Steve Bannon's Rise Caps the Triumph of “Yellow Journalism” over Traditional Media
Much news on the Internet is very similar to the dangerous "yellow journalism" of history.
Much is being made about how the proliferation of fake news on Facebook and Google has contributed to the surprising 2016 Presidential election results. But that’s likely just a distraction from the larger news crisis. As many established news sources devolved into partisan mouthpieces, with focus on one-sided arguments or sensational character-driven and issue-free reporting, yellow journalism has taken hold in America. The last time the country had such a volatile combination of unreliable yellow press and tough-talking men in charge, the United States got itself into two unnecessary and costly wars, which it eventually won because it had an overwhelming military advantage. And this time, in the age of nuclear weapons and the Internet, where the majority of Americans now get their news, the consequences could be much worse.
What is “yellow press” or "yellow journalism"? The terms go back to 1890s, when two newspapers were battling it out for control of the New York market. The conflict was waged between larger-than-life publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. In one instance of their competition, Hearst’s “New York Journal” poached a cartoonist from Pulitzer’s “New York World”, who drew a very popular character known as the “Yellow Kid”. The fight over who gets the cartoonist and thus dramatically increase their paper’s circulation gave rise to the term “yellow journalism”.
To draw in more readers, Hearst and Pulitzer resorted to other methods like sensationalist headlines (which today we call “clickbait”), often misreporting or exaggerating the impact of events. The headlines would often try to scare the reader, while the content hit hard on emotion, fake interviews, pseudoscience, often offering some kind of anti-establishment fight, investing the reader with the plight of a supposed underdog.
In particular, both newspapers zeroed in on a conflict in Cuba, which was fighting for its independence from Spain. Both newspapers pushed the situation onto the American public in such dramatic, often untrue terms, that they were eventually seen as responsible once the U.S., led by the pro-business interventionist Republican President William McKinley, actually decided to fight Spain on behalf of the Cubans in 1898. The decision was spurred by the incident with the U.S. battleship “Maine," which mysteriously exploded in the Havana harbor. Hearst went so far as to claim the resulting war as his achievement, allegedly stating in a telegram “You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!”
Hearst's coverage of the USS Maine explosion. 1898.
The existence of the Hearst telegram has been debated by historians, but the competition between Hearst and Pulitzer and the resulting public hysteria was widely seen as a strong factor in the creation of the Spanish-American War of 1898, which led to U.S. having control of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The Filipinos then revolted against U.S. rule, spurring on an even more destructive Philippine-American War that lasted 3 years and saw 4,200 Americans die as well as 220,000 Filipinos (combatants and civilians).
Some historians since tried to lessen the supposed impact of the Hearst/Pulitzer rivalry, pointing out that the two battling newspapers were based in New York and it’s not a fact they could have influenced people across the country, including the decision-makers in Washington. This certainly isn’t much of an issue in the Internet age when news by major publishers can reach millions instantaneously.
Pulitzer's take on the USS Maine explosion. 1898.
Lest you think the newspapers synonymous with yellow journalism were rightwing conspiracy outlets, both were actually Democratic and sympathetic towards immigrants and labor. In fact, the modern climate is dominated by internet sites from all sides of the political spectrum, who all use tactics very reminiscent of the yellow press. These sites feature large simple headlines, often of a clickbait variety, where they either exaggerate the scope of the news they are reporting or dramatize the supposed conflict in the story. And the stories that come out are often very biased, one-sided narratives, offering little of an alternative point of view and generally work to rile the public up (and get clicks).
Many have pointed the finger at the media for somehow failing the American public in the 2016 election, with conservatives claiming media bias in favor of Clinton and with liberals decrying the media’s inability to adequately warn them that a President Trump was actually possible (or could be prevented). But in reality, it’s possible to see 2016 not as a year when traditional media (tv and newspapers) failed, but as a year when Internet-based media took over, often employing tactics of questionable journalistic integrity.
"Yellow journalism" cartoon about the Spanish-American War of 1898, featuring Hearst and Pulitzer.
President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon of Breitbart News as his chief strategist has raised all manner of alarms in liberal circles. His rise represents the tremendous influence the conservative media company he ran for a number of years as the executive chairman has had on this election. It became a de-facto mouthpiece of the Trump campaign, telling stories that benefitted the candidate.
The criticism of Bannon is that his site gives voice to a number of ideologues of the so-called “alt-right” movement, which is often associated with racist, misogynist, homophobic and anti-semitic attitudes. Whether people with such views represent a minority of the site’s users and the movement’s overall constituency is hard to tell, but the fact is - Breitbart News (with 150 million views in July 2016) gives some of them an outlet, like the columns by the celebrated conservative troll icon Milo Yiannopoulos who has proudly declared himself to be living in a “post-fact era”.
It's difficult to gauge if Bannon personally holds dangerous views, and while some have risen to his defense, he’s certainly being blamed by association. Interestingly, Breitbart's former boss and founder of Breitbart News, the late Andrew Breitbart, was involved in the creation of several internet juggernauts, including the other highly influential conservative news aggregator site Drudge Report, a strong Trump backer, and one of the most popular web portals in the world. The Drudge Report was actually the second most popular media site in the U.S. as of July 2016, with almost 1.5 billion page views, ahead of Google and New York Times. Curiously, Breitbart was also involved in the creation of the popular Huffington Post, the liberal alternative to the likes of Drudge Report and Breitbart News. Huffington Post is as rabidly leftist as the other sites are conservative.
In this state of devalued journalistic integrity and sensationalist headlines that are more interested in Kardashian-like antics rather than serious reporting, as well as the spread of fake news, it’s hard to be optimistic about the role of the news media as a watchdog on the ambitions and mistruths perpetuated by self-serving politicians on all sides of the spectrum. And the particular rise of Steve Bannon to strategizing for the President poses many questions, as he also controls a burgeoning media outlet, which surely will continue to be at Trump's disposal.
Cover photo: Stephen K. Bannon reacts to a caller while hosting Brietbart News Daily on SiriusXM Patriot at Quicken Loans Arena on July 21, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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