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Update: Huffington Post disappears my comments

January 25, 2010

This is hilarious.

Two days ago I wrote about a rather rich piece of truthiness published by the Telegraph and re-posted on the Huffington Post. Today I went back to the latter site to check for any replies to some comments I had posted (that link to this blog), and – poof! – it turns out they exist no more.

Three comments were deleted, all of which contained or referred to a link to my original post on this issue.

This is not very important, and I don’t really care. I mention it, though, because it illustrates an interesting point about the way our media works.

Why do we so often pretend that our “news” just falls down to us from the heavens, forgetting that it is actively created by people whose biases play out in their editorial decisions?

“News” does not “happen”.

At the outset somebody decides, based on their own limited information, what is “newsworthy” (the famous motto of the New York Times, after all, is “All the News That’s Fit to Print”). Later people decide how they want to edit, organize and present the preselected information. Then a headline is chosen, and so on down the line. It is always true that during this process some voices get excluded, some facts (or even lies) get emphasized while others are omitted, and one perspective gets chosen over others. More importantly, only certain people get to influence and oversee the process.

We acknowledge this but rarely reflect on what it means. Instead we act like news is produced by the media’s “invisible hand” and not human beings. Such an attitude allows the people who craft media content to operate without much real accountability. Those who challenge any aspect of the larger editorial structure are quickly discredited by being labeled as radical or paranoid. Quite an effective discipline regime.

But is it so radical to believe that news does not materialize out of thin air, and that the people responsible for its production are prone to the same kinds of weaknesses, blind spots and biases as everyone else (in other words, are human)?

"Invisible Hand- the news" by Govinda Sah "Azad"

If there is one thing that is absolutely not tolerated in mainstream society, it is questioning the news process itself and the motives of those who shape it. For example, at the Huffington Post you can get away with writing all kinds of ignorant, foul, insulting, sexist – even racist – things in the comment section under a story, but if you criticize the editorial agenda of the staff, your comment probably won’t make it past “pending”. If it does, expect it to be deleted soon.

One thing is clear: the staff at the Huffington Post will let readers comment on their stories, but not challenge them.

* * *

HuffPo Censorship Fail; Google Cache FTW

Just to be thorough, here are before/after screenshots of what was deleted (my screenname is “bismillah001”):

vs.

Again:

vs.

And:

vs.

* * *

To conclude, I just want to quote a remark posted in response to one of my short-lived comments (this comment was also deleted):

What does it say about the state of the news media when Huffpo is, by comparison, one of the leading providers of responsible reporting?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Yusuf permalink
    January 27, 2010 12:19 am

    Good followup. What are your thoughts on this story on the Obama statue in Indonesia?

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100125/lf_afp/indonesiausartsculpturepoliticsobama_20100125172936

    • January 28, 2010 6:52 am

      thanks Yusuf. I hadn’t heard about the statue thing until reading that – I guess maybe they should just put it at his old school instead. It looks like some Indonesians are starting to cool to him. For a many, though, he’s just known as the US president who lived in Jakarta, and something to be proud about.

      It looks like a pretty nice statue, though.

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