Thursday, May 19, 2011

Do blogs remove bias?

             When you’re in a course like Media and Politics, it seems like the goals of the class include coming to the conclusion that bias exists and learning how to be perceptive of its occurrence. In this way, we’ll be the active and responsible citizen we know we are. While time and time again, we note the existence of bias in mainstream media outlets, the agendas and leanings of the news we see, read, and hear, we persevere because of the hope that comes along with the new era of digital technology. WE learned that very few corporations own the major media outlets, and it’s really rather frightening to see how such a small amount of influence controls what comes our way. However, with the ever expanding internet, and specifically the rise of blogs, more and more people are granted the ability to give over the news they see important in the way they think is right.  And the millions upon millions of people search the web have the ability to be exposed to an array of news sources thanks to this new digital age.

                However, in class during the discussion about our blogging, we learned that most bloggers are well-educated, of high socio-economic status, male, and white, as are the readers of blogs. Blogs, despite what they are supposed to be in theory, are in reality an elite phenomenon. The average citizen is not necessarily involved in them. You have to actively seek information; you have the time to be interested, and the luxury to care. So even with the potential of the internet, we are still running into the same problems, though on a smaller scale. Nevertheless, it’s rather frustrating. That’s of course looking at it from the pessimist’s angle, and it’s important to be aware of this inherent bias in blogs as well.  But despite this statistic qualifying the blogging population, we still must note the strides we have taken, and realize that it can only go up from here. While most bloggers may be white males from the middle class, there are miles between them and the corporation owners who control mainstream media outlets.

Obama's Two state solution

          So for Jewish Heritage Month, Obama decides to endorse, what CNN states as ” the long-held but rarely stated U.S. support for a future Palestinian state based on borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.” Well, it’s clear where CNN long holds their support, though I’d have to disagree on the rarely-stated element for them. CNN did make sure to emphasize that Obama reiterated his unwavering U.S. support for Israel’s security, though some may consider the two mutually exclusive, and is even  going to endorse “major negotiating  positions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.” So thoughtful, really. 

                Throughout the article security is constantly mentioned. Obama, Tony Blair, the reporters at CNN all do not want to undermine that need for Israel to feel secure. They reemphasize and reiterate plenty. But the na├»ve reader may wonder why a two-state solution would make Israel feel insecure in the first place? I mean – isn’t the point to promote peace and serenity. The article fails to mention anywhere, why in fact, Israel may need this security. The article does not mention the potential negative ramifications (what? There are some?) that this solution may have. Yes security can’t be sacrificed, because Israel is sure going to need it, if this plan follows though. So how is this the best option for both sides? Hamas apparently rejected it as well, so now since they don’t like it, maybe we’ll get a reconsideration? At least we have a reason to reject it – not quite sure what theirs is. Yes, that’s the same Hamas that’s a terrorist group according to the US and Israel only – not the rest of the world. See article attached. 

                Obama also criticized both sides (yes both! So maybe he is being objective…) for unmet expectations despite all of America’s assistance in coming up with a solution. Israel wants to build new housing settlements in the West bank, and other areas beyond its 1967 borders (because this isn’t 1967), and Palestine challenges Israel’s right to exist as a whole. The scale seems slightly tilted when comparing the way both sides are resisting. (there goes that fleeting objectivity...) 
           The media and Obama both have the right to propose and consider the two state solution, though they should also consider the sides of both states involved through and through.

How social is social media?

         Stern recently had this program regarding relationships in the digital Age, and though I did not attend, one of my friends showed me this fantastic youtube video, that I’m attaching below. The information about social media is extremely mind-blowing and really puts this new age into perspective. Something as huge as this cannot be ignored. Some crazy statistics:

                96% of generation Y have joined a social network.

                Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web.

                1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. Last year met via social media.

                Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months.

                If Facebook were a country, it would be the 4th largest.

                These stats are only from the beginning of the video. The information is so striking when condensed into these pithy phrases. We have become immune to it, because we ourselves are living it. As this newfound era evolves, we are evolving along with it. We don’t take the time always to take that step backward to remove ourselves and gain a clearer picture. The media is more widely connected to people than ever before. This video attests to the numbers. The actual ramifications of these numbers are just as huge and lasting, but for some reason they feel more subtle to us. We must be aware of the power in order to be capable, intellectual, and responsible citizens who can determine when this power is misused or distorted. 
                The fact that I was completely  in shock after seeing this video made me realize how unaware I myself am. It’s a scary thing to realize how much you didn’t realize the extent that technology connects people. The first step to realizing media bias is to acknowledge the power the media has when you don’t. 

So make sure to watch this video! Social Media 

The IDF and the Media

           In my American Anti-War Literature class, we had a speaker from the Israeli army come present how the media had an effect on his life as a soldier. While the class itself tended to be more left-wing, this particular Israeli soldier was particularly conservative. He had an interesting take on the ethics of war, efficiency vs. morality, and the civilian’s role in the greater scheme of things. He presented both sides to all the issues he reported, and clearly noted when he was giving his own opinion.

               He was extremely adamant when describing the detrimental ramifications of the media on the larger Israeli army and strategy as well as the more specific psychological and emotional state of individual soldiers themselves. He included a powerpoint with several pictures he found online and on mainstream media outlets. He proceeded to ask us what it looked like, and then followed by giving us what really happened. The first  picture really resonated with me. It looked as if a soldier was pointing his gun at a young child. However, he used several ways to explain how that was in actuality not the case. For example, the way his finger is placed on the gun shows that he is not in the active position to shoot. Furthermore, you’re never supposed to hold your gun down while you’re in the army. Also, children are often used to transfer weapons or bombs and the soldier, if he’s doing his job, should absolutely be on the defense. There are several pictures in this powerpoint that tell very different stories from what they first appear to say. 

                Throughout this class, there was a more positive tint on anti-war writing. Because war used to be so glorified and sugar-coated, it was considered relatively progressive to describe the reality of its horrors. Perhaps, however, the media has taken it too far. Perhaps, they are trying too hard to provide their readers with some mind-blowing reality, that they are actually misconstruing it? This slideshow attests to that at any rate.

 Here is the link below:
PowerPoint of IDF Pictures

Monday, March 14, 2011

                This weekend had two tragic incidents: One that led to the death of thousands, and one that led to the death of five; one was caused by an uncontrollable natural disaster, and one that was a deliberate act of terrorism; one whose headlines flooded various news sources, and one which almost seemed not to exist in the secular world.
                I heard about the terror attack in Itamar, seven minutes from where my aunt and uncle live, via text right after Shabbas. As soon as I got home, I opened and scanned the headlines. Not to underestimate the impact of what occurred in Japan, the amount of deaths and casualties were astonishing, but one not one headlined mentioned those attacked in Itamar. My roommate came in, and I quickly asked her if she read anything. She told me that you had to dig to find two articles hidden somewhere on the website. Both incidents this weekend carried their own weight for different reasons, one in the breadth of the amount of people it affect, and the other in the depth of the atrocity it represented.  Both deserved to mention. I am not making an argument in proportion, 50-50, 40-60, 33-66, I’m not sure myself. But for the sake of the five that were brutally murdered, their names deserve a place on the front page.
                I’m posting a picture a friend posted on Facebook upon search for articles about the West Bank. The bias in these headlines are obvious and lack the need for explanation.
           In class today, we talked about the distinction between words that are biased and words used just to be more accurate or precise, an example being the use of the words “settlers.” I will argue that words have certain connotations, and all it takes is a little common sense to understand what a word means beyond its specificity. In a black and white world, words would mean only what they are supposed to, but the complexity of our world associates words with specific contexts and situations, and layers of meaning pile up by default.  Accuracy should not be an excuse for their deliberate use.
Finally, I am posting an article with several biases which again, only take common sense to point out:

*”disputed terrirtory”
*what Israel is calling a terror attack
*The focus on approving construction of more settlements more than the family’s brutal murder
*”He would not elaborate on what evidence was leading investigators to that conclusion [that it was a terror attack].”
*the use of the word “intruder”

***and much more***

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Six news sources to choose from

                I just want to relay something fascinating, and slightly terrifying, from the reading from Chapter 8 of The Press by Overholster and Jamieson. It mentions Ben H. Bagdikian, former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkley.  In the preface of the fifth edition of his study The Media it states, “With each passing year… the number of controlling firms on all these media [newspapers magazines, radio, television, books, and movies] has shrunk: from fifty corporations in 1984to twenty-six in 1987, followed by twenty-three in 1990, and then, as the borders between the different media began to blur, to less than twenty in 1993. In 1996 the number of media corporations with dominant power in society is closer to ten.”

His sixth edition published in 2000 brought the number down to six. Two of which are foreign.
The people that own news corporations will be biased. They are human beings with differing experiences, perspectives, and beliefs. Even if they claimed complete objectivity, something must appear on the front page, a sentence has to be worded somehow, and they are forced to choose. For the majority though, this choosing isn’t forced. Media corporations do shape the news in a specific light.
The most we can do now read as many as possible in hopes of getting several angles in order to come to our own conclusion. This is why this statistic is so terrifying. How can we hope to create our own objective view of what is going on in America, if we are limited by six opinions? Six may seem a lot, but if the pattern continues, the future looks grim.

National Security v. Freedom of the Press

We concluded our class about media and war in a discussion of the Pentagon Papers. The Supreme Court voted on the side of the press, deeming that the first amendment right of the New York Times and Washington Post stands. Professor Adler mentioned that if this case didn’t end the way it did, our world would be a pretty scary place. If the freedom of the press was not maintained during the United States v. New York Times Co. case, there would always be a precedent to subdue whatever the executive branch wanted under the guise of national security. “Congress shall make no law” was taken in the most literal of sense. And if this law was not maintained, it would lead to the unraveling of our entire existence as a democratic nation.
                Yet the line is too thin. The most obvious piece of logic is that if our country was defeated because of a national security violation these laws wouldn’t even exist from the beginning. We need a democratic government to uphold the Bill of Rights, and without the national security to ensure that, it simply won’t work. I am not advocating for the president to have the-end-all-and-be-all in matters of national security. Rather, for qualifications, for stipulations. To say no law means no law is simply impossible, and simply not what our founding fathers intended. To argue this point will end in the demise of our nation. There needs to be some mechanism of security, especially when citizens unleashed the original documents in an illegal matter. The situation becomes wholly different.