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The Rise of Identity News – BCB #69
Also: who wants to abolish the Electoral college, neoliberalism’s polarizing effects
There has been an increase in news reporting on social identities, according to this new study. Researchers used a language model called BERT to classify headlines along four identity categories: racial, political, gender, and religious. Identity-based reporting in both Red and Blue news outlets has been increasing since the mid-2010s.
The researchers speculate that this rise in coverage may be driven by audience demand (we’ve previously looked at how audience demand influences the news). The study analyzed Tweets, Facebook posts, 19 media outlets, and almost 4,000 news headlines since the 2000s. They found that identity-based content from Twitter and Facebook had higher engagement, and that headlines referencing social identity received 0.79 more clicks per 1,000 impressions than average.
In comparison, inclusion of the words “Obama,” “sex,” and “arrest” increase the number of clicks per 1,000 impressions by 0.86, 0.65, and 0.87, respectively. Hence, the presence of social identities not only had a causal effect—including these identities in a headline garnered about as much interest as a headline that included the president or soft news, categories that journalists generally treat as attention-worthy.
Another finding implies that perhaps people want to be seen as supportive of certain identities.
On Twitter, identity-oriented posts were more likely to be retweeted and liked, while on Facebook, they were more likely to be shared and liked, but not clicked on. This suggests that identity content may have a stronger influence on publicly observable forms of engagement.
This new Pew Research poll finds that a majority of all Americans (65%) support abolishing the electoral college in favor of a national vote for president, though Red remains divided on the issue. However, support for reform is increasing on both sides.
[Among Republican voters] 52% support keeping the current Electoral College system, and 47% support moving to a popular vote system. GOP support for moving to a popular vote is the highest it’s been in recent years – up from 37% in 2021 and just 27% in the days following the 2016 election.
Another finding is that more politically engaged Reds tend to support the electoral college. This could be because they’re more aware of the structural advantages of the electoral college for Republicans. Notably, the electoral college system ousted two Blue presidential candidates who won the popular vote, in 2000 with Bush v. Al Gore, and in 2016 with Trump v. Clinton.
Neoliberalism has taken power from the working class and worsened partisan politics, according to Michael Lind. Blue sees neoliberalism as synonymous with mutated capitalism and aggressive free market economics. Red views it as a corporate vehicle to propagate leftist ideology. But Lind argues that neoliberalism can be best understood by what it replaced.
Before the 1980s, large firms were kept in check, through systems that were “both public, in the form of a strong regulatory state, and private, in the form of labor unions and consumer cooperatives.”
Lind argues that just as political checks and balances are essential, so are economic ones to protect the working class. He says that todays’ technocratic neoliberalism, made up of corporate, university, and mainstream media, reflects the values of college-educated elites. While these institutions are culturally progressive, they’ve lobbied for low corporate taxes and have prevented labor movements from organizing.
At best, mainstream politics provides weak legislative support to the working class without giving them the ability to organize; Lind sees this as a problem, because it makes them vulnerable to polarizing populism.
Organizing a union, or other methods of direct labor representation in negotiations with employers, is better than passing a law. Relying on benevolent elites to help the working class out of charitable sentiment is no substitute for worker power. In the short term, both the Democratic and Republican parties will be dominated by those who benefit from post-1980 neoliberalism. But nothing lasts forever, and neoliberalism will be replaced by some new policy consensus.
Quote of the Week
Virtue-signaling, technocratic progressivism and anti-labor neoliberalism have been synthesized in “woke capitalism,” exemplified by Starbucks, which has strenuously fought the unionization of its coffee shops while spending lavishly on philanthropic initiatives related to diversity and climate change.