How I want to look at online media during terrible events

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I think the latest Ask Amy video covers a some of my thoughts about how we view stuff online, and how to find better images to fill our minds and brains with. It’s hard not to seek out news stories when something happens, but it also felt wrong to me at the same time. I’m aware that a lot of the media coverage of the Boston bombing was probably very distorted – the facts on the ground weren’t known completely, and people tweeting and video posting events from their point of view can be a window into events or a fun-house mirror that tells us more about ourselves than it does about what’s actually happening. If people need information on how to grow their online media, they can visit here and get help.

I think stepping back from the flood of information online – especially when I don’t know the veracity or relevance of it – is a good idea. I think a lot of my fascination with and time spent on the events in Boston was in observing how social media was spreading information around (that has gained 1k views recently), which is an interesting inquiry, but I’m not exactly a viral expert (it’s not my job to watch these patterns of information), so it’s an exercise in navel-gazing that isn’t exactly productive or enriching to my psyche.

In contrast, though, I’ve started to see the “I don’t want to know who he is or why he did what he did” meme going around facebook already. I’m uncomfortable with that reaction. I agree that we don’t want to glorify people who do terrible things with a spot in history, but I also hate the idea that we just accept that things happen without assigning blame on the responsible parties. If we listen to the guy’s manifesto, we can counter it with messages about why he’s wrong, which I think is important.

Because I don’t believe we have to just accept that “bad things happen,” or that we can’t create change because we clearly can. I think holding people accountable is important, and proving that they are wrong in their wrong beliefs advances us culturally to be more civilized and to have opportunities for more rewarding lives. If you had told me 15 years ago that our country would accept and allow gay marriage in our lifetime, cynical me would not have believed it for a second. But change is coming on that front, and it a good way. We can change the way the world thinks, the way they believe. It may be a long and arduous process, but we have done it countless times in the past, and we can do it again.

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Open Letter to that 53% Guy

Max Udargo on the Daily Kos delivers a great response to to the guy calling people whiners for not working 70 hours a week, and telling people to “suck it up” and stop blaming Wall Street. Read the whole response, because it’s worth it. But this particular bit stuck out to me (emphasis mine):

Here’s how a liberal looks at it: a long time ago workers in this country realized that industrialization wasn’t making their lives better, but worse. The captains of industry were making a ton of money and living a merry life far away from the dirty, dangerous factories they owned, and far away from the even dirtier and more dangerous mines that fed raw materials to those factories.

The workers quickly decided that this arrangement didn’t work for them. If they were going to work as cogs in machines designed to build wealth for the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies, they wanted a cut. They wanted a share of the wealth that they were helping create. And that didn’t mean just more money; it meant a better quality of life. It meant reasonable hours and better working conditions.

Eventually, somebody came up with the slogan, “8 hours of work, 8 hours of leisure, 8 hours of sleep” [note from Steph: I never heard this before. I like it!] to divide the 24-hour day into what was considered a fair allocation of a human’s time. It wasn’t a slogan that was immediately accepted. People had to fight to put this standard in place. People demonstrated, and fought with police, and were killed. They were called communists (in fairness, some of them were), and traitors, and many of them got a lot worse than pepper spray at the hands of police and private security.

But by the time we got through the Great Depression and WWII, we’d all learned some valuable lessons about working together and sharing the prosperity, and the 8-hour workday became the norm.
The 8-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek became a standard by which we judged our economic success, and a reality check against which we could verify the American Dream.

If a family could live a good life with one wage-earner working a 40-hour job, then the American Dream was realized. If the income from that job could pay the bills, buy a car, pay for the kids’ braces, allow the family to save enough money for a down payment on a house and still leave some money for retirement and maybe for a college fund for the kids, then we were living the American Dream. The workers were sharing in the prosperity they helped create, and they still had time to take their kids to a ball game, take their spouses to a movie, and play a little golf on the weekends.

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links for 2010-04-09

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Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested

I would like an apology from the police unions for acting like despicable douche bags.

For those of you who may have tuned in late, Police in Cambridge, Massachusetts arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., noted scholar, because he got angry with them. He got angry with them because they accosted him while he was trying to get into his own home. They were responding to a neighbor’s report that there were perhaps men trying to break into his home. In reality, Gates was himself trying to get into his own home. There was apparently a verbal altercation over presentation of ID (the police say he refused; Gates says he showed ID but the police didn’t believe him and demanded more ID) and the police arrested Gates for disorderly conduct.

Of course, the Police account differs from Gates’ account of what happened, but it’s very easy to see who is in the wrong – the Police were. And the reason it is very easy to see who is in the wrong is because THEY DROPPED THE CHARGES. Immediately. If the police had actually had a case, if Gates had actually been doing anything wrong, they wouldn’t have dropped it. But the fact that they did speaks volumes about what actually happened.

Indeed, as Josh Marshall says:

Here are some salient facts. The house was Gates’ house. From what I understand, no one disputes that prior to his arrest and while in the house, Gates provided proof that the house was his. When you have those facts and the guy whose house it is ends up getting arrested, I think that’s prima facie evidence of bad police work.

President Obama is friends with Henry Louis Gates Jr., and when asked to comment, he said this:

“I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any one of us would be pretty angry. No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3, what I think we know, separate and apart from this incident, is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That’s just a fact.”

I think that’s a fair statement. It’s my opinion that the Cambridge police acted stupidly. I’m not going apologize for saying that.

The arresting officer Crowley says “The apology won’t come from me. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

If that’s they case, why were the charges dropped?

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Real people remember

Joe.My.God’s account of “That Day.”

Ian William’s memories of 9/11: “no one wept except the willow

3 Quarks Daily’s contributors all write about “Five Years Later.”

I’m so glad to read personal accounts because that was what struck me about the media coverage from that day — and for about a week or so after — the grand hype machine had stopped, and all we heard about were real people. No politicians, no celebrities, no pundits, just news anchors talking to and about real human beings living and dying in the real world. I’d much rather hear what New York residents have to say about September 11th than politicians who were in hiding, running like little girls away from the danger.

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Local News and Online Reporting

WTHR has this story on their website:

Study: Omega 3 can save lives
Experts say beefing up intake of Omega 3 fatty acids can save lives more than AED’s and implanted defibrillators. Omega 3 is found in foods like fish and nuts, and some experts believe they can lower the risk for heart attack because of their ability to reduce inflammation.
By using a computer simulation, experts measured how well AED’s, implanted heart defibrillators and Omega 3 nutrients prevented sudden death. They found raising the levels of Omega 3 fatty acids in people’s diets would prevent sudden death eight times more than widely distributing AED’s, and two times more than implanted defibrillators.

That’s fascinating, and I immediately wanted to know more. But you know what? I can’t find out any more than that from the WTHR, because the above is all the web page shows. The story is okay if they’re just reading it on the evening news (although they really should be identifying who the “experts” in the story are) but it’s not fine online, where they have plenty of space to round out the story with more information. They SHOULD link off to the study in question at the very least. Presumably they got the information somewhere. Tell us where it came from. I guess it’s a short trip to google to figure out more detail, but I shouldn’t have to do that.
I remember journalism classes from college where we had to take the same story and write it in 10 different ways – one to be broadcast on the news, one to be a front-page newspaper story, one to be a featured article in a magazine, etc. There were standard elements that had to appear in each format, and the stories had to be “trimmed” in different ways to fit the alloted column inches of space. I get the impression that journalists don’t do that anymore.

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“All Televisions Tuned to Fox News”

No wonder the Vice President is so out of touch with reality — check out his “tour rider” from the Smoking Gun — the list of demands he has of hotels when he travels.
Item #6 – “All Televisions Tuned to Fox News”
Wouldn’t want to accidentally hear what real people have to say about the state of the world or anything. Pencilled in, though — requests for USA Today and the New York Times. Interesting.

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