Not looking for a herd to join
I follow a variety of news sources, not so much to read them, but to see what they’re talking about. Not because journalists lie, though they certainly publish a lot of stuff that isn’t so, and it’s no coincidence so many are liberals and political insiders; but mainly it’s that that they have their narratives – articles of faith, really – and they naturally choose stories that fit their understanding of the world.
So when I followed Russia Today on Twitter, it wasn’t because they’re an especially reliable news source, or that I have a particular interest in Russia. (I once posted something that included some Cyrillic writing, which seems to mislead the search engines.) No, I followed Russia Today because I hope their reporters believe in different narratives than those at the BBC.
Seeing me follow Russia Today, Twitter then suggested I might also want to follow Alex Jones. Pretty sure not, thanks.
Then when I followed Al Jazeera, Twitter suggested Wikileaks. No, don’t think so.
Twitter’s suggestions must be a based on what other people do. Lots of people who follow Russia Today also follow Alex Jones; people who read Al Jazeera are interested in Wikileaks. That’s interesting, but not tremendously useful to me. I’d rather the suggestions go the other way.
I don’t want to follow what everyone who follows Al Jazeera also follows. I want to follow what those people don’t follow, if you follow me. So if I choose Al Jazeera, Twitter should suggest I follow Atomic Age, or Nuclear Power Today, if there are such things. (I only mention these because a while ago Al Jazeera was hammering on the Fukushima disaster, to the point of mania, and it seems like they might harbor an irrational dislike of nuclear power.)
Down that road lies madness
If I follow Russia Today, Twitter should say, “Hey Marcel; nobody who reads Russia Today also reads the Pope’s Twitter feed. How about that?” Suggestions should be orthogonal, but not unrelated. Nobody who follows Variety also follows Jed’s Motorsports of Pascagoula, but so what?
One problem is there aren’t enough independent non-crazy news sources. A divergent view is good. An obsession with the Bilderburgers is tedious. And yet, obsessive conspiracy theorists often have hold of a piece of truth, and sometimes talk about things that need to be addressed. It’s like Ron Paul – some fraction is important and original, some fraction is just nuts. What we need, I guess, is for some non-crazy people to filter the crazy stuff: “No, jet contrails are not UN birth control agents. And yet, estrogen-like compounds in the environment may be a long-term problem” and “This looks like a real journal article, but the citations are all faked, or circle back to articles by the author’s partner that themselves cite this article.”
But debunking pseudo-scientific nonsense and hanging around with crazy people all day is dreadful work. You can only do it for so long, or else you burn out, or go crazy yourself.