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Thu Dec 6, 2018, 03:53 PM

It's the End of News As We Know It (and Facebook Is Feeling Fine)

Right-wing propaganda is still doing great. Journalism, not so much.


You probably saw the commercial, ubiquitous across television earlier this year: “We came here for the friends.” The narrator, sounding just a little like a younger Mark Zuckerberg, skipped us through pictures of kids in braces, awkward bands, birthdays. Facebook was telling us its creation myth, and it almost felt true. Wasn’t it that way when we first made our accounts? Didn’t we marvel at the parade of connections that suddenly poked into our lives, reminding us of who we’d been, who we might become?

“But then something happened,” the voice in the commercial intoned, and the screen filled up with “CLICKBAIT” and “FAKE NEWS.” Until finally, Young Zuck put a stop to it: “That’s going to change…Because when this place does what it was built for, we all get a little bit closer.”

It was a classic crisis campaign. Facebook was desperate to reset its brand, tarnished by Cambridge Analytica and Russian trolls. But in its contrasting of “friends” and “fake news,” the marketing push glossed over what Facebook was erasing, even as it claimed to be restoring it: real news.

We found ourselves coming back to this commercial as we sat down to write our annual December column about the state of media and Mother Jones’ plans for the year ahead. This is supposed to be part of a fundraising campaign—and yes, we need to raise $400,000 this month, and this column is going to try to explain why. But the threads we found ourselves pulling on were about something bigger.

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