Torture and the media

Posted: 2010-07-01 13:29   |  More posts about america media news politics war

Abstract from Desai, Pineda, Runquist, Fusunyan et al. (2010), emphasis mine:

The current debate over waterboarding has spawned hundreds of newspaper articles in the last two years alone. However, waterboarding has been

the subject of press attention for over a century. Examining the four newspapers

with the highest daily circulation in the country, we found a significant and

sudden shift in how newspapers characterized waterboarding. From the early

1930s until the modern story broke in 2004, the newspapers that covered

waterboarding almost uniformly called the practice torture or implied it was

torture: The New York Times characterized it thus in 81.5% (44 of 54) of articles on

the subject and The Los Angeles Times did so in 96.3% of articles (26 of 27). By

contrast, from 2002‐2008, the studied newspapers almost never referred to

waterboarding as torture. The New York Times called waterboarding torture or

implied it was torture in just 2 of 143 articles (1.4%). The Los Angeles Times did so

in 4.8% of articles (3 of 63). The Wall Street Journal characterized the practice as

torture in just 1 of 63 articles (1.6%). USA Today never called waterboarding

torture or implied it was torture. In addition, the newspapers are much more

likely to call waterboarding torture if a country other than the United States is

the perpetrator. In The New York Times, 85.8% of articles (28 of 33) that dealt with

a country other than the United States using waterboarding called it torture or

implied it was torture while only 7.69% (16 of 208) did so when the United States

was responsible. The Los Angeles Times characterized the practice as torture in

91.3% of articles (21 of 23) when another country was the violator, but in only

11.4% of articles (9 of 79) when the United States was the perpetrator.

Read the entire paper here.


Bloody Sunday

Posted: 2010-06-15 20:21   |  More posts about ireland music news politics religion the troubles

Today, the Saville Report into the events of Bloody Sunday was published. You can read it in full here. British Prime Minister David Cameron summed up:

  • No warning had been given to any civilians before the soldiers opened fire
  • None of the soldiers fired in response to attacks by petrol bombers or stone throwers
  • Some of those killed or injured were clearly fleeing or going to help those injured or dying
  • None of the casualties was posing a threat or doing anything that would justify their shooting
  • Many of the soldiers lied about their actions
  • The events of Bloody Sunday were not premeditated
  • Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein, was present at the time of the violence and "probably armed with a sub-machine gun" but did not engage in "any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire"

The inquiry ran for 12 years at an ultimate expense of £195M. Its findings have been widely greeted positively.

What I post today is not directly connected but certainly not unrelated: a debate -- I use the term loosely -- between Fintan O'Toole of the Irish Times and members of the Wolfe Tones, an Irish rebel music band who have enjoyed a long, successful career. Fintan contends their music and their style of performing are inherently racist and filled with hate-speech, while the Wolfe Tones assert that... Well, that Fintan is lacking a sense of humour, that his knowledge of the history of The Troubles is lacking and that he shouldn't be able to consider himself Irish.

While even after having watched it countless times, to me it is completely obvious who wins this farce of a "debate", the Youtube comments tell a different story:

In any event, here is the "debate", in full:



Girl banned from using sign-language on school bus

Posted: 2010-06-09 00:09   |  More posts about america idiots news

From ABC News:

School officials have threatened a hearing-impaired girl with suspension if she uses sign language to talk to her friends on the school bus, the girl's parents say.

But officials at Stonybrook School — which is not a school for the hearing-impaired — and district officials in Branchburg, N.J., apparently believe signing is a safety hazard. They have sent a letter to the Lesko family ordering Danica to stop using sign language on the school bus or risk a three-day suspension.

The March 30 letter from her principal that said Danica was "doing sign language after being told it wasn't allowed on the bus."

The Leskos may file a lawsuit over the sign language ban, claiming officials are violating Danica's civil rights and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"She has a hearing problem, and now she's being punished for using sign language," Mary Ann Lesko, Danica's mother, told The Star-Ledger of Newark. "It's absurd."

A horrific story already, my heart sank to a new low when I read the closing paragraph:

Danica's parents say she began losing her hearing last November, when a classmate allegedly shot a bottle rocket near her ear. They have already sued the Branchburg School District over that incident.


A Strange Echo from History

Posted: 2010-06-04 18:20   |  More posts about israel / palestine conflict news politics

Acclaimed Filmmaker Adam Curtis writes of a strange echo from history, drawing parallels between the recent news from the Middle East and an attempt by members of a Zionist terrorist group in the 40s to try to break the English blockade of Palestine. He shares with us a documentary film from the BBC archives:

As you watch the film - it raises complex reactions and thoughts in your mind. But it is ironic that, although the two events are in many ways completely different, the Israelis are now preventing Palestinians and supporters of Hamas from doing what the Israeli defence organisation - the Haganah - tried to do over 60 years ago. From 1945 the Haganah, along with the Irgun, had been carrying out a terror campaign against British soldiers in Palestine. Then in 1947 they organised the Exodus operation as an attempt to break the British blockade.

It is absolutely essential viewing. Read his blog post and watch the documentary now.


Don't hold your breath for tolerance.

Posted: 2009-10-17 02:25   |  More posts about gay rights idiots media news politics

In the past week, Stephen Gately, former member of Irish boy-band Boyzone, died. Jan Moir of the Daily Mail wrote an incredibly repulsive article on the subject and Charlie Brooker responded indignantly.

Meanwhile, a Ugandan minister of parliament has proposed legislation to enforce a penalty of death for the "offence of aggravated homosexuality."

Well then.


Die Stimme des Klaviers

Posted: 2009-10-07 18:20   |  More posts about art berlin computers experimental german language germany linguistics news oddities

Peter Ablinger, an Austrian composer currently residing in Berlin, has done something rather interesting: he made a recording of a child reading the Proclamation of the European Environmental Criminal Court, then invented a mechanical piano player capable of reading notes in a very high time resolution from a computer.

The computer performs a frequency analysis of the sound spectrum, aided by Ablinger himself, which is then fed into the piano player and out comes the child's voice.

<object width="490" height="344"><param name="movie" value=""></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"></param><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

(Video in German with English subtitles)

While I wouldn't have much hope for people trying to work out what the piano is "saying" without the aid of seeing the words as they're heard, I think it's a pretty interesting experiment. The auto-player in itself is something to be marvelled at. Neat!


Ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia to be fined for speaking their own language

Posted: 2009-09-01 23:05   |  More posts about linguistics media news politics words

Daniel Tencer has posted his English translation of an article in Gazeta Wyborcza from Warsaw, Poland, which describes a new law which imposes a fine of five to ten thousand euros for publicly speaking Hungarian in Slovakia:

Ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia are planning to protest today in the city of Dunajska Streda against a law they say violates their basic human rights. Under a penalty of five to ten thousand Euros, as of today it will be a crime in Slovakia to use the Hungarian language in public places. As the Hungarian weekly Heti Világgazdaság states, every Hungarian doctor in Slovakia will from now on be required to speak Slovakian with their patients, even ethnically Hungarian patients, even if neither party wishes it so. [Explanatory note: There are 550,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia. They are there because after the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in World War I, the Allied Powers drew the borders of Hungary in such a way as to marginalize the Hungarian nation. A full 3.3 million Hungarians were left out of Hungary, and have been living as minorities in Slovakia, Romania, etc. for the past ninety years.] The protest marks the culmination of several nightmarish weeks in Hungarian-Slovak relations, during which time the Slovak government refused entry to the Hungarian prime minister, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences declared the new Slovak language law a violation of fundamental human rights.
It's always a thorny issue when governments get involved in mandating and prescribing the use of language in their respective societies, but it's surprised me that such an incredibly racist law brought in in Eastern Europe has gone almost completely unnoticed in the news media -- especially when one considers the background to the Hungarians' presence in Slovakia.

Edit: Ah. Literally minutes after I clicked "Publish" (I didn't know my blog was that closely watched! ;) ), a story about this appeared in the third most prominant position on the BBC News website.



Posted: 2009-06-30 00:34   |  More posts about funny media news

Michael Jackson died and Charlie Brooker wrote a great blog post about the death and how the media's handled it:

I was at Glastonbury when Jacko died. That's not a factual statement, but a T-shirt slogan. The day after his death, souvenir tops with "I was at Glasto 09 when Jacko died" printed on them were already on sale around the site. In fact, when Jacko died, I was at home playing Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on a Nintendo DSi. I am 38 years old.


The next day he was still dead, but somehow deader than the day before. He was all over the radio and papers. The TV had clips of Thriller on heavy rotation, which seemed a tad inappropriate, what with him playing a decomposing corpse in it. If Bruce Willis died falling from a skyscraper, I doubt they'd illustrate his life story by repeatedly showing that bit from Die Hard where he ties a firehose round his waist and jumps off the building.

Across all the networks, a million talking heads shared their thoughts and feelings on his death. They had rung everyone in the universe and invited them on the show. On This Morning, a Coronation Street actor revealed he had once had tickets for a Michael Jackson concert but couldn't go because of the traffic. It was a sad day indeed. At 3pm, his death was still "BREAKING NEWS" according to Sky, which has to be some kind of record. Even 9/11 didn't "break" that long.

He ends with a well-expressed sentiment I share completely:

But the news is not the place to "celebrate" Jackson's music. The Glastonbury stage, the pub, the club, the office stereo, the arts documentary: that's the place. The news should report his death, then piss off out of the way, leaving people to moonwalk and raise a toast in peace.


Is this some kind of sick joke?

Posted: 2009-06-11 22:02   |  More posts about idiots media music news

From BBC News:

John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono has been given a lifetime achievement honour at Mojo magazine's awards in London.

Mojo chief editor Phil Alexander, who hosted the event, praised Ono, 76, as "a huge influence on modern music".