Monday, February 20, 2017

Sweden, Rape And Fear Mongering

The issue of the "Sweden attack" should be taken seriously, as this article in The Guardian one year ago tries to do, with a warning about how mis-steps and cover ups will be used. What should not be taken seriously is a leader who is looking for any example he can find to justify his xenophobia.

Read this analysis on Slate, watch the film (on the previous link) and the Fox hyperbole, which is the apparent source of Trump's statements on Sunday. The President is way, way out of line if this is how he's going to rile up the crowd. Notice that the article featured at the sensationalised intro -- Sweden's rape rate under the spotlight --  to the film is about Julian Assange and rape culture, not about Muslims or immigration. Ah, details, right?! That article from 2012 (!!!) actually talks about a whole range of other issues that influence the rise in rapes, few of which are mentioned in the fear mongering short film.

I hope most people would agree that there is a big, big, big difference between what happened "last night in Sweden" and what I saw last night on Fox News about Sweden. It is extremely disturbing to feel, yet again, like Trump greatly welcomes bad news, just like in the recent Paris incident where nobody was hurt, in order to further stoke the fears of people about "a new radical islamist terrorist". Actually, it was a tourist from Egypt, and so far with no ties to other groups that I can see.

Ah, details, right?! 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Will The Real Shepard Smith Please Stand Up!

So, I get this video from a friend on Trump's press conference. I listen...

I am surprised! I wonder if this is really on Yeah, it is, with a very different headline: "Trump slams press reports of 'chaos' in the White House". Same talking heads, different message. We call it good editing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Crushing Empathy

On the basis of totally distorted information from the newly elected leader and his administration, we are crushing the very concept of empathy. On the basis of no proof that the US will be safer, we are -- it feels to me -- driving a knife through the heart of tolerance for people who have waited years, followed rules, in some cases risked their lives, and who are guilty of no other crime other than being born in certain jurisdiction.

Please listen to this week's story on This American Life and just try to convince me that "It’s Working Out Very Nicely". To hear this series of stories and then say were putting "America First" is gaspingly cruel.

From Act Four:
I don't believe that the stated purpose is the real purpose of this executive order. In the rationale pursuit of security objectives, you don't marginalise your expert security agencies and fail to vet your ideas through a normal interagency process. You don't target the wrong people in nutty ways when you are rationally pursuing real security objectives. When do you do these things? You do these things when you are elevating the symbolic politics of bashing Islam over any actual security interest. This will cause hardship and misery for tens or hundreds of thousands of people because that is precisely what it is intended to do. 
It is a hard day when you find yourself wishing that this whole string of events stems only from gross incompetence.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Biased, Incorrect, Fake and Hate News

In my opinion, nothing matters more right now than getting rationale adults to speak with more discipline about these critical concepts. Failing to make a distinction is extremely dangerous, as I tried to explain before. But this problem seems to be getting worse.

Biased news: The New York Times has a bias. The Wall Street Journal has a bias. Examples are not needed as you can clearly see their bias on a daily basis on their Editorial pages. If you want to understand different sides, read both papers. But please do not conflate bias with "incorrect" or "fake".

Incorrect news: Journalists get it wrong, even in the NYT an WSJ. That's the point of a "Corrections" section in print media and why many online articles will have italic text at the bottom or an article that explain how and when an article was corrected. When you get it wrong, you correct the error and apologise. Example: Reporting that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from Oval Office. One might argue that this was a reporter with bias also making a mistake. Not good at all, but pretty common. If one writes a lot of incorrect news, they usually don't last very long at the NYT or WSJ.

Fake news: The intentional effort to write or say something one knows is false. Recent examples include the story that a pizza restaurant was a den of child abuse run by Hillary Clinton. Another example is the story that Barack Obama was not born in the US. Another more recent example is that 3-5 million people voted illegally in the election. Chilling aspects of Fake news relate to the current White House not understanding any of these terms and dubbing anything it dislikes as "fake".

Hate news:  When a news outlet or person on social media continues to perpetuate incorrect information that by all appearances seems to promote xenophobic ideas. Recent examples, Fox tweeting that the suspect in Quebec murders of innocent people praying led to the arrest of a Moroccan man when the actual article linked to the tweet stated that the only suspect was a French Canadian who harboured right wing bias.

The tweet by @FoxNews:
The article linked to that tweet, which itself rightly identifies the "lone suspect":

What happens on social media as a result of Hate News:

And yes, several days on, this post remains available to the 132,000 followers of Cloyd Rivers.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Are We More Racist?

Meaningful discussion is hard to come by these days. We are invalidated before we open our mouths.

In a quest for more thoughtful tools, I've thought back to the Revisionist History podcast called The Lady Vanishes, which was broadcast long before the election. This is more about the concept of moral licensing in the context of women artists and leaders, but it is more relevant to me in thinking about Obama, race and what I consider jaw-dropping xenophobia coming out of the new President.

This blog post gives more resources on the topic: Masculinity, Inequality, And The 2016 Presidential Election.

Concise summary of moral licensing from the blog post:
...when people are presented with the opportunity to demonstrate that they are good, moral people, they are more apt to follow that opportunity by expressing support for inequalities that they might otherwise not be willing to admit to. That is, given the opportunity to demonstrate that we are “good” people, we’re more likely to engage in “bad” behavior. Social psychological research discovered that, for instance, we’re more likely to support racially prejudiced views after having been primed with an opportunity to say that we’d be willing to vote for a Black presidential candidate. When we demonstrate “good” moral qualities publicly, we feel more justified in supporting systems of inequality in public ways, too.
I think about this every time I read something on race these days.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Transparency Matters!

No, no, no! Absolutely no way in hell can she say the Trump campaign "litigated this all through the election, people didn't care". I want to see Trump's taxes! Words matter and conflicts of interest matter and if this becomes a partisan issue, we are absolutely a entering a world of no accountability. Transparency is needed to demonstrate that there are no serious conflicts of interest.

What he said many, many times is that they would be released once the audit is through. I am a patient man and, while I disagreed with his logic during the campaign, I have to accept that people voted for him without needing to see these prior to voting. But at no point did I hear anyone say that the election was meant to decide if people wanted to see them.

I am heartened to see that it has three times the signatures required in four days to get a response. Your Voice in the White House to let your opinion be heard.