Archive

Issues

Citizen Journalism can be a wonderful thing. It has tremendous potential for bringing to the fore ground news that would otherwise pass under the radar of mainstream media. It does not (usually) suffer the political and financial pressures that mainstream media have and it does not have to maintain a profit margin. Citizen Journalism brings out news that we find interesting and relevant and is a very good indicator of public opinion. Usually.

I for one have always been in favour of Citizen Journalists. Most of us on Kottu have our own posts on politics, human interest stories, reviews, opinions and the usual rants. We are Citizen Journalists in some form of the other, and we find that this works out well for us. But can the same disease that infects Tabloids affect us? Can the need to have the first picture, get the first blog post out, tell the first story, actually make us stretch our morals a bit? Does it damage our sense of human dignity?

I was reading an article by Paul Carr this week. He usually writes semi-satirical Tech related articles at TechCrunch, but his post this week (which has already received over 200 comments) was unusually thought provoking. He starts of with the incident at Fort Hood and then points out how at this very serious and very upsetting time, a lady was snapping pictures with the iPhone and tweeting minute by minute her opinions on what was happening. Perhaps you might say that there was nothing wrong with this, and that this is what citizen journalists do. At such a serious juncture and such a traumatic event, things would be on lock down and information would be restricted until the situation was stabilized. No one would want a woman snapping pictures of injured soldiers in a hospital and tweeting irresponsible messages to the public when even family members of the injured soldiers were not informed. Reactions to her actions were mixed, with people unhappy that she would be snapping pictures in a hospital.

One commenter even stated:

If I ever saw you taking pictures of my friends being wheeled into the hospital, I’d beat you senseless.

The lady’s (Ms. Moore) twitter account is no longer functioning but you can access her tweets here and judge her actions by yourself.

Carr also states in his article that :

the ‘real time web’ is turning all of us into inhuman egotists. How we’re increasingly seeing people at the scene of major accidents grabbing their cellphones to capture the dramatic events and share them with their friends, rather than calling 911.

Her behaviour had nothing to do with getting the word out; it wasn’t about preventing harm to others, but rather a simple case of – as I said two weeks ago – “look at me looking at this.”

Do you recall the video of Neda Agha Soltan that rocked the world and dragged the violence of the Iran protests into the forefront? Now can you imagine it from her point of view as she lay dying, all she could see were some faces and a camera pointed at her face.

While the concepts of citizens being journalists is wonderfully empowering, how far do we let that empowerment stretch our moral codes, our basic human decency. Do we rush to electronically capture a tragic moment? Is our first thought to help, or to record.

I am not saying that Citizen Journalism is bad or should be avoided. The drowning of a handicapped man in Bambalapitiya would never have come to our attention if it wasn’t for the video taken by a camera man on a roof top, but did the camera man bother to alert authorities while this was going on, or did he simply record the entire event for a sensational news cast?

I am not calling for censorship, or restriction, or any curtaining of freedom. Far from it. We have the technology now to make huge social advances, to empower people who would otherwise not have a voice, but we should not forget about our dignity and our responsibility.

Remember, your fellow man first, everything else comes later.

We used to have a ton of fun some time back on Facebook when certain politicians and personalities were impersonated on the site. It was hilarious, and the interactions between these  fake personalities would throw us into fits of laughter. These guys are not the only ones to get that idea though. A Moroccan impersonated Prince Moulay Rachid (of Morocco), and when authorities found out what he had done, they promptly slapped him in prison for 3 years and has to pay a fine of $1,000. It doesn’t matter that his impersonation was not for monetary gain, he still had to suffer the consequences.

If this were to take place in Sri Lanka of course, you would either be staring at a white van or your car would suddenly ‘skid’ and crash and kill all witnesses passengers.

Join the campaign for the blogger here.

“While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,”

Says Tom Lantos, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to Yahoo!.

Information Yahoo! released to Chinese authorities in 2004 on Si Tao’s (a journalist) online activities led to Tao being jailed for ten years. Si Tao was engaged in pro-democracy efforts which were labeled subversive by the Chinese authorities. China has been restricting online activity for the past couple of years, closing down blogs, requesting the registration of blogs, and restricting the results of search engines with regards to any ‘subversive’ topics.

Yahoo! has been involved with legal battles of similar nature for some time now, with a French court requesting that Yahoo! ban access to websites containing Nazi memorabilia. Yahoo! is not alone in its efforts to please China, with Google and Microsoft unzipping their pants as well in their greed to grab China.

Online freedom is something we treasure, a way to break free from restrictive governments or society.  Once companies like Yahoo! start bending over for governments like the Chinese, we are going to be in trouble. Am I glad Sri Lanka is not a huge internet market.

Read the articles here:

New York Times

PCWorld

 CNN

Everywhere.

There used to be a time when wearing mini-skirts was considered risque, where bikinis were bigger than my handkerchief, and where the only panties you saw were on the clothes line. But now, wandering around topless is perfectly normal, short have become smaller than underpants and underpants are no longer under the pants. I don’t want to sound like a prude, nor am I a grandfather, but why is the human body on display like it has never been before. I wrote a post on the sexualisation of women once, and I know that the first reaction to this post (besides the guys saying, ‘naked people? that is cool man’) will be that it is freedom of choice, and that they are being themselves. But I have always believed that it was a rather twisted choice with no real result other than attention.

Protesters who protest naked will gather some attention for their cause, but mostly it will be guys gawking at their bodies. Raunchily dressed girls may do it to feel good about their bodies, but guys just view them as objects to be scored. What nudity (or near nudity) attracts is simply attention to the body, where the eyes send signals straight to the balls bypassing the brain completely. It achieves nothing except sexual drive and voyeurism.

I have never been able to adequately articulate my thoughts on this matter, but an insightful post by Pretty Dumb Things put most of what I felt in words far better than my own.

Strip Nation is the place where little girls wear body glitter for fun, where pole dancing is a fitness pursuit, where chicks have standing appointments for monthly Brazilians, and weekly tans, French manicures and matching pedicures. It’s the place where women purposefully show bra straps and g-strings. It’s where average women have the lower-back tattoo, body piercings, and t-shirts that read “Diva.” It’s the where women get breast implants, labiaplasty and anal bleaching. It’s a place where family restaurants have waitresses wearing orange short-shorts, and where drag-queen restaurants have banana deep-throat contests, and where eighteen year-old girls win them.

Strip Nation is where we live now. It’s not a bad place to live. Strip Nation gives us Carmen Electra and body butter. Strip Nation lets us shake our booty with abandon. Hell, Strip Nation, combined with Hip-Hop Nation—it’s a unified country of dual principalities—has given us the word “booty.” Without Strip Nation, we’d still be pogoing and wearing flat shoes and high-waisted pleated pants.

Strip Nation can be a lot of fun, but it’s a deeply problematic kind of fun. I am proud to have been a stripper, but I know that stripping is best kept in the strip club because stripping is about serving up a fantasy based on the most simplistic heterosexual male’s formulation of an uncomplicated woman. Most simply, Strip Nation provides a dreamscape based on a model of a two-dimensional woman and men’s desire for them. And while that is all well and fine for an eight-hour strip shift, it has major issues when it goes rampant, out into the streets, and disseminates like a virus into the culture at large.

This ‘Stripper-Vogue’, this idea that an attractive woman is an anorexic vixen with the skills of a lap dancer and a Brazilian backside (and wax), this idea that you have to flaunt your body to be cool is as unnecessary as it is absurd. In a world where people are like sheep led by the media-shepherd, it is so easy to influence young people.

A commenter, Paul Davis, on Pretty Dumb Things had this to say:

having watched my 16 year old step daughter step out today in an even more titillating and unabashedly “i am a sexually active female and you know you want me” costume this year than last, i read this and loved it. i don’t even know how to begin to think about grown women who do this – my thoughts are mostly centered on their younger counterparts. what frightens or saddens me most is the lack of awareness of what and how men, including teenage males, actually think. sometimes, i don’t even know if the all-wise-having-done-the-stripper-thing CG fully grasps the horror of the contemporary male mind. I see my step daughter and her friends engaged this with as though it were a kind of fun game that nobody will really take *that* seriously, although it would be kind of cool if that guy in 11th grade thinks i look hot and/or cute in this. But thats not what men (and especially not 11th grade boys) think, ever.

They don’t admire the aesthetics – that’s for gays (he says in his most slanderously generalizing remark so far this year). They admire the flesh and they are consumed by the want. The girls appear to have some inkling of this, but in truth even 20 years from now, most of them won’t understand the depth (or is it shallowness) of the want, the objectification of it, the utter, total disconnect from their person that it is really based on. And oh yes, there are a few exceptions, a few nice young men who look past the pert breast, the tight ass, but they merely prove the rule.

So – this is a game being played by women, but a game where the rules as understood by the men are totally different.

So, keep your clothes on, and keep your pride. You don’t have to be part of the crowd, and you don’t have to portray yourself as an object. Life is so much more than being part of this Strip Nation.

It has been a few weeks now, but I still can’t get over the fact that Al Gore is sharing a Nobel Peace Prize. When I learned that the Grameen bank had been awarded the prize previously I was quite thrilled, but Gore?! The man quite obviously has a political agenda and is marketing himself brilliantly. There are so many more people who put far more on the line for the cause of global warming, but Gore just has a bigger profile. I am not in agreement with the award this time, and there are several others I found that feel the same.

His 1992 book “Earth in the Balance” was more theater than advocacy. In it, he assessed the forces of planetary destruction that included air and water pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, overpopulation, ozone depletion and global warming. He highlighted the impact of auto emissions and need to phase out the internal combustion engine but made no effort in office to do it.

says Stephen Lendman in his article, and I happen to agree.

It reckoned that his 20-room, eight-bathroom mansion in Nashville sometimes uses twice the energy in one month that the average American household gets through in a year. The combined energy and gas bills for his estate came to nearly $30,000 in 2006. Ah, say his defenders, but he uses rainwater to flush his lavatories. Is there enough rainwater in the world, I wonder?

Damien Thomson

His documentary was not completely factually correct either, according to Justice Burton, a High Court Judge. The Nobel Prize seems to be a political tool now, as is most other things. A scientist believes that all this brouhaha is unnecessary as well.

Global warming doesn’t matter except to the extent that it will affect life–ours and that of all living things on Earth. And contrary to the latest news, the evidence that global warming will have serious effects on life is thin. Most evidence suggests the contrary.

According to Daniel Botkin, things are not as serious as Gore makes it out to be. (See his article here)

I wonder who will be awarded the next prize, maybe Rudy Giuliani for his efforts in licking porn?

We have all come across them, sometime or another, these exclusive little groups and clubs. Little bands of intellectuals and high class prudes who tend to look at you down the length of their respective noses. You might as well have them stick signs around stating: “No Dogs and No Normal People Allowed”.

Certain people and certain places seem to have this little thing going on. There are banks that don’t give you their full service because your balance may not be in 7 digits. There are certain boutiques where the sales people (who are probably poorer than you anyway) look at you askance. I don’t even need to mention the clubs. It can be a right pain in the arse having to deal with places like this. I don’t dress to impress, nor do I flaunt, so I usually have to settle for a few firm words in English to get things done, and a very pointed ‘thank you’ at the end. As my uncle once said, “Its all about money in this bloody country!” and I have to agree with him. There is not much you can do about it really. You can either create a big fuss and try to make a difference, like for example, wearing sarongs to where ever you please. Or you could make tons of money, and THEN ask everyone to stick it where the sun don’t shine. For now, I simply ignore it all.

But there is another form of this exclusive attitude that has nothing to do with money. Rather it is a form of intellectual grouping that excludes anyone whose IQ is below a certain level, or whose debating skills are not up to par. It is exceedingly evident on the internet, where google and the existence of a time gap between statement and repartee, allows debates to go on ad nauseum. Blogs seem to be custom built for this sort of activity. Just take a look around the blogs in Kottu. You will find a ton of debates going on, with the key feature being the trampling of one side of the argument, and the humiliation of its proponent. What some of the debaters really want, is not to prove the validity of their point, but rather to prove the strength of their intellectuality, or the power of their argument. It may be a fine line to draw, but it is a line nonetheless. These type of people are at times unable to comprehend any other point of view besides their own. In their minds, what their view is right and everyone else can go to hell.

As a teenager I used to love debates. I was relatively good at debating and would spend hours on a subject and at times follow it for days, persistently like a dog worrying a bone. I would debate with my Muslim friends, Atheist acquaintances, Christian colleagues, and Hindu room mates. Then once during an online free-for-all with a friend, I was called a retard. Now I have been called many things, and profanity being leveled at me was not a new thing, but the venom imbued in that one word surprised me. For a moment, I wondered why that was an insult, though at the time I preferred the politically correct term: mentally challenged. It was then that I realized that, to this chap, the greatest insult was an insult to the intellect. He was a chap so obsessed with his own intellect that nothing else mattered as much.

I have grown up since then, and no longer find it imperative to prove to others that I am smart. I know that I am intelligent, and it doesn’t matter to me what others think about that fact. But there are a lot of people who are yet to discover that little tit-bit of wisdom. They argue, being either openly profane or sprinkling their comments with sarcastic smilies. There are bloggers whose writings and comments I used to admire, but now they are simply content with winning an argument, or putting the other person down. It’s sad really. They don’t realize that they are simply going around in circles.

As Edward De Bono said:

For example, a highly intelligent person may take up a view on a subject and then defend that view (through choice of premises and perception) very ably. The better someone is able to defend a view, the less inclined is that person actually to explore the subject. So the highly intelligent person can get trapped by intelligence, together with our usual sense of logic that you cannot be more right than right, into one point of view.

I try to keep an open mind myself. You have to listen to another point of view if you want to learn. It does not matter if you do not agree with it, you just have to listen to it and dampen the impulse to fire a volley back. Else:

So we sometimes find that the intelligent person is trapped into one point of view by his or her ability to defend that view.

This is the intelligence trap that we fall in so easily. I say to you, stop with the petty attacks. If you are intelligent, good for you. Just try not to shove it down another’s throat. There is nothing better than a good constructive debate, so Ladies and Gentlebloggers, please leave your egos at the door and join the party.

English. That is what I assumed it would always be. You could generally survive in most metropolitan places in the world if you have some knowledge of English. You have access to ‘better’ education resources if you know English. The www is open to you if you know English. Hell, I am blogging in English! It was the language of commerce, the language of conquerers, and the language of conversion. But the key word is ‘was’. You would expect, in this global village of ours, where cultures intermingle and at times meld, that a common global language would gradually form (A Language of Wider Communication or LWC). But I feel we are somewhat further from that goal now than we were, lets say, 80 years ago.

The primary language of any civilization is generally the language of its rulers or conquerers. Being a colonized by the British means that we have the most influence from the English language. The sun may not have set on that Empire (until the war on Iraq maybe) but they no longer have the commercial and technological advantageous over the rest of the world, that they used to have. And yet, being the last ‘Empire’, it is their language that has the most recent influence on us (By ‘us’ I mean in specific, Sri Lanka, and to a more general extent, the rest of the world).

But, with the gradual economic, and military emergence of other nations, there has been a gradual shift away from focusing on one particular language, and instead a reverting to a country’s language roots. I do not believe this shift to be solely patriotic or functional. If you have been ruled or influenced by force, once you are liberated you try and erase any influences left by those that ruled you, and so the shift to retain as strongly as possible, a country’s identity. And one of its strongest points of identity is its language.

In 1958, 9.8 % of the word population spoke English whereas 15.6% spoke Mandarin. Now, even though Mandarin is spoken by a much larger percentage of people, it is largely due to the sheer population of China, unlike the English language which spread largely through trade, culture and religion which makes it more consequential. But as of 1992, while the percentage of Mandarin speakers has remained largely the same, English has dropped down to 7.6% with increases in those who spoke Arabic, Hindi and Spanish. Countries now try to put more focus on their own languages, now that they have their own systems of education, media and economy. Russian university students study in Russian, French for Universities in France, German for students in Germany, and so on. Books of study are no longer restricted to English. My Father-in-law had to study French and German to be able to complete his PhD. The English language is not a language for use between countries either. Chinese diplomats learn Hindi in preference to English to deal with their Indian counterparts.

But yet, English persists. Why?

I believe it has to do with a cultural and economic conquest as opposed to a military one. No matter how you abhor it, ‘Western’ culture is all pervading. Hollywood makes Western Culture cool. It glorifies freedom, money and entertainment. Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll baby! The economy is richer. Its more free. That freedom and money is a liberation to people. And what you envy, you emulate.

Western languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and French) are spoken by 20.8% of the world, which is more than all the Chinese languages put together. Then consider how many people speak English as a second or third language. This shows the cultural /economic influence of the West. And as for education, good universities are still found in the west, and still teach in English. Text books are in English. Novels are in English. Most of the internet is in English. (Granted, there are a lot of sites in other languages, and the majority of blogs which, according to the NY Times, are in Japanese, but yet English is required for the larger part.)

Times are changing, true. Western culture and language is being taken, and moulded and adapted to fit other cultures, whether it be pop culture, or dress, or film, but I still believe English is going to be around for a long time, and retain its influence.

As Huntington says:

Because Japanese banker and an Indonesian businessman talk to each other in English does not mean that either one of them is Anglofied or Westernized…..

It is a tool for communication not a source of identity and community

And so, despite the antipathy and combined with other cultural influences, I still think English is going to be around a long time.