Monthly Archives: November 2014

If It Happened There: How US Media Would Cover THANKSGIVING If It Was Held In Another Country

Love this “If it happened there” series.
If It Happened There … America’s Annual Festival Pilgrimage Begins
Just a sample:

The annual holiday, known as Thanksgiving, celebrates a mythologized moment of peace between America’s early foreign settlers and its native groups—a day that by Americans’ own admission preceded a near genocide of those groups. Despite its murky origins, the holiday remains a rare institution celebrated almost universally in this ethnically diverse society.

During the holiday, more than 38.4 million Americans will make the long pilgrimage home, traveling an average of 214 miles over congested highways, often in inclement weather. The more prosperous citizens will frequently opt for the nation’s airways, suffering through a series of flight delays and missed airline connections thanks to the country’s decaying transportation infrastructure and residual fears of foreign terrorist attacks.

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No surprise: China builds fake sites to promote its policies. It’s just this time they got caught.

One of the nice things about freedom of press and expression is that it is easier to track down lies and the lying liars who tell those lies. (Sorry, Al Franken. Couldn’t resist using a bit of the title of your book.)

The latest comes from that bastion of efforts to control everything: China.

Seems, no one was believing the official Beijing line that the residents of Tibet are overjoyed to be under Chinese rule and have no desire for any other kind of leadership. So some one (the government in Beijing quickly came to mind for many) created dozens of fake Twitter and YouTube accounts to promote the Chinese line about Tibet.

According to a story in International Business News, the fake accounts were all identified with Western names and faces. In once case, a fake Twitter used the picture of Brazilian model Felipe Berto without his permission.

The story — YouTube Suspends Fake Tibet Propaganda Accounts After Investigation — highlights the fake accounts and how they were found out.

And, as the headline notes, the social media companies suspended the fake accounts. In addition, YouTube took down the videos that showed happy and content Tibetans posted by the fake Twitter accounts.

Alistair Currie, the press and media manager for Free Tibet, summed up the situation nicely:

“China’s emphasis on manipulation of western public opinion is a sign of how important that public opinion is.”

In the past, China and the ex-Soviet Union used “friendship” assocations to do their propaganda dirty work. The problem was that it soon became clear these groups were really nothing but fronts for those governments. With the rise of the Internet the source of comments and material is much harder to track down.

And just like the dog in the classic New Yorker cartoon, no one knows who is a party dupe.

Fortunately, organizations and media without government control are free to look into who is saying what and why.

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Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom

Getting Americans To Understand Foreign Aid

Most Americans don’t really understand what foreign aid is all about nor how much it costs.

Real quick:

  1. Foreign aid is designed to promote US interests from humanitarian to economic to political to security.
    1. That means, we — as Americans — don’t like to see people starving and suffering (humanitarian).
    2. We want other countries to prosper so they can buy our products and send visitors to our country. (economic)
    3. We need allies in the world for hundreds of complicated issues. Recipients of foreign aid might more receptive to American overtures if we are seen as a friend. (political)
    4. Prosperous, stable and economically viable countries are not breeding grounds for illegal immigrants, gang members or terrorists. (security)
  2. Foreign aid is not expensive
    1. Recent Pew survey showed 33 percent of American people thought foreign aid was the most expensive part of the US budget. (26 percent said interest on the debt, 20 percent said Social Security and 4 percent sais transportation.)
    2. Real numbers are that Social Security accounts for 17 TIMES the amount spent on foreign aid.
    3. Foreign aid accounts for less than 1 percent of the US budget

Part of the problem is the fact that the State Department and the US Agency for International Development do a lousy job of explaining things.

Fortunately, as Daniel Altman points out in Foreign Policy, there is a way to address that problem. But only if the State Department gets smart about the terms it uses and its public outreach activities.

Altman says the latest Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review being written at State could go a long way to improving how foreign aid is seen and perceived.

While Altman uses a rather crass cost-benefit analysis, his point is valid.

The cost of saving a child in Guatemala from a deadly case of malaria might be about $16, but that child might buy close to $100 a year in American goods and services over the course of his or her working life. By paying for malaria treatments in Guatemala, the U.S. government would become a machine for transforming $16 worth of American output today into $100 a year of American output 15 or 20 years down the road. At a discount rate of, say, 5 percent a year, the total return would be roughly 6,000 percent.

The low-cost nature of US development aid does have a long-term and wide-reaching impact on the U.S. domestic market as well as its international security. (If that same Guatemalan kid gets a decent job, there will be less incentive to go to the United States illegally. Likewise, that same kid will not be tempted to join a gang in order to make ends meet.)

A lot of the lack of understanding about how foreign aid works and how much it costs can be laid at the feet of the US agencies. But a whole lot of blame can also be laid at the feet of the US media.

If reporters spent a little more time on stories — granted, a luxury most of us don’t have — they could put the programs into context for readers/viewers/listeners. Additional stories could be generated that show the connection between US aid and US domestic benefits.

Maybe — and here I might jest be a cock-eyed optimist — once there is enough general information about how much US development aid costs and its benefits, then maybe, just maybe, some reporters might have the guts to call to task the Congress-critters who think the way to balance the budget is to cut foreign aid.

On the issue of cutting foreign aid to balance the budget, I like Neil De Grasse Tyson’s response to proposed cuts to NASA and space exploration: [Paraphrasing here] Cutting the NASA budget to balance the budget is like deleting a couple of WORD documents instead of many of the JPEG files in an effort to free up space on your hard drive.

[FYI, the NASA budget is also just around 1 percent of the federal budget.]

The NASA and foreign aid money brings in much larger benefits than the outlay. The facts are there, people are just not getting them.

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Pakistan: An Inside Look at Censorship

An interesting look at how censorship operates in Pakistan

Not Fit To Print

[T]he owners of Pakistani media powerhouses — namely ARY News, the Express Media Group, and Dunya News — received instructions from the military establishment to support the “dissenting” leaders and their sit-ins. The military was using the media to add muscle and might to the anti-government movement in an attempt to cut Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif down to size.

The media obliged.

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Filed under Censorship