Media Bubbles

A glance at Memeorandum demonstrates a problem that we've mentioned numerous times over the years.

A glance at Memeorandum, Gabe Rivera’s aggregator of political discussion, demonstrates a problem that we’ve mentioned numerous times over the years. Look at two of this morning’s top stories:


Notice anything?

The climate change story, the most-talked-about story right now, is being covered in the top mainstream outlets in both the US and UK press. Perhaps a dozen blogs are passing on and/or reacting to said stories. Not a single source from the right side of the aisle, though, is mentioning it.

The Scott Kelly story, which is an insignificant “something silly happened on Twitter” controversy, is in various right-leaning news outlets in both the US and UK and linked by a handful of blogs. All of them from the right.

They’re not exactly comparable pieces but they’re an example that Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous dictum,  “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,” simply isn’t the case anymore. I’ve gotten into a handful of arguments lately on Facebook and have been bombarded with lots of “What about this example of the Democrats being awful?” anecdotes and I simply have no idea what they’re talking about. There’s simply a massive amount of these sort of stories taking place on subcommunities of the web to which I have no exposure. I’ve long stopped reading the hyper-partisan sites on both the left and the right, simply finding them not worth my time. But there are plenty of people for whom these are their primary news sources.

Now, it’s true that I haven’t posted on the climate change story. Mostly, it’s just because, at the headline level, it simply confirms what I’ve long thought to be the scientific consensus and because I don’t have any especial interest or anything to add.

The Kelly story is more interesting, in that it illustrates the fact that even seemingly innocuous comments can unleash online firestorms, but it’s such a minor example as to not be worth more than a Tweet.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Climate Change, Media, US Politics, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    The problem are not media bubbles, but social media bubbles. I’m used to seeing real people in real world using the same circular arguments that are common on Facebook. Like, I’m seeing women that used to have male friends cutting off all their men of their lives and people talking about the equivalent to conspiracy theories in real lives.

    That’s why we never if the trolls of OTB are different people. Because they always use the same arguments.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    The problem are not media bubbles, but social media bubbles.

    That’s likely a distinction without meaning, at least for most under-60 Americans. Most of us get our news almost exclusively through social media platforms these days. I curate mine such that I get a pretty wide variety of stuff, filtered through a reasonable array of policy and academic experts. And I scan a handful of online aggregators. But it’s been quite some time since I’ve regularly consumed even online newspapers on other than a per-story basis.

  3. Teve says:

    I haven’t been to in years, but the last time i was there, I noticed that they had no science section. None. When you searched their website for science the only thing that came up was a regular feature called “Junk Science” where some dipshit wrote “Global Warming is bullshit and al gore sucks” columns.

  4. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Joyner: Yes. I think that social media worsened things a little bit. The Fox News effect that was common with US seniors is being seem in younger people everywhere. There are Facebook/WhatsApp instilled pogroms in India and Myanmar, but the Rwanda Genocide was instilled by radio stations.

  5. dazedandconfused says:

    Everyone is entitled to his own facts, but not his own opinion.

    Reminds of the press of another era. I suppose we were spoiled by the relative commonality of reporting when the media had such a lock on just three stations they could afford to lose money in news reporting. Now they have to entertain, and shallowly. Telling their demographic what they wish to hear is a proven business model.

    For anyone with time to kill, here’s Rudyard Kipling’s send up of Chicago and the part sending up the Chicago press. As applicable to today as it was then, I reckon.

    But I don’t think it was the blind hurry of the people, their
    argot, and their grand ignorance of things beyond their immediate
    interests that displeased me so much as a study of the daily
    papers of Chicago.

    Imprimis, there was some sort of a dispute between New York and
    Chicago as to which town should give an exhibition of products to
    be hereafter holden, and through the medium of their more
    dignified journals the two cities were yahooing and hi-yi-ing at
    each other like opposition newsboys. They called it humor, but
    it sounded like something quite different.

    That was only the first trouble. The second lay in the tone of
    the productions. Leading articles which include gems such as
    “Back of such and such a place,” or, “We noticed, Tuesday, such
    an event,” or, “don’t” for “does not,” are things to be accepted
    with thankfulness. All that made me want to cry was that in
    these papers were faithfully reproduced all the war-cries and
    “back-talk” of the Palmer House bar, the slang of the
    barber-shops, the mental elevation and integrity of the Pullman
    car porter, the dignity of the dime museum, and the accuracy of
    the excited fish-wife. I am sternly forbidden to believe that
    the paper educates the public. Then I am compelled to believe
    that the public educate the paper; yet suicides on the press are

  6. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Thank you for at least bringing up the reality and imminent importance of climate change.

    We are at a point where the discussion of man-made or natural-cycle no longer matters. We are in a fixed environment with leaders that are in denial of the problem.

    It is no longer our children’s children’s problem. It is here.

  7. Hal_10000 says:


    I haven’t been to in years, but the last time i was there, I noticed that they had no science section

    Really? Because it took me ten nanoseconds to find sections on science, tech and health, including a story on the 12-year climate change we’re all doomed story. I’ve seen science stories I was part of show up there for years. Maybe you need to update your browser.

    (And I’ll play a skeptic on the 12-year-and-we’re-doomed claim. Global warming is real and a danger, but we’ve hearing this, “we’ve only got ten years left” thing for thirty years.)

  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I don’t know whether we’re (whoever we are) doomed in 10 years, 20 years, or at all, but I have come to believe that we’re past the tipping point and need to have the attention of those who might be able to do something concentrating on adapting to what we probably can no longer arrest. For example, what can we do for the people whose island’s are going to be completely inundated over the next generation or so beyond offer them a Libertarian tut-tut and the advice “I guess you should have picked a better place to be born, huh”.

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’ve given up bitching about rhetorical overreach from environmentalists. They cried ‘wolf!’ over every nineteenth iteration of a mouse that might be forced to relocate and now vast segments of the population have dismissed them as scaremongers. This was entirely predictable.

    My people on the Left have a problem with proportionality. (So does the Right, but they’re in a cult and reality has stopped mattering to them at all) . Too many false alarms, too much hysteria and you end up muting yourself.

  10. Tyrell says:

    CNN has good educational science and tech features. They would be better off focusing on sports instead of the news now that ESPN focuses so much on political issues.
    Ted Turner recently said that they were focused too much on politics. Too bad he is not running things there now. Turner is the last MLB team owner to also be the team coach.
    Ted Koppel also has some interesting comments about the network news – watch him on MSN video: “Ted Koppel slams CNN, MSNBC”

  11. An Interested Party says:

    Once Florida and New York City are underwater, people can act shocked and wonder, “How did this happen?”

  12. gVOR08 says:

    By coincidence, or perhaps in reaction to the absence of anyone from the left to talk about Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford, both Kevin Drum and Atrios have posts today about the absence of liberals on the Sunday morning political talk shows. This is a perpetual problem. Per Atrios,

    The Sunday Show guest imbalance used to be one of my weird obsessions. I sort of gave up when the response to Media Matters after they did a couple of comprehensive studies was basically “suck it.” They can always justify their main guests – the current news of the week warrants it, the majority in power of course has a bigger voice, the minority not in power deserves a bigger voice (weird how this excuse flips depending on well you know), they can’t help it if every Democrat turns them down, where are all the white wimmin at, etc.

    This is the major networks, part of the supposedly liberal MSM. It ain’t just FOX and social media.

    Republicans are much better at pushing stories into the MSM. I don’t understand why this is the case, but I suspect it revolves around two things; the huge, well funded “wingnut welfare” infrastructure, ready and eager to provide press releases and talking heads, and that the management and ownership of media tend to be Republican. Or Third Way types, which largely amounts to the same thing.

  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Once Florida and New York City are underwater, people can act shocked and wonder, “How did this happen?”

    Followed by: “And why didn’t anyone ever say anything??”


    People keep buying properties in Miami and sunny day flooding is already a thing. It’s prevalent up and down the east coast.

  14. wr says:

    @Hal_10000: “And I’ll play a skeptic on the 12-year-and-we’re-doomed claim. ”

    How nice for you. That’s very useful.

  15. Tyrell says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Al Gore bought a beach front house in California.