BREAKING: politicians are opportunists who contradict themselves. Great, now what?

Big Data & the Increasingly Dull Edge of Hypocrisy Porn

BREAKING: politicians are opportunists who contradict themselves. Great, now what?

If the intellectual void that is the average Facebook feed has taught us anything, it’s that in a digital world where our opinions are written in ink rather than pencil and the spectre of social and "potential employer" judgement reigns constant, the result isn’t, as Zuckerberg claims, one of "openness", but rather genericness, and schmaltz and levity. Just the same, in a media culture where our politicians every moment is documented and the spectre of campaign-derailing hypocrisy charges reigns constant, the result is not one of consistency, but rather nothingness. Of nice-sounding, qualified vaguery posing as position.

Indeed, when hypocrisy - defined as saying one thing but doing another - becomes our media's favorite proxy for political fraudulence, the result is not that politicians will say one thing and do it, it’s that they just won’t bother saying anything in the first place.


This dynamic, no doubt, will become even more apparent now that we know the conditional act, as the Wrap revealed earlier this month, of gathering up ‘what person X said in the past’ is now entirely generated by automated content mining software like SnapStream that searches for key words based on whatever outrage one wants to reverse engineer through input.


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As The Wrap's Tonly Mangilo explains

SnapStream not only records hours of television, but searches for key words and phrases through closed captioning. Because the service for hearing-impaired viewers is federally mandated, companies like SnapStream can use it to track whatever shows need.

If Stewart and his writers need material on open-carry activists bringing firearms into restaurants, they can use SnapStream to find cable news reports with words and phrases like “guns,” and “Chipotle.

Daily Show producer Pat King puts it in simple ROI terms:

“It has absolutely changed the way the produce. There's not a day that goes by that we don't use it. … It's cut our production time down by about 60 or 70 percent.”

It used to take 10 or 12 minutes to get a clip into an Avid editor. Now it's much faster, which makes for a smoother process from writing to rewrites to rehearsal and air.

So someone said something hypocritical, why does it matter how they find it?

It matters because that which is cheap, by defintion, becomes unimportant. It matters, more pragmatically, because it's making us petty and short-sighted and, above all, because it's making liberals smug, ineffectual gotcha mongers at the expense of critical thought. Charges of hypocrisy, uncoupled from any broader ideological framework or systematic critique becomes nothing more than a parlor game posing as political discourse.

To whit: Stewart's favorite hypocrisy porn bit he's done over and over is to point out how gee-golly-hypocritical Senators McCain and Graham are when it comes to Iraq.


John McCain making specific predictions about the 2003 Iraq Invasion and being wrong, when juxtaposed with clips from today’s carnage, is punchy and thus hilarious. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid's vague acquiescing to (read: still supporting) the 2003 Iraq invasion in rambling, non-sound-bitey PR-speak and being wrong, when juxtaposed with clips from today’s carnage, is confusing and thus unmentioned. To the average Iraqi, whose son or mother or brother is among the estimated half-million dead, this distinction is trivial. To hipster liberals tuning in to see those god-awful Republicans get a pie in the face, it somehow passes for biting satire. It’s not. It’s tedious. And safe. And, in recent years, has become little more than the lazy partisan fodder Stewart once so righteously dirided.

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