Sunday, July 8, 2018

Media Dictatorship

New paper by Sergei M. Guriev and Daniel Treisman:
In recent decades, dictatorships based on mass repression have largely given way to a new model based on the manipulation of information. Instead of terrorizing citizens into submission, “informational autocrats” artificially boost their popularity by convincing the public they are competent. To do so, they use propaganda and silence informed members of the elite by co-optation or censorship. Using several sources–including a newly created dataset of authoritarian control techniques–we document a range of trends in recent autocracies that fit the theory: a decline in violence, efforts to conceal state repression, rejection of official ideologies, imitation of democracy, a perceptions gap between masses and elite, and the adoption by leaders of a rhetoric of performance rather than one aimed at inspiring fear.
The notion that the internet would make dictatorial information control impossible has been throughly refuted by Russia and China. In the future dictatorial violence will mainly take the form of deniable assassination of rogue journalists.

Via Marginal Revolutions. 

6 comments:

pithom said...

"The notion that the internet would make dictatorial information control impossible has been throughly refuted by Russia and China."

The U.S. and the U.K., too. Control of the media here is no less dictatorial than in Russia (though it's tough to beat China, which actually does have a Great Firewall).

"In the future dictatorial violence will mainly take the form of deniable assassination of rogue journalists."

That's not dictatorial violence. That's chaotic violence, common throughout Latin America. Dictatorial violence is just putting some dissident (say, a Paul Manafort) in jail.

John said...

While I freely admit that many journalists around the world have been killed as a result of chaos, for example by organized crime, only governments kill them with nerve gas.

David said...

I imagine this makes me one of the sheeple in pithom's eyes, but I just don't see government control of media in the US. Certainly the top level of the USG has, since, at least Johnson, spent much of its time resenting media, and especially leaks.

G. Verloren said...

@David

If anything, in the US, the media has a startling amount of control over the government. Corporations and their greed shape our politics in terrifying ways.

pithom said...

"only governments kill them with nerve gas"

Name one "rogue journalist" anywhere in the world killed with nerve gas.

"I imagine this makes me one of the sheeple in pithom's eyes,"

Yes.

"but I just don't see government control of media in the US."

Riiiiiiiiiiiight.
https://fair.org/home/out-of-20-major-editorials-on-trumps-syria-strikes-zero-opposed/

There are obviously exceptions to this general rule (e.g., Glenn Greenwald, Tucker Carlson). But opposition media exists in Russia, too (again, China and Iran are a lot more restrictive than Europe or North America). That doesn't mean America doesn't have "dictatorial information control". If the vast majority of the public in a country, including its most educated population, believes the opposite of the truth in regards to almost all aspects of, say, the world's largest country, including its relation to the first country's presidential administration, in a way that doesn't even begin to make the tiniest bit of logical sense, that's pretty suggestive of "dictatorial information control".

"Certainly the top level of the USG has, since, at least Johnson, spent much of its time resenting media, and especially leaks."

Responsibility for the functioning of the USG is distributed. Obviously conflicts arise within it.

Shadow said...

The Media is such a large and diverse ... THING ... that I don't know what use it can possibly be to pretend it's a single organism. Talk about variability within a population, it's so vast, with so many disparate parts, that it's . . . it's . . . it's the BLOB. (For those of you old enough to remember Steve McQueen's first movie. Who's Steve McQueen?)

You have to pick the Media apart one medium at a time.

This can be fun. I'll go first.

CABLE NEWS!

Cable News probably informs more people than any other medium. Let's examine it.

I'm amazed at how useless yet dangerous it is -- useless as a news outlet, dangerous as a troll. That camera exaggerates everything, not just your weight. If it weren't for satellite, I swear you could walk past the NBC studios in NYC on any given day and see a line of congressmen going out the door and around the corner, each waiting for his or her 2 minutes to scream and yell at the unfairness of it all. For a while Adam Schiff (congressman from California) was on MSNBC so frequently I thought he might actually have an office at MSNBC headquarters. Another congressman looks so young I think the network needs a note from his mommy before it can let him on air. Talk about checking someone's birth certificate. Someone card this kid. I'm sure he's illegal, and no, not that kind of illegal.

And then there are the experts.

I wonder where they get some of them and just how "experty" they really are. There must be an incredibly large number of experts in this country. But breaking news on a Sunday, when the normal cadre of "experts" are home with families, is when things can get interesting. I envision a producer rifling through her rolodex looking for someone, anyone -- maybe the plumber -- to get on the air and talk. Out of desperation she calls the bakery where she buys the morning donuts, and speaks to the baker.

Producer: "Hi, It's me, Nancy from MSNBC. Do you know anything about chemical weapons?"

Baker: No."

Producer: "But don't you mix ingredients every morning, and didn't you tell me you played with a chemistry set when you were 10?"

Baker: " Well, yeah, but . . ."

Producer: "Good enough. Come over here. You're on in 10 minutes, And, hey, if this works out, you can become a regular."

But my favorite expert is the NYC sports columnist turned political commentator. His name escapes me at the moment, but he was a sports columnist for like 30 years, then one day he's giving advice on elections and Afghanistan on Cable News. The only thing I want this guy telling me about Afghanistan is how their football team is doing.

I have seen BREAKING NEWS and NEWS ALERT chevrons on the bottom of the screen that last for days, for so long that the breaking news is getting a bot moldy. And the number of chevrons keep growing. Some of the shorter anchors are already standing on tip-toes just to be seen.

Dictatorship by Keystone Cops!!