The phony binary choice of conspiracy versus journalistic independence

I mentioned in an earlier post how the media propaganda system works to tilt coverage in favor of candidates who will favor the interests of the oligarchy and against those who attack them. I used as an example the case of the New York Times reporter who was assigned to cover Bernie Sanders.

Now, the editor of the Washington Post Marty Baron has responded to the accusation by Bernie Sanders that this newspaper, owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, may tend to be biased against politicians like him because he has lambasted the greed of the wealthy and their exploitation of workers and called for tax increases on them to fund programs that serve the less well-to-do.
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The weird world of social media: Part infinity

I have commented before about how some people make a living by being social media personalities and ‘influencers’, whom people contribute money to in return for them live streaming about themselves and/or companies paying them to push their products on their followers.

Now comes a weird story of a Chinese woman who used a filter to make herself look younger but a glitch in the filter resulted in her real face being revealed as a middle-aged woman and now she has lost a lot of followers.

There are so many lessons that can be drawn from this one single story, and one that is being debated is about the unrealistic standards of beauty that people seek to attain in order to attract a following, and the lengths that they must go to maintain that following, since China has strict controls on what people can do on the internet.

China has more than 425 million live-streamers and the use of face filters is something that is common across the myriad of social platforms.

[M]any live-streamers simply sing karaoke in their bedrooms, or eat snacks for hours on end.

And the highly lucrative industry is saturated by young female users, who will go to extreme lengths to stand out.

425 million livestreamers? How on Earth can one stand out in such a crowd simply by singing karaoke or eating snacks? There is a market for this?

It is now official. The world has passed me by.

Don’t believe your lying eyes

In an earlier post I showed what I thought was an impressive video only to be informed by commenters that it was a CGI fake. So once again I had been fooled by a fake video into thinking it was the real thing. The techniques have become so sophisticated that people can now create ‘deep fakes’, where images of one person are superimposed onto videos of someone else. These are done so seamlessly that it is almost impossible for ordinary people casually watching a video to detect that the person they are seeing did not actually say or do the things that we see with our own eyes.

Apparently the software to do this does not require all that much sophistication to use and thus the potential for malicious actors to exploit it is huge. The video below explains what is going on and how some people are trying to find ways to more quickly identify deep fakes, initially focusing on all the candidates for the next presidential election whom mischief makers are most likely to target. (I think this video is real but what do I know?)
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So tell us what you really think, Mr. Ambassador

The Daily Mail newspaper in the UK is a notoriously unreliable tabloid devoted to scandal and sensationalizing so everything that appears in it should be treated skeptically. But like the National Enquirer in the US with which it shares some similarities, it does on occasion get real scoops.

The paper today says that it has received leaked secret cables from the UK Ambassador in Washington to the Foreign Ministry that paints a damning portrait of the Trump administration.
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The impact of 2001: Space Odyssey on AI

Last month I posted about the fascinating Studio 360 public radio show on the making and impact of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey that led me to read a detailed book on the subject Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, And The Making Of A Masterpiece by Michael Benson. Today, Studio 360 had the second part of the show, this one focusing on how the film’s computer HAL portrayed Artificial Intelligence and technology, how its predictions compare with the reality now, and the impact the film had on subsequent science fiction films.
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The case against extraditing Julian Assange to the US

Currently Julian Assange sits in a British prison after being unceremoniously ousted from his asylum situation in the Ecuadoran embassy in London. The US has indicted him and seeks to extradite him to the US to face charges. Assange arouses strong feelings. Some people detest him for some of the things he is accused of in his personal capacity while some journalists hate him because he exposed government secrets in ways they do not approve of. But Matt Taibbi argues that whatever we may feel about him, we should be very concerned about the implications for journalism as a whole contained in the indictments.
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On Twitter, everybody thinks they can be a comedian

Professional comedian Conan O’Brien was sued by someone who claimed that O’Brien had copied the jokes he had sent on Twitter. O’Brien settled the case but said that it did not mean his writers had used other people’s material without attribution. He said that pretty much everyone was sending out jokes on the same topics and it was inevitable that there would be coincidences.
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The Fox News dilemma for Democrats

There has been some controversy over the issue of whether Democratic candidates should appear on Fox News programs and on the ‘town halls’ that they sponsor, where their hosts interview candidates before an audience. Some have chosen to do so while others have declined. Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg have chosen to appear but Elizabeth Warren was particularly stinging in her rejection of their invitation, calling Fox a ‘hate for profit racket’. The Democratic party has said that they will not allow Fox to sponsor any of the debates of their candidates.
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Shutting down social media to reduce unrest

Social media has been blamed for spreading false stories that can inflame tensions and has led to great violence in places like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. After the recent bombings that killed 253 people in the latter country, the government shut down nearly all the social media platforms to prevent retaliatory violence. It later lifted the bans but yesterday briefly re-imposed the bans following violence between different group in one of the regions where a church was bombed on Easter Sunday. Schools are due to re-open today but bomb scares, the heavy security presence, and ongoing searches have made the atmosphere tense and people are being urged to avoid gathering in large numbers.
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