Archive for the journalism Category

Reflections on tumblr, facebook and social media

Posted in alternatives, analysis, anthropology, Chomsky, consciousness, empowerment, inspiration, journalism, life, Media, media analysis, net, NSA, propaganda, psychology, reading, resources, social theory, sociology, sound-bite, Uncategorized, web, wellness with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2013 by jtoddring

Going from specifics to depth and breadth, and from particularities to universals, here are some thoughts for your consideration, for anyone who may be interested.

I’ve come to love the social networking / blogging community / window onto the web which is called tumblr. That being said, tumblr is largely what you make of it. I like the basic format of tumblr, and within that format or structure, I’ve created a flow of beautiful, interesting and thought-provoking feeds. I love the stream of art, gorgeous nature photography, science, literature, quotes, history, politics, spirituality and philosophy which flows through my tumblr window on the world daily.

I could have picked feeds on celebrity gossip, or cats doing amusing things, but I didn’t. The content I’ve chosen to let in is either beautiful or thought-provoking, or both – not trivial tripe and banality. So I am daily fascinated, or at least uplifted, by what flows through this portal onto the world – or as often as I open it up, which is more occasional than daily.

Facebook is good for providing another means of connecting or staying connected with friends and loved ones – meagre and thin as that connection may be, or as superficial or illusory – but facebook has a number of glaring faults, in my mind.

First, facebook provides data mining and surveillance aid to the NSA – how disgusting and truly revolting is that?

Second, facebook hits you in the face with obnoxious ads every time you look at it – revolting offence number two.

Third, facebook’s layout and formatting is visually ugly, boring and banal, and crudely utilitarian compared with tumblr.

Four, facebook gives you tiny little boxes of content posts, unlike tumblr, which gives you large size posts, so you can really get much more of a feel or an impression from a photo, piece of art, political poster, cartoon or other image, which is largely lost on facebook, unless you take the time to click on the image and go to a larger version.

I find the formatting of twitter even more annoying. Who can say anything meaningful in 140 keystrokes or characters? Hyper-concision gone mad – that is twitter. See Chomsky on the dangers of a strictly enforced concision.

All in all, I’d say social media is a horrible waste of time and a surrogate for real relationships and real life. However, it can be used in ways that are useful, and even uplifting and life enriching.

You could say the same thing about youtube or TV – most of it is garbage, or worse than garbage: toxic sludge; and you have to be extremely selective to make it worthwhile, or even to avoid being poisoned by it.

(I hate TV, and haven’t had one in my home for years. I watch what I want from TV, when I on rare occasions I do watch it, either on Netflix or youtube, or I buy videos of the TV shows I like, and watch them  any time I want, commercial-free.)

But as far as comparing social media in their ability to handle truly life-enriching content with a minimum of commercial bastardization or constrictions, the structure and formatting of tumblr makes that easier to obtain that on facebook, I would say – and I simply like the formatting of tumblr far better than facebook – as well as the lack of ads.

I post interesting items to facebook, but I never “read” or follow it, because it’s just far too annoying. tumblr, I actually enjoy spending time on, and I learn more about art, science, history and the world while I relax and enrich my mind with beautiful images of paintings and photography at the same time.

But again, tumblr, like all social media, or the internet in general, or any media, is almost entirely what we make of it – as with life itself. If we want to obsess over celebrity gossip and sports trivia, we can do that. If we want to listen to the media presstitutes, as Gerald Celente rightly calls them, mouth the words that their corporate owners dictate to them – um, sorry, bosses, is the preferred term I suppose… or Johns – we can do that.

If we want to degrade or dumb down our minds, we can do that – and we are facilitated greatly, and eagerly encouraged by the corporate driven mass media to do just that. The Pied Piper plays daily and continuously, the sirens call, and the sleep-walking masses drool and respond in Pavlovian reaction, like obedient dogs, or sheep; as if they were well-oiled and carefully controlled machines, or puppets on a string.

We are free to fashion our own mind-forged manacles, as William Blake called them – and we can pretty them up with lace and garlands, or paint them with our own personal flourishes and filigrees, so they look ever so lovely; and we can show them off to all our friends and family, and be so proud, as we drown our minds in a tsunami of confusion, illusions, lies and deceit, or simply wander aimlessly in the wasteland of a civilization (sic) lost in a dark age – bewildered, alone, in pain, and not even knowing we are lost, much les where we are, where we have come from, or where we are going. Or, alternately, if we want to uplift, enrich and illuminate our minds, hearts and spirits, and our lives, we are free to do that.

Unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority of people want to squander their lives, and degrade their minds and themselves, rather than enrich, uplift or ennoble them. But that is their choice. I’d rather spend my time differently. Wallowing in a sea of excrement is not my idea of a good time. But to each his own.

Some people choose to spend their time “engaged” with media, listening to Fox News, CNN or Billow O’Reilly. Some would rather spend their time listening to the thoughts of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Wolf, Gerald Celente or Matt Taibbi – or listening to the words of the greatest scientists, sages and true luminaries of all time and all the world. You can choose to spend your time watching cockroaches mate, or something on a level barely above that; or you can sit at the feet of the wise, and listen and learn, and be truly enriched by it. It is your choice. There are different mental worlds we can choose to live in, and they are truly worlds apart.

Some people want to live in Disney Land; some prefer the real world.

For myself, I’d like to stick as close as I can to the real world; and within that scope, which is vast, I’d prefer to mix the bracingly real and honest, with the beautiful and uplifting. To me, anything else would either be a distraction and a diversion from what is most important in life; or worse, a degrading, mind-numbing, soul destroying descent into the darkness of a world lost in confusion and pain.

Choose wisely, I would say.

There is a difference between honey, saccharine, and arsenic. Learning to distinguish which is which, is the first step toward nourishing yourself – and also, the first step in ceasing the self-poisoning which now daily occurs, and has become routine: a banality of evil, as well as an epidemic.

Life is precious. What we do with it matters. Reflect on this, I would urge you. Or not, as you like. We are free to rise to great heights, or to sink to the lowest depths. That is entirely up to ourselves to decide. For me, I’d rather choose an upward path, however winding, seemingly slow, or at times arduous or lonely, than choose the slide down the cliff-side which has become the pervasive and profoundly abnormal norm. Life is worth more than this. And I will live it, and not simply drift through it, like a speck of foam on a great river.

Social media can be grand. It can be sordid. Or it can be simply banal. Like life, it depends on what we do with it.

J. Todd Ring,

September 25, 2013

Towing the Line with the Mainstream Media

Posted in activism, alternatives, corporations, deep integration, detention centers, Jefferson, journalism, Media, North American Union, police state, politics, Security and Prosperity Partnership, SPP on April 10, 2007 by jtoddring

 

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
Benjamin Franklin

The media serve the interests of state and corporate power, which are closely interlinked, framing their reporting and analysis in a manner supportive of established privilege and limiting debate and discussion accordingly.”

Noam Chomsky

 

As Chomsky accurately pointed out – merely stating what should be obvious – the major media set the boundaries of acceptable discussion. They serve the function, among others, of saying in effect, “Thus far, and no further.” To step outside these parameters is thus implicitly portrayed as stepping off the edge of the earth. Beyond these bounds we enter the irrational, lunatic fringe. However, as also should be obvious, the bounds of discussion are extraordinarily narrow. Five corporations control network media in the U.S., six in Canada. They share a common perspective and present an extremely narrow range of views. Major issues are framed within a common lens of spin, omission of certain critical, salient facts, and outright distortion. Other major issues are not covered at all, or buried on page 39, in a minor note, right next to a recipe for oatmeal porridge or some other riveting feature. It should go without saying that if we allow the corporate media to set the parameters of discussion, we are lost.

It is now a matter of public record that the U.S. government has contracted out to Haliburton subsidiary KBR to build detention centers in America. KBR itself announced this in their own press release, stating that the contract is “open-ended” in terms of time-frame and scale. This should be worrisome. We remember that detention centers have been built – and used – before. In the U.S. and Canada during the second world war, the Japanese detention centers left a horrible and grotesque legacy. And of course, we have the chilling memory of the Nazi prison camps. When the U.S. government, already moving rapidly in the direction of fascism, as any sane observer recognizes, starts building detention centers, we should take this as noteworthy. This is newsworthy, or nothing is. But if the major media don’t cover it, then we all feel it is unacceptable to talk about it.

It is now a matter of public record – not theory – that the executive branches of the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments, along with at least three extremely powerful corporate lobby groups, have begun, under the signed agreement called the Security and Prosperity Partnership, what is being called a “dialogue” to create “full regulatory harmonization” and “deep integration” within “Fortress North America” in “the new security environment.” This is a program that is far more broad and ambitious than NAFTA, CAFTA or the FTAA, yet it is being met with almost complete silence by the mainstream media. Are we to then accept that such a major program, which is being carried out without Congressional or Parliamentary oversight or debate, which will redefine the economies, military and security structures, laws, regulations, borders and political process of the three nations, is not fit for public discussion, is not a legitimate topic of debate or dialogue, is beyond the range of acceptable discourse? The answer is, of course – or should be – obvious.

If we concede to the major media setting the bounds of discussion, and thus accept that these are the limits to rational or legitimate dialogue, then we have conceded defeat. Must we accept such narrow and arbitrary terms on the bounds of sane and reasonable discourse? What are we, men and women, or cattle?

“Half the American population no longer reads
newspapers: plainly, they are the clever half.”
– Gore Vidal

“If words were invented to conceal thought,
newspapers are a great improvement of a bad invention.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“I find it so difficult to dispose of the few facts which to me are significant, that I hesitate to burden my attention with those which are insignificant. Such is, for the most part, the news in newspapers and conversation.” – Thoreau

 

“Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on a ukulele.” – Ben Bagdikian

“If you don’t want to work, become a reporter. That awful power, the public opinion of the nation, was created by a horde of self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditch and shoemaking and fetched up journalism on their way to poorhouse.” – Mark Twain

“Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.” – G B Shaw

“The average newspaper, especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the information of a high school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid valentines, and the honor of a police-station lawyer.” – HL Mencken

“If you’re not careful the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” – Malcolm X

“The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers…[A despotic] government always [keeps] a king of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or what should look like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.”

– Thomas Jefferson, 1785

 

“I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens who, reading newspapers, live and die in the belief that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time.” – Thomas Jefferson

 

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he who’s mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.” – Thomas Jefferson

As my father used to say, if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you follow? Or more directly, if everyone else is content to eat shit sandwiches, do we have to do the same? Why do we tune into the corporate media at all? Surely we are more intelligent than this. I believe most are. And polls show that the great majority of people have a pretty clear sense of what’s going on; and further more, have a high degree of skepticism about the major media. Why then do we continue to tune in, to eat this stuff up, or to allow the mass media to define the parameters of debate and discussion? I have to guess, or conclude, that it is a matter of group think. Heaven forbid that we deviate from the herd.

“In matters of style, swim with the current;
in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

– Thomas Jefferson

As every intelligent observer knows, mainstream media in Canada and the U.S. are either corporate owned or corporate dominated, due to dependency on advertising revenues. As such, we cannot be surprised to find a very narrow range of perspective and a remarkable commonality of spin across the mass media, with disinformation, distortion and omission of vital information being the norm.

What I’d like to suggest is that we keep the obvious in mind at all times: if we are writers, bloggers, independent journalists or media workers, or for that matter, anyone who is involved with or interested in the actual goings on in our world, we must not allow the mainstream media to set the parameters of legitimate public discourse.

Nor can we allow the mainstream media – the corporate-dominated media – to set the tone. The tone in the mass media is tepid, timid, blasé, and not truly objective at all. The media gets itself worked up into a frenzy in order to vilify the proper enemies, or pronounce the corporate party line, but when it comes to reporting or commenting on the short-comings or failures of business as usual and the party line, the best they can muster is a valium stupor of spiritless, apathetic hand-wringing – and this only when the far more common response of rationalization, justification, spin and denial are not the reaction. Genocide in Africa, the race toward ecological self-destruction, risk of nuclear confrontation over Iran or other conflicts, the institutionalization of war crimes as defined by international law, the legalization and routine, systemic use of torture, the destruction of constitutional rights and liberties: these are just a few examples of subjects that demand more than a luke-warm response; at least, that is, if we are to retain our human decency, if we are to address ourselves to the issues in a sane or humane manner, or if we are to introduce into the debate and discussion any of these qualities.

Call it like it is. Euphemistic, wishy-washy reporting and commentary smacks of either intellectual timidity or simple laziness, as well as moral cowardice. The people I admire most in terms of writers are those who have a marked intelligence, or more simply, a basic clarity of mind, and far more importantly, a deep sense of compassion, combined with a willingness to frankly speak the truth, even when it is unpopular to do so. Chomsky, and even more so, Thoreau, come to mind along with others. What we need to hear more of is people speaking plainly and intelligently, with compassion, and also with spine. Journalism that sparks little more passionate response than three day old porridge is not what we need. The usual skirting of issues and bland hedging, is about as effectual at addressing the issues we face as is making love in a wet suit.

In either case, if we allow the mainstream media to set the parameters of debate, the framing of the issue, the bounds of discussion; or to set the tone of public discourse – then we are lost.

As should be self-evident, the relevant facts and evidence must be brought forth, even if this is outside the bounds of discussion as defined by the dominant corporate-controlled media; and the tone of our dialogue must be at least somewhat more impassioned than what is set as the norm of reasonable discussion by the same dominant media forces. To do otherwise is to lose before beginning.

Effective action, or even simple integrity, can be based only upon truth, and courage to speak the truth. It also requires a willingness to meet the issues of the day with more than a banal and blasé spiritlessness, pretending to objectivity, neutrality or “balance”. We need to break the barriers of the media monopolies, and firstly, within our own minds and discourse.

 

J. Todd Ring

April 10, 2007

 

Useful links:

Manufacturing Consent

Necessary Illusions

Thoreau’s “On Civil Disobedience”

Amazon.com: Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies: Books: Noam Chomsky

Democracy Now!

Free Speech TV

Big Picture TV

oneworld tv

Project Censored

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Who Owns The Media?”

Your Media: Preserve Freedom, Diversity, Independence