Pointy hand feature image of me courtesy Sherwin, who gets to hear me at my opinionated “best” (though not as often as he wants to, I’m sure).
Is Media Driving Americans Apart?
Is social media responsible for our democracy’s current crisis? An increasing amount of political information (and misinformation) gets disseminated online, and many Americans do not trust the media, do not trust Congress and do not trust the president.
Apparently, facebook is even more evil this week after all this Cambridge Analytica news got published. Yes, facebook is a time sink, results in behaviour bordering on addiction, makes us more likely to take each others’ views in bad faith, argue more, cynically harvests our data and attention to make money, etc. However, as this article points out, and I agree as well, our media is not off the hook at all, and maybe more responsible for polarizing views than social media. TV and news media are non-interactive broadcasting, and their influence is understated in so many ways, I suspect because the people of my generation and younger worried about social media’s harms do not watch enough TV news (I don’t). In this era of ownership consolidation, especially at the local level, TV is very very powerful. In the US, a very conservative organization, Sinclair Media for example, controls a significant fraction of the local TV channels, and in many cases, is the main/sole source of news. Also, for every fake news article from a Russian bot shared on Facebook, I would bet 20 articles from legitimate sites that have clear agendas (mostly right, or left, though this polarization is in many ways asymmetric) are shared. I see this dynamic at the local level where articles, for example, on bike lanes, or bridges, or council decisions are written with headlines designed to generate clicks and ad revenue. They get amplified on social media, resulting in a lot of yelling there. The source material is from the media, the amplifier is social media, you need both, and both sets of organizations share a responsibility.
Sikh perspective too often missing from Canadian coverage of Sikhs
It is frustrating when a foreign government equates protected freedom of expression — political speech surrounding Sikh self-determination (i.e., Khalistan) or advocacy work raising awareness of human rights abuses and organized violence against minorities in India, such as the 1984 Sikh Genocide — to the rise of “radicalism” and “extremism” in the Sikh Canadian community. But it is also frustrating when, instead of exercising skepticism regarding these claims (and examining why the Indian government would want to advance this message), Canadian media seems to wholeheartedly jump on an anti-Sikh bandwagon.
This one by Jaskaran Sandhu gets at the basic elements of the pile-up by the mostly white Canadian media on Jagmeet Singh, Trudeau and the stoking of fears of impending violence by the Sikh separatists supposedly active in Canada.
This next one by Sandy Garossino, is very detailed and a must-read!
The truth behind the story engulfing Canada’s Sikh politicians
So, the Trudeau India debacle just keeps on spreading, and is now engulfing Jagmeet Singh. This thing isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.
I was in India when Trudeau came through, and reading both the Indian press and the Canadian press, it was quite obvious that the Canadian press was either getting played by the Indian government and its supporters in the press, or knew the dynamic and played along. I see it has gotten worse around Jagmeet Singh, who does not have the luxury of being Canadian royalty. Sandy Garossino’s story is a deeper dive that deserves to be read in full. I was in India when the Sikh movement, and the associated violence peaked, then faded, then remained completely faded. I was in India when the pogrom (genocide definitions are based on results, how many were killed, a pogrom I feel is a more accurate term, because it’s based on the targeting) against the Sikhs post Indira Gandhi’s assassination happened, and it was clear there was, at minimum, state complicity if not active sponsorship by important people high up in government. But, Indian governments past and present continue to deny the extent of state involvement. The point Garossino, and people actually reporting on Sikh issues with real-time knowledge make is that for people of Jagmeet Singh’s generation, these are issues of social justice, not necessarily of statehood and Sikh self-determination in India. Of course, if you’re a visible minority, you’re expected to condemn all acts by people who share ancestry/culture with you. Anyway, I am not surprised that the mostly white media of mainstream Canada simplifies this story, they can’t be bothered to actually ask the people doing the reporting in the community.
The Khalistan movement led to actions by violent leaders that resulted in the death of many innocent people. Whether it was the militant Khalistani leadership in Canada taking down an Air India plane and killing hundreds, or Indian government forces killing hundreds, if not thousands in “encounters” and labeling every male Sikh they killed a terrorist, it was despicable. Thankfully, the violence is long gone, not the accountability for it, though, on both sides of the conflict. Some balance in the coverage, and some skepticism on Indian government claims by the Canadian media is long overdue
Why the Myth of Meritocracy Hurts Kids of Color
“Students who are told that things are fair implode pretty quickly in middle school as self-doubt hits them,” he said, “and they begin to blame themselves for problems they can’t control.”.
In India growing up, the notion that the world was fair would have been considered laughable. Despite the brahminical brainwashing on my innate genetic superiority that would shine in a true meritocracy, it was quite obvious that the world was not fair and however you measure that combination of talent, luck, privilege and parental input (the “merit” equation) that influences success, we lived in a very unequal world. When I was old enough to think about this further, I figured the American ideal of “everyone can succeed” was anti-communist propaganda for external consumption. Yes it was, but it is, more dangerously, internalized and operationalized propaganda, designed to keep the social structure in place and shift all responsibility from society to the individual. So, this study (from last year) is not surprising at all.
Genetic study of Quebec residents finds air pollution trumps ancestry
Air pollution leaves its mark on the human body, not just in the throats and lungs of those who breathe it in, but in their very DNA, a newly published Canadian study has found.
I like this story, Genetic determinism comes and goes out of fashion, but those in the field know that gene expression, or which genes turn on and actually “express” themselves influences your body and life much more significantly. Genes are switches coded with instructions, they have to turned on to be of any use. Your lifetime of exposure, diet, exercise, stress, and more influence your life as much, if not more than the genes you were born with.
The Question of Cultural Appropriation
Once we clearly understand what the actual problems are, it’s easy to see how free cultural exchange can occur without creating injustice. The problems are largely those of economics and respect, and if we evaluate cultural borrowing by these measures, we can get rid of the racism without getting rid of the borrowing itself.
Again, from last year (lots of catching up), the clearest explanation of “cultural appropriation” I can find. Apart from the obvious cases such as White North Americans wearing First Nations regalia, or stealing black music for profit while excluding them from the market, this is a complicated and tangled issue. It is especially difficult because those who deny that cultural exploitation/appropriation is a problem (the people doing the exploiting and their supporters) seize on any complexity, nuance, or misapplication to repeatedly find proof for their denial. This in turn makes those of us who think exploitation is a problem in some cases to try and deny any nuance or complexity.
Fully Automated Luxury Socialism: The Case for a New Public Sector
Today, the labor-force participation rate has fallen again. We are living through another period of massive technological change. But unlike fifty years ago, there is no source of good jobs growing quickly enough to match the decline in manufacturing. And now middle-wage service jobs, from truck and cab drivers to hotel workers and journalists, are becoming the most vulnerable to technological displacement. Public spending—representing a little over a third of U.S. GDP since 2013—has been increasingly directed to contractors, which follow the private pattern concentrating income upward within each firm.
Interesting article that takes us through the history of “automation is taking our jobs” debates through the 20th century in the US, and how the government (and the people responded). How will we respond to the current trend, one that could be super-powered by over reliance on “artificial intelligence” and machine learning?
Landlords getting too personal, says B.C. privacy commissioner
B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner says some landlords are going too far when it comes to asking prospective tenants for personal information. The office examined personal information collected by 13 landlords during the tenancy application process.
Power imbalance, meet toothless government. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I support policy solutions that are systemic, easy to use and provide easy default options for people. Stay tuned for a blog post on this, can’t leave everything on the scraps floor :)
Sorry, no bird related stores this week, just a note that mini-me looked at the sky out of the window and pointed out some gulls to me last week, which was super cool :)