Alternative media sources for better understanding Coronavirus

The mainstream media’s coverage coronavirus is utterly disgraceful – the narrow agenda being firmly focused on using official statistics uncritically to provide an exaggerated picture of the covid-19 death rate, for failing to engage in any critical debate about how we’re going to come out of this mess, preferring to distract us by a perpetual stream of presenter and ‘public-hero’ celebreities ‘sharing’ their ‘isolation’ coping strategies, and thus normalising individualised solutions to public problems. At the same time the commercial channels are more than happy to allow companies specializing in domestic services to ramp up their advertising at us.

It follows that unless you are going to do systematic content analysis of the mainstream media’s coverage of coronavirus to document the extent of this extremely narrow agenda, you should switch off the Television (actually physically unplug it until at least June would be my advice), avoid newspaper and radio at all costs, and be extremely selective about which web sites you visit.

If, however, you would like some more objective, fact based and critical sources to help keep up with pandemic developments, I can recommend the following:

Alternative news sources on Coronavirus

The Conversation offers some insightful articles exploring some of the less focused on consequences of covid-19, such as how it highlights the class divide, and many articles take a deeper look at issues such as ‘where do pandemics come from’?

The Corbett Report – hosted by James Corbett, an awared winning independent journalist. A good alternative news source focusing on global geopolitics and how ‘covid-19’ may be part of a longer term globalist agenda to establish a world government

The Last American Vagabond – Lots of interesting critical commentary on Covi-19 – focusing on evidence that it was here well before the China breakout and a focus on the really important issues of how governments around the world are using the pandemic to impose social control and remove human rights.

@Vforvapid over at Hive.blog is producing some interesting, well referenced material on how large Corporations are benefitting from the Covid-19 bail-out – check out this post as an example: America reaps egregious sums. Also check the rest of his feed for more.

You might have heard about the The David Icke Covid-19 Interview which was live streamed and then censored on (i.e. disappeared from) YTube. That link will take you to the same video on ThreeSpeak – an anti censorship, pro free speach video platform. Unlike YTube they allow people to post videos with contentious content (but not anything which is racist/ incites violence etc.).

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Explaining the Gender Gap in Education

This post aims to outline some of the factors which might explain why girls outperform boys in education, focusing on factors external to the school such as changes in gender roles, the impact of feminism and women’s empowerment.

This post aims to outline some of the factors which might explain why girls outperform boys in education, focusing on factors external to the school such as changes in gender roles, the impact of feminism and women’s empowerment.

Changes in women’s employment

According to Social Trends (2008) the number of men and women in paid work is now virtually the same. There is a growing service sector where women are increasingly likely to be employed over men and employers increasingly seek women for higher managerial roles because they generally have better communication skills than men. This means women now have greater opportunity than men in the world of work which makes education more relevant to them than in the 1970s when there was a relative lack of opportunity for women compared to men.

Conversely, there is now less opportunity for men. The decline in manufacturing has lead to a decline in traditional working class men’s factory based jobs. Boys like the lads studied by Paul Willis would have intended to go into these jobs. Now these jobs have gone, many working class boys perceive themselves as having no future.

Changes in the family

The Office for National Statistics suggest that changes there have been changes in family structure: Women are more likely to take on the breadwinner role; there is now more divorce, and more lone parent families; women are more likely to remain single. This means that idea of getting a career is seen as normal by girls.

However, the increasing independence of women has lead to a more uncertain role for men in British society, leaving many men feeling vulnerable and unsure of their identity in society – suffering from a crisis of masculinity.

Girl’s changing ambitions

Sue Sharpe did a classic piece of research in the 1970s, repeated in the 1990s in which she interviewed young girls about their ambitions. In the 1970s there priorities were to get married and have a family, but by the 1990s their priorities were to get a career and have a family later on in life.

The impact of feminism

Feminism has campaigned for equal rights and opportunities for women in education, the workplace and wider society more generally. Feminist sociologists argue that many of the above changes have been brought about by their attempts to highlight gender inequalities in society and their efforts to encourage the government, schools and teachers to actually combat patriarchy and provide genuine equality of opportunity which has lead to raising the expectations and self-esteem of girls.

Differential socialisation

Fiona Norman in 1988 Found that most parents think the appropriate socialisation for a girl is to handle her very gently, and to encourage her in relatively passive, quiet activities. Parents are also more likely to read with girls than with boys. Gender stereotypes held by parents also mean that ‘typical boys’ need more time to run around and play and ‘let off steam’, and parents are more likely to be dismissive if their boys are in trouble at school often seeing this as just them being ‘typical boys’. These gender stereotypes and differences in gender socialisation disadvantage boys and advantage girls in education.


The Limitations of external factors in explaining differential educational achievement by gender

  1. The decline of manufacturing and crisis of masculinity only affects working class boys, possibly explaining their achievement relative to girls, but middle class girls outperform middle class boys too, who are less likely to associate masculinity with factory work.
  2. McDowell – research on aspirations of white working class youth A sample of males with low educational achievement living in Sheffield and Cambridge aged 15. Followed from school to work. Criticizes the notion of a crisis of masculinity leading to aggressive male identities These lads had traditional laddish identities but were not aggressive or put off by ‘feminized work’ They are best described as reliable workers making the most of limited opportunities available to them.
  3. Willis in 1977 argued that the Lads formed a counter school culture and rejected education even when they had jobs to go to, meaning there are other causes of male underachievement besides the crisis of masculinity.
  4. It is difficult to measure the impact of Feminism – changes in the job market that lead to improved opportunities for women may be due to other technological and cultural changes.
  5. The socialisation girls does not explain why they started to overtake boys in the late 1980s – if anything gender socialisation has become more gender neutral in recent years.

Concepts and research studies to remember

  • Crisis of Masculinity
  • Gender socialisation
  • Gender stereotyping
  • Research studies to remember
  • Kat Banyard – research into gender stereotyping in the family
  • Sue Sharpe – the aspirations of girls.

Related Posts

Evaluating the role of External Factors in Explaining the Gender Gap in Education

Explaining the Gender Gap in Education – The Role of Internal Factors

Feminist Perspectives on Family Life

The ideology of Individualised Coronavirus Coping Strategies

Lockdown coping strategies have suddenly become a major theme in the mainstream media. Both ITV and Channel Four have rushed out new daily lunchtime shows which focus solely on how to cope with lockdown.

The Steph Show on Channel 4 is the most overt example of this. Presented by Steph McGovern the show aims to ‘provide us with information to help us navigate these unique times’.

The show consists mainly ‘heroes and heart warmers’ – visits to people who have been raising money for our key workers, interviews with celebrities, typically in their enormous, plush houses, and tips to keep the kids entertained during lockdown.

NB – please don’t miss how PERFECT the choice of Steph McGovern is as a presenter for this particular type of show at this particular time – she’s got a well-documented history of having had to overcome prejudice in the media as a working class woman, but she’s just cracked on anyway and made a success of her career despite adversity – cracking on, staying chirpy, bravely facing up to adversity… just what we need to ‘cope’ with coronavirus! And that working-class Northern accent, how very approachable….  

Over on BBC 1 at the same time we have ‘Daily Kitchen Live’ – which as the title suggests is more focussed on recipes which can help you make the most of what you’ve got in the cupboard or with what food is available.

This programme features a ‘war chest’ of crucial spices such as chilli powder, cumin etc. and guest features Jack Monroe, famous for her budget cooking.

Both programmes are littered with references to ‘staying safe’ and ‘staying at home’, and feature very little focus on the public space outside of people’s own living rooms.

The ideology of ‘coping strategies’

Personally I see this mainstream lunchtime focus on ‘coping’ as ideological – it distracts us away from the shameful misreporting of the actual number of people dying of Coronavirus (rather than merely ‘with’ it), the overzealous use of emergency lockdown measures, and the normalisation of medicalised control strategies for the mass population.  

All of the ‘coping strategies’ – e.g. the recipes and the tips for keeping your kids entertained are (obviously?) individualised – they come from individuals and are suggestions to individuals, and it necessarily has to be this way because of the lockdown.

This fits our society very well, which has been on a trend towards privatised solutions to social problems for at least two generations, but it normalises this. Suddenly, staying in, and ‘coping’ are normal, while we leave the ‘difficult health problems’ to the experts (read global pharmaceutical industry).

Putting a ‘chirpy face’ on these privatised control strategies and ‘sharing our private lives together’ makes this all bearable.

Meanwhile completely absent from these shows is any discussion of how little we know of Covid-19, whether these lockdown measures are necessary, how we’re going to come out of this, basically anything even vaguely critical is off the agenda.

Then there’s the whole discourse of ‘coping’ – Ulrich Beck pointed out in Risk Society that since at least the 1980s politics has been about promising that things won’t get any worse, rather than making promises about making progress.

The idea of staying in ‘to stop the virus spreading and making the effects worse’ fit this discourse perfectly – in fact too perfectly, which is why I think we should be investigating whether this virus was engineered and released deliberately.

Meanwhile one thing which isn’t off the agenda on C4 is the adverts – and what do we see featured….. life insurance, pizza, DIY and broadband deals – all the consumer essentials for life on lockdown.

So these shows are basically telling you to forget about asking critical questions about Covid-19, be happy making the best of the lockdown because ‘coping’ rather than ‘striving for a better society’ are as good as you can get, and spend more money on your home entertainment to make the whole situation more bearable.

What is the Gender Gap in Education?

The 2019 GCSE results show a 7% achievement gap between girls and boys in all subjects. There are variations by subject…. in English girls outperformed boys by 15%, but in maths boys outperform girls by 0.5%

What is The Gender Gap?

The gender gap in education refers to the fact that girls get better GCSE and A level results than boys, in practically every subject, and women are much more likely to go to university than men. For more specific statistics on the relationship between gender and educational achievement, please read on (sources below).

The 2019 GCSE results by gender 

The 2019 GCSE results show a 9.8% gender gap – with 71.7% of females achieving a grade 4/ C or above, compared to only 62.9% of males.

The table below show you the following: (cumulative percentages)

Subject |Sex | No. sat |7/A |4/C |1/G

The gap is slightly narrower for high grades for all subjects, as shown by this Guardian infographic.

The gender gap is only 6.5% for high grades in all subjects.

The GCSE gender gap varies by subject

Subject |Sex | No. sat |7/A |4/C |1/G

The gender gap does vary considerably by subject. As you can see from the statistics above:

  • For English girls do much better than boys – they outperform boys by around 16% for ‘good grades’
  • For maths the gender gap is 0.5% in favour of boys!

A-Level Results by Gender

At A-level, there is only a 3.9% point gap in the A*-C achievement rate between girls and boys.

HOWEVER, boys are much less likely to do A-levels than girls:

  • 440 379 A-level entries were female in 2019.
  • 360 623 A level entries were male in 2019.

This is because males are more likely to do vocational qualifications or apprenticeships at 16-19 compared to girls.

Further research…

Interestingly, research from the Cambridge Assessment Research Report showed that the ‘gender gap was generally smaller in STEM and Language subjects (around 5 percentage points at grade C) and greater in Applied, Expressive and Humanities subjects (around 14 percentage points at grade C)’.

There was a 9% point ‘gender gap at GCSE in 2015

Sources

A Marxist-Feminist Analysis of Coronavirus

I read a very interesting article called in Dissent online magazine which seems to be a ‘Marxist-Feminist‘ analysis of the Coronavirus.

The article’s called ‘Social Reproduction and the Pandemic, and consists of a Q and A session with Tithi Bhattacharya, a professor of history at Purdue university and co-author of a book: Feminism for the 99%, which hints pretty strongly at her left-leaning and Feminist views!

Tithi Bhattacharya

I’ve included a summary below, but if you’d like to read the whole thing yourself, then I’ve included a link below.

Social repdoduction theory

Bhattacharya is a ‘social reproduction theorist’ – social reproduction theory sees the real source of wealth and value in our society as coming from human labour associated with ‘social reproduction activities’.

Social reproduction activities are those required for making and maintaing life, such as producing food, education, maintaing health, transportation, caring for people and various ‘domestic chores’ such as cleaning. The institutions associated with such ‘life making’ activities are the health-care sector, education and public transport. Typical ‘life-making’ jobs inlcude nursing, teaching, caring, and cleaning, sectors dominated by female workers.

Bhattacharya suggests that the capitalist system does not value ‘life-making activities’ because the capitalist system emphasises the importance of ‘thing-making’ and ‘profit-making’ rather than ‘life making’. Thus ‘life-making’ jobs such as nursing and teaching are undervalued and the workers poorly paid.

Social reproduction theory aims to analyse social events keeping in mind the fact that the really important work in society is ‘life-making work’, work currently done by women!

How Coronarvirus criticizes Capitalism

The coronavirus has been tragicially clarifying in two major ways:

It highlights that care work and life-making work are the really essential work of society – in lockdown we are keeping the essential services going such as nursing and refuse collection, no one is clamouring for stockbrokers or the leisure industry to be kept running.

It also highlights how incapable capitalism is when it comes to dealing with a crisis – once again we require the public sector to come to the rescue, the sector that’s been undermined by cuts for a decade.

Undervalued work

Many of the jobs in America that are on the essential services list (the ones that are allowed to stay open) are paid at minimum wage, or $10 an hour, and many workers have no paid sick time or health insurance.

One suggestion is for ‘pandemic pay’ – pay these workers more as they are now being called on to risk their lives.

The uneqal response in India

Bhattacharya also focuses on the unequal response to the virus in India (her home country) – there is a lot of poor migrant labour in India, and because of lockdown closing public transport, millions of such workers are now literally having to walk home hundreds of miles to their home villages.

Meanwhile the Indian government allowed wealthy middle class Indians stuck abroad to come home on special flights, despite the borders being closed to everyone else.

She goes on to suggest that capitalist governments in the global south might well use the virus as a means to clear out the slums of the unwanted, i.e. just let it kill a lot of people.

Coronavirus and the domestic sphere

Battacharya thinks that this is a positive time for us to reconnect with families, and we might even see a rebalancing of domestic labour with men doing more housework than usual, but she also reminds us that there will probably be a spike in domestic violence for those unfortunate enough to be caught in absuive relationships.

‘War-footing’ not an appropriate analogy…

Some really interesting thoughts on why the ‘war footing’ isn’t an appropriate analogy:

Firstly, we need to ramp-down production rather than ‘ramping it up’ (like we normally would in a war) – because we need to think of minimising the social contact through global supply lines.

Secondly, we need to redefine ‘troops’ – they are not soldiers, but our care-sector and essential service workers.

Coranavirus and climate change

An interesting final thought – we need to deal with climate change with the same sense of urgency as we are dealing with this pandemic!

Sources:

How Coronavirus is changing crime and deviance

The societal reaction to Coronavirus is certainly a very stark illustration of the context dependency of crime and deviance…..

The recent emergency legislation which put the country into lockdown has made a whole swath of previously ‘normal activities’ deviant, if not criminal, and it’s changing the nature of what we think of as both criminal and deviant.

The Emergency Legislation in the UK: Grey Areas

The ‘government advice’ is that no one is allowed to go out of doors without good excuse, which includes:

  • Buying essential food and medical supplies for you own household and vulnerable people
  • Getting money, to exercise and for essential work
  • To avoid injury, illness or risk of harm. 

Social gatherings of more than two people are also banned except from within the same household.

Emergency legislation gives police the powers to enforce lockdown laws, by insisting people go home and by issuing fines of up to £60, arrest, or dispersal using reasonable force.

However, it’s unclear about what actually constitutes deviance with the above advice and legislation: the law doesn’t state how many times people are allowed out, what constitutes food, and while advice says stay local when doing exercise, it doesn’t specify what local means!

As a result, there is room for interpretation over what constitutes ‘deviant behaviour’, and the police in some areas have been more rigorous in enforcing the lockdown than in others.

So what counts as deviant in the age of the lockdown?

There is some uncertainty, but clarity seems to be emerging as the agents of social control offer more explicit guidelines on what people can and cannot do, hence why this bizarre situation is such a wonderful example of the context dependency of deviance…..

Deviant: Sunbathing, picnicking and playing sports

For example Liverpool Council have made it clear that you can go outside if you keep moving (the ticks below) but not to stop or play sports…..

The police’s reaction to various people flouting lockdown rules also gives further clarification:

Deviant: Not social distancing

People are now being fined for getting too close to other people.

The first example of this I know of was Steve Mackie, who was fined £500 for ‘repeatedly approaching people queuing‘ outside a certain branch of Tesco.

The police have also allegedly fined some runners for ‘running to close to people‘.

Deviant: letting your kids outside four times in one day

A father in the West Midlands was recently fined £680 because his son had been spotted outside by the police four times in one day. I feel sorry for this guy, I can imagine it’s tough to have to keep your teenage kids indoors at this time.

Deviant: taking a 240 mile round trip to buy bread

One guy was recently stopped by the police doing 110 MPH on the motorway, he tried to explain his driving-jolly as buying bread, but he didn’t get away with it.

Here at least is some clarity on what counts as local – not 120 miles away!

Deviant: running for more than 30 minutes?

Michael Gove recently suggested that people shouldn’t be running for more than 30 minutes….

So am I a criminal?

Upgraded to assault: spitting at key workers

Spitting or coughing at key workers may now be prosecuted as ‘common assault’. One man has already been jailed for 26 weeks for spitting at a police officer, saying he wanted to give her Covid-19.

Fair enough I say, just being a thoroughly unpleasant individual.

Coronavirus: making it easier for some ‘normal’ criminals

Meanwhile there is one criminal activity you’re less likely to be prosecuted for – watching your T.V. without a licence because enforcement letters and visits have been stopped. I guess it makes sense keeping in mind how crucial TV is for social control!

Finally, trials for all non serious crimes have been put on hold, so I guess some criminals are actually getting some extra free time to enjoy their ‘softer’ variety of lockdown (rather than jail)

Sociology of Education Teaching Resources

Teaching resources for A-level sociology!

I’ve just released some extensive revision workbooks and Power Points for sale as part of my sociology teaching resources subscription package, available for only £9.99 a month!

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This teaching resource bundle contains work books and Power Points covering eight lessons on the Perspectives on the Sociology of Education

Resources in April’s bundle include

  1. An introduction to the sociology of education  
  2. The Functionalist perspective on education
  3. The Marxist perspective on education
  4. Neo-Marxism/ Paul Willis’ Learning to Labour
  5. The Neoliberal and New Right perspective on education
  6. The Postmodern view of education
  7. Consolidation Education Assessment Lesson – focussing on exam technique for the different types of question
  8. Exploring education, surveillance and social control.

Resources in the bundle include:

  • 1 introductory workbook and one much larger workbook on Perspectives on Education.  
  • 3 Power Points covering most of the above lessons (not for riots or the corporate crime research lesson.
  • Eight lesson plans covering all of the above lessons.
  • Various supplementary hand-outs for some of the above lessons as necessary.
  • I’m also throwing in some of my revision resources from the Education revision bundle, as they are useful for lesson 7.

Fully modifiable resources

Every teacher likes to make resources their own by adding some things in and cutting other things out – and you can do this with both the work pack and the PowerPoints because I’m selling them in Word and PPT, rather than as PDFs, so you can modify them!

NB – I have had to remove most the pictures I use personally, for copyright reasons, but I’m sure you can find your own to fit in. It’s obvious where I’ve taken them out!

More resources to come…

I’m making resources available every month as part of this teacher resource subscription package. The schedule of release of resources is as below:

  • March – June 2020 – Education Resources
  • July – September 2020 – Research Methods, including methods applied to education 
  • October – December 2020 – Families and Households
  • January – April 2021 – Global Development 
  • May – August 2021 – Crime and Deviance 
  • September – October 2021 – Theory and Methods 
  • November 2021 – January 2022 – Revision Material
  • February 2022 – Intro material. 

Please note this is a change to the original schedule of release, which I’ve changed due to the recent exam cancellations!

Hive.io – My Kind of Social Media (Decentralised ownership and governance)

You might have seen me sending out a few Tweets about ‘Hive’ recently, this is just a quick post about what Hive is all about. If yer bored in Lockdown, you might want to check it out!

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I’ve been on Hive for almost three years now, since August 2017, and I’ve come to regard it as my social media home.

I use WordPress to blog about sociology, and I use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for various professional and social reasons, but I put nearly all of my personal and more critical/ political material exclusively on Hive, because it’s the social media ecosystem which is most closely allied with my personal values.

What makes Hive different to social media as usual is that it’s a blockchain based ecosystem – which means that it’s decentralized – it’s run on several servers which are connected together, but each maintained by independent individuals in different countries all over the world, rather than it being run on one centralized server, controlled by one central Corporation.

The Hive ecosystem consists of multiple platforms and applications – the main platform I use is Peakd.com, a blogging platform, which allows you to post blogs and comment and vote (‘like’) other people’s content; but I also use 3Speak occasionally which is Hive’s equivalent of YouTube, except there is no de-platforming.

If you post content to Hive and people vote for (‘like’) it, you are rewarded in cryptocurrency – the HIVE token and you can use your HIVE in various ways within the Hive ecosystem, or cash it out and spend it (although you’ll need access to a cryptocurrency exchange to do this!).

I’ve posted a lot of content on Hive over the past three years and earned around 15 000 HIVE for my efforts, which is currently worth several thousand dollars (although the price does fluctuate, which is something to watch out for!

hive ecosystem.JPG

Hive people

I’ve met some fantastically intelligent, interesting and diverse people on HIVE. Because of it’s decentralist principles, this social media platform tends to attract a lot of radical free thinkers such as anarchists and people living alternative, ecological and nomadic lifestyles. It also attracts a lot of ‘geeks’ – coders, data analysts, scientists, and creatives – artists and musicians.

I interact with dozens of people in the course of a typical week on Hive, and have met many of them IRL at the various social meet ups that are organised through the ecosystem.

Hive is naturally censorship resistant – once you post content to the Blockchain, it stays there, so unlike with Facebook there is no deplatforming – this invariably means there is a lot of differences of opinion on Hive, but that just come with free-speech.

Communities and ‘Smart Tokens’

There are several different communities centered around different interests on Hive – everything from Running to Beer and from Art to Coding.

Many of these communities have their own ‘secondary tokens’ and you can get rewarded in both Hive and these other tokens by being active within them.

Applications

There are lots of Applications built on Hive – Peakd.com is the most well used and probably the easiest to start off with, but I’ve included a few others below:

  • @3speak is the video platform, where you can upload videos, just like YouTube except you won’t get deplatformed – this is a pro free-speech application.
  • @actifit – through which you can get rewarded for being active, such as taking steps.
  • @splinterlands (*) – is a fantasy card playing game in which you ‘battle’ with other players. When you buy into Splinterlands, your cards are your assets, and you can sell them on to other players, unlike with ‘skins’ in regular games, for example.

I recommend you check out Splinterlands especially, one of the most popular blockchain games out there. Here’s a post I wrote about winning a battle with my favourite Death Summoner pictured below…Click here to see the battle.

I’m not really a gamer TBH, but by I’ve made about $500 over the last year or so just by investing in cards and playing this game for 15-20 minutes after dinner most evenings!

Decentralized Governance

As a Hive user you can vote for the people you want to run the servers (called ‘witnesses’). The top 20 (by stake weighted votes) have the power to determine the way the ecosystem changes (or not), but 17 out of those 20 need to come to a consensus about any changes that are going to be made. Literally anyone can set up a server and vie for one of these top 20 positions.

Find out More about Hive and Sign up to Hive

To get a Hive account and get started on Hive , click here.

NB there are numerous ways of signing up for an account, but they’re all giving you access to the same thing.

To find out more about Hive, you might like to click around the hive.io website.

Getting started on Hive

It can be difficult to find your feet on Hive at first – if you have any questions you can either leave a comment below, contact me on Twitter (@realsociology), or on Hive (of course!)

Alternatively you can try the Hive Discord Server.

One of the major communities on Hive is the Peace Abundance Liberty Network (PAL) (link to their discord server here) – their motto is ‘Do no harm, take no shit’. PAL run the Minnow Support Project (MSP), an initiative designed to help out new users on Hive, and a good way to connect with people in PAL/ MSP is to attend one of their many online radio shows.

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Notes

(*) technically Splinterlands is on the Steem blockchain, from which Hive was created, but it’s only a matter of time until it moves over!

NB – Hive used to be called Steem, but Steem got taken over in February 2020 by a crazy Chinese Billionnaire called Justin Sun. He centralised that chain, so the ‘real witnesses’ forked Steem and created Hive, which is just like Steem, but without Justin Sun – because his massive Steem stake was not airdropped to Hive.

NB the whole Steem-Hive thing is a very long story, BUT this is a very brief summary!

This post is NOT financial advice, if you are going to invest money in anything I’ve mentioned, you do so at your own risk, do your own due diligence first!

Even if yer not going to sign up, this whole blockchain based social media thing should be of interest as part of the Media module – it’s certainly alternative media!

Coronavirus Media Narratives

While Coronavirus is no doubt a real-life event, with real-life social and (for an extreme minority tragic) individual consequences, it is also very much a media event, especially since isolation is correlated with a significant increase our media consumption with news sites especially seeing a surge in visits (U.S. data)…

news consumption coronavirus

Social media usage (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp) is seeing a similar 75% increase in user engagement. 

The News is a Social Construction

The spread of Coronavirus, and the societal reaction to it are media-events, they are socially constructed – that is to say we do not get to see every aspect of reality, only that which is selected by media professionals.

Because Coronavirus was so unexpected, and because the consequences are potentially so horrendous (millions could die from it globally, so we are told), it’s tempting to think that the reporting around this global event are ‘true’ or, at least as accurate as can be given the lack of any actual real data.

HOWEVER, it is precisely because this event is so ‘massive’ ( global, and with a range of different responses), and because there are so many unknowns (missing data on how many people actually have it), that this event in particular is possibly the most ‘media constructed’ in world history.

Add to this the fact ‘ordinary people’ have a reduced capacity to get out and see what’s going on for themselves (because of emergency social isolation legislation), then this is also the most hyperreal event in world history. One might even ask if it’s actually happening at all, as this person does here:

Give all of this, we really need to ask ourselves how the story of Coronavirus is being constructed, and to my mind I see several core narratives which haven’t so much emerged rather than just blasted all of a sudden onto the media scene:

The 11 media narratives of Coronavirus

  1. Panic and Risk based around uncritical use of statistics
  2. Enforcing the importance of social control
  3. ‘The War footing’
  4. New villains
  5. Celebrities ‘like us’ in isolation
  6. Sharing ‘isolation coping strategies’, while staying isolated
  7. Victims: Private tragedies made public
  8. New heroes (frontline workers and volunteers, especially NHS workers)
  9. The importance of trusting medical experts/ technical solutions to Covid-19
  10. The economic impact/ bailout of covid-19/ ‘pulling through this together’
  11. Blame other countries or poor migrants

This is very much a first-thoughts run through of this, and I might rejig it later. Below I provide a few examples for some of these themes.

NB – I am not saying that we shouldn’t take this virus seriously, and I do accept that this is a highly contagious bug and potentially deadly for some (like the flu, that’s also deadly!), and the challenge we face is the rapidity of the spread of it. But at the same time, I just think we also need to aware of uncritical reporting of the death rates and social responses…

NB for a ‘content analysis’ challenge, scroll down to the bottom of this post!

Media Narrative One: Panic and Risk based around uncritical use of statistics

At time of writing (April 1st 2020) you get this theme from doing a basic Google search for the term ‘Coronavirus’:

The panic is in the language in the ‘top stories’: ‘record surge of cases’, ‘fatality rate shoots up’, but also in the images – you’ve got The Army, the Prime-minister with a lab technician (themes 2 and 10 above there) and then just a sea of red in the next image.

This could all be contextualized instead – things get worse before they get better, in China the cases are coming down:

Theme Two: Reinforcing social control

In case you missed it, same picture as above, search return Number One: Stay At Home: Save Lives| Anyone Can Spread Coronavirus, and this is from the NHS.

If you think such a simple statement doesn’t require analysis, then you do not have a sociological imagination.

Coronavirus is the most searched for term atm (NB that is an assumption, but I think I’m pretty safe making it!), and Google is the most used search engine in the world: so these are the nine words which people in Britain are the most exposed to.

There’s a rather nasty psychological manipulation technique going on here – social control through the internalizing of potential guilt: if you go out, you could kill someone.

However, the fact that this advice comes from the trusted and loved NHS makes us think (maybe) that while dark, this must be ‘good advice.

Confused yet, terrified? I’m not surprised!

NB: Keep in mind that this advice is reinforcing government emergency lock-down legislation, legislation that is not based in hard statistics on the actual chance of people dying from Covid-19 – there’s every chance that the real mortality rate from the disease is the same as the flu, but here we are in lockdown for three weeks.

On the theme of social control, I found this from The Sun especially interesting…

Here we have the perfect way of reinforcing the stay at home method – a 19 year old female nurse (although I don’t know how she can be qualified at age 19?) crying because people are flouting the stay at home rules – the perfect hero and victim, all rolled into one!

If that doesn’t make you feel guilty for going out, nothing will, I mean look at that face, how could you hurt her?

Theme Three: The War Footing

President Trump has declared himself a war time president, and he’s far from the only one using the ‘War Footing’ narrative – besides using war related language (fight against, achieving victory, the national effort), a lot of commentary harks back to WW2 analogies – I heard one lab technician today saying how his small lab, testing for Covid-19, was like one of the boats from Dunkirk, for example.

Theme Four: Coronavirus Villains

You really don’t have to look far, and probably no newspaper does a better of job of singling these out for us than The Sun, which tells us that going out for a too long walk is now deviant (top right hand corner below)

Anyone who now goes out for anything but emergency health reasons or going to the supermarket for essential food shopping is now a deviant!

Theme Five – Celebrities like us in Isolation

I present you my man Gregg Wallace – getting buff while in isolation in his Kent Farm House… coping with isolation, just like us! (Except he’s probably in a very large farmhouse in a very exclusive part of of Kent with several acres surrounding him, and a couple of million quid in the bank to fall back on in tis of crisis, like every other celebrity.

Theme 6: Coping Strategies

Here’s a nice middle class example from The Guardian. I’m sure there are plenty of other social media sharing strategies going on out there!

Theme Seven: Victims: Private tragedies made public

This example from Sky News is interesting – it shows how the media is lining up to report on ‘the most extreme’ cases… even before Covid-19 is confirmed as a cause..

Theme 8: New Heroes

The NHS front line workers appear to have emerged as the new heroes, as well as other essential key workers, but it’s mainly NHS workers who are getting the praise – the weekly clap for the NHS has become a media event with extreme rapidity (clapidity?)

Theme nine: The importance of trusting medical experts/ technical solutions to Covid-19

This is an emerging theme, which I expect we’ll see a lot more of in coming weeks. Not much to say on this atm, but it is there – at the bottom of the BBC News links – I might be overanalysing this, but the fact that it’s at the bottom, or at the end, does suggest implicitly that such technologicla drug trials are the way out….

Theme 10: The economic impact/ bailout of covid-19/ ‘pulling through this together’

This is one of those ‘boring but important’ themes that is likely to become more prevalent as the Pandemic slows down…

Theme 11: Blame other countries or poor migrants

From a recent edition of The Sun….

Covid-19 content analysis research challenge

Why not keep your sociological skills engaged by doing a little content analysis (yay, fun!)

Use the content analysis sheet below to analyse one newspaper, one news website, or one news show, or maybe even chat shows like the One Show, and see how many of themes crop up.

There are several methods of doing the content analysis – as follows:

  • For Newspapers simply look at each discrete story (you might want to just focus on the biggest stories) and put a tick in the relative box every time you come across a theme.
  • For websites (e.g. News Websites), start with the home page and follow the main links, tick according to whatever the main theme is.
  • For TV shows, you can watch and note down how many minutes is devoted to each.

Enjoy, and stay…. critical!

Why is the Italian Covid-19 Death Rate so High Compared to Other Countries?

The Italian covid-19 mortality rate is so high because they record the number of people dying with the disease RATHER than deaths from the disease.

According to news reports Italy is the epicenter of Coronavirus deaths in Europe. Take this extract from today’s BBC News report as an example:

When you look at the Covid-19 death rate in Italy compared to other countries, the death rate is around 10-20 times higher compared to some other countries, if we look at deaths per million of the population. This to my mind is suspicious, by which I mean ‘possibly invalid’, as indicated below…

The graph below, of Coronavirus cases rather than deaths makes me no less suspicious of the validity of the Italian Covid-19 death rate. Admittedly Italy has the most cases, but not that many more than France or Germany, which have much lower death rates.

So how do we explain the high Italian Covid-19 mortality rate?

To find out the full answer to this question, with lots of evidence and links, I recommend you visit this website – The Corbett Report: What’s up with the Italian Death Rate and watch the video below:

In case you can’t be bothered to watch the whole thing (although I recommend it!) the gist is as follows:

  • The Italians record the deaths of people with Coronavirus as deaths from Coronavirus. Dying with Coronavirus is NOT the same thing as dying from Coronavirus.
  • Most people in hospital with Coronavirus have 3 other diseases (yes that is MOST, as in over 50%), such as cancer, heart disease, and other fatal diseases. Many more have two or one other diseases.
  • Since most people who have already died during this phase would have done so before the lockdown measures were in place in Italy, the chance are that everyone permanently in a hospital with a would have contracted Coronavirus.
  • Long story short – many of the people who are recorded as having died from Coronavirus would have probably died of something else, e.g. Heart Disease, but IF they happen to also have Corona, they are recorded with that as the cause of death when it probably isn’t!

Other good stuff in the Corbett Report

This is an excellent source of ‘alternative news’ on the Coronavirus. This particular report is full of evidence of more than 20 experts (reported in The Guardian) questioning the official figures we are getting on Covid-19.

The current lockdown situation was based on projections of literally millions of people possibly dying of Covid-19, up to 500, 000 in the UK, BUT the ‘experts’ who made those projections have since retracted them, in other words admitting they got them wrong, but the lockdown remains in place.

There are plenty of people out there suggesting that the Corona statistics are meaningless, such as Steve Goodman, professor of epidemiology at Stanford University.

This is partly because of what I wrote about in this post – there are possibly millions of people who have already had it, but they had such mild symptoms, they never even really noticed, thus we don’t know how many people have had it, thus we don’t really know what the actual mortality rate is!

So why are we really in Lockdown?

This is something you need to think about very carefully. Possibly this is all about social control – through fear and using ‘protecting the health of others’ as ideological justification (hard to argue with that). The reasons why authorities might feel the need for more control is something I’ll come back to later.

In the meantime, please do watch that video.

And rather than staying safe, stay critical, society needs that more.