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Censorship is the death of Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/02/2020 - 10:00am in

Eric Zuesse No democracy can survive censorship. If there is censorship, then each individual cannot make his/her own decisions (voting decisions or otherwise) on the basis of truth but only on the basis of whatever passes through the censor’s filter, which is always whatever supports the censoring regime and implants it evermore deeply into the …

Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 1:00pm in

Binoy Kampmark Interfering, corrupting and altering the views of electors is apparently frowned upon. But it all depends on who that manipulating source is. The Russians might be condemned for being meddlers of minds in the US electorate, but an American billionaire who hires battalions of influencing agents to get his word across on social …

As Bernie Sanders Surges, DNC Launches “Troll Army” Ahead of Iowa Caucus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/02/2020 - 4:47am in

The Democratic National Congress (DNC) has set up an extensive online communications team of trolls – and is launching it just in time for the Iowa caucus. CNN’s Donnie O’Sullivan spoke to a number of its agents (almost all of whom insisted on remaining anonymous) and reported that the new DNC project is working with government agencies like the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security as well as online media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Reddit. 

The DNC present the project as a “counter disinformation team” aimed at correcting Russian interference online. “Both Republicans and foreign actors, like Russia, have an incentive to divide the American electorate and may try to use the Iowa Caucus to further that goal,” it said. However, if history is any judge, there is reason to believe the real target of the mission is to discredit surging outsider candidates challenging the Democratic establishment, chief among them Bernie Sanders.

The only named member of the cyber task force is Nell Thomas, who worked for the online arm of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, one that saw a troll army called “Correct the Record” launched on social media. Thomas subsequently spent two years working for Facebook before taking a position with the DNC in May of last year. No other officials agreed to be named, citing possible harassment as a justification. The DNC establishment infamously rigged the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination against Sanders in order to assure Clinton was chosen as the candidate, arguing in court that it was under no legal obligation to provide a fair election and claiming it was their right under the First Amendment. Words like “impartial” and “evenhanded,” as used in the DNC charter, it said, could not be interpreted by a court of law.

The first sentence of O’Sullivan’s report reminds readers that Russians supposedly tried to help Sanders beat Clinton in 2016. He also noted that the new DNC group has built a system that will monitor social media variations of the word “rigged” and cause the team to spring into action to counter supposed false information about Iowa.

Another weapon in the DNC’s arsenal is a monitoring tool called “Trendolizer.” According to CNN: “When stories from websites known to peddle misinformation mention candidates and begin getting shares on social media, Trendolizer detects it and an alert is sent to the relevant campaigns.” Herein lies another clue that the real purpose is to undermine outside challengers. 

After the 2016 election, corporate media boosted an organization called PropOrNot, which claimed to be a team of impartial “experts” who had created a list of fake news websites that peddled Russian propaganda. While included on the list were dubious sources such as InfoWars and Natural News, there were also libertarian outlets like and a number of high-quality progressive media organizations like Black Agenda Report and TruthDig (MintPress was also included on the list).

PropOrNot was described as “embodying the toxic essence of Joseph McCarthy, but without the courage to attach individual names to the blacklist” by investigative journalists Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald. Despite this, the hysteria it created in the corporate press pushed social media giants like Google, YouTube, Bing and Facebook to change their algorithms ostensibly to fight fake news. But the only discernable effect was to hammer alternative media and promote establishment outlets. Google traffic to AlterNet fell by 63 percent overnight, Common Dreams lost 37 percent, Democracy Now! 36 percent and The Intercept 19 percent. MintPress News has also suffered badly from the algorithm changes that punished almost every outlet that did not lie in the beltway between Clintonite liberal and moderate Republican.

CNN also confirmed that Facebook has hired former intelligence officials to “root out coordinated disinformation campaigns” and has partnered with fact-checking organizations to “downrank false posts.” Facebook has already outsourced much of its quality control to the Atlantic Council, a think tank affiliated with NATO, essentially meaning that the U.S. government decides what the world sees (and doesn’t see) in its newsfeeds. And fact-checking organizations have fought a long and bitter war against Sanders, attempting to undermine his every comment. For instance, fact-checkers at the Washington Post rated the Vermont senator’s claim that his average donation was $27 false, because, after crunching the numbers they found it was actually $27.89. They also claimed his pronouncement that millions of Americans work multiple jobs was “misleading” because only 8 million do so, and many of those are part-time.

Sanders supporters did not welcome the news of a new online counter-propaganda network. “Brace yourself, the DNC is launching its troll army (branded as ‘troll fighters’) headed by a former Hillary staffer to counter ‘disinformation’. If you use the word ‘rigged’, they will come after you. Get ready to be called a Russian all over again,” noted one Sanders’ supporter on Twitter. Nevertheless, Sanders’ poll numbers are surging, and if he can win Iowa, preventing him from being the Democratic candidate might prove harder than last time.

Feature photo | Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves as he leaves after speaking at a campaign event, Feb. 2, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. John Locher | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post As Bernie Sanders Surges, DNC Launches “Troll Army” Ahead of Iowa Caucus appeared first on MintPress News.

Book Review: Are Filter Bubbles Real? by Axel Bruns

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 02/02/2020 - 8:00pm in

As references to echo chambers and filter bubbles become ubiquitous in contemporary discourse, Axel Bruns offers a riposte in Are Filter Bubbles Real?, which questions the existence of these phenomena. While not convinced by all of the author’s arguments, Ignas Kalpokas welcomes the book as a must-read for those looking to critically reflect on some of the assumptions surrounding social … Continued

As Coronavirus Spreads So Does Anti-Chinese Racism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/02/2020 - 7:40am in

Facing the worldwide spread of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization declared a global emergency yesterday in response to the outbreak. Up from just 548 on January 22, there are, as of Friday afternoon, 9,600 confirmed cases of the disease, and 213 people have already died, all of them Chinese. The majority of the infections and more than 95 percent of the deaths have occurred in the central province of Hubei, particularly in the city of Wuhan, one of China’s largest cities and a major transport hub. The World Health Organization has praised Chinese authorities for the speedy and comprehensive measures taken to combat the virus, including their transparency and their willingness to cooperate with the international community. 

Nevertheless, the virus has already traveled around the world, with confirmed cases in North America, Australia and many European and Asian countries. And as the virus has spread, so has anti-Chinese sentiment. Similar to how Ebola was racialized as a distinctly African illness, news of the coronavirus has led to an outbreak of anti-Chinese sentiment across the West. Across Europe and Asia, there are reports of Chinese people being refused service in restaurants. In Canada, Chinese children claim to be being bullied at school. Meanwhile, in Paris, a video of an Asian woman on a train surrounded by white people covering their faces in fear went viral.

Many of the fears being stoked are based upon old stereotypes of the Yellow Peril – a racist belief that East Asians were flooding Western countries with disease. Yellow Peril has plagued immigrant communities in the U.S. since the earliest waves of Chinese immigration in the nineteenth century. One French newspaper printed the headline “Yellow Alert!” on its front page, suggesting the country was facing a “new yellow peril.” As two thirds of the first people carrying the virus had visited a live animal market in Wuhan, one hypothesis is that it was passed to humans through animal contact, possibly through bats. This has fed into stereotypes that Chinese people have poor hygiene standards and will eat anything. One video online of a young Chinese woman eating bat soup led to a deluge of hate online (including from media) claiming that the practice was revolting and blaming her for the outbreak. Conservative commentator Paul Joseph Watson even invented imaginary progressives that were forcing him to eat the bat or face being called bigoted. Few seemed to care that the video was over three years old and was actually shot in Palau, a country thousands of miles from China.

Rhea Liang, a doctor in Queensland, Australia, revealed that her patients talked about refusing to shake her hand because of the coronavirus. Dr. Liang is actually from New Zealand and has not left Australia since the outbreak. “This is racism,” she concluded. Meanwhile, after the TV personality shared a picture of himself with Korean pop band B.T.S., one user’s comment that “James Corden dies of the coronavirus” garnered 25 thousand likes on Twitter. Thus, it appears to have taken very little for negative resentment towards Chinese people to bubble to the surface. As one user said in a well-publicized tweet, “Because of some folks in China who eat weird shit like bats, rats, and snakes, the entire world is about to suffer a plague.”

But if Americans are worried about potential outbreaks of disease, they need not look as far afield as China. A poll published yesterday revealed that over 40 percent of the country does not always wash their hands after using the bathroom. Meanwhile, a new report released last week found that dozens of major cities’ drinking water, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New Orleans and Miami, have been found to contain toxic, cancer causing chemicals. The report did not garner similar publicity to the coronavirus. American meat is also well known to have serious hygiene issues, with reports finding that meat is riddled with fecal matter. One serious fear in Britain is that Brexit will lead to the country being flooded with dangerous American meat that was previously banned under E.U. regulation.

According to the latest Pew Research Center poll, only a quarter of Americans see China positively, with nearly two-thirds holding openly negative opinions about the country, with similar results found across the West. The latest news, complete with the wave of xenophobia, is unlikely to improve the situation.

Feature photo | Passengers arriving from a China Southern Airlines flight from Changsha in China are screened for the new type of coronavirus upon arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta international airport in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 29, 2020. Patrick Ngugi | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post As Coronavirus Spreads So Does Anti-Chinese Racism appeared first on MintPress News.

Coronavirus: Media reveals a very familiar agenda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/01/2020 - 4:00am in

Kit Knightly The initial, blaring, bright-red headlines over the outbreak of the novel coronavirus appear to be slowing down. Maybe it won’t be apocalyptic after all. While the number of cases continues to rise, the mortality rate is dropping. Nearly 6000 reported patients have resulted, at the time of writing, in only 106 deaths. A …

Problems with Philosophy on Facebook

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/01/2020 - 3:05am in

“What happens and what should a philosopher do if the academic community massively has moved on to making its informal engagements happen on one platform, specifically, Facebook?”

So asks Helen De Cruz (Saint Louis University) in a post at The Philosophers’ Cocoon. 

De Cruz takes it for granted that the philosophical community has in fact “massively… moved on to making its informal engagements” on Facebook. I’m skeptical. I would bet that the overwhelming majority of academic philosophers would answer “none or very few” to a question that asked them how many of their philosophical conversations take place on Facebook.

When you’re asked about the activities of other philosophers, the philosophers that are likely to come to mind will include the philosophers you most interact with, which, if you’re spending a lot of time philosophizing on Facebook, will be other philosophers on Facebook. This is a version of the availability heuristic.

The fact that Facebook is a kind of availability heuristic trap (in multiple ways) is left off of Professor De Cruz’s list of problems with the platform—problems that are worth thinking about even if most philosophers aren’t discussing much or any philosophy on Facebook, as it is a more popular social media platform for discussions among philosophers than its direct competitors (including newer options). These problems include:

  1. The platform’s algorithm for post visibility is not transparent. We do not know which posts are seen and which ones aren’t… It is kind of stunning that you put things out there, and you don’t know who sees it. The platform controls who will see it. Why would we accept such an opaque way of doing things? 
  2. The ambiguity of saying things private/public. I tried to only write things I would be comfortable sharing in a public venue because I knew friends whose posts were screenshot and gleefully shared. Still, the faux intimacy of the platform creates an ambiguity of the private/public.
  3. The ambiguity of signaling group membership and philosophical engagement… The line between philosophy seminar room talk and real world talk that impacts people becomes hard to draw.
  4. Facebook entrenches power relations and privilege relationships, with people who are more central nodes in the network (either because they are great at networking, or have prominent positions, or both) benefiting more from engagements than others. 
  5. Facebook can lead to will-depletion… it’s hard to put boundaries on social media use… This increase in self-regulatory burden may pose a unique challenge for those living in poverty, who, research suggests are more likely to begin from a place of willpower depletion relative to everyone else.

Professor De Cruz believes that decreases in participation on philosophically substantive blogs correlates with the increase in Facebook’s popularity. It might be worth hearing from the editors of those blogs about such trends and how their sites are doing now.

I’m also interested in hearing whether there is a way that Daily Nous can be of assistance here, perhaps by hosting more discussions on substantive philosophical questions, or perhaps by occasionally featuring philosophical material from other, less-trafficked blogs. I’m open to suggestions.


The post Problems with Philosophy on Facebook appeared first on Daily Nous.

Philosophy Twitter, YouTube, & Podcasts Over The Past Decade (guest post by Kelly Truelove)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/01/2020 - 11:56pm in

The following is a guest post by Kelly Truelove, who keeps an eye on social media trends for a few academic disciplines at his site, TrueSciPhi.

Philosophy Twitter, YouTube, & Podcasts Over The Past Decade
by Kelly Truelove

Social media grew enormously in the 2010s. This post presents a small assortment of statistics regarding philosophy in the contexts of Twitter, YouTube, and podcasting over the decade.


For several years, I’ve maintained a list of philosophers who have over 1,000 followers (see earlier post for background). The number of accounts on the list has grown steadily, with the rate of additions noticeably increasing in 2019. Interestingly, the number of accounts with over 10,000 followers today is near the number with over 1,000 followers seven years ago. In short, 10K is the new 1K.

How long does it take to reach 1,000 followers, and how has this changed? Because follower growth generally depends on tweeting activity, and because activity varies among individuals, it is useful to answer in terms of tweet count as opposed to time. The median number of tweets by philosophers at the point of passing 1,000 followers has varied between 2,000 and 4,000 since 2013, holding steady at the lower end of that range the last few years. The median tweet count upon reaching 10,000 followers shows more variation, bouncing between 5,000 and 15,000, but this is based on data from far fewer accounts (under a dozen per year). In any event, 10K usually arrives at a lower tweet-per-follower cost than 1K.


Using a list of highly viewed philosophy-focused channels and playlists on YouTube (see earlier post for background), we can look at trends regarding philosophy videos. Charting the number of videos published each year within these channels and playlists reveals booms in 2010 and 2013, a peak in 2015-2016 and a substantial drop in 2018.

These philosophy videos collectively have been viewed hundreds of millions of times. The chart below shows the number of views accumulated to date by the videos published in each year. Note this is not a chart of the number of views occurring during each year, but rather a chart of the views over all time accumulated by each year’s tranche of videos.

The spike from the “class of 2009” is in large part driven by the videos in the Justice with Michael Sandel playlist published that year by Harvard University. Episode 1 of that series alone has had over 10 million views to date. This chart disadvantages more recent years, as their videos have had less time to gather views. Still, the 2016 peak is clear. Videos published in 2016 account for about 1/3 of the top 300 short videos across all years (see ranked list).


With respect to podcasts, I maintain a list of philosophy & ideas podcast series with the aim to include series that have Twitter accounts well followed by these philosophers (see earlier post for background). The list includes series that remain available for listening despite no longer being updated with new episodes. By contrast, it does not include series that have been both discontinued and removed from access, so such series, which are likely to be older, are underrepresented. Charting podcasts by launch year reveals an increase in introductions in the latter part of the decade, with 2018 being a standout year.

Along with the growing number of series comes a growing number of hours of episodes, now ca. 750 hours per year. That’s about two hours per day, every day. Even accounting for podcasts that may have disappeared, this is a significant increase from the rate of new podcast content at the beginning of the decade.

For more information about philosophy on social media, visit the philosophy page at TrueSciPhi.

The post Philosophy Twitter, YouTube, & Podcasts Over The Past Decade (guest post by Kelly Truelove) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Here’s Why Democrats Did Their Lame Pro Forma Impeachment of Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/01/2020 - 6:51pm in

Impeachment requires bipartisan consensus built up over a painstaking process to be effective. Why did Democrats rush through a pro forma piece of crap at the beginning of an election year?

GM in India: Faking it on the Astroturf

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 3:00pm in

Colin Todhunter According to a recent report in The Hindu Business Line, India’s intelligence agencies are investigating the role of a global investment company and international seed companies in supporting farmers organisation Shetkari Sanghatana (SS) in the distribution of illegally procured genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton seeds. The planting of such seeds is an offence …