News

On Tyranny

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In a country fond of seeing itself as “the land of the free”, in the last couple decades, fear seems to have considerably tarnished this idealistic notion. We say we want freedom, but for whom? Too often, such notions suggest that we want freedom within the boundaries of what we idiosyncratically define as “US”—a term that has increasingly become more grounded in exclusivity than inclusion. This “US” comes to inform our socio-politically charged definition of freedom. In an attempt to stave off fear, our expectations are tinged by a new found xenophobia; we redefine a continually shrinking concept we used to refer to as “a free American”. In so doing, we open the door for those who would exploit our assumed sense of vulnerability. But when freedom does not apply to all, ultimately, it will fail to encompass any of us.

On Tyrrany“European democracies collapsed into right-wing authoritarianism and fascism in the 1920s and ‘30s… The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”

So writes historian Timothy Snyder in his recently published book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. On Tyranny is a tiny book, 126 pages measuring only about 4×6 inches. Each of the twenty suggestions forms a chapter consisting of only two to five pages.

Mr. Snyder does express certain biases (such as casting a jaundiced eye toward the Internet). However, for the most part, the book is largely written from a non-partisan perspective, focusing on various means of preserving freedom and staving off tyrannical control. As the book is quite easy to read, you can probably finish it in an hour (although you will likely ruminate over its contents for much longer).

Some of Snyder’s suggestions are expected (such as #3 – Beware the One-party State). Others are either surprising or defined in a thought provoking manner. For example:

  • #  2 – Defend Institutions
  • #10 – Believe in Truth
  • #11 – Investigate

All address–directly or indirectly–some of the more hidden aspects of what is currently happening in the United States.

In a Washington Post review, Mr. Snyder’s book is described as “a slim book that fits alongside your pocket Constitution and feels only slightly less vital.”  Some folks have been so taken with this little gem that they have bought multiple copies to distribute for free (a little over $6 on Amazon).

Requiem - Chomsky book coverOnce you have read through the Snyder book a couple times you might, on reflection, find yourself thinking a bit differently about the state of affairs in the United States. While the twenty suggestions Snyder offers are pointed and helpful, the brevity of the book prevents comprehensive treatment of any idea. As such, you might want to follow-up Snyder’s book and expand your understanding the mechanism of tyranny by tackling the more in depth descriptions of “reality” in the U.S. by reading Requiem for the American Dream, Noam Chomsky’s new book. Professor Chomsky addresses tyranny from the perspective of identifying various tactics of oppression such as reducing democracy, attacking solidarity and marginalizing the population—all of which have been happening and continue to occur as you read this. Like On Tyranny, Requiem is easy to read, although not quite so brief.

Finally if you are really committed to understanding tyranny and how it might have been the underlying mode of governance in the United States for decades, consider Sheldon Wolin’s more challenging and comprehensive book Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.

Update: WikiTribune – On its way!

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Remember the seekingGood teaser about the crowdfunding endeavor for WikiTribune, a new evidence-based journalistic initiative launched by Jimmy Wales (one of the founders of wikipedia)?  The group behind WikiTribune reached their funding goal and has entered the next phase of the project.  Take a peek here if you would like a more general update on what is going on with WikiTribune.

More specifically, as of August 3rd, 2017, WikiTribune has hired three journalists and an editor, all of whom you might like to know more about.

Journalists: Holly, Harry & Linh

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Holly Brockwell: Former freelance journalist and tech writer from Nottingham, England. She is apparently fairly smart, having joined MENSA at age 12.  When she heard about the WikiTribune endeavor, Holly jumped at the chance to approach journalism in a wholly new way, to transcend its current limitations.

You can read more about Holly on her website.


Harry Ridgewell: Harry will be working on stories related to science and politics. Harry would like the practice of journalists referencing their presented facts (that is, posting their sources) to become an industry standard. Everybody tell the truth—a refreshing, albeit utopian idea. Perhaps it is just what we need in these dystopian times.

You can follow Harry on Twitter.


Linh Nguyen: An observer of trends, during her tenure at WIkiTribune, Linh hopes to cover “economic policy, human rights, mental health, foreign affairs, politics and the social side of tech”.

A free media is one of the pillars of democracy, and we must fight to sustain it
~ Linh Nguyen

You can follow Linh on her website.


Editor: Peter Bale

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A former editor for Reuters, Peter is an international journalist and a former CEO of Center for Public Integrity.  He is currently the President of Global Editors’ Network.   “Jimmy Wales has a history of creating web products with immense social value built on a commitment to engaging a global community of contributors. He understands the value of journalism to society and at the same time wants to revolutionize the approach to reporting on and explaining the big issues of our time. … It’s a privilege to work with him and a team of innovative journalists, developers and communicators to launch WikiTribune.”

You can follow Peter on Twitter.


WikiTribune plans to launch in September of this year.

 

Monitoring News Bias

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You want to know the “truth”, right?  As such, surely you spread your reading across news sources of varying political perspectives, right?  One can only hope your quest for truth is, indeed a quest and not self-administered salve to soothe intra-psychic fears about your future and the future well-being of those you hold dear.  “Truth” is larger than that.

Should you venture into the wild, attempting to get differing perspectives on current events, how can you know if what you are reading is valid?  If understanding the political leaning of any given site is important to you, check out Media Bias / Fact Check.  (MBFC), a news outlet evaluation site which describes itself as the following:

  • Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC News) is an independent online media outlet. MBFC News is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices.
  • MBFC News’ aim is to inspire action and a rejection of overtly biased media. We want to return to an era of straight forward news reporting.
  • Funding for MBFC News comes from site advertising, individual donors, and the pockets of our bias checkers.
  • MBFC News follows a strict methodology for determining the biases of sources. Dave Van Zandt is the primary editor for sources. He is assisted by a collective of volunteers who assist in research for many sources listed on these pages.
  • MBFC News also provides occasional fact checks, original articles on media bias and breaking/important news stories, especially as it relates to USA politics.

Just type in the name of any site you are interested in and see what MBFC has to say about it.  Try searching for sites you know.  Try “The Guardian”, “Reuters” or “Breitbart”.  You can also get a list of many outlets that MBFC classifies together – Right-Bias, Pro-Science, Left-Center-Bias, etc. (nine categories in all, including “Conspiracy-Pseudoscience”).   Of particular interest is the category which MBFC considered the Least Biased.  You will notice that these MBFC lists are quite long as they included media outlet from all over the world (ever considered getting your news from the Bangkok Post?).

One of the advantages of MBFC is its employment of differing evaluation criteria during its daily analysis of various news outlets.  For instance, MBFC analyses a site’s relative factual reporting as one criterion.  This criterion focuses on whether the information presented by the site is verifiable.  However, a different criterion considers whether a site presents “biased” stories, which is not the same as accusing the site of “false” reporting. A site might present actual facts, but presents those facts couched in a slanted presentation, presumably with the attempt to sway the interpretation and opinion of readers of those facts.  Such bias can be seen in the use of loaded words, the choice of which stories to tell, what details to reveal and which to omit, for instance, all of which skew the whole truth of the situation.  Comparing even these criteria–and there are others–can be helpful for identifying the nature of the proposed “truth” being presented.  Perhaps MBFC’s greatest value is that the site presents many listings which provide direct links to outlets you might not have heard of (and might find quite informative).

The Media Bias / Fact Check site could be quite useful for anyone, regardless of socio-political orientation.  Give it a look.  You might learn something.

 

Expand your horizon and your mind! 
Read something you do NOT believe and see what happens!


DISCLAIMER: The seekingGood blog does not necessarily endorse the MBFC site except as a possible help in the evaluation of media sources.  As always, do your own research and think for yourself.

A Win for Investigative Journalism

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In a previous post, seekingGood highlighted the need for more investigative journalism.  ProPublica has voiced a similar concern. As the first online site to receive the Pulitzer Prize— ProPublica is known for the depth and thoroughness of its stories. However, the articles posted by ProPublic can be challenging for the average reader.  Enter Vox.  As reported by ProPublica, Vox, a news and opinion website noted for its explanatory journalism, has teamed up with ProPublica to provide visual access to their material.  This might help clarify the message of more complicate stories.  Sharing resources and research, the ProPublica-Vox collaboration can only be a good thing for investigative journalism and, ultimately, for us.

A New Form of Journalism?


[DISCLAIMER] Always seeking “truth” and the means to reliably find it, we are pushing the follow-up to “Locally Green” (scheduled for this week), to a later date.  Instead, check out this interesting development in the field of news reporting. Obviously, this early in the process, we cannot endorse this organization, but it is, at least worth a look.

With the power of online transparency, together we can beat fake news.
~Jimmy Wales

Introducing Wikitribune

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Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) has just this week initiated a new journalism platform called “Wikitribune”.  Like Wikipedia, “Wikitribune is a news platform that brings journalists and a community of volunteers together. We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events. And that stories can be easily verified and improved.”

Seeking to “fix” the news, Wikitribune is attempting to bring control of the dissemination of factual information back to the community.  Mr. Wales suggests that “social media, where most people get their news these days, is literally designed to show us what we want to see, to confirm our bias.”  This trend “fundamentally breaks the news”.  Wikitribune is being launched to help correct this problem.

The principles are simple.

Articles must be fact based with named sources:  “Supporting Wikitribune means ensuring that journalists only write articles based on facts that they can verify…that you can see their sources. “

Ad-free content is free for all readers:  Wikitribune will present no pay walls, giving all people open access to all content.  Furthermore, the site will be completely ad-free, permitting no corporate influence to shape the nature of the information presented.

The community and hired journalists are equal… “Articles are authored, fact-checked, wikitribune community.PNGand verified by professional journalists and community members working side by side as equals, and supported not primarily by advertisers, but by readers who care about good journalism enough to become monthly supporters.”

…with full financial transparency:  Promising no compromise regarding financial influence, Wikitribune has plans to operate and publish its financials regularly.  The staff journalists will be paid by subscription revenue—which is to say, by us.

This noble endeavor has only just begun. However, as  Fortune magazine points out, this is not the first time such an idea has been proposed.  These previous efforts did not meet with much success.   Some critics question the possible success of Wikitribune.  And yet, Jimmy Wales faced similar criticism during the launch of Wikipedia.  We can see how that turned out.

Wikitribune is a good idea that needs our support.  If you are one to jump feet first into the possible, donate now.  If you are more of a wait-n-seer, take a look at the site, do some research about the project, and consider subscribing once they have reached their startup goals. Most of all, once Wikitribune is up and running, you might want to use the site as one of your news gathering tools.


Background articles:


For more information, contact: info@wikitribune.com