Modern Mass Media

I have an ongoing problem with “too transparent” media publication of anything and everything, just because it is ever easier to do so, and “everybody’s doing it”. Came across this 2006 Bruce Charlton paper – The Paradox of Modern Mass Media.

“The paradox of modern mass media is that divisive content is probably intrinsic to maximizing its effectiveness and inclusiveness. The cohesion of liberal democracies therefore depends on a widespread psychological capacity to endure a permanent state of dissent and disagreement. The presence of endemic media provocation and controversy does not always make for a comfortable life. Yet, the greater the social toleration – the stronger and broader the social cohesion.”

That “depends on a widespread psychological capacity to endure” aspect makes the argument circular as to whether the divisive content is “paradoxically” a source of social cohesion. Clearly it’s a balance in the evolution of that capacity and of the divison to be tolerated. But that is incidental to the point that the large amount of division and the capacity to tolerate it must tie up huge human resources, that never achieve common closure on the contentious / divisive content … and all that we ever get to agree and build on is lowest common denominator non-contentious stuff – like Wikipedia without authorized editors.

I agree mass communication is net positive, but I believe it is highly inefficient and only just barely net positive – easily driven to be net negative. It could be so much more efficient if better mediated.

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