Where do you get your news

What IS news?

My intention was to write a blog post answering another Ask Roger Anything question. But it got VERY long, and slightly off point. So I’m going to address “Where do you get your news?”

I remember going to a panel discussion in 2017, part of a symposium called Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World.” The segment I attended was “Presidents and the Press: Trump, Nixon, and More.” I wrote about it here. Looking back, when the threat of disinformation already seemed problematic, it now seems like a Peter Zenger moment compared with what we’re now experiencing less than five years later.

One issue for me: I don’t know what “the media” means anymore. Twenty years ago, it would have been pretty easy: CBS the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, Fox News, NPR, the New York Times, the Associated Press, the usual suspects.

Now, EVERYTHING is “the media”. Facebook and Twitter feeds and YouTube influencers, pretty much anyone with a megaphone, a microphone, and, preferably, video. This is NOT all bad, mind you. Stories from George Floyd’s murder to war atrocities have been revealed.

Still. About a dozen years ago, I was trying to engage someone in a conversation about information consumption. They said that they had gotten some tidbit from Facebook. I asked where they found it on Facebook. What was the source? “FACEBOOK,” they retorted, exasperated that I seem to be hard of hearing.

North, east, south, west

The other thing I don’t know anymore is “What is ‘news’?” Because many people take in their info via feeds, all the news is of the same significance. So a Kardashian marries, war crimes, the opening of the new Marvel movie, the next mass casualty shooting comes at you. What’s important?

If you happen to read a newspaper – you dinosaur! – you can tell what’s considered most significant the placement of the stories and the size of the headlines. Watching a news broadcast, the story that tends to lead might give you a clue. Online, so many items are vying for our attention.

A friend of mine recently complained that Ginni Thomas’ call to the White House on January 6 disappeared quickly. Of COURSE, it did; that was old news, which may pop up again if she’s called before a House committee or refuses to. But we have to move on to the next topic.

As noted, WHERE one gets the news matters a lot. Sure NBC and Fox are different. But I’ve been receiving newsfeeds that are even less mainstream, let’s say. It’s a bunch of articles such as Fauci, Vaccines, and Big Pharma’s Power by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Anti-vax, pro-Canadian truckers who were blocking Ottawa’s downtown earlier this year.

Don’t believe your eyes

But a lot of it pro-Putin. This utterly fascinates me. Here’s a quote from the sender. “Putin is spot on and I wish we had a leader like him…..remember again the msm is just full of lies and U.S.A./Israeli foreign policy and their puppets like Zelensky who can’t even control his fanatic military project what they are and what they are actually doing in Ukraine onto Putin and Russia…God help us with the jerks we have to deal with …”

The atrocities we think we’re seeing on our TV screens are either “some staged dead” or “killed by Ukrainian fanatical ultra-nationalist battalions.”

The original source of some of this is Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the
former Vatican envoy and outspoken papal critic. He released a letter in March blaming “deep state” forces in the United States, the European Union, and NATO for triggering the current war and demonizing Russia.”

It is reasonable to ask, as Noam Chomsky does, whether the US policy will bring about de-escalation in Ukraine. It’s quite another to make Putin the victim in this narrative.

I had wondered where folks such Tucker Carlson had gotten his pro-Russia position, which he has now conveniently abandoned. It’s OK to believe that sort of thinking is unsettling. But know that a lot of people in this country are getting the same messages, probably from sources which we’ve never heard of.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukraine

Paddington Bear

Flag_map_of_Ukraine_from_2014I’ve wanted to write something about Ukraine because the process helps my understanding. But it’s difficult when it is an ever-shifting situation. And what could I add that everyone else hasn’t said? The Weekly Sift guy indicated as much, yet this week, shared his thoughts.

I consider the possibility that I’m quite wrong about this. But I’m finding a smattering of hope in the midst of the barbaric actions by Russia. And much of it has to do with the improbable Volodymyr Zelenskyy [one Y or two?], who Newsweek says united divided Americans against Putin.

The comic actor, who was elected in 2019, was “increasingly viewed as out of [his] depth on the political stage. However, war leader Zelensky has changed all that. His defiant social media videos and determination to remain in Kyiv have won him old and new fans. Natasha Kuhrt, of King’s College London, [explained] how Zelensky’s government represented ‘a counterpoint to the authoritarian regime next door,’ and the president’s bravery is a ‘David and Goliath’ story playing into the Ukrainian president’s hands.”

Putin as an alarm clock

The United States seemingly had disdain for NATO under its previous guy.  The West Was a Sleeping Giant — And Putin Just Woke It Up. “The ferocity of the Western response to Russia’s illegal, criminal, repellent war of aggression will go down in history… The West has united around the goal of taking Russia out of the league of modern democracies — a place in which it never belonged in the first place. The world is literally realigning itself. Against Russia.

“[Putin has] outlined his goals — and they are genuinely frightening. He wants a Third Reich for Russia — the first one being Tsarist Russia, the second being the USSR. The Third Reich he wants is a kind of fascist empire for Russia.”

Indeed, CBS Sunday Morning’s Mo Rocco interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum “about the long history of oppression of the Ukrainian people by Czarist and Soviet forces (including the ‘Holodomor’ famine perpetrated by Stalin), and now by the war machines of Putin.” Remarkable then are the massive anti-war rallies by the Russian people “amid ominous threats by Putin.”

Media and sports

Netflix is declining to carry Russian state channels. This is significant because, in December 2021, the country’s communications regulator required Netflix and like entities “to carry 20 major Russian federal television channels, many of which carry pro-Putin propaganda,” starting on March 1, 2022. The propaganda machine is crashing down. Disney and Warner Brothers are suspending movie releases there; no The Batman for you, Russia!

The National Hockey League is suspending business and social media ties, as well as “banning Russia as a location for competitions involving its players.” Russia is excluded from “competing in international ice skating events… after being kicked out of soccer competitions and hockey — Vladimir Putin’s favorite sport. The decisions follow the International Olympic Committee’s request to keep Russian athletes out of sporting events around the world. The International Skating Union… said no athletes from Russia or Belarus shall be invited or allowed to participate in events until further notice.”

Meanwhile, companies such as Microsoft are attempting to support the Ukrainian technological infrastructure.  Ukraine universities were hacked by players identified as supporting the Russian invasion.

But what about

ZelenskyyIn some quarters, I’ve read criticism “about the amount of media coverage the war in Ukraine has received compared to conflicts in Iran, Yemen, Guatemala, Sudan, and elsewhere. And it’s not entirely inaccurate. Yemen, for certain, is a proxy war between the US/Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a clear humanitarian disaster.

Still, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell stated the situation clearly. “what Putin is doing is not only a grave violation of international law, it is a violation of the basic principles of human coexistence. With his choice to bring war back to Europe, we see the return of the ‘law of the jungle’ where might makes right. The target is not only Ukraine, but the security of Europe and the whole international rules-based order, based on the UN system and international law.

“The international community will now in response opt for full-scale isolation of Russia, to hold Putin accountable for this aggression. We are sanctioning those who finance the war, crippling the Russian banking system and its access to international reserves.” Even China abstained from the UN Security Council vote sanctioning Russia.

Mostly on the same page

Most Americans are on the same page about this situation. There are disagreements about the timing of sanctions and the like, but most find Russia clearly at fault.

There are outliers. US Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) was ‘scorched for claiming Dems weakened Ukraine by impeaching Trump: ‘FBI Warned You’. And an Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers says the “EU is building a new ‘Third Reich’ in its defense of Ukraine.” This is someone getting her talking points from Putin. For those with short memories, remember the extortion of Ukraine. Mr. Brunelle has a solution to Putin’s financial problems.

While smashing vodka bottles won’t stop Putin’s tanks, it helps galvanize people.  The Boston Globe recommends these entities to contribute to. Razom for Ukraine, based in New York, is sending items like tourniquets, bandages, and satellite phones. United Help Ukraine in Maryland is supplying money, food, and medical supplies. Sunflower of Peace in Belmont, Mass., is sending first aid medical tactical backpacks to paramedics and doctors on the front lines.

Check out Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context by John Green from exactly eight years ago.  Listen to Alcion by Ukrainian composer Aleksandr Shymko. The movements are titled: “Beyond Words”, “One Hour to Live”, “The End of Sorrow”, and “On the Edge of Everything”. Meanwhile, I’ll go watch one of those Paddington Bear movies, with the title character voiced by Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

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