In this essay, Angelique Haugerud provides an insightful analysis of what we now, sometimes uncritically, refer to as “fake news.” She then goes on to argue that our current obsession with “fake news” obscures something more fundamental—the financialization of the news industry in which profit eclipses the media’s role in contributing to the public good. In Haugerud’s view, this debilitates the mainstream media’s capacity to combat fake news and opens a space for the latter to enter the mainstream.
Jaime Settle, a member of the SSRC Media & Democracy program’s advisory board, discusses her new book in the latest contribution to Democracy Papers. In Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America, she takes a deep look at how political information spreads on social media, emphasizing the importance of seemingly unpolitical posts and of exposure to the political opinions of people with whom we share only weak social ties.
Continuing our “Democratic Erosion” miniseries of essays, Rachel Risoleo takes a look at the concept of incumbency advantage, arguing that this concept can help us explain the successful political candidacies of nonincumbent popular icons like Donald Trump in the United States and Jimmy Morales in Guatemala. She argues that celebrities who run for office are able to draw on advantages that are similar to those enjoyed by incumbent politicians, including name recognition, high levels of media exposure, and voters’ preference to identify with individual politicians.
The Media & Democracy program has released a report on the proceedings from its April 2018 conference on "Social Media and Democracy." Here, program codirector Kris-Stella Trump provides an overview of the report and discusses the motivation behind the convening.