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Why Matthew Yglesias Left Vox – The Atlantic

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The journalist Matthew Yglesias, a co-founder of Vox, announced today that he is leaving that publication for the paid-newsletter platform Substack, so that he can enjoy more editorial independence.

The move may prove a good fit for Yglesias, who began his career as a highly successful independent blogger before blogging at The Atlantic and then elsewhere. But his absence as a staffer (a Vox spokesperson noted that he will continue to host a podcast, The Weeds) will make the publication he co-founded less ideologically diverse at a moment when negative polarization makes that attribute important to the country.

Like Andrew Sullivan, who joined Substack after parting ways with New York magazine, and Glenn Greenwald, who joined Substack after resigning from The Intercept, which he co-founded, Yglesias felt that he could no longer speak his mind without riling his colleagues. His managers wanted him to maintain a “restrained, institutional, statesmanlike voice,” he told me in a phone interview, in part because he was a co-founder of Vox. But as a relative moderate at the publication, he felt at times that it was important to challenge what he called the “dominant sensibility” in the “young-college-graduate bubble” that now sets the tone at many digital-media organizations.

“There was an inherent tension between my status as a co-founder of the site and my desire to be a fiercely independent and at times contentious voice,” he wrote in his first post on Substack, adding on Twitter, “I’m looking forward to really telling everyone what’s on my mind to an even greater extent than I do now.”

In our interview, Yglesias explained why pushing back against the “dominant sensibility” in digital journalism is important to him. He said he believes that certain voguish positions are substantively wrong—for instance, abolishing or defunding police—and that such arguments, as well as rhetorical fights over terms like Latinx, alienate many people from progressive politics and the Democratic Party.

“There’s been endless talk since the election about House Democrats being mad at the ‘Squad,’ and others saying, ‘What do you want, for activists to just not exist? For there to be no left-wing members of Congress?’” Yglesias told me. “But there’s a dynamic where there’s media people who really elevated the profile of [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and a couple of other members way above their actual numerical standing.”

Many outlets, he argued, are missing something important. “The people making the media are young college graduates in big cities, and that kind of politics makes a lot of sense to them,” he said. “And we keep seeing that older people, and working-class people of all races and ethnicities, just don’t share that entire worldview. It’s important to me to be in a position to step outside that dynamic … That was challenging as someone who was a founder of a media outlet but not a manager of it.”

One trend that exacerbated that challenge: colleagues in media treating the expression of allegedly problematic ideas as if they were a human-resources issue. Earlier this year, for instance, after Yglesias signed a group letter published in Harper’s magazine objecting to cancel culture, one of his colleagues, Emily VanDerWerff, told Vox editors that his signature made her feel “less safe at Vox.”

Yglesias had been personally kind and supportive of her work, she wrote, but as a trans woman, she felt the letter should not have been signed by anyone at Vox, because she believed that it contained “many dog whistles toward anti-trans positions,” and that several of its signatories are anti-trans. The letter’s authors reject those characterizations.

I asked Yglesias if that matter in any way motivated his departure. “Something we’ve seen in a lot of organizations is increasing sensitivity about language and what people say,” he told me. “It’s a damaging trend in the media in particular because it is an industry that’s about ideas, and if you treat disagreement as a source of harm or personal safety, then it’s very challenging to do good work.”

The issue, Yglesias believes, is not limited to Vox. “We saw that in the way the New York Times people characterized their opposition to Tom Cotton’s op-ed,” he said, and “we saw it in what Emily VanDerWerff wrote about me––and Vox to its credit has not [been] managed in that way exactly, but it is definitely the mentality of a lot of people working in journalism today, and it makes me feel like it’s a good time to have an independent platform.’

The New York Times’ Opinion editor, James Bennet (a former editor in chief of The Atlantic), was forced out over the publication of the Cotton op-ed. The Times Opinion staffer Bari Weiss left the newspaper soon afterward, alleging in her resignation letter that “if a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome.” The two had been charged, in part, with offering Times readers a greater diversity of opinions. Whether the Opinion section will still carry out that mission remains uncertain.

Several years ago, I wrote about an experiment that the Harvard social scientist Cass Sunstein conducted in two different communities in Colorado: left-leaning Boulder and right-leaning Colorado Springs. Residents in each community were gathered into small groups to discuss their views on three controversial topics: climate change, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action. Afterward, participants were asked to report on the opinions of their discussion group as well as their own views on the subjects. In both communities, gathering into groups composed of mostly like-minded people to discuss controversial subjects made individuals more settled and extreme in their views.

“Liberals, in Boulder, became distinctly more liberal on all three issues. Conservatives, in Colorado Springs, become distinctly more conservative on all three issues,” Sunstein wrote of his experiment. “Deliberation much decreased diversity among liberals; it also much decreased diversity among conservatives. After deliberation, members of nearly all groups showed, in their post-deliberation statements, far more uniformity than they did before deliberation.”

Compelling evidence points to a big cost associated with ideological bubbles, I argued: They make us more confident that we know everything, more set and extreme in our views, more prone to groupthink, more vulnerable to fallacies, and less circumspect.

For that reason, ideological outliers within an organization are valuable, especially in journalism. Early in my career, I covered the trend toward epistemic closure in conservative media, including talk radio, warning that it would have dire consequences. Even so, I didn’t imagine the role that epistemic closure would play in fueling the ascent of a president like Donald Trump or the alarmingly widespread acceptance of conspiracy theories like QAnon.

The New York Times, New York, The Intercept, Vox, Slate, The New Republic, and other outlets are today less ideologically diverse in their staff and less tolerant of contentious challenges to the dominant viewpoint of college-educated progressives than they have been in the recent past. I fear that in the short term, Americans will encounter less rigorous and more polarizing journalism. In the long term, a dearth of ideological diversity risks consequences we cannot fully anticipate.

Substack seems poised to grow because it offers some writers independence and financial benefits. It will arguably function as a corrective against growing intolerance of heterodoxy, even as it accelerates a trend toward ideological outliers parting ways with traditional publications, and makes those publications more monolithic. Mainstream media organizations should work to maintain ideological diversity during this shift, even if that causes tensions among the staff members least tolerant of ideas they don’t share.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.


Conor Friedersdorf is a California-based staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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Surrey councillor gets death threat through a social media message – Vancouver Sun

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Article content continued

Hundial said the message contained “a single threat. And it was direct. It came through messenger online and had a bunch of slurs attached to it.”

One of the names he was called was “pig … you know, referencing my previous career,” he said.

“And it was basically saying, put a bullet in me. And he also made reference to the Prime Minister — Trudeau — as well.”

While the person had a profile on social media, Hundial says he doesn’t know if it’s a real one or not. It’s not someone with whom he has had previous contact.

“It’s someone that does appear in their profile to have links to some sort of organized crime — in the U.S. and there’s an anti-social degree here, anti-religion, anti-police,” he said.

The person who sent the message did not refer to the controversial decision to replace the Surrey RCMP with a municipal force, but Hundial believes the rhetoric around the issue may have led to the threat.

“I’ve been fairly outspoken my position on the police transition. And certainly, this didn’t happen when I was a police officer,” he said.

“I don’t mind engaging in political discussion and discourse. But recently in Surrey, the level of the discourse on the political side has certainly escalated with all these fake posts and memes going around. … And I put that squarely on the shoulders of the mayor and his team, which seem to be the biggest instigators of this.”

Mayor Doug McCallum had no comment on the threat to Hundial, his media representative, OIiver Lum, said Tuesday.

Hundial said the hardest part was explaining to his 12-year-old why “there’s a police car parked outside her window.”

He said he hopes the person is held accountable that a “very strong clear message is sent that people can’t be bullied.”

“We do live in a civilized society and people need to act like it. You need to tone down the rhetoric.”

kbolan@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/kbolan

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Sources close to ex-PM Abe say his camp subsidised backers' party: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Sakura Murakami

TOKYO (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office helped cover the costs of dinner parties held for his supporters, sources close to Abe told local media on Tuesday evening, in a possible violation of funding and election laws.

The resurfacing of the scandal, which dogged Abe in the last year of his tenure could damage his political reputation and also threatens to drag in successor Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe’s right-hand man during his 2012-2020 term.

Politicians in Japan are forbidden to provide anything to constituents that could be construed as a gift. The rule is so strict that one cabinet minister quit in 2014 after distributing paper fans during the summer.

Abe vehemently denied his office had subsidized parties during parliamentary sessions last year where he was grilled by opposition lawmakers on his office’s involvement in hosting the reception.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he said he was aware of the accusations and promised that his office will “fully cooperate” with Tokyo prosecutors who are looking into the matter, but declined to comment further on the accusations.

“He can’t run or hide,” opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said of Abe on Tuesday, adding that the revelation meant Abe had lied in parliament when he had denied his office subsidized parties.

“Prime Minister Suga was also the ringleader of the Abe administration in his position as chief cabinet secretary, and he can’t escape that responsibility,” Edano said, according to NHK.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, stepped down in September due to health problems, but has stayed on as a lower house lawmaker.

The opposition has demanded he address the accusations during a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday, but the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) refused to concede to the request, saying it was “unreasonable.”

Local media, including public broadcaster NHK, said Abe’s office helped cover a shortfall of about 8 million yen ($76,540) over the last five years of his premiership to hold annual dinner parties at swanky hotels for his supporters, citing people close to the ex-PM.

Although each supporter paid about $48 for their attendance, the total cost of hosting the parties came to more than $190,000 over five years, exceeding the total amount collected from ticket sales and creating a gap covered by the ex-PM’s office, NHK said.

Tokyo prosecutors are analysing hotel documents that suggest Abe’s office partly subsidized the receptions, and conducted a voluntary questioning of Abe’s former aides, media said on Monday.

In interviews with NHK, sources close to the ex-PM said staff members working for Abe had told their former boss when asked last year by Abe whether the office had partially footed the bills for parties that the ticket sales had covered the costs when in fact, they had not.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Ignore the social media echo chambers – TechCrunch

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After Election Day, NPR, The Washington Post and various blogs described America as bitterly divided or on the brink of civil war. These were by the same journalists, pundits and intellectuals who only know how to sell fear.

“They want to take away your guns!” and “They want to take your children away!” were their cries, while praising BLM’s protesters on one screen and promoting videos of the infinitesimal number of rioters on another.

The Atlantic speculated about widespread violence depending on the outcome, but I never believed these seemingly well-researched reports that have become commonplace in our clickbait-driven world. And as we saw, nothing of real concern happened; instead of violence, there were relatively small protests and dancing in the streets.
The gap that supposedly divides our nation is narrower than the doomsaying pundits, intellectuals, politicians and cause leaders want you to believe. Why do they want you to believe this? Because promoting division and conflict sells and grants a perverse glue that unites people within their tribal communities. Behind these labels of conflict are seeds of fear that can grow into irrational fears. Fears without reason, fears beyond facts. Sometimes these fears become things we hate  —  and our society and nation should have no place for hate, because it is an unproductive emotion without any possible positive outcome.

I’ve learned to ignore much of the headline-driven news and social media echo chambers where ridiculous ideas fester across our political spectrum. There are obviously ridiculous ideas, such as QAnon, but the subtly ridiculous ideas can be more dangerous and potentially even more destructive. These ideas can be diminished by simple questions to the average reasonable person.
One idea spawned in some progressive echo chambers was the notion that Trump would stage a coup d’état if Joe Biden won the election (i.e., “Did you see those unmarked federal police!?” which signaled to some that a coup was coming).

A basic element of a coup d’état is military support or control, which obviously Trump did not have. I would ask basic questions around this idea, but always ask the rhetorical question, “Do you know how difficult it is to conduct a coup d’état?” Meanwhile, in some conservative echo chambers, a similar concern made rounds that “defund the police” was an effort to install a “federal police force” that Biden would control once in the Oval Office. So there really isn’t much original thought inside the echo chambers of America.

Maybe both sides with such fantasies recently watched that Patrick Swayze classic, “Red Dawn,” where a tiny militia of high school students held off the combined forces of the old Soviet Union and Cuba. Or maybe they saw “300,” in which Sparta’s army held off more than 300,000 invaders. After watching either of these inspirational movies, I might possibly believe such a militia or “federal force” could overpower the whole might of the U.S. military. Ahem.

For those warmongers and soothsayers warning of civil war, where do they want the country to go? Static echo chambers of America, or a vision of suburban folks with pitchforks and handguns versus urban dwellers carrying machine guns and Blue Bottle coffee mugs?

Since the level of violence after the election did not in fact match the crystal balls of these oracles, the definitions and terms have of course changed. As Bertrand Russell stated, “fear is the main source of superstition”  —  to which I would add that fear is also the source of really stupid predictions and ideas.
And let’s be clear that while I do criticize the echo chambers of social media, they are only tools of promotion, because echo chambers are not limited to the online social media. Echo chambers can be homes, bars, lodge meetings, yoga studios and Sunday bridge clubs. The enablers are the pundits, intellectuals, politicians and cause leaders that seed these ideas.

Conspiracy theories, misinformation and outlandish statements were quite capable of spreading before the recommendation engines of Facebook and others were fully developed. For example, in 2006, over 50% of Democrats believed the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack. More than half of registered Democrats believed in this conspiracy theory! And let’s not forget the Obama “birther” conspiracy, where at least 57% of Republicans continued to believe that President Obama was born in Kenya even after he released his birth certificate in 2008.

But today, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media sites have become extremely powerful accelerants for such provocative ideas and strange fictions. Tristan Harris, co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology, was recently featured in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” where he discussed how social media tends to feed content to retain people’s attention and can spiral downward.

This can become an abyss of outright misinformation, or — even more importantly in my estimation — for subtle, ignorant ideas, such as coups d’état and civil wars. And those destructive ideas and irrational conspiracy theories from the 2000s that probably took months to spread, are now supercharged by today’s social media giants to infect our society in a matter of days or weeks.

The fabric of our nation was delicately woven, but after countless turns of the loom between conflicts and enlightenment, our country has proven itself extremely resilient. Indestructible beyond today’s calls for racism and ignorance, for anarchy and destruction, and for civil wars.

Biden is our President-elect with a mandate to lead our nation beyond this divide  —  a divide that I believe has been overstated. Many citizens met in the middle to provide Biden with a mandate to bridge the gap. The “blue wave” didn’t occur and House Republicans gained 10 seats, which means many Republicans and independents voted “red” down-ballot but also voted for Biden.

Trump had the largest number of minority votes for a Republican presidential candidate in history, including from 18% of Black male voters  —  and that number would have been much higher pre-pandemic. I see all of this as a positive, because our citizens are not voting party line or becoming beholden to one party.

In reality, many of the major issues that supposedly separate us are much closer than we know. For example, I’ve sat down behind closed doors with a senior adviser on healthcare for a major Republican leader, who stated that Obamacare isn’t far off from what they were planning. The difference was that their plan was more small business friendly and their cost savings would be among the younger demographic. I also sat down with a senior adviser for Obamacare, who explained that they believed it wasn’t sustainable unless the cost savings were for those 65 and above. So the differences on such critical policies are not miles apart but only steps away from each other. Although at times politics are about credit and conflict, hopefully such differences can be resolved in the near future.

I hope this election will change the temperament of our nation and its citizens. I hope it will lead more people to ignore the tactics of both political parties and organizations seeking their attention and support. Their shortsighted methods should be cast away like the relics of the past and conflict should not be the tool of this new America. Instead, let’s focus on productive dialogue to find common ground, and thoughtful, practical policies to move our nation forward.

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