In the world of mass communication and media, there is an academic idea called “Agenda-Setting Theory.” It’s the belief that the way we consume media is filtered through one of three types of agendas that hold sway over the public.
- The first is Public Agenda Setting. It is the idea that the general public holds sway over how media reporting is shaped and how issues are covered.
- The second is Media Agenda Setting, where the media companies decide what stories are covered and how reporting is shaped.
- The third is Policy Agenda Setting, where the media companies and the public are working to influence the issues that policy-makers cover.
The mainstream media would very much like for the second point to be the case. They have worked for decades to make themselves out to be the authorities on what should and should not be covered, and they have worked tirelessly to discredit anyone who would stand in the way of that. Most of you reading this would prefer the first type of agenda-setting because it returns power over the public discourse to the people rather than the corporate news media.
The third type, Policy Agenda Setting, has either evolved or splintered in the last twelve years or so. We would like to think we have influence over policy-makers, but the fact is we really don’t. Our voices were drowned out by the media and by lobbying and activist groups. Social media, however, became something of an equalizer.
Now, look at the Democrats. They have refused since the Bush years to really concede defeat very well. Terry McAuliffe is the most high-profile Democrat to continue to refuse to say George W. Bush legitimately won his elections, but he is far from the only one. They insisted (and many still do) that the Russians stole the election in 2016 and gave it to Trump. They believe that Stacey Abrams didn’t lose the gubernatorial election in 2018, but that Brian Kemp stole it from her. And these are just the high-profile races they continue to cry over.
Russian disinformation campaigns spent about $20,000 on social media to sway people. After Barack Obama’s campaign used glorified voting targeting to get support from Facebook in 2008, social media was seen as the wave of the future for elections, and campaigns spent millions upon millions to reach voters there. $20,000 in Russian money is a tiny fraction, but the influence it might have had on the election was blown out of proportion as the Democrats looked for any reason other than the weakness of their own candidate to explain 2016.
And this is where the Democrats and the media meet on the issue of Facebook. They see Facebook, which has turned you and I into the product rather than the customer, as something they can’t control. They cannot set their agenda through it, and it infuriates them to the point that they have to regulate its influence out of existence.
When it comes to your Facebook feed, yes, there are some things the algorithms push on you that you maybe wouldn’t be looking for all the time, but if your Facebook feed is overly-political, then you’re going to get the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you are not someone who shares overly political stuff, then you won’t see those things nearly as often, even when one of your best friends or a family member shares them because Facebook recognizes that’s not the life you live.
My own Facebook account is littered with nothing of value (which, according to the comments here at RedState, is no different than my columns). It’s just stupid memes. It’s so many stupid memes that I routinely get messages from people sharing a meme with me without realizing I’m the one who shared the stupid meme to their feed in the first place. My own personal preference is that Facebook is where I keep track of friends and family, and it’s where I go to share stupid memes because I need a place away from all the political nonsense that happens literally everywhere else.
But not everyone is like that. Some people feel it is important not just to them but for the good of the country that you have to share that news article or that opinion piece or that meme of Jesus standing over Donald Trump in the White House. Some people feel the need to constantly share every anti-conservative meme they see to try and combat what they see as some creeping fascism (a lot of those people also repeatedly call for the anti-vaccination folks to be cast out of society and into a large, dark pit, never to be seen from again). Those people I have no issues with because I will never see those posts.
You are the product, but you are also the means of revolution here. The media wants to set the agenda. They want to tell you what stories are important, what stories are a load of garbage, and why you should feel a certain way about a story. The Democrats want to control what information gets to you because they cannot accept that voters just may not like what policies they’re selling.
So my question ends up being… why help the Democrats and the media strengthen their own messaging?
I get that a lot of people are still infuriated at Facebook for banning Donald Trump. There are plenty of instances of Facebook blocking or censoring conservative content. But despite that, conservative pages routinely outperform progressive ones. Even as insane as the hoops we have to jump through to get some of our content onto Facebook or to dodge fact-checkers, RedState is still drawing very solid traffic from the social media giant.
Trust me, if I could pull back the curtain and really show y’all some of what we go through, I would. It’s absolutely nuts. But at the end of the day, RedState’s message is still getting out to its readers on social media. Conservative voices really do have a much bigger platform than they know there. You look at the numbers and you realize that we’re actually winning there more often than we’re losing.
That’s why I have been extremely hesitant to jump on board the Regulate Big Tech bus, because it’s what the Democrats and the media want. They are losing influence there and what to regulate their influence back into play. I can’t bring myself to support that, and while I understand a lot of the frustrations from conservatives (and share in many of them), I also know that in the long run we are doing far more good by leaving Facebook (relatively) alone.