January 10, 2013

Before You Link to the Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington
Arianna Huffington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dear members of the reality-based community:

Based on the available data pertaining to the political preferences of our community, there is reason to believe that your political leanings are likely to be somewhat left of center. There are certainly exceptions. But if I know nothing about you other than your preference for reality over superstition, I would be wise to predict that you are more likely to lean left than to lean right. We also know from a wealth of psychological research that we humans tend to seek information that confirms or validates our positions and pay more attention to it than we do with information that disconfirms and invalidates them (i.e., confirmation bias). If I put these two pieces of information together, acknowledging that they are general statements that will not apply equally to every individual, I should expect you to consume media that could be described as more liberal or progressive in orientation.

What I would like to convince you of today is that not all of these media sources are equally valuable and that at least one of them should be actively avoided. In particular, I'd like to persuade you that no member of the reality-based community should promote The Huffington Post (HuffPo) by sharing links to it on websites, blogs, or social media. The next time you are tempted to tweet a link to HuffPo, I hope you'll think twice.

I first wrote about this in July of 2010, noting that HuffPo is no friend to the reality-based community. Of course, I was not writing anything new. This problem had been known for some time, especially among science bloggers. What I sought to do was spread the word among atheists as much as I could. I explained that HuffPo is notorious for promoting woo, pseudoscience, and assorted quackery. I joined PZ Myers (Pharyngula) in calling on the reality-based community to stop promoting them. A few months later, I followed up with another post providing additional evidence of why HuffPo is so bad for the reality-based community.

In spite of the many informative posts out there from atheist, humanist, skeptical, and science bloggers condemning HuffPo, the site seems to be as popular as ever. What surprises me is how popular it continues to be right here in our community. Not a day goes by that I do not see an atheist sharing links to HuffPo on Twitter. Evidently, the word still has not spread widely enough. Every time we share links to HuffPo, we send traffic their way, boost advertising dollars, and make it more likely that they will continue doing what they do.

Still not convinced? Take a look at this excellent post by Dr. Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True. In addition to promoting the sort of health-related quackery that can do real harm to gullible readers, HuffPo also promotes the sort of accommodationist nonsense that we should easily recognize as problematic.

I assume that no self-respecting member of our community wants to promote accommodationist drivel, Deepak Chopra, homeopathy, or other forms of health-related quackery. And yet, this is what we are doing by continuing to share links to HuffPo. I understand that there is occasionally some good political stuff there, but I have had an easy time finding it elsewhere. It is time to stop promoting The Huffington Post. If you agree, I'd like to suggest that you join me in doing two simple things:
  1. Spread the word about why we in the reality-based community should not promote HuffPo, and
  2. Refrain from linking to HuffPo.
Thank you for your consideration.

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