The Mainstreaming of American Paranoia

Since governments first appeared on this planet citizens have worried that they were being spied upon. George Orwell’s book 1984 opened millions of eyes to a fictional dystopia. That world has never seemed so real to so many people. Until now.

In an effort to stay sane we suppressed the concept that our government would watch and listen to all that we do. This coping mechanism has helped to keep us blissfully ignorant. Sometimes we flirt with the idea that we’re being watched. It seems to be one of our favorite plots for movies and TV. The very idea that we can’t see who watches terrifies and thrills us at the same time. It is truly a post-modern modern illness.

It may not have been until now that the majority – aka “the mainstream” – of American citizens actually believe they are being spied upon. It is no longer just the hobby of tin foil hat wearing nuts. Nor is it the sole literary domain of so called mad geniuses like Philp K. Dick or Franz Kafka.

How did this come about? Why did it take so long for us the care en mass? Will we do something about it? What can you do to increase privacy in your life? What about the Internet? How do we retain our privacy there?

Right now, in the year 2006, President Bush has admitted that he approved clandestine spying on American citizens. Bush has claimed “if you’re talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why.” Most Americans don’t care if the government spies on terrorist or anyone remotely connected to them. Many of us instinctually do not believe Bush. We know governments and corporations will not stop at spying on terrorist and suspected terrorists alone.

A new story at the Washington Post called “Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects: NSA’s Hunt for Terrorists Scrutinizes Thousands of Americans, but Most Are Later Cleared” says that the US government with permission from Bush has spied on thousands of US citizens with no connection to terrorism. (That number is only in the few years Bush has been President! It doesn’t seem like a short amount of time I know…)

Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.

Mainstream media (MSM) is more manipulated by government than ever before. So much so we’ve become numb to all their reports. Many of us ignore them outright. But still our unconscious hears it, so we are affected involuntarily. Our absolute trust of all information is gone.

This makes it especially surprising that the MSM would report something so shocking and so damning about the President of the United States. (No prize in investigative journalism is due to the NY Times for breaking this story. They sat on it for months and told the President that they were releasing it to the public. Who knows was removed before we read it?) But is this shocking news enough to finally convince “mainstream” US citizen that they are being spied upon? Will we ALL finally question the elected officials we voted for long enough to put an end to illegal spying by any government or corporation?

Read and Write Access is Control

One of the great things about the web is that it’s read/write. Just about everyone can read it and write it. This can foster GREAT global equality IF everyone has access to and knows how to read and write the web.

I’ve read a lot on the web and email lists recently about false information being written on Wikipedia. Such as Adam Curry changing the Podcasting entry on Wikipedia to suit his version of events and John Seigenthaler Sr. being connected to the assignation of John F. Kennedy. This is really just a demonstration of new power. Now that people have the knowledge and the tools they have at it.

Dave Winer wrote:

In June I wrote People With Erasers about Wikipedia. Now after reading about the Seigenthaler affair, and revelations about Adam Curry’s rewriting of the podcasting history — the bigger problem is that Wikipedia is so often considered authoritative. That must stop now, surely. Every fact in there must be considered partisan, written by someone with a confict of interest. Further, we need to determine what authority means in the age of Internet scholarship. And we need to take a step back and ask if we really want the participants in history to write and rewrite the history. Isn’t there a place in this century for historians, non-participants who observe and report on the events?

The fact is we are all participants. No one who is reading the web is a non-participant. We have access to so much media we become part of it. If we compeltly ignor the media – like the web – then we are not part of it. If we are not part of it then we can not observe and report on it.

The tension I described above about the editing of wikipedia is just a growing pain. Pain from loosing control over others. Those who had control may not even realized they had it. The experts, trusted sources, gatekeepers, professors, teachers, editors, encyclopedias, dictionaries, media, leaders, and the parents are no longer in complete control. The masses have discovered that racket. Now we all can read and write. Let’s their be no one in charge!

Protests at WTO meeting in Hong Kong

Peace and solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong working to stop the WTO. May you have success and return home safely to your families. Here are some links to stories about the latest protest.

From DemocracyNow (December 14, 2005):

The World Trade Organization has entered its second day of its ministerial meeting in Hong Kong. South Koreans have led attempts to reach the convention center by swimming across Hong Kong Bay. They have been blocked off by heavily armed police barricades and beaten back by riot police with pepper spray and batons. We speak with Anuradha Mittal, an expert on world trade issues in Hong Kong.

Protests Continue at WTO Conference as Talks Stall Over Agricultural Trade from democracynow.org
WTO Protest Action Hong Kong from Indymedia Ireland
Hong Kong People’s Alliance on WTO
Our World is Not For Sale
Protests to Greet WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong from San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia

Don’t Bomb Us – A blog by Al Jazeera Staffers

I’ve read on a few blogs that some staff members of Al-Jazeera, an Arab satellite TV station, have created a blog called Don’t Bomb Us – A blog by Al Jazeera Staffers. It appears to be in response to the story in the British Daily Mirror newspaper that Bush and Blair discussed plans to bomb the buildings of Al-Jazeera. (The fact is the US military did bomb Al-Jazeera buildings several times killing at least one Al-Jazeera staff member. Each time the US military claimed it was an accident despite direct hits on these buildings.)

From DemocracyNow:

The attack in Iraq killed Al Jazeera’s correspondent Tariq Ayub. Ayub’s widow, Dina, said she is now considering suing the U.S. government for her husband’s death. She said “America always claimed it was an accident. But I believe the new revelations prove that claim was false or at least not trustworthy.”

At first I was a bit skeptical that this blog was really by Al-Jazeera staff. Then I read about it on Global Voices Online, a blog I trust, and I saw the AlJazeera staff want answers flickr photo set. Propaganda? All depends on who you trust I guess. People in the US who still trust Bush will think so.

From the AlJazeera staff want answers flickr photo set:

Al Jazeera staff organised a symbolic gathering outside their offices Thursday, 24 November 2005.

We demand that the truth about Daily Mirror report to be revealed and that the Britsh and American governments tell us the truth about Bush wanting to bomb Al Jazeera.

These are a few examples why individual citizens using blogs and social software like Flickr are better than the main stream media. WE can develop personal trusted networks that can help to verify a story quickly AND democratically.

YES there are real human lives being taken by the US military! YES there are real people who live in fear of this violence! When we hear from people in danger US world domination becomes much less abstract. It’s not just some “terrorist TV station” or “evil other person” anymore. (Not that many of us ever belived these Bush government lies…) Blogs like Don’t Bomb Us can show the real potential of increased humanization that the Internet provides.

O’Reilly’s Rant Against San Francisco

Bill O’Reilly’s insane ranting shouldn’t be a surprise but this bit of hatred needs to be heard and remembered. He was “Criticizing a ballot measure passed by 60 percent of San Francisco voters urging public high schools and colleges to prohibit on-campus military recruiting” [Media Matters]

From the November 8 broadcast of Fox News’ The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly:

O’REILLY: Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I’m not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I’m the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, “Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you’re not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead.”

And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

O’Reilly hates San Francisco MP3

We love you San Francisco! You might say I am help O’Reilly by sharing his views with you. But we’re swiming in a sea of information and it’s easy to forget shit like this. Hell I’d like to just ignore it. But we can’t. We have to remember how corporate media like Fox News and robber barons like Rupert Murdoch poison our country and PLANET with this hate created to sell ads.

Via: Media Matters

Annotating: Metadata about Media

The tagline of this blog is Metadata about Media Activism. It is my way of saying I want to share with you the information I find about media activism – and other stuff. Information about information a.k.a. metadata. What if it was a lot easier to share and receive this metadata?

With all the audio and video being created and shared it’s hard to sift through it all. I try to navigate this sea of info [text, audio, video] by using chance. I scan other peoples blogs and hope they link to cool stuff I like. If something floats by me then I check it out. If it doesn’t I just wait for another bit of info to make it’s way to me. More times than not if something is important it circles back into my point of view. [Not always] In turn I link to stuff I hope other people will like. My hope is that our loose network of information sharing will better inform us.

Other times I seach for specific keywords that relate to things I want to know. This is where great search engines like Google come in.

When we scan we’re looking for a hook. A bit of information that captures our interest enough to dig deeper. To read a few hundred more words, to listen to a few more minutes of audio, or to watch more video. A good way to create a better hook is to create metadata about your content in a easy to search/scan format. As of this writing the most acurate format for search/scan is text.

Lots of people are working on software that annotates audio and video with text metadata to facilate better scanning and searching. This is also known as comments or “rich media clipping”. One recent example of multimedia annotation software is the BBC Annotatable Audio project. It’s a rather amazing flash application that allows you to listen to audio and create text notes about specific audio sections you select. (Check out the mov demos – editing / annotating a programme Quicktime Mov file (4Mb).) I just wish it was a open source peice of software that the entire world could benefit from. As far as I know this inovation just sits somewhere on a BBC R&D computer. A few other examples of annotating software, aka “rich media clipping”, were mentioned on J. D. Lasica’s blog in his post Annotating rich media. Including one being developed by Our Media.

Don’t blogs already create metadata about audio and video content ? When podcasters share their work they usually create blog posts about it. Often the create detailed show notes in OPML to annotate their audio. I supose people are trying to figure out simple ways to do this for all multimedia content. The solutions that work the best will be ones that help get more people involved. Social software for metadata creation and collection.

Video Games for Peace

The Washington Post has a story – Video Game World Gives Peace a Chance – about the development of multiplayer online video games that have the goal of countering bloodshed instead of creating it. Teams at Carnegie Mellon University, University of Southern California, United Nations’ World Food Programme, and MTV are working to create and promote the video games. The subject of these peaceful video games ranges from creating peace in the Middle East, fighting genocide, and stopping hunger. The game Food Force, sponsored by UN World Food Programme is already launched and in full gear.

A few years ago when I read the online comic The Spiders – thanks Ruby – the concept of the video game console/Internet generation becoming PHYSICALLY active remotely from their living rooms amazed me. Not only could people playing peaceful video games develop positive social justice ideals, be creative, improve hand eye coordination, gain social skills, and make friends they could participate in NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION.

US solders are already guiding remote control flying robots that carry missiles and other weapons. What if the average citizen were able to wield this power? I wouldn’t wish such a nightmare scenario upon the earth but the potential of remote control empowerment is staggering. Video games already act as pre-training for battle. Especially in games like America’s Army, the US Army’s first person shooter video game. There have been reports of improved physical skills among soldiers who have played this game compared to soldiers who did not.

Instead of training new killers why not train activists to spread peace and understanding with high technology? Imagine a digital Engaged Buddhist monk wielding Akido across the physical world by traveling through the conduits of the Internet. William Gibson we are only beginning to understand the accuracy of your literacy soothsaying.

via: Boing Boing, Smart Mobs

UK pulling out of Iraq next may?

The UK paper The Observer reported on Sep. 25 that “British troops will start a major withdrawal from Iraq next May under detailed plans on military disengagement to be published next month”. There doesn’t appear to be any public document or timetable – remeber how that shrub doesn’t talk timetables? Could this signify actual movement towards ending the war in Iraq? via: Richard Stallman

ConvergeSouth-Ethics: What are the rules?

ConvergeSouth – Fri. Oct. 7
Ethics: What are the rules?
Meshing new tech with journalistic values
Lex Alexander and Jay Rosen

This is stuff I heard and captured my attention enough to write down. Not a complete transcript. 😀

MI = My Impression

Trust is estabilish differently umong blogers than it is umong the Main Stream Media.

You can’t take the “ten commandments” of ethics at the MSM and then try to use it to judge blogs on how they are doing.

Dave Winer says, “You sound so maternalistic like it’s your job to help us. Who are you to tell us how to edit our writting.”

(MI: I can’t get Dave’s exact question. This is a paraphrase…)

It’s a waste of my time to do interviews for 45 minutes where only tweleve words are going to be quoted. I don’t trust their editing. -Jay Rosen

Context: Dave Winer wants to know why we should trust a newspaper to edit our comments on their blog.

My Question:
The entire blogosphere is not journalistic in style or nature.
In the context of journalism, what do you think is the importance of these blogs?

(My question wasn’t formed well. Jay and Lex didn’t really understand it. It seems so by their answers.)

The first person to figure out how to use a blog to write true journalism news will be famous. – Jay Rosen

Where do you see blogs in the next 5-10 years? Will it hit the mainstream? -JOMC student

WKRN – broadcast journalist that get blogging.

Jay Rosen says, journalist exec. response to bloggers: “You don’t mean I have to put my name on what these blogers say!?!?!”