Disinformation or political dysfunction: which comes first?

Is misinformation a supply problem or a demand problem? Over the past few years, politicians and pundits have coalesced around the narrative that “misinformation” – whether it comes from Russian bots, random conspiracy theorists, your grandfather’s Facebook feed or professional media – is both a growing problem and a root cause of current politics. dysfunction. Social media companies have regularly come under fire for allegedly propagating against people and failing to stop the spread of misinformation.

These ideas are politically convenient for left and right. Didn’t win an election? It was that misinformation about your candidate! Can’t get support for a ballot initiative or bill? Disinformation. People won’t respect public health measures? Do you have feelings you wish they didn’t have? Promoting “false” political values ​​or inconvenient analysis? Disinformation!

There are many reasons to doubt these accounts, some of which we have already covered. Misinformation online is certainly widespread. But there is evidence that…

“The demand for fake news is a much bigger problem than the supply,” Ilya Somin suggested to Volokh’s plot in 2019.

The debate between supply and demand for disinformation is simmering again, thanks to this boring slow Publish by Matthew Yglesias. After challenging the idea that there was a certain pre-internet era of better journalism or better public awareness, Yglesias wonders if people believe false things because they are uninformed or because these false things are accompanied by emotions, prejudices and ideas that they already have:

A normal person can tell you a lot of factual information about their life, job, neighborhood, and hobbies, but very little about the FDA clinical trial process or the moon landing. But do you know who knows a lot about the moon landing? Fools who think it’s wrong. They don’t have eccentric opinions because they are misinformed, they have tons and tons of factual information about the moon because they are eccentric. If you remember the executive order number from the Kennedy administration regarding the reduction of troop levels in Vietnam then you’re probably a fool – that the OT plays a big role in conspiracy theories related to Kennedy so this are the conspiracy theorists who know all the details.

More generally, I think a lot of excessive concern about “misinformation” is driven by the mistaken belief that more factual information will resolve political disputes. David Neumark and Arin Dube know a lot more about the empirical literature on minimum wage increases than you and I do. However, they disagree. It is simply a hotly contested issue. Compared to Neumark, the typical progressive is extremely uninformed on this subject; compared to Dube, the typical curator is extremely uninformed. And a lot of political conflict has that quality – most people don’t know much about it, but you can find super knowledgeable people on both sides of the issue. That’s why it’s a live debate.

Two main thrusts of Yglesias’ message are that much of what is coded as “misinformation” really isn’t factually false, but rather a difference in opinions, values, or ways of seeing the world. , and that this is a prior agreement with the misinformation causing it to spread rather than the people who find it online and become convinced. As Somin said earlier, it’s a demand issue, not a supply one.

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute agrees. “It’s mostly not that people are deceived, really; it’s that when any view can find validation online somewhere, people give themselves permission to adopt whatever belief they prefer” , said Sanchez. tweeted. “I’m pessimistic about most efforts to tackle online misinformation for the same reason I expect the ‘war on drugs’ to continue to be won by drugs: you can’t solve a demand problem by targeting the supply.”

What does all this have to do with political polarization? The idea that “misinformation -> dysfunctional bias story is probably backwards”, suggests Yglesias.

From this perspective, it is American polarization that is driving the demand for fake news, not the other way around.

But whether we start with polarization leading to misinformation or vice versa, the problem is that these things are self-reinforcing, suggests Sanchez. “We believe in false things that match our identities because we are polarized. But the false things we believe in also amplify that polarization.”

Which brings us once again to the idea of ​​demand. A polarized people want to believe the worst of the other side, prompting politicians and pundits to exaggerate rumors and provide the worst possible analyses, even when these border on – or are simply – misinformation. A polarized people want to believe the worst of their “enemies”, so they do.


Labor trafficking is much more prevalent than sex trafficking on T visa forms. “The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, recently released a breakdown of 14 years of visas for human trafficking,” notes Glenn Kessler on The Washington Post. you can find that full details here. This is a long undisclosed look at T visas, which are available to victims of sex or labor trafficking who are in the United States or at a port of entry.due to trafficking. Kessler gives an overview of the data:

The first headline of the fact sheet says “USCIS has received over 25,000 T visa applications and has approved over 17,000”, but you have to read the document carefully to know that the total number of victims who received visas over the 14-year period was only 8,550, for both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The other 8,860 visas were for derivative family members.

Most applications did not specify whether the applicant was a victim of sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Of the cases where this information was collected (approximately 16% of principal applicants), “74% indicated that labor trafficking was a form of trafficking, while 39% indicated sex trafficking ; only 8.6% – 120 people – said they had been trafficked for sex. minor,” notes Kessler. “Some Supplement B forms included both labor trafficking and sex trafficking, which is why the total adds up to more than 100 percent.”


Republican Senators push back the no-fly list for disruptive passengers. The TSA “was created in the wake of 9/11 to protect Americans from future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior aboard flights,” the senses wrote. Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Mike Lee (Utah), James Lankford (Okla. ), Marco Rubio (Florida), Kevin Cramer (ND), Ted Cruz (Texas), John Hoeven (ND) and Rick Scott (Florida) in Monday letter. They said the list would equate people who refuse to wear masks with terrorists.

“Homeland security is homeland security,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement. “Our flights are being attacked by a small number of people and that has to stop. … It’s not about ‘masks’ and the worst attacks have nothing to do with masks. You’re either to protect the crew and the passengers of these attacks or you are against.”

“Airlines maintain their own lists of passengers who are not allowed to travel but do not share information with other carriers,” Remarks The Washington Post. It’s unclear why they couldn’t just share this information on their own instead of asking the government to create a federal list that would legally ban people from air travel.

The no-fly list idea is being pushed by Delta’s CEO, who wrote in a Feb. 3 letter to the U.S. Attorney General that he was asking for help “putting anyone found guilty of a disturbance on board on a national passenger, complete and unruly”. no-fly list that would prevent that person from traveling on any commercial air carrier. This action will help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not following crew member instructions on commercial aircraft.

(Because we all know how well the existing no-fly list worked…)

“This is not the first time that politicians have presented the no-fly list as a solution to the crisis. of the dayCJ Ciaramella wrote last year in response to calls for a no-fly list to address people participating in the riots. The terrorist screening database, which includes the no-fly list, should not be allowed to purchase firearms. But “using the list to restrict civil liberties was a bad idea then, and it’s a bad idea now. The no-fly list is a civil liberties nightmare: secretive and nearly impossible to challenge. “


Charges were dropped against a woman whose DNA collection sparked controversy in San Francisco. We noted yesterday that San Francisco officials oppose the use of DNA collected in sexual assault investigations to search for suspects among alleged victims. City District Attorney Chesa Boudin said on Monday that a woman’s DNA collected as part of a domestic violence investigation was used years later to convict her of a property crime. . Black pudding announced yesterday that he had dropped the charges against this woman.


• Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis “officially declared Colorado’s emergency last July. He allowed local jurisdictions to implement the mandates as they saw fit — his hometown of Boulder, for example, has still an indoor mask requirement – but overruled nearly all statewide executive orders related to COVID.” And his “approach appears to be working, both in terms of public health and his own political fortunes”, Remarks New York magazine.

• Robert Califf has has been confirmed as Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

• “Access to the Capitol is only part of the nationwide disruption caused by the pandemic to people’s interactions with government,” writing Haley Byrd Wilt.

• Another racial epithet story that resulted in a teacher on leave.

• Small US Donors collected about half of the donations from a crowdfunding site to the convoy of Canadian truckers protesting the COVID-19 mandates.

• Has the idea that Canadians are “moderate, rule-abiding and just plain nice” been “a myth from the start?

• Biden’s antitrust crusade targets alcohol.

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