Tag Archives: Media

Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot

Investigative journalist Gareth Porter has published two exclusives whose import is far greater than may be immediately apparent. They concern Israel’s bombing in 2007 of a supposed nuclear plant secretly built, according to a self-serving US and Israeli narrative, by Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

Although the attack on the “nuclear reactor” occurred a decade ago, there are pressing lessons to be learnt for those analysing current events in Syria.

Porter’s research indicates very strongly that the building that was bombed could not have been a nuclear reactor – and that was clear to experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) even as the story was being promoted uncritically across the western media.

But – and this is the critical information Porter conveys – the IAEA failed to disclose the fact that it was certain the building was not a nuclear plant, allowing the fabricated narrative to be spread unchallenged. It abandoned science to bow instead to political expediency.

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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Middle East


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A lesson from Syria: it’s crucial not to fuel far-right conspiracy theories

What do we believe? This is the crucial democratic question. Without informed choice, democracy is meaningless. This is why dictators and billionaires invest so heavily in fake news. Our only defence is constant vigilance, rigour and scepticism. But when some of the world’s most famous crusaders against propaganda appear to give credence to conspiracy theories, you wonder where to turn.

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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Middle East


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Do social media threaten democracy?

IN 1962 a British political scientist, Bernard Crick, published “In Defence of Politics”. He argued that the art of political horse-trading, far from being shabby, lets people of different beliefs live together in a peaceful, thriving society. In a liberal democracy, nobody gets exactly what he wants, but everyone broadly has the freedom to lead the life he chooses. However, without decent information, civility and conciliation, societies resolve their differences by resorting to coercion.


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Posted by on November 14, 2017 in Uncategorized


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Four Viral Claims Spread by Journalists on Twitter in the Last Week Alone That are False

There is ample talk, particularly of late, about the threats posed by social media to democracy and political discourse. Yet one of the primary ways that democracy is degraded by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is, for obvious reasons, typically ignored in such discussions: the way they are used by American journalists to endorse factually false claims that quickly spread and become viral, entrenched into narratives, and thus can never be adequately corrected.

The design of Twitter, where many political journalists spend their time, is in large part responsible for this damage. Its space constraints mean that tweeted headlines or tiny summaries of reporting are often assumed to be true with no critical analysis of their accuracy, and are easily spread. Claims from journalists that people want to believe are shared like wildfire, while less popular, subsequent corrections or nuanced debunking are easily ignored. Whatever one’s views are on the actual impact of Twitter Russian bots, surely the propensity of journalistic falsehoods to spread far and wide is at least as significant.

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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in North America


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È giusto preoccuparsi delle fake news, e continuare a farlo

Nel 2017 la diffusione delle notizie false in rete preoccupa “abbastanza o molto” il 78 per cento degli utenti, secondo un sondaggio condotto dalla Bbc in 18 paesi. Nel medesimo sondaggio, il 58 per cento degli utenti dichiara che internet non dovrebbe essere oggetto di regolamentazione da parte dei governi. Bene: che si fa?

Per cominciare, eccovi un velocissimo riassunto delle puntate precedenti: tutto sembra succedere a fine 2016. Donald Trump è eletto presidente degli Stati Uniti. La campagna, secondo un paper assai citato e pubblicato dagli economisti Hunt Allcott e Matthew Gentzkow, è contraddistinta da quattro fatti inediti.

  • Il 62 per cento degli adulti americani oggi si informa attraverso i social media.
  • Le notizie false più popolari sono condivise molto più delle notizie prodotte da media accreditati (mainstream news).
  • Tante persone esposte a notizie false dichiarano di crederci.
  • Le notizie false più gettonate sembrano favorire Donald Trump.

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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Uncategorized



Charlie Hebdo May Now be Criticized Because They Mocked White Texans Rather Than Muslims

The newfound free speech crusaders borne of the January, 2015 murders of 10 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris sought to promulgate a new, and quite dangerous, standard. It was no longer enough to defend someone’s right to express their ideas while being free to condemn those ideas themselves: long the central tenet of the free speech movement (I defend their right to free speech even while finding them and their ideas repugnant). In the wake of the Hebdo killings, one had to go much further than that: it was a moral imperative to embrace and celebrate the ideas under attack and to glorify those who were expressing them, even to declare ourselves to be them (#JeSuisCharlie).As a result, criticizing the content of Charlie Hebdo’s often-vile cartoons became virtually blasphemous. It became common to demand that one not only defend the right of the cartoonists to publish them but also, to show “solidarity,” one had to re-publish those cartoons no matter how much one objected to their content – thus adopting that speech as one’s own. Opposition to lavishing these cartoonists with honors and prizes was depicted as some sort of moral failure or at least insufficient commitment to free speech rights, as evidenced by the widespread, intense scorn heaped on the writers who spoke out in opposition to bestowing Charlie Hebdo with an award at a PEN America gala.

Source: Charlie Hebdo May Now be Criticized Because They Mocked White Texans Rather Than Muslims

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Posted by on September 3, 2017 in North America


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In Europe, Hate Speech Laws are Often Used to Suppress and Punish Left-Wing Viewpoints

Terrorist attacks, and the emotions they spawn, almost always prompt calls for fundamental legal rights to be curtailed in the name of preventing future attacks. The formula by now is routine: The victims of the horrific violence are held up as proof that there must be restrictions on advocating whatever ideology motivated the killer to act.In 2006, after a series of attacks carried out by Muslims, Republican Newt Gingrich called for “a serious debate about the First Amendment” so that “those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are, in fact, subject to a totally different set of rules.”

Source: In Europe, Hate Speech Laws are Often Used to Suppress and Punish Left-Wing Viewpoints

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Posted by on August 31, 2017 in Uncategorized


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The deep state

When a head of state who behaves impulsively, and shows little interest in filling in the gaps in his knowledge, becomes commander in chief of the world’s most powerful army, there need to be plenty of safeguards. Yet, after President Donald Trump ordered his generals to bomb Syria and execute naval manoeuvres in Asia, he won the approval of US politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as almost all the media, including Europe’s. (A French national daily described the strikes on Syria as ‘somehow liberating’ (1).) The 59 missiles fired at an air base in the Middle East turned a president mired in unpopularity, amateurism and nepotism into a determined and sensitive man, unable to contain his humanity on seeing photographs of ‘beautiful babies … cruelly murdered in [a] very barbaric attack.’ The symphony of praise was all the more worrying in a climate of international tension, because Trump loves adulation.

Source: The deep state, by Serge Halimi (Le Monde diplomatique – English edition, May 2017)

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Posted by on May 16, 2017 in North America


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The spoils of war: Trump lavished with media and bipartisan praise for bombing Syria

IN EVERY TYPE of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.

Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.

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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in North America


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Why are liberals now cheerleading a warmongering Trump?

So now we know what it takes for an unhinged, bigoted demagogue to win liberal applause: just bypass a constitution to fire some missiles. It had seemed as though there was consensus among those in the anti-Trump camp. This man was a threat to US democracy and world peace. The echoes of 1930s fascist leaders were frightening. “This republic is in serious danger,” declared conservative writer Andrew Sullivan on the eve of Trump’s triumph. That this megalomaniac “pussy-grabbing” ban-the-Muslims ex-reality TV star would soon control the world’s most lethal military arsenal was chilling. Opposition would be uncompromising, a reflection of the Republican intransigence that Barack Obama faced from day one.It has taken less than three months for these illusions to be shattered. A man widely castigated as a proto-fascist only needed to drop bombs without observing due process.

Source: Why are liberals now cheerleading a warmongering Trump? | Owen Jones | Opinion | The Guardian

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Posted by on April 12, 2017 in Middle East, North America


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