Medium sucks

Medium is a neutrality-agnostic platform. They push in one direction, even against their interests.

Soviet propaganda stamp from 1968

Men publicly kissing men had a different meaning in the penultimate revolution. Still propaganda though. Image (CC-BY-SA 2.0) by Vintageprintable1

Discussing the bazillionth propaganda-infested email I received from Medium, the most successful blogging platform of the moment.

In their imagination the titles of the promoted articles would entice me to click, read and possibly become a premium member, paying for the privilege of being served tons of one-sided articles, plus (thanks God) quite a few dealing instead with matters unrelated to politics.

In the email I received there were 2 articles in the Politics section.

One is just the usual tripe about the dangers of Fascism today, as expressed through the point of view of a hallucinated author that for some reason keeps surfacing in their selection of quality material, supposedly tailored for my taste.

The other article reads:

What It’s Like to Be One of the Few Men Who Volunteer as Abortion Clinic escorts
His job? To protect women from pro-life protesters

You have to admire their spirit. I’d give them a B+ for effort.
It mustn’t be very easy to come up with so many different angles to a topic, all of them one-sided.
Here you’re invited to empathize with a security guy, which for a leftist is something new already (consider how contractors who die on the job while protecting western companies’ employees in the Middle East usually get a posthumous berating).
Because, you know, women’s rights and stuff.

 

It’s not just a one time event. This kind of rhetoric is served daily in your email.

Here’s a few articles from a single, random Medium newsletter from a while ago, in March:

-Based on your reading history (that’s right, they want to convince me that it’s my fault their algorithm chose this stuff)

Black Panther is one of the most important cultural moments in American history
As you all already know, Black Panther set all types of records this past weekend, not just for Black films…

This is kind of funny because a silly and inconsequential movie is described in glowing terms as a one-in-a-lifetime event, reshaping American culture. Just because the superhero protagonist happens to be African et cetera.
And they’re pushing such absurd piece to yours truly, i.e. someone who isn’t American, couldn’t care less for comic book heroes and doesn’t watch movies at all (I’m weird, I know).
As for the movie, it’s been thoroughly destroyed by someone else.

 

Europe Didn’t Send Their Best Either: Reflections on “Illegal” People (and Forgetful Ones)
My great-grandfather’s excitement would have been palpable. Such a long journey, and now it was nearly over…

Par for the course:pretending the current migration crisis is equivalent to other migrations from the past.

 

-New in Politics

Trump awarded congressional medal for pretend bravery.
The first medal ever awarded for imagined heroism.

Is This the Beginning of Trump’s End?
Trump maintains a cultish following, but with a new wave of scandal, his incompetence and boundless…

You have to wonder what kind of public is enjoying this type of fiction. It’s political porn.
Turns out it must be millions of Americans. After all to most of them this is the only reality they ever knew.

 

I once read an article about photography techniques on Medium. You know, things like composition of the image, the law of the thirds, giving a subject space…
They then assumed I’m interested in the Photography category. And here’s the two articles they suggested for the day.

-New in Photography

Disco’s glory days were a kaleidoscope of yes
Long before raves and EDM, free love and inclusiveness were stayin’ alive on the dance floor

PHOTO ESSAY: A Transgender Man’s Journey
Transgender Artist & Photographer, T. Chick McClure documents his journey one week at a time since beginning…

“Free” love and inclusiveness, transgenderism. Of course.

 

How many different publications, TV shows, movies, debates, school curricula incessantly push for “acceptance” and “progress” by presenting emotional appeals to identify with the usual handful of leftist causes of the day?
Apparently that’s not enough.

As we’ve already seen happening countless times, supposedly neutral platforms or services like Facebook, Twitter, Medium and Google Search are becoming increasingly eager to tilt the scale in favor of their political side. Which happens to be the one that dominates the universities from which their founders and employees come from. It’s a bubble they’ve always lived in; an expanding bubble thanks to their well-intentioned efforts.

That’s why I called Medium neutrality-agnostic: they’ll never run the risk of letting neutrality get in the way.

 

It’s not my bubble.

You may think the reason of a serious unbalance in the newsletter I receive may be just the fact that in the past I clicked on leftist content.
> But first of all the worst offenders came from the “Editor’s picks” category, which I assume is a curated selection that isn’t dependent on past personal choices.

> Secondly, it’s true that once in a while I clicked on links I didn’t agree with, mostly out of curiosity (“How could they say something like that!”). But that was after months of them unilaterally pushing titles that made me chuckle with incredulity.
Anyone could eventually become interested in what they sell (so to speak), thus giving in a little.
In other words, your feed could gradually morph into leftist propaganda without you even noticing.

> More importantly, initially and for a significant amount of time, the entirety of the politics content I consumed on Medium consisted of some 6 or 7 articles written by Mike Cernovich, i.e. one of the most controversial (can you say deplorable?) alternative independent journalists you could find. Alt-right, right of Trump.
In February they banned him and deleted all the content he published on the platform.
That was part of their crackdown on “fake news” writers, i.e. brutally policing who was or wasn’t allowed to write, based on their assessment of an author’s behavior, including any support for unacceptable ideas or news items Medium staff considered fake.

How come after they remove the pages that represent my reason for visiting Medium, I’m bombarded with material coming from the opposite side of the political spectrum? Is your algorithm that bad?

Notice that, while on one hand I don’t really trust Mike Cernovich in what he says, they had no way of knowing it.
This Cernovich guy on his website advertises shady-looking health products that in the best case scenario may not harm you (it seems to be a theme with alt-right types that have no chance to sign deals with regular advertisers).
Nonetheless he broke a few important stories. At least I vaguely remember reading them and finding them credible. I saved the links somewhere. Now that the pages are gone I’m left with this dilemma: should I trust my memory of his credibility, or should I trust the judgment of those who censored that content?

 

The quality of fake news

Since I’m here I tried to reconstruct what this was all about. Cernovich gave me a relatable inside look into the Trump administration, highlighting the rise to power of appointees that were trying to undermine Trump’s agenda, with a gradual removal of those anti-swamp newcomers that better represented the mandate from the electorate.

More importantly Cernovich’s call to fame came more than a year ago, when he broke the Susan Rice unmasking story: he revealed that it was Susan Rice, Obama’s advisor and part of the inner circle of the President, who routinely (typically) made the official requests to remove the black masking that covered the names of US citizens contained in White House intelligence reports.
Under normal circumstances an American that happens to be incidentally named or wiretapped during an investigation on other subjects is protected through anonymity; a basic safeguard preventing the government from spying on its citizens regardless of their criminal status. Sometimes it may be necessary to know a name in order to understand a report or the transcript of a conversation, or when there’s suspicion of collusion with the surveilled. Hence the unmasking procedure. An easily exploitable loophole.
The Susan Rice story was significant because it represented one of the first tangible building blocks of what eventually became known as Spygate (the scandal that is slowly developing as we speak): the Obama administration targeting people in contact with the Trump Electoral Campaign with the pretense that they may have been Russian spies, therefore justifying a large surveillance operation, collecting lots of material involving Trump’s staff.
The daily White House intelligence reports therefore often focused on political adversaries; Obama decided to widen the circle of people authorized to read those reports (which of course conveniently facilitates leaks), but since the intended surveillance targets weren’t officially investigated, the frequent unmasking of their names was made necessary. The idea, it stands to reason, was to expose them and Trump by unearthing evidence of any possible wrongdoing (or at least actions that could be sold to the public as such).
All of this means that Susan Rice in that occasion was identified as a known high level participant in a grave abuse of power and any attempt to minimize that story tried to explain away the circumstances, not denying that what Cernovich reported was factual.

If you search for “Cernovich Rice (unmasking)” right now, Google gives you as a first result a Zerohedge page that explains how the NYT and Bloomberg had the scoop in their hands but weren’t publishing it because they wanted to protect Obama. Quite significant. But if you want more, if you’re looking for a thorough assessment of the story, the Zerohedge page is useless. Then you can go to the second Google result: an article from a website called ThinkProgress (which happens to be an emanation from the Center for American Progress. A leftist think tank that was led by John Podesta and has deep connections with globalist foundations including George Soros’ -well, imagine that). They were in full damage control mode, basically denying any validity to the scoop. And they based their smug deconstruction only on the assumed implausibility of the unfolding scandal now known as Spygate.

There you go: facts from a deplorable freelance pariah; coverups from the mainstream media; obfuscation and propaganda talking points from hip “fact-checking” leftist websites that in reality represent the ideology of a few creepy old men with deep pockets; tilted scale search results from Google.
Oh, and eventually, of course, censorship and a ban for the deplorable from the Medium platform.

 

This is not just about news

Of course I’m not buying anything Cernovich says. I’m not following him anymore! Probably he tweeted -or reported on his website- some unsubstantiated claims. That’s not surprising for a fringe reporter that often works with rumors.
But don’t you find it scary that allegations of reporting falsified or unverified news items could cause your profile to be banned and your material erased? Especially considering that mainstream news organizations get away with all sorts of shenanigans and no one would dare to remove their pages from Medium (don’t get me started on that, there’s abundant evidence of this sort of behavior, with new cases added daily.)

Mainstream Fake News

One of the most blatant examples: the 2012 Travyon Martin case.
Martin, a young burglar who happened to be black, was spotted by George Zimmerman (a latino, despite the name) loitering in his neighborhood, acting suspiciously, probably planning his next raid there. Zimmerman called the cops. While he was waiting for their intervention, Martin saw and attacked him. During the fight Zimmerman, having his head smashed on the sidewalk, reacted in self defense and shot the attacker, killing him. The entire case became a huge sensation due to the opportunity to create the narrative of a racially motivated hate crime (supposedly it showed how for a black it’s sufficient to wear a hoodie and casually walk around town to risk getting killed by a wannabe vigilante). That Martin was still 17 helped; in addition the mainstream media chose to memorialize the dead teen with an early photo where he still looked like a child; his prior involvement with drug use and burglary swept under the rug.
Now, the
respectable NBC edited the audio of the 911 call with which Zimmerman reported Martin to the cops as a likely criminal. In the original audio the police asks him to describe the race of the suspect. In the edited version aired by NBC in order to influence the public, this segment is removed, hence the words of Zimmerman seem to directly connect his suspicions on Martin with the observation that Martin was black.
This is a textbook case because the evidence is easily verifiable and the intended effect very transparent.

 

Also. How do you expect characters like Cernovich to evolve and become rigorous, once they’ve not been confronted properly (i.e discussing the relevant facts) but silenced and marginalized? More importantly: what will happen to his audience? What are the chances that they could separate the wheat from the chaff, after they’ve witnessed an unjust(ified) victory for the powerful enemy camp?


Plus consider: not only thanks to their ban I stopped following him, but I don’t even remember if in February I noticed the ban!

That’s the power of a big content provider when you’re not part of the fringe: they create a reality distortion field that makes you lose contact with independent sources they don’t want you to read.

 

Medium’s business model sucks

The Medium project was meant to create a new… well, medium… for bloggers to share stories and thoughts without the hassle of creating a personal website, in theory being able to start building your online presence in minutes.
I can assure you from personal experience: if you choose to take the long road and create an entire website all by yourself, you’re facing a steep learning curve, including innumerable hours trying to understand what should go in a cookie/privacy policy page. It’s a lot of work and you end up being almost invisible. Monetization is also out of reach unless you build a massive following. But at least you’re free and independent.
The alternative is tempting: joining a rapidly growing phenomenon, a prominent public space where all the people that matter seemingly want to be.

A blogging platform then. In a sense that’s something that has been tried countless times (do you remember GeoCities?)
Medium’s advantage seems to be based on good timing, a significant venture capital investment granting them the ability to operate at a loss, prestigious writers and organizations jumping in, and a clean design.

The last point became significant in conjunction with their choice to forgo ads because it creates a striking contrast with a plurality of regular websites that presently struggle to find a way to monetize their efforts, often desperately resorting to low quality, intrusive ads cluttering their pages.
A polished, essential website nowadays feels like a breath of fresh air.
Nonetheless this luxury comes at a steep price: unless it can sustain itself through subscriptions or come up with something (I don’t really think that could ever happen) they’ll eventually run out of money.

In other words by wasting some good chunks of investors’ money you’re creating an unreasonable expectation in the public: abundant, quality content should be free and without ads. The nagging request to become a paying subscriber, presented by Medium from time to time, apparently applies only to selected articles. Since as we saw they’re failing to understand the public’s interests, those uninteresting or irritating “top picks” neither convince a lot of people to pay nor eliminate the pernicious impression that you can get anything you want for free.
This is a disturbing editorial model because it further trains the readers to consume material coming from a handful of generalist websites. Not just Youtube, Facebook and the like. Even independent bloggers are putting their ideas in the hands of a giant internet company they have no control of.

At least with old style newspapers you had a decent chance to get a sense of what ideology and interests the paper represented.
Within Medium you feel like stranded on a white page: you depend on the ever-present daily email suggestions, you may use one of those few “related content” links on the page, that’s it. No wider context, no obvious way of knowing what was the thinking behind the suggestions or what ideas are being pushed or suppressed.
Also no map of the most important topics of the moment.

Anything you find on Medium is ephemeral, transitory: expected not to be relevant after a day, hard to find; possibly permanently deleted whenever those in power decide they disagree too vehemently with the author; which would be precisely the situation where we’d want the protection of free speech.

It’s a collection of op-eds that are by design indistinguishable from reader comments, and the comment themselves are connected through a maze of links that discourages wider interaction.
In other words: if you publish something over there, everything you write is close to worthless unless they want to promote it.
Medium is an involuntary experiment on groupthink reinforcement.

 

Medium’s bias rabbit hole

Recently Medium suggested me to read this depressingly amusing article:

How ‘Googling it’ Can Send Conservatives Down Secret Rabbit Holes of Alternative Facts
Based on the exact words you type into the search bar, “Google is giving you drastically different information”

Got it? The problem is with conservatives. They easily fall prey of their biases, yet Google is doing nothing to prevent them from becoming delusional.
Maddening.

Notice that not only this is considered a highly valuable and enticing article, one that they proudly promoted in the email, then asked me to become a premium member in order to read (but the first three per pay article are on the house). It’s also coming straight from the authoritative Washington Post!

Have you ever consider you may have fallen in a progressive rabbit hole?

Alternative facts?
As for the Alternative Facts that leftists nowadays enjoy throwing around as a sneer against Trumpkins, here’s my reconstruction on how this expression originated: Kellyanne Conway coined it while reacting in frustration to the controlled hostile narrative used by the media to undermine Trump, i.e. a plausible and documented narrative but neither entirely truthful nor honest.
She spoke instinctively and it was a tongue-in-cheek remark, but the context and the position of advantage enjoyed by her media adversaries caused a complete reversal of the meaning: all those populists shamelessly invent a convenient alternative reality to suit their ideology.
But again, Leftists accusing their enemies of what they are guilty of is a common sight.

 

The article in question pretends to analyze the risks related to internet search. According to the author, Abby Ohlheiser, if you want to know about the “Russia collusion” you may end up, thanks to Google, looking for a suggested “Russia collusion delusion”. Then falling prey of alternative news websites that support Trump! Gasp!

 

Too many times I “Googled it” only to find out that trying to get an objective answer was almost impossible: you had to literally sift through tens of links pointing towards the usual suspects, from the NYT to Mother Jones to Vice to SPLC, before finding a dissenting voice.

Now, in a world where all the relevant media outlets steer left (recently a friend of a friend got banned from FB for a month just for copy-pasting, without adding further comments, the official Cathechism of the Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality…) you’d think that someone who tries to understand the pitfalls of a polarized (social) media environment would take notice and point at the elephant in the room. (That there’s some significant bias on the right, and increasingly so, but not as much as on the left, with the significant difference that the latter is pushed through media, schools, universities, international organizations, you name it.)
Apparently no.
To them the real problem is that rare instance where the information panorama is so lopsided that even Google, if you know what to look for, is bound to let you find some non-leftist content, through an appropriate search query!

 

As seen from abroad Spygate is clearly the biggest scandal in American history. Yet according to Abby Ohlheiser someone googling for “Russia collusion delusion” should be steered towards articles that brazenly patronize their readers essentially saying “Oh no, we know better. There’s no Spygate. The Russian collusion that made that evil buffoon our president is real, anyone denying it is either an ignoramus or part of the coverup…”

Google is not rigorous enough. They need to become more accurate in their suppression of ideas that cannot be treated as possibly true, because reality is defined by our moral judgement.
Well, sounds like a well-intentioned plan.

I like how this phrase I just came up with synthesizes an essential trait of the left:
“Reality is defined by our moral judgement.”

 

Edit: Medium’s latest newsletter suggestions include titles like: “Is America Undergoing a Fascist Collapse?”, “(How) American Collapse Was a Choice”, plus the priceless: “Economics, Like Religion, Assumes It Knows Everything. Both are interested in establishing dogma, not pursuing truth.”

One Comment:

  1. Alessandro Grasso

    Priceless… now they’re suggesting me three articles in a day from the category “Gun Control”…
    Including:
    “Guns Are The Original American Impotence Cure
    Are you feeling powerless? Then ask your local gun shop owner if a firearm is right for you.”
    And:
    “Why Are We Allowing the NRA to Train America’s Cops?
    Police abuse is in the national headlines again following the killing of a young black man, 22 year-old…”

    Plus of course in today’s Editor’s Picks you can find a paean in favor of Robert Mueller, the swamp insider that was assigned control of a special investigation against Trump, with obscenely extensive powers, meant to protect and further develop the Spygate anti-Trump disinformation/prosecution campaign…
    But to leftists he’s a fearless hero unearthing the dirt in Trump’s camp…

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