On “Information Asymmetry”

Finding straightforward, unbiased media sources in the English-speaking world is difficult, if not next-to-impossible. It is even more troublesome in the German-speaking world, where certain Cognitive Biases prevail over the interpretations of past historical events from a distinctly West German perspective. The Fourth Estate is in many respects a product of that everyday struggle, regardless of whether I am reading anything in English or in German. Even so, I have been keeping records of various subtle linguistic changes within both languages as older terminologies become phased out in favor of newer ones reflective of contemporary times.

There is a growing tendency among contemporary news article titles to resemble that of a Blog post, as if the Intent is to imitate “Click-Baiting.”  Take a given number of recent article titles from one publication, like The Washington Post or The New York Times, then compare them next to article titles disseminated by that same publication from previous decades. Allow me to demonstrate this with New York Times articles. Below are examples of older articles from its online archives. All of the articles between January 1991, January 1992, January 1999, January 2000, January 2010, January 2011, January 2020, January 2021.

  • WAR IN THE GULF: THE RESERVES; Ripples of Pain as U.S. Dips Deeper Into Military (1991)
  • THE FEDERAL BUDGET: The Overview; Mood of Compromise Prevails on Election-Year Budget (1992)
  • THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE REPUBLICANS; McCain Turns Up the Heat a Notch on Bush (2000)
  • Discontent and Anger Motivate Voters (2010)
  • The Early Word: Tread Carefully (2011)
  • In Los Angeles, Kobe and Wealthy Elites Use Helicopters as Taxis (2020)
  • Bernie Sanders Meme Merchandise Earns $1.8 Million for Vermont Charities (2021)

The timing of these articles, from 1991 to 2021, is a deliberate choice since the World Wide Web (WWW) was not widely available yet in the early 1990s. It is very interesting how, looking through the older archives of The New York Times, special coverage is being emphasized on specific historical events, and all attention is being focused on reporting that event. These “Special Reports” were once denoted by the usage of Colon Marks (“:”) and Apostrophe Marks (“;”) within the older methods of reporting. The Colon Mark indicated the “Special Report,” the various aspects of the reported topic documented with Apostrophe Marks. It is noteworthy insofar as it is ‘unnecessary’ for major publications like The New York Times to engage in something similar, with the 2011 article (which is related to the Arab Spring of that year) being a genuine outlier.

Unless I have access to sophisticated data analytics, what I am describing here can and will be misinterpreted by the sense-perceptions of others as “Cherry Picking.” Seen from a different perspective, however, that is exactly how I myself would perceive this Blog post.  The reason why I am mentioning these observations on The Fourth Estate is because I always encounter this particular phenomenon while investigating media archives as far back as the early 20th century. Older methods of reports are being gradually replaced by newer ones over the course of decades, the changes becoming even more pronounced in the years between 1991 and 2021.

These “changes” in question coincide neatly with the rise of the WWW and its gradual replacement of traditional offline news sources as the primary means of obtaining information. It may not seem like it in the year 1999 or 2000, but it certainly was by 2010 or 2011. One of the perplexing observations back in early 2010s was how the WWW made offline sources of information “obsolete.” Timeless, insightful information about world politics and world economy does not truly exist on the WWW insofar as they are either:

  1. Out of print without any hope of future reprints;
  2. Requires access to government archives and/or university databases;
  3. Blocked by a language barrier insofar as nobody wants to translate them into English;
  4. Blocked by a cultural barrier that requires somebody to know a particular culture;
  5. Blocked by a religious barrier that requires somebody to know a particular religion;
  6. Hidden within the pages of obscure academic journal articles;  
  7. Hidden behind paywalls which demand large sums of Kapital before accessing them;
  8. Or else distorted by Theological Pastimes like “Fact-Checking” (Objective) and “Conspiratorial Theorizing” (Subjective).

I rarely receive my information on Contemporary Events from “news sources,” regardless of their own ideological aims. When I do have to rely on “news sources,” whatever I encounter is to be scrutinized with the Work-Standard, since there is no reliable “Media Bias Chart” for anyone to draw any conclusions. I rely on the Work-Standard to sift between the trivial and the insightful, developing a sort of Information Asymmetry applicable to the Essences behind the Labels “Arbeit” and “Geld,” both of which have been internalized by heart.   

Information Asymmetry is one of the fatal flaws of Neoliberalism due to its relationship with the Economic Calculation Problem. A Liberal Capitalist finds that it is advantageous for him to have more information than the next Individual in order to maximize his own Marginal Utility. Trust devolves into an increasingly rare Commodity, even though Trust is the lynchpin that provides some semblance of coherence and depth to everyday social relations, which is oftentimes the given in any nation-state. So many people these days are placing excessive trust on the authoritativeness of “Fact-Checkers” and “Conspiracy Theorists,” as if these two are the only ones to consider as possible sources of information. It is yet another example of a false dialectic, reflecting the growing absences of other sources of information like offline sources, the WWW only yielding more of the same.

Categories: Politics

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