ‘travels to Grant’ is a revisionist memory that questions his ability to be a Law Enforcement Officer, or Todd is making it up.” None of this was attributed to Smethers in Juvinall’s post. Talk about reading comprehension!
Steve Frisch, head of something called the Sierra Business Council, didn’t point out Bishop’s mistake: “Chris, I would take anything Todd says with a massive grain of salt…”
Pelline, who reported the item, didn’t bother to correct either one of them. It took Juvinall, a high school graduate, to set straight these three college hot shots!
The new, improved social media will never remove the blinders people put on themselves.