Political Compass #7: "Info-tainment" is a worrying trend.

Many political debates here have included references to The Political Compass, which uses a set of 61 questions to assess one’s political orientation in terms of economic left/right and social libertarianism/authoritarianism (rather like the “Libertarian diamond” popular in the US).

And so, every so often I will begin a thread in which the premise for debate is one of the 61 questions. I will give which answer I chose and provide my justification and reasoning. Others are, of course, invited to do the same including those who wish to “question the question”, as it were. I will also suggest what I think is the “weighting” given to the various answers in terms of calculating the final orientation.

It might also be useful when posting in these threads to give your own “compass reading” in your first post, by convention giving the Economic value first. My own is
SentientMeat: Economic: -5.12, Social: -7.28, and so by the above convention my co-ordinates are (-5.12, -7.28). Please also indicate which option you ticked.

Now, I appreciate that there is often dissent regarding whether the assessment the test provides is valid, notably by US conservative posters, either because it is “left-biased” (??) or because some propositions are clearly slanted, ambiguous or self-contradictory. The site itself provides answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions, and there is also a separate thread: Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading? Read these first and then, if you have an objection to the test in general, please post it there. If your objection is solely to the proposition in hand, post here. If your objection is to other propositions, please wait until I open a thread on them.

(The above will be pasted in every new thread in order to introduce it properly, and I’ll try to let each one exhaust itself of useful input before starting the next. Without wanting to “hog the idea”, I would be grateful if others could refrain from starting similar threads. To date, the threads are:
Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading?
Political Compass #1: Globalisation, Humanity and OmniCorp.
#2: My country, right or wrong
#3: Pride in one’s country is foolish.
#4: Superior racial qualities.
#5: My enemy’s enemy is my friend.
#6: Justifying illegal military action.)

*Proposition #7: * The growing fusion between information and entertainment is a worrying contribution to the public’s shrinking attention span.

SentientMeat (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Disagree.

Not much to say here; I don’t find this particularly politically relevant and so I’m pretty much flipping a mental coin between Agree and Disagree. If anyone here provides a convincing argument then it might strengthen my view in either direction, but then again it won’t affect my final score very much in any case.

I can envisage the people who tick Strongly Agree as perhaps perceiving the world to be “going to hell in a handbasket” due to the pernicious effects of television and the accompanying social revolution. (This is why I marginally sided against them by Disagreeing.) On the other hand, many of those who think we have too little social liberty might point to eg. FOX news as keeping us from making progress because it is not really “news” at all, thus acting as a support for the status quo.

As always, your input is appreciated. (Please remember to put your score in your first post; I feel that this allows your comments to be placed in some context.)

Jon the Geek (-3.2/-6.1 [-2.8/-7.49 on retake]) ticks Strongly Disagree.

Sorry, I’m an instructional designer, and at least attempt to further the fusion between information and entertainment. I believe in tricking people into learning. If information is presented in a more entertaining format, it’s more likely to be absorbed. I’m not saying all infotainment is good, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad (or worrying) about it.

(-5.38, -0.15) agree

Actually, it is not so much the shrinking attention span that worries me as it is the people who don’t care or distinguish quality of sources.

I typed a bunch more but was having a hard time seeing what it had to do with “Info-tainment” as opposed to other generic problems with our society.
Still, as a budding information professional, it concerns me that people will take a mixture of fact and enough fiction to make it palatable and accept it as good information without checking the reputations of its authors/presenters.


What SentientMeat said. It’s kind of a silly question. I have no idea what one’s answer to this has to do with a political position on the graph.

IMO, there has always been more interest in intertainment than information by many people. If anything, the news now is better than it ever has been. More views are presented now that the network monopoly on TV news is ending. The radio dial has everything from conservative rush to liberal NPR and all flavors in between. Sure, many informers also try to entertain. But, what’s wrong with that? If someone is good enough to get the big audience and big paychecks that come with it they should be able to do both.

Score, Debaser? (Just to see where two people with different scores have the same opinion, or people with similar scores differ.)

Strongly Disagree.
(0.75, -5.0)

I just don’t see this as being either a major problem or, for that matter, even a new trend. Standards of journalism now are as high as they’ve ever been, believe it or not. FOX news et al. are probably even less biased and info-tainmented than the media of the past; the news media of the 19th century was biased and prone to outright mendacity in a way you’d find shocking today. By the standards of the newspapers of the Civil War era, FOX news is moderation squared. Or watch a 30s or 40s newsreel and tell me it’s not nigh on propaganda.

The proposition also claims a shrinking attention span. I frankly do not believe the general public’s attention span is any shorter than it has ever been. People have been saying this for God only knows how long and it’s always been baloney; it’s the sort of thing everyone says when they get old and grouchy (not concidentally, when their attention span gets longer because their brain slows down and it takes longer to think about anything) along with “Kids today are out of control” and “People are stupider than they used to be.”

I am generally inclined to always disagree with “The world’s going to hell” propositions, because

  1. They’re almost always false,
  2. They’re almost always the same complaints people have been making for centuries, and
  3. They are usually a negative reaction to CHANGE, rather than an actual assessment of things going to hell.


I just did the test again the other day to get a score to post. However, the hampsters weren’t allowing it at the time.

runs off to take the test again

Here are my results:

Economic Left/Right: 3.62
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 0.31

I just set a record with speed on taking that thing. :slight_smile:

Last time I seem to remember I was a 4.xx economic and about the same socially.

Heh heh, yes I find I have a little wiggle room also whenever I repeat the test - as long as you don’t feel that it’s particularly inaccurate then I wouldn’t worry too much.

You’re actually the furthest to the Economic Right here; your input will certainly be valued in the more economic-based threads to come right after this one.

5.62 and -5.08

I ticked Strongly Disagree here. Every generation is certain that the current generation is going to hell in a handbasket. This type of question is just a manifestation of that age old griping. Entertainment and information have always been linked, we just do a better job of it today than we used to.

I am also always conscious of the therefor after that kind of statement. Therefor we should change it. I would rather the marketplace of viewers make a choice as to what type of information or entertainment they want. I worry about people who want to manipulate the media to achieve their aims.

-3 and -1 (I think; I was right on top of Gandhi), and I voted Strongly Agree. It’s not the combination of education and entertainment per se that worries me, but I’m deeply afraid that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, the only news that gets reported will be the news that the reporters know how to make exciting. Things that aren’t exciting, or don’t have a human interest, simply won’t get reported. That’s the prospect that bothers me.

I still just don’t get how I’m nearly a 0 on the authoritarian/libertarian scale.

I’m for the legalization of all drugs. I’m against the death penalty. I’m an athiest who wants government to have nothing to do with religion. I’m pro-choice.

When I go and read the Issues FAQ on the www.lp.org web page I am in agreement with just about every one.

I scored Economic=-1.75, Social=-.87

I said Agree. There seems to be this trend nowadays to package all information in soundbites. If it’s not entertaining or easy, most people just don’t bother. People get their news from the TV now, and not newspapers, just because its so much easier, and they don’t read books.


(Even if TV is getting more viewers than newspapers have readers, I would argue that this might be due to folks reading news on the internet rather than having a paper delivered.)


(-4.25, 0.62)


I find alarming the overabundance of “polls” and the reliance on the findings of these polls by both the politician and the voter. I feel these polls are presented in such a manner as to convey authority and entertainment value. Nothing like hearing the same poll every week, like checking a box-score!

I don’t have any, and I’m fully willing to accept that I’m incorrect. However, those were the main reasons I selected agree.

Roughly 5, 0.5


It pisses me off to a great extent when people cite something like Fox News (which dedicates a good third of its time to celebrity-related imbecility) or some random biased talk show (which tend to be hosted by mentally challenged partisan hacks on both the left and the right) as a credible source.


Other than the legalisation of all drugs, you would find that there are few industrialised democracies outside the US where those points are even questioned seriously - you would certainly not be labelled a “social libertarian” just because you hold those opinions. (Rather you would likely be labelled quite the authoritarian if you didn’t!)

How did you answer on the threads to date? I believe, as I suspect does the test itself, that “bowing down to the flag” is authoritarian by nature. If you harbour strong nationalist tendencies then this might affect your score even though your social policies are quite libertarian.

(-8.00, -5.49)

Agree. But not very strongly, as I agree with most here that it’s a silly question.

I’m in the minority, but I strongly agree. Today’s news may be more impartial than the 1940s newsreels, but today’s audience is dumber. Everything has to be condensed down to soundbites, sports shows are nothing more than a parade of home run swings, hockey goals, touchdown passes, and three point shots. We elect our candidates based on their turn of a phrase (“there you go again”, “I paid for that microphone”, “read my lips”) rather than their policies. Candidates don’t put out detailed position papers because the average voter is either too busy or too stupid to care. Californians elected an actor governor without a whit of experience, qualifications, or a plan. Arnold was voted in simply because he was already famous and wanted the job. Sadly, that’s all that is needed these days as the population gets dumber and attention spans shrink.