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Censorship on Facebook and Twitter – supporting the dominant ideology?

Pluralists would argue that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are just neutral sites through which anyone is free to express their opinion, however, Marxists would suggest that they work with governments and corporations to suppress views which go against the dominant ideology by censoring anything which challenges the mainstream capitalist world view.

The recent banning of the anti-media group from Facebook and Twitter seem to have gone further than just banning hate-groups and fake-news creators, and suggests support for the Marxist view of the media.

The banning of anti media from Facebook and Twitter

Anti-Media is an alternative news outlet that offers information that runs counter to the often pro-government narratives of traditional media outlets.

Their content is heavily critical of the current political system which they believe has heavily indebted ordinary people, and increasingly infringed on individual rights while expanding its reach and power.

They focus mainly on challenging unjust government corruption, oppression, and authority – criticising both ‘right’ and ‘left’ wing governments and part of their stated agenda is to awaken people from their passive subservience to big government and corporatism.

At their peak in 2016, Anti-media were reaching tens of millions of people per week, offering an alternative to the mainstream news, but their reach then declined, according to them, due to algorithmic changes following Trump coming to power.

Then in October 2018, the anti-media Facebook page was unpublished altogether, along with its Twitter feed shortly afterwards. A number of its employee’s twitter accounts were also suspended, including that of Carey Wedler, whose video about the issue, published on the censorship resistant site @dtube is well worth a watch.

NB her personal Twitter account was suspended without warning, and despite appealing this four months ago, she still hasn’t received a legitimate explanation of why her account was suspended.

The official Facebook and Twitter line was that they removed anti-media as part of a wider purge of  “spam” and “fake accounts” that targeted users with the intent of misleading them, by trying to do such things as driving them to ad farms to profit.

HOWEVER, neither anti-media nor their employees did any of this, they were dedicated to evidence-based factual reporting without sensationalism

Along with Anti-Media, dozens of pro-freedom libertarian pages were also deleted during the Facebook and Twitter purge back in October 2018, pages such as:

Some interesting analysis by Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, who investigated these purges suggests that this isn’t about purging left or right political views, as both types of page and account were purged, but rather it was about censoring the following themes which are touched on by both ends of the political spectrum:

  • Anti-war content
  • Focus on police brutality and misuse of state power
  • Disinterest in two party politics

Relevance to A-level sociology

This seems to be a straightforward example of Facebook and Twitter censoring media content because of ideological reasons – anything which upsets the status quo by challenging the state too vociferously (whether from left or right ends of the political spectrum) and/ or draws attention to state violence is more likely to get censored.

In short, this suggests support for any perspective which argues that mainstream media companies collude to support the dominant ideology by gatekeeping out views which are hyper-critical of those in power.

If you don’t study the media, this is still yet more supporting evidence for Marxism in general, and relevant to Theory and Methods!

Sources

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Screen Time and Children’s Well being

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers are now officially advising parents to ban their children from using phones and other electronic devices in their bedrooms and during meal times. These are two out of nine specific recommendations made in a recent official report entitled:

Screen-based activities and children and young people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing: a systematic map of reviews.

research screen time effects.png

NB – for students of A-level sociology this is great example of an official government document, a form of secondary qualitative data!

It’s also a great example of an amazing ‘literature review’… they go through a stack of evidence on social media/ screen time/ internet use effects and ask lots of methods questions about each piece of research to determine whether or not those studies are high/ middle or low quality.

Interestingly the report said that there wasn’t enough available evidence to issue any guidelines on the total amount of time children should spend online or using screens in any one day or week, but that there was sufficient evidence to suggest limiting uses in specific contexts when using them can upset other beneficial activities.

Hence why the report recommends that parents limit their children’s use of phones at the following times:

  • At bedtimes
  • During mealtimes
  • While crossing the road.

The report also highlighted the fact that parents shouldn’t just assume that their children would be happy with them posting lots of pictures of them online and criticised some parents for ‘oversharing’.

Interestingly the report also highlighted the lack of high quality research into the impact of screen time, and stressed that more research was needed and they called on tech companies to share data to aid research.

Finally, the report also recommended that social media platforms and technology companies  sign up to a voluntary code of conduct to protect children online, and hinted at possibly introducing new laws to protect children online.

Relevance to A level sociology

Firstly, the report seems to suggest there is some evidence that increased screen time has made childhood more ‘toxic’, because using them is proven to disrupt beneficial activities such as sleep and conversation during meal times.

The report seems to be saying the government is powerless to do anything to prevent Corporations from carrying on with their deliberate attempts to get children to spend more time on screens, merely suggesting that they might sign up to a voluntary code of conduct. So this demonstrates the might of the tech TNCs and the weakness of the Nation State.

Instead, the report focuses on ‘lifeworld’ or ‘privatised solutions to public problems’ – in other words, it’s down to the individual parents to regulate their children’s use of screens.

The report also makes it clear that we cannot say ‘a certain amount of screen time is bad’ – there isn’t evidence to back up a particular figure. This isn’t surprising given that there are different ways we can use our screens, so the idea that ‘screen time’ in general is going to be good or bad is maybe a bit ridiculous!

Finally, this is a good example of a late modern response rather than a postmodern response to a social problem – the report doesn’t just say ‘we’re uncertain, do what you like’, it says ‘there is some evidence that specific uses of screens at particular times prevent beneficial activities taking place, thus you should do x/y/z… i.e. we still have valid knowledge and a clear path of action even in the midst of uncertainty!

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Main characteristics of New Media

New Media are Digital, interactive, hypertextual, globally networked, virtual and sometimes based on simulation. 

This post provides further information and elaboration on these six key features of New Media.  Main Characteristics of New Media_1.png

Digital

With the growth of digital technology in the 1990s, the vast majority of information is now converted, stored and transmitted as binary code (a series of 1s and 0s.). Qualitative information has today become ‘digitalised’.

Digitalisation what allows so much information to be stored in compact hard disks or micro memory cards and it is also what allows for the near instantaneous transmission of information via cable and satellite.

Digitalisation has also resulted in ‘technological convergence’, or the convergence of different forms of information (text, audio and visual) into one single ‘system’ – most web sites today offer a fusion of text and audio-visual information, and our mobile devices allow us to perform a variety of functions – not only reading text and watching/ listening to videos, but also searching for information, sending messages, shopping and using GPS functions.

Analogue is the opposite of digital.  It is stored in physical form and examples include print newspapers, records, and old films and T.V. programmes stored on tape.

Interactivity

‘Old media’ tended to be very much a ‘one way’ affair, with audiences on the receiving end of broadcasts, for the most part able to do little else that just passively watch media content.

New Media however is much more of a two way affair and it allows consumers and users to get more involved. It is much more of a two way form of communication than old media. 

Increased interactivity can be seen in simple acts such as liking a Facebook post or commenting on news piece or blog. However some users get much more involved and create their own blogs and videos and actively upload their own content as ‘prosumers’.

New Media seem to have fostered a more participatory culture, with more people involved and the roles between consumer and producer of media content becoming ever more blurred!

Hypertextual

Hypertext, or ‘links’ are a common feature of new media, which allows users more freedom of choice over how they navigate the different sources of information available to them.

In more technical terms, links in web sites offer non-sequential connections between all kinds of data facilitated by the computer.

Optimists tend to see this feature as allowing for more individualised lifestyle choices, giving users the chance to act more independently, and to make the most of the opportunities new media markets make available to them.

Global Networks

Digital Media has also facilitated cultural globalisation – we now interact much more globally and via virtual networks of people rather than locally.

These networks allow for ‘collective intelligence’ to increase – they allow us to pool our resources much more easily and to draw on a wider range of talents and sources of information (depending on our needs) than ever before.

NB one question to ask about networks is what the main hubs are, through which information flows. This has implications for power.

Virtual Worlds

New Media presents to us a very different reality from face to face to ‘lived reality’ – for most of us this means a very fast paced flow of information with numerous products and people screaming for our attention.

However, this situation has only existed since the mid 2000s, and it must be remembered that New Media reality is virtual reality.

This is especially true when it comes to social media sites  which give users the opportunity to present themselves in any way they see fit, and while most users don’t go full Cat Fish, most people choose to present only one aspect of themselves.

Simulation

Simulation goes a step beyond the ‘virtual’ nature of New Media as usual. Simulation is most obviously experienced computer games which provide an immersive experience for users into a “virtual life” that is simulated through digital technology.

These virtual worlds are synthetic creations that ultimately rely on algorithms which set the parameters through which events in the gaming environment unfold.

Examples today include not only online RPG games, but also driving and flight simulations.

Sources 

Adapted from  Martin Lister et al – New Media: A critical Introduction (Second Edition).

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The New Dr Who: An Annoyingly Politically Correct Regeneration

I’ve found the eleventh series of Dr Who a bit of a struggle to watch at times. It’s nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman, it’s that she seems to have regenerated not only with an alien womb, but also with a renewed sense of hyper politically correct preachy moralism, hell-bent on offering us up a sermon on the importance of minority rights and other moral issues.

Don’t get me wrong, I ‘get it’ and I even broadly support the aim of using a prime-time show, watched by millions of children worldwide, to raise awareness of dyspraxia, bust stereotypes about Pakistani females, provide us with a potted history lesson on Rosa Parks and proselytize about pacifist means of tackling violence, but there’s just something a bit too obvious, and a bit too preachy about the way this new series does all of that.

It never used to be like this: Dr Who used to be solid sci-fi, underpinned by the lonely, chaotic (rather than ‘moral’) character of the Dr, and at times it even got VERY dark, as with the penultimate episode of season nine: ‘Heaven Sent’ in which, following the death of his companion, Clara, the Dr gets trapped in a castle, living out the same horrific cycle of events for billions of years: the really sick twist being that it was other Time Lords who ‘tricked’ him into ending up being there.

The Dr being murdered for the X millionth time during his billion year ground hog day experience…..

I just cannot see this kind of ‘horror’ featuring in this latest incarnation.Maybe it’s the fault of the new writing team – Steven Moffat’s moved on, and it seems that the new team has a new OTT politically correct agenda for the Doctor on Sunday evenings. Anyway, to emphasise my point, below are a few examples of preachy moralising from the latest series of Dr Who…

Episode 1 – In which the Doctor struggles to fit her gaggle of new minority side-kicks into her Tardis.

When I were a lad, there was one side kick + the ultracool K9, now we’ve got THREE sidekicks, all ticking at least two ‘minority’ boxes.

  • Yasmin Khan, an identifiably British Pakistani (usually, knowing this series, she’s probably of Indian heritage or elsewhere) name, a Police officer, and a very independent one at that.
  • Ryan Sinclair – a black male suffering from dyspraxia, signified by his relatives mentioning it and by the fact that he’s ‘struggling to ride his bike’ at two points in the episode.
  • The final sidekick is a white working-class older male, the working classness signified by his being a bus driver, Graham O’Brien, note the Irish surname to ram in yet another minority reference.

To make it even more unreal, as the series develops there’s a hint of a romance possibility emerging between Yasmin and Ryan, which is just about the most unlikely ethnicity pairing in the UK.

Now I’m all for stereotype busting and minority inclusion, but, trust me, watch episode one, and you’ll see how cringe it is. Desperate even – it’s non-stop unrealism, all the way through to Ryan ‘trying to ride his bike’ in honour of his dead Grandma at the end of the episode.

Episode two: The Ghost Monument

Actually this episode isn’t too preachy compared to the others, but there is a very cringe moment where Ryan the dyspraxic has to go down a ladder, and the episode seems to halt while the Dr gives him instructions about how to overcome his clumsiness… the lesson clearly being ‘be patient with your clumsy class mates, there may a reason for their clumsiness’.

There’s also a moment in which Ryan runs around shooting some robot soldiers, like in ‘Call of Duty’, but of course they all ‘reboot’ and so the Doctor gets to preach about ‘guns not being the answer’, and how it’s ‘better to outsmart them’.

In fairness I can forgive this sort of moralising, because it amuses me just how much this is going to annoy some gun-toting Americans watching the episode with their kids.

Episode three: Rosa..

In which the team go back in time and meet Rosa Parks, and foil a history changing plot by a White Racist to stop her refusing to give up her seat.

I actually really enjoyed this episode, and I can forgive the writers the history lesson, but again it’s the cringe: towards the end of the episode, the Dr who gives a mini-lecture on Rosa Parks’ legacy, accompanied my ‘magnificent mood’ music.

A lesson on Rosa, with exact dates.

Ongoing cringe themes of the first half of the series….

Graham’s partner died in episode one, so ‘dealing with death’ has been one ongoing theme, and Ryan was deserted by his dad when he was younger and his coming to terms with this is another ongoing theme. Over the first four episodes, I’d say there’s a good 20 mins of very fast-forwardable footage where these two characters process their emotions about their tough life circumstances, and that’s quite a chunk of airtime dealing with emotional issues – nearly 10%!

There are some upsides….

Episode 4: Arachnids in the UK wasn’t too preachy, and seemed to finally get on with developing a through-plot for the series, and one of the ‘bad-guys’ is a Donald Trump clone, and I do quite appreciate this dig. Again, I would love to see the reaction of those gun-toting Americans!

The internal revamp of the Tardis is cool but TBH the squeaky clean bright and white interior would have suited the new lame ass tone of Dr Who better than its new alien-organic look.

Final thoughts…

The Doctor has battled hundreds of enemies over billions of years of time, saving the earth from destruction on several occasions, and entertaining millions of people in the process.  However, having survived the likes of the Daleks, The Master, and The Cybermen, she’s finally been brought down by the great scourge of 21st century political correctness. She may well still be alive, but she’s completely lost his edge.

As I see it the Doctor as I new him is no more….I used to really enjoy the sense that the Dr was a tragically lonely character with a ‘dark and sinister past’, who was closer to ‘chaos’, beyond good and evil if you like, rather than the simple force for moral good which she (now he is a woman?) seems to have turned into in her present incarnation.

And the final irony: you would have thought that of all the beings in the universe, the most likely candidate to have a relativistic perspective on things, and to fully appreciate the fact that morality is a social construct, dependent on location and historical context, that person would have to be a Time Lord.

Just not according to the BBC: the Doctor’s  universal moral code seems to be perfectly in-tune with that of early 21st century Britain, ‘naturally’!

This post was written for educational purposes.

Sources

Dr Who: Heaven Sent – https://dvd-fever.co.uk/heaven-sent-doctor-who-series-9-episode-11-the-dvdfever-review/

Dr Who – cast – https://www.doctorwho.tv/#_

Enid Blyton – https://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/book-details.php?id=2388&title=Five+on+a+Climbing+Holiday+(No.+68)

Lesson on Rosa – https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bpwm2m/doctor-who-series-11-3-rosa

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Video Games Disorder: Just Another Moral Panic about Gaming?

The World Health Organisation recently included ‘gaming disorder‘ as a new mental health disorder in its latest updated draft version of the International Classification of Diseases.

The disorder has not yet been formally recognized as a condition, it’s under review over the coming year.  Not everyone’s convinced that it actually exists: the gaming industry is especially skepital, tending to view this as a moral panic reaction to parents’ raised awareness and dislike of their children spending longer on games such as Fortnite.

Is ‘gaming disorder’ must a moral panic reaction?

What is ‘Gaming Disorder’?

You can read the full definition here. It breaks down into three main elements:

  1. impaired control over gaming
  2. increasing priority given to gaming, such that gaming takes precedence over other hobbies/ interests and daily activities
  3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.

In order for it to be diagnosed, the WHO is suggestion that it needs to be observed over a 12 month period and have resulted in the declining ability of an individual to function in one of more are of social life, such as at work, or within the family.

What’s the evidence base for its existence?

Dr Vladimir Poznyak is one of the main defenders of the idea that VGD is a really existing phenomenon. He points to the fact that the last few years have seen a rising number of cases of ‘gaming addiction’ in several countries around the world, and some governments and charities have even set up treatment programmes, along the line of gambling addiction programmes.

He outlines in his case in this article.

NB – In his defence, Dr VP does say that <1% of gamers are ever likely to suffer from gaming disorder.

Problems with the concept and the evidence… 

UKie CEO Dr Joe Twist argues that the WHO definition is based on questionable evidence, and when pushed WHO officials are quite vague about what exactly it is they are worried about.

For example, it is unclear whether certain genres of games are more ‘addictive’ than others, or whether certain triggers (such as rewards structures) within games are the problem…

This episode of ‘Click‘ on iPlayer does quite a good job of summarising the issues surrounding gaming disorder.

What do you think?

Personally I think it’s perfectly reasonable to establish a new disorder, especially when the WHO is clear that it effects only 1% of users – I mean, check the definition, we are talking about SEVERE addiction here. Even someone who plays 40 hours a week wouldn’t necessarily be classified as having gaming disorder.

I think its fairly clear that some computer games have addictive features, which are going to affect a tiny minority in a negative way (very similar to gambling), and the games industry needs to recognize this rather than just ignoring the fact that their products create serious problems for 1% of users.

Having said that, maybe we do need further research which pins down particular genres and features…?

Image source.

 

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Is alcohol really that bad for your health?

The new ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption should be none, at least according to a recent study into the health risks of alcohol published by the The Lancet.

This contradicts the current official government guidelines on the ‘safe’ level of drinking: currently around 14 units per week for women, and 21 for men.

The findings of this research study were widely reported in the mainstream media:

  • The Daily Mail reported that ‘just one glass of wine a day increases your risk of various cancers’.
  • Even The Independent reported that ‘the idea that one or two drinks a day is good for you is a myth’.

alcohol health statistics.png

But what are the actual statistical risks of different levels of alcohol consumption?

The actual risk of developing a drink related alcohol problem for different levels of drinking are as follows:

  • No drinks a day = 914/ 100 000 people
  • One drink a day = 918/ 100 000 people
  • Two drinks a day = 977/ 100 000 people

I took the liberty of putting this into graph form to illustrate the relative risks: blue shows the proportion of people who will develop alcohol related problems!

alcohol health risks

This means that statistically, there is only a 0.5 % greater risk of developing an alcohol related illness if you have one drink a day compared to no drinks, which hardly sounds significant!

Meanwhile, there is a greater increase in risk if you have two compared to 1 drink a day, which suggests the government guidelines have got this about right!

(NB, despite the headlines, The BBC and Sky did a reasonable job of reporting the actual stats!)

So why did some news papers report these findings in a limited way?

This could be a classic example of News Values determining how an event gets reported: it’s much more shocking to report that the government has got its advice wrong and that really there is no safe level of drinking!

Or it could be that these newspapers feel as though they’ve got a social policy duty to the general public… even if there is only a slight increased risk from alcohol consumption, maybe they feel duty bound to report it in such a way to nudge behaviour in a more healthy direction.

In terms of why some newspapers did a better job of reporting the actual findings: it could be that these are the papers who rely on advertising revenue from drinks companies? Maybe the Mail and the Independent don’t get paid by drinks companies, whereas Sky does>?

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Bake Off 2018 certainly packs a strong middle class punch…

While there’s a lovely ethnic and gender diversity shine on this year’s Great British Bake Off pie, the social class balance is just way off!

I’ve done a rough analysis of this year’s 2018 Bake Off contestants by social class background and compared these to the percentages of people working in different social class occupations (1) and found the following differences:

It’s all about class 2 in this year’s 2018 Bake Off!

There’s a very strong upper middle class skew, and a corresponding under-representation of especially the traditional working class.

The 2018 Bake Off contestants by social class…

Focusing purely on social class, and categorized using the National Statistics Socio-economic classification (NS-SEC), in this year’s 2018 Bake Off line up we have the following:

Class 1 – Managers, directors, senior officials – COUNT 3

  1. Antony the ‘Bollywood’ Banker,
  2. Briony the stay at home mum
  3. Dan the stay at home dad.
Antony: representing all actually working higher professionals

My logic for including the two stay at home parents in class one is as follows: only the very wealthiest of parents can afford to have one of them staying at home permanently, and given that class 2 (see below) is already well over-represented it follows that the most likely class fit for these two is in class one. NB – this isn’t necessarily the case, just my best estimate in the absence of any data on what Briony’s and Dan’s partners do. 

Class 2 – Professional occupations – COUNT 6

  1. Imelda, the Former teacher, now countryside recreation officer
  2. Kim-Joy, the Mental health worker
  3. Luke, the Civil Servant
  4. Manon, the Software Project Manager
  5. Rahul, the Nuclear scientist
  6. Ruby, the Project Manager
Kim-Joy: a good candidates this years social class Bake Off ‘median’

Classes 3-5 – count 0

Associate professional, technical profession (class 3),  administrative and secretarial (class 4) and skilled trades (class 5) have zero representation on Bake Off this year.

Class 6: caring and leisure – COUNT 1

Representing the 3 million workers in class 6…. retired air steward Terry

Class 7 – sales and customer service – COUNT 1

Karen represents the 2.5 million working people in class 7…. at least she is actually ‘working’.

Class 8 – Plant and machine operatives – COUNT 0

No representation from the ‘traditional’ working class at all. I guess custard creams are off this year’s Bake Off menu!

Class 9 – elementary occupations – COUNT 1

Finally…. Blood courier Jon represents those working in class nine.

Jon also represents all of Wales too. Quite a burden!

A few observations on the problems of social class analysis…

I had to limit myself to categorizing the contests by occupation, as this is the only valid, ‘objective’ data I’ve got about their class background. I would have like to have used the more up to date ‘New British Class Survey‘ (scroll down for details), but I can’t tell how much cultural capital etc. each contestant has got just from watching them of the T.V.

I might have mis-categorized a couple of the contestants: especially the two who don’t work, but even so, there’s still a middle class bias!

Discussion Questions….

Does this poor representation of the lower social classes matter? I mean, we all know that ‘trophy baking’ is a middle class affair, so maybe this sample of bakers actually does represent those who ‘trophy bake’ – i.e. those who can actually afford to spend that much time and money on baking?

Or should Channel 4 be trying a bit harder to find a machine operator to get their ass on Bake-Off?

Sources/ Find out More…

  1. U.K. population social class breakdown based on Office for National Statistics: Employment by Occupation, April 2017 figures.
  2. The Great British Bake Off web site (source for contestant images).

 

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The social causes of the California wild fires

The California Wild Fires are typically reported as being caused by a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental factors. Mainstream news reports tend to focus on how a conflation of a lack of rain, humid conditions, and fierce winds results in these dramatic, and unpredictable fires.

California wild fires certainly appear to be newsworthy, in that they tick many of the news values used by news agencies to determine what should be aired. California fires are dramatic, visual, involve an elite nation, and are often personable: if they’re not threatening a town, we can always focus on the brave bush firemen.

Challenging the envirocentric narrative 

However, I think we need to challenge the mainstream narrative that California wild fires are purely natural events.

If we dig a little deeper, we find that this ‘environment centric’ view is misleading as human social factors are just as much a cause.

Gegory L Simon argues that wildfires in California are just as much a result of reckless human development decisions as they are due to environmental conditions.

Authorities all around California have agreed permission for development to take place on areas they new were high fire risk. He further argues that authorities turn a blind eye to the fire risks because of the huge profits to be made from building houses in California.

Evidence for this lies in the simple fact of the increasing costs of dealing with fires in California…

One would have thought it sensible to stop developing in areas where there appears to be an increasing fire risk. Or if not, at the very least, we could be more honest about the fact that there is a human cause’ to these fires, rather than it just being purely down to environmental factors!

Then again, I guess deluding ourselves with the later explanation is more comforting.

This post will also be published to the steem blockchain.

Sources

If you want to explore this issue further, I suggest reading the following two critical articles

The Conversation – Don’t Blame California Wild Fires on a Perfect Storm of Weather Events

The Atlantic – Power Lines are Burning the West

Federal Fire Fighting Costs 

Image Source 

 

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Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom – ‘Distraction Politics’ of the very highest order?

The British Press have been all over Donald Trump’s four day visit to the United Kingdom… but predictably the focus has been mostly on the trivial details of the itinerary, the ‘intense’ security surrounding the event and Trump’s ‘outrageous’ off-the-cuff comments about Brexit, rather than on the substance of Trump’s pro hard-Brexit arguments or on the logic behind why thousands of people are protesting about his being here.

The BBC News coverage, for example, made a great deal out of the stringent security methods surrounding Trump’s first visit, and there was lots of coverage of Trump ‘in transit’ to various elegant places, such as Blenheim Palace, where we were reminded that while this wasn’t a state visit Trump still gets the Grenadier Guards playing the national anthem, a full-on Banquet, and he gets to meet the Queen.

Trump UK state visit.png

There was, of course, coverage of the protestors outside Blenheim palace, where a couple of them told us that they didn’t like the politics he represented, or his misogynistic and racist attitudes, but this was largely stripped of any deeper logic or substance.

There was also lots of commentary on the (non)-content of the interview Trump gave to The Sun Newspaper on Thursday 12 July during which he criticised Theresa May for not listening to his advice on Brexit and pursuing a ‘soft-brexit’, suggesting that this would now mean that a ‘trade-deal’ with the USA would be very unlikely, and even lamenting the fact that Boris Johnson had stepped down from Politics, stating that he would make a great ‘Prime Minister’.

According to Chomsky, the function of such ‘outrageous comments’ is to keep ‘all eyes on Trump’ and to distract us from the wider neoliberal republican (and Tory) agenda which seeks to dismantle government protections for the average working person, and make it easier for elites to destroy people and planet for short term profit.

Chomsky outlines his views in this video, and I suggest everyone watches it:

Chomsky makes some pretty ‘hardline claims’ in this video, mainly that in reality Trump is part of a broader republican administration who knows exactly what they are doing: they have an extremely neo-liberal agenda to dismantle every part of government which protects the poor and the planet. In America the Republic Government is currently doing this, by taking away workers rights, pollution laws, consumer protections and by basically destroying the planet for short term profit.

The function of Trump needs to be understood in this context: all the time we focus on him and his personalised politics, we are not focussing on the real issues: the fact that the Republican Party are the most dangerous organised institution in human history, worse than the Nazis: because the Nazis never actually intended to destroy all life on earth for their short term gain, only some lives! (NB these are Chomsky’s words – in the video- not mine!)

Back to the media coverage of Trump – the subtle art of distraction away from the harsh realities of neoliberal politics?

Here I just want to focus on how the BBC coverage distracts us, both in the US and the UK…don’t forget that any 10 minute news item could focus on any aspect of the issue….

Firstly, at least 20% of the coverage is on triviality – itineraries, security, personalities, which has nothing to do with politics. Time wasted here.

Secondly, Trump’s comments in The Sun give us a distorted idea of how politics work – he personalises politics – giving us the impression that Theresa May is ‘free’ to heed his advice or not, that’s not how politics works, individuals are generally much more constrained.

Thirdly, Trump greatly simplifies the issues…. As he’s got the power to decide whether or not the USA does a trade deal with the UK… it’s the republican party more generally that decides that, remember he’s embedded in a power elite, he’s not a ‘lone operator’…. However, in the media, he appears like a lone operator, that’s why the elite love him so much, it’s just total obfuscation.

Fourthly…. Trump today (Friday, one day after) actually called his interview with The Sun ‘Fake News’ and denied criticizing Theresa May, even though the whole thing is recorded: another great distraction tactic, keeping the media focused on him, again away from the issues.

Fifthly… some protesters are protesting because they are against precisely the reality that Chomsky points out…. They are against people destroying the planet for the short term gain of an extremely wealthy ultra-minority. Yet does the media tell us this: no – most people are there protesting because they don’t like Donald Trump the man, the misogynist, again personalising and individualising the issues which are fundamentally social.

I’ll leave it there for today, just a few comments to illustrate what  Chomskian analysis of the mainstream media coverage of Trump’s visit to the UK might look like!

Picture Sources

All pictures screen captured from BBC News at 10.00, Thursday 12th July.

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A few sociological observations on England’s progress through the World Cup…

I don’t care too much for football, and I’m most certainly not an English nationalist, and yet I’ve got thoroughly caught up in, and even enjoyed watching England’s progress through this 2018 World Cup (England-Colombia accepted, at least until the very final kick of the ball).

In this post I just present a few sociological musings on the World Cup 2018…..

Come on England

The World Cup is most definitely a media spectacle…

It strikes me that what I’m enjoying is not just the football, it’s the whole month-long media-spectacle surrounding the event: without the media-hype I just don’t think it would be the ‘World-Cup’…. I mean let’s face it, there’s at least 30 minutes ‘studio discussion’ before the group-stage games, and now England are the semi-finals, this pre-amble has increased to 90 minutes, not to mention all the coverage during the day, on T.V. and radio, not to mention social media.

And of course, this year, the ‘youngster’s in the squad have upped the media-integration even more, with (well-managed) use of social media and goal-celebration dances taken from Fortnite….

There’s even instructions out on how to do it… as in this Guardian article

Celebrities co-opting the World-Cup?

Then of course there’s the inevitable celebrities and their ‘support messages’…as in this BBC 1 minute long trailer… I do wonder how many of these celebs even like football?

Celebrities world cup

In fairness, I do know that Russel Brand is a genuine ‘fan’ so fair play, he’s ‘earned’ his place in video, but the rest of the them… this might just be a vessel for self-promotion?

The role of the BBC in constructing ‘World Cup Fever’ ?

Is it just me, or is ITV coverage just a bit ‘wrong’? I don’t actually even regard ITV as a legitimate part of the process of World Cup construction… it’s more of a passenger IMO, it’s just not the same as the BBC.

I mean Gary Lineker is about as ‘England in the World Cup’ as you can get (at least in the last three decades), and there’s no adverts, so you just get to soak up more the atmosphere, and it’s not just Garry: Breakfast Time does a pretty good job hyping up the event too.

BBC world cup
Would it even be a World Cup without Gary ‘crisp-muncher’ Lineker’?

And yet it’s not quite hyperreality!

For all the media-construction, and even talk of ‘hyping it up’, I can’t quite bring myself to call this a truly hyperreal event (as some postmodernists might argue) … because the games take place, well, in place, and there’s clear rules and a time-limit, and I can pop out there for myself if I want to!.

England in the World Cup: A ‘friendlier’ sort of nationalism?

Of course the number of England flags draped out of people’s windows increases during the World Cup, as do the number of on-display beer-belly and football-tattoo combos, but this isn’t a small-minded, intolerant, closed kind of nationalism, it’s a ‘liminal’ type of sports-specific nationalism that’s maybe a little less angry and a little more vulnerable than your Brexit nationalism?

England flags world cup

I definitely think there’s something nationalist about the event: I mean being taken back through our nation’s footballing history is a mainstay of the narrative in the media-coverage, it’s even takes ‘solid form’ in our ex-England players fronting BBC’s coverage, and then of course… ‘football’s coming home’. OK, going down the home homeland route of analysis maybe a bit strong, but then again?!

Certainly the way the World-Cup is constructed in the media, it’s a very inclusive, multicultural, open to all ages, and family-friendly event. A ‘soft-brexit’ kind of nationalism if you like, having said that, I’m sure there are plenty of places and pubs in the UK where those England flags and those tattoos are most definitely not expressing an open and tolerant idea of England!

Anywhere, I’ll leave it there for today, just a few sociological ramblings….

Come on England!