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Did we Overdose on Liberalism?
A core idea for the MetaPol newsletter and podcast is the information cliff: the point at which information exchange no longer propagates the ideas that reflect reality. A core question is why the United States seems to have crossed this threshold first and furthest.
One of the most obvious factors is population. The volume of information exchange increases with viewership size, and the American media serves one of the largest audiences in the world.
There are several correlative factors here: one is that malicious ways into the house retain their salience regardless of locality, while accuracy and coherence are less likely to be disputed by viewers living miles away from an event. This locality not only describes geography, but also social locality - the number of personal connections that exist between one person and another.
The other is extremes - news, by definition, captures the most unlikely, dangerous and grotesque events. However, larger sample sizes, especially ones that unite an audience such as a country, will simply produce more of such outliers. These outliers are weaponized in order to justify the malicious ways into the house, such as to fear monger over mathematically nonexistent threats. [This will be outlined in a future post]
Another is media connectivity. Social media and mass media have allowed the reach of one institution, individual or story to access more eyes than ever in history. America has lead the charge on this front, being the point of introduction for social media apps such as facebook, twitter and instagram, while also being the proving grounds for entertainment media models. The externalities introduced by these media models are well documented by the Center for Humane Technology, among others.
Finally, we come to the idea of American culture. Modern American philosophy has put a premium on individual liberty over everything from ethics to science. As Bruno Macaes argues, this generosity extends as far as those denying reality itself. This advanced liberalism has allowed the mainstream prominence of “anti-reality” factions: ones that exploit false narratives, malicious communication and political force to mainstream ideas that have no evidentiary basis, or have even been disproven. These factions, which argue often that they should simply be allowed to believe and propagate false ideas, through slogans such as “agree to disagree” or “respect for emotions”, have gained political prominence in the United States, including political representation.
All three of these elements are simply heuristics, which align with the information observable in the present day. Any attempt to address these problems must properly weigh the economic, political and social consequences. However, they do offer a direction to start digging out of the hole in which American media finds itself stuck.