The Top Political Stories On Facebook In 2011 Were Sensationalized, Polarized And Mostly Mainstream

Facebook has released a list of the most popular US political news stories among its users over the past year. It’s a pretty depressing read if you’re idealistic like me, and wish that more people would listen to the other side more often because we’re all a bunch of dumb humans, anyway. But yeah, the story topics, which were led by Occupy Wall Street and Osama Bin Laden’s death, often took purposefully sensationalistic angles that catered to people with strong, preset opinions.

It could still be that the 155 million US Facebook users out there were having meaningful, reasonable conversations about the articles on their walls and news feeds. Let us hope.

Zooming out from the content, the most striking thing about the list is that it’s almost entirely mainstream media articles getting shared the most, which is like what we saw in the overall top articles list that Facebook had released last month. However disruptive blogs may be, they (we) still haven’t taken over. That is, except for The Huffington Post, which managed to lead all others with ten of the top 40 headlines through its usual formula of left-leaning linkbait.

After that, CNN had seven of the top headlines, MSNBC had six, and Fox had five. The New York Times didn’t even show up (directly, although it did indirectly via a reblog). The Wall Street Journal managed to squeak in at the end with a story at the end. The list is calculated by Facebook using the number of Likes and shares each article received.

The top story on the list is perhaps the best example of a smaller, outside-the-mainstream news source getting widely picked up by Facebook users. The article itself is a ranty response from a member of liberal site Daily Kos to a young conservative who had voiced his disagreement with Occupy Wall Street. The conservative had posted a photo of himself holding a note about how hard he worked, how he didn’t have health insurance, how he wasn’t complaining about it, etc.  The Kos response was a personalized version of the progressive canon, that explained how he shouldn’t have to work so hard and stuff. I doubt the young conservative changed his mind as a result….

The next two posts are funny for how little original content they include. The first is the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, which reposted a New York Times data visualization of deficit increases under Bush versus Obama, and added a few lines of commentary about the dramatic effect of the Bush tax cuts. The second isn’t even an article, it’s just a Fox News reader poll that simply asks “Should U.S. Get Involved in Syria?” then provides a few multiple choice answers.

Okay, going through the rest of the list is too painful… “Michelle Obama Dances ‘The Dougie’ & ‘The Running Man’” offers the Huffington Post at the number six spot… “Should the American flag be banned in America?” Fox News rhetorically asks down at number 32… I’m done talking about this. If you want a better source for news than your Facebook friends, I suggest you check out Techmeme’s political aggregator, Memeorandum. Now go have fun looking through all the links yourselves. (And don’t forget to share this article on Facebook so we can try to make the list next year.)

1. Daily Kos: Open Letter to that 53% Guy

2. Washington Post: Obama’s and Bush’s effects on the deficit in one graph

3. FOX News: Should U.S. Get Involved in Syria?

4. CNN: Osama bin Laden, the face of terror, killed in Pakistan

5. Salon: “USA! USA!” is the wrong response

6. Huffington Post: Michelle Obama Dances ‘The Dougie’ & ‘The Running Man’

7. Huffington Post: Obama’s Birth Certificate Through The Eyes Of A Birther

8. CNN: Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don’t get it

9. Huffington Post: Sarah Palin’s PAC Puts Gun Sights On Democrats She’s Targeting In 2010

10: MSNBC: Anti-gay marriage group fakes support with doctored photos

11. Huffington Post: Conservative Pie: Republicans Introduce Legislation Redefining Pi

12.Huffington Post: Westboro To Picket Funerals Of Arizona Shooting Victims

13. MSNBC: Web’s bin Laden ‘death photo’ (just the photo) is fake

14. LA Times: Michele Bachmann is worried about the Renaissance

15. Huffington Post: Senate Votes To Let Military Detain Americans Indefinitely

16. FOX News: White House Condemns Possible Execution of Iranian Pastor

17. Huffington Post: Everything The Media Told You About Occupy Wall Street Is Wrong

18. FOX News: Usama Bin Laden Killed in Firefight With U.S. Special Ops Team in Pakistan

19. CNN: Arizona enacts funeral protest legislation

20. FOX: ‘Occupy Wall Street’ — It’s Not What They’re for, But What They’re Against

21. LA Times: Lara Logan breaks her silence on ’60 Minutes’

22. The Blaze: Adam Carolla on Occupy Movement: ‘F**cking Self-Entitled Monsters’

23. MSNBC: In the ruins of Gadhafi’s lair, rebels find album with photos of Condoleezza Rice

24. CNN: Soldier leaves a legacy much larger than ‘he was gay.’

25. Slate: Pentagon’s top secret cat warfare exposed

26. CNN: Middle class backlash at Occupy Wall Street protesters

27. Weekly Standard: Obama bans asthma inhalers over environmental concerns

28. Slate: Clarence Thomas writes one of the meanest Supreme Court decisions ever

29. Good Morning America: Obamas go shopping at Target

30. CNN: Who owns America? Hint: It’s not China.

31. Huffington Post: UC Davis protesters arrested, pepper sprayed

32. FOX News: Should the American flag be banned in America?

33. Huffington Post: UC Davis police officer pepper sprays nonviolent protesters

34. LA Times: Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledges paternity of child out of wedlock

35. MSNBC: U.S. Forces kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan

36. MSNBC Video: Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden from White House

37. CNN: Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden

38. Huffington Post: Lobbyists succeed in categorizing pizza as a vegetable in schools

39. MSNBC: Lobbying firm memo spells out plan to undermine Occupy Wall Street

40. Wall Street Journal: How to Tax the Rich

[Pepper spray cop photoshop job via Know Your Meme.]