War On Everything

The War On Information is not a new issue; it hasn’t simply arisen in the digital age. Historically information has been edited, re-shaped and re-used for generations to suit the agenda of those in power, those who ultimately control the information. Now however it is being utilized as a weapon, with many people now unsure which sources to depend on for ‘truth’ as traditional media sources become skeletons of what they once were due to the rise of digital media and budget cuts.

Consumers are therefore shifting their trust from such traditional news sources to individuals. Favoring an individual’s version of the ‘truth’ then adapting it as his or her own, causing immeasurable amounts of damage to society. This is especially true when focusing on how this shift allowed Trump to gain his power, and the spread of the Anti-Vaccine movement.

Trumps reign is fueled by misinformation. Yet he attacks the media for “fake news” and criticizes journalism, which is unfavorable to him. This is the true danger facing not just America, but any democracy; those in power either dismantling or discrediting news sources, which do not favor them. Trump has even set up his own “news” show, hosted by his daughter Laura Trump which unsurprisingly only features stories that are favorable towards Trump and his associates.

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This allows those who support Trump to effectively “block out” media sources that attempt to discredit him, labeling them as ‘fake’ or ‘liberal funded.’ This is particularly dangerous because it doesn’t allow for debate or questioning. It also makes him untouchable to that particular group, a “crusader against the liberal media trying to brain wash society”. Therefore anything contradicting or proving him wrong becomes a conspiracy to de-throne Trump, rather than healthy democratic debate.

Since Donald Trump was elected the President Of The United States the concept of trust and respect for elected Presidents is diminishing. His speeches can range from utter nonsense to outright lies, even about trivial matters such as the weather at his inauguration or the amount of people present on the day (which was minimal). We now have an American President who believes he is exempt from the truth, even more astonishingly this doesn’t seem to have adversely affected his power; if anything he harnesses these “half truths” or “alternative truths” to distract the public from his true agenda.

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His use of misinformation is almost a Machiavellian plan in many regards. An “employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”, almost beautifully sums up his tyranny as he now begins to declare war on North Korea. This “impending war” is being utilized as a new distraction from his failing Government and diminishing supporter numbers. Trump would chose war over ego, and therefore must continue to fuel as much misinformation as possible in order to maintain control.

The Anti vaccine movement has had a similar cause and effect. Through harnessing this distrust of Government and media they have been able to fuel the debate and gain followers as others too begin to question long held truths such as the benefits of vaccinations.

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Vaccinations have been noted as “the biggest medical triumph man has created.”. However in the last decade, the topic of vaccinations has shifted, with heated debate on both sides as to the potential side effects some of these miracle vaccines cause. The debate has been wrought with misinformation; mainly sourced by one academic paper published in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield claiming that his study proved that vaccinations resulted in children developing autism or autistic characteristics. Even though the document was disproved and condemned by many scholars and medical professionals, the growing support for the findings continues with devastating results.

 

For the first 10 decades after his findings were published his following was niche, and caused little harm to society. However now in the rise of the digital age, his findings found their way back into mainstream media, with Facebook being the main source of the spread. Previously wiped-out diseases such as measles, mumps and polio began to creep back, causing devastating harm especially to small children.

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Thankfully society has begun to stand up against anti- vaccination supporters with day care centers across America (and in some regions of Australia) taking on the “no jab no play” mantra. Refusing service to parents who can’t (or won’t) produce documentation of their child’s medical records. Many daytime television shows such as Sunrise have done segments condemning the act on non-vaccination, with one panel member stopping short of calling it child abuse.

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Similar “rise against” movements have gained support against Trump as well. Protests are behind held almost daily in America against various rulings, tweets, comments and overall deplorable behavior. For example the rallies held after the boarder was closed to selected Muslim countries, people from all backgrounds and ages protested at the airports and government buildings letting their opinion be heard.

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Australia is now too standing against Trump and his agenda, with our Prime Minister recently stating to NOVA FM radio that a war with North Korea would be “unimaginatively destructive” and detrimental to Australian troops “likely resulting in thousands of Aussie lives lost.”

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People now have access to vast amounts of information, ranging from scholarly to personal opinion mascaraing as truth. We are now more likely to believe a friend than a well-documented source, as the motivations are clearer. This is ironic because Andrew Wakefield’s findings were motivated by the financial gains he sought, and was proven in court to have accepted bribes and ‘incentives’ to prove his study as correct, and Trumps motivations aren’t to “Make America Great Again” but to instead enshrine himself in history books and preserve his own self-image.

Overall deep seeded distrust in the Government and the steady decline of trusted print journalism has lead many to rely on online news sources, which can often be slanted towards a particular view, poorly researched and have their sources unnamed. It is critical that people receive their information from well-researched, established sources that can be held accountable for mistakes. This is the only way to rebuild the trust between information and indivual, and in turn prevent “the war on information” from worsening as the digital age continues.

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REFERENCES

Nelson, L 2017, ‘Trump again attacks New York Times as ‘Fake News’ Politico News, weblog post, June 28, viewed 1st October 2017, weblink 

Grimes, J 2017, Trumps ‘Real News Show’ , Washington Post, August 4th, viewed 1st October 2017, weblink 

Collinson, S 2017, ‘Delegitimising his presidency, one tweet at a time’ CNN Politics, June 30th, viewed 12 October 2017, weblink  

Sanger, E 2017, ‘U.S Fuel Cutoff For North Korea’ The New York Times, September 4th 2017, viewed 12 October 2017, weblink 

Correa, A 2017 ‘No Jab No Play’ NCRIS News, August 12th 2017, viewed October 13th 2017, weblink  

Blake, A 2017 ‘Anti-Vaccination fears’ Channel 7 Sunrise, April 11th 2013, viewed October 13th 2017, weblink

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War On Everything

The Rise Of The Anti-Vax

Vaccinations have been noted as “the biggest medical triumph man has created.” A simple, effective formula to not only safe-guard humans from deadly diseases, but a method to systematically wipe out rampant diseases as a whole. However in the last decade, the topic of vaccinations has shifted, with heated debate on both sides as to the potential side effects some of these miracle vaccines cause.

The debate has been wrought with misinformation; mainly sourced by one academic paper in particular which was quickly discredited as being incorrect and poorly researched. Although the document was disproved and condemned by many scholars and medical professionals, the growing support for the findings continues with devastating results.

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The rise of this ‘anti-vaccine’ community is astounding. Those who believe the findings of Andrew Wakefield (the discredited medical professional) who published a paper in 1998 claiming that his study proved that vaccinations resulted in children developing autism or autistic characteristics. As perviously noted; his findings were disproved, but not quickly enough. Andrew Wakefield had already appeared on many day-time television programmes and news casts spreading his “findings”, developing a small following of those who believed the conspiracy it was the government trying to “shut down” his findings in order to continue government funded vaccination programmes.

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At the time this following was niche, and caused little harm to society. However now in the rise of the digital age, his findings found their way back into mainstream media, with Facebook being the main source of the spread. Previously wiped-out diseases  such as measles, mumps and polio began to creep back, causing devastating harm especially to small children.

The problem? Vaccinated children and non-vaccinated children look exactly the same. Children are able to be carriers of the diseases with out being adversely affected themselves, these carriers (who are almost always un-vaccinated) can infect children who are either; also un-vaccinated, or too young for that vaccine themselves. The harm this can cause ranges from serious illness, to deformities and in sever cases, death.

So why have they now become such an issue in society? A simple answer; misinformation. People now have access to vast amounts of information, ranging from scholarly to personal opinion mascarading as truth. We are now more likely to believe a friend than a well documented source, as the motivations are clearer. This is ironic because Andrew Wakefield’s findings were motivated by the financial gains he sought, and was proven in court to have accepted bribes and ‘incentives’ to prove his study as correct.

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Overall this war on information is becoming more harmful as it shifts into medical truths. Most people are not doctors and have little medical understanding, therefore when a widely accepted truth “vaccines are good” turns to “vaccines may not be good” can cause a great deal of harm, with long lasting effects. The only way to combat this rise is being implicated by child care centres “no jab no day care” and the government has been in debate weather parents who don’t vaccinate their children are causing a form of child abuse. In the meantime however, we must as individuals try to disseminate between truth and “alternative-truths” spread by those with hidden motivations.

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The Rise Of The Anti-Vax

War On Information-The “T” Word.

The War On Information is not a new issue; it hasn’t simply arisen in the digital age. Historically information has been edited, re-shaped and re-used for generations to suit the agenda of those in power, those who ultimately control the information. Most historians understand when assessing a source, that it has likely been tampered with or presented with a narrow view as “you don’t write about a war you lost”. However, in the digital age we don’t seem to take the same approach to assessing our own sources.

The notion “don’t believe everything you read” seems to have somewhat been lost. A better definition would almost be “don’t believe anything you read, view or hear.” Whilst this seems like a very post-modernist “there is no truth” ideology, it is our only weapon against the onslaught of misinformation we receive, not only from online news sources but from trusted news broadcasters too.

Now, in  2017 we face an even more threatening prospect- the loss of truth. Since Donald Trump was elected the President Of The United States the concept of trust and respect for elected Presidents is diminishing. His speeches can range from utter nonsense to outright lies, even about trivial matters such as the weather at his inauguration or the amount of people present on the day (which was minimal). We now have an American President who believes he is exempt from the truth, even more astonishingly this doesn’t seem to have adversely affected his power; if anything he harnesses these “half truths” or “alternative truths” to distract the public from his true agenda.

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Overall it’s a balancing act, a thrilling high rise tightrope walk. Social media is used like a weapon- choose your target, post a tweet, fire. These targets range anywhere from Gold Star Family which he attacked for not supporting him, to women who claimed he abused them, down to reporters with physical handicaps. The ramifications for most would be exile, social suicide, however for Trump it keeps him in the forefront of the media, continually covering his outrageous and often dangerous word vomits. The balancing act? It has been noted by reporters that they often simply “run out of time” spending so long covering the new flagrant tweet, statement or bumble by his office, often outshines the policy or legislation he’s trying to push. trumpsss

 

Trumps reign is fueled by misinformation. Yet he attacks the media for “fake news” and criticises journalism which is unfavourable to him.

This is the true danger facing not just America, but any democracy; those in power either dismantling or discrediting news sources which do not favour them. Trump has even set up his own “news” station run by his daughter Laura Trump which unsurprisingly only features stories that are favourable towards Trump and his associates.

 

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It’s hard to imagine a similar situation occurring in Australia, however that is not to say that it is impossible. Deep seeded distrust in the Government and the steady decline of trusted print journalism lead many to reach for online news sources, which can often be slanted towards a particular view, poorly researched and have their sources unnamed. It is critical that people receive their information from well researched, established sources that can be held accountable for mistakes. However that seems to be slipping away, and may eventually be hard to re-establish if lost.

 

War On Information-The “T” Word.

digital profit

The notion of a digital footprint is relatively new. It is essentially formed through the data trail an individual or device leaves when navigating the web. It follows how the internet is navigated and utilised; this data is then formulated into categories, and then further segmented again. This type of data collection essentially allows companies to tailor their marketing via your internet usage, which in turn entails a variety of ethical questions regarding personal privacy verses profit.

Lets break it down; 

We on average are exposed to hundreds of adverts a day, with many scholars noting that this ‘over exposure’ leaves us with two forms of memory; reflexive and selective. Adverts that fail to capture our attention are stored in reflexive memory, where we are unlikely to retain the brands message. Selective attention however can be triggered through marketing that is relevant to our current wants and needs, with the brands message more likely to be retained and then recalled when needed. This is where targeted marketing becomes essential, and your digital footprint becomes valuable to businesses.

For example; 

If you are currently in the market for a new car, and have been searching online for different deals, the next time you log into Facebook, you might notice more adverts for car dealerships near you. This form of marketing is often referred to as ‘retargeted marketing‘ and is where many of our ethical questions arise.

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Lets get technical;

The ‘retargeting’ program works by a small code, which drops an anonymous browser cookie, unnoticeable to consumers. This cookie then allows the program to target adds on social media only to those who have visited your businesses webpage.

This form of marketing is regarded as being highly effective as it drives content for those who are already within your target market, and have already demonstrated a level of interest in your product by visiting your site. It is therefore claimed by the site Re-TARGETER that “most marketers who use it see a higher ROI than from most other digital channels..”  however the statistical data for this claim is minimal.

Profit? 

A few different sections benefit financially from this sort of advertising.

Firstly the retargeting program itself, these programs are for sale online and easily downloaded onto a website for a fee.

Secondly the business itself; more effective targeted marking means less wasted money on ineffective non-targeted marketing, they also benefit if the marketing is successful and goods or services are purchased.

Thirdly Facebook; their profit margins are greatly determined by the level of advertising shown on their platform. This type of marketing is at an all time high due to the “effectiveness” of retargeted marketing.

But is it a violation of privacy? 

The short answer is yes, the long answer is no. Due to the cookies being ‘hidden’ and the consumer not giving explicit authorisation for the tracking to take place, yes it is a violation of privacy. However it is argued that in a modern digital age it would be naive to believe that your digital footprint isn’t being tracked, and therefore it is assumed that consumers have ‘reasonable knowledge’ that their online habits are being monitored. Therefore it leaves many to conclude that it is not an invasion of privacy, as consumers have reasonable knowledge of the tracking.

So where does that leave consumers? 

Consumers can either see the positives or negatives of this form of marketing. The main positive effect of this marketing is less ‘clutter’ and using more selective attention rather than reflexive. The negatives surround the concept of privacy and the notion of others making profit off your digital footprint. In reality it is out of the control of the consumers, and even the implication of government legislation  would be impossible to regulate with many of these sites being owned/ operated overseas.

The way we use the internet is constantly shifting, with the rise of new media platforms and the fall of others. Overall all consumers and businesses can really do is keep up with media trends, and adapt their marketing to suit consumers current wants and needs in this multifaceted digital environment.

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Reflection for “The Fables Of Perception”

The topic I chose to further research was the anthropomorphism of animals. This series of blog posts will attempt to identify how the process of perception through the anthropomorphism and personification of animals and the gender roles assigned to them in film and media are impacting our treatment of animals.

The format chosen was a WordPress blog. The original idea behind this choice of platform is that blogs are sharable public forums that encourage reader commentary. I wanted to format my piece to stimulate discussion; therefore I hyperlinked all of my sources so they could be easily accessed by readers. Consequently, it allows readers to make their own conclusions from the evidence provided. I felt this would encourage individuals to pursue their own facts and possibly link agreeing and disagreeing sources in the comment section to stimulate debate.

However, one drawback of this format is the length of each blog post. I chose to split the 2500 word count up into 3 blogs- a 350 word intro, and two ‘main’ blogs between 800-900 words. While this is at the higher end with the majority of blogs being 500-800 words, I felt an in-depth look at the personification of sharks and the anthropomorphism of ‘The Jungle Book’ would have a greater impact on viewers than 4-5 short posts. The shorter blogs in my opinion would have only touch on the topics without serious analysis, or a brief analysis that doesn’t look at both sides of the argument. I did consider a webpage instead, however I felt that webpages are more information centred, and usually have limited or no commenting sections, which means the debate would have to occur in a different forum.

The main sources chosen; “Relative Frequency of Personification and Spatial Metaphors in Literature Written for Children V Adults‘ , ‘Learning About Real Animals From Anthropomorphic media‘ and ‘The Jungle Book- Anthropomorphic‘ all greatly impacted on my theories presented. One draw back from these sources was they often focused on current perceptions, and held little scientific evidence that negatively portraying animals to children would have an effect on the person in their adult life. However most agreed that negatively portraying animals and placing unjust stereotypical general roles upon them could impact how children associate certain animals, which may have an adverse effect on their perceptions in adulthood.

Another drawback was WordPress’ update that only allowed videos to be posted by purchasing an upgrade. This was an expensive undertaking that I feel could have been avoided on another blogging site. However as WordPress is the most well known and trusted blogging forum, used by many BCM and Journalism students, it was the practical choice.

Overall changes could have been made to avoid certain problems, but when I weighed up my options, a WordPress account with my layout seemed to most for  and efficient way to present my findings, along side my thesis at the top of both blogs, so that no matter which post was read first, the readers would have a clear understanding of what was being discussed.

Reflection for “The Fables Of Perception”

The Fables Of Perception-Humans

Why do we struggle to present animals as just animals? Why are we compelled to add, change, construct and ultimately interfere with the perceptions of animals, in order to satisfy some strange compulsion?  The two following posts  in the series “The Fables Of Perceptions” (Sharks & ‘The Jungle Book’) will attempt to explain if such compulsions are to strengthen and reassure our own superiority, or if it is just simply the only way we can comprehend animal patterns and behaviour.

Our perceptions of animals has become a critical issue in recent years as the welfare and use of animals in society has become a serious debate. We are being forced to question if we truly believe animal inferiority is a justification for our behaviour towards them and if it is possible to change our perceptions and consequential actions.

It is believed that the only true way to re-shape an image long term is to ‘correctly’ teach it to children. This notion of ‘reteaching’ children is an essential tool in permanently changing perceptions, as children are more likely to yield to a way of thinking than adults. Adult perceptions are innately harder to change, as they are too deeply ingrained, therefore the only way the perception of animals is likely to change, is with the next generation who have not been exposed to negative stereotyped of some animal species.

The main sources used in the two posts* look at how; knowledge, perceptions and the anthropomorphism of animals shape children’s learning and how strongly it impacts on their future actions. All sources agree that strong negative animal portrayals will influence how a child perceives that animal. However there isn’t enough conclusive evidence to say that it will definitely shape how they view creatures in adult life, but many conclude that it is a strong possibility.

Therefore it is up to personal interpretation to determine whether movies can have this level of impact. Both blogs present the facts, the opinions of scholars and an array of sources so that readers can decide for themselves whether they believe that animal perceptions need to be altered or if the impacts of perceptions are simply for dramatic purposes.

* “Relative Frequency of Personification and Spatial Metaphors in Literature Written for Children V Adults’ , ‘Learning About Real Animals From Anthropomorphic media’ and ‘The Jungle Book- Anthropomorphic’

The Fables Of Perception-Humans

The Fables Of Perception- The Jungle Book.

This series of blog posts will attempt to identify how the process of perception through anthropomorphism and personification of animals and the gender roles assigned to them in film and media are impacting our treatment of anim-als.

The ‘Jungle Book’ is a classic Walt Disney animation based on Rudyard Kipling’s books. The film carries on the tradition of anthropomorphising animals in order to capture an audience and tell the tale of a young abandoned boy named Mowgli. The original film debuted in 1967 and then was remade for a 2016 audience,  with 21st century modifications.

This remake of the classic film has sparked many to question if the core notions of human-animal interaction have stayed consistent, or if 50 years later society has altered their views and perceptions. Ultimately there was always going to be some level of change,  as society develops, with our views being shaped and re-shaped constantly, especially in the digital age. The clear standout difference between the 1967 and the 2016 film is the animation has changed from cartoons to green-screen animation. Whilst this isn’t surprising given the technological advances and the expectations of multi-million dollar films today, it does impact on how the animals are portrayed, as the ‘cute and cuddly’ animations have shifted to more savage realistic depictions as seen in the comparative images above.

It has been suggested that Mowgli is the only true human to see animals as his equals, and in many cases his superiors. This role reversal was controversial at the time, with a young boy being raised by a she-wolf, a jaguar as a father figure and a bear as a uncle. This redefined how we as a society viewed the ‘family unit’ and human superiority over animals. Often these animals are presented as ‘savage’ and devoid of emotion with a primal ‘kill’ instinct, the original movie challenged these preconceived notions by showing the ‘human’ side, the loving and tender nature of the animals, caring for an orphaned boy.

This ‘softer’ side was much more primal in the original film, where its primary goal was to appeal to children.  The 2016 film however shows a much more primitive version of the creatures, where the hunting and feeding instincts come first, and the nurturing and caring instincts come second. Perhaps this was to cater to a more adult audience, as many who watched the original are now adults. It has been claimed that “personification comes disguised in many other figurative devises, and that it pervades many other aspects of the human condition.” (McKay DG 2009 pg 81) 

Perhaps the personifications of animals were purposely shifted to create a more dramatic, suspenseful movie to cater to a more sophisticated audience. However does it undo or reinforce the perception that humans are above animals, and ultimately superior in every way?

monkey king louie

The original and current film both present ‘King Louie’ as an ape who wishes to learn the power of “man’s red flower” (fire) in order to become a human. This is the ultimate personification of an animal; he literally wishes to become human and in both films threatens violence if his wishes are not met. None of the monkeys in either films appear to be female; its a ‘boys club’ in the monkey world as they present the human male characteristics of aggression, dominance and gratuitous violence. This notion shows “the deep truths and insights into human and animal condition.. using animals in anthropomorphic manner to give moral lessons” (Daniel J. 2011 pg. 43) However this lesson when taught to children could forever shape how they interact with animals, believing that all animals, or our closest living relatives monkeys, all innately wish to be human and possess stereotypical human traits.

This ultimately pushes human projections onto the animals, that otherwise are non-existent. The animal is still behaving as an animal, we are merely interpreting the animals behaviour in human terms. Another interesting factor to add is how King Louie is presented in both films; in the original one as seen in the picture above, he is small, silly and relatively harmless looking. In the 2016 movie Louie is the size of a building, and given ‘Mafia’ traits to enhance his dominance and threatening demeanour. It is also interesting to note that King Louie wasn’t an original character in the Jungle Book either, he was created by Disney to provide comic relief and was never meant to be a truly threatening character. His re-shaping into the power hungry ape presented today was meant to instil fear, and as noted in ‘The Fables Of Perception; Sharks’  inserting unnecessary fear into the general public can have destructive impacts, especially when animal perceptions are at stake.

Whilst these two films hold many of the same core ideas and ultimately tell a very similar story, they are presented in very different ways. It would appear that the 2016 version caters to a more desensitised audience who value fear and suspense over the family values the original film represents. Ultimately the anthropomorphism of the animals may have adverse impacts in both films, as children learn from what they are shown. Therefore it is important that we as the general public do not let movies instill unnecessary fear into our community, nor should we let them teach unjust perceptions of animals to children.

Overall its a balancing act, weighing up which is more valued to society; removing unjust perceptions or cinematic entertainment.

The Fables Of Perception- The Jungle Book.