Self-gerrymandering

Commenting on the same interview with Justice Scalia to which Molly draws our attention below, David Carr in today's NY Times discusses how people today tend to self-select the information and commentary to which they wish to subject themselves. Some quotes:

The polarized political map is now accompanied by a media ecosystem that is equally gerrymandered into districts of self-reinforcing discourse. Justice Scalia and millions of news consumers select and assemble a worldview from sources that may please them, but rarely challenge them. ...

Data from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press on trends in news consumption released last year suggests people are assembling along separate media streams where they find mostly what they want to hear, and little else. Fully 78 percent of Sean Hannity’s audience on Fox News identified as conservative, with most of the rest of the audience identifying as moderate and just 5 present as liberal. Over on MSNBC, conservatives make up just 7 percent of Rachel Maddow’s audience.

It isn’t just politicians that are feeding their bases, it is the media outlets, as well. The village common — you know, that place where we all meet to discuss our problems, relying on the same set of facts — has shrunk to the size of a postage stamp, surrounded by the huge gated communities of like minds who never venture into the great beyond.

But if you look past cable, talk radio and traditional media, there is another layer of self-reinforcing messages that may be having an impact. As Eli Pariser described in “The Filter Bubble,” search companies rely on algorithms to predict what users want to see based on past clicks, meaning that users are moved farther away from information streams that don’t fit their ideological bent. ...

To take that one step further, think of your Facebook feed or your Twitter account, if you have either. When you pick people to follow, do you select from all over the map, or mostly from among those whose views on culture and politics tend to align with your own? Thought so.

Unless you make a conscious effort to diversify your feeds, what you see in your social media stream is often a reflection, even amplification, of what you already believe. It’s a choir that preaches to itself.

I think a similar self-selection also occurs with regard to Church-matters.

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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