The Fiat News Index

Now before we do this, let’s go over the ground rules. Rule Number 1: No touching of the hair
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Comments

  1. Thank you Rusty, this looks like it will help me manage through this time and age as I’m quite unhappy with fiat news.
    Please keep updating

  2. As always a lot to study, absorb and digest in several rereads before I really “own” what Rusty wrote. But one thought jumped out at me from a simpler time when I was “taught” how to read a newspaper in middle school in a “social studies” class. We were told that a newspaper’s news pages reports facts - the who, what, when, where, why - without bias; whereas, the editorial page gives an opinion / a view and that papers keep a strict divide - an impenetrable Chinese Wall - between the two.

    Okay, stop laughing. The thing I had to learn on my own was that the news pages had plenty of commentary, now not only in the “straight” news articles, but also in all the news “analysis” and similar articles that sit right in the middle of newspapers’ news pages (the NYT loves to do this as does the WSJ, for example, with its “Capital Journal” pieces). Conversely, occasionally, you’ll learn facts - straight news - in an editorial that somehow (hmm) have been missed by the five news articles you read in three different papers on the same subject.

    Rusty, as he and Ben always do, provides a deeper dive and more structured analysis of this issue while also offering up a rigorous process to help you navigate all of this without being “nudged” into this or that narrative or view. From the first day I started reading newspapers, I recognized that something was off from the idealized view that I had been taught. It’s a challenge everyday for every active newspaper reader to disaggregate opinion from news / the nudge from the facts - glad to have some tools and a process to help. Thank you Rusty.

  3. Test

  4. Avatar for ianfvr ianfvr says:

    This is great! Thank you for doing this. I grew up in Asia and one time I was visiting Taiwan and my friend was telling me how the cab drivers there (at last back then) were the most knowledgeable and passionate about politics and news. It stuck with me because in retrospect their jobs allow them the time to do their job while taking in and processing / judging /perhaps critically thinking through information, back then, transmitted from the radio; a critical, informed mind requires the space, energy and time to do this type of triage, no? Is it not highly energy intensive for individuals to assess the fiat nature of the news they consume? Don’t most individuals’ jobs interfere with this process and the more general role of citizen from a time/energy/space perspective?

  5. I’ve heard it asserted that communication is 60% body language, 30% tone and only 10% the uttered or written words. If there’s any truth to that, this type of analysis will fall short. I don’t have any suggestions for capturing the other 90% (can’t even vouch for the accuracy of the assertion that body language and tone are that significant), just think it’s important to consider.

  6. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Isidore, I don’t just think you’re right, I know you’re right. While you should decide for yourself, my personal point of view is that this is probably only useful in the aggregate. For the reasons you describe, I don’t think it’s particularly useful for any single article. But that 10% can add up across many articles to tell you something, I think.

  7. Rusty, great topic. Sources and their methods

    People should figure out what this index truly tells them. To me it is an “obviousness” index.
    I strongly disagree about sweeping Reuters and BBG use to “innocent baseline”. They are powerful narrative sources with a lot of fiat smell to them - perhaps more powerful than others as ubiquity of non-loaded news makes them look neutral so they seek to pass you loaded topics as facts when your guard is down. Their use of “due to” or “following” in their highlighted news or numbers reports is a powerful missionary statement and an obvious fiat index candidate. They also have a way of loading meaning into seemingly facts by promoting things into Top page for no obvious reason, omitting true top news, highlighting news, repeating them with “updated” prefix when the update is non-critical. All those things spike my narrative barometer readings. I personally do not think there is all that much difference between any sources for amount of fiat once you mentally correct them for their typical methods and once your ears are tuned - it can be the absence of things, it can be the flow of the way facts are presented where you are invited to read between the lines and made to think it was your own conclusion. I think the index is about how obvious the attempt to create the narrative is.

    Do you correct your narrative maps for source’s breadth of coverage (reuters would have every news possible whilst Vox would only have the bits they want to push)? I would assign higher weight to something appearing on WSJ or FT as an equivalent on BBG would be to see it promoted to Top News page and flash up at you several times a day with “Updated:” or being highlighted red.

    Presumably you should have typical targets audience collections of sources when creating your narrative maps and weight them differently depending on whose map you are trying to see. Institutional investors map on gold will look very different from that of a prepper gold bug that has only ZH to read. For politics it would be interesting to see you supplement your all encompassing map with two polar maps weighted differently for typical source collections for those camps so we know whether they are being pushed towards centre of more radical.

    I would love to see you develop a missionary index (including the news sources) - an objective way to see whose statements carry more weight and really shape the narrative - perhaps citations or name mentions combined with a lagging indicator of narrative change.

  8. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    There’s a lot to chew on here, and I think most of your criticisms / ideas are fair and interesting for further examination. For example, part of the reason I kicked this analysis off in the first place was because of Reuters and Bloomberg articles that seemed very off to me. A baseline is a relative thing these days, I suppose.

    I’ll give all this some thought as we continue our little research project.

  9. Very interesting, but somehow disturbing. The words in the list are, as your earlier stuff says, excellent hints or clues of fiatness (fiatism, fiatedness) but they don’t characterize it. Aren’t you at risk for creating an index that creates for the reader a Narrative of the type you and Ben discuss, a derivative or abstraction based on incomplete data with a particular goal in mind? Many other techniques are used to nudge opinion - story selection and rejection, loaded terms like “radical” and “progressive” and even “liberal” and “conservative”, names of persons not directly related to the story, and the like. Your index is just one corner of the vast expanse of nudge techniques in use, but it could be seen as a valid index of fiat characteristics - which in fact seems to be what you are attempting. Narrative thrives on such simplified pictures, graphs, tables.
    Hints and clues are helpful, but this index or any attempt to reduce the notion of fiat news to a number or graph goes too far, methinks.

  10. Avatar for jim-r jim-r says:

    I’ve thought about this as well. I’m lucky in that my job allows me a lot of free time in front of a PC screen, so I’m able to read and digest content in a somewhat critical context. Can’t say this about most of my social circle though. It’s exhausting and time-consuming to maintain clear eyes!

  11. now I reread my comment I have to apologise for my brain incontinence. This is just too exciting a topic

  12. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    If someone was purporting to have a complete understanding of all the nature of bias and abstraction, then yes, I think I’d agree very strongly with you that reducing it to a number isn’t just foolhardy, but definitionally an abstraction itself!

    But I think we’re comfortable that our readership understand that we are attempting to highlight one narrow portion, and that our objective is to be probably approximately correct. There’s zero question it incorporates our own biases (how could it not?) and that it presents an incomplete picture. Can we do more and better? Yes, and we’ll try. It is better than nothing? Well, on that, we may have to disagree! I think “yes!”

  13. Avatar for elddir elddir says:

    Since you have 3 types of words (Causal, Common Knowledge, and Value), it would be interesting to see the charts of the different types - maybe you already did this and it just looks the same as the aggregated chart…

  14. The normalized “Fiat News Index” is my favorite ET thus far (not counting the personal ones)! I hope you will apply this methodology to alternative media sites as well, e.g. The Intercept, Consortium, Truthdig, Lew Rockwell, Weekly Standard, etc. etc.
    What I’m sure I need going forward is not investment brilliancy but a way to sort out the cacophony of (non-financial) opinion and content not generated by the current main streamers featured above. VK

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