(/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/04/eich460.jpg)What do the forced departure of Brendan Eich from Mozilla and #CancelColbert have in common? They are both examples of Fakectivism.
Fakectivism is social media activism by small numbers of people that is integrated into the news cycle because it matches the media’s political agenda.
Every Tea Party member knows that media coverage of actual protests is unequal. Twenty students, most of them volunteers at an environmental non-profit, protesting Keystone will get media coverage that a thousand Tea Party members protesting ObamaCare won’t receive.
The same is true of online protests.
Many of the real life protests covered by the media are fake. For example, unions hire non-union protesters to protest on their behalf, a fact that the media organizations covering the protests rarely point out. (That same privilege wouldn’t be extended to Tea Party members who hired professional protesters to yell at the cameras for them.) Other protests pretend to be grass roots when they actually consist of members or even paid employees of a single organization.
Fakectivism online multiplies the problems with media coverage of left-wing activism by completely distorting the number of people participating in a protest and their credibility in representing anyone except themselves.
In real life protests, the media routinely reported higher turnout for left-wing protests and lower turnout for conservative protests. Online, Fakectivism dispenses with head counts. If it’s a trending topic, then it’s news. And sometimes it’s news, even if it isn’t.
Fakectivism begins with left-wing agitprop sites selectively collecting tweets in support or against something. The handful of tweets are described in collective terms as “The Internet” being outraged about something. The use of the collective “Internet” is a staple of Fakectivism because it conflates a manufactured story with the opinions of billions of people.
Successful Fakectivism moves up the ladder to higher end left-wing websites searching for teachable controversies. These websites have enough status that they are monitored by producers and editors from the mainstream media looking for stories.
The mainstream media harvests content from sites such as Slate or the Huffington Post and reframes it in biased but credible language while disguising its sources. Twitter Fakectivism is invariably described as a “backlash” or a “firestorm”. Phrases such as “Twitter was lit up by outraged users” give non-technical readers the impression that the complainers represent the consensus of the site instead of a small number of overactive users.
The manufactured Fakectivism becomes a major news story by a successive filtering process that disguises the dubious source and the credibility of the originating event.
Eich’s donation in defense of marriage had already become an issue two years ago. The same Twitter attacks were curated by left-wing Fakectivist websites, but the ‘spark’ that would allow the story to go mainstream was missing. Instead Eich walked away, mostly unscathed, because the protests did not gain traction in the media.
The Fakectivism directed at Eich in 2012 fizzled away because without media involvement the professional social justice activists are nothing more than their own feeble rage echo chamber. It’s the mainstream media that makes Fakectivism work by choosing to report on it. Its outlets put the final “fake” in Fakectivism.
It’s not mythical grass roots outrage that seals the fate of someone like Brendan Eich. It’s the mainstream media. The social justice Tumblr and Twitter activists like to think that they can claim scalps, but the only scalps that they claim are the ones that the media allows them to take.
Fakectivism is really a means of allowing media professionals to pursue their political agendas through selective reporting. The left-wing online ecosystem lives or dies by its ability to move “edgier” material and agendas into the mainstream media and the media decides whether the time is right to force the agenda on its viewers, listeners and readers.
Media and social media Fakectivists both calculate their stories around a larger agenda.
It’s the role of the social media Fakectivists to aggressively push their most radical agendas and of the media Fakectivists to moderate their tone. The media act as the formal gatekeepers of liberalism determining which radical agenda can be mainstreamed this week while the social media activists keep forcing the gates to open even wider.
It’s never about the facts. The media and social media Fakectivists only care about emotional manipulation in the service of their agenda. Their stories are morality plays that expect the audience to view a human drama and come down on their side and for their agenda. The drama is the narrative which both sets of Fakectivists skew their way through misleading reporting.
In the Eich case, the media deliberately misreported facts about the Mozilla Foundation. For example, media stories claimed that board members were resigning in protest over Eich’s role. That was untrue. Mozilla was in turmoil and had been for some time, but the reasons for that had nothing to do with Eich’s views on marriage. Eich had stepped into a thankless role that he didn’t want in an organization whose signature browser had been steadily losing market share.
Likewise the media failed to explain Eich’s major contribution to the modern internet while highlighting protest Tweets from a handful of Mozilla employees, mostly non-technical and/or associated with the Open Badges Project.
Some of this can be attributed to sloppiness, but had Eich been a gay CEO targeted by Twitter protesters angry over his sexual identity, there is little doubt that the backstory would have been researched and accurately clarified. Media sloppiness is a calculated blindness on stories where research would only damage the narrative.
The media outsources much of its research to left-wing sites and often only rewrites their stories. A belated fact check may occasionally shoot down a false story, as with the Washington Post’s Keystone attack on the Koch Brothers, but mostly content from Media Matters, Think Progress, Salon, Gawker and worse streams uninterrupted into the newspapers of record and the wire services with changes in style, not substance.
The media now mainly reports on trending internet content, whether it’s Twitter protests, pop stars or cat videos. The distinction between CNN and any random website that collects the same viral content is that the viral site is likely to have it first. That’s increasingly the same distinction between NBC News and the Huffington Post.
Fakectivism extends a convenient relationship in which the media acts as a gatekeeper for social media into the political realm. The difference is that while the media is agnostic when it comes to passing along cat videos or reporting on a pop star’s trashy antics, it carefully curates which protests it takes seriously, which causes it advances and which people it gets fired.
The media has come to embody a decentralized relationship between different levels of left-wing content providers from major activist groups to random aspirants for social justice fellowships trying to get a hashtag going on Twitter. What we think of as the media is only the formal tip of the iceberg with its billion dollar brand names and national and international operations.
The real media isn’t a station or a newspaper, it’s an agenda. It’s a network of relationships between open radicals and covert radicals. The media has become a closed loop of the left, inventing its own stories and reporting on the stories that it invents.
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