Showing posts with label media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label media. Show all posts


when real life meets the onion: espn wants us to know that rape is traumatic... for the rapist

Ah, the things we miss when we don't follow mainstream media. I didn't even know the sports world was celebrating a rapist.

This week, drinking wine in a hotel room in New Jersey, Allan and I were pleased to discover that the Red Sox were on the ESPN Wednesday night game. A nice treat, or it would have been, if the announcing team (which included one of my most disliked announcers ever) had been able to stop talking about basketball long enough to call the game.

The game was often broadcast in a little box, while we were treated to the important news that hundreds of fans had gathered outside the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. (So many things wrong with that sentence!) Gee, if only ESPN had some other stations so it could broadcast a baseball game in its entirety while still reporting on the earth-shattering news from L.A.

The news that interrupted our baseball game? Kobe Bryant's final game. So I'm thinking, Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant, don't I know something else about him... When my memory finally kicked in, I asked Allan, "Kobe, isn't he a rapist?"

Indeed he is. Recapping Bryant's storied career, ESPN made no mention of this, not even to note that Bryant has been "the subject of controversy" or some-such euphemism. Yesterday they remedied that omission. From Deadspin: ESPN Asks How Kobe Bryant Being Credibly Accused Of Rape Affected Kobe Bryant.

That's only slightly sarcastic. From Think Progress:
During the program, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne — who has been spending time with Kobe during his final days as a player — said she had a “strange” and “provocative” take on the rape charges against him. She did not disappoint.

Shelburne said that being charge with rape “freed” Kobe to “tap into the darker side of himself.” He was then able to “channel all of that rage and fear on to the basketball court,” according to Shelburne.

The comments fit a troubling pattern of ignoring the alleged victim and focusing on the impact the charges had on Bryant, his endorsements and his on-court performance.

"It was traumatic for him. I think that is the right word," Shelburne concluded.

"Traumatic for all concerned we should say, not just Kobe Bryant. There was a woman on the other side," Storm reminded Shelburne before quickly changing the topic.
And from the Onion, from some years back: College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed.

* * * *

In case you are of the opinion that a rapist is no longer a rapist unless he's convicted in a court of law, please be aware that only the tiniest fraction of sexual assaults are ever prosecuted, and of those, few result in conviction. (For example, see the infographic here.)

In the Kobe Bryant rape case, there was a substantial amount of evidence against the basketball star. The victim/survivor declined to testify, and if you've learned anything from the Jian Ghomeshi case, you can imagine why. The victim did bring a separate, civil suit against Bryant, which (of course) was settled out of court. Bryant's public statement included this:
Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.
And in case you think that media should only focus on Bryant's basketball career, and not mention his rape career, I'd ask you to read or listen to any of the recent media pieces fawning over Bryant and see if they mention anything that isn't purely basketball. I can guarantee they do.

To make the point more eloquently, I give you Deadspin. I thank them for this article, especially the closing paragraph.
When a sports event becomes so big that it produces a flood of coverage, as Kobe Bryant’s season-long goodbye tour has, it’s easy for pundits and reporters to end up in awkward positions simply by virtue of having had to say so much for so long about one thing.

The conversation is even more likely to go sideways when the story in question involves something serious, like a rape investigation. That’s how we ended up with ESPN anchor Hannah Storm and NBA reporter Ramona Shelburne having a very odd conversation on SportsCenter today.

It’s exceedingly strange to suggest that being accused of rape ultimately “freed” Kobe Bryant to become the Black Mamba—a character in Nike commercials and a vicious, selfish shooter—not just because it implicitly paints Bryant, rather than his accuser, as the main principal or victim here, but also because the Black Mamba is nothing more than a branding initiative, a piece of fiction that really doesn’t have any connection to something as grave as a rape allegation.

The Black Mamba comes up, strangely, in the context of Storm and Shelburne talking about how Bryant being accused of rape affected his career and fictional persona. This makes the question of whether or not Bryant raped a woman serve the same function as his rivalry with Shaq, or the development of his post game, and draws a connection between Bryant having been accused of rape and Bryant having, subsequently, come into his athletic prime. As if to heighten the absurdity of the conversation, Shelburne and Storm seamlessly transition from discussing the rape case to a lighthearted bit about whether Bryant will cry tonight.

The fact that Kobe Bryant was accused of rape should absolutely be brought up when talking about him, but it should not be spoken about in vague terms or swept up in the mythologizing of Bryant as a player. Kobe Bryant was once accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in a Colorado hotel room. The criminal case was dropped after the accuser refused to testify. Bryant eventually settled a civil suit with her. None of this has anything to do with basketball.


the decision "you'll regret for the rest of your life": the reality gap in fictional abortions

The conversation around the movie "Obvious Child" has prompted me to re-visit a long-standing interest of mine, one I share with many other reproductive rights activists: the portrayal of abortion in the mainstream media.

I haven't seen "Obvious Child" (I wait for DVD or Netflix, as always), but I've heard that it includes a rarity: an honest and positive portrayal of the choice to terminate a pregnancy. Considering how many women do have abortions - and considering that the choice is usually met with relief and happiness - this shouldn't be exceptional. Yet it is.

On fictional TV shows and movies, when women are faced with unwanted pregnancies, certain outcomes are almost predictable. Sometimes abortion is never mentioned as an option, as if it simply does not exist. More often, abortion is mentioned briefly, contemplated with horror, and cast aside.

In soaps, a spontaneous abortion (usually known by the antiquated term miscarriage) often settles the question. Horseback riding is good for this, as is a fall down a flight of steps. Somehow no bones are broken but the pregnancy disappears. In movies, women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant often contemplate abortion, can't go through with it, and are converted into happy motherhood. "Save the Date" is a good recent example of this, although the ambiguous ending leaves the happy outcome to the viewer's imagination.

And there's the question of what happens after abortion is chosen. Depression, and death by either murder or suicide, or general psychotic outbursts, are not uncommon.

Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health - a project of the University of California, San Francisco - looked at every single instance of abortion in fictional movies and TV shows, and compared them to reality. They're still working on the project, but you can click here to see an infographic of their results so far. Such as this.

I don't know if most producers and screenwriters know this is twaddle but fear the reprisals of anti-choice activism, or if living in a world of media fiction has misled them to actually believe this stuff. Or perhaps they are simply creating drama, the way TV detective mysteries have practically invented the psychotic female murderer. (Yes, they exist, but they're relatively rare. Except on TV.) Either way, abortions in movies and TV often end up tinged with anti-abortion propaganda.

In reality, the most common feeling for women to experience post-abortion is relief. It's over, and she can move on with her life.

This is not to say there isn't, for some women, sadness or wistfulness or some measure of regret. Sometimes no choice is really what you want. I've known women - and perhaps you have, too, or perhaps this has been your experience - who would have liked to have another child, but knew that in good conscience they could not. Either she couldn't afford another child, or her life was too unstable, or her marriage was breaking up, or what have you. She thought it would be wonderful to have another baby, but not now, not given her current circumstances. So she chose abortion, all the while wishing she didn't have to. So there's a measure of regret, but the choice is freely made.

Often, though, there is only relief, pure and simple. An unwanted pregnancy is a horrific experience. The bottom drops out of your world until it's taken care of.

But don't take my word for it. How can we be sure that an exception like "Obvious Child" is actually a more honest portrayal? From every study that's ever been done.

The Guttmacher Institute compared women's emotions one week after terminating a pregnancy to the emotions of women who were denied abortions.
Context: The notion that abortion causes poor mental health has gained traction, even though it is not supported by research. Few studies have comprehensively investigated women's postabortion emotions.

Methods: Baseline data from a longitudinal study of women seeking abortion at 30 U.S. facilities between 2008 and 2010 were used to examine emotions among 843 women who received an abortion just prior to the facility's gestational age limit, were denied an abortion because they presented just beyond the gestational limit or obtained a first-trimester abortion. ...

Results: Compared with women who obtained a near-limit abortion, those denied the abortion felt more regret and anger ... and less relief and happiness. ... Among women who had obtained the abortion, the greater the extent to which they had planned the pregnancy or had difficulty deciding to seek abortion, the more likely they were to feel primarily negative emotions.... Most (95%) women who had obtained the abortion felt it was the right decision, as did 89% of those who expressed regret.

Conclusions: Difficulty with the abortion decision and the degree to which the pregnancy had been planned were most important for women's postabortion emotional state. Experiencing negative emotions postabortion is different from believing that abortion was not the right decision.
(This research is incorrectly credited to the University of California San Francisco, in many online stories.)

A similar study by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in the UK reviewed all studies about the emotional effects of abortion that had been published in English between 1990 and 2011.
- Unwanted pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of problems with her mental health.

- A woman with an unwanted pregnancy is as likely to have mental health problems from abortion as she is from giving birth.

- A woman with a history of mental health problems before abortion is more likely to have mental health problems after abortion.

- Circumstances, conditions, behaviors, and other factors associated with mental health problems are similar for women following abortion and women following childbirth.

- Pressure from a partner to terminate a pregnancy, negative attitudes about abortion, and negative attitudes about a woman’s experience of abortion may increase a woman’s risk of mental health problems after abortion.
Of course, in terms of reproductive and human rights, it doesn't matter if a woman regrets having an abortion. Human beings must own their own bodies, and must be free to decide whether, if, and when to bear children. Like all life decisions, reproductive decisions come with a risk of regret. As free people, that's our risk and our potential consequence to bear. When it comes to bringing a life into the world, I know I'd rather regret not having a baby than regret having one. Most of all, though, I insist on having the choice.


what i'm watching: the tv detective mystery, where women are crazy and ex-husbands don't kill

One type of TV show that I enjoy are detective murder mysteries. I don't watch them all - that would be nearly impossible, Netflix carries so many - but I'm always looking for detective shows that I find absorbing. "Inspector Lewis" is probably my favourite. I loved "Prime Suspect", Helen Mirren's tour de force. I'm in the middle of "Wallander", recommended by a few wmtc readers, although I'm watching the BBC version with Kenneth Branagh, not the original Swedish show. "Case Histories", featuring Jason Isaacs as private investigator Jackson Brodie, is another one I enjoy. And I've sampled many more - Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, Cadfael, and so on. On my to-watch list are The Killing and The Fall.

As much as I enjoy this genre, I often end up annoyed when we learn "whodunit". Because, too often, you know who done it? A woman.

In TV detective shows, there are an enormous number of women murderers. Women obsessed with and spurned by men. Women whose careers have been thwarted by men. Women driven insane by their unfulfilled desire to have babies. Women who couldn't handle the pressure. Women who can't move on. Women avenging the murder of their children. Women who are closet lesbians.

Sometimes, the murdering woman turns out to be trans* or bisexual. TV trans* and/or bisexual murderers practically constitute a separate subgenre. The contemporary version doesn't portray these women as insane by definition, merely driven insane by society's intolerance and by the men who wouldn't love them.

I haven't quantified my observation (yet), but I'd estimate that on the small screen, murders are committed by women about 60 or 70% of the time.

In reality, in the US, for example, men commit around 85% of all homicides. About 15% of homicides in the US are committed by women.

(I note that "Prime Suspect", with its more realistic plot lines, is not included in this.)

This disconnect between reality and fiction - the topsy-turvy world where women are more likely to be murderers than men - is not a new or original observation. When the movie "Fatal Attraction" came out in 1987, there was a spate of commentary saying essentially the same thing. If the plot of that movie had been a real-life scenario, Michael Douglas's character would have been terrorizing the family, not Glenn Close's. A few years later, the same arguments cropped up in relation to "Basic Instinct" (1990), with the addition of the crazy bisexual motif.

As a writer, I understand why TV murder-mystery writers and producers might reach too often for the female murderer. It's unexpected. It's different. It's interesting precisely because it's not real life. Let's lead the audience to suspect the controlling ex-husband, then let's surprise them with his female victim who couldn't take it anymore.

But as a feminist and a media-watcher, I find it highly irritating, and potentially harmful. An ignorant viewer could easily come away with the impression that women are far more dangerous than men. Might that make it more difficult to believe - and to have compassion and empathy for - the dangers that so many women face from their partners and ex-partners, even on a subliminal level? Could the TV unreality make it more difficult for people to understand and accept the real statistics on femicide?

Historically, there has been an abiding fascination with female murderers in all forms of fiction, from Medea and Lady Macbeth to Lizzie Borden and Aileen Wuornos. The interest in female killers - including real ones - may stem partly from their very novelty. Plus, the notion of a female murderer runs counter to most gender stereotypes. Women are supposed to be loving and nurturing; we are supposed to be weak, fearful, and squeamish. On the other hand, we're supposed to be unable to control our emotions. In real life, perhaps most murders are fueled by testosterone, but we've always got hysteria!*

I expected to find a spate of stories about the female murderer in TV detective dramas, but to my surprise, I found none. Perhaps I missed them, or perhaps this theme is mostly explored in graduate school papers like this one. I did find numerous stories about the negative portrayals of LGBT people, especially trans* people, a topic much more in the media spotlight right now than garden-variety sexism. (I also found the fascinating rabbit-hole called TV Tropes, which looks like a genre-writer's dream.)

As I said, for now this is based only on observation. I haven't quantified it yet, haven't sat down and counted what percentage of TV detective-mystery episodes end with a female murderer. But I might, eventually.

* For those unfamiliar, the history of the word is noted.


helen thomas, 1920-2013

A journalist, a pioneer, a feminist. An asker of questions. New York Times obituary here.


read matt taibbi on bradley manning court martial

While I'm not writing, I hope you will read this excellent article by Matt Taibbi on mainstream media coverage of the Bradley Manning court martial.

I cannot understand why good writers like Taibbi continue to refer to the "Bradley Manning trial". A trial is, in theory, an impartial hearing, where an unbiased judge and 12 ordinary citizens hear a full range of evidence from both prosecution and defense.

Bradley Manning, by contrast, is being tried by his accusers. The accusers are judge and jury, and they write the rule book.

What's more, the court martial procedures used by the United States military do not comply with accepted international standards of justice. This was proven in the cases of Chris Vassey and Jules Tindungan, US Iraq War resisters living in Canada.

Calling Bradley Manning's court martial a trial connotes justice, fairness, and due process, where none exist.


hugo chavez vs lies western media tells us

Linda McQuaig recently wrote an excellent column about the blatantly false portrayal of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in the Western mainstream media. Chavez should be a hero to anyone who cares about social justice, but if your primary news sources are anywhere from CNN to the CBC to the New York Times, you might wonder why millions of Latin Americans mourned Chavez's passing rather than celebrating. You might imagine they were in the thrall of a charismatic tyrant.

I found the mainstream media's description of Chavez as a "dictator" particularly rich, given the US endured at least two fraudulent elections in recent times. Toronto activist Judy Rebick had this excellent letter in the Globe and Mail:
Your front-page article on the death of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez (Death Of A Revolutionary – March 6), calls him “a polarizing dictator.” He was certainly polarizing, as is our own Prime Minister, but Mr. Chavez was never a dictator. Mr. Chavez was elected several times over the past three decades, each time by a significant majority of the popular vote, which is more than we can say for Stephen Harper.

In 2002, Mr. Chavez’s opponents, including the right-wing media, organized a coup against him that was overturned by the massive mobilization of the poor people of Caracas. In 2004, the opposition organized a recall vote, a mechanism created by Mr. Chavez. It failed. In the 2006 election, he won with 63 per cent of the popular vote; in 2012, with 55 per cent of the popular vote.

You may disagree with Mr. Chavez’s 21st-century socialism policies, but please do not describe him as a dictator.

Judy Rebick, Toronto
Had Hugo Chavez followed the pattern of many Third World leaders and concentrated on siphoning off his nation’s wealth for personal gain, he would have attracted little attention or animosity in the West.

Instead, he did virtually the opposite — redirecting vast sums of national wealth to the swollen ranks of Venezuela’s poor, along with free health care and education. No wonder he alienated local elites, who are used to being first in line at the national trough.
Chavez’s relentless championing of the downtrodden set a standard increasingly followed in Latin America. It explains his immense popularity with the masses and the widespread grief over his death last week.

Yet in the West, he was portrayed as a tyrant.

He was accused of muzzling the press, although anyone who’s ever turned on a TV in Caracas knows there’s no shortage of Fox News-style media outlets carrying a frothy mix of celebrities, U.S. sitcoms and anti-Chavez tirades.

He was also accused of being anti-democratic, even though he won elections which former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and his global election monitoring centre have declared “the best in the world.”

Chavez deservedly came under attack in the West — including from Noam Chomsky — for failing to order the release of a judge imprisoned for allowing a corrupt banker to flee Venezuela with millions of dollars.

But it’s striking to note that the West routinely ignores more serious democratic failings on the part of its allies, including torture and execution in full-fledged dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.

What actually appears to have infuriated the western establishment was Chavez’s audacity in challenging — and scoring some victories against — western dominance of the world economy. 
One such victory allowed Third World oil-producing nations to gain a bigger share of global oil revenues.

Up until the 1970s, the major western oil companies, known as the Seven Sisters, controlled the world oil market through a cartel established at a secret retreat at Achnacarry Castle in Scotland in 1928. The Achnacarry agreement set out in detail how the companies would maintain their lucrative control of oil markets into the future, setting quotas among themselves, never competing with each other and preventing competitors from getting in on the action.

In the 1970s, oil-producing nations in the Middle East and Venezuela organized and managed to replace the Seven Sisters with their own cartel, OPEC, striking a better deal for themselves and sending oil prices soaring. Some enraged westerners were left wondering, “How did our oil get under their sand?”
Read the rest of the column here.

McQuaig is the author of It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet, among other books. I wrote about her excellent book Holding the Bully's Coat here and posted an extended excerpt here.


dyke duo dupes fox news

The wingnut media continues to redefine irony. Yesterday Fox News ran a piece called "To be happy, we must admit women and men aren't 'equal'". (Sorry, no link. Linking to bigots is a violation of wmtc policy.) To illustrate their homophobic, anti-woman twaddle, they used a picture of a wedding atop the Empire State Building, apparently not realizing it was... the wedding of two women! What a riot.

Read the story: you'll come for the laughs, and stay for the wisdom. From Feministing.
Yesterday the feminist internet collectively lol’d at Fox News when Jessica Valenti realized that the “wedding kiss” picture they’re using to accompany a piece about traditional gender roles is actually of a same sex couple.

Turns out, the two women whose love was mistakenly highlighted by the tirelessly homophobic news outlet are no strangers to the spotlight. Lela Mc Arthur and Stephanie Figarelle of Anchorage, Alaska won a contest last year to have their dream wedding in New York at the Empire State building, becoming the first same-sex couple to be married at the historic site (here’s a kickass video of them reciting their vows and defending their right to do so). They are currently on their honeymoon (!) but Stephanie Fiagrelle gave us permission to publish her pitch perfect Facebook post about the recent, hilarious kerfluffle with Fox News...
Go to Feministing to read what Fiagrelle said - simple, wise, powerful.


it's time we all starved the trolls: stop reading comments on mainstream news stories

Robert Fisk has a good piece in The Independent about the incivility (to put it mildly!) that is endemic in the comment sections of online news stories: "Anonymous trolls are as pathetic as the anonymous "sources" that contaminate the gutless journalism of the New York Times, BBC, and CNN".

Fisk wonders why newspapers that will not publish an anonymous letter to the editor will allow anonymous lies and hateful screed in comments. Surely he knows the simple answer: money. Advertisers are paying for clicks, and the idiots in the comments section are increasing the clickage.

Why should we help them by reading those comments? Consider this.

We know that governments pay people to troll the comments section with disinformation and misinformation, just like they hire fake journalists and bribe working columnists to influence public opinion.

We know that the number of comments in any one direction cannot be taken as a gauge of public opinion. When Common Dreams responded to a flood of reader complaints after they opened articles for comments, they learned that one person was posting under more than 50 names.


1. Media needs comments to generate advertising income.

2. Governments pay people to write comments.

3. Comments that may appear to represent a majority may be written by one or two people.

4. We have no idea how much #2 and #3 overlap.

Every time I share these facts, at least one person has not heard them before. This has led me to make it a personal mission: to always ignore comments to online news stories and to always encourage others to do the same. I hope you will join me in this mission.

Many people seem to believe that these comments reflect public opinion. They may or may not - we have no way of knowing. The only thing we know that comments reflect is corporate media's need for clicks.

Media sites won't close down their comments sections anytime soon, not as long as clicks are associated with income. But we have a choice.

I know it can sometimes be seductive. You want to see what people are saying. Don't go there. Refuse to look. Refuse to click. Remind yourself: you will not learn anything, the ignorance and hate will upset or anger you, and you will change nothing.

What's more, it's not an effective use of our time. If we're busy reading and responding to comments, we're not building a movement to change the world. Think of it this way: Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney would love it if we spent our time responding to comments on news stories.

That sewer of hate and lies lives on clicks. The only way it will die is if we starve it.


dr. dawg on the extraordinary acts of ordinary people, and the pundits who cannot abide them

Dr. Dawg has written a terrific piece about the mainstream media's disturbing, if predictable, response to the courageous actions of Chief Theresa Spence.
Extraordinary things, we are being instructed, may only be done by extraordinary people. Spence is frumpy, not particularly witty or intellectual, somewhat inconsistent as things change around her by the day, perhaps untutored in Constitutional matters, maybe above her level of competence as a manager. And after days of hateful mockery, she doesn’t want to talk to the jeering media any more—how self-indulgent of her. How dare she commit an act of self-abnegation? That’s for her more presentable betters.
It's a must-read: Ordinary people.


dr. dawg on vikileaks

In case you haven't done so already, you'll want to read Dr. Dawg on the Vic Toews phony scandal, internet surveillance, and the mind-boggling hypocrisy of the both the Conservatives and the mainstream media: On hypocrisy, politicians and the media.

I'm not even going to quote from it, because you've got to read the whole thing. So go, read.


action alerts on physical environment and digital environments

My inbox is flooded with action alerts from all different groups, which I feel obligated to pass on, even though many (most?) people who read this blog probably get these petitions through multiple sources. So in the spirit of just in case...

David Suzuki asks:
If a panel of doctors told you to take better care of your health, would you listen? Ten leading marine scientists with the Royal Society of Canada just told Canada to take care of its oceans before it’s too late.

Let’s make sure our government listens to its doctors.

With the budget speech just weeks away, now is the time to tell Finance Minster Jim Flaherty that our oceans desperately need proper investment. Rising ocean temperatures and increased salinity in certain areas are just two of the serious threats they face.

In last year’s budget speech, the government promised to create six new marine parks by 2012. That hasn’t happened yet, and they only have 10 months left to meet their commitment.

Join the thousands of Canadians telling the government to listen to its doctors and honour its commitments to the oceans.

• From OpenMedia:
The Big Three are ripping us off and using the money to manipulate Canadians and the government.

As we’ve been saying, the Big Three cell phone companies have a plan to price-gouge Canadians by shutting out small competitors1. Now they’re unleashing a misinformation campaign to muzzle your voice.

For example,

1. Rogers recently bought and paid for a trumped-up study that wrongly implies Canadians (you) can afford to pay more for telecom services.

2. Rogers just took to the courts to argue that Canada’s false advertising rules violate the telecom giant’s freedom of expression! This after being caught red-handed and fined $10,000,000 dollars for misleading cell phone advertising.

Will you let them get away with it?

With these two acts of extreme arrogance, Rogers has demonstrated that they will go to ridiculous lengths to tighten their stranglehold on communications and raise prices.

Some say mobile is the future of the Internet and communications. We have to stop the Big Three from creating a command and control communications market with tight contracts, content controls, price-gouging overage fees, and disrespectful customer service.

The government could make a decision on this at any moment. Sign the Stop The Squeeze petition now.
• If you haven't already, please sign and circulate this letter opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

• This is not a quick action click, but something to read and possibly be involved with, from OpenMedia, endorsed by Leadnow.
Canada has a digital deficit. We’re falling behind other countries in essential areas of our digital economy: Our Internet is slower and more restricted, both mobile and wired access to the web are more expensive, and much of our content is beholden to a handful of huge media conglomerates. In short, Canada is lagging in the four key areas of our digital economy (speed, openness, affordability, content).

We at have engaged with all of these key areas but one: content. When it comes to content, we’ll need to find new and inventive ways to support our content creators. If left unchecked, the digital deficit will be bad for our economy, bad for innovation, and just plain bad for our country.

When and our allies started to think about what resources we could use to close the gap on our digital divide, one uniquely Canadian solution rose to the fore: This month, we launched a new project to “reimagine the CBC”. We hope you’ll be part of the conversation today at Reimagine CBC.

The CBC can help end our digital deficit, and put Canada back on the map as a leader. We know, thanks to a recent report, that for every dollar invested in the CBC, the economy gets $4 back.

What’s more, the CBC is the only major media network that is independent from the big phone and cable companies. And since the CBC receives public funding to meet its social mandate, we have a much greater opportunity to influence it.

The time is right. The CBC is in the process of conducting a major strategic review both internally and through outside regulators. The question is who will shape that change. We think you should. We’ll bring the best ideas to the CBC, and together we’ll work with decision-makers to turn your ideas into reality.

Now is the time to confront the challenges we face, celebrate what we have, and create the future together. Now is the time to reimagine the CBC.

Join a community of Canadians working to revitalize this platform, and make it yours!

That's it for now. I hope you clicked and shared!


we don't care about facts, crime edition

If only the Harper GovernmentTM weren't determined to waste our tax dollars on prison-building and useless mandatory sentencing, while telling us we can't afford to maintain decent spending levels for universal health insurance. If only they cared about facts.
New poll results show the public is abandoning a stubborn belief that crime is on the rise, bringing public opinion into alignment with a 20-year trend of declining crime rates.

The long-standing disconnect between public fears and reality has confounded criminologists and fuelled federal get-tough policies.

However, the Environics Focus Canada poll - obtained by The Globe and Mail and scheduled for release Thursday - shakes conventional wisdom even more by finding growing support for the use of crime prevention rather than punishment.

"This doesn't mean that people want to lay off criminals," said Keith Neuman, executive director of the Environics Institute. "But what people would like to see is more crime prevention. They feel that this is the right thing to do."
Has this persistent disconnect really "confounded" criminologists? Perhaps criminologists also know that if the mainstream media didn't run blaring headlines every time a crime is committed against a white, middle-class Canadian, people wouldn't be so afraid.

And what is really fuelling the federal crime policies? Citizens' fear, or prison profits?


the walled-off internet, or why facebook and mobile apps are good for them and bad for us

Last summer, Allan and I had plans to meet a friend for dinner, and I Googled the restaurant to get the address and details. The place came up in Google right away, but I couldn't get to the website. After trying a few times, I realized the restaurant no longer had a website: it only had a Facebook page. I was at work, and can't access Facebook from my workplace.

This was the first time I had seen a company abandon a website in favour of a Facebook page. Since then, I've run into it a handful of times, especially with individual people's public pages. Where various people - writers, designers, techies, small business owners - would have once had a website where people could browse samples of their work and get general contact information, many have now moved to Facebook-only.

This is heading in exactly the wrong direction.

I understand why companies want to be on Facebook; that's a no-brainer. So many people use Facebook that tapping into it as a marketing tool is now the expected norm. But why Facebook only? Website development has never been easier or cheaper. You can use blog software, for example, to create a website with at least as many functions as a Facebook page, if not more. So why put your company behind an access wall?

Facebook is a gated community

The internet is a huge, sprawling, interconnected, free-for-all that anyone with any kind of device can access.

Facebook is a privately-owned, proprietary service. You must submit your personal information in order to enter it. It is not accessible on every device and in every setting.

The internet is a vibrant megalopolis, a global village in which instant transit is a mere click.

Facebook is a gated community.

Using Facebook as a substitute for websites creates a walled-off internet. This is great for Facebook, but bad for the rest of us, and very bad for the internet.

The first time I heard someone say "Facebook is not the internet," Impudent Strumpet was asking, "Do people actually use Facebook as a substitute for the Internet as a whole?" I could scarcely believe it. When I first got online in the mid-late-90s, many people used AOL as a gateway - and worse - didn't seem to realize they were doing so, and didn't know they didn't need to. A quick search for "Facebook is not the internet" and "walled-off internet" reveals that many people are using those antiquated methods again, this time with Facebook - which is bigger and more powerful (if not financially, than by any other metric) than AOL ever was.

Similarly, the first time someone sent me a message through Facebook instead of emailing, I was appalled. Why elevate this one social media, this one proprietary service, to the status of email, a communication form that is ubiquitous and necessary for daily life? Why force people to hand over their personal information in order to communicate with you? And why trust your personal conversations to a company who is known to steal and keep your information? I vowed never to use Facebook as email... until the first time I had no choice, because the only way to reach that person was through Facebook.

I'm guessing that many people who use Facebook as an email substitute don't recognize the difference between the two. Email is accessible anywhere. You can save your email offline for reference and documentation. You can email anonymously. There are privacy issues, of course, it's not a wholly secure system - but those privacy issues are an eyedropper in an ocean compared to the privacy issues on Facebook.

Apps are information silos

The rapid proliferation of mobile apps is also a movement in the wrong direction. Apps are information silos. The company that owns the app controls the information you access and how you access it. In the case of iPhone-only apps, they also control whether or not you can access them at all. Don't have an iPhone? Too bad, you can't get here. If enough information and functionality gets hidden behind iPhone apps, then increasing numbers of people will buy iPhones - and increasing numbers of people will be left out. Great for Apple Inc., not great for the internet.

When I first started using a handheld device, the HP iPAQ I used to gush over in these pages, the best websites had mobile versions. These sites recognized that you were using a mini-browser, so to speak, and automatically switched to the "m" version. You don't need the CBC News App to access CBC on your smartphone. CBC has a mobile website that works perfectly well. But CBC's television ads tout their app as "the only news app you'll ever need". That's precisely the point. Want to see news? Tap on your CBC app, your New York Times app, your Corporate Media app. Leave the interconnectivity of internet, come to a silo, with our information, our ads, and our point of view.

The alternative to Facebook and mobile apps is not a pure, ideal world where everything is free and your privacy is always assured. I'm aware that the free platform I'm using to write this blog is owned by an enormous information corporation whose privacy practices are not always stellar. But it's not my only option. There are alternative applications that serve the exact same purpose, and will produce the same results. This blog is free for anyone, anywhere, on any device. You don't have to buy a special device, or join Blogger, or register your personal data to access it. If I wanted to limit the readership of this blog to people of my own choosing, I could do that, too - without forcing friends of wmtc to shed their anonymity and submit personal data to a private company.

I'd like to think the Facebook phenomenon has crested and is beginning its downward slope, joining MySpace, LiveJournal, and all the other ghosts of internet past. But zillions of people (especially an older demographic) are only now joining Facebook, and zillions more (especially a younger demographic) are increasingly choosing to be dependent on Facebook for communication and information. They are not actually dependent on Facebook. I say "choosing to be dependent," to emphasize that it is a choice. A bad one.

Further reading

Facebook is not the Internet, an old-school site listing many reasons to give up your Facebook addiction or be glad you never developed one.

Facebook Is Not The Internet, an excellent post on why using a Facebook page instead of a website is bad business. "We need to stop this trend of Facebook getting more attention that personal domains...and it all starts with you."

Facebook is the Internet, right? "But when the main reason people are going to is to search for it has me a little worried."

One of the architects of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, in arguing for net neutrality and open standards, argues against information silos and information giants.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster and others typically provide value by capturing information as you enter it: your birthday, your e-mail address, your likes, and links indicating who is friends with whom and who is in which photograph. The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service—but only within their sites. Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site. Each site is a silo, walled off from the others. Yes, your site’s pages are on the Web, but your data are not. You can access a Web page about a list of people you have created in one site, but you cannot send that list, or items from it, to another site.

The isolation occurs because each piece of information does not have a URI. Connections among data exist only within a site. So the more you enter, the more you become locked in. Your social-networking site becomes a central platform —a closed silo of content, and one that does not give you full control over your information in it. The more this kind of architecture gains widespread use, the more the Web becomes fragmented, and the less we enjoy a single, universal information space.

A related danger is that one social-networking site — or one search engine or one browser — gets so big that it becomes a monopoly, which tends to limit innovation. As has been the case since the Web began, continued grassroots innovation may be the best check and balance against any one company or government that tries to undermine universality. GnuSocial and Diaspora are projects on the Web that allow anyone to create their own social network from their own server, connecting to anyone on any other site. The project, which runs sites such as, allows you to operate your own Twitter-like network without the Twitter-like centralization.

Time to Reject Content App Silos: an iPhone-user explains "What's Wrong with Apps" and why "The Web's Where It's At".

Imp Strump again: Is Web 2.0 making information less accessible?


right-wing editor admits to playing provocateur, instigating violence at protest

We all know that agent provocateurs are a reality, but whenever we are offered hard evidence, we should spread it far and wide. A right-wing "journalist" has admitted to infiltrating a protest group and claims to have personally instigated events that led to a Washington DC museum's closure this past Saturday.

What Patrick Howley lacks in journalistic integrity he makes up for in ego: unethical enough to pull this stunt, he then couldn't resist bragging about it, and his publication was stupid enough to run it. Apparently American Spectator has changed the wording of the story, but not before the Washington Post's Suzy Khimm caught it and posted it on Google Docs. (American Spectator could also use a proofreader: Howley writes of his "unshaven left-wing altar ego".)

Khimm writes:
A conservative journalist has admitted to infiltrating the group of protesters who clashed with security at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on Saturday — and he openly claims to have instigated the events that prompted the museum to close.

Patrick Howley, an assistant editor at the American Spectator, says that he joined the group under the pretense that he was a demonstrator. “As far as anyone knew I was part of this cause — a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator,” Howley wrote. (The language in the story has since been changed without explanation.)

A group called the October 11 movement had organized the march in order to protest the U.S. government’s use of unmanned drones overseas, joined by a few members of the D.C. branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement, as the Post reported Saturday. Howley writes that a small number of protesters — himself included — had tried to move past the security guards at the main entrance of the museum. He says that one protester next to him got into a shoving match with a security guard in an antechamber before they hit the second set of doors that led to the museum itself. The guard pepper-sprayed the protester, spraying Howley as well.

But, according to his account, Howley was determined to escalate the protest further. “I wasn’t giving up before I had my story,” he writes, describing how he continued to rush past security into the museum itself.
Based on his sneering column, it's clear that Howley's intent was to discredit the entire Occupy Wall Street movement. Howley:
The tourist reaction within the museum -- like the reactions of those on D.C. tour buses and sidewalks Saturday -- was one of confusion and mild irritation. In the absence of definitive national polling on the matter, that may be the best opinion sample we yet have of this rash of ill-defined, anti-corporate and anti-bailout protests developing across the country. What began on Wall Street is now spreading, and the question still remains: is it dangerous?
When he didn't get enough material to answer that question, Howley made some up. He criticizes the protesters for not barging into the museum after being pepper-sprayed, claiming this shows they have "no political power".
But just as the lefties couldn't figure out how to run their assembly meeting (many process points, I'm afraid to report, were left un-twinkled), so too do they lack the nerve to confront authority.
He quotes a museum guard acting like a cartoon super hero, then praises the guard's "courage" for pepper-spraying unarmed protesters.
As I scrambled away from the scene of my crime, a police officer outside the museum gates pointed at my eyes, puffed out his chest, and shouted: "Yeah, that's right. That's right." He was proud that I had been pepper-sprayed, and, oddly, so was I. I deserved to get a face full of high-grade pepper, and the guards who sprayed me acted with more courage than I saw from any of the protesters. If you're looking for something to commend these days in America, start with those guards.
And then - after bragging that he was the only protester willing to "push the envelope and go bold" - he criticizes the movement for being "disruptive"!

Of course Howley's sarcastic, condescending column misses the real point. Museum visitors were irritated? What of it? Would Howley have preferred they were fearful of their lives, as if they had stumbled on an armed-to-the-teeth tea party protest? Will a movement's effectiveness be judged according to the reactions of passers-by?

The meeting Howley mocks may not have been as organized as a corporate board of directors. But again, why does that matter? What matters is that people are meeting. They're figuring out how to organize, learning by doing. They're fed up, and they're engaged, and they're not going away. We're not going away.


desmogblog: open letter to oprah winfrey on so-called ethical oil and women's rights

Unlike many of my peers, I truly do respect and in many ways admire Oprah Winfrey. She's used her massive popularity and celebrity to raise awareness of difficult issues, not just feel-good reunions or uncontroversial medical research, but issues of equality and justice, especially for women and girls. Sure, her show is thickly padded with celebrity fluff and nonsense tearjerkers, but if it wasn't, she wouldn't reach half as many eyes and ears.

Speaking to mainstream audiences about subjects they'd rather not face, while giving people hope and optimism about their ability to create change, is a worthwhile enterprise. Throw in a nationally televised reading group, and there's a lot for me to like.

That's why when I read that Oprah was running ads on her network for the astroturf tar sands shills - and that the ads conflated tar sands oil with global women's rights - I felt so disappointed.

I tried to write a post that conveyed just how wrongheaded and hypocritical Oprah's tar-sands support is. While struggling with it, I found this post by Emma Pullman at DeSmogBlog. I stopped writing, because Pullman says it all. Please read.
Dear Oprah,

I just don't know where to begin.

I can't find my words because I respect you so much. You're a woman pioneer who has done much to advance the status of women globally. You've donated millions of dollars to various organizations, and have used your talk show to raise the profile of women's issues. Your philanthropy has funded projects like The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, and Women for Women International. You've also used your celebrity to raise awareness of environmental causes, notably the efforts to rebuild the Gulf.

That's why I'm so stumped right now by your choice to feature ads from on your television network.

I'm all about the work that you do, but the logic of promoting tar sands oil by appealing to our desire for women's liberation, our desire to help protect women in despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia, is deeply flawed and misguided.

The ad [below], which is airing exclusively on your network in Canada, claims that strict rules in Saudi Arabia prevent women from driving, from leaving their homes or working without their male guardian's permission. With those sad facts firmly established, the ads powerfully appeal to our deep emotions about women's rights, human rights and fundamental political freedoms by implying that by buying "conflict oil", we are supporting oppression.

The ad presents Canada's tar sands as an "ethical oil" alternative to "conflict oil". At the end of the ad the viewer is told "It's a choice we have to make".

So, to be clear, the argument being put forward on your network is that expanding tar sands production will help liberate women from oppressive petrocracies like Saudi Arabia. It also appears to imply that we must support the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would massively expand tar sands production, because it will decrease our reliance on conflict oil.

Let's unpack this argument a little further.

I agree with you that Saudi Arabia abuses women's rights. But let's be perfectly clear: the link that this ad campaign tries to make — that expanding tar sands production will somehow liberate Saudi Arabian women — doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Read it here: คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey.

* * * *

You can sign a petition calling on Oprah to renounce this ad. If you don't live in the US, use five zeros for a zip code. Petition here.


toronto's ford brothers: does a true word ever leave their mouths?

James posted this in comments yesterday, but it deserves its own thread: Top Five Ford Lies. If you haven't seen it yet, please go read.

Of course, politicians with a privatization agenda never let the facts get in the way of their profit-driven ideology. If they cared about facts, government services would never be privatized, since it's been proven time and again, the world over, that privatization is more expensive, less efficient and less accountable. Taxes don't decrease, but profits for a few increase.

More on this another time, when I'm not on deadline. Meanwhile, in case you need a primer on this whole government-as-business thing, see Pogge: "Is he running a government, or making widgets?" And while you're there, on the related subject of government-spending-lies the media flogs whenever it's convenient: "Zombie lies". Harper "spent his way out of recession". Yeah, right.


walkom: we sent our soldiers to die to impress our largest trading partner

This is probably the strongest truth-telling about Canada's experience in Afghanistan - and the revolting response to it at home - that I have seen in the mainstream media. Thank you, Thomas Walkom!
On Tuesday, Canada officially ended its combat mission in Afghanistan. It should never have started.

The war has been a dismal failure. . . .

For Canada, the lessons of Afghanistan should be sobering.

This ill-contrived adventure has cost the lives of 161 Canadians, including 157 soldiers.

As well, at least 615 Canadian soldiers have been wounded in battle, many seriously.

Politicians and media lavishly praise our troops for their bravery and professionalism. Yet, ironically, this has made it easier for the country to gloss over the fact that these sacrifices were largely pointless.

Had our military been made up of draftees rather than volunteers, there would be more public anger.

For taxpayers, the cost of the Afghan war so far is $11.3 billion and climbing. That figure excludes ongoing health and disability costs for soldiers wounded in the war.

Two main lessons should be drawn from this conflict.

The first has to do with NATO. . . .

But the point of the alliance has been lost. In the aftermath of the Afghanistan failure, Canada would be wise to redirect NATO to its original purpose of mutual defence.

If we can’t accomplish that, we should quit the alliance. We already have the NORAD defence treaty with the U.S. to protect North America from attack. We don’t need to be drawn into any more wars in Asia and North Africa.

The second lesson has to do with the treatment of war. It is not a game. Nor is it simply diplomacy by other means. It is a dangerous, murderous business with a habit of backfiring.

During the Afghan War, too many Canadian politicians forgot that. So did media that, for too long, were dominated by jingoes.

We talk about the nobility of sacrifice but our motives were not noble. We sent our soldiers to die in Kandahar mainly to impress our largest trading partner, the U.S., and ensure that the border stayed open for trade.

Canadians were killed to guarantee just-in-time delivery of auto parts. That is not sufficient reason.
Read it here.


if the world sucks, why hasn't anyone told me? i respond to joe denial

"If that's really happening, why don't I see it in the news?"

I bet many of you may have encountered a question like this one. You're speaking to a co-worker or a classmate, or discussing an issue on a blog, or you've wandered into the comments section of an online news story. You offer a wider perspective, and you meet with a question like this one.

If millions of women are being beaten by their husbands, why don't I ever hear about it?

If First Nations people are getting cancer in unprecedented numbers, why haven't I read about it in the newspaper?

If the United States really has military bases all over the world, how come I don't know about it?

This person is not criticizing the mainstream media for not covering this issue; that's not what the question means. He's questioning the validity of a statement of fact, implying that you are grossly exaggerating an issue or even fabricating it.

If working conditions in these factories are so bad, why haven't I...

If inmates in US prisons are routinely raped and murdered, why haven't....

I've heard all these, and so many more. I've responded to each question, but I've never stopped to unpack the question itself. What's behind this irritating query? Why does this right-wing male - the only person from whom I've ever heard this question - need to deny the existence of very real issues?

If so many teenage girls are starving themselves, why don't I ever hear about it?

First, the question assumes that what this guy - call him Joe - hears and sees in the mainstream media equals What Is Happening. Joe's drive-time radio, CNN or Fox during dinner, and thumb-through of the local tabloid on his lunch break constitutes the sum total of What Is Happening. Maybe Joe also spends a lot of time online, reading headlines and some stories at mainstream news sites.

According to Joe Denial, then, if we subtract sports, weather, celebrity gossip, random crime, oddball pet stories, missing person stories, terrorism scares, and political downfalls, the remainder of what's broadcast on The News equals everything that is going on in the world. In this view, the mainstream media is a conduit to the rest of the world. News is not selected, edited and packaged, it is simply broadcast, all of it, like a giant feed from Planet Earth straight to CNN. And if it isn't in the mainstream media, it hasn't happened.

Second, Joe Denial assumes that he has seen all the news: every lengthy newspaper feature, every op-ed that references important studies (studies that often prove the very facts he is denying), every investigative news show, every magazine story. Because, of course, ongoing issues such as violence against women or environmental toxins are not "news". Unless a study is released or a sensational story breaks, these issues don't qualify as news and are reported on as features. So unless Joe D. follows every feature in every media outlet, he's not going to hear about these issues.

What's more, the above phrase "are reported on as features" ends with an implied "...when they are reported on at all". Aboriginal people getting cancer at rates alarmingly higher than those of non-Native people is not considered news, because aboriginal people are less important to the media, because they are not perceived as consumers of the products sold by the media's sponsors. Violence against women is accepted as part of our culture and only worthy of mention if an incident can be reported as a sensational crime story. Prisoners are unworthy of commentary at all; they are subhumans who deserve whatever they get, lest we be accused of being "soft on crime". And US imperialism, well, we don't look too closely at that. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

So far I've come up with these possible replies to Joe Denial's question. One, the mainstream reports on only a small fraction of what happens. Two, you don't see every media story. Three, these issues are not given high priority in our society.

But there's another possibility: the question may be a smokescreen.

Perhaps my friend Mr. Denial knows very well that just because he hasn't seen or read about something doesn't mean it's not happening. He's using the lack of visibility as a rhetorical device to deny the existence of the issue.

This leads to a different question: why do some people deny the existence of very real, well documented problems? Why is it important for so many people to pretend that a spectrum of issues - violence against women, environmental racism, prisoner abuse, US imperialism, and almost anything else you can think of - do not exist?

Here I can only speculate, and poorly at that, as this mindset is the most foreign culture I've ever visited.

Some of this denial seems to be a knee-jerk, unthinking reaction: if a progressive person is against it, I must be for it, and if I can't be for it (because who will actually say "violence against women is fine"?) then I must deny its existence.

Some of the reaction seems to stem from an underlying belief that "lefties" - as anyone who is not rigidly right-wing is called, even very moderate liberals - are heavily invested in portraying the world as a dismal place and in protest for its own sake. I'm guessing this belief relieves some cognitive dissonance: Why are these people making such a fuss? I don't see anything wrong, and I don't want to believe there are so many things wrong with my world. Therefore, they are making a fuss over nothing, because that's what they do.

Some people hate and fear change of any kind. Reasonable people may disagree on the best solution to a problem, but questioning the existence of a problem short-circuits all possibilities. If nothing's wrong, there is no need to change.

Finally, some of this ingrained, knee-jerk denial reacts against an entire worldview, one that sees women, people of colour, poor people, and others outside the imperialist-patriarchal power structure as important. Joe Denial's belief system says exactly the opposite, although not in those terms: the world was fine until you people got so uppity.

The sad part is that Joe is a working-class guy who stands to benefit greatly from my worldview. Sadly, he identifies more with his oppressors, because they are largely white and male, than with the people whose vision would offer him a better life.

That's why it's worth taking a deep breath and answering his question.


bin laden, security theatre and the lying lies of stephen harper

I've avoided any mention of the sickening spectacle of the GNOTFOTE thumping its collective chest because it (supposedly) took 10 years to assassinate one middle aged man with failing kidneys. Talk about security theatre! Surely this must be The Office of Security Theatre's Greatest Show on Earth.

I do want to share a few items, though, related to this nonsense.

One, Joy of Sox: The National Anthem and the Idea Of Respect.

And two, Chomsky: We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

Each coming from a different angle, and both well worth reading.

Plus a bonus, in case you missed it, or didn't see proof: Fox "News".

The only positive is that bin Laden's death gives us all an opening to talk about getting the hell out of Afghanistan. Which Canada was supposed to do this year, a pledge the Conservatives had no intentions of honouring. In the words of Ralph Kramden, oooooh, what a surprise!


handwritten newspapers from japan

From Mediaite:
In the wake of Japan's recent massive earthquake and accompanying tsunami, the daily Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, based in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture, found itself without power. So it produced new issues during a crucial time using what was available to editors – paper, and pen.

For six days, six of the paper’s staffers researched stories before passing them on to three others, who then meticulously hand-wrote the news on poster-size paper, using flashlights when natural light was not available. These “newspapers” were then published, so to speak, by pasting them at the entrances of various relief centers, so that survivors could keep up to date with the day’s headlines, free of charge.
What a beautiful throwback to a time when newspapers were the only source of information about the outside world. I found this not only extraordinary for its low-tech resourcefulness, but also moving - that journalists and editors, as providers of information, would take their roles so seriously. We all know that in times of crisis, if our basic needs are met - and sometimes even when they aren't - the thing we hunger for most is information.