A See-Through Society

Micah L Sifry

 

I found this particular article to be my favorite of the readings for this week. I enjoyed Sifry’s insight, albeit a bit too optimistic at times, similar to Steven Johnson. The overall theme of the article is that more and more individuals are turning to the internet for their news, which provides them with more information quicker and abundantly than television news. Sifry highlights the benefits such as people can talk to the politicians and learn more about their policies and beliefs. This transparency leads to more information about the politics, as Sifry explains “breeds trust, and enables leaders to earn out trust.”

            This article deals heavily with double-edged sword: how much information is too much information? This is a question that I have contemplated throughout the semester and still do not have a solid answer. Sifry cites that over half of individuals ages 18-29 use the internet to receive their political information. I think this number is great as it shows more and more young people are getting involved in politics. As we have discussed, I believe once more individuals peruse the internet for news stories, they will be exposed to new blogs and websites they previously were unaware of. As a result, they will be exposed to new ideologies, as well as findings niche communities that share their beliefs. With information at our finger tips, voters will be more informed, in turn resulting in the best possible candidate winning the race. No longer will people vote solely cause of political alignment or what there neighbor told them to do, rather everyone will have their own beliefs after thoroughly researching. Political ads will not have a major effect anymore because that rhetoric will not appeal to the masses as the mass will know facts from false advertising. That is the hope of Sifry and internet enthusiasts, and it is one that I believe to be positive. I think it is great that younger people are beginning to become politically engaged due to the internet. The younger we can harness politically engaged generations, the better equipped our country will be in the future. Despite all of these benefits, I can not help but overlook the glaring negative aspects this article provides.

            Sifry is calling for complete transparency and lack of privacy for political elites. He wants every record to be public knowledge and up for interpretation. I am a large supporter of this for instances such as the San Francisco scandal and the research that went into the firing of U.S. attorneys. What I am not a proponent for is individuals digging up personal information to expose a potential candidate in search of personal greed.  I think individuals who expose stories, or even make them up, to tarnish a candidates image can negatively effect this transparency model. If your wife and children are constantly under public scrutiny, why would anyone want to ever run for president? Sifry mentions the “little brother is watching” notion, that little brothers look up to their big brother and watch everything they do. In this case, the country in the little brother, admiring their older brother, the president, but the younger brother, in this case, has a million camera phones waiting to snap the next embarrassing photograph. In this case, if you are running for president, you now bring your entire family into this mess. Your children are now expecting to be perfect angels, which I know from experience, at a young age is nearly impossible. Your wife now goes from an average American, to a heavily scrutinized spokeswoman and ambassador for the country. She is expected to make just as many appearances as you and say all the right things, and if she fails to, your campaign and image is directly effected. With all of these things adding up, a potential great candidate may stray away from running from president, thus leaving us with under qualified candidates. One instance I think about this is when the 2012 presidential campaign came to an end and Mitt Romney, the next day after losing, said he was relieved. He explained how the whole race and constant meetings and answering of questions took a toll on him. The presidents have enough to deal with pertaining to the Country, the do not need the added pressure and headache. I am worried that all of this transparency will turn the presidential race into a popularity contest, one in which the winner has the least blemishes on his record. People will no longer vote for the best candidate, rather who has made the least mistakes in his or her past. Sifry says this transparency enables the best candidate to win because all of the facts are available to the public, but as with every good thing, there are always the handfuls of people who ruin it.

            My final thought about this, and how it pertains to me, is during my job hunt. I am a marketing major and several of my hiring hopefuls asked for my twitter as they said it was a great way for them to get to know me as well as branch out and meet others in my career. Shortly after, I ran home, made my twitter private, and spent the next hours deleting any negative tweet dating back to my senior year of high school. I think this is similar to that of the presidential race. People are analyzing the internet in search of the next big story or scandal. They use our social media tools in order to get to know us, and if we have one small blemish, expose it and expect us to have an answer. I think it speaks to our cultures obsession with scandals and “if it bleeds in reads.” Heaven forbid someone have something positive on their facebook, perhaps a picture of them at a 5k race for breast cancer. The potential employer only cares about that picture of you chugging a beer with your shirt off. Transparency is great, like the Wikileaks, when it is used for positive change. I do not think our culture is mature enough to leave it at that. I believe it will always be a double-edged sword, one that reveals U.S. attorney scandals and has them rightfully fired, and one that anxiously awaits with their camera phone waiting to expose you for personal gain.

 

The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online

Kevin Kelly

I found this article to be a pretty interesting read. I had to do a little background research as I was not entirely sure what exactly socialism entailed. While reading it, I kept having flashbacks to Steven Johnson’s Future Perfect. In this article, Kelly explains that new socialism includes sharing, cooperation, collaboration, and collectivism. Kelly explains we are shifting from government-controlled information to real time information, from forced labor to volunteer work, and a shift from centralized hierarchies to distributed power.

            The main thing I took away from this article was my impression and respect for the amount of people who run these sites that we use daily for free. I was unaware that there are so many instances of this until we starting learning about sites like 4chan and Reddit. I was shocked to learn that successful sites like Reddit are operated by a few moderators who use the site daily and wanted to get more involved. Kelly mentions that these sites are successful because of the collaboration and lack of hierarchy. I would agree, but I would also argue the main factor is the dedicated people who operate them. I am not a huge believer in decentralized businesses and movements as I believe they have there limit, but I think the instances mentioned in this article are successful because of the passion. In order for someone to put in a large amount of hours on a daily basis for little money, you have to be passionate about that subject. As a result, everyone working on creating and running the site share that passion. With little money involved, the hassles that come with it are removed. People wont have to argue about salaries or preferential treatment because everyone is treated as an equal, with the same end goal in mind. The whole he said she said or disgruntled workers aspect of the business can be avoided, thus leaving only a much more enjoyable work place. As a result, hierarchies are not necessary for these business models. The goal of brining people together and creating a fertile place for innovation is the only thing these workers care about.  It is the collectivism that Kelly mentions, where self-directed peers take responsibility. They collaborate with one another, and often the process is effortless with a lot of cooperation. Each member contributes and delivers more then they need. They are all greatly dedicated, and as a result, the sum outperforms the parts. With Wikipedia, contributors could contribute ninety articles, none of which are necessary or pertain to them. They do it purely for joy, and as a result millions of visitors benefit from their work. It is all of this sharing and high level of communal engagement that is forming this new socialism. The dedicated workers are at the center showing that decentralization and collaboration can spark innovation.

 

Here Comes Everybody!

Clay Shirky

 

In the first chapter of Shirky he mentions a really cool idea that I never though of known as the prisoner dilemma. The dilemma deals with collaboration with another individual. If you know them, but are unable to collaborate with them, that may be able to help your situation because they will not reveal any information to the police. However, if they do not know you that well and want to save themselves, they will tell the police you did it in order to save themselves through personal greed. We use this dilemma in everyday conversation and interaction. If we trust another person, we will complete a task for them, with the idea that they will do so in return. Harvard professor Robert Putnam uses this notion in his book bowling alone, where he says our community is weakening. He states that we no longer have weekend picnics or community bowling events, rather we are growing further and further away from our neighbors. I completely agree with this and I believe the lack of social capital is affecting the strength and stability of our nation. Many of our technological improvements have improved our efficiency, in turn resulting in a faster paced society. I believe we are turning into a nation of quick satisfaction. We no longer know our neighbors names, rather we are too busy texting while walking our dogs. There are fewer and fewer family dinners and more dining on the go. We are turning from a united nation to an indifferent and divided one. I think this is horrible and has a negative affect on how we live. When I was sitting in class five minutes early today waiting for the professor with six or so other students, not one bit of interaction took place. Every student was buried in there phone scrolling through there tweets. I compare this to the rise of reality television shows. Over the years, more and more reality shows have appeared due to our obsession with others lives. Rather than having a conversation with the kids in the classroom, everyone was concerned with what was going on outside or with there friends at another school. As much as I hate to say it, in twenty years I think interaction will be minimal. I think this is horrible as our community and culture is based around interaction. We no longer want to commit a large number or hours to clubs or sports because the end result of satisfaction is too far away to achieve. We want everything immediately and that just isn’t feasible.  The more efficient our culture comes, the more our weaker our community becomes. I think our community continues to become divided as we no longer have interactions with strangers. As much as it sucks, we only come together as a nation when tragedies happen, and that only lasts about a week. In a couple of days, I will no longer see Boston Strong tweets or pray for Boston. The tragedy will come and go and we will go back to burying our heads in our phones. There are no more town hall meetings because it takes too much effort and time to drive to the meeting and sit there for four hours. We can simply hold it online and sign off when were bored. I think the sense of community of the 70’s and 80’s where kids ran around outside and parents conversed are gone.

 

Chapter 11 deals with three main concepts, promise, tool, and bargain. Shirky explains how all three and intertwined and each one must be completed in order for the next to happen. The main theme I took away from this chapter is how all 3 aspects are necessary for a successful interaction. The internet provides a platform that allows groups to rise and fall quickly. An example is Myspace, which used to be at the forefront of social media, and now you can barely find an active user. I think this speaks about the current state of our culture and social needs as well. We are constantly searching for the next big thing that can make our life more efficient. As I mentioned earlier, this search for efficiency eliminates the interpersonal aspect of daily interactions.

            While I was reading this, Shirky mentions that the group succeeds when all of these 3 things are met. I couldn’t help but think back on the birthday paradox, which I thought would make the end result much harder. Somewhere along the way someone in a business transaction breaks the promise or alters the bargain. I kept thinking in my mind about sports agents and how deals are constantly falling through. Along the interaction and negotiation, terms change and promises are broken whether it be for greed or greener pastures. It is often hard for a bargain to be met because it has to be a good fit for both parties. A successful sports agent utilizes all of these tools during his interaction to successfully land a deal. If the promise or bargain is too broad or extreme, the other end of the negotiation will not agree and the deal will be terminated.  The promise can often be complicated by the group size and commitment of the parties. One example that comes to mind, dealing with sports agents, is when Rudy Gay was being drafted and both team had agreed in principle to a deal. When the next day rolled along, the deal was terminated because gay’s father joined the mix and did not agree upon the deal. As shirky explains, the larger the group size becomes the more complicated the promise becomes. That is why, as Shirky states, there is a fine line that must be drawn during all of the concepts. Each step must be properly met in order for the next to take place, which makes sports deals the hardest and purest form of Shirky’s example.

 

Questions: Do you believe technology is positively or negatively effecting our community?

Is the transparency Sifry is calling for too much intrusion?

Can you provide an example where the prisoner dilemma would work in real life? I think these could be interesting.

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How Tea Party Organizes Without Leaders:

This particular article stirred up a lot of emotions with me as I think the tone of the article of very pompous and ignorant. The article discusses how its tea Party group does not have a designated leader, yet despite this, they are not leaderless, rather leaderFULL. I think the group expects far too much of its members, stating “you need to take leadership and stand up.” Not every member is going to possess the qualities necessary to lead a group, hence why certain members are chosen to run corporations or governments. The party brags about how quickly they were able to form, as if that equates to success fulness. Yet later in the article, they discuss how members are constantly leaving and it is a struggle to keep member participation up. I think this is a bigger issue than they lead it on to be. Members may be leaving because they are disgruntled with the lack of leadership or direction, and they simply brush it aside because they say they will get more members. This is a horrible mindset to lead a group because of the time and energy it will take to train those new members and get them thinking in a collective action mind. As I mentioned about Al-Qaeda, collective action groups must possess a strong passion about their subject. This can’t be the case if so many members are constantly leaving and few members are joining. As with every attempt at cultural reform, it is cool at first, but the lack of leadership eventually leads to its demise. It reminds me of the article we read about the Pirate party in Germany and how they started off with a large amount of support, and now can barely receive double-digit support. All of these new movements popping up are cool at first because they go against conventional wisdom or are cool to say they are a part of, but unless you have truly passionate members, they rarely work.
The most interesting thing I found about this article, however, was how the Tea Members work completely from home and rarely, if ever, have met one another. I think this is interesting as it goes against everything I learned in my Organizational Behavior class. Without interpersonal interaction, how can there every be a sense of unity? Groups and businesses succeed because the harmony that exists amongst members. The best corporations and sports teams are those that feel like a family. How can you truly say you have collective action when you simply facetime or email someone a couple times a week saying we should try to make a change? In my opinion this model is not sustainable and will never work. You need members that are held accountable and a recognizable face to take orders from. I believe the interpersonal role plays a major factor in the success fulness of a group and a movement. As a member of the Tea Party group, you could be emailing someone for several months than never hear from them again, and you are simply left in the dark. You do not know what your next step is or who to turn to, and as a result, you leave the group. The members say that they all know the right thing to do at the right time, but this is impossible if they are blind to what is currently going on. I am a supporter of peer networks and collective action, but in order to be successful groups need to be aware of the vital role leadership provides.

Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody Chapter 6 & 7

This week’s readings from Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody were some of my favorite I have read this semester. I always enjoy reading Shirky as I think he approaches situations with an unbiased, realistic approach. Shirky discusses collective action and its role in finding solution to existing problems. One of my favorite quotes from the reading is “social tools don’t create collective action — they merely remove the obstacles to it.” Shirky discusses how the simplest forms of technology, that we have had for about a decade, are the main reason for change because it encourages people to talk to one another and discuss. The ability to group likeminded individuals together for a common goal has always been readily available, but much more challenging as Shirky explains is the case in 1992. In 1992 people were frustrated with the church, but unable to coordinate and realize that there were so many people with the same thoughts as them around the world. With the addition of the internet, groups from around the world were able to coordinate and meet up much more efficiently and effectively.
    As it pertains to collective action, I like Shirky’s notion of audiences are built, communities grow. In this case, the audience was unified under the same idea that the church needed reform. As a result, the online community was constructed under the same idea. The barriers between audience members were broken and they were able to communicate with one another to plan their next step. It is situations such as these were peer network groups are most successful. Collective action is similar to the birthday paradox in that it is very hard to successfully coordinate because so many people have differing point of views and different schedules. The internet allowed for shared awareness, where every member was exposed to the same information and knew what everyone was thinking. No one was kept out of meeting details or information; rather it was freely passed from one member to another. Shirky talks a lot about how these groups are effective because they fly under the radar and the government is kept in the dark of what is going on. A situation that this reminded me of, unfortunately, is that of Al-Qaeda and the effectiveness of their decentralization. The formation of the group was highly invisible, where cell phones were rarely used and members often did not know where they were getting their information from. The United States had a very hard time tracking them because they did not know which group member was where or what information they had. These groups, as Shirky explains, are ridiculously easy to from and just as hard to stop. The US government is unable to place a face to the group, and if they are, there are likely several other leaders they are missing. That is why decentralization works so effectively for Al-Qaeda because they use their terrain and lack of hierarchy to their advantage.
    In order for collective action groups to be successful, all of the members must be extremely passionate about the cause. Sure retweeting “Stop Kony” passes on the idea, but a retweet goes very farther than that. In the case of Al-Qaeda, every member is extremely passionate about demolishing everything the western countries stand for. They are willing to sacrifice it all for the betterment of the group, and that is why, unfortunately, they are a great example of how decentralized, collective action groups can be successful. The group is highly self-creating, where all of the actions are done so in the interest of the group. Members are not there to post a picture to twitter telling their friends they joined Occupy, and then leave two days later. The terrorist members are unified under the same notion that binds their trust and actions. Al-Qaeda is able to maintain an inner equilibrium despite constant pressure and attacks from the United States. An Occupy movement may come to an end because they are not making headway or police put an end to it, but it takes much more to put an end to Al-Qaeda. I do not know a great deal about Al-Qaeda, nor will I claim to, but there specific group just intrigues me. I am not sure if they are similar to other peer-network groups in that it is very easy to join, such as a free subscription to a website so you can share ideas with other people who agree with you. I get the sense they are very secretive and I just find it fascinating how they operate, unfortunately, a successful collective action group.

Occupy Sandy: A Movement Moves to Relief: Alan Feuer
I found this article to be interesting because it takes a behind the scenes look at how occupy volunteers are trying their best yet still struggling when it comes to providing aid for those effected during hurricane Sandy. The members discuss the disconnect between the “leaders” and the members on the field. They discuss how they are overwhelmed with the amount of work necessary to successfully help those in need while continuing to operate a functional group. While I was reading this article I kept thinking back to the idea we talked about earlier about receiving too much news and not knowing how to process it. In this case, the volunteers were receiving too much demand and cries for help that they did not know how to adequately and efficiently respond. Whenever I read about the Occupy movement, there short-term gains are always good, but I do not feel as if they are established for a long-term run. As is the case with any team or group, members get discouraged when they constantly strive for something and the end goal appears to be moving further and further away. One of the quotes that caught my eye was “the amount of self-organizing here, it’s coming a bit too fast. I’m losing track, all right?” The Occupy group prides itself on its lack of leadership, but I think their pride is making them blind to their inner problems at hand. At some point, top down leadership needs to become a priority. People with boxes need direct locations to bring them, not vague directions with what to do with them. If the leadership is completely horizontal, no one will ever truly know who their orders are coming from. Personally, I believe Occupy needs elected officials and voices so its members know who to turn to for guidance. In its current state, it is nothing more than a group of people who kind of sort of share the same idea, but don’t know how to effectively carry it out. I just view the Occupy movement as a cultural fad that in time will die out as so many do. People believe a retweet or “like” will suffice as helping, but very few realize how much work it takes to execute change. It reminds of the anger I have towards bloggers sometimes. I feel as if they think they are above people sometimes, they simply waltz out of bed in their pajamas and bash those in charge, whether it be politics or news coverage. When push comes to shove, I am curious to see how many would be in the battlefield of Iraq completing the investigative journalism they so often critique.

1)    Do you believe a recognizable figure is necessary in order for a group to be successful?

2)    Why do you think Al-Qaeda was so successful at doing what they did?

Rebellion in Chiapas: insurrection by Internet and public relations
Jerry W. Knudson

This article was an informative read and discussion about the Chiapas revolution in Mexico. I had previously not heard about this revolution and found it interesting that this was the first post-modern rebellion. This article is a good examination about the role internet plays in rebellion attempts, but also the limitations the internet has. I particularly liked Knudson’s approach to the role it plays when she said “Perhaps the greatest value of the Internet during periods of social strife is its ability to mobilize public opinion and bring pressure to bear on authorities to act cautiously.” The internet allows those who are oppressed in the shadows and overlooked to have a voice and bring their issue to national spotlight. When the movement first started to gain momentum, it was citizens in the streets discussing the growing talks of the injustices. In a sense, they were forming peer network groups across Mexico and coming together online. Before the internet, no one spoke of the injustices because they were afraid of the possible backlash from the government. On forums and chat rooms, everyone’s identity is a mystery and the chance of repercussions greatly decreases. That is why so many citizens gravitated to the leader of the rebellion, Marco. Little was known about his background or even his name, and in a sense this mystery represented the oppressed citizens and sub-culture. They felt like they had been overlooked and a mystery to the world, and Marcos provided a voice on a national scale for them.
    Marcos utilized the internet to counteract the disinformation that the government had been producing. The media reports were a case of appearance vs. reality, where Marcos combatted the reports of the Mexican government and showed how life really was. The rebellion began to garner a large amount of attention, and now the whole world was watching the Mexicans government next move. As we discussed in the class, rebellions are only successful in areas where a strong and central government is established. People hold daily protests in America dealing with a large number of issues because they know the police cannot legally put an end to them. They can say close to whatever they want without the fear of death. As we read about in Iran and Thailand, challenging governments can lead to death, which is why people rarely do so. In Mexico, the government was not as relaxed as America, but it was just enough to allow protests. Prior to the internet, Mexican officials could have rounded up the rebels and threw them in jail or murdered them, because no one knew of them. Now with the internet, there were daily interviews and newspaper articles, as well as news outlets from around the world traveling to Mexico to write stories. The Mexican government was now under a watchful eye with every move being examined. They had no choice but to act in a kind manner and allow the protests to continue.
    The most fascinating aspect I found about this story was the abruptness with which is ended. When Marco was finally identified   as Rafael Sebasti´an Guill´en Vicente, son of a well-to-do furniture retailer in Tampico, his image and notoriety instantly diminished. The internet allowed for Marcos to be an imaginary figure, a person who the viewers could create out to be someone they wanted. Every supporter probably viewed him as something else, as a superhero or former poor child who rose to greatness. When his mask was taken off, the energy from the rebellions was zapped, and it suddenly wasn’t cool to support Marcos anymore. I know we always bring up this example in class, but it reminded me of the Kony supporters. For two weeks strait my facebook was bombarded with Kony supporters. Everyone was purchasing shirts and sharing the video, but when it was revealed that Kony hadn’t been in power for years, it was no longer “cool” to support him. It also reminds me when I was a ten years old growing up watching the Celtics play every day. My favorite player was always Antoine Walker and I dreamed of being like him. One day, my father came home with courtside tickets from work and the opportunity to meat Walker after the game. When I finally met him, he was an absoluter ignorant person who wanted nothing to do with me. I think it just shows that when we see people online or on television, we make them out in our minds to be something we want to be, but that is rarely the case. The people of Mexico wanted Marcos to be a cunning leader who was humorous and witty like he was in his interviews, but his appearance and background could not live up to that standard. I just find it interesting that every social movement we have studied that starts due to the internet always comes up short. They always start with a large boost of momentum and supporters, but always seem to wean out. Maybe that speaks to our cultures short attention span and obsession with what’s the current popular trend, but I am curious to see in the future if anyone can harness the power of the internet and run a successful social movement.

The Cute Cat Theory Talk at ETech

I found this article to be rather dry as I am not really into internet activism. The cute cat theory is a simple concept but one that I never thought of. The theory states that when governments attempt to shut down popular sites and mediums due to internet activism, the plan back fires as it alerts those who previously were unaware. In Pakistan, they shut down the very popular site youtube because it contained several videos undermining the government. Citizens who were visiting the site solely for entertainment purposes- to see cute cats- were suddenly shocked to find that it was shut down. As a result, they began to research why this happened and found out that the government had done so. Now, rather than ending the activism, the government simply ignited more rebellious citizens to the already growing cause. I found this to be interesting and the main concept I took away was that when people see strange things or pictures online, they tend to research it and become more involved. I know personally in the past couple weeks when I saw on facebook people posting pictures supporting gay marriage I began to research what they meant and why they were doing it. I think people often do this on twitter and during debates. When Romney made his infamous Big Bird remark, twitter exploded, and my roommates and I went from watching the Celtics to watching the debate. I think this can be a positive as it ignites awareness from spectators who previously would not have tuned in. They see or hear people on social media discussing it and as a result they want to research it to become informed and participate. It is also similar to when Wikipedia shut down for a day to protest the government’s attempt at censorship. Some high school kid who was planning on using Wikipedia that night for a paper would go to the site and see that it was blocked. As a result, he is now exposed to Wikipedia’s movement and a potential supporter. This is the case with the cute cat theory. Citizens who were uninterested in governments or social movement, rather just wanted to watch some funny videos during their lunch break, are suddenly exposed to these issues. It’s interesting to see how different governments attempt to censor their citizens, and how smart those citizens are at getting around it.

Social networks, social revolution:

This thirty minute discussion with the likes of Clay Shirky and Evgeny Morozov was interesting, but also dull at times. It was nothing we had not heard or read about before, but it was cool to see all of these awards winning people on the same stage. I found it interesting how the government’s main objective when censoring internet is blocking people’s ability to coordinate points. That is exactly how social movements become successful, so it makes sense that is at the forefront of government’s agenda. I am always drawn to what Shirky has to say as I tend to agree with him and respect his opinion. He always puts things in perspectives and is never too obsessive with the internet. One of the points he discussed that I gravitated towards was acknowledging that the social movement in Egypt succeeded because the climate on the ground changed. The protestors began to get more support on the ground and the government became more relaxed. As I mentioned earlier, in order for movements to succeed there needs to be a certain climate within the country.  I also like when he discussed how we are only exposed to the success stories and not the failures. People think twitter and facebook are the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to movements, but he explains how in Belarus and Thailand and many other instances they have failed. Overall, the video just reiterates that social movements are not successful solely because of social media. They are simply a means to mobilize.

Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks

I was very torn between how I feel watching this interview. I was excited to see it on the reading list as I have always heard people discuss Wikileaks, but I knew very little about them.  The reason I am so torn is although I think Wikileaks expose injustices and hold officials accountable, I can’t help but think sometimes these are an example of necessary evil. The video of the U.S. army killing those people and laughing is disturbing, but we do not know the whole context of the situation. Sure, enemies were killed, but so to were children and innocent journalists. I think the Wikileaks are effective for instances such as Kenya and the political race. The leaks exposed the current president and shed light on his injustices. As a result, the race swung 10 percent and a new official was elected.  Rather than having to live under injustices, the leaks shifted the vote and restored justice. The leaks demand progress and just which I am all for, but I just do not know at what extent. One portion of the video I liked is when the host asked what would you say to a mother who says my son is a good soldier those leaks make him out to be bad. I did not like how the guy (don’t know his name) simply brushed it off. I thought it was a fantastic question and was ignorant side stepping it. I think the Leaks are best served for exposing the injustices in which people spend money and effort to conceal. I think they are good for holding officials accountable and thinking before they act and greatly alter the way people live. It just shows that despite governments attempts to conceal information and stop hackers, they are always one step ahead. I think this aspect of it is scary as I feel like we are always moments away from another 9/11. It does not take much to make a suitcase bomb and leave it in Time Square and kill millions. It’s a scary time period where a certain group of intelligent internet people can get any information they want. If it falls into the wrong hands who knows what could happen.  Like I said, I am all for Wikileaks exposing injustices and those cruel people in power. But as we often see, people abuse there power and I fear that could happen with instances such as Wikileaks.

Do people feel Wikileaks are a necessary evil or obstruction of justice?

What solution do people have for social media movements? What is the next step other than simply creating facebook groups and group chats?

The first piece of reading for this week was “The Political Power of Social Media” written by Clay Shirky. This particular article was quite refreshing after reading Steven Johnson’s book “Future Perfect.” In Shirky’s article he discusses many of the same issues and positive aspects of social media, but unlike Johnson, admits the limitations that is has. I particularly liked how Shirky provided real life examples where social media can be affectively implemented, and examples where it has tried and failed. Similar to many article we have previously read, Shirky discusses how social media is a fantastic tool for organizing political movements. Prior to this article I had never heard of a public sphere, which is an area is social life where diverse members can come together to discuss societal problems. This is, more or less, a peer network as Johnson explained. I like how Shirky admits that social media is merely a means for mobilizing and uniting large groups of people. He admits that it has limits and that real change takes time, and not just a protest in the street. I agree that social media is simply a tool that allows for a more efficient means of organization. They allow for citizens who otherwise wouldn’t have a voice to speak directly to congress and those in charge of political change. I think for this very reason that social media enhances the political enthusiasm in the United States. I find when I am sitting in a class, particularly a large lecture, I do not participate or raise my hand because I am never called upon nor do I feel as if my opinion matters as it is dwarfed by hundreds of other students. That is how I feel a large number of American’s feel when it comes to voting and issues. Social media allows citizens to feel that there opinion and there vote actually makes a difference. As a result, I am a major proponent of social media and internet freedom. I think we have a structurally sound enough government that we do not need to worry about serious revolt as Shirky mentions is happening in China and Russia. We as Americans have found a happy medium between revolt and change, and that is how we use social media in a positive manner. A particular example I can think of is when President Obama held his open forum and answered questions from the internet that were ranked highest based upon public voting. At the top of the list was marijuana reform, which is often a shady subject because many states are not sure whether it is a state law or federal law. Despite Obama not answering the question, the marijuana community, which is often resented and felt left out, got its questions previewed on one of the largest stages. This is just one of hundred of examples where social media allows for otherwise ignored citizens to have a voice.

Another aspect of Shirky’s article that I enjoyed is the notion that social media allows for unorganized groups to coordinate and unite known as “shared awareness.” Similarly to Johnson, Shirky explains they are successful because they are diverse, decentralized groups rather than members of a hierarchy. In terms of China, the movement consisted mainly of mothers who had lost children to the earthquake. I found it interesting the dilemma that social media caused the Chinese government. Since the movement was growing so quickly and on a national stage, they had only two options: to respond and conduct reform, or respond in a way that would alarm more citizens. It is instances such as these where social movements are most effective. They are not going to alter the constitution or make major adjustments, but they can shed light on injustices and force the government to act.

The second article we read which I also found informative was “What should the digital public sphere do?” By Johnathan Stray. This article delves into an in depth look at what exactly the public sphere provides. Stray explains the public sphere should provide important information for people, whenever they want it. In a sense, he believes it should mirror Wikipedia where people can access it at anytime and find out information pertaining to their particular concern. Once we receive this information, we find other like-minded individuals with the same concern and discuss possible actions. Within these public spheres, information is shared and continuously developed and recreated. It is, like I said, similar to Wikipedia or a google doc where all the members of the public sphere can edit it. Public spheres allow for much more diverse people and a diverse culture. If I am an expert in early American history and want to know about Chinese government, I can research or ask one of the members of the sphere about information. As a result, our culture and society is continuously developing and growing. I think public spheres allow for a larger platform for development. If we watch the news, we as citizens are all learning the same information. If we are reaching out to members of our public sphere, we are exposed to several different opinions and news stories we otherwise would not be. As a result, we become much more diverse and open-minded, which can only better us as Americans. Public spheres unite people who have the same concern who work together to common ends. A democratic doctor and a republican lawyer, who do not see eye to eye on presidential politics, can unite under the common goal of restoring the local little league field in their neighborhood. Public spheres are useful in diversifying groups and unifying them for a common goal.
The Lo(n)g Revolution: the Blogosphere as an alternative Public Sphere?
Article seemed a bit wordy and lost me at times. The main idea and theme that I took away from it was a public sphere is more or less a town meeting online. Members present their ideas and concerns to one another and those who agree take sides and produce discussion. Notaro presents the question, does more people mean more democracy? And I believe the answer to this question is yes. The Internet provides a platform for like-minded individuals to connect and share ideas. When individuals who previously felt left out find that there are people who think like them, they will feel more involved. The more people that become involved, the more ideas that are generated and the more our government benefits. In this past election, less than half of the American citizens voted. I believe a major cause of this is because they feel as if their one vote does not make a difference. Public spheres enhance networks and link people together, similarly to Ron Paul. I think back to Fred’s story of how he started voting for Ron Paul and I think public spheres can recreate this. Fred had previously not heard of Paul until he was exposed to him by a friend. When Fred hear the issues Paul discussed, he was instantly drawn to him. The more people that get involved with voting and the more opinions we have, the more diverse country we will have. People always complain about the two-party system, and I think public spheres can be an answer to adding a third party.
Notaro also discusses in length the role blogs play and how they provide an alternative to the public sphere. In essence, blogs embody the idea of the public sphere. People voice their opinion on their blog, and if readers agree, they share the blog and continue to visit. Blogs provide a platform for information to be passed along among communities and an outlet for constant conversation and debate. They allow for anyone with an Internet connection to enter the conversation and breaks down the barrier between private and public sectors. It makes the writers and viewers feel as if they are truly making a change. I think candidates and politicians need to start utilizing blogs more effectively. Their campaign teams can monitor blogs daily and see what issues are being heavily discussed. As a result, they will be well prepped for future debates and know what the public wants to hear. It is instances such as these where blogs provide a voice for the public who previously were neglected. I think anything that breed’s debate and interaction to our governments is good. When people are on blogs they are not talking face-to-face so they are not afraid to speak their minds. As a result, the discussions are very spirited and bring out the best in people.

The FlowTV article is a remake of the 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial. The commercial depicts an “army” of people all wearing the same clothes and marching to the same voice of Hilary Clinton. Clinton is portrayed on a big screen, such as big media, telling all the people the same message. The people appear brain dead and just do whatever Clinton says. In the end, a girl comes in and smashes the big television and you can no longer hear what Clinton is saying.

 

The PressThink article explains how bloggers dominated the Libby trial. The public was kept in the dark about much of the trial so bloggers live blogged it. The journalists were able to get their information from the bloggers and adequately report it to the public. The overall theme of the article was to display how when bloggers unite they have the ability to make a difference. You do not need to rely on large corporations to get your news; rather dedicated bloggers can replace that.

People Power 2.0 was a very interesting article. It talked about the civil war in Libya and how a country that was kept quiet for 40 years was able to speak out and bring down Qadaffi. Libya was under heavy siege and they did not know how to fight back. Experts from around the world started to come together via twitter and other forms of internet to send information to Libya. They explained how to use weapons, make bombs, and when to attack. Slowly but surely, the Libyan freedom fighters began to bring down Qadaffi. It was very interesting to see how the internet was able to mobilize people from all over the world in a quick and organized manner. They never met each other but they all worked together and ended a horrific war.

Slate magazine was a brief read describing how the internet and news coverage favors Obama. There are rarely any bad photographs of Obama or his family. This goes along with how certain media outlets favor certain candidates. It also goes along with the Speaking in Memes article and how the public have the ability to portray a candidate however they want to.

 

Speaking in Memes was an overview of how memes have become a major part of our culture. In the last three or four years, memes have exploded onto the scene. It is an example of how the current media analyzes every little mistake a candidate makes. Instances such as the “big bird” reference in the recent debates were used in several thousand memes. The article explains how memes can take a candidates statement and blow it out of proportion.  The article explains how the memes encourage the public to be active and listen to debates. The memes are a way for people around the country to connect with one another, even if it is not in a “serious” political manner.

Response:

The FlowTV article that utilizes the remake of the 1984 Apple Macintosh commercial was a very interesting article and video for me. I found the remake using Hillary Clinton to be a very effective marketing tool. It reminded me of the “Brain-dead Megaphone” article we read last week which described our public reception as “brain-dead.” In the remake of the commercial, it depicts several people dressed the same marching to the voice of Hillary Clinton. I believe Clinton is meant to represent the large media and government so many bloggers despise. Her voice is telling everyone what to do, and all the people just march along listening. Watching this commercial it made me think; would this type of commercial work in today’s society? I think the answer is no. So often on television, negative commercials are only produced during campaign season. Although I think it would be effective, I cannot see a member of the Republican Party producing a similar video portraying Obama and the government in a negative fashion. Just this week I saw a similar video online depicting the congress as blind tortoise’s walking around aimlessly. Commercials such as these can only exist online. I do not believe major news corporations would even want to air one of these commercials. As we learned earlier, news corporations want to stick to the status quo that is making them money. If CNN were to air a similar video insulting our government,  I think it could turn viewers off.

That is why I believe the internet plays such a vital role. Amateurs are able to produce these videos and post them online and spread them to the masses. They do not need anyone’s approval to do it. This particular commercial we had to watch produced a very lengthy discussion on the Youtube channel. Albeit these conversations can very misinformed and childish, I think it is good that it breeds debate. The more citizens get involved online with politics, the more informed they will become.  I think anything that sparks debate such as this video is a positive, which was the intent of the video. The message behind it is not to listen to what everyone is telling you to do and to develop a mind of your own.

I found the PressThink article to be a very informative read about how bloggers are positively changing the media scene. The two biggest things I took away from this article were that bloggers are doing the job for free and that the press is starting to rely on bloggers for their information. I think the fact bloggers are uniting together to provide unbiased insight for a small amount of money could alter the media scene in the next ten years. In my business class we learned that corporations are always looking for ways to do things more effectively at a cheaper cost. Bloggers could be that change. They are at the forefront of stories where news outlets are relying on them for information. If large news corporations realize they have willing bloggers who are eager to report simply for the love of it and to report unbiased news, they could develop a whole medium. I also liked this article because I think it depicts bloggers and journalists as even. Some of the readings this year I have gotten the notion that journalists and bloggers are somewhat enemies. I could be wrong, but that is just how I perceived it. Rossen shows the two as equal parts, both gaining credentials and having equal opportunity. I think this is awesome as I have gained a lot more respect for bloggers after this class. I think journalists and bloggers both play an intricate role in our media culture and in this social media age both are necessary.

The People Power 2.0 was my favorite article we have read this year. It was an easy read, although sometimes I got confused with who was who, and direct to the point. The only real news I’ve heard about Benghazi was how America messed up there. I had no idea about the complex media system going on behind the scene to help Libyans escape and overthrow Qadaffi. When I think about social media and its positive impact, I only really think in terms of twitter. Sure live tweeting debates and world news is cool because it keeps people up to date and informed, but I could have never imagined it could be used like it was to aid Libya.

The article really speaks to the power of the internet and how fast people can mobilize. Little by little, key people from around the world formed an internet army to aid the Libyan people. Anonymous intelligence from Britain poured in and strategic planning from France came in. I thought it was remarkable that in just under a week a literal worldwide internet army was formed. Similar to the Ron Paul article, it shows how dedicated internet people can coexist. There was no birthday paradox where everyone has to agree or political agendas holding them back, the goal was clear; work together to bring down Qadaffi.

The main thing I took away from the article and that really struck me was the dedication. People were quitting there job and working around the clock to help people they have never met. When a Libyan woman’s husband was murdered, people from all over the world comforted her via Skype. I think more instances such as these need to happen to shed light on situations that are often overlooked. I would personally like to see strategies such as these used during times of natural disaster. The most effective one I can recall is the Chinese earthquake relief. In just over a day they received millions in aid and had superstars such as LeBron James endorsing them. Sometimes I wish this happened more domestically, but that’s another subject!

I found the speaking in Memes and Shit People Say articles and videos to be very entertaining. They shed a light on the humorous side of politics that are emerging during the social media age. I think these videos and memes illustrate the current culture of American politics and social media. I think it shows what our country values and is an escape from boring political pundits. In our current society, I do not believe we want our president to be perfect anymore. Rather, we value an average guy who talks like us and can laugh at himself. It also shows how American’s love to over analyze situations. During the course of a campaign, candidates make hundreds of appearances and say thousands of different things. If one thing is a bit whacky or off, our society pounces on it and exposes it.  The memes and videos themselves are perfect for Americans; they are short and entertaining. As a result, they spread like wild fire. I think memes and these videos are necessary. I know personally I like to watch Colbert Report because it is entertaining yet I get a general idea of what is going on in the world. I think a lot of people in our society are out of touch with current events. Memes , despite their lack of true journalism or substance for that matter, provide an insight. When someone logs onto Facebook and someone has shared a meme on their timeline, They are likely to open it. As a result, they will have a general idea of what is going on in the world if it is politically based. As sad as this is and that this is what it takes to get Americans involved, it is a start.

The one negative aspect Agger described about Memes is that often the wrong message goes viral. Millions of Facebook users will be exposed to inaccurate information and believe that it is true. As a result people will often me misinformed. Although Agger cites this is a negative side, I do not buy into it. If people are relying on Memes for there daily news, that in itself is wrong and just lazy.

 

Finally, I think it was fair for Slate magazine to say the internet loves Obama. I think it was fair to say people like Obama because he is “black and cool.” I know several people my senior year who had their first opportunity to vote and voted Obama simply because it was the cool thing to do. There were several songs such as Young Jeezy’s “My president is black” and cool tee shirts depicting Obama. Sportscenter did a whole a special on how Obama plays basketball every day and goes to several White Sox games. It felt as if Obama and pop culture were synonymous, that voting for Obama had become the “it” thing to do.

 

Questions: Do you believe Memes provide any beneficial aspects for campaigns and politics?

 

What is your favorite aspect about the People Power 2.0 article?

 

Where do you think Memes will be in ten years?

Jodi Edna’s provides insight and an explanation of how social media is altering the relationship between media, such as reporters and journalists, and the president. Reporters used to be granted access to the president to conduct interviews, in turn establishing a relationship. With the recent surge of social media, the relationship amongst the two has started to deteriorate. The president and presidential candidates now feel that journalists have very little to offer. Presidents used to utilize journalists to publish their opinion on certain issues so the general public could read about it daily. Now, with social media such as twitter, the president can “tweet” his opinions to the public immediately, at a much lower cost. Journalists are also the ones who discover scandals and publish them, so high officials such as the president do not trust them. In a sense, the journalists do not have any positive qualities to offer the president anymore. Despite this, Edna explains journalists believe social media has several positive qualities because it provides citizens an opportunity to have a voice and connect with candidates.

Ashley Parker’s article discusses the major role and power twitter has brought to the campaign trail. Twitter is up to the second in terms of news, allowing the public to know everything that is going on. Similar to the Ron Paul article, Parker discusses how twitter allows the campaigns to reach several million people and connect with them. The campaign will be able to see what particular issues the public is not happy with and address them.

The politico article was a very interesting one discussing president Obama’s media appearances in 2012. President Obama appeared on several nontraditional, non-news channels, something that other candidates rarely did. Obama explained his reasoning for this was because the dominant news channels did not report on issues the American people cared about. Similar to Edna’s article, by appearing on these non-news channels Obama was not at risk. By going on Letterman, Obama is not going to be grilled about questions about foreign affairs or gun control. Rather, the conversation will be relaxed, probably talking about his kids or how basketball game is.

Meyrowitz discusses how the general public is becoming much more aware of the President’s personal life. Prior to social media, journalists were able to have conversations “off the records.” Now everything is on the record, and every word is monitored and analyzed. Meyrowitz explains how politicians are forced to make instant remarks and decisions, often damaging their image. Because America is so used to up to the second information from twitter, they expect their news to and presidential remarks to be instantaneous. This makes it much more difficult for the most important position in the world to appear perfect as so many Americans want it to seem. The president is supposed to be a perfect man with all the answers, but in this day and age that is just not plausible

Response:
I found the Edna article to be a very informative read. The main point that I took away from it, is that journalists do not have much to offer candidates anymore. Journalists used to play a vital role during the campaign because they were a medium for the president’s message.  They connected the president to the public and vice versa. Now I feel the journalists don’t bring much to the table in terms of the campaign. They are constantly searching for a scandal or taking a president’s word out of context in order to sell a story. As we learned last week, journalists are worried about ratings and money, and sensational stories sell. So why would a president do an interview or talk to the media if it is not going to help them? They can eliminate this headache and talk directly to the public via social media. Their message will not be misconstrued and they can formulate their thoughts without being put on the spot. Avoiding interviews and journalists only benefits the campaign.

Ashley Parker’s article discusses the benefits of twitter to the presidential campaign. The campaign officials are able to easily monitor what statements made by the president generated a positive response or a negative response. In a sense, it is like an instantaneous poll. If I were in charge of a campaign, I would communicate with twitter the week before a debate or appearance and see what issues they want discussed. I would sift through twitter and see what people are talking about and shape my agenda and  speech around that. In addition, I would read several blogs and do the same thing. Examples such as this are why social media are so beneficial to campaigns. They allow you to know what millions of Americans are saying without leaving the confines of your office.  Rather than conducting several million phone calls or focus groups to decipher which issues are important, you can find out with relative ease. Twitter has provided a much more efficient means of communicating and discovering information between candidates and voters.

Although I think it is not a bad idea, I do not believe French law can eliminate racist or offensive tweets. If someone is racist, they are going to continue to be racist, no matter the plat form. That is one negative aspect of twitter and the internet in general. I believe people are much more derogatory and unfiltered on twitter because they are sitting behind their computer. It is a lot easier to call seven footer Shaquille O’Neal a “stupid N-word” on twitter or a blog than it is to his face. People are often disgruntled and take to their computer to voice their displeasure and often hit submit without realizing the possible repercussions. As a result, things are often published that people wished weren’t. An example of this is when republicans were questioning if Obama was an American citizen and he went on the news and showed his documentation, Donald trump took to twitter and fired off five or six derogatory tweets. I remember people constantly “retweeting” him and going to his page and seeing they were all sent in a seven minute span. Shortly after, they were deleted and Trump apologized. It is instances such as these where twitter is bad. People get so mad and need someone to voice their rage to so what better place than twitter and a million of your followers? If I was in charge of a corporation or news outlet I would place in my contract for my employees a twitter clause. It would state that any remarks made on twitter are monitored and that particular employee is responsible. I’m not sure if corporations have this in their contract already, but in a generation where social media is evolving and here to stay, I think it is necessary.  It reminds me of the Parker article where she says “Twitter allows for damage to be done nearly instantaneously, but recovery can take much longer.”

A particular place where I see this constantly happening is college sports. Athletes are just like any other college student and can often do stupid things, but they are monitored much more closely. I’m reminded of the time Johnny Manziel, recent Heisman trophy winner, posted a picture of himself in a night club with a bunch of girls. He had a drink in his hand and he is underage. The media scrutinized him heavily for a week strait and he had to make a public appearance to apologize. If I was a coach, I would be like Coach K at Duke and not allow anyone on my team to have a twitter account. In this day and age where everything is monitored and student athletes could lose their scholarship based on one tweet, I just do not think it is it worth it. Twitter is like Jay-Z’s second album title; The Gift & The Curse.

The politico article about Obama’s soft media was interesting. I thought the strategy implemented by the Obama campaign was perfect. In a day and age where statements are over analyzed and misconstrued, why risk talking to a journalist? The soft media strategy avoids this dilemma and also appeals to another theme in American society, reality television. By appearing on shows such as Letterman, Obama is able to avoid talking issues and make a blunder. Rather, he is able to appear as a normal guy who loves his family and basketball. I think this is a trait voters are drawn to. They want a president who they can relate to and seem just like an average guy. Overall, I think it is a brilliant strategy. You utilize twitter to voice your opinions to the public in the way you want them to be perceived, and you utilize television to appear as an approachable guy. It is a very effective, low-risk high reward strategy.

Finally, Meyrowitz discusses how presidential hopefuls are attempting to appear more average.  Social media has allowed the public to get a glimpse of the president’s personal life, something only journalists were previously able to do.  It is now popular for politicians to discuss their humble beginnings or how many jobs they worked during law school. During debates it is a battle to appear more average. On Obama’s twitter account you can see pictures captured by his daughters of him sitting at the dinner table with him. If I was in charge of a campaign, I would capture several of these candid pictures. My personal twitter feed is full of people posting pictures of people sleeping on a couch or doing regular “college” stuff. I think the more politicians post candid pictures of them being an average guy, I think the more that will resonate with the public. Meyrowitz says politicians are a product of the public’s perception of them. I believe the public no longer is in search of a dominant personality candidate, rather an average guy who they could have a beer with. That’s what twitter provides. The opportunity for candidates to show the public who they really are, not who the journalists and media portrays them to be.

Questions: 1) Do you believe the “soft media” approach takes about from investigative journalism?
2) Do you believe you should be able to report derogatory comments on twitter?
3) What features would you add to twitter to make it more politically friendly?

Week 5: Media Bias

This week we had several readings pertaining to the quality of media coverage on the news. In particular, George Saunders describes the media as a deteriorating medium in his article “the Brain-dead Megaphone.” Saunders uses this metaphor because anyone with a megaphone can be heard despite their message or audience. In this case, the person holding the megaphone is the television media. Saunders argues that there message lacks substance, yet everyone hears them and listens because they have the megaphone and are louder than everyone else. Saunders sites examples such as FOX news and Rush Limbaugh, claiming their message is dumbing down the general public with biased opinions and news coverage. Saunders explains how the current media industry is one obsessed with ratings and revenue rather than engaged, in depth journalism. Large news corporations such as FOX are so successful because they are able to dominate in a monopolistic fashion. Audiences have few options to choose from, and as a result they are forced to listen to the “brain-dead megaphone.” Saunders urges viewers to question the information presented by these corporations and demand more professional coverage.

 

                Jeff Cohen’s article “Propaganda from the Middle of the Road” is an article based around the notion of centrism. As Cohen explains, journalists claim to be in the middle and avoid bias, yet they suffer from natural bias, which he defines as centrism. Centrists focus on portraying the United States as a neutral, unbiased nation to the rest of the world. Cohen also explains that the majority of society believes journalists favor the left.

 

                This week I actually enjoyed reading Graber’s chapter. Graber delves into the power of the media and describes the notion of muckraking. The muckraking model explains how journalist’s investigations arouse the public, in turn causing policy makers to act.  The leaping model occurs when certain steps of muckraking are overlooked. This particular model tends to be most common when television and media collaborate with public officials. The final model is the truncated model, occurs when no reform results from the investigation. As a result, Graber explains politicians tend to offer apologies and solutions. Reform tends to be the result of the public exposing wrong actions, gaining the attention of politicians and journalists to collaborate.

 

                Another article I enjoyed this week was Peter Johnson’s. In his article, Johnson explains how journalists and reported alike are beginning to demand unbiased news. They are working together to reveal bias and find solutions. Results from this are promising as more journalists are beginning to join the “campaign” are produce unfiltered news. These journalists are not agenda driven and are not manipulated by politicians. Agenda building is a result of a story gaining a lot of attention and television stations adding coverage. If the story is an interesting one, they will continue to cover it to produce higher ratings.

 

Reaction:

 

Overall I found the readings from this week to my favorite thus far. My favorite was the Saunders article as he exposed the lack of diversity pertaining to the television market, and how it directly affects the consumer. I believe Saunders could and should have attributed more blame to the consumer. In a profit driven market such as television, the consumer is the life line. Without the viewer, there is no profit, and thus, no pundits. I know it is a bit farfetched, but a solution would be to gather our information from independent, smaller sources. I thought of an analogy today as I was ordering coffee from Aroma Joes. Aroma Joes is a large corporation such as FOX news. They spread into towns and buyout the coffee market, similar to television stations buying out smaller ones and monopolizing the market. If the customers abandon the existing, small business coffee shops (the smaller news stations) then they will be left with no other options than Aroma Joes (Fox news) The quality of the product from Aroma Joes may be much worse and lacking (in terms of news, lack of investigation, articulation, substance) than that of the small business coffee shops (small news syndicates) but people will go to Aroma Joes because it is convenient and no other option.

 

This is what I believe happens to consumers and the news market. We as the consumer turn on the television looking for news, but only have five or six options. As a result we are lazy and just turn on whichever channel appeals to our ideologies and are in a sense brainwashed. We do not question what we are hearing, rather we just absorb whatever we hear and believe it to be true. My favorite aspect of the Saunders article is his critique of television and their inability to self-critique. I believe televisions do not self-critique because doing so they would see the glaring issues within their corporation. Rather than admit change is necessary via self-reflection, Saunders explains they neglect to do so because they are only concerned with revenue. In its current state, television corporations are booming and bringing in a great deal of money. If the only thing that matters at end of the day is money, why change it? That is why Saunders explains it is vital for the viewer to critique and demand better journalism. If they do not do so, the status quo will remain the same and television corporations will continue to profit off the viewer.

 

I found Graber’s chapter very informative and it made me think about our current media system. The chapter deals with the lack of monitoring of journalists and the lack of rules regarding news reporting. The media is in a sense an independent entity with no one telling them what to do. When a police officer makes an arrest he has to go through several steps and procedures to correctly and fairly detain the prosecutor. If one step is ignored or missed, that particular officer can get in a lot of trouble, such as the Rodney King incident. From reading Graber’s chapter, I do not get that notion that journalists are held to that standard. Rather, they are cold blooded, only concerned with revenue and agendas. If a story does not appeal to them or does not generate ratings, it will be ignored. If the story is “sexy” or as professor Soha stated in class, ‘sensational’ the media will go to several lengths to report it. An example of this is when the Sandy Hook tragedy took place. The news was reporting it twenty-four seven, rightfully so. It was generating high ratings and pundits were using it to discuss gun rights. The more I watched, the more agendas began to interfere with the core story. A couple days after the shooting it became Republicans vs Democrats, gun control vs the second amendment. The agendas of the given news stations were now more important than the twenty-six victims. Another thing I found interesting about this certain time period was a story about two volunteer fire fighters reported to a house call and were ambushed and murdered. Me and my mother heard the story once and never heard anything about it again. We switched to several different news platforms but could barely find anything. Perhaps this is what Graber was saying when she said only sexy stories sell. Perhaps it was not sensational enough to report.

 

The lack of monitoring of our journalists and news reporting is why I think blogs are so vital. In my opinion, blogs and social media are the police of journalism. In an industry where revenue and sensationalism determines if you keep your job, it is no wonder why journalists report what their bosses tell them to. They have very little freedom, they are forced to read what is placed on the teleprompter of they are fired. That is why social media and blogs, which have no boss, are such an intricate factor in altering the current climate of journalism. In the most recent debate between President Obama and Romney, a twitter account “fact checker” was created to expose any lies or exaggerations made by either candidate. In a debate, it is very easy for the viewer to lose track of what is factual and what is false. There are several numbers and policies thrown around that are plain and simple, false. In an up to the minute update, the fact checker twitter would clarify any claims made and report the truth. Instances such as these are why social media can act as the police. They can expose the candidates and reveal the truth for the general public so they are not manipulated. The more facts the public receives, the more knowledgeable they will be, resulting in a more educational presidential election.  Even after the debate, when political pundits would push their agendas of their bosses onto the general public, the fact checker kept going. Bill O’Reilly would attempt to twist the debate to make it seem as if Romney had won, but the twitter account would neglect every sentence he said, with facts. I believe facts are what are missing from the news, and television has transformed into nothing more than propaganda.

 

In sticking with the sensational desire of the media, Graber makes another interesting point when she says the media exploits individuals. When a candidate runs for office, all of his family and close friends are targets for scrutiny. Journalists dig up stories about their friends in order to make the candidate look bad. This made me think, who would ever want to run for president? Your most beloved friends and family, who should have nothing to do with your campaign other than offer support, are now targets. Instances such as these exemplify the current news climate. Substance and policies are not important; reality television is. This speaks to what professor Soha said in class, that candidates are getting younger and younger. The older you are, the more dark secrets you have in your closet from the past. The media wants to portray the president as a model citizen, which is simply impossible. The news tried to make a big deal about Obama smoking pot in college, but the general public simply did not care. I believe our culture is adapting to learn that people make mistakes and that we are not in search of the perfect man for president, rather just a human being.

 

Finally, I do not believe the media will ever be unbiased, it is impossible. As Jeff Cohen explains, everyone has a political ideology even if they identify as independent. The United States wishes to appear as centrist to the rest of the world, but I don’t believe it happens. The United States wants to be the big brother who helps everyone out and keeps the peace, but they pick and choose who they help as a result of who can help them. There is always a political motive behind who they help, and that will always remain.

 

Questions: 1) Do you believe laws should be established do monitor journalists?

 

2) IF you were to boycott the news because you were mad about bias, what platform would you rely on for your news? Why?