Turkish women are leading the opposition. “This is not a coincidence,” writes author and activist Elif Shafak. “When societies slide into authoritarianism, ultranationalism and fanaticism, women have much more to lose than men.” (Photo: Guido Menato/cc/flickr)
Turkish citizens head to the polls on Sunday to vote on a historic referendum that could potentially cement autocratic rule in the nation, consolidating power for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
If the referendum passes, “it will abolish the office of prime minister, enabling the president to centralize all state bureaucracy under his control and also to appoint cabinet ministers,” AFPreports. Erdoğan would also “control the judiciary” and essentially “rule by decree,” Foreign Policy in Focus columnist Conn Hallinan further noted. Continue reading →
On the same day, there were further arrests in Moscow in connection with five different events, and practically everybody who was arrested was questioned (and threatened) by investigators working on this new case. That said, all the investigators’ questions concerned 26 March. And on 6 April, the Investigative Committee had already announced that a suspect was in custody. Continue reading →
European leaders have found their nemesis in Viktor Orbán, whose legislation closing down the Central European University constitutes an ethno-nationalist and authoritarian challenge to Europe’s liberal order.
If guests questioned the significance of a university to its founder, the former President and Rector of Central European University, John Shattuck, liked to remind them that unlike most human institutions, universities can boast longevity. Which significant institutions live on, he would ask, from the years of renaissance glory in Florence, Venice or Padua? Their universities. Or, to put the matter in more familiar terms, what other British corporation founded in 1421 survives and thrives 600 years on, as does King’s College Cambridge?
But after yesterday’s news from Budapest, it may be that the distinguished diplomat and former head of Harvard Library, spoke too soon. Continue reading →
South China Sea — Adding fuel to an already highly combustible situation in Southeast Asia, Reutersreported Tuesday that China has “largely completed major construction of military infrastructure on artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea,” and that the Asian superpower “can now deploy combat planes and other military hardware there at any time.”
Citing satellite imagery analyzed by the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative, part of Washington, D.C.’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, the news agency writes that “work on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands included naval, air, radar and defensive facilities.”Continue reading →
The Turkish government’s response to the 2016 coup attempt is well known. In the name of national security, it has pursued a concerted campaign to crack down on the media, academics, the independence of institutions, human rights defenders and political opponents.
According to Erdogan’s critics, we are witnessing a barely veiled attempt to establish a new sultanate. The speed and magnitude of measures taken is dazzling. With the media focusing on Erdogan’s April referendum, it is easy to lose sight of, or cover up, the tensions and serious abuses in the Kurdish areas in the south-east of the country. Continue reading →
Welcome and Opening Remarks from Commissioner Ajit Pai, May 2014.Wikicommons/Federal Communications Commission.Public domain.
As this openDemocracy series has poignantly highlighted, digital rights should never be taken for granted. For all those keeping a close eye on US politics, this reality could not resonate more ominously. With the new Republican administration of Donald J. Trump, there is plenty of kindle to fuel a fire of discussion and, often enough, outrage.
Yet, behind all of the grandstanding, tweeting, and obscene showmanship, there lies a political machine forged in the corridors of Capitol Hill, skyscraping towers of corporate America, and musty legal libraries ready to take up the bureaucratic responsibility of running the United States. You see, outside of the more widely covered political issues such as immigration and healthcare, administrative decisions related to the country’s telecommunications policy often go unnoticed by the majority of the US citizenry. Continue reading →
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will embark on his first trip to Asia next week, visiting Japan, South Korea, and China. In what some journalists are calling an unprecedented move, he will not travel with members of the press.
“Not only does this situation leave the public narrative of the meetings up to the Chinese foreign ministry as well as Korea’s and Japan’s, but it gives the American people no window whatsoever into the views and actions of the nation’s leaders,” a dozen Washington bureau chiefs from major news organizations wrote in a letter to the State Department earlier this week. Continue reading →
Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humankind! We’re out of time. We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction.
These are the words of Berta Cáceres, the community organizer, human rights defender, environmental activist, indigenous Lenca woman, leader and rebel who was shot dead one year ago, on March 3, 2016, by unidentified gunmen at her home in La Esperanza, the capital city of the department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.
Berta was a co-founder of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), an organization fighting neoliberalism and patriarchy in Honduras and working for respect of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples in particular. She was a long-term opponent of internationally funded exploitative development projects in indigenous territories in Honduras, such as the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, set to be built on the territory of the Lenca people in the Río Blanco. Continue reading →
Dust off your fax machine. The FBI is planning to take a big step backward for government transparency.
As of March 1, the Bureau will no longer accept Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests via email. Anyone seeking public records from the FBI will have to use a new online portal — or send requests via fax or snail mail.
Online FOIA portals may seem like a good idea in theory, but government agencies make them difficult to use — with way too many burdensome requirements.
News consumers today face a flood of fake news and information. Distinguishing between fact and fiction has become increasingly challenging.
In the past, news organizations sifted through information to try to determine its validity and veracity. Being trusted for what they reported became an important part of journalists’ reputations.
But that was then.
You are part of the problem
Now the gatekeeping role that the legacy media newspapers and network television news once played falls to all of us. Today, everyone assumes the position of publisher. Technology has democratized the process of making, or making up, news.
Journalists no longer decide what goes public. Information flows unimpeded and unchecked through the internet, filling a multitude of websites, blogs and tweets.
All of it flows through social media streams and into our laptops, tablets and smartphones. Everyone who posts, or reshares, a news story on Facebook or retweets a link takes on a role once held by only a powerful few media executives. The problem that emerges today stems from the fact that most social media “publishers” fail to consider the responsibility for what they post.
And it’s not that the old gatekeepers were infallible or consistently apolitical. But in today’s technological world, we’re in the midst of an informational perfect storm. The equation I might offer would be: Velocity + Volume = Volatility. All the news on the internet moves so fast, and assaults us with so much, that the outcome becomes unpredictably dangerous.
Some people who use social media check what they publish. Others repost or retweet information without reading it carefully, much less doing any due diligence for accuracy. That plays into what those who produce fake news hope to accomplish. While some believe they hope to deceive people, press critic Tom Rosenstiel asserts, “The goal of fake news is not to make people believe the lie. It is to make them doubt all news.”
Some may think that young people, with their social media savvy, might be better able to assess the information they consume.
A Stanford University study found it shocking that many of them couldn’t “evaluate the credibility of that information.” The study noted that more than 80 percent of middle schoolers saw “sponsored content” as actual news. High school students didn’t verify photos. Most college students failed to suspect potential bias in an activist group’s tweet.
Step up your game
So what are news consumers to do? How can they act as their own gatekeepers, intent on vigilance and verification like the best journalists and publishers of old?
Here’s how to begin.
#1. Check out the source. This may seem basic, but it’s easy to read headlines without paying attention to who wrote it. Writers and websites operate with their own perspective. Some want to offer a balanced view. Some advocate a point of view. Others hope to deceive you.
Know the “who” or the “what” of the source. Is the source, website, Twitter handle or blog familiar to you? Have you read them before? Read other work they have done. See if writers you trust link to them.
Read the “About” section of the writer/website. Use search engines to track the name. Sometimes such sites as Linkedin or Facebook turn up basic background information. The key is to know where they are coming from.
#2. Check out the information. Do other sources corroborate what you’re reading, viewing or hearing? Have you used verification sites such as Snopes, Politifact and FactCheck.org?
Dick Grefe, a senior reference librarian at Washington and Lee University, alerted me that two professors at the University of Washington have proposed teaching a course “Calling Bullshit: In the Age of Big Data.” The course would “focus on bullshit that comes clad in the trappings of scholarly discourse.” What’s fake isn’t limited to news.
#3. Be aware of your biases. Remember that we tend to read, listen to and watch news with our own built-in prejudices. We evaluate information based on whether it supports what we already believe. It can be easy to discount that which upsets or challenges our worldview. Reports about “confirmation bias” abound. As studies and writers have noted, we basically believe what we want to believe.
Battle your own confirmation bias by expanding the sources of information you seek. Be open to thinking about different points of view. Read widely. Read counterpoints. Watch for innovations from the media. For example, one recent study published on MarketWatch placed different news sources on the “truthiness” scale. Another, older piece on businessinsider.com could help you identify the ideology underlining your favorite source of news.
There’s no need to close the gate, but be sure you know what’s flowing in. It matters.