Tag Archives: news

Lending Credibility

Fake news

Back in February 2014, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Hamm, the creationist who built and operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Prior to the debate, people didn’t think it was wise for Bill Nye to be debating Ken Hamm. Though Nye wanted to have a debate from a more inquisitive perspective, to learn more about creationism and to see if it is an actual viable model for explaining the origin of things, people saw it as a way of elevating Ken Hamm, of inviting superstition to the scientific table, long after most of the world’s academic and critical thinkers have discarded religious dogma to explain natural phenomenon. I thought it was a useless exercise. Nye was lending his credibility to Ken Hamm and making him an “expert” equal to himself. I’m not opposed to debate, but I don’t see the value of debating people who sees a challenge to their ideas as fuel to their faith, scientific evidence as devilish trickery. The religious don’t even have conversations to be convinced. They are there to convince you, to add you to their flock. Scientists debate to see if there are holes to their ideas; see if their initial hypotheses holds up. So in the end, the debate didn’t do anything but raise Ken Hamm’s profile. It made him known to people outside of religious circles.

This is similar to my problem with Bill Maher. He claims that the best disinfectant is sunlight; and that we should confront irrational ideas and characters, and show them what fools they are. His show will have accomplished people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornel West, then he will have people like SE Cupp, whose initial schtick “I’m an atheist but I envy the faith of the religious” is such a boldfaced sham that it’s a wonder why Maher didn’t run her out of the panel. Cupp was just a blip on the media radar at the time, but Maher elevated her, lent her his credibility as well as the credibility of his guests, and this resulted her getting employed by CNN and other media outlets. Maher claimed to do the same thing with Milo Yiannopoulos earlier in the year, to invite him to his show for a dialogue to see what makes him tick, then later took credit for Yiannopoulos getting exposed for his past comments regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. I saw the show and was not impressed with either of them. He didn’t really challenge Yiannopoulos too much on his flimsy arguments. I predict if Yiannopoulos wasn’t drummed out of the public eye by the Internet a week later, Maher would’ve had him as a regular guest, feeding off of his notoriety.

And now we see Kayleigh McEnany working for TrumpTV. A lawyer who graduated from Harvard, she worked at CNN as a Trump supporter, arguing for Trump’s and the administrations worst comments and actions. I wouldn’t mind her if her arguments were substantive, but the points she defended often goes against the viewers own senses (like Trump’s flip flops) and she sounded so disingenuous that it makes me wonder what it really takes to graduate with a law degree. She added nothing of value to debates, and it was infuriating to see CNN has people like her misinform their audience. A previously unknown person, CNN has elevated her and lent her their credibility simply by having her on their airwaves. The Most Trusted Name in News has misinformers on their payroll. And now McEnany is doing propaganda on TrumpTV. TrumpTV can now boast that it employs not just Trump relatives, but also former CNN contributors, giving merit and credibility to its “news.”

James Randi did it best. He had scammers on his show and showed them the flaws of their tricks. He exposed them in such a way that it wasn’t disrespectful. With logic and science, he showed how a person was deceiving the audience. Afterwards, he moved on to the next scammer. He didn’t have them as a regular guest nor consulted them regarding other matters. He didn’t lend them his credibility. Now, I’m not saying people like Bill Maher or networks like CNN should be debunkers. But they should call out lies and disinformation for what they are, and don’t reward liars by employing them or inviting them to sit on discussion panels to lie again.

 

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This Election is Draining Me.

kitten

We are twenty-six days before the US elections and it couldn’t come soon enough. It’s been dominating the news and my Twitter feed so much that it’s virtually inescapable. Even on CBC.ca, it’s right there on the front page. As a Canadian living in South Korea, this shouldn’t affect me so, but it’s been one of the biggest concerns that I engage in online. It has been everything, and I can’t wait for it to be over.

It is disappointing that otherwise intelligent people are brought to a position to defend what are otherwise indefensible positions and thus bringing legitimacy to ideas which would normally have been dismissed. And what’s scary is the rate to what new issues and scandals are being brought up and how people have seemingly just accepted them as the new normal. Right now, the hot button issue is the GOP candidate’s behavior towards women, specifically sexual allegations leveled against him. But it wasn’t that long time ago when he was involved in fat-shaming people, making light of military veterans, not paying his taxes, spouting hatred towards Muslims, etc. I don’t even hear him or other people talk about his initial plans to erect a wall along the Mexican border anymore. It’s like all of these things have been accepted, their offensive barbs have been dulled, because a newer and shinier scandal is blinding everyone at the moment. The perpetual shock, disdain, and disappointment at scandals, followed by the bewilderment and frustration listening to what I would like to believe are more intelligent people than me defend his positions has become really tiring.

I’m a political junkie. I love talking about the law and politics. And it is disappointing that the level of discourse has gotten so low and ignorance has been so normalized, that some people are even attacking the very basic concept of a defendant having access to a lawyer that would advocate for him. And instead of being ridiculed and suffering consequences for making facetious arguments, “experts” are rewarded by being given more media coverage. Alex Jones and Roger Stone have become part of the political discourse. Alex Jones is claiming that President Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton are literally demons. Why even concern yourself with issues like education, police culture, and geopolitical events, when fanciful paranoia can get you just as much political media legs? It’s a damned shame.

What I fear is that even after the elections, even if Hillary wins, the poison that was infused in the media and political culture will linger far beyond 2016. Politics has become dirtier, party lines will be even more divided, and the discourse regarding race, religion, sex, etc. will be even more hateful. This is the election that made political discourse dumb, and has turned “straight talk” into blatant bigotry. The Tea Party movement began in 2009, and though it has waned since then, the American people are still feeling the damage it has done, especially in the way the Senate and the House of Representatives conduct its business. I fear that even if the Republicans suffer due to a down ballot effect, this movement fueled by Trump’s rhetoric and his supporters’ machinations will have a far more longer and insidious effect in our collective culture.

The elections can’t come soon enough.

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Hulkamania Runs Wild On You

Tim_Hortons

Here’s my Tim Horton’s duck after drawing over it. I’m back to my traditional drawing after weeks of doing faux anime.

I’m very happy with the Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea vs. Gawker Media verdict. Hulk Hogan just won a $115 civil lawsuit against Gawker media who published a sex tape of him having relations with his best friend’s ex-wife. Gawker media argued that it was a First Amendment issue and since Hulk Hogan candidly talked about his personal life (including his sex life) in public, then the sex tape should be considered news-worthy material. Terry Bollea argued that it’s a violation of his privacy rights and that all the personal and sex life talk is him as his Hulk Hogan persona. It doesn’t give anyone free-reign on all of his life, including his most intimate moments.

The case was quite interesting because it showed a company that was willing to be on both sides of an issue to get more clicks, to make a profit. When Jennifer Lawrence Lawrence and other female celebrities’ phones were hacked and their naked pictures were posted online, Jezebel, a feminist Web site under Gawker Media ran articles non-stop railing against the evils of the companies hosting such images. They equated the posting of the images to sexual violence. A couple of years later, they post a video of Hulk Hogan, even fighting to keep the video online. Double standard much?

The six-person jury awarded Hulk Hogan $15 million more than the original $100 claim. The jury is still going to reconvene tomorrow to discuss punitive damages which could bury Gawker Media. Left as is, the decision could end the Gawker Media empire. Of course, the company is already planning to appeal the decision, but before doing so, they must pose a $50 million bond which I’m not sure the company could collect. And while some people are confident that the company could win on appeal based on the absolute victory on Judge Campbell’s court, I’m cautiously optimistic since the appeals court has reversed many of the Judge’s rulings in the case. There’s a possibility that Hulk Hogan’s victory might not be as big after the appeal, but it will definitely be devastating for Gawker, especially for its owner as well as its former editor who glibly suggested in court that he would be willing to show a five year-old’s sex tape on their Web site. I’m sure this failed attempt at humor didn’t impress the jury.

I don’t mind tabloid journalism; I read tabloid/celebrity stories now and then. But I was just never a fan of Gawker Media’s sensationalist, click-driven ethos. In the pursuit of more media attention, they sensationalize and even fabricate news which in a more journalistically-responsible world would not even be considered news. They didn’t care what story they were pushing or what side they were on, as long as it garnered clicks. And what concerns me more is that not only was Gawker Media being rewarded for not having any journalistic value, their stories are being taken up by other news aggregators who are increasingly adopting the Gawker Media formula. You can’t have a healthy democracy without well-informed citizens (Honderich). And you can’t have well-informed citizens if you have media that is solely motivated by clicks.

 

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News Friday

A couple of things about the news:

Why are people surprised at the pope visiting a gay-hating bigot? The Catholic church, as progressive as the current pope has been on income inequality and environmental issues, is still a regressive institution when it comes to gender and women’s rights. The church still doesn’t like the idea of birth control and abortion (great idea for poor, overpopulated countries!). The priesthood is still a men’s club! The order of the world is still God > man > woman > children > animals.

A part of me tends to be nitpicky about the whole thing however. Growing up Catholic, I’m sensitive to the differences between Roman Catholics and Christians. Aside from Christians separating themselves from the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago, why would Kim Davis, a Oneness Pentecostal, be interested in seeing the pope and vice versa? Shouldn’t the two be arguing over the nature of the Holy Trinity and calling the other a heathen?

Also, why Kim Davis? Were the Duck Dynasty guys too busy for the Pope that week? What about the God Hates Fags people? At least I find them more logically consistent than Kim Davis. Like the Catholic church, they stand up against divorce , which really is the bigger threat against traditional marriages.

I can’t stand Obama when it comes to gun control. He rails against lawmakers and the NRA every time there’s a school shooting, speaking as if he has no power to makes changes. He’s the leader of the most powerful country in the planet! He can push his agenda if he wanted to. He certainly did with Obamacare. And he’s certainly trying with the Keystone pipeline. But when it comes to gun violence, police violence, income inequality, immigration, etc. it’s just one flower speech after another. Someone remind him that he’s not Maya Angelou. He’s the president. At least critics like Cornel West are willing to put some skin in the game and get themselves arrested in order to affect some change on important issues.

Why is the UN having talks against cyber violence? And why is cyber violence solely “against women and girls?” I understand things such as revenge porn is mostly aimed against women, but a lot of the vitriol on the Internet is aimed towards everyone. It’s not gender specific. I would even guess there’s more animosity against gays and lesbians on the Internet than there would be against women. In any case, the Internet, due to anonymity, makes it a breeding ground for general negativity. Women claiming that cyber violence does serious harm especially to women is a disservice to the strength of women and downplays the effect of cyber bullying on men.

Also, shouldn’t the UN be focusing more on REAL violence? This seems more like a sham show to support censorship in many countries.

Listening to some sweet Willie Nelson to calm down.

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AIDS for Cancer

contortionist

I saw the VICE News report on new cancer treatment recently. I have to say; some things about VICE turn me off. I believe some pieces on VICE are being “edgy” just for edginess’ sake and really have no redeeming value.  But overall, VICE News is amazing. They do wonderful journalism and are not hindered by the news media’s myopic attention on issues. I’m so glad that they’re now on HBO. While the Internet is more popular than traditional media, it helps to get the show out there on TV screens for people who don’t even know what VICE is.

I remember when I was twelve and I was reading about Taxol on LIFE Magazine and how it was the miracle drug that could wipe cancer off the planet. While many cancer patients’ lives were prolonged by Taxol, it wasn’t the miracle drug that the magazine article made it out to be. People still died from many forms of cancer. Along with the lack of a reliable cure for cancer, treatment was still expensive, and the chemicals and radiation would often harm patients just as much as the cancer would.

The use of viruses to treat cancer looks very exciting. It’s heartwarming to see the patients in the documentary basically snatched from death’s door and given new hope, even new cancer-free lives. It is a shame however that much of the research still struggles to find funding. It is a shame that so much money is being spent on other useless things instead of helping find a cure to deadly diseases. There’s so much brainpower and genius wasted on products that don’t really help humanity in comparison. I don’t care much about the new Apple watch. I care more about using the AIDS virus to kill cancer cells. How about we all pool our collective intellects and resources to solving that one problem for a year? I wonder how far we could go.

While the documentary makes me feel hopeful for the future, in many ways, it depresses me as well. What have I done with my life? How come I’m not helping cure cancer? How come I’m not putting money out there for cancer research? Maybe I should start putting my money where my mouth is. We should all be invested in this. It’ll affect us one way or another.

I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer years ago. She was misdiagnosed by a careless physician for months, and by the time they confirmed it was pancreatic cancer, she only had a few months to live. Perhaps if she had been diagnosed earlier, she might still be alive today. Or perhaps if more people cared about curing cancer…

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Let’s Make Little League a Tad Racist

I see what you did there, Huffington Post!

Huffington_racist

 An hour or so later…

Huffington_racist_corrected

I wonder who thought the first title was such a hot idea especially with all the race-related things happening in the US right now.

I really should stop giving the Huffington Post any more traffic. I’m sure I could find Kim Kardashian updates, side boobs, and non-news “news” somewhere else.

 

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Down it goes

toilet

Oh look, a toilet. I guess this reflects my general mood lately. Of course, watching the news doesn’t help either.

Off for a vacation on Thursday. The last time I went to Japan, I didn’t really enjoy it. I feel like I’ve been to Tokyo too many times, so it’s a nice little change to go to Osaka this time around. It’s been years since I visited Osaka, and this will be my wife’s first time. She’s kinda thinking I would know my way around the play, but with the way things change, especially in Asia, I doubt if any place I visited while I was there last time would still be there.

My mother-in-law however is not really too thrilled with the idea of us going to Japan. She thinks that we’ll end up sick due to Fukushima radiation. I’m sure most travelers would dismiss this as the concerns of an out-of-touch woman in her sixties, but many people don’t realize that Japan has a growing number of leaky water tanks just sitting there like rows poisoned canned soup. But damn it, I really need a break. I’ll try to worry about it once I get back and start discovering weird spots on my body.

I’ve said it before, but I believe the best part of a trip overseas is the airport. There’s just this overwhelming aura of possibility once you get there, rolling around with your luggage, looking at flights. It doesn’t matter what the trip is for. I just have this feeling that at any moment, my life could change. There’s just something about the prospect of being in the air and being around so many travelers. It’s like being in the one place where things actually begin to happen.

The rest of the trip is just icing on the cake.

I hope the trip improves my mood.

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