Friday Reading S06E06
Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from the Guardian’s Social and New Formats Editor Martin Belam covering journalism, media and technology. It is also available as an email newsletter – sign up here.
“Fake news is a tricky thing, though, isn’t it? It feels like the whole world has suddenly become destabilised and we just can’t get a grasp of anything tangible or real. It feels like trying to have a conversation about Descartes with a group of stoners. Just when you think you’ve grasped a truth, it evaporates into thin air.”
Good quote from a column by Siobhan Tolland urging us to be a bit more honest in our assessment of how much fake news is a new thing, when, as she puts it “the public have been battling bad journalism for years”.
Jasper Jackson looks at the next front likely to open up in the fake news war: “Outlets with a reckless approach to the truth will hit back by attacking the fact checker, not the fact.”
Anil Dash is really good here on how internet algorithms have gone from the wonderful promise of free markets, through tainted markets, to utterly rigged fake markets.
“Google got concerned about nefarious search engine optimization tricks, and kept changing their algorithm, meaning that pretty soon the only web publishers that could thrive were those who could afford to keep tweaking their technology to keep up in this new arms race. After just a few years, this became a rich-get-richer economy, and incentivized every smaller publisher to standardize on one of a few publishing tools in order to keep up with Google’s demands. Only the biggest content providers could afford to build their own tools while simultaneously following the demands of Google’s ever-changing algorithm.”
I still think the future will involve shouting “Computer, tell me the news” around your house like Jean-Luc Picard, I remain unconvinced we’ll be shouting at standalone devices – “Amazon’s Echo May Be Too Difficult And Time-Consuming For Many”
“My search for Puzder’s ‘Oprah’ tape spanned more than two months, two coasts and hours spent digging through at least 90 episodes buried in an archive for more than 25 years. The hunt ended Tuesday with the discovery of the videotape in a private collection less than an hour from the White House.”
Some new-fangled journalistic digging: “A Glimpse Into How Much Google Knows About Russian Government Hackers”
“Even Fake News And Donald Trump Can’t Stop Jon Snow Thinking This Is Journalism’s Golden Age” – as I always say, it’s a brilliant time to be an individual journalist. Not so good to be trying to fund journalism.
“A proper news organisation can’t earn enough money off Facebook to wash its face, it’s a huge distortion. Facebook say that they are not a media company [but] I believe they are and that, with the amount of money they are making and the power and influence they have, they have to accept responsibility.”
“If I was a teenager engaging in this stuff these days, I’d probably end up somewhere on the alt-right spectrum. But Infowars back then was a weird, eccentric, but ultimately creative show that didn’t care what anyone else thought of it. Sure, Jones still rattled off about the New World Order; he’d still rant about globalists; and he’d still interview self-appointed paedophile investigators, guys who ran UFO websites and 9/11 truthers. But for a generation of kids like myself – outsiders growing up in stuffy Tory suburbs – it was often the first step towards engaging in politics, even if we didn’t agree with anything being said.”
“How Infowars Became the Opposite of Everything It Set Out to Be” – Hussein Kesvani
Good from the Guyliner on “The stealth homophobia that’s gradually poisoning us“
Really powerful piece from Britain’s first ever black woman MP about the resilience she has had to show in the face of thirty years of racist and misogynistic abuse. I tell you what as well, you’ll see loads of people going “No, no, no, it’s because of Diane Abbott’s political views that she gets treated like this.” These people are f***ing liars.
“For one thing, declaring left and right dead in favour of open versus closed seems incredibly convenient for those pushing for more of a certain type of globalisation – the model of hyper-capitalism that has stirred populist revolts in the first place. Who, aside from the most fanatical isolationist, wishes to have the epithet ‘closed’ applied to them? I am open whereas you are closed. Why not simply go as platitudinous as it gets and declare that politics has become about ‘good’ versus ‘bad’?”
We have a really good podcast about sex and relationships and stuff with lovely Fred McConnell and Leah Green, and if I tell you what it is about this email won’t get through your anti-sexytime email filters but you should listen to it: The Valentine’s Day sex advice episode – Token podcast
The BBC Travel website has been shut down because telling people about traffic jams on motorways isn’t a public service anymore.
Every time I look at any individual thing involved with Brexit it just becomes more insanely complex. This list from Politico of “13 things you didn’t know about Brexit” is another mind-boggling list. And yet the likes of Godfrey Bloom and John Redwood who have made it their life’s mission to get out of the EU will still blithely say “You just hand in your keys and go” or “You just pass one act of Parliament and go.”
Not entirely convinced I agree with the argument here – having played a small part in helping They Work For You get off the ground, but worth reading: “How the transparency lobby fatally weakened parliamentary democracy“
A bit meta, but in this list of good things to read, I’d like to point you to my mate Benji’s list of 10 brilliant long reads. How much time have you got for reading?
United States of America’s Library of Congress has done a study of their CD collection, and well, the first generation of CDs is already rotting and dying. Although there’s an argument, of course, for saying that it’s only by forgetting stuff we get to having usable archives of things worth remembering.
Absolutely, and literally, gob-smacking story of how approval was given for the dire Michael Jackson “Moonwalker” computer game in the eighties.
Chess history is amazing isn’t it? This is a forensic examination of what actually happened when the 1984/85 Championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov became the first, and so far only, world championship final to be abandoned without result.
I watched “Ghost Light” this week, one of my favourite Sylvester McCoy era Doctor Who stories, but also one that is basically incomprehensible and hard to summarise. On Twitter I summed it up as “Basically Liberace gets stuck on earth during the Victorian Era and gets cross about evolution.”
This is a much finer analysis of the last story made in Doctor Who’s original run: “Monkey Business“
I unexpectedly got to see Mark Eitzel play live at short notice this week – here’s a lovely review of his new album which was produced by Suede’s Bernard Butler and which is well worth a spin.