The “liberal echo chamber” is not a thing

I has data:

The media landscape is distinctly asymmetric.

The structure of the overall media landscape shows media systems on the left and right operate differently. The asymmetric polarization of media is evident in both open web linking and social media sharing measures. Prominent media on the left are well distributed across the center, center-left, and left. On the right, prominent media are highly partisan.

From all of these perspectives, conservative media is more partisan and more insular than the left.

The center-left and the far right are the principal poles of the media landscape. 
The center of gravity of the overall landscape is the center-left. Partisan media sources on the left are integrated into this landscape and are of lesser importance than the major media outlets of the center-left. The center of attention and influence for conservative media is on the far right. The center-right is of minor importance and is the least represented portion of the media spectrum.

Conservative media disrupted.
Breitbart emerges as the nexus of conservative media. The Wall Street Journal is treated by social media users as centrist and less influential. The rising prominence of Breitbart along with relatively new outlets such as the Daily Caller marks a significant reshaping of the conservative media landscape over the past several years.

So there it is. Right-wing politics are coalescing around conspiracy websites, while left-wing politics remain broad in scope. The echo-chamber is not ours.

Of course, as a person who is paid to fact-check bullshit, I could have told you that. The “liberal bias” my blag has been accused of is actually just a reflection of right-wing politicians’ tendency to charge through reality as if facts are porcelain pots that can be broken if enough force is applied. It’s not like I’m hiding my criticisms of left-wing woo; it’s just that woo is a little too busy twirling in a corn maze to get anywhere, so the focus will be proportional to the batshittery that is getting somewhere.

-Shiv

Why yes, I do indeed see pee

Alberta’s political landscape has been shifting rapidly in the past few months, and I just haven’t had time to write about it. Now that the dust is starting to settle, we can get back to business as usual in the Texas of Canada. Starting with: The you-see-pee.

By now it can’t have escaped the attention of anyone who follows Alberta politics that members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties have voted to merge their parties into a single political entity by percentages worthy of a North Korean election.

The Yes vote percentage for both parties was, coincidentally, 95 per cent – that is to say, for those of you who like to know these things to the precise percentage point, 94.9 per cent for the PCs now led by Jason Kenney and 95.4 per cent for the Wildrosers now led by Brian Jean.

While the favourable result was not unexpected, it seems likely a merger endorsement with numbers that stratospheric should be enough to settle down any remaining conspiratorially minded skeptics in Wildrose ranks about the outcome of the vote in spite of Friday’s party PIN problems.

The numbers of PCs and Wildrosers who voted to create the “United Conservative Party” – the Alberta right’s answer to the Vulcan mind meld – were curiously similar too.

A total of 24,598 Wildrosers voted, and 23,466 said yes to the merger, while 27,060 PCs voted and 25,692 said yes. The Wildrosers said that was about 60 per cent of the voters eligible, the CBC reported from the party’s special meeting yesterday in Red Deer. The Conservatives don’t seem to have said, but with a claimed membership of around 50,000, the turnout would be about 55 per cent. Given the importance of the vote, the turnout is probably a worthy topic of some future interpretation.

In the mean time, it almost seemed as if the same people were voting in both parties – which, come to think of it, may have been the case!

Given that the raging, foaming misogynist redneck vote was split between the Dickweeds and Regressive Preservatives, it is in fact a possibility that enough ridings will swing back into nihilist neocon hands in the next election to unseat our refreshingly reality-based government. It’s way too far off to make a reasonable prediction with any degree of accuracy–but most commentators (who aren’t highly paid conservative pundits–so, nobody in print news) agree that it means, at minimum, a harder campaign for the New Democratic Party.

So now that country bumpkins, racist asshats, Christian theocrats, and alt-right goons have rallied under one banner, what have they been up to with their new found unity?

AtG favourite Derek Fildebrant has been grifting taxpayers to subsidize his renting scheme. Subsidies? What a communist! Also that surely meets some definition of “misappropriation of funds.”

Jason “I don’t get caught up in the details” Kenney has still been vowing to publicly out every student who joins a student-run gay-straight alliance in public school.

And Brian Jean wants to gut healthcare’s budget to post-Ralph Klein levels. Despite the fact that we are twice as populous as we were then (effectively making his proposal a 75% reduction in the healthcare budget). Hey, at least if you start dying in the emergency room, you won’t have to pay for an ambulance!

In other words: I fucking told y’all so.

There are no moderate conservatives. There are only criminals and fools in denial.

-Shiv

Four days. Zero arrests.

Meanwhile, in Durham County:

RALEIGH, N.C.—More protesters were arrested Wednesday for participating in a demonstration that toppled a Confederate statue in North Carolina.

The statue in Durham came down Monday night when a protester climbed a ladder to attach a rope and demonstrators on the ground pulled the bronze soldier from its pedestal.

On Wednesday, Dante Strobino and Ngoc Loan Tran were led away in handcuffs when they came to a court hearing for the woman who climbed the ladder.

The Durham County Sheriff’s office said Tran and Strobino are charged with two felonies related to inciting and participating in a riot that damaged property. The woman who climbed the ladder, Takiyah Thompson, was charged with the same counts Tuesday.

The three are affiliated with the Workers World Party, which helped organize the Durham protest in response to deadly violence over the weekend during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

That took less than a day.

Still waiting for a single fucking white supremacist to be arrested for their participation in their riot.

-Shiv

Autogynephilia: A method of character assassination, not a scientific theory

Content Notice: Trans-antagonistic nonsense of many varieties.

Miranda Yardley has, much to my despair, started clogging the “transgender” tag on Medium, which is one of many ways I try to track what is being discussed about gender variance. For those of you who don’t know her–congratulations, count yourself lucky–she’s a self-described “transsexual male” who has politically aligned herself with a group of people who gleefully argue for her own subordination. She gallivants about the United Kingdom, coasting in on the benefits hard won for her by trans activism, all while arguing how harmful trans activism is. It’s the sort of hypocritical blinkered nonsense you typically see from the forced-birther movement, who often access the very services they protest. She is, basically, a British Blaire White, carving out a niche in profiting from telling the trans-suspicious what they want to hear while being simultaneously trans. This includes her latest invocation of one of the anti-trans types’ favourite cudgel: Autogynephilia, an idea (calling it a “theory” would be an insult to science) promoted by Dr. Ray “transsexuals will sort themselves out later” Blanchard.

[Read more…]

Where is the “sky is falling” crew when you need them?

Postmedia, the corporate near-monopoly on Canadian news outlets, is heavily invested in convincing the public that the same austerity which got us into the mess we’re in is the solution to our problems, because the filthy rich owners of Postmedia don’t want to pay taxes. An entire genre of “the sky is falling” hit pieces have graced print media for the past couple years as Canada’s left-wing governments engage in Keynesian economics to keep things running during the recession. Debt and deficit hysteria has given corporate oligarchs a convenient fig leaf, with cries of “but the credit rating!” concealing the grumbling about their dues to society.

By every reasonable metric, the Albertan NDP have been the most competent leadership the province has seen in years.

By contrast, corporate oligarchs are getting exactly what they want in Saskatchewan–and yet, it has not arrested Saskatchewan debt either, causing their credit rating to continue tanking.

Yesterday was the longest day of the year, and Standard & Poor’s chose the summer equinox to downgrade Saskatchewan’s credit rating from AA+ to AA.

It was the second time in the past 12 months Saskatchewan’s credit rating has been dropped by the famous New York credit rating agency, whose pronouncements are taken ever so seriously by conservative opposition parties here in Alberta.

But you could have waited all day and long after sunset – which took place at 10:07 p.m. here in the capital of Alberta, if you were wondering – to see a press release from either the Wildrose Party or the Progressive Conservative Party condemning Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and his conservative Saskatchewan Party government for this obvious failing.

Funny, that!

Because it’s certainly never taken this long for an angry press release to appear from the offices of either of Alberta’s two main conservative political parties when the same thing happened to Alberta’s New Democratic Party Government for the same reasons.

It turns out that increasing debt caused by keeping the lights on in resource dependent provinces in the face of low oil, natural gas and other resource prices has had pretty much the same effect in Saskatchewan governed by conservatives as it has had in Alberta governed by social democrats.

That said, a good economic case can be made that Alberta will be in far better shape as both provinces recover from the downturn because the NDP has not laid waste to health care, education and other public services, as the Saskatchewan Party is doing.

Regardless, when Standard & Poor’s downgraded Alberta’s credit rating for the second time, from AA+ to AA last month, the Wildrose press releasecalled it a “disastrous credit downgrade.”

“This is totally unacceptable,” wailed Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who is already a candidate to lead the still-unbirthed United Conservative Party.

“Credit rating agencies don’t care what politicians say, they care what they do, and the NDP are doing nothing but dithering while Alberta’s deficit spirals out of control,” shrieked Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, another UCP leadership candidate.

The real motive of the you-see-pee (United Conservative Party) has nothing to do with the provincial government’s credit rating, and everything to do with the same smash-and-grab that allowed capitalists to loot the public sector during a downturn, leaving the little guy to eat the recession while the capitalists sip martinis in the Cayman Islands.

I hope Alberta’s blue collar recognizes that.

-Shiv

Evangelicals patronizing Planned Parenthood

The anecdote about an abortion protester one day making an appointment in the clinic they demonize was always just that to me–an anecdote, something plausible given the religious right’s penchant for hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance but something also unconfirmed.

Only now, MarieClaire has data.

Data doesn’t exist on just how many women who were raised in this faith actually patronize Planned Parenthood in private, which is a result of the very reason many of them go there: It provides anonymity. We do know that 13 percent of abortions conducted in this country are for women who identify as evangelical protestants, in addition to the 17 percent for more mainline protestants like Lutherans or Methodists, according to a 2014 study by the Guttmacher Institute. When you add in Catholics, that number rises to more than half.

I was raised in an evangelical culture myself and, while doing research for this story, I was taken aback by how often one Christian woman’s experience with Planned Parenthood led me to another’s, and another’s, and another’s. What I once believed was simply a handful of anecdotal instances became an undeniable trend, one that reached into many different backgrounds and beliefs. Some of the women in this article have left the faith in which they were raised, either altogether or adopted more progressive forms of it; others, like Elizabeth, still identify as evangelical Christian, a broad label that often indicates a born-again protestant who adheres to a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Some of the women are from cities, others small towns. The common thread that runs through all their stories: Visiting Planned Parenthood was a risk—but one worth taking.

“It’s a very difficult thing for them,” says Lachina, the Planned Parenthood chaplain, who echoes the fact that secrecy is critical for the young Christian women who visit clinics. “They certainly don’t want their parents to know that they’re going to a Planned Parenthood facility,” he says. “They want to be anonymous.”

More valuable than even anonymity, Planned Parenthood provides religious women with honest medical information they likely aren’t getting anywhere else: Research published in 2012 in the Journal of Women’s Health found that weekly church attendance made women half as likely to be receiving any sexual or reproductive health services.

“They gave me an exam and birth control to help with my menstrual cycles, because they said my cycle might be causing problems with my cyst,” Elizabeth says of her first Planned Parenthood appointment. “It was an education.”

Still, the pressure of the community is hard to shake. Evangelical culture tends to be intentionally exclusionary, creating a sense of us-versus-them, and these women had engaged with what they were taught was the very worst of “them.”

Rachel*, a pastor’s wife, felt that pressure fiercely. “I grew up in a strict religious community. Planned Parenthood was the devil,” Rachel says. “Our church talked about Planned Parenthood as a gas chamber and part of the new Holocaust.”

If you think you can stomach the finer points of Evangelical propaganda, read more here.

-Shiv