Tag Archives: censorship

Terrorism in Christchurch – some thoughts

A peaceful, tranquil place to sit and contemplate in the Hagley Park/Botanical Gardens area of Christchurch. It is obscene that this terrorist act occurred only a short distance away from here.

Like most New Zealanders I am badly shocked by the brutal act of terror and mass shootings in Christchurch today (March 15). As our Prime Minster Jacinda Adern said, this is not us.

I feel particularly emotional as only a few days ago I spent a very pleasurable morning walking in Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens just a short distance from the Mosque where most of the deaths occurred. The tranquillity and peacefulness of the area impressed me. A place for rest and quiet contemplation – and then this happens.

Remembering that tranquillity with my photo above underlines to me the obscenity of this act of terror. This should not have happened in New Zealand, let alone in such a lovely city and peaceful area.

Problems with censorship

The censorship around this incident concerns me a little. I support any attempt to suppress the terrorist’s live video of the shooting. It, apparently, is just too much like a video game and could appeal to people who might be influenced into copycat acts.

But the terrorist’s Manifesto has now also been removed from social media – and that worries me. I had a brief read before it was removed and got the impression the writer was influenced by the British Fascist Oswald Mosley and the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who murdered 77 people in a 2011 car bomb explosion in Oslo and a shooting spree at a Workers’ Youth League summer camp on the nearby  Utøya Island.

Pages from the Manifesto of the Christchurch terrorist

My impression is that Christchurch mass shootings were not acts of home-grown terrorism – just that the terrorists chose New Zealand because it was an unlikely place for this. They wanted to show that this could happen even here. No one is safe.

Unfortunately, by censoring the manifesto the field is left wide open for erroneous speculation and politically motivated pointing of fingers. Already I have seen one overseas report describing New Zealand First as a local neo-fascist group presumably with members like this terrorist. A Twitter account well-known for promoting Russophobia retweeted descriptions of the Cyrillic writing on the shooter’s ammunition clips – presumably to raise the Russia bogeyman. And several posts on social media have been quick to blame this act of terror on Donald Trump and the supposed increased confidence of white supremacists by Trump’s election.

Such speculation and opportunist partisan use of the horrible event is not helpful. It diverts attention away from the specific causes and makes it harder to find solutions. Those censoring this manifesto may be driven by the desire not to allow this terrorist to communicate his beliefs. But, in denying us the ability to identify those beliefs, censorship is only encouraging erroneous conclusions which lead to other groups and people receiving unwarranted blame. Perhaps I am biased, but if this act of terrorism was not home-grown then let’s ensure that people understand that.

I believe that knowledge of the beliefs of the Norwegian terrorist Breivik was essential to his prosecution and imprisonment. The manifesto of the terrorist responsible for what happened in Christchurch today will be essential to his prosecution and I believe that the manifesto should be exposed for what it is. Censorship does not help that.

 

Policing social media – who is coming next and who is behind it?

Free speech and the problems of deplatforming and censorship are in the public mind at the moment. The banning of the conspiracy theorist outlet Infowars by a number of social media networks is just the latest example concerning many people – most of who, like me, do not support Infowars or Alex Jones in any way. Mind you, that does not stop supporters of this censoring claiming that we do – a claim Glen Greenwald described as “utterly obnoxious & disingenuous”

A slippery slope

The Real News video discussion with Max Blumenthal above warns that this censorship is a slippery slope – a slope along which we have already slipped well past Infowars. Blumenthal gives examples where his own media presence has been censored.

Blumenthal also warns that those doing this policing of social media are hardly humanitarians attempting to prevent hate speech. They have deep political and military origins which are driving this activity.

I find very disturbing that Facebook and the Atlantic Council are now cooperating in policing of Facebook content and in directing social media users to “approved” and “official” news sources (see Atlantic Council press release: Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab Partners with Facebook to Combat Disinformation in Democratic Elections). So we will now have a NATO-aligned “think tank” controlling information US voters, and the rest of us, get via social media. An organisation which is also strongly linked to outfits like the terrorist aligned White Helmets in Syria, the nationalist regime in Ukraine and conspiracy theorist “open sources” like Bellingcat.

Hopefully, readers will watch this video and its follow-up. I know some readers will see this as just another conspiracy theory. Apparently, they believe I am prone to such theories and urge me to wear blinkers and restrict my news sources to just the approved “official” sources.

Perhaps, instead of their outright rejection of the video above, they should critically consider the conspiracy theories they adhere to. The “official” conspiracy theories promoted by their “approved,” “official,” mainstream media sources. The conspiracy theories that get the blessing of outfits like The Atlantic Council, the Ukrainian regime and Bellingcat.

The “official” conspiracy theory promoted by the mainstream media

The video below is satirical – but really – how different is its content to the “official” “Russiagate,” conspiracy theory our mainstream media is bombarding us with every day.

Apparently, US society is really utopian – it has no problems. All the conflicts we read about are caused by those pesky Russians and their president, Putin.

Also, the video below from Syriana Analysis raises warnings about the slippery slope organisations like the Atlantic Council, are moving us down. Many people like me rely on multiple sources for information. The mainstream media (which never seems to be censored by these social media or the Atlantic Council) inevitably follows the official narrative on many issues (consider Syria, Russia, etc.). They often give fake news or misrepresent information (see, for example, Blatant misreporting of latest OPCW report on chemical weapons in Syria and The “heart of the Syrian chemical weapons programme” destroyed?). A wise person uses multiple sources, including independent or alternative media, to avoid this sort of control on information.

Hassling alternative and independent media

Syriana Analysis is one of the many sources I often check out for information on Syria. Independent sources like this rely heavily on social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get out their message and to get financial support for their work.

Its spokesperson describes some of the hassles his organisation faces from social media bans and censorship. Many other independent or alternative media sources describe similar problems.

Some people object to using the word “censorship” to describe this problem. They point out that even big corporations like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have a perfect right to decide how their businesses operate. That the government is not involved.

However, this is naive.

Politicians driving the censorship

Let’s not forget that the US Senate Judiciary Committee subjected these corporations to strong pressure aimed at forcing them into the role of censors. This is how Caitlan Johnson, a very wise woman, described this in her article Social Media Censorship Is Vastly More Dangerous Than The Censored Material:

“A few months ago the Senate Judiciary Committee spoke with top legal and security officials for Facebook, Twitter and Google in a very disturbing way about the need to silence dissenting voices. Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii demanded that the companies adopt a “mission statement” declaring their commitment “to prevent the fomenting of discord.” Former FBI agent and deep state lackey Clint Watts kicked it up even further, saying, “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words. America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”

This happened on the Senate floor, right out in the open.”

I don’t think attempts to censor social media and close down independent and alternative media sources are going to succeed, at least permanently. The internet has let the genie out of the bottle. Official mainstream media and the political establishment can no longer control the information available to those who look for it.

At least I hope that genie is out of the bottle.

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Critical thinking, not censorship, is the solution to fake news

All this talk about fake news brings to my mind a picture of people in glass houses frantically throwing stones. The fact is that many of those complaining about fake news, especially those dominating our mainstream media, are guilty of promoting fake news – and have done it for years.

I can’t help thinking what really upsets them, is that their readership may be becoming a bit more critical and looking for other sources of news. They are trying to poison the water.

Edward Snowden’s interview from last December 13 is very relevant here. The above video is just a clip from the full video where he talks about fake news – why it’s happening and what to do about it. I really like his conclusions:

“The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other. The answer to bad speech is not censorship. The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular.”

This really is a time when we have to oppose attempts to limit our access to information. We must not allow the political and media elite to tell us what we can and cannot read and view. We must not allow them to tell us that some news sources ar “out of bounds.” We must not allow them to put blinkers on us.

Alternative media only part of the answer

Sure, accessing alternative new sources is not the full answer – it is only part of the answer. All news sources have a bias, an agenda. For the unthinking person, the solution might be to choose the news source which confirms their own bias or agenda. But that is really unthinking – and it certainly is not a defense against fake news. Quite the opposite. The unthinking acceptance of fake news only encourages it.

No, the answer is to resort to critical thinking. By recognising that all sources may be guilty of fake news – and all news sources have a bias and agenda – we can start thinking for ourselves. We develop the skills of listening and viewing these sources critically. Balancing the information from one source against another. Thinking about the credibility of news stories and the sources they rely on. Recognising bias and false news when we come across it.

Moving towards censorship?

Unfortunately, the political and media elite are working hard to discredit alternative news sources. And their attempts are determined, serious and occurring at a high level. It is hard to envisage truly democratic countries accepting the sort of censorship this seems to be promoting. But have a read of Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia.” Produced by the right-wing Henry Jackson Society this report actually advocates a range of extreme measures, including legislation, controlling the media appearances of politicians and the deliberate intensive undermining of the credibility of “non-approve” news media.

I have seen local journalists actually advocating measures as if they are lifted unchanged from this document – so much for a professional approach to their occupation. And this approach is inherent in the recently adopted resolution of the European parliament on the media and “anti EU-propaganda.”

It is hard to see how such censorship could even be effective in the age of the internet. But the incessant propaganda about false news and attempts to discredit alternative news sources – not for the news they carry but just because they are alternative – is encouraging forms of self-censoring for many individuals. People are being encouraged to reject information because it is from an alternative new source, and not because of the information itself. They are being encouraged into wearing blinkers.

Avoiding self-censorship

A simple exercise. How many time do you see a comment or piece of information on social media rejected out of hand because it was reported on RT, or another alternative news source? Then compare that with the number of times you have seen similar rejections because the report was carried by CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, etc. Yet all those news media are just as capable of carrying false news as each other. One has only to have followed the US Presidential elections or the Syrian war to recognise that.

Full video

The full interview of Edwards Snowden by Twitter’s  Jack Dorsey and Snowden’s answers to Twitter questions is well worth watching. He is a very intelligent man and should not be ignored.

Here is the full video.

Conclusion

Again it is very much a matter of “reader beware.” We have to stop trusting news sources just because they are “mainstream”.”official,” or “approved.” We have to resist the pressure for self-censorship and the wearing of blinkers that the current political and media elite are promoting.

We should be unafraid and should take advantage of all the sources available to us in this age of the internet.

And, above all, we have to develop and protect our critical thinking skills so that we can use this media – mainstream and alternative – wisely.

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Voluntary media censorship is ethically wrong

Reporting the Syrian war has become very partisan. Some established media simply do not cover aspects of the war or limit their coverage to one side. The concerned person cannot, and should not, rely on a single media source to get reliable information.

I am not asserting there is organisational censorship – far from it. Just that censorship often operates by omission. For example, Al Jazeera never covers the facts of civilian deaths in western Aleppo because they have no reporters in that city. Whereas they closely cover (alleged) civilian deaths in the eastern part of the city held by “rebels”/”terrorists.” They seem to have reporters embedded in the “rebel”/”terrorist” militia – or simply uncritically pass on the information provided to them by “activists” involved in the fighting. Almost every night they seem to pass on video and reports from the “White Helmets” – a very suspect organisation with links to Al Qaeda.

But the video above provides another example of how voluntary media self-censorship works in the war.

The speaker is the Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr Bashar al-Ja’afari. I have written before about him, saying that he:

“impresses me with the clear and concise arguments he makes. It is a pity  he is not given the coverage on our mainstream media that his position should demand. He makes a lot more sense than the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power.”

Now, I think I know why he gets no coverage. The media self-censors when it comes to his press conferences.

If you do not have time to watch the whole video fast forward to about 49 minutes and 30 secs. Here he describes what happens when he gives press conferences alongside Security Council meetings. Such press conferences are commonly given by the ambassadors to update media on the views and stance of government’s.

Bashar describes how  when his turn comes to speak to the accredited reporters – an audience of about 50 – 100 who have the opportunity to put questions to the speaker – 50% of the reporters get up and leave! I was aware that ambassadors from unfriendly countries (like USA, France, and the UK) do this – leave the security council meetings – when the Syrian Ambassador speaks. But the media!

As Dr al-Ja’afari says,  these reporters not only self-censor by omission when they leave – they cannot report the information they do not receive – they also self-censor by removing the obligation to report from such press conferences.

I think that is morally wrong and violates any reasonable concept of reporting ethics.

The speech is well worth watching through to the end. It is very informative and interesting. He explains the background the 9/11, describes the nature if secularism in Syria, and exposes some of the underhand methods used in the UN to cover up the UN commission’s report of the claims of weapons if mass destruction in Iraq. He also relates the story of how the issue of chemical weapons and their use in Syria was mishandled.

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Does religion threaten human rights?

It worries me that as we approach the 60th anniversary of the the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the world seems to be facing a new threat to freedom of expression. This freedom is basic in democratic societies. It’s also vital to exposing, and overcoming, violations of human rights throughout the world.

I have commented before about attempts by some international Islamic organisations to restrict freedom of expression when it comes to issues involving violation of human rights in Islamic countries. This has extended to preventing criticism of religion in UN organisations. Other religions have extended a degree of support for this position internationally, and within some European countries.

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