In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘How our information system is poisoned’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 12 August

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The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Charlie Warzel in The New York Times

on the spread of online conspiracy theories

Epstein Suicide Conspiracies Show How Our Information System Is Poisoned

“The dueling hashtags and their attendant toxicity are a grim testament to our deeply poisoned information ecosystem — one that’s built for speed and designed to reward the most incendiary impulses of its worst actors. It has ushered in a parallel reality unrooted in fact and helped to push conspiratorial thinking into the cultural mainstream. And with each news cycle, the system grows more efficient, entrenching its opposing camps. The poison spreads.”

2. Alex Massie in The Times

on losers’ consent

The polarisation of politics should worry us

“Tribalism is a pernicious drug. My team, right or especially when wrong, leads otherwise sensible people into the weeds of madness. Little good can come from this but the evident putrefaction of our two leading political parties ought to be a concern for everyone. Instead of keeping each other honest, the Tories and Labour are racing to indulge the worst instincts of their core vote. This is as immodest as it is indecent. A bigger, better, politics would accept the importance, indeed the necessity, of losers’ consent. Miserably, that kind of politics seems impossible right now.”

3. Tom Peck in The Independent

on the triumph of Tory ideology over pragmatism

Javid says the shrinking UK economy will emerge ‘stronger’ from no-deal Brexit. He’s lying to himself, and you

“Such is the descent to madness. In the ever so slightly amended words of WB Yeats, the best lack all conviction, but they can be forced to go on the telly to parrot out the passionate intensity of the worst. As a younger Sajid Javid knows full well, and might just wish to whisper in the ear of his slightly older friend, we will not come out of a no-deal Brexit ‘stronger and more resilient.’ It isn’t going to happen. Pretending it will to appease the liars and the sociopaths next door is in absolutely nobody’s interests at all. At the bitter end, not even your own.”

4. The Financial Times editorial board

on combating political polarisation

Deliberative democracy is just what politics needs

“The idea that democracy is about more than voting has an illustrious pedigree. The core of the deliberative democracy tradition — a respectable academic research programme as well as a reform movement — is that democratic citizens better fulfil their role as the ultimate source of sovereignty when they inform themselves and elaborate their views in the presence of their peers. While discussion among like-minded people has been shown to shift people towards more extreme opinions, structured deliberation with people one disagrees with has a much more salutary effect.”

5. David Baker in the New Statesman

on police violence in the US

Five years after Ferguson, has anything changed?

“In democratic societies, the theory is that police operate with the consent of the population – as distinct from coercing them into behaving in a peaceable and lawful manner. Consent is given on the basis that police conduct themselves in a way that appears legitimate to the public. If things go wrong, the public has a legitimate right to ask police departments why and how it happened, and to seek reassurances that lessons are learned that prevent future errors. The principle of accountability stems from consent and legitimacy. Remove accountability, and legitimacy and consent become damaged.”

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