Audit Notes: BS as business model, Larry Kudlow, Third Way revealed

Report a hoax, reap the traffic, and shrug off the consequences

Dave Weigel goes after BuzzFeed, which wants to be taken seriously as a news organization, but doesn’t want the responsibilities that entails—like giving a rip when you report false news.

BuzzFeed helped spread the fake story about a Thanksgiving airplane feud that was actually a hoax:

What is aggregation FOR, anyway? And are people willing to create a lower standard for “reporting” — Zarrell is a reporter, who has worked for other news organizations — if it’s only about a viral story? Earlier this year, the Washington Post fired an overworked aggregator-reporter after she botched some facts. The Washington Post’s aggregation style is fairly unpopular — the paper wants to have SOME version of stories on its own site, so readers stay there instead of Yahoo! or Politico. But none of its aggregated tales go as mega-viral as “This Epic Note-Passing War on a Delayed Flight Wins Thanksgiving.” And Zarrell’s story WOULDN’T have gone viral if she’d decided that Gale’s story was too flimsy. She wouldn’t have gotten 1.3 million hits. She would be, today, a less valuable employee to Buzzfeed.

This is fairly fucked. Yes, people on the Internet want to believe salacious stories. Reporters want to publish stories that people read. If there’s a great reward, and little downside, to be had in publishing bullshit, the Internet’s going to get more bullshit. As one of my colleagues put it, “‘Too good to check’ used to be a warning to newspaper editors not to jump on bullshit stories. Now it’s a business model.”

Money quote in bold.

— Speaking of dumbing down the news, the most popular Wall Street Journal story online now is “Five Signs Your Dog Loves You.”

Sign No. 3? “Your dog freaks out when you leave,” which turns out not to be a sign your dog loves you after all: “Sorry to disappoint, but that is not a sign of love.”

Got it.

— Larry Kudlow, the just-about-always-wrong CNBC pundit, says this on Twitter:

There is no groundswell for minimum wage hike. It’s SEIU trying to organize more members and more dues for left-wing causes.

Wrong again, Goldilocks:

Moreover, Gallup’s poll finds a groundswell for raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour and indexing it to inflation: 69 percent favor that with just 28 percent opposed.

In fact, even Kudlow’s fellow Republicans overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage (though not indexing it):

Bonus fun: Watch the devout Catholic Kudlow’s head explode over the pope’s denunciation of runaway capitalism:

— Third Way has come in for a deserved drubbing for its fallacious concern trolling in The Wall Street Journal this week arguing against “economic populism.”

Yves Smith:

It’s critical to understand that Third Way presents itself as “centrist” which is code for “oligarchy promoters pretending to be reasonable” and has consistently advocated gutting Social Security and Medicare.

Third Way wrote, falsely, that Social Security had an “undebatable solvency crisis,” as Elizabeth Warren, one of the targets of the attack, notes:

“More importantly, if we made no changes at all, Social Security would pay out at its current level for about 20 years, at which point it would drop by about 25 percent and pay out forever into the future.”

But the most revealing takedown comes from a simple image at Daily Kos, which says it all about why a group claiming to promote consensus is so concerned about popular policies:


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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,