The dangers of social media for young people

The US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has warned that excessive use of social media by young people carries serious health risks.

“Teens who use social media for more than three hours a day face double the risk of depression and anxiety symptoms, which is particularly concerning given that the average amount of time that kids use social media is 3 1/2 hours a day,” the Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep.

According to the advisory, 95% of teenagers ages 13-17 say they use a social media app, and more than a third say they use it “almost constantly.” The Social Media and Youth Mental Health advisory says social media can perpetuate “body dissatisfaction, disordered eating behaviors, social comparison, and low self-esteem, especially among adolescent girls.”

Nearly 1 in 3 adolescents report using screens until midnight or later, the advisory says. And most are using social media during that time.

[Read more…]

How the internet went to hell and what to do about it

The internet is a mixed bag. While it has been an exceptional vehicle for increased communication and information access, it has also spawned a whole host of problems such as enabling the rapid spreading of misinformation and hate, and as big tech monopolies have used it grow their profits at the expense of the user experience.

Brooke Gladstone, the host of the radio program On The Media had an excellent conversation with Cory Doctorow, special advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on what happened to the internet and what can be done about it. It took place over three weeks. You can listen to the podcasts and also read transcripts of each episode by clicking on the links but be warned that the transcripts are done by machine and these tend to be fraught with poor punctuation, homophone mistakes, are other errors that require listening to the podcast to correct.

In Part 1 (20 minutes) they discuss why every platform goes bad and why going online feels evermore more repellent—or as he calls it, the “enshittification” of online platforms.

He gives the example of Amazon’a business model.

So step one, buyers or end users are lured in with a good offer, but they’re also locked in with subtle things that keep them from leaving if the offer gets worse. And then things are made worse for the buyers to make things better for the sellers and bring in lots of sellers. But they too are locked in. And once you have buyers and sellers who are locked in and can’t leave, all of the good stuff is taken away from both of them. Life is made worse for them and life s made infinitely better for the shareholders who own the platform, in this case, Jeff Bezos and his pals.

One such offer is the so-called ‘free shipping’ of Amazon Prime which really means that you have prepaid for shipping. Once you have signed on, you tend to keep buying from that same source even as it gets worse because you do not want to waste that free shipping, which was never free. As long as it does not get too infuriating, you tend to remain.

Big companies have used such tactics for ages but the internet has made this practice much easier to implement, with just a few clicks of a mouse.
[Read more…]

The ‘town hall’ was not that great for convicted sex offender Donald Trump

The day after he was found guilty of sexual assault and defamation against E. Jean Carroll, convicted sex offender Donald Trump (CSODT) took part in a ‘town hall’ in New Hampshire that was broadcast live by CNN and hosted by one of their anchors Kaitlin Collins. I did not watch it but the general reviews were that it was a debacle for CNN because they gave CSODT a platform to spew forth a barrage of lies and insults to Carroll to an audience that cheered him on. As always, the media tends to take the attitude that anything, anything at all, works in favor of Republicans and that this shows that CSODT was not hurt by the verdict.

But is that true?

The biggest fault of CNN was in agreeing that the audience would be made up of Republicans. That makes a mockery of the concept of a town hall which is supposed to contain a fairly representative sample of the community. This was more like an indoor rally of partisans. New Hampshire governor John Sununu, himself a Republican, said that he was embarrassed by what he saw and what the crowd’s behavior conveyed about the people of his state.
[Read more…]

What to expect after Carlson’s departure

The circumstances that led to the firing of Tucker Carlson by Fox News are still murky. Neither he nor Fox have made any statement as to the precise reasons but speculation is that the abrupt nature of the firing in the absence of any obvious factors suggests that something serious had emerged to cause the rupture between them. We will have to see what that is. The one thing you can be sure of is that this was not a split caused by a clash of high-minded principles because neither party has any. It will be because of some grubby and tawdry issues. What I would like to see is a bare-knuckle brawl where they air each other’s dirty laundry.

As to what happens next, media analyst Jack Shafer says that nothing will really change after the departure of Carlson because what Fox does is not create shows around individuals but around certain types of people and it is easy replace a type. In fact, Fox has a deep bench of people who can step into Carlson’s shoes and pick up where he left off in targeting white nationalists and in incendiary rabble-rousing around culture war issues as well as race and gender.
[Read more…]

Fox News splits with Tucker Carlson

Fox News announced this morning that the network had severed ties with Tucker Carlson who attracted the biggest audience for the network during his nightly 8:00pm show. The network said that starting today, his time slot will be hosted by a rotating panel until a permanent host is found. A clue that the parting was not amicable can be seen in the fact that Fox said that his last show was the one he gave last Friday, which means that he will not be given the opportunity to say farewell to the many racist, bigoted, and white supremacist fans that tuned in to watch his daily message of hate. His ended his show on Friday saying “We’ll be back on Monday”. Famous last words.

I am as surprised by the development as anyone. While the lawsuit brought by Dominion had devastating internal messages by him that undoubtedly contributed to Fox settling for a massive $787.5 million instead of going to trial, he was by no means the only one fingered as systematically lying. Since the network was not required by the settlement to give an on-air apology, I thought that they would simply go back to lying as before, except leaving Dominion out of it and being more careful not to name entities that were powerful enough to sue it. In other words, just basically stick to their business model of pandering to racists and bigots by attacking marginalized groups.
[Read more…]

The aftermath of the Fox-Dominion settlement

As far as a I can tell of the settlement of the case, Fox News personalities who told all those lies about Dominion and the elections will not have to make on-air apologies.

It looks like Dominion wanted a large financial settlement more than they wanted on-air apologies from Fox, and Fox wanted to avoid giving on-air apologies and was willing to pay almost $800 million to avoid doing that. Dominion likely used the demand for apologies as leverage to get Fox to pay up. While this is a large amount, Murdoch media is used to seeing fines for wrongdoing as just the cost of doing business. While many of us would have liked to see all the Fox people squirm on the witness stand and show public contrition for their irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric, ultimately Dominion is a business, not a pro-democracy or media watchdog organization, and it made a business decision.

But there are other cases that in the works and it will be interesting to see what impact this result will have on those cases.
[Read more…]

The Roald Dahl books controversy revisited

There have been some interesting followups to the controversy over the decision of the Roald Dahl’s estate and publishers to revise his books to remove some language and ideas that are now seen as offensive.

One item that emerged was that Dahl in his own lifetime was willing to change his books in response to opposition and to accommodate the changing cultural ethos so that his books would continue to sell and be adapted to other media.

Amid the outcry over Dahl’s books being edited, many seem to have forgotten that the author previously edited his work himself to make it less offensive. He edited his book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 1973, just shy of a decade after its initial publication. Meanwhile, the edits took place just two years after the film adaption, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, was released. In his initial book, the Oompa Loompas were depicted as African Pygmy people who were snuck out of Africa in crates by Willy Wonka and basically forced into servitude in his factory.
[Read more…]

The full extent of the rot at Fox News

David Corn provides the most exhaustive analysis I have seen of the public version of the legal brief filed by Dominion Voting Systems on February 16, 2023 in its $1.6. billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. The internal communications of the top people at Fox reveal the extent of the utterly cynical lying campaign that they waged in the wake of the 2020 election, where they went all in on promoting Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was rigged, even as they knew that it was not, since their own in-house election analysis team got the results right. Indeed, in response to a question as to whether Joe Biden was legitimately elected, Suzanne Scott, Fox News CEO, replied “Yes, I believe that.”

As Corn says:

No other self-proclaimed news organization has ever been so fully discredited as Fox has been with this one legal brief. (You should read the document.) This is not the case of one reporter, one editor, or one story going off the rails. This is an indictment of an entire outfit. The full barrel of apples is rotten to the core. What this filing demonstrates is that the Fox universe is racked with corruption, greed, fear, irrationality, cynicism, and ignorance—from top to bottom. That ought to be the ultimate takeaway.
[Read more…]

Changing the language in children’s books

Books by children’s author Roald Dahl are being revised to remove material that might be offensive to current generations of children.

Puffin has hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of the author’s text to make sure the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work.

Edits have been made to descriptions of characters’ physical appearances. The word “fat” has been cut from every new edition of relevant books, while the word “ugly” has also been culled, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now described as “enormous”. In The Twits, Mrs Twit is no longer “ugly and beastly” but just “beastly”.

Hundreds of changes were made to the original text – and some passages not written by Dahl have been added. But the Roald Dahl Story Company said “it’s not unusual to review the language” during a new print run and any changes were “small and carefully considered”.

Gender-neutral terms have been added in places – where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas were “small men”, they are now “small people”. The Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach have become Cloud-People.

Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company made the changes in conjunction with Inclusive Minds, which its spokesperson describes as “a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature”.

[Read more…]

Fox News personalities are craven liars, and other non-news

During the discovery process leading up to the trial where the Dominion voting company is suing Fox News for defamation, documents have been released from depositions showing that in internal communications, Fox News personalities knew from the get-go that the claims of election fraud that were being propagated by Donald Trump and his cronies were utterly bogus but they spread them anyway.

Hosts at Fox News privately ridiculed Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen while simultaneously peddling the same lies on air, according to court filings in a defamation lawsuit against the network.

Rightwing personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are among those named in the $1.6bn action brought by Dominion Voting Systems, the seller of electronic voting hardware and software that is suing Fox News and parent company Fox Corporation for maligning its reputation.

“He’s acting like an insane person,” Hannity allegedly wrote of Trump in the weeks following the election as the host continued to push the so-called “big lie” during his top-rated prime time show, aided by a succession of election deniers he had on as guests.
[Read more…]