AOL and Politics

Now here’s an interesting article.

Basically, AOL’s youth filters–which prevent children from accessing sites of an inappropriate nature–have, at present, a conservative slant. They can visit the RNC website but not that of the DNC; the Libertarian Party page but not the Green Party page; the websites of gun manufacturers but not those of certain gun-control organizations. (The Million Mom March, for Pete’s sake?)

The explanation given is that the filters operate on a whitelist basis; that is, sites are submitted for approval rather than restriction. Instead of there being a list of forbidden sites, then, there is a list of approved ones (kinda like the difference between French and British common law, huh?). So if there’s a conservative slant to the approved sites, it’s presumably 'cause more conservative sites have been submitted for approval than liberal ones (the DNC ain’t hardly a liberal organization, but that’s a topic for another thread).

Now, this whitelisting strikes me as an inefficient and o’ercautious way to construct a filter, though I suppose it ensures that seemingly innocent sites like the infamous will be automatically excluded (kids can access sex sites despite the filters under certain conditions, however, as the article describes).

Leaving that aside, and dismissing the notion of ideological bias on the part of AOL, what’s most interesting about this story is that it demonstrates once more the extent to which conservative groups in America have a greater degree of institutional organization and concerted activism than do their counterparts to the left. Conservative think-tanks are more prolific, more often quoted, and better funded; conservative hosts dominate political talk radio and, to a lesser extent, TV’s public affairs programs; and there’s certainly been a greater willingness on the part of Republican politicians to assume the role of pit bull on policy issues, pursuing their goals combatively and aggressively (compare the Democratic Congress under Reagan to the Republican Congress under Clinton).

There are various reasons for this: Among them, wealthy people tend to be fiscally conservative (which is one of the reasons the claim of a “liberal media” is ridiculous, as editors, anchorpersons, bureau chiefs, and publishers do more to determine the bounds of discourse than do reporters, and are more wealthy and more conservative than most Americans–cite upon request); there is active public support for the conservative agenda (it’s easier to get fired up about school prayer than campaign finance reform); and Republicans, especially the so-called “right-wing fringe” have relished their roles as Congressional minorities for so long that their approach to politics has become naturally adversarial and reactionary.

Anyway, those were my thoughts on reading that article. Anyone else?

cite, cite, cite

Cite please.

My response to the article is relief.
Relief that I do not have kids.
And relief that I just got rid of my AOL.
(I am assuming you do not want to hear my anticensorship rant)


Just putting in my 2sense


In 1998, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) sent surveys to 444 Washington-based journalists (33 bureau chiefs, 411 others), of which 141 were returned.

Quoting FAIR:

66 percent of those who responded to the survey were male; 89 percent were white. Only 5 percent were not college graduates, and only 5 percent reported annual household incomes under $50,000. (31 percent had postgraduate degrees, and 31 percent earned $150,000 or more)

You can click on the link and examine the survey for yourself. In general, however, FAIR found that [ul]
[li]“On select issues from corporate power and trade to Social Security and Medicare to health care and taxes, journalists are actually more conservative than the general public.”[/li][li]“Journalists are mostly centrist in their political orientation.”[/li][li]"The minority of journalists who do not identify with the ‘center’ are more likely to identify with the ‘right’ when it comes to economic issues and to identify with the ‘left’ when it comes to social issues.[/li][/ul]

This shouldn’t be a surprise; other studies have shown that the better-educated someone is, the more they tend to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Also, the world of high-level journalists is rather insular. This explains the survey question asking the state of the economy: 92 percent of journalists answered “excellent” or “good”, 4 percent as “fair”, and only 1 percent as “poor.” Contrast this with the response of the general public, 66 percent of whom view the state of the economy as “excellent” or “good”, 27 percent as “fair”, and 7 percent as “poor.”

I could go on, but I’ve rambled enough. Check out the link. Oh, and the early-80’s study which lent credence to the cries of “liberal media” in the first place? Thoroughly debunked here.

Thanks Gadarene. I bookmarked both sites.

Congrats on bagging pashley. He looks nice stuffed and mounted on your trophy wall.

Just putting in my 2sense

It’s 3:20 am. This may sound like a ramble. I can’t do anything else for at least another hour. Deal with it.
I still fail to understand the point of censorship. It’s like hiding from your fears. It may be a slighty far stretched analogy, but none the less totally apporpriate.
Ok, chain of events to clarify my thinking:

A. Children want to use the internet.
1. All their friends have it!! They just * HAVE!* to get it! They, c’mon mom, serioulsy need it for, like, hw and shit. -OR- Yea Dad, that does look cool, let’s get us a $5000 server and set up an ISP!!
B. Parents, tired of the cealess nagging that children are totally capable of (watch out, 2sense! :wink: ), give in.
1. Apparently, their reasoning is, ANYTHING THAT WILL GET THEM TO SHUT UP AND SIT STILL FOR 2 HOURS can’t be * that * bad. After dad realizes “who needs the wife when I’ve got the internet?” (no, just kidding, but you get the idea), the parents start to think about just how much inappropriate stuff there is out there.
C. Parents worry, there is, after all, a whole lot of “unseemly content” on the net. They worry for many reasons.
1. Fear of exposure to pornographic (in some cases, also excessive violence) material, they feel, may affect the development of a child or teen.
2. This material could well be something that, by our standards (it seems we at STMB are pretty much anticensor), the child should not see,* and so the censorship would be jusified.
D. Any child who is likely to notice that the child censoring option is on is also likely to be annoyed, and will try to find some way out of it, with varied success.

Now, for the re, umm, futtalment? All the technical terms escape me, but you’ll soon catch my drift.
So, back to my original point. How is that “running from your fears”? Well, do they fear that this child will be exposed to inappropriate things? Yes, but only ** indirectly** wtf? How can you indirectly be exposed to something? No, you dolt! Indirectly fear it! wtf?
They don’t fear the sites themselves. Nor do they even fear the content. They fear what that content can do to their children. So they block it out entirely, which ensures that the site name will grab the child’s attenion, and the enterprising young lad or lass will immediately research all he can on the topic of “Applied Anarchy.” As one might guess, that could actually lead to some interesting development issues.
Therefore, as I see it, it becomes (well, actually, always has been and will be)the parents job to help their child learn in an unbiased way, not simply to block out part of his or her development- that could have rather unfortunate consequences later on.
*In this case, I’m talking about sites that explain how to make pipe bombs and best use automatic weapons- if you don’t know already, then the internet probably shouldn’t be teaching you.
PS: I tried to do this in a nice format, really, it’s not my fault the outline-ish thingy looks so stupid! REALLY! Also, sorry if I rambled a bit there…