02
Dec
09

google finance and deliberative democracy

I’m in the market in a modest way and so I like to check google finance now and then (the fact that I check google finance is surely an indicator of my amateurishness right?). I’m convinced that the message boards under various stocks are a threat to democracy.

What do I mean? I mean that the google message boards are what Cass Sunstein describes as echo chambers, in which the participants can bounce absurd opinions off other similarly uninformed people to heighten their own ignorance and resistance to further argumentation.* This sort of deliberative solipsism is very dangerous to democracies, which rely, at least partially, on the erstwhile persuasion of various groups concerning controversial social decisions. This is not idle speculation or unmotivated alarmism. A substantial body of psychological and political science literature notes that people, when put into a group of like minded people, often emerge from discussion with a more firm belief in their own views.

But such isolation is not limited to lunatics on google finance boards, but infects our entire FOX/CNN media culture. You see, I think our culture, with its emphasis on a narrow kind of satisfaction or happiness encourages confusing actions with beliefs. Actions aim at the good, which is pleasure or happiness, but beliefs are supposed to aim at the truth. We watch our favorite media outlet because their opinions, which match ours, are soothing. News thought of in this way is a type of entertainment or sedative. This is wrong. If beliefs are about truth, then we should not seek to derive satisfaction from their unchallenged status. Rather, our beliefs should be made to collide with others so that we can become more justified in our beliefs and perhaps even embrace more truths in the long run.

* One might worry that I’m being too much of an intellectual elitist, and that people in these message boards, while not being scholars, are genuinely exchanging ideas. I provide these small snippets to prove that this is not so. I’ve only provided two, since they’re pretty offensive.

Obama sure could have used a dad growing up.
No one ever taught him how to be a man.
Bush’s dad was a WWII vet and taught him not to bitch
like a chick and blame everyone else for your problems.
Bush had to deal with the aftermath of a president that
chose to ignore the growing terror threat. I cannot recall
him ever blaming his predecessor  for any of his inherited
problems. I cannot recall a time when Obama did not.

and

Also he’s [Obama] an indecisive, limp wristed sissy that succumbed to the advances of a homo while on drugs.
I don’t trust any man that rolls gutter balls consistently.
It’s a matter of testosterone.

And so on.

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