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Not owning a television is one of the best decisions TIO and I made. Well, we do have a TV but no cable so we can watch the occasional DVD if we so desire. What the media focuses on and what is important is often two very different sets of ideas. There are multiple cases of human suffering and abuse going on in the world at any given time; but often we are inundated with the very important happenings of celebrities and the random piffle they do as a substitute for what is actually happening in the world. As pointed out by Christian Christensen in his opinion piece on Al Jazeera “More Guantanamo and Global Warming and Less Knox and Justin Bieber.“
Amanda Knox has, with her second “guilty” verdict for the murder of Meredith Kercher, re-entered our media landscape. There is nothing inherently wrong with some coverage of the Knox case, but the level of exposure afforded the story since it first broke in late 2007/early 2008 has undoubtedly been magnified by a heady mixture of sex, drugs, violence and a lead character with an image and nickname many editors seem unable to resist. The murder of Kercher is tragic, and it appears that the Knox conviction is highly suspect. Yet, as with Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, the volume of coverage afforded vacuous, salacious and/or sexed-up stories should lead us to consider what would happen – at the very least politically – if equivalent levels of journalistic time and energy were devoted to other issues.
Consider where Christensen thinks we ought to be spending our time rather than the current (ongoing)Bieber/Cyrus/Knox dramas.
Iraq: Since 2008, over 37,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq. That’s just over twelve 9/11 attacks, or the equivalent of 370,000 civilians dying in the US (Iraq’s population is 10 times smaller of that of the US). In other words, like wiping out a city the size of Tampa, Florida. Since the bulk of the US media were more than willing to cheerlead a war based on a blatant falsehood, a recalibration of the coverage of the aftermath of this debacle is perhaps in order.
Global warming/climate change: The US remains the home of more political climate change sceptics than any other country in the so-called “developed world”. Despite the near-unanimous position of scientists around the world, US politicians continue to display mind-boggling scientific ignorance (wilful or otherwise). Not surprising, in retrospect, from a country where 50 percent of Republicans believe that humans have existed in their present form since the dawn of time (which would be about 7,000 years ago), and politicians claim with seriousness that women’s bodies are able to miraculously prevent pregnancy in cases of rape.
Death Penalty: Between January 1, 2008 and February 2, 2014, there have been 266 executions in the US. In 2012, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US were the top 5 global executioners. Disturbingly, earlier studies have shown that US prosecutors were twice as likely to request the death penalty for a black defendant who is charged with killing a non-black victim versus a black victim; and, white defendants were twice as likely as non-white to be offered a plea agreement to reduce their sentence from execution to life imprisonment. The death penalty gets coverage, but far too many of the “What-did-he-have-for-his-last-meal?” variety.
Sexual assault: At an average of 240,000 per year, according to a study by the US Department of Justice, there have been 1.5 million rapes and sexual assaults in the US since the start of 2008. Those are big numbers. However, this study has been challenged by a study administered by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which it is suggested that the correct number of rapes and attempted rapes alone may be an astounding 1.27 million over 2013. If this is taken as an average per year, then that would be 7 million rapes since 2008. If the vast majority of victims of these assaults were men and not women, would we perhaps see more coverage? That’s a rhetorical question.
Guantanamo: Many inmates, in violation of the US Constitution, remain incarcerated without charge, denied of their basic right of habeas corpus. A lengthy hunger-strike in 2013 to protest this legal limbo was afforded a low level of media coverage. Guantanamo is a national and legal disgrace.
Everyday gun deaths: Since the start of 2008 there have been just short of 200,000 gun-related deaths in the US. While tragic mass shootings such as Columbine and Sandy Hook generate the headlines, the fact remains that gun-related deaths in general, and homicides using firearms in particular, have become a banal part of everyday life in the US. To get some sense of the relentless and often invisible flow of gun violence in the US, follow @GunDeaths on Twitter. It’s sobering.
Chelsea Manning: The person who provided the material for thousands of newspaper articles was arrested in 2010, placed in solitary confinement and subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison. Coverage of Manning before and during her trial by the US news media was abysmal: a particularly damning indictment of journalism given the importance of the case for the future of whistle-blowing and, hence, freedom of the press.
Military spending: In 2011, of the 14 leading countries in the world when it came to spending on national defence, the US was, of course, first with an offensive $711bn budget. Even more offensive? The fact that the 13 countries underneath the US spent $695bn on national defence…combined. And, this US budget does not include the estimated $6tn (that’s $6,000,000,000,000) the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will likely wind up costing the US taxpayers. And Manning is the one who gets 35 years in prison.
Watch the news. How much do you see of the later versus the former. Consider that without some serious media triangulation what you are ingesting is the equivalent of the Roman bread and circuses put on to keep the population stupid, obedient and passive.
Tell me again about those so called charitable rich people…? Onwards brothers and sisters to the class war. This vid is pretty much everything I’ve said on the blog and what I rail against a on regular basis. Go Ted Talks Go.
Nice to have a handy reference poster to deal with our anti-choice, forced birth friends.
Go read The Bowl, the Ram and the Folded Map:Navigating the Complicated world by Elodie Under Glass. It is fine narrative post with plenty of interesting bits and sheep! It is wool worth your while. However, these paragraphs in particular, caught my educational eye as they articulate not only what happened to me, but what I see happening to those I teach.
“Science is traditionally taught by blowing the minds of students who struggle to understand the workings of pepper grinders, and leaving them to pick up the pieces for themselves. The students then reassemble the fragments of their minds incorrectly, retaining the sexy and surprising bit, and filling in the rest of the gaps with porridge before going out into the world and smugly misunderstanding everything they see in it. Naturally, what they observe in the world does not match the porridge in their heads. Sometimes the students reassess their minds and realize that the world is infinitely more complicated than porridge and that most of their education was a series of easy lies, in which case they are usually doomed to be writers or scientists. Conversely, if they insist that the world actually matches the composition of their porridge, such that the observable world is wrong, then they will go on to be successful and influential.
This is why people still insist that evolutionary biology underlies gender theory, and why they genuinely and honestly think that seasons are caused by the Earth’s elliptical orbit moving it closer to the Sun.
(it seems that there is a certain type of historical accuracy that only makes sense if it matches a historically inaccurate picture of the world.)”
My university days were long, dark, and cold. Socially meh, but then again social has always been on the “meh” side for me. Let’s use the term “methodical” to describe my educational experience, as in, I need “x” coursed to get “x” educational degree so I can get teach students stuff they are not interested in learning. I graduated in 1999 taking the seven year approach to a 4 year program, coming out the other side with bright shiny knollege!!! coupled with important educational ideas and lofty notions of helping children reach their collective potentials.
All of which came crashing down around my head with my very first desk being tossed in my general direction by an angry student one day. Backstory first. Ever the romantic, I took the subjects that I was interested in during my University tenure: Philosophy, History and Psychology and some English because I needed a minor.
My first teaching gig? In areas where I knew stuff? Hardly. It was a week at a school/ranch in rural Alberta specializing in troubled boys who, let me assure you, are not one bit interested in learning what I had to offer. I learned very quickly that the primary attribute required for teaching was patience, coupled with a side of patience then with some patience sprinkled on top, finishing with a delightful dollop of patience for dessert. Behavioural education is a bit of a different beast than the regular educational stream. Less focus on the traditional curriculum but much more focus on character and routine building and other humanizing activities.
I’m disgusted with what people do to their children. The experiences of frustration, anger, and pain whipsaws these kids into cold reactive silence. Their emotional scar tissue protects them and, at the same time, holds them back because progress and maturation requires taking risks which doesn’t happen when you have been playing defense all of your life. Cue all the anti-social destructive habits that make the pain go away, but land you in such lovely institutions as the ranch where I began my teaching career.
I’ve made it into the urban school board now as a supply teacher once again (woo) and stare at the long slog of building relationships and contacts that might get me hired somewhere. I’ve been there and done that once before, and I’m not sure that I want to do it again. I’m not sure is up with all the anecdata, but it was needed to get to this point to answer what the quote from Elodie was getting at – education doesn’t happen unless you undertake it yourself.
The University of Alberta offers off-season courses, amenably called the Spring/Summer semesters in which you can take 12 week courses squashed into a 6 week period. The learning is intense and the requires dedication and perseverance inside and outside of the lectures. Unlike my undergraduate days, I simply loved going to these classes, engaging fully into the learning process and tackling problems that ideas that broke my brain.
Loved it! The stress, the deadlines, the editing, polishing and reediting of essays and position papers, countless hours of review etc, it was great. I excelled in almost every class I took and now look back with a some pride. I did well now, as opposed to my degree studies because of the traits and knowledge learned outside of the ‘formal’ learning. I had no idea how the world worked until I read Chomsky and Zinn. I knew little of the struggles of women until I read BrownMiller (and am currently working through important works in the feminism canon), I knew little about the middle east until I read Tariq Ali and Robert Fisk.
These authors and many more fed my curiosity and growing sense of disgust and unease with the world. None of the knowledge that broke me into the world was ever found in the dim halls of my high school or the too warm/too cold lecture theatres of the University. It was a voyage sponsored alone, until I met and began to interact with my future partner, whose knowledge and scientific prowess/rigor far surpassed my own (still does, I’ve learned not to argue with awesome), goaded me into upping my intellectual game and going further than I thought possible. I owe a great debt to her for helping me build my intellect and foster the rational-academic aspects of my personality.
So how do you square being a teacher with the fact that you are stuffing a hodge-podge of oatmeal into your students heads and then with hoping that somehow they manage to find the path *despite* what you’ve taught them. Past bandying a few phrases about winnowing out the chaff or some sort of survival of the fittest bunk, I’m not seeing much sunshine in this particular situation.
Browsing the time sink known as Reddit today I came across a very cool comic showing someone building a chat-bot to debate a theist. I googled the title of the comic and found the original as well a very awesome comic called Bag of Toast. I highly recommend checking it out.
The comic in question:
This made me think that I would love a chat bot to debate the theists, global warming deniers, anti-vaccine advocates,
scumbags MRAs, or anyone I disagree with but constantly have to have 101 level discussions with. It would be wonderful. But then the Reddit community came through and proved there is such a thing already!
Christopher Mims at MIT Technology Review writes:
Nigel Leck, a software developer by day, was tired of arguing with anti-science crackpots on Twitter. So, like any good programmer, he wrote a script to do it for him.
The result is the Twitter chatbot @AI_AGW. Its operation is fairly simple: Every five minutes, it searches twitter for several hundred set phrases that tend to correspond to any of the usual tired arguments about how global warming isn’t happening or humans aren’t responsible for it.
Sadly this chat bot has since been suspended, but given how easy it is to create twitter accounts I’m sure it is out there somewhere, debating science deniers so that we don’t have to. Finding out this bot existed has made today a good day.
It must be the holiday season as it seems that I’ve given the gift of knowledge to an intrepid crusader of the Manosphere. Slow days at work means I can spend time feeding my SIWOTI compulsion. This is Red Pen of Justice material, but in a different format as instead of interspersing my commentary into the body of the original work, I’ll post my analysis of the dudes arguments as they would appear in his comment section if he decided to publish it. Brace yourself folks, the “wisdom” flows hard and fast in this dude’s sage observations of all hardships faced by the menz. I’ll put it under the fold since it is a mighty wall of text.