Ben Rhodes, Facebook, and News Manipulation

A New York Times profile of Ben Rhodes inflamed controversy on a number of fronts. First on Ben Rhodes contempt for journalists and his claim that he manipulated reporters to push the Obama Administration’s narrative on the Iran Deal, and secondly on claims of poor reporting. Aside from displaying the arrogance of Ben Rhodes, and possibly the administration, it shows that the primary manipulation of news is still done by people, not by algorithms and not for pageviews.

More traditional news media has been breaking down for some time now and another story highlights the consequences of that. A recent report by Gizmodo displayed the manipulation of trending news topics at Facebook. Facebook has become an important source of news and a primary means of information dissemination for a large part of the Western populace. And now, with the fake news scandal after the election it is obvious that people are the culprit and not merely algorithms.

Pressure to break stories, because the first person or organization to post a story online will get an enormous bump in traffic, has never been greater for journalists. This has led to the fraying of ethics and helps people like Ben Rhodes manipulate the public. So now, as prominent individuals manipulate the traditional media, and unreliable news sources overwhelm social media, the basis for public cooperation in democratic governments is eroding. The prospect of the collapse of democracies is not unthinkable as it may have once been.

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