It’s election season. I know. You know. You can’t help but know, because there is a constant stream of bullshit streaming off the presses. Some of it (a vanishingly small percentage) is legitimate policy discussion or calls to action. Most of it simply horse-racing, tribalism, putting minor points under a magnifying glass, or things that would not even be newsworthy in a rational society. Enough.
The Extension to Restore Sanity is an extension for Google Chrome that activates when you navigate to a major news site. As of this writing, any headline links on the page meeting Wong’s criteria (or some elaborations on them) will be replaced by “Story hidden: ” followed by a short explanation. See the screenshots to get a better idea of what that looks like. At this time the extension supports the following rules:
– No Gaffes: Excludes headlines containing “gaffes”
– No Tenuous Stories, Speculations, or Rhetorical Questions: Excludes qualified headlines
– No Talking Points Volleyball: Excludes headlines with variants of “blasts”
– No Overstating Importance: Excludes headlines with “lawmaker”.
– No Low Blows: Excludes variants of “blow to”.
– No Spin Zone: Excludes headlines with “spin” in the title.
Version 1.1 Adds:
– Unbiased?: Excludes headlines that focus on media bias.
– No Sensationalism: Excludes headlines that mention the “mainstream media”.
– Fixes some bugs that might cause the info box to not disappear
– Adds a close button to escape if that does happen
– Reduces false positives for science and health stories
– Randomizes the rule displayed if multiple match
– Adds CBS News to the list of supported sites
Version 1.2.1 and 1.2.2:
– Added exceptions for “blasts” to not censor actual explosions
Where applicable, exceptions are made to more accurately target political stories. Outside of the political realm, some of these rules, particularly the second rule, tends to accidentally hide legitimate information. Future updates will likely serve to improve the accuracy of the targeting (version 1.1 now conditions on URLs to improve the true positive rate for select news sites).
The extension was originally inspired by an article on Cracked.com by David Wong called “5 Ways to Spot a B.S. Political Story in Under 10 Seconds” (http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-to-spot-b.s.-political-story-in-under-10-seconds/). The name of the extension was is tribute to “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” that occurred in Washington D.C. in late 2010 hosted by John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I believe this extension serves a common purpose: remove noise from the news and help elevate the level of debate. I hope that you find it useful!
Developers can find the code on github licensed under the MIT License: https://github.com/william-silversmith/extension-restore-sanity
This extension is not endorsed by Cracked.com, the organizers of “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear”, or any news website featured in demonstration screen shots. Other than their inspiration, as of this writing, it is wholly my own work and the work of my wonderful friends who tested it.
A somewhat more detailed version of this summary can be found here: http://williamsilversmith.posterous.com/the-extension-to-restore-sanity
For the promotional image:
The horse appearing on the right hand side is a modified version of: http://www.briarpress.org/24846
The image was licensed under Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial 2.5: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/
The check mark appearing on the left hand side was a public domain image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Checkmark.png