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Mirror Ball Journalism and the Revolving Disco Dance Floor of British Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/10/2021 - 12:20am in

Mirror Ball Journalism & the Revolving Disco Dance Floor of British Politics

Mic Wright argues that the private cosiness between political reporters and politicians doesn’t serve the interests of the public

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There is a shadow companion to British journalism’s favourite (and most demonstrably false aphorism) – “nobody tells me what to write” – and that is “we all know the things we are not supposed to write”.

Those things include open secrets, inconvenient facts, and details of known behaviours that – were they perpetrated by individuals outside of the circled wagons of the British press – would lead to investigations that would very likely result in newspaper splashes.

In organised crime circles, specifically the Italian (and Italian-American) Mafia groups such as the Camorra, the Cosa Nostra, and the ‘Ndrangheta, it’s known as omertà – the code of silence. In the British media, it’s got no name other than ‘just how things are done’.

On the day of Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference this week – Dominic Penna, a young journalist on the Daily Telegraph’s editorial graduate scheme, who was reporting from the event, tweeted: 

Laura Kuenssberg and Michael Gove had a dance-off rap battle as one Tory MP sang Ice Ice Baby at karaoke last night. 

Kuenssberg’s BBC colleague Lewis Goodall then gave Dancing Queen his best shot – after quipping: “Have we got any Tory scum in the audience?”

The tweet remained up for about 17 hours before being mysteriously memory-holed this morning, 7 October 2021, while the rest of the thread that it was part of remains in place.

Penna’s next tweet referenced Gove again: 

People kept putting Gove’s name forward for karaoke and his team wouldn’t let him sing. 

“He’s not doing it,” one adviser said. 

“Look at that Hancock video from a few years back when someone filmed him. He never recovered.” 

Gove told me he would have sung Sunshine on Leith. 

At the time of writing, Penna has not responded to the avalanche of questions about why he deleted the tweet. But its disappearance has been followed by the removal of a news piece by Scottish pro-independence paper The National about Penna’s tweet. 

Now, it could be that Penna misconstrued the interaction between Kuenssberg and Gove – maybe it was a very unorthodox new style of interviewing – or entirely made up the events. But, the response from other political journalists, like the Daily Mirror’s Whitehall correspondent, Mikey Smith, who tweeted…

Reporters shouldn’t drink with or attend parties also attended by politicians’ discourse is the dumbest, most performative discourse. Grow up. 

… suggests otherwise. 

Smith’s suggestion that doing karaoke, dancing, and larking about with the very people journalists report on is the same as simply attending the same events with them or speaking to them as sources is deliberately dense. 

If it’s grown-up to drink with top politicians you cover, especially when you are employed by the BBC – an organisation perennially attacked by both sides for the nature of its impartiality – then I hope to maintain my state of arrested development forever. 

Hours after The National removed its article about the tweet, it published another with the headline ‘BBC Denies Laura Kuenssberg and Michael Gove had ‘Rap Battle’ at Tory Conference’. In it, it stated that the BBC said the incidents alleged in the tweet were “completely untrue”.

On the same night that Penna sent his tweet, the Spectator’s Conservative Party Conference bash was attended by all of the holders of the great offices of state (besides the Prime Minister, who was no doubt polishing up his jokes), many other Cabinet ministers, and a rash of special advisors, while being bankrolled by the Betting and Gaming Council. 


Piers Morgan and Phone HackingWhat Even He Can’t Deny
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Joining them at the party – according to a list supplied by Politico London Playbook in its email newsletter – were the BBC’s Nick Robinson (despite Conservative MPs whinging that he unfairly interviewed Johnson earlier this week); ITV News’ political editor, Robert Peston; the i newspaper’s Hugo Gye (previously of the Sun and MailOnline); Sky News’ Sam Coates; and a gaggle of The Times/The Sunday Times’ staff including the paper’s deputy editor, Tony Gallagher (late of the Sun and Daily Telegraph), its deputy political editor Steven Swinford, the chief political correspondent Henry Zeffman, its home affairs editor Matt Dathan and Mhari Aurora, reporter for the Red Box blog/newsletter. 

Despite such a galaxy of reporting talent in the room, the events of the Spectator party will go unreported and the omertà will be maintained.

The same silence is applied to information in the public domain – such as the conviction of The Sunday Times’ columnist India Knight’s partner, Eric Joyce, for possessing images of child sexual abuse. The Times reported on the case with no reference to Knight – whose step-father is chairman of Times Newspaper Holdings – or her relationship to Joyce being used as mitigation in his sentencing. 

Cosy Times

The connections between politicians and journalists often go unmentioned in a way that would be unthinkable in the more disclosure-heavy culture of US journalism. In Britain, the inter-relations between politicians and hacks are well-known to people within the industry or who observe it closely – but the scaffolding that holds together this culture is generally kept from readers and viewers.

Take James Forsyth, the Spectator’s political editor. He is married to Allegra Stratton – the former BBC and ITV journalist-turned-Government spinner (currently assigned to the COP26 conference) – but Forsyth’s output for the magazine and his Friday Times column never acknowledge this.

Similarly, his friendship with the Chancellor – which stretches back to their school days at Winchester College – is not considered an important fact to put in front of readers, even though they each served as best man at the other’s wedding and are godparents to each other’s children. 

The families who dominate the printed press – the Murdochs, the Rothermeres, the Lebedevs, and the Barclays – tend to abide by a non-aggression pact that keeps reporting of their personal lives out of rival newspapers. 

In his 2008 review of Nick Davies’ book, Flat Earth News – for the Spectator of all places – Byline Times columnist Peter Oborne wrote that “newspapers have an unwritten compact that they never, under any circumstances, expose each other – one reason why Robert Maxwell and Conrad Black remained in business for so long. Over the last few decades, only Private Eye (which is serialising this book – presumably no paper would do so) has made it its business to draw attention to press corruption and hypocrisy”.


Daniel Morgan ReportPress Criminality?Nothing to See Here…
Brian Cathcart

But, while it may be considered sacrilege to say it by some, Private Eye itself is not free from the omertà. Despite its lack of bylines, the magazine has a set of regular contributors, among whom there are individuals subject to the kind of allegations that it would usually pursue. In those cases, it does not. Even for the most crusading corners of the British press, there is a line when silence falls. 

In isolation, it may not appear to matter a great deal whether Laura Kuenssberg or Lewis Goodall joined in karaoke with crazy legs Gove, but it is indicative of a wider culture and pattern of behaviour among Westminster journalists. 

There is a ‘revolving door’ between the media and government. James Slack, for instance, author of the notorious ‘Enemies of the People’ front page, went from the Daily Mail – where he had replaced James Chapman as political editor after he left to spin for George Osborne at the Treasury – to become the Prime Minister’s official spokesman in February 2017. In March this year, he returned to journalism as the Sun’s deputy editor, replaced in No. 10 by… Jack Doyle, a former Daily Mail political editor. 

British political reporting is not the Pompidou Centre; the pollutants that flow through its pipes is concealed from viewers and readers. And the memory-holing of details such as whether or not Laura Kuenssberg chummily traded lines from Ice Ice Baby with Michael Gove only serves to make the whole process more oblique.

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Book Review: Metrics at Work: Journalism and the Contested Meaning of Algorithms by Angèle Christin

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/10/2021 - 7:00pm in

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journalism

In Metrics at Work: Journalism and the Contested Meaning of Algorithms, Angèle Christin explores how the introduction of metrics and algorithms has affected journalists’ work practices and professional identities. Showing how metrics can work to exacerbate existing divergences and gaps between and within organisations, this book will appeal to those interested in social studies of technology, the sociology of … Continued

Where Was All The Investigative Journalism On US Airstrikes The Last 20 Years?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/09/2021 - 11:10am in

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War, Media, journalism, News

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/54fa6b1060d586e87c32ef5ee1c110ea/href

The Pentagon has finally admitted to the long-obvious fact that it killed ten Afghan civilians, including seven children, in an airstrike in Kabul last month.

In an article with the obscenely propagandistic title “Pentagon acknowledges Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians,” the New York Times pats itself on the back for its investigative journalism showing that the so-called “ISIS-K facilitator” targeted in the strike was in fact an innocent aid worker named Zemari Ahmadi:

“The general acknowledged that a New York Times investigation of video evidence helped investigators determine that they had struck a wrong target. ‘As we in fact worked on our investigation, we used all available information,’ General McKenzie told reporters. ‘Certainly that included some of the stuff The New York Times did.’”

Indeed, the Pentagon only admitted to the unjust slaughter of civilians in this one particular instance because the mass media did actual investigative journalism on this one particular airstrike. This is an indictment of the Pentagon’s airstrike protocol, but it’s also an indictment of the mass media.

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This after all comes out following a new Byline Times report which found that “at least 5.8 to 6 million people are likely to have died overall due to the War on Terror— a staggering number which is still probably very conservative.”

It also comes out two months after whistleblower Daniel Hale was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for leaking secret government information about America’s psychopathic civilian-slaughtering drone assassination program.

It also comes a few months after a Code Pink report found that the US and its allies have been dropping an average of 46 bombs per day in the so-called War on Terror for the last twenty years.

Do you remember seeing an average of 46 news reports a day on bombings conducted by the US and its allies? Do you remember even reading about one single US bombing per day in the mainstream news? I don’t. The US power alliance has for decades been continuously raining explosives from the sky on impoverished people in the Global South and the mainstream news reports on almost none of those instances, much less launches an in-depth investigation into whether each one killed who the military claims they killed.

The difference between the August 29 airstrike and the thousands which preceded it in America’s post-9/11 wars was that this one was politicized. The Biden administration ordered it to look tough on terrorism after the Kabul airport attack (most of the fatalities from which were probably due to panicked gunfire from US and/or allied troops), amidst a withdrawal for which Biden was being aggressively slammed by plutocratic media outlets eager to paint ending US wars as a bad thing that everyone should oppose.

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The Pentagon doesn’t care that it snuffed out innocent lives in an airstrike; it does that all the time and its officials would do it a lot more if that’s what it took to secure their futures as lobbyists, consultants, board members and executives for defense industry corporations after they retire from the military. And the mass media don’t care either; they only cared about this one particular highly politicized airstrike during a withdrawal from a military engagement the mass media vehemently opposed.

“Pentagon acknowledges Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians.” Can you believe that headline? Not “admits” but “acknowledges”. Not “killed children while targeting an aid worker based on flimsy evidence” but “was a tragic mistake”. How many times did New York Times editors rewrite this? Imagine if this had been a Russian airstrike.

Think about all the murder victims we’d have known about if the news media had done its job and used their immense resources to investigate them as journalists should over the last twenty years. Think about how much harder it would have been for the war machine to inflict these evils upon the world if they had. Instead it’s been left to obscure bloggers and indie journalists to question these actions using scant resources and shoestring budgets.

They’ve shown that they can do these investigations into the validity of US airstrikes, and they’ve shown that they’ve spent two decades choosing not to. The mass media manipulators who provide cover for mass military murder by journalistic malpractice and negligence are just as complicit in these depraved acts of human butchery as the people firing the weapons and the officials giving the orders.

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The Great Covid Panic: now out!

It’s here, the booklet I am sure you have all been waiting for. The one which Gigi Foster and Michael Baker slaved over for 10 months. It is also on Kindle. It is dedicated to all the victims of the Panic, in poor countries and rich countries. They include our children, the lonely, and the poor.

The short publisher blurb: How to make sense of the astonishing upheaval of Spring 2020 and following? Normal life – in which expected rights and freedoms were taken for granted – came to be replaced by a new society as managed by a medical/ruling elite that promised but failed to deliver virus mitigation, all in the name of public health. Meanwhile, we’ve lost so much of what we once had: travel freedoms, privacy, a democratic presumption of equality, commercial freedoms, and even the access to information portals. Something has gone very wrong.

The longer blurb that our publisher chose for it is over the fold! There is also a website that will tell you where book launches will take place, which bookstores sell it, and who has liked it sofar.

To make sense of it all, the Brownstone Institute is pleased to announce the publication of The Great Covid Panic: What Happened, Why, and What To Do Next, by Paul Frijters, Gigi Foster, and Michael Baker. Combining rigorous scholarship with evocative and accessible prose, the book covers all the issues central to the pandemic and the disastrous policy response, a narrative as comprehensive as it is intellectually devastating. In short, this is THE book the world needs right now.

In the Great Panic of early 2020, nearly every government in the world restricted the movement of its population, disrupted the education of its children, suspended normal individual liberties, hijacked its healthcare system, and in other ways increased its direct control of people’s lives. Attempts to control the new coronavirus in most countries made the number of deaths from both the virus and other health problems rise. Some countries and regions snapped out of the madness in early 2021 or even before. Yet other governments, still in 2021, were ever more fanatically obsessed with control.

Why did 2020 become, so suddenly and so forcefully, a year of global panic over a virus that for most people is barely more dangerous than a standard-issue flu virus? This book reveals how the madness started, what kept it going, and how it might end. This is also a book about stories and experiences, some real and some fictionalized to protect identities. Join Jane the complier, James the decider, and Jasmine the doubter, the three core protagonists of the narrative part of the book. Their experiences illustrate what happened to individuals and through them to whole societies, telling us — if we care to listen — how to avoid a repeat. This literary presentation is mixed with detailed reports of the actual data and deep research that has generally been obscured in the midst of media madness and obfuscation by public-health authority.

“A tour-de-force on how the pandemic response was driven by fear, crowd thinking, big business and a desire for control, rather than by sound public health principles. This is bound to be a classic.” ~ Professor Martin Kulldorff, Harvard Medical School

“When I received the manuscript, I was hooked from the first page and knew then that I would miss a full night’s sleep. I did indeed. My heart raced from beginning to end. As the publisher, I must say that this book is a dream for me, the book I never thought would exist, the book that I believe can change everything.” ~ Jeffrey Tucker, Founder Brownstone Institute.

On censorship in Australia and elsewhere

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/08/2021 - 5:58pm in

What do you do as an Australian parliament when a foreign company censors mainstream media content in Australia, undermining free speech? Do you organise an inquiry to hold those foreign companies to account and to see how you might prevent foreign meddling? Or do you fall into line and organise McCarthy-like hearings to intimidate those whose opinions have fallen into (foreign) disfavour?

We now know the answer: Labour and the Greens have fallen into line with foreign internet companies censoring Alan Jones and Sky news. It is not the foreign companies that are asked to defend themselves but Alan Jones. And the BBC article linked to above very nicely says that a big reason for the censorship was that Alan Jones was “questioning public health orders”. Might I quietly say ‘Wow’? Questioning policy, how dare he! Where is our democracy going to when people can question policies in the media?

It is a pity that things are taking this turn in Australia. Up till now, free speech on the covid issue has been one of the positives in Australia. It has often been acrimonious but at least open airing of different views has occurred. Among the newspapers, the Australian has been lockdown-sceptic from day one, with the Financial Review increasingly sceptical too. Several other newspapers have been pro-lockdown but still frequently running sceptical pieces. This diversity of views was also present on television, with Sky News running a sceptical line from the beginning. On radio too, there has been diversity of views, with Gigi Foster co-hosting the sceptical ‘Economists’ program on the ABC.

Whilst state governments have spared no expense in propaganda and the vast majority of the media is fully in line with covid-mania, there hence has been a sceptical mainstream media presence in Australia since the very beginning. It is something to be proud of, certainly compared to most of Europe, the UK, or the US!

Yet, the censorship that the internet giants have engaged in from early on (Amazon for instance censored Jeffrey Tucker’s early book on covid madness in mid 2020, and of course there was the saga around the attempt of Google and others to hide the Great Barrington Declaration) is a new factor in the media landscape. Several friends and co-authors of mine have personally been censored by internet giants the last 18 months (facebook, google, microsoft, linkedin, twitter, youtube). The reality is that much of Australian media and commentary takes place on the platforms of the Big Tech giants, giving Big Tech enormous power over what gets air time and what does not. They have used that power to push the pro-lockdown line that benefits their shareholders. Whatever one’s view of the truth, what else can one expect from commercial companies but that they use their clout to support the views good for their bottom line?

It is simply the reality that we live in an age of unprecedented censorship conceived of and enforced by a handful of international companies. The last international entity to do this for any time with some success was the Catholic Church that kept whole populations ignorant via book burning, lists of forbidden books, burning of heretics reading the wrong books, etc. The invention of the printing press made the Church’s task difficult as cheap books could be smuggled in, so the intellectual elites could no longer be censored. Since around 1600 AD only national governments in the West have been truly successful at complete censorship, if only for a while. Yet, their efforts were increasingly undermined by the advent of radio and television. Censorship became near impossible in the 1990s due to the emerging internet and mobile phone technology. Governments found counter-measures but they could be circumvented by the technologically literate, meaning that once again the intellectual elites were ‘sort of’ free whilst only the majority within countries could be effectively censored. Censorship was one of degrees the last 30 years.

Late 2021, censorship is still not total and one of degrees, but censorship by international entities is back. The vast majority of the population in many countries can now be directed to total nonsense by international commercial interests. This has happened to stunning effect during covid times, such as the attempt by Facebook and other Big Tech companies to suppress the China lab-leak theory, probably to please a befriended government. Let us consider likely dynamics.

One main question is whether competition will solve the situation eventually, independent of governments. Will gap, rumble, duckduckgo, bitchute, Odysee, and many other new media platforms divide the media space currently dominated by a few internet giants? Will they break the current censorship?

In the short-run, I think the answer is ‘yes’: the Covistance and others are turning to alternative platforms to build their own media networks. There is a whole ecosystem emerging of citizen media platforms, which should be expected the next few years to lead to real diversity in mainstream choice, most certainly when it comes to covid and political correctness. You see this perhaps most clearly in the UK where GB news, intended as counterweight to the incessant propaganda and abysmal news quality of the BBC, is making inroads, building on smaller initiatives like Talkradio.

In the medium run, the answer is not so clear because there are such obvious returns to scale involved in running internet platforms. It is simply cheaper to bundle the technology needed to run videos, newspapers, internet search, or whatever in one place. Duplication of the effort into constantly updating all the protection, personally-optimised search, program-compatibility, etc., is a huge cost and the existing Big Tech companies will try to squeeze the life out of those getting traction outside their influence. So the fear is that the internet giants will buy up the more successful new media kids on the block, adding it to their overall internet umbrella, whilst using various dirty tactics (court cases, making links difficult, sabotaging search algorithms, platform incompatibility, etc.) to kill independent small firms. Some idealists might hold out for a while, but the internet giants can offer them an awful lot of money so resistance should not be expected to last. Since the underlying technology has a lot of returns to scale, it is hard to see how internet-related media diversity can thrive long-term in a commercial environment.

In the longer run things look different again because of the eventual response of communities that want to retain their own control independent of international internet companies, simply taking the cost hit. Some countries, like China, have already done this. Other countries seem likely to follow in setting up their national internet space, not merely to do their own news-production but also for tax, security, and democratic purposes. Competition between countries, rather than between companies, has another likely dynamic: countries can start to offer the basic technology of their internet platforms to other countries for a fee, such as China offering small countries in Asia and Africa a whole internet package that comes with local government control. With national platforms come a release from the censorship of Big Tech, so countries can allow diversity on their own platforms. In turn, countries can allow citizens of other countries on their platforms, allowing some seepage of censorship by other countries. This is likely to happen, if only for reasons of strategic competition between blocks of countries, ie to undermine the other countries. So then we’re back in the 1980s news landscape when it comes to censorship: something that exists somewhat at the national level but with high international leakage.

There are many other developments that might change the balance, but at present trends it looks to me like the ability of internet giants to censor what people get to read is likely to diminish in both the short and the longer run even in the presence of those returns to scale. For mainstream national audiences my main scenario is then that diversity offerings will depend on what is allowed to run on a national internet platform. Diversity of content will then need a nationalism that wants diversity of content.

South African Women Are Reclaiming Their Voices in the Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/08/2021 - 6:00pm in

Two years on, Kathy Magrobi still vividly recalls grimacing at the media coverage leading up to the 2019 South African national and provincial elections. 

“Every time I turned on the radio, every time I opened the newspaper, it was just… the same names,” she remembers. “It had the same key messages and they were quoted, time after time. I just kept hearing these (men’s) voices.” Even on issues that exclusively concerned women and other marginalized groups, men were presented as the experts. 

Over half of South Africa’s population is women, and despite making up 55 percent of registered voters, four out of five people mentioned in election articles by three of the country’s biggest news websites were men, a Media Hack 2019 report found. 

The problem, according to Magrobi, is simple: “When it’s missed in the news, it’s missed in policy.” The fewer women’s voices are heard, the fewer inclusive policies are implemented. 

kathyKathy Magrobi

Deadline pressures and journalists’ lack of contact with marginalized groups help explain why this happens, says Zandile Bangani, a journalist with South African media outfit New Frame

“What then happens,” says Bangani, “[is] we end up circulating a voice, and that’s dangerous because it limits our understanding of an issue to a particular narrative or voice.” 

Four decades ago, American sociologist Gaye Tuchman documented what she dubbed women’s “symbolic annihilation” from the media. She noted that women, when not portrayed in traditional roles as homemakers or mothers, are shown in clerical and other “pink-collar” jobs. 

In 2021, this practice of “erasure” hasn’t changed, says Luthando Ngema, a lecturer at the University of Kwazulu-Natal’s Media and Cultural Studies. Women who were once political activists and played pivotal roles during South Africa’s battle against apartheid “have been put in the shadow of their husbands — or the media portrays them that way,” she says. 

Even when they are contacted by journalists, some women decline to act as sources, held back by “impostor syndrome,” an issue that research shows particularly affects women of color. This idea that women should not present themselves as authorities is deeply rooted in South African families and culture, says Cheryl Hlabane, an activist and change agent. “[In South Africa] we are not meant to be in certain spaces… That has been engraved in our minds.”

Building out

Inspired by Women Also Know Stuff, a U.K. organization that curates a database of women experts in political science, Kathy Magrobi created Quote This Woman+,  abbreviated as QW+. The plus sign represents any expert ignored or misconstrued by mainstream news narratives, whether because of disability, sexual or gender orientation, or something else. 

QW+ makes it easy for journalists and news producers to find a vetted expert to speak with. Users can filter their queries through the database or contact the platform handlers directly. 

“We kind of plug that gap when we say we’re going to put in all of the time, we’re going to look for people, we’re going to approach them, we’re going to make sure that they are in fact experts,” says Jordan Magrobi, Kathy’s daughter and QW+’s database manager. 

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QW+ was built on sacrifice, family and selflessness. Kathy Magrobi’s husband, Bruce Gordon, works as the organization’s accountant, and Erin, her other daughter, designed QW+’s graphics. Magrobi launched the endeavor with mentorship provided by an intensive media accelerator at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. For this, she travelled 480 kilometers each way every two weeks to the university from her base in the tiny midlands village of Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal. 

“At 50, I wasn’t looking to start a nonprofit organization,” she says. “Starting a nonprofit is like any startup. It’s a huge tussle. It takes a lot of energy.” 

As a middle-aged white woman in South Africa, Magrobi thought twice about launching a feminist startup. “I felt it was wrong for a privileged, white woman to be starting this organization. I knew that I had to do my best to confront my own unconscious biases.” (Perhaps ironically for a person spearheading an effort to amplify women’s voices, Magrobi has trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that makes speaking painful.) 

In the runup to the 2019 elections, Magrobi built a board of directors who could give QW+ access to other “important people, both at expert level and at community level. And then I used them to help me find my first experts.” 

The database was built out like a pyramid scheme. Newly added experts were asked to refer at least five other experts in fields important to the election, such as education, corruption, crime, housing and health. “It was amazing,” marvels Magrobi. “Interest was instantaneous.” The platform launched in time for the election with 40 experts in 25 categories. 

Interestingly, initial queries came from foreign journalists. The New York Times, Al Jazeera and the BBC all quoted QW+ experts. Only after that did South African publications like the Mail and Guardian begin to utilize the database. Once they did, it made things easier, says Simon Allison, the Mail and Guardian’s Africa editor. “They’re really responsive and have helped us find brilliant interviewees on the most obscure topics. It means we have no excuse not to quote women in every story.”

After the elections, a South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) grant enabled QW+ to expand with new volunteers. And as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the country, a Covid-specific database launched with eight women experts. (Now it has over 100.) 

In total, QW+ now has 513 experts across 49 categories. About a thousand journalists receive its biweekly newsletter. Allison, who is also the founder of The Continent, a pan-African publication, says reporters across both publications where he works use the QW+ database frequently. 

“It’s inspiring to us. [The Continent] is currently in the process of formalizing our pitching guidelines, and we will be insisting that at least one woman is quoted in every story,” he says. “It’s extraordinarily important to have a balanced newsroom. Every journalist has blind spots, and without a genuinely diverse newsroom, those blind spots are all too apparent in a publication, which then fails in its most basic task of explaining the world around us.”

Getting the details right

In January, the South African government sought to amend the country’s identity laws to include a third legal gender, offering individuals an option outside of the gender binary. 

As fierce public debate over the proposal spilled into media coverage, QW+ experts from the LGBTQ community were tapped by journalists and news producers.

Kellyn Botha, a trans woman and QW+ expert, granted a number of media requests.

Kellyn Botha

“The media as a whole does not always do a great job in speaking about trans issues,” she says, “and I felt [joining QW+] was at least one way of offering myself as a resource to contribute to better trans-related content in the media.”

The name of the platform has at times alienated potential participants, especially cisgender men from other marginalized groups. Magrobi remembers a rejection from a Black man who lives with a disability because the platform’s name implies it is for women exclusively. Situations such as these have given rise to thoughts of a name change, but Magrobi resists the idea because she says that QW+ is a feminist organization first. Also, there are experts from marginalized communities whose area of focus differs from the reason for their marginalization.

Training and survival

Maintaining the database and making experts available is half of what QW+ does. “What we do is also a lot of media training,” says Jordan. “So, instead of just having somebody go onto the database, if they don’t feel very comfortable, we can say, ‘We are going to take you through another short media training thing and just uplift you and empower you, so you can be confident with speaking to the media.”

In April, QW+ launched Quote Me On That (QMOT), a paid service that trains women in media engagement, overcoming imposter syndrome and, through a partnership with the Mail and Guardian, op-ed writing. This month, activist Hlabane and media veteran Paula Fray spoke on impostor syndrome at a QMOT webinar. During the previous municipal election in 2016, only 17.5 percent of people quoted in news reports were women, per a Media Monitoring Africa report. The 2021 municipal elections will be held on October 27. In South Africa, municipalities are the grassroots of government, where local ward councillors exert control over water, electricity and land use. Whose voice is heard during such elections is critical. 

Funding remains QW+’s biggest hurdle. Aside from the SAMIP grant, revenue is generated through donations, crowdfunding, media/gender training for organizations and consultancies, and more recently, QMOT. 

With three more volunteers joining the team, the SAMIP grant runs out in four months. Prospective investors are still recovering from Covid-19 setbacks, hence Magrobi and her team are on the lookout. 

“We’ve got four months to pull a rabbit out of a hat. That’s the bottom line,” she says. She’s holding out hope that QW+ will land a corporate sponsor or donor to support their work at diversifying the narrative in the upcoming elections — and beyond. 

The post South African Women Are Reclaiming Their Voices in the Media appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Citing Corrupt Think Tanks For News Reports Is Blatant Propaganda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/08/2021 - 11:25am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/d007cf41df3d13fb36136b3ecb3631bb/href

One of the weirdest things about the mass media propaganda which manipulates the way people think, act and vote to maintain the status quo is the fact that mainstream news outlets routinely cite the employees of think tanks that are sponsored by war profiteers and government powers as expert sources for their reports. And they just get away with it.

To pick one of nearly infinite possible examples, here in Australia the Murdoch press are currently citing a report generated through the funding of governments and weapons manufacturers to whip up public hysteria about the ridiculous fantasy that China might attack us. The most egregious of these is a write-up from Sky News whose headline reads, “Lowy Institute report: China possesses ability to ‘strike Australia’ with long-range missiles, bombers”.

On social media Sky News is sharing this story with the even more incendiary caption “China now has the military arsenal to pose the greatest threat to the Australian mainland since World War II, experts warn.”

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The “experts” in question are the Lowy Institute, named after its billionaire founder, which is funded by multiple branches of the Australian government including ASIO and the Department of Defence, by major financial institutions, and by weapons manufacturers like Boeing. The author of the Lowy Institute report these stories are citing is Thomas Shugart, himself an employee of the notorious Center for a New American Security, a Biden administration-aligned warmongering think tank that receives funding from top war profiteers Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon, as well as the US State Department and numerous other governments.

So in summary, government agencies and war profiteers paid for a report which manufactures consent for their agendas among policymakers and the public, and mass media institutions passed this off as “news”.

And this is exactly what these think tanks exist to do: cook up narratives which benefit their immensely powerful and unfathomably psychopathic sponsors, and insert those narratives at key points of influence.

“Think tank” is a good and accurate label, not because a great deal of thought happens in them, but because they’re dedicated to controlling what people think, and because they are artificial enclosures for slimy creatures. Their job, generally speaking, is to concoct and market reasons why it would be good and smart to do something evil and stupid.

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And it works. Because of the efforts of warmonger-funded think tanks like the Lowy Institute, Center for a New American Security, and the profoundly odious Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), more and more Australian brains are being turned into soup by ridiculous propaganda narratives about China posing a meaningful threat to them. As The Conversation highlighted last month, a poll conducted by that same Lowy Institute claims that “only 16% of surveyed Australians [express] trust in China compared with 52% just three years ago,” that a “similar number of Australians think China will launch an armed attack on Australia (42%) as on Taiwan (49%),” and that “more Australians (13%) than Taiwanese (4%) think a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is likely sometime soon.”

You can understand why the Lowy Institute would want to show off numbers like that to potential sponsors, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are entirely accurate; I’ve started conversations with complete strangers here in Victoria recently and seen them start babbling about how awful China is within a few minutes, completely out of the blue. It’s like watching a zombie outbreak in real time.

And this is of course entirely by design. Because of its useful geostrategic location in relation to China, Australia has been turned into a functional US military/intelligence asset so crucial that multiple coups have been instituted here to ensure we remain aligned with the Pentagon against Beijing. You can’t have the locals meddling with the gears of your war machine with pesky little nuisances like the democratic process, so you’ve got to keep them aggressively propagandized.

This is why our consciousness is continually pummelled with think tank-manufactured narratives about China. See an attention-grabbing headline about the big scary Chinese boogeyman and it will almost always be authored by a sleazy think tank denizen or be based on the work of one. A few weeks ago 60 Minutes Australia ran an unbelievably hysterical segment branding New Zealand “New Xi-Land” because its government didn’t perfectly align with Washington on one particular aspect of its cold war agenda, and it featured an interview with an Australian Strategic Policy Institute spinmeister as well as the actual ASPI office.

https://medium.com/media/5093b7f50eea74350fec9410ce37817c/href

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute is cited by mass media outlets around the world and is funded by, you guessed it, governments and war profiteers. According to APAC News’ Marcus Reubenstein, ASPI is funded by all the usual weapons manufacturers, by the US State Department and other governments.

“ASPI has received funding from the governments of Britain, Japan and Taiwan as well as NATO,” Reubenstein writes. “Among its corporate supporters are global weapons makers Thales, BAE Systems, Raytheon, SAAB, Northrop Grumman, MDBA Missile Systems and Naval Group. Yet their contribution of over $330,000 last year is dwarfed by that of a handful of government departments and agencies.”

Media citation of warmonger-funded think tanks is common throughout the western world. Government-sponsored imperialist spin factories like Bellingcat are routinely cited by the mainstream media, and those citations are leant credibility by the fawning puff pieces which those media institutions regularly churn out about the propaganda firm.

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I just grabbed a New York Times article at random about the events transpiring in Afghanistan and found its author citing the chief executive of the Center for a New American Security arguing against the Biden administration’s troop withdrawal, as well as a Center for American Progress employee arguing that the Taliban takeover could cause a PR nightmare. Center for American Progress is also partly funded by the war industry.

The fact that disguising statements by propagandists who are sponsored by governments and war profiteers is journalistic malpractice should be obvious to everyone in the world, and if media and education systems were doing their jobs instead of indoctrinating society into accepting the status quo, it would be. But propaganda only works if you don’t realize you’re being propagandized, and keeping people from realizing this is itself a part of the propaganda.

Make a fortune killing people and selling their bodies and you’d be remembered as the century’s worst monster. Make the same fortune selling the weapons used to kill the same number of people in wars you propagandized into existence and you’re a respected job creator.

Absolutely appalling.

___________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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On Art, Integrity, And Crowdfunded Creativity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 31/07/2021 - 11:12am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/01103f9f285031b197165d93073ba0d7/href

Regular readers may have noticed I’ve been posting a bit more often than my usual once per day. I’ve been experiencing an influx in creativity lately and I remembered that I’m my own boss so I can post as often as I like, and I just wanted to bang out some thoughts for the hell of it about my and Tim’s thing here to share with any readers who are interested.

I don’t think I talk enough about how cool our setup is here. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to be able to write and make anything we want without an editor, but, more importantly I’m coming to see, without the extrinsic motivation of money.

Of course, I could try to make things to please more people, and that would make more money, but that has never ever been my goal. My goal has always been to do my part in healing myself so I can see more clearly and speak with more clarity and consciousness about what’s happening in our world, how we can fix it, and what possibilities lie beyond this vale of tears.

I also realized very early on that having integrity meant also being all of myself, and not keeping all the various parts of me that don’t conform to people’s idea about what a journalist is out of the picture. That was embarrassing at the start. People would spit out “soccer mom” at me like a smear.

I’m pretty kooky, I get painfully shy, I am virtually skinless when it comes to my emotions, I’m probably on the spectrum, and yes, I spend a lot of time in the car driving my kids around. I’m also fat, I’m on the wrong side of 40, I have every kind of stretchmark from carrying kids, and also sex is a huge part of my life.

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Also, my setup is weird. I am not one writer, I am two. The articles and art are the product of the ongoing conversation between me and my American husband Tim Foley. I need to talk about that regularly or else people get the idea that I’m some kind of superwoman, and other aspiring indie media workers could get discouraged about not being able to be as prolific.

So in business terms I’ve made integrity my brand. I’ve made my primary goal to not be needed anymore because the world will be so conscious that my efforts to bring consciousness will be redundant. I have switched all extrinsic motivators off. I give away my stuff so I can’t just rest on my laurels; I have to keep returning to my own healing so I can find fresh inspiration. And, because of the two-handed author set-up, I don’t even really feel like any of this is “mine”. People say such lovely things to me about this work, but the ego candy is minimized because it doesn’t feel like it’s directed at me personally.

Being crowdfunded, my income source is very diffuse and I would go nuts trying to keep all my patrons and supporters happy; that was clear from the start. So blocking out the badgering of others is something I had to learn. What it means, though, is that my only boss is my gut.

All these decisions have meant that trying to make more money by gaming or competing wouldn’t work, and would most likely be to my financial detriment if anything. If you shape your business model around your integrity, then ditching your integrity is going to fuck up your business model.

A side benefit of that though is that making art has become healing to me again. After years of doing graphic design for others, I’d lost that long ago. My inner critic was very noisy with the ideas of other people, and I lost what it was to sit down and amuse myself just to amuse myself. But because I’ve been free to make what I want for quite a while now, I remembered how to use art like a kid does — to explain things to myself, to explore my emotions, to re-visit the scenes of old wounds, and to have fun with myself.

https://medium.com/media/f4da2c05d42341e7ea0557f00029de79/href

For example, that “Joelene Versus The Landlord” piece was incredibly healing for me. It got me thinking about some of the more traumatic events in my life, and let me resolve some of my grief around those times. I would never ever have been able to make that if I was stuck at an outlet answering to some asshole named Greg who spends more time looking at my boobs than looking at my copy and “well, actually”ing every single novel idea I have.

Fuck Greg. Fuck the gatekeepers. Fuck capitalism for taking the most potent healing tool we have — art — and making it into just another hustle. What’s happening for me now is really amazing and I want it for everyone. Everyone should have this freedom.

Thank you all so much for making this possible.

__________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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For Every Whistleblower They Make An Example Of, They Prevent A Thousand More

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 11:47am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/cd99118a543eb7ef2ea04d26ef4cefd2/href

Whistleblower Daniel Hale has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison after pleading guilty to leaking secret government information about America’s psychopathic civilian-slaughtering drone assassination program.

The sentence was much harsher than Hale’s defense requested but not nearly as harsh as US prosecutors pushed for, arguing that longer prison sentences are necessary for deterring whistleblowing in the US intelligence cartel.

The Dissenter’s Kevin Gosztola reports:

Despite the fact that Hale pled guilty on March 31 to one of the five Espionage Act offenses he faced, prosecutors remained spiteful and unwilling to support anything less than a “significant sentence” to “deter” government employees or contractors from “using positions in the intelligence community for self-aggrandizement.”

In other words, if you tell the public the truth about your government’s crimes, you will be made an example of so nobody else tries to do that. And then for that brave and selfless act, you’ll be smeared as doing it for “self-aggrandizement”.

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The US government makes no secret of the fact that it uses draconian prison sentencing to keep people from reporting the truth about its murderous behavior. It’s the same as the way kings would torture dissidents in the town square to show everyone what happens when you speak ill of your ruler, just dressed up in 21st-century language about “national security” (a claim that is itself nonsense because as Julian Assange said, the overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security).

The idea is that for every whistleblower you flog in the town square with harsh prison sentences, you deter a thousand other government insiders from ever picking up the whistle themselves. They’re not punishing anyone for endangering “national security”, or even necessarily for damaging or inconveniencing them in any real way; Reality Winner’s leaks were of no particular significance, yet she got more than five years just to make an example of her.

And it works. Of course it works. If you’ve witnessed your government doing something horrific, and you’ve got kids, or if you’re in love, or if you’ve got a loved one who needs care, or if you just really don’t want to go to prison, then you’re probably going to look at these whistleblowers being robbed of years of their lives and decide you can find a way to live with the psychological discomfort of knowing what you know without saying anything.

We may be certain that this exact scenario has played out many times. Probably thousands of times.

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Think about what this means for a minute. This means that what we know about malfeasance in so-called “free democracies” like the United States is necessarily just the tiniest tip of the iceberg compared to what we do not know, because for every bit of information that leaks out there are orders of magnitude more which remain secret. They remain secret because, like any gang member, government insiders know what happens to those who talk.

So people have no idea what their government is really up to, yet they’re expected to make informed decisions about who they want to vote for to run it, and about whether or not they consent to this government in the first place.

Militaries understand that you need intelligence before you can act efficaciously; you need to be able to look before you leap, to see and know what you’re dealing with so you can take action which accords with reality. Truth is hidden and obscured from us precisely for this reason: because knowledge is power, and they want all the power.

That’s what Julian Assange was going for when he founded WikiLeaks: a tool to help the people see and know what’s going on in the world so we can act in an informed way.

That’s also why he’s in prison.

The amount of power one is given should have a directly inverse relationship with the amount of secrecy they are allowed to have. Power with secrecy is illegitimate. If you’ve got power over people you don’t get to keep secrets from them. That is not a valid thing for any power structure to do.

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The US government imprisons journalists and whistleblowers for telling the truth about its murderous behavior. All US government statements about authoritarianism in other nations are invalidated by its treatment of whistleblowers and journalists.

They do evil things, they make it illegal to report those evil things to the public, they sentence anyone who does to draconian prison sentences to deter all other potential whistleblowers, then when the public starts guessing what they are up to behind those veils of secrecy, they are branded “conspiracy theorists” and banned from internet platforms.

If the American people could actually see everything the world’s most powerful government is doing in their name, they would be stricken with horror and all consent for their government would collapse. The only reason the US is able to hold together a globe-spanning undeclared empire using violence and terror is because it hides so much from public vision, uses mass media propaganda to form a false perception of what’s going on, and then stigmatizes distrust and attempts to guess what it’s up to behind the thick walls of opacity it has erected to obscure their vision.

This is illegitimate. The entire US government is illegitimate, and so is every other government that’s aligned with it and engaging in similar practices like Australia and the United Kingdom. We should unlearn all the tolerance for these systems of rule which this giant global power structure has indoctrinated into our minds.

____________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Featured image via Backbone Campaign, Creative Commons 2.0

The Assange Case Isn’t About National Security, It’s About Narrative Control

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/07/2021 - 10:45pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/951e7d59d84eeb9139647d9d640f6b59/href

Julian Assange once said, “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”

As someone whose life’s work before his imprisonment was combing through documents of an often classified nature, he’d have been in a prime position to know. He’d have seen time and time again how a nation’s citizenry are not under the slightest threat from the secret information in the documents that had been leaked to him from around the world, but that it could damage the reputation of a politician or a government or its military.

As the persecution of the WikiLeaks founder continues to trudge on with the UK government’s granting the Biden administration permission to appeal a declined extradition request, claiming that it can safely imprison Assange without subjecting him to the draconian aspects of America’s prison system which caused the initial dismissal, it’s good to keep in mind that this is being done entirely for the purpose of controlling public access to information that is inconvenient for the powerful.

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The prosecution of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act is being touted by the US government as a matter of national security; you can’t simply allow journalists to publish classified information about the things its military forces are doing in the nations they occupy, because that could endanger American lives.

Leaving aside the fact that the Pentagon already admitted years ago that it could not find a single instance of lives being lost due to the publications for which Assange is currently being prosecuted, this case is not and has never been about national security. This case has always been about narrative control.

The US government is not afraid that unauthorized publication of government secrets will lead to Americans being killed, it’s afraid it will lead to their knowing the truth. The powerful understand that narrative control is everything, and that an entire globe-spanning empire depends on keeping the masses from having a lucid perception of what’s really going on in the world. There is an unfathomable amount of power riding on their ability to continue doing this.

Assange isn’t in Belmarsh Prison for doing something wrong, but for doing something right. For trying to give the public information which will help them form a truth-based worldview so that they can make intelligent informed decisions about where they want to collectively steer society together. Because the oligarchic empire depends on the ability to manipulate the way people think, act and vote to benefit the powerful, this was like handing someone who’s being groomed by a sexual predator a guidebook of all of the psychological tactics that are being used.

This good deed could not go unpunished.

https://medium.com/media/dab6ff6ca7d6fa4a879e9c397bc290ac/href

Nothing WikiLeaks published endangered the American people, it endangered a globe-spanning empire’s ability to control our understanding of what’s happening in the world. This was a most egregious offense as far as our rulers are concerned, and it could not be allowed to stand.

So an example is being made. In less polite times Assange would have been tortured and drawn and quartered in the town square while the king looked on sipping from a goblet of mead. In the days of polite liberal democracy our rulers must remain hidden, and they must publicly torture dissidents to death in the name of national security concerns.

Beneath all the spin and excuses, this is all being done to show everyone what happens to you if you reveal embarrassing truths about the most powerful people on earth. If you compromise their political security. It’s telling the world, “If you ever try to interfere in our control over the dominant narratives, this is what we will do to you.”

And, whether we fully understand what’s really happening or not, that’s the message that is being ingested here. Journalists who find themselves in a position to publish such things going forward will find themselves thinking thoughts about what happened to Julian Assange.

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This is why it’s so important that they don’t win this case. We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed away from the truth in this way, or else we’re flying blind. We’re unable to obtain information which will help us steer society in a truth-based direction.

The Assange case receives so much attention not because of interest in one man’s fate, but because of interest in everyone’s fate. If humanity is ever to turn away from its self-destructive patterns and create a healthy world, it will necessarily need to do so guided by the light of truth and transparency. As long as the powerful are able to keep us confused and deluded using propaganda and government secrecy, such a world will never come into being.

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