I finally read After the Truth – How the Media Survives in the Time of Algorithms and Bullshit written by Jarno Hartikainen, Hannu-Pekka Ikäheimo, Olli Seuri and Antto Vihma. According to the authors, technological development and the polarization of society are all hallmarks of our “post-truth” times. I had assumed that the book would mainly blame social media, but, refreshingly, the sharpest criticism was directed at the weaknesses of traditional media.
Still, the authors are leery of the equalizing utopia of the online world, an idea for which I once had high hopes. According to them, even on the net, power is not evenly distributed; only the rulers have changed. The gatekeepers are no longer press moguls but supranational digi-giants. Google has become a synonym for a search engine and Facebook a synonym for social media. This causes problems like info bubbles, a lack of criticism, and further accumulation of wealth by the wealthy.
The book doesn’t give traditional media a pass. Five cases illustrate how trusted papers and journalists have been deceived so as to act as spokespersons for particular interest groups. Politicians are throwing bait to journalists, boosting hidden agendas into headlines and general discussion. A common tactic is the claim that you’re sharing clearly false information ”to stimulate discussion”. The media repeatedly publishes populist headlines (‘the EU bans X’) even though such stories have repeatedly been shown to be untrue
The traditional media crisis and the loss of subscribers are partly due to the industry’s own operating methods. According to the authors, dialogue with the public, self-criticism and a realistic state of affairs are needed for renewal. The media need to demonstrate its ability to defend the truth and to reveal bullshit.