Western Norway outraged by national press negligence during #Bergen2017

As per usual the public in the western parts of Norway is outraged by the capital city-based national press’s negligence during the 2017 road world championship in Bergen, leaving the coverage to the Bergen-based press.

As, of course, they should – after all, who better to do it?

Indeed, why would they possibly want the capital’s press to meddle in this?

This boils, when all is said and done, down to the good old inferiority complex we are left to endure on a daily basis.

Oh, and by the way:

Photo: Archive picture from the old dock – Bryggen – in Bergen (blogger’s photo).

Who needs a free press anyway

Since the current U.S. president took office, we have witnessed a very special White House conduct towards the press, not least when he declared the press an enemy of all Americans the other day – and, of course, yesterday, prompting me to pose the following question, which I hope you find the time to answer:

Granted CNN wasn’t the only news outlet to be excluded from yesterday’s White House press briefing*. Seeing, however, that I used to work for said network (and a red heart’s colour so matches its logo), I thought it only natural to feature it.

*The list includes The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, BBC and the Guradian, among others.

Yay you, The New European (which I hope is converted to an All-European newspaper some time soon, btw).

Fake news so yesterday’s news

You’re not very likely to see this blog divulge or attempt to reveal and expose fake news when ever I stumble upon it, simply because the blog is more about what people do not – or do not want to – know than what they already know (or are prepared to realise).

And let’s fake face it, in fake news times I find legitimate, truthful news so much more sensational.

RT Sputnik Russia Kremlin propaganda Vladimir Putin
Fake news and propaganda. Watercolour by way of Waterlogue combined with blogger’s graphics.

As for the rest of you, please feel free to point out the falsehood in fake news when you see it. Chances are you are going to be very, very busy. I, on the other hand, prefer to choose my battles with care, presuming each and every piece of news potentially post-factual, treated with the normalcy it deserves, which is to say total disregard.

P.S. Truth be told, after years and years of warning against RT, Sputnik and numerous other fake news outlets, one has succumbed to a certain level of fake news fatigue, now that it’s finally on everybody’s lips. But I will say this: It feels strangely good, somehow, to have been the guy crying «Wolf!».

Freedom of the press at risk?

It’s easy to put one’s faith in the resilience of a free press, but here’s what happens when ever a tyrant is at large (please note: originally published on Facebook 21 December 2016):

The age of disenlightenment

Want to destabilise a country, a region or an entire planet? No biggie. Inspire terrorism, distribute vast amounts of false news and wreak general havoc.

Living in times of great uncertainty, as we do, most find it hard to decide what and who to believe anymore, as fake news and general disinformation fills our social media feeds, in part spread by trolls, but also by the traditional media themselves, often staffed by journalists lacking not only the ability to write properly, but the ability to tell truth from lies – possibly due to the financial situation, forcing media corporations to maximise production at a minimum of costs, inevitably resulting in a quantity surpassing quality by tenfolds. Online, that is.

Eager to cut costs, online newspapers have spent huge resources on user involvement, included third-party independent groups and individuals, regardless of their funding and/or motivations, such as these fine gentlemen:

Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Source: David G. Silvers/Flickr and Wikipedia. Montage: Jarle Petterson
SPIES LIKE US: Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Source: David G. Silvers/Flickr and Wikipedia. Montage: Jarle Petterson

Both of whom in the receiving end of much journalistic praise, as the media had a field day, nay, field days and years, basking in the glory of their «findings», «leaks» and «revelations»,

Personally I never really bought into it, as posts thusly tagged will show (please feel free to go back in time):

I suggest that not only has the press fallen victim to Assange, Snowden and the likes of them, but has in fact acted as an accomplice, some news outlets more than other, but nevertheless.

The subject has been among this blog’s recurring topics for years and years, resurfacing after a brief Twitter conversation on former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s recent escapades yesterday:

Currently hailing from the news and commentary website The Intercept, Greenwald is launching an attack on his former employer, whence he once spread the gospel according to Snowden and Assange, wildly throwing accusations at The Guardian, for reasons unknown to you and me, just as we were kept in the dark with regards to his motivations for distributing their disclosures, be they lies, facts – or mere instruments in the grand scheme of things.

With the destabilisation of the west among Vladimir Putin’s more or less expressed intentions, it should come as no surprise that the Kremlin is responsible for at least the better half of all known fake news operations, as well as innumerable hacker attacks and, possibly, leading an unprecedented number of refugees to Europe, which we all know has brought about political discord, including the outset of the European Union’s dissolution, starting with a Brexit motivated, among other things, by fear of the refugee influx.

All while we witness NATO lying in shambles, as a new «Warsaw pact» emerges.

Most of it, of course, orchestrated by the Kremlin, where, by the way, Putin’s and western media’s golden boy, Edward Snowden, resides. Must be the climate and the pretty girls, huh?

Edward Snowden en route to Kremlin with a huge pile of secret U.S. documents. Blogger's own drawing.
Edward Snowden leaving Fort Meade, en route to Kremlin with a huge pile of secret U.S. documents. Blogger’s own drawing.

You may of course ask yourself how it is that WikiLeaks and Snowden focus on what they present as US violations, whereas Russia, according to them, is perfectly immaculate.

Because Russia is immaculate, perhaps …

Despite my disgust for Mr. Putin’s intentions, there’s no denying that he’s been carrying out what he set out to do with great success, masterfully, with the west sidelined as helpless bystanders, probably out of fear for escalating a conflict Vladimir Putin tries his best to … well, escalate.

But I can tell you this much. As a journalist, mostly a former journalist, I’m deeply ashamed by my one-time colleagues’ conduct – and active part in introducing fake news as the basis of our collective «knowledge», and the fear we all harbour.

Which all bodes well for the age of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

We can only hope that, since the objective has been an attack on «the establishment», the media one day wakes up to the realisation that the two afore-mentioned gentlemen in fact are the establishment.

With the invaluable help of our eminent press.

As Donald J. Trump utters his compulsory «So help me God» on Friday 20 January, I’ll whisper a quiet addition to myself:

God help us all.

Please read this recent post on same subject:

Who to trust in post-factual times? 18 December 2016

Social media algorithms just as dangerous as we let them be

One’s involvement in journalistic, political and democracy-related issues inevitably leads to the occasional invitation to participate, even if it’s been years since I first concluded that solitary rants are much preferred over collective participation – which, I suppose, this very blog confirms, with this piece of information accompanying each and every post (also in my native tongue):

In general comments are not encouraged, as I rarely have the time to engage in discussions, but please feel free, if you so desire.

English: A protester holding a placard in Tahr...
A protester holding a placard in Tahrir Square referring to Facebook and Twitter, acknowledging the role played by social media during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That notwithstanding I was recently and involuntarily added to a Facebook group discussing the digital media’s – in particular Facebook’s – impact on democracy, which is, in itself, a very interesting subject, even if one must admit to subscribing to the idea that any social media platform, just like any town square, is what we make it, although with algorithms serving as «added value» – for those with an interest in steering public opinion (or customers, as more often is the case) in one direction or the other, which certainly poses a challenge.

Not more so, though, than actualising the question of whether or not we intend to participate. As the blogger I unquestionably am, I have to concede that, no longer than ten years ago, the blogs that used to play a vital part in matters relating to politics, journalism, culture and even international affairs, were indeed replaced by «town squares» the likes of Facebook and Twitter (to keep the list short and sweet), making way for elaborate methods of manipulation – and censorship.

While I consider myself equipped with perhaps a little more than average critical radar (must be the years in journalism), I realise that even I may from time to time fall victim of manipulation. For instance claims have been made to the effect that Facebook algorithms not only cater to, but reinforce our existing biases, by feeding us input to substantiate them, based on what we’ve already liked or shared. Or the other way around; that they may even be used to break them down, should your prejudice be in conflict with parties in possession of the means to influence it.

I may appear to be active in social media. The truth of the matter is, however, that every blog post I share, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+, are automagically shared by the blog’s content management system (in my case; WordPress) – which is also where I actually am.

Indeed the subject is an interesting one, but speaking as someone who, unlike my fellow bloggers ten (or more) years ago, I find that my daily use of the social media is dwindling, for the benefit of the practically non-existent blogosphere, left unaffected by the social media algorithms, even if Google remains a factor to be reckoned with, even for bloggers – perhaps even more so.

Should we worry?

Probably, but in withdrawing, like I have, I have made the manipulating algorithms irrelevant, nearly obsolete, and can see no reason why you, too, shouldn’t. After all we cannot demand a certain conduct or particular ethic guidelines from a social network, it’s theirs, to do with what they like, but we can decide whether we want to be part of it or not.

Provided you’re worried, of course. I know I’m not.

Concerns like these are usually raised under the premise that we are required to use the social networks we criticise, or at least you should think we are. Since we’re not, the basis for making demands evaporates completely.

Certainly, you may object that this kind of reasoning is highly inappropriate for someone with an interest in the financial wellbeing of the social media, and would, of course, be 100% correct in making that assumption, as I have none.

P Cast, September 2016

Links mentioned in pødcast: