Tag Archives: fake news

Kimonos and Fake News

Spoliarium

I’ve been doing a bit of an informal survey after hearing a friend spout off what sounds like anti-Japanese sentiment disguised as facts. In an attempt to disparage the character of Japanese culture specifically and the Japanese people in general, she mentioned that the kimono was designed specifically for the woman to easily have sexual encounters with men at a moment’s notice. That is why what appear to be cushions or pillows are attached at the back of the outfit. This factoid (or to cut to the chase, this lie) seems to be designed to hurt the Japanese image by basically calling their traditional attire a sex attire and by virtue implying that Japanese women have a history of having loose morals.

I’ve been asking Koreans around me about the reason for the kimono’s design and most people reference this rather risqué explanation to different degrees, with some being more polite than others. This was very fascinating since the people I asked were mostly well-educated people who have visited Japan several times, if not lived there for several years. They mostly came up with the same explanation, although some expressed doubts regarding its veracity.

Now, I’ve read about kimonos, seen them worn many times first-hand, and been with people who had it put on. There are many degrees, but kimonos can be quite complicated to put on. It took my friends almost an hour to have it put on them, and this is with a professional assistant. When you see people walking around Japan with their Sunday best kimonos, these are mostly complicated attires with several layers. They are not the fastest things to take on and off. Probably the easiest and least layered kimono I could think of are the yukatas worn in the summer, but compared to the Korean hanbok, they are probably a little more complicated to put on and off, so I don’t understand this idea of “easy access.” As for the cushions or pillows attached in the back. They are otakos or oversized ribbons mainly placed there for aesthetic purposes. I would hardly consider them pillows. One of the reasons for putting so much material around women at the time was that it was considered ideal for women to have a straight, flat figure. It was simply the aesthetic at the time. And as for pillows and the idea of having women basically be on their backs, Japanese women, when fully attired in traditional garb will have a very complex hairdo. Back then, they would never rest their head on pillows for fear of ruining their hair, and instead rested their head and neck on what amounts to a wooden platform. The whole pillow/easy access thing is simply a fantasy.

But what lends it credibility is a bit of truth. One is that there is a history of courtesans and prostitution in Japan which does involve the image of geishas wearing heavy make-up and kimonos. But this is counter to the easy access image the rumor I’ve been hearing. Another bit of truth is that kimonos are usually tied from behind, thus women would often require assistance when putting on such complicated attire. Prostitutes would sometimes tie their kimono in front so they could easily put them on and off without assistance, but that it not the only sole reason to wear a kimono with the ribbon in front. Elderly people for example, would tie their kimonos in front to make it easier to wear them. In any case, there are many reasons why kimonos could be tied in front, but I think the originators of the easy access lie just latched on to the prostitution story and made it true for all kimonos.

But what is the purpose of the lie. I imagine it is a relic of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. I ask people where and when they first heard of this explanation and not many people could tell me exactly when. It seems to have been rooted in their childhood. Thus, even when I offer a counter explanation, some find it hard to divorce themselves from the old take. Perhaps it was designed to disparage the Japanese, and in doing so, boost Korean nationalist sentiment. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen. In the 80s, children in the Philippines were taught that Armando Lite invented the ArmaLite (M16), Agapito Flores invented the fluorescent lamp, and Eduardo San Juan invented the Lunar Rover. There’s a possibility that Eduardo San Juan did exist as an engineer, but there is no record that he was the chief engineer for the Lunar Rover. And as for the other two, they are nothing but clever puns. But why make up the lie? They were designed to boost national pride, encourage children to take up science and engineering, and instill a bit of anti-American sentiment since all inventors were said to have had their inventions stolen and their credits removed, thus making the lies unprovable. I suspect the Japanese kimono lie was created in the same vein, especially since the Koreas were occupied by the Japanese the same way the Philippines was occupied by the Americans.

I believe this is an early attempt at “fake news” or propaganda. Unfortunately, with me trying to disprove the old “fake news,” I could be labeled as “fake news” as well. I’m not sure if propaganda had the same vicious back and forth cycle back then as well. I figure some lies just faded after people saw the light of truth and reason. But maybe I was being naïve in thinking they are not as persistent, after all, what was my friend spouting? And to bring it back to the modern era, I had my wife look up some of the anti-Japanese sentiments my friend was spouting including the kimono explanation online. True enough, she finds them in a Korean anti-Japanese site. Old “fake news” makes it to the modern age.

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On Journalism and Everyone Who Practices It (Whether Inadvertently or Not)

Fake News.jpg

Journalism is noble profession. The problem with journalism however is that far too many people fancy themselves as doing journalism when they’re doing anything but. Either that, or it gets muddled with punditry and people would sometimes no longer have any idea what they’re reading or listening to anymore. Do people who watch Shawn Hannity actually believe they’re not watching the news? I’m sure they think they’re watching the news and not just some college dropout opine about conspiracy theories. And with the rash of news and opinion outlets which cater to every political persuasion, anything that doesn’t fit or contradicts with our own biases could easily be waved off as fake news. The president of the United States does it. My father does it. Even my wife does it from time to time. I myself am not immune to consuming news from outlets that only share my opinion. I often get my news from left-leaning outlets. Probably the most right-leaning outlet I would occasionally watch would be Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, but that’s only because the vileness of the current political climate have left them no choice but to go against their former right-leaning ways.

And one of the reasons why I tend not to consume anything from the right is that it’s often awash with conspiracy theories and generally vile attitude towards others. How the heck did Alex Jones get an audience? Who would trust anything that Jesse Watters says? And that’s just people on TV. There’s a plethora of right wing talkers on the Internet who dare I say are more unqualified to talk about politics and the news but still command a sizeable audience. And this again blows my mind because none of them are funny and witty at all. Without actually informing their audience, I would expect them to either be witty or funny at a minimum, but no, they’re just not. Outside of wit and humor, they just often resort to hate, which I understand is just as entertaining and addictive.

But what’s most ironic is that while the president of the US denigrates and makes villains out of real journalists, many right wing commenters who often cloak themselves in the amorphous mantle of journalism/punditry join in and attack the free press as well. “These are fake news.” “lame stream media.” As if they don’t belong and are not protected by the same rights real journalists are working under. It’s the same way Trump and many of his political supporters attack the government and this fictional “deep state” as if they’re not the ones currently running everything. It is insanity.

Just yesterday, five journalists were gunned down in Annapolis. This was after the president called members of the free press the enemy. This was a day after Milo Yiannopolous publicly opined that he wanted journalists to be hunted down. And again, ironically, Yiannopolous also happens to work for Info Wars and previously worked for Breitbart which would in some ways make him part of that group he wants attacked. And while they all attacked the 1st Amendment, I’m sure it would be that same 1st Amendment they would use to protect themselves from any liability. “I was just kidding.” “It wasn’t serious.”

God bless the journalists who do their job right and do their job well. We all need them now more than ever.

Maybe it’s not the most appropriate example from many liberals because he is a right winger who I often disagreed with, but I always admired how Charles Krauthammer went from Harvard medical school, to speechwriter, to journalism. I wish I had his courage and his gift to write.

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Hostage Families

Cherubs

Outside of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I cannot think of anything that Facebook has been involved in that ultimately resulted in good. Right now, it’s my main platform for keeping in touch with my family over the Internet, but we could definitely switch over to other ways of communicating if only someone would teach my father how to use WhatsApp (which ironically is another company which Facebook bought).

I haven’t updated my Facebook for years now. A couple of times, hacked accounts have even posted pornographic ads on my wall, and it stayed there for days without me even noticing. I guess like many people, I have outgrown the platform and are now more into other platforms like Twitter or Instagram (again, another company which Facebook bought). It really doesn’t benefit me to distant relatives and acquaintances’ baby pictures or vacation photos. And it really doesn’t do me any good to debate people I sorta know about political issues we both believe we are experts on. That’s what Twitter is for. I get to post a comment and leave it at that. Let some stranger deal with it. I could engage with responses if I want to. It’s different on Facebook when an uncle is telling me on my wall that I’m a communist.

The biggest turn off recently is that what people have long suspected about Facebook has finally been confirmed. Cambridge Analytica was using Facebook data to manipulate elections by feeding people propaganda. This is only one company that was revealed to be using this. Who knows which other companies are using Facebook data and to what end? And Facebook is caught in a true damned if they did, damned if they didn’t situation. Either they were complicit to Cambridge Analytica using Facebook information, or they were asleep at the wheel and let their users be subject to political propaganda. They’re either evil or stupid. And the thing is, the main tool they used to reach their goals is narcissism. It’s a perfect ball of evil. It’s often narcissism that compels someone to maintain and keep up a social network page. It’s narcissism that compels someone to seek out news that reinforces their own beliefs. It’s narcissism that pushes people to share the news with like-minded people. People never do it to inform or change minds; they do it to show how well-versed they are with a subject. And it’s narcissism and boredom that compels people to take those inane quizzes and surveys that Facebook frequently posts, the main tool which people used to collect data.

And to what end? What has Facebook done? Well, at the most innocuous, they sell our data to marketers who in turn sell us more things we don’t need. At its most insidious, they allow companies data to manipulate people’s views and shift elections and policies. Or simply they sell data to companies who will in turn use it to monitor people. Just recently, news broke out that Facebook lets ICE agent track undocumented immigrants and deport them, breaking families apart. Good thing those families have Facebook. Children could use it once mommy and daddy are forced to live in another country.

The most major event I could think of that Facebook was widely credited for allowing to happen was the Arab spring. And even that event is mixed. Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube were great platforms to share what was happening out in the streets in Africa and organizing protests. But that was 2010 Facebook and fake news was not as prevalent then as it is now. Also, it is notable that Mark Zuckerberg seems more open to courting Russian and Chinese authorities to the platform as opposed to doing damage control and making sure the platform is an open and welcoming space for people living in the west, where free speech is assumed to be a priority for a company like Facebook. But going back to the Arab Spring, I don’t really think it resulted in progressive change. If anything, it set many people back in Africa. There’s more instability now. Shiite and Sunnis are fighting now more than ever. Col. Gaddafi had grand visions for Africa and kept his country together.

Anything historical or progressive Facebook pushes now I’ll always see with a cynical view. To what end are they pushing this? And if I’m getting this news or political push, surely another person is getting the exact same news but given a diametrically opposite slant.

In any case, I’m depressed enough as it is and don’t need Facebook in my life. I’m already wasting enough of my time doing other useless things. I really don’t need to scroll through people’s Facebook posts wasting more time. Well, I want to sometimes. We all want to see how wretched our past acquaintances are compared to us. We are all small, petty human beings. But I wouldn’t want a giant company to use my evil desires to enrich themselves and further their own evil agendas.

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