Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Eggs on faces

November 14, 2016

No comments needed.


 

When sanctimonious arrogance meets blind ignorance

November 13, 2016

It is a potent mixture when sanctimonious arrogance meets blind ignorance. And it is difficult to get more sanctimonious than, or be as blind as, the HuffPo.

I note that they are still in denial about the result and are instigating mayhem and revolt.

From Paul Joseph Watson

arrogance-ignorance


 

The media’s sanctimonious self-righteousness contributed to Trump’s victory

November 11, 2016

It should be fairly obvious that I am not overly impressed by the main-stream (mainly liberal) media in the US. It is my contention that their blindness to the anti-establishment wave that was abroad, and then their sanctimonious stupidity, was no small contributor to the anger against the perceived establishment.

Now the analysis starts.

But some few liberals do see – at least in hindsight – what I thought I saw back in May.

Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.

This is Thomas Frank in The Guardian: (my bold)

Clinton’s supporters among the media didn’t help much, either. It always struck me as strange that such an unpopular candidate enjoyed such robust and unanimous endorsements from the editorial and opinion pages of the nation’s papers, but it was the quality of the media’s enthusiasm that really harmed her. With the same arguments repeated over and over, two or three times a day, with nuance and contrary views all deleted, the act of opening the newspaper started to feel like tuning in to a Cold War propaganda station. Here’s what it consisted of:

  • Hillary was virtually without flaws. She was a peerless leader clad in saintly white, a super-lawyer, a caring benefactor of women and children, a warrior for social justice.
  • Her scandals weren’t real.
  • The economy was doing well / America was already great.
  • Working-class people weren’t supporting Trump.
  • And if they were, it was only because they were botched humans. Racism was the only conceivable reason for lining up with the Republican candidate.

How did the journalists’ crusade fail? The fourth estate came together in an unprecedented professional consensus. They chose insulting the other side over trying to understand what motivated them. They transformed opinion writing into a vehicle for high moral boasting. What could possibly have gone wrong with such an approach?

 

Image from Truth Feed

Image from Truth Feed


 

Western media treatment of East Aleppo and Mosul is hypocrisy in action

October 23, 2016

The Western media (US and Europe) have views about the Middle East which are more than a little coloured by the self induced delusion that the US and Europe are on a righteous crusade against oppression and for the promotion of democracy. That has been and still is the overwhelming view from the time of the first Iraq war, the overthrow of Gaddaffi and all through the Arab spring uprisings in North Africa and now in Syria and Iraq again. That Europe and the US have not just encouraged and supported, but also instigated rebel groups to the prevailing regimes, to the point of recklessness is completely forgotten. Many of the rebel groups (including ISIS and Al-Nusra) would not have dared to begin their blood-letting without the false hopes raised by the Saudi money and the US/NATO/EU support. (It is the same pattern of reckless EU/NATO expansionism – but without the Saudi money – which prevailed in Ukraine and led to the Russian aggression and annexation of the Crimea). This “political correctness” is now blatantly apparent in the difference of media treatment to the assaults on East Aleppo in Syria and on Mosul in Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn has this in The Unz Review (originally in The Independent):

In Libya, Gaddafi was demonised as the sole cause of all his country’s ills while his opponents were lauded as valiant freedom fighters whose victory would bring liberal democracy to the Libyan people. Instead, as was fairly predictable, the overthrow of Gaddafi rapidly reduced Libya to a violent and criminalised anarchy with little likelihood of recovery.

In present day Syria and Iraq one can see much the same process at work. In both countries, two large Sunni Arab urban centres – East Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – are being besieged by pro-government forces strongly supported by foreign airpower. In East Aleppo, some 250,000 civilians and 8,000 insurgents, are under attack by the Syrian Army allied to Shia paramilitaries from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and supported by the Russian and Syrian air forces. The bombing of East Aleppo has rightly caused worldwide revulsion and condemnation.

But look at how differently the international media is treating a similar situation in Mosul, 300 miles east of Aleppo, where one million people and an estimated 5,000 Isis fighters are being encircled by the Iraqi army fighting alongside Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia and Sunni paramilitaries and with massive support from a US-led air campaign. In the case of Mosul, unlike Aleppo, the defenders are to blame for endangering civilians by using them as human shields and preventing them leaving. In East Aleppo, fortunately, there are no human shields – though the UN says that half the civilian population wants to depart – but simply innocent victims of Russian savagery.

Destruction in Aleppo by Russian air strikes is compared to the destruction of Grozny in Chechnya sixteen years ago, but, curiously, no analogy is made with Ramadi, a city of 350,000 on the Euphrates in Iraq, that was 80 per cent destroyed by US-led air strikes in 2015. Parallels go further: civilians trapped in East Aleppo are understandably terrified of what the Syrian Mukhabara secret police would do to them if they leave and try to pass through Syrian government checkpoints. ……

…….

The advance on Mosul is being led by the elite Special Forces of the Iraqi counter-terrorism units and Shia militias are not supposed to enter the city, almost all of whose current inhabitants are Sunni Arabs. But in the last few days these same special forces entered the town of Bartella on the main road twelve miles from Mosul in their black Humvees which were reportedly decorated with Shia religious banners. Kurdish troops asked them to remove the banners and they refused. An Iraqi soldier named Ali Saad was quoted as saying: “(T)hey asked if we were militias. We said we’re not militias, we are Iraqi forces and these are our beliefs.”

It may be that Isis will not fight for Mosul, but the probability is that they will, in which case the outlook will not be good for the civilian population. Isis did not fight to the last man in Fallujah west of Baghdad so much of the city is intact, but they did fight for Khalidiya, a nearby town of 30,000, where today only four buildings are still standing according to the Americans.

The extreme bias shown in foreign media coverage of similar events in Iraq and Syria will be a rewarding subject for PhDs students looking at the uses and abuses of propaganda down the ages.

This has been the pattern of reporting of the wars in Syria and Iraq over the last five years. Nothing much has changed since 2003 when the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein had persuaded foreign governments and media alike that the invading American and British armies would be greeted with rapture by the Iraqi people. A year later the invaders were fighting for their lives. Misled by opposition propagandists and their own wishful thinking, foreign government officials and journalists had wholly misread the local political landscape. Much the same thing is happening today.


 

Facebook does stupid again as it bans Swedish Cancer Society’s educational images

October 20, 2016

UPDATE: Facebook has apologised for removing a video on breast cancer awareness posted by a Swedish group, saying it was incorrectly taken out.


Facebook likes to call itself a technology company rather than what it is – a publisher. It exercises editorial authority and both removes material it does not like and it promotes material that it does. As a publisher they don’t – by any stretch of the imagination – do a very good job. After the fiasco of the banning of the iconic Vietnam “napalm girl” image, they have now proceeded to further demonstrate their stupidity by banning educational images about breast cancer from the Swedish Cancer Society.

Swedish Cancer Society

Swedish Cancer Society: Learn to know your breasts

PhysOrg:

Facebook has removed a video on breast cancer awareness posted in Sweden because it deemed the images “offensive”, the Swedish Cancer Society said Thursday. The video, displaying animated figures of women with circle-shaped breasts, aimed to explain to women how to check for suspicious lumps.

Sweden’s Cancerfonden said it has tried to contact Facebook without any response and has decided to appeal the decision to remove the video. Facebook was not immediately available for comment. “We find it incomprehensible and strange how one can perceive medical information as offensive,” Cancerfonden communications director Lena Biornstad told AFP. “This is information that saves lives, which is important for us,” she said. “This prevents us from doing so.”

Facebook faced outrage in September for repeatedly deleting a historic Vietnam War photo included in a post by Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg. It said the iconic photo of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm bombing violated its rules but later backtracked on the decision.


 

To pay tax you don’t owe is just incompetence

October 2, 2016

I note that the NY Times is busy attacking Trump for offsetting tax on profits against past losses. Which of course is something the NY Times is itself very quick to do when it can. As Forbes reported in January this year:

New York Times Hypocrisy On Corporate Taxes Reaches Record High

……. More recently, for tax year 2014, The New York Times paid no taxes and got an income tax refund of $3.5 million even though they had a pre-tax profit of $29.9 million in 2014. In other words, their post-tax profit was higher than their pre-tax profit. The explanation in their 2014 annual report is, “The effective tax rate for 2014 was favorably affected by approximately $21.1 million for the reversal of reserves for uncertain tax positions due to the lapse of applicable statutes of limitations.” If you don’t think it took fancy accountants and tax lawyers to make that happen, read the statement again. …….

There is much hypocrisy about taxes and tax-paying. To pay more tax than the tax code demands is all about incompetence – not about ethics.

I wrote in December 2015;

Tax avoidance is a measure of the incompetence of the lawmaker and the competence of the taxpayer

…. As law-abiding individuals and companies, we calculate and pay our taxes according to the rules that prevail. We use all available rules of allowable deductions and off-sets and deferred taxes and tax-breaks to minimise the amount of personal assets that are to be confiscated by the State. We use accountants and experts to navigate the complexities and intricacies of tax legislation. No individual is ever expected to pay more than the prevailing rules require. Any individual who does pay more than required, and assuming his perfectly rational objective is to minimise the tax to be payed, is fundamentally incompetent. Any company which pays more tax than it should also demonstrates incompetence and is not demonstrating due care of its investors’ assets.

Individuals and corporations are not required or expected to pay more than what is due under the rules prevailing. The issue of ethics is in play when the rules are formulated and is also involved in the following of the rules. The act of payment is an ethical issue but minimisation of tax due is a matter of competence, not of ethics. Paying more taxes than are due demonstrates incompetence and gains no ethical credits. So when there is criticism of companies for “not paying enough tax”, the real failure is with the politicians who have made the deficient rules – not with the individuals or companies who have followed the prevailing rules to their own best advantage.

Back in January 2015 I was also exercised about the sanctimonious clap-trap that wealth inequality gives rise to:

Wealth inequality: The poor are not poor “because” the rich are rich

Most people on the left of the political divide want more to be taken from the rich to be “given” to the poor. The Robin Hood syndrome. Note that when the intention is to “give to the poor” and not for “making the poor greater creators of wealth”, the driving force is mainly envy. It is when the desire to deprive the rich is more important than any desire to improve the lot of the poor. Concern is over-ridden by envy. Sometimes it seems to me that the real difference between left and right is that the left wants to spread the consumption of existing wealth (and hope that total wealth increases), while the right want to focus on creating wealth (and hope that it trickles down and gets equitably distributed).

But there is a fundamental fallacy in the view that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. There may well be some of the rich who are exploiting some of the poor and where the poor are not getting a just opportunity to be creators of wealth. There may well be members of the rich who create no wealth but remain rich because of inherited wealth. But by far the greatest majority of the rich are rich because they created more wealth than others. The real question is whether each individual gets an equitable opportunity to create wealth and then gets to retain an equitable portion of the wealth he has created. (It is a different matter but I still do not understand why it is the creation and the retention of wealth that attracts more penalties in the form of taxation than the destruction or consumption of wealth).

I incline to the view that taxation as it is practiced today by most states is fundamentally immoral. It is in fact an act of confiscation. This I wrote in February 2015.

On the legitimacy and morality of taxation

I am persuaded that the concept of taxation as practised today is immoral. It is fundamentally a coercion of an individual by a larger (stronger) society. It is an enforced confiscation (by threat of legal action) of an individual’s property or wealth. It cannot be seen as a membership fee for being a member of the society because leaving (or being expelled from) the society is not an option. It is closer to the extortion of “protection money” than to the membership dues for a golf club. The use to which the funds are put is irrelevant. The key point is whether the payment is voluntary or coerced. When early Christians paid a “tithe” to the Church voluntarily it was not immoral. But when the payment was coerced and no longer voluntary, the system became immoral. Similarly Islam requires the payment of zakat on individual wealth over the minimum nisab and this also shifted from a quite unexceptionable and moral voluntary payment to become an obligatory and immoral coercive confiscation.

I don’t quarrel with the need for any society to generate “common funds” to improve the well being of that society. But the legitimacy of appropriating the funds lies only in that the society (state) is stronger than the individual. Might becomes right. I come to the conclusion that a tax code by which the amount a “good citizen”should contribute to society is calculated is quite moral as long as the payment is then voluntary. There would be no moral issue if all taxation was voluntary. The immorality lies in the use of threat or force to confiscate the payment. It is the oppression of the minority by the majority which is immoral. (I observe that all democracies use the very fact of being a “democracy” as being a justification for the oppression of minorities when that is the will of the majority. As if being in the majority – by and of itself – ensures proper behaviour). But, the good socialist will argue, compulsory payment of tax is necessary to ensure the funds for the common good. Without coercion society as a whole would suffer. The common good – as seen by the majority – is worth the oppression of the minority who do not pay their dues.

And so we come full circle. The end justifies the means. Oppression of the minority by a majority is acceptable for the good of the majority. A society must be able to use force and coercion against its own minorities for the greater good. Taxation is made legitimate only because the state is stronger than the individual.


 

Facebook forced to back down over Vietnam photo

September 9, 2016

My previous post was about the inane censorship applied by Facebook about Nick Ut’s iconic photograph of a naked girl fleeing after a Napalm strike.

It has taken almost a day for Facebook to see some sense – though it has only come after a massive wave of negative publicity to get them to do so. But their pronouncements suggest they still don’t understand that they are, in fact, a publisher whenever they censor or even prioritise certain content over others. They are a publisher first, a purveyor of advertisements second  and only a technology company as a distant third. Merely repeating their mantra of being a technology company does not change reality.

My previous post fed onto my Facebook page about 16 hours ago. However it does not seem that Facebook tampered with that feed in any way.

vietnam-photo-on-facebook

BBC: 

Facebook says it will allow an iconic photograph of a girl fleeing a Napalm attack taken during the Vietnam war in 1972 to be used on its platform. It had previously removed the image, posted by a Norwegian writer, on the grounds that it contained nudity.

The move sparked a debate about Facebook’s role as an editor. The editor of Norway’s largest newspaper had written an open letter to Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg calling the move “an abuse of power”. The tech giant said it had “listened to the community” following a considerable amount of criticism about its decision to block the photo. …..


 

Facebook editors display their ignorance and “promote stupidity”

September 9, 2016

Probably the Facebook editors involved are just ignorant. Blaming the algorithm for their own shortcomings is rather pathetic.

This story in the Guardian about Facebook censoring this iconic Vietnam photograph:

vietnam-napalm-girl-photo-nick-ut-ap

photo Nick Ut /AP

The Guardian:

Norway’s largest newspaper has published a front-page open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, lambasting the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnam war and calling on Zuckerberg to recognize and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a lynchpin of the distribution of news and information around the world, writing, “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

…… The controversy stems from Facebook’s decision to delete a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland that featured The Terror of War, a Pulitzer prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut that showed children – including the naked 9-year-old Kim Phúc – running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. Egeland’s post discussed “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare” – a group to which the “napalm girl” image certainly belongs.

Egeland was subsequently suspended from Facebook. When Aftenposten reported on the suspension – using the same photograph in its article, which was then shared on the publication’s Facebook page – the newspaper received a message from Facebook asking it to “either remove or pixelize” the photograph. ……. 

Before Aftenposten could respond, Hansen writes, Facebook deleted the article and image from the newspaper’s Facebook page.

In his open letter, Hansen points out that Facebook’s decision to delete the photograph reveals a troubling inability to “distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs”, as well as an unwillingness to “allow[ing] space for good judgement”.

“Even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper, I have to realize that you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility,” he wrote. “I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly.”

Hansen goes on to argue that rather than fulfill its mission statement to “make the world more open and connected”, such editorial decisions “will simply promote stupidity and fail to bring human beings closer to each other”.

Facebook is a publisher whether it wants to admit it or not. Just the act of censorship makes it a publisher. The world may well be dumbing down since the time of hunter-gatherers. And Facebook probably contributes to accelerating the glorification of stupidity.

aftenposten-facebook


 

Is President of Mexico scenting a Trump victory?

August 31, 2016

If the mainstream media are to be believed Donald Trump is already dead and buried. They have gone to unprecedented lengths to vilify and castigate him – and I suspect have gone so far in their vendetta as to now damage their own credibility.

Why then has the President of Mexico invited Trump for private talks?

Trump Mexico

They are going to be meeting today.

Washington PostDonald Trump is considering jetting to Mexico City on Wednesday for a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, just hours before he delivers a high-stakes speech in Arizona to clarify his views on immigration policy, according to people in the United States and Mexico familiar with the discussions.

It could be that President Peña Nieto is just playing safe and making sure that channels to a President Trump – however unlikely – are not completely closed. But, I don’t buy that. If Trump’s case is as hopeless as the media claim it to be, Nieto does not need all the negative publicity and certainly not from Hispanics within the US.

Or could it be that the media does not represent the reality among the US electorate and President Nieto is anticipating something that the US media are in denial about?


 

I’m rooting for Adblocker against Facebook

August 17, 2016

Ultimately it is the consumer who pays for ads. I strongly dislike being forced to “consume” unsolicited advertisements. I resent TV channels and their commercial breaks and the inane, predatory advertising I am compelled to watch. Though, I note that these days I only partly watch TV programs – upto the first commercial break – after which I surf away. Sometimes – but not always – I return to complete watching some program. I have no alternative to suggest but the business models based on advertising are fundamentally flawed. They all rely on “forcing” a large number of uninterested viewers or readers to “consume” ads they don’t want to be exposed to by dangling “free content” as the bait.

It is a myth to think that a person forced to “consume” unsolicited ads is not also paying a price. My contention is that the “free” content is never actually free. It is paid for by the “psychological stress and suffering” the ad causes to the non-consumer. Effectively I pay for the “free” content on a site by having to suffer the slings and arrows of their rubbishy ads for things and services I will never buy. I pay in time and stress. I use “Adblocker”. Some sites get upset and don’t wish to grant me access. That’s OK. It’s a mutually acceptable parting of ways. There are a very few sites whose content is so good that I am willing to turn off my adblocker to put up with their intrusions into my personal space and consciousness. The really good sites are those where I am willing to pay a subscription – and there are only a very few of those.

So, in the battle between Facebook and Adblocker, I am firmly in the Adblocker camp. And I am perfectly aware that Adblocker’s business model, which is to “blackmail” advertisers into paying to be whitelisted, is morally equivalent and just as low as the advertisers bombarding non-consumers with unsolicited advertising.

The MIT Technology Review writes:

Facebook Can’t Win Against Ad Blockers, and Here’s the Proof

Facebook can’t win the war it started on ad blockers last week.

So say Princeton assistant professor Arvind Narayanan and undergraduate Grant Storey, who have created an experimental ad “highlighter” for the Chrome browser to prove it. When you have Facebook Ad Highlighter installed, ads in the News Feed are grayed out and written over with the words “THIS IS AN AD.”

Facebook announced that it was taking measures to prevent ad blockers from working on Tuesday last week. On Thursday the largest ad blocker out there, Adblock Plus, informed users of a simple tweak to their settings that would defeat Facebook’s blocker blockade.


Princeton researchers say Facebook can’t prevent their experimental add-on for the Chrome browser graying out ads in your News Feed.

We’re still waiting for Facebook to fire back, as the executive leading its ad technology has promised it will. But Narayanan argues in a blog post introducing his ad highlighter that Facebook simply can’t win.

The ad blockers in use today work by looking at the HTML code that tells your Web browser how to render a page and where to get the images and other files embedded into it. Facebook’s initial move against ad blockers removed clues in its HTML that gave away which parts of a page were ad content.

The Princeton duo’s ad highlighter works differently. It looks at the parts of the Web page that are visible to humans. Facebook Ad Highlighter simply looks for and blocks any posts with a giveaway “Sponsored” tag. It appears to be quite effective. Facebook must clearly label ads to stay within Federal Trade Commission rules on transparency and its own commitments to its users.

Narayanan concludes in his post that Facebook’s anti-ad-blocking campaign is doomed, at least if it continues in the current vein of acting as if the social network can somehow neutralize ad blockers completely.

Narayanan’s blogpost is here:

Can Facebook really make ads unblockable?

Facebook announced two days ago that it would make its ads indistinguishable from regular posts, and hence impossible to block. But within hours, the developers of Adblock Plus released an update which enabled the tool to continue blocking Facebook ads. The ball is now back in Facebook’s court. So far, all it’s done is issue a rather petulant statement. The burning question is this: can Facebook really make ads indistinguishable from content? Who ultimately has the upper hand in the ad blocking wars?

There are two reasons — one technical, one legal — why we don’t think Facebook will succeed in making its ads unblockable, if a user really wants to block them.

The technical reason is that the web is an open platform. When you visit facebook.com, Facebook’s server sends your browser the page content along with instructions on how to render them on the screen, but it is entirely up to your browser to follow those instructions. The browser ultimately acts on behalf of the user, and gives you — through extensions — an extraordinary degree of control over its behavior, and in particular, over what gets displayed on the screen. This is what enables the ecosystem of ad-blocking and tracker-blocking extensions to exist, along with extensions for customizing web pages in various other interesting ways.

I wish there was a business model which would save me from these pernicious ads.


 


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