How to Escape Pseudo-Events in America: The Lessons of Covington

Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker:

For around a decade, people who think critically about the media have worried about filter bubbles—algorithmic or social structures of information flow that help us see only the news that we want to see. Filter bubbles make it easy to ignore information that could change our views. But the Covington story is an example of a different problem. It’s a story that’s disproportionately talked about and hard to avoid. It’s relatively inconsequential, but also inescapable. There is no bubble strong enough to keep it out.

The Covington saga isn’t fake news, strictly speaking. The events on the Mall really happened; what’s more, the surrounding story raises many questions of broad, genuine interest. How much should we hold teen-agers accountable for their political views? Would a group of nonwhite demonstrators have been permitted to behave as the Covington boys did? What is the moral status of Catholicism, and of socially conservative religious institutions generally? (What if the boys had been students at a Jewish or Muslim school?) How reactive should journalists be? These subjects are interesting to debate, as are the reputations of Sandmann and Phillips. All of this lends the Covington video a kind of moral momentum. As more people weigh in, the momentum builds.

It would be wrong, however, to take the moral interest of the Covington video at face value.

More here.  [Thanks to Dan Dennett.]