Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wikipedia Text Will Be Used To 'Curb Fake News' On YouTube, But Who Will Curb Fake Entries On Wikipedia?

Screenshot from a video posted to YouTube by TruthMovementIsCool

Teachers have a love/hate relationship with the user-generated online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Search engines privilege it to such an extent that lazy researchers find this source most easily. The layout and presentation suggest entries on Wikipedia are factual in nature, and entries usually have some nifty Creative Commons licensed visuals to accompany text.

Most teachers won't accept it as a source, claiming that no editors can attest to its veracity. Actually, a plethora of editors vie with each other to bring forward truth, but it has long been understood that they don't always play fair.

Enter Philip Cross.

Philip Cross is an alleged human Wikipedia editor who appears tireless, working 24/7 for years now without a single day off. Cross is kept so busy making changes to the biographical entries of people who effectively criticize corporate government policies, including war, in the U.S., U.K. and Israel.

Australian blogger Caitlin Johnstone wrote about him here in "Wikileaks Is An Establishment Psyop." In other words, propaganda.

Would it surprise you to know that George Galloway, MP most likely to speak up for Palestine, has been the subject of Philip Cross's most frequent edits? 

An excerpt from Johnstone's piece on Medium:

"the only real power in this world is the ability to control the dominant narrative about what’s going on. The only reason government works the way it works, money operates the way it operates, and authority rests where it rests is because everyone has agreed to pretend that that’s how things are. In actuality, government, money and authority are all man-made conceptual constructs and the collective can choose to change them whenever it wants. The only reason this hasn’t happened in our deeply dysfunctional society yet is because

the plutocrats who rule us have been successful in controlling the narrative."[emphasis mine]

Now comes YouTube, another madly popular crowdsourced repository of knowledge, truths, half truths and outright lies. Surgeons consult it to learn new procedures. Researchers use it to find interviews they can't conduct themselves. Conspiracy theorists use it to promote their versions of the reality they believe lurks beneath the surface of official pronouncements.

YouTube's CEO just announced at media conference SXSW that, in an effort to combat so-called "fake news," the platform will begin pairing text from Wikipedia with conspiracy theory videos.

YouTube was bought by Google in 2006. You know Google -- the search engine that was modified recently to downgrade alternative news sources in preference for corporate news sources. If you often use Google you will probably have noticed that now you get hits from the New York Times and Washington Post and CNN rather than a mix of hits including alternative news sites such as Consortium NewsPopular Resistance, or Democracy Now!

Back to the education problem: a study some years ago claimed to find that Wikipedia was actually more accurate than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Since victors write history, that's not very surprising. It was around the same time that someone did an analysis of headlines in the big corporate newspapers as compared with headlines in The Onion (which was subsequently captured by the Democratic Party in time for Hillary Clinton's campaign for the White House) and found The Onion was more accurate.

Source: The Onion

When I taught high school social studies I wouldn't accept Wikipedia as a source; however, I did recommend it as a source of sources i.e. look at the Citations and Bibliography sections at the end of many entries for links to other, more reliable -- or at least more vetted -- sources to explore.

Kids today would way rather use YouTube for research purposes. Natalie Jarvey writing in The Hollywood Reporter quoted a tweet from Wikimedia's CEO about one problem with the idea of contesting fake news using Wikipedia text paired with videos: "we require people to edit us to stay up-to-date. Scraping our content means people can't contribute." 

In other words, "people" like Philip Cross can't contribute.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

#ViolentAnimals At The Helm Of The Foundering Ship Of State

It is really beyond irony when the White House swears in a torture queen to head up the CIA and simultaneously publishes a press released entitled "What You Need To Know About The Violent Animals Of MS-13."

The dog whistle slur against Latin Americans is tied to the effort by thousands of families to flee U.S.-funded and supported violence in Central America. No doubt MS-13 -- like any profitable drug trafficking gang -- uses violence to control territory, intimidate its opponents, and silence potential critics.

Image: Anthony Freda

By these definitions, the U.S. government qualifies as a profitable drug trafficking gang.

Philosophers among us will argue that "violent animals" is an apt label for humans in general.

As aggressive primates who have allowed testosterone poisoning to infect our entire culture and way of life, humans continue to devise ever more shocking forms of violence against their siblings in the human race. Not to mention the violence routinely visited on other species, our neighbors on this planet.

The rise of hateful language emanating from the demagogue with bad hair and the rest of the kleptocracy is, in some ways, even more alarming than the actual violence. I say this as a history major and long time school civil rights team adviser.

Dehumanizing language always precedes pogroms. Always. It's a bad, bad sign of things to come.

We've heard an outpouring of hate language against a long list of targets during this administration, with many commentators noting that racism in particular has come crawling out of the woodwork where it had been (not very successfully) hiding into the light of day. Among those spattered with hateful epithets: teenagers pleading for gun control after surviving mass shootings at their school; black and brown people going about their business; immigrants who've worked and paid taxes for decades and now face deportation; trans women and men; Muslim-Americans; Palestinians asserting the refugees right of return; refugees in general.

U.S. airstrike on Mosul, Iraq in March, 2017. Photo by Aris Messinis, AFP/Getty. Source: The Intercept

This last group often raises the question: if NATO nations are concerned about the massive influx of refugees destabilizing their countries, how about they stop bombing the places the refugees flee?

Violent animals bomb civilians. Violent animals starve children, and drive the life expectancy of their parents down because they can't afford the oxymoronic for-profit health care. Violent animals exploit vulnerable populations who lack the resources to defend themselves.

In these degraded times, many political commentators indulge in name calling and personal insults on social media. One reason I won't share posts calling someone an idiot, or monster, piece of shit, etc. is that I'm loathe to support hate language. I can harshly criticize someone's actions without dehumanizing them.

Within every human, no matter how depraved in thought or deed, there is a spark of the divine.

Or, put another way, no one is excluded from being loved and valued by the goddess. Every sinner is capable of redemption.

Even those most violent of animals, the human beings.