Tag Archives: propaganda

Bryan Borzykowski’s Blunders


The Demise of Traditional Journalism

Last week, tiny town Bay Roberts, Newfoundland and Labrador, was a victim of the demise of traditional journalism. The highly congested world of traditional reporting has 1000s of reporters seeking the attention of a public (with a short attention span) which is bombarded with information.

What is the obvious solution? Write a short, memorable headline (with catchy words if possible) and make it controversial and/ or sensational.

MoneySense

Best Places to Live 2010

Worst Place to Live in Canada – WRONG

So what did Bryan do? He took the last town on a list of the BEST places to live in Canada and called it the worst place to live in Canada. Just think about it. You are number 10 of the top ten in your graduating class… quite an honour. However, according to Bryan’s logic being number 10 makes you the WORST in your class! Our town was on the MoneySense list of “Best Places to Live 2010.” That was a tremendous achievement!! Of all the cities and towns in Canada, including Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Saint John, St. John’s… our community with a population of only 5300 made the list!

So the town was NOT on a list of the Worst Places to live in Canada … it was the last town to make the cut in the BEST PLACES to live in Canada.

Crime Rate – WRONG

But the errors did not stop there. He states that the Bay Roberts has a high crime rate! People living in the town know that is absurd. Overall, Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the lowest crime rates in Canada.

Population Dropping – WRONG

He says the population is dropping, while according to the 2006 Canadian census, it rose by 3.4%. Also, according to the Canadian census 91.1 % of people live in single-detached houses, and 85% of families own their own homes. In 2008 and 2009, there were a total of 157 new housing starts.

No Cultural Activity – WRONG

Perhaps, in his most offensive statement, he says there is “no cultural activity.”

Road to Yesterday Museum

Road to Yesterday Museum Photo: Bay Roberts Heritage Society.

Christopher Pratt Art Gallery

Christopher Pratt Art Gallery Photo: Bay Roberts Heritage Society

The Cable Building is both a Provincial Heritage Structure and a National Historic Site. The Building has been restored and contains the award winning Road to Yesterday Museum and the Christopher Pratt Art Gallery. The town has one of the finest town museums in the province. Hilary Cass, a respected visual artist, was a consultant on the design and layout. The Christopher Pratt Art Gallery is acclimatized and is designed to display a permanent collection of art work, including works by Christopher Pratt. In addition, it hosts the works of well known local artists and visiting art collections.

The town has two summer theatre productions. This summer “A Time in Pigeon Inlet” begins its third season on June 26th. The production features musician and storyteller, Kelly Russell (recognized by the provincial government as Newfoundland and Labrador’s first tradition bearer earlier this year). The June 26th performance will be a tribute to Kelly. In July and August, Victoria LOL #3 Museum and Playhouse will be featuring a production of “Saltwater Moon” by award winning Canadian playwright David French (who was born on Coley’s Point.) Last summer, they produced his play “Soldier’s Heart.”

A Time in Pigeon Inlet

A Time in Pigeon Inlet

There will be weekly outdoor musical concerts and sketches during our 2010 “Holdin’ Ground Festival,” starting on July 6th.

Peter Tiefenbach, Gordon King, Wendy Nielsen, Deanne Hiscock

Peter Tiefenbach, Gordon King, Wendy Nielsen, Deanne Hiscock Photo: Dennis Flynn

Many students from our schools are members of the Cantare Youth Choir under the direction of Deanne Delahunty Hiscock, accompanied on piano by Gordon King (both of whom are music teachers in Bay Roberts.) The Cantare Youth Choir performed with Canadian Opera star, Wendy Nielson last month and are performing in Carnage Hall in New York this month. Each year, schools run “Art Smart Programs.” In addition to school music and art programs, there are a number of teachers who offer private lessons in voice, instruments, dance, and art, and we have our own dance school in town – Catherine’s Dance Studio.

On a small scale, we are carrying out many activities that help to preserve traditional Newfoundland culture.

Community Spirit

What makes the town of Bay Roberts exceptional is its community spirit. In the past year alone, the town has won four major awards.

For Winter Lights Celebrations, it won the National WinterLights Celebration Mentoring Award and Circle of Excellence 5 Star Award for Residential Lighting. During the summer, it won the 2009 Tidy Towns Award – Population category of over 3500 and the 2009 Torngat Municipal Achievement Award in the category of Environmental Sustainability with the Town of Spaniard’s Bay – won for their joint efforts on the Shearstown Estuary.

Although we make no pretenses to grandeur, Bay Roberts deserved to be on the list of Best Places to Live 2010.

Shoreline Heritage Walk

Three Sisters - Shoreline Heritage Walk

Research, Reference and the Press

Bryan’s article is the perfect example of what I have been talking about in my ongoing series on the media.

He took an attention-getting headline and half-truths combined with misinformation, and spun both to suit his purpose which was to get hits on his website. In this case, his actions were annoying, but not devastating.

However,  many times have we observed the same type of reporting about other places when the consequences tip the balance between life and death. In this age, when reporters are no longer journalists, and most are unethical and unscrupulous about what they write and what they print, we must all be slow to believe what is shown and what is written.

In the case of the misinformation about our town, it was hurtful and annoying – but not threatening to life, property and community social structures. In other cases, this type of un-researched, half-truths in media writing can have a bandwagon effect. Un-truths have the potential to build the type of prejudice and hatred which can eventually lead to the destruction of all we love and value as a society.

About the Town of Bay Roberts:

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Filed under Bay Roberts, content, General Information

Understanding Content – THE OTHERS – In honour of the last season of LOST


When the LOST series began, I was intrigued, especially with the concept of  THE OTHERS.  Listening to news reports and conversations today, the implication is always that “we” are “good and correct,” while THE OTHERS are always “wrong and evil.”  If you are an American who supports the “left,” those on the “right” are fanatic fundamentalists.  If you are an American who supports the “right,” those on the “left” are subversive communists.  If you are a North American who supports the current NATO fighting in Afghanistan, THE OTHERS are ruthless, fundamentalist, Islamofascist, murdering cowards who hate North Americans for their freedom and democracy.  If you are a person in Afghanistan who supports the Taliban or al-Qaeda, THE OTHERS are new crusaders who are attempting to convert everyone to Christianity and set up their puppets as government leaders who will give unquestioning support to establishing an Afghani state for the benefit of people of the West.

The Evil Others

People are willing to believe any evil of THE OTHERS.  If the “good people” happen to do something that may be questionable, it was because THE OTHERS forced the situation upon them, and they were defending themselves or their family or friends. .. and, of course, there are hundreds of examples of incomprehensible “evil” that THE OTHERS have done. The evil deeds of THE OTHERS are far greater and far more widespread and more heinous than anything the “good people” could do.  For example, I have seen reporters on CNN defend American soldiers who have shot unarmed civilians dead – because the soldiers had just seen their friends and comrades blown up by improvised explosive devices that were set by people who looked similar to the ones they killed.  On the hand, people in Afghanistan, Iraq, or the Occupied Territories say that people plant these devices because they have seen husbands, wives, friends, brothers, sisters, children, parents, or grandparents, killed mercilessly by people who look similar to those they are trying to blow up.

The Others – the Epitome of Evil

At the beginning of LOST, I thought (maybe hoped) that THE OTHERS would turn out to be enlightened beings who had reached some higher plane of consciousness or at the very worst were much like the Lost “survivors” and the rest of us – mixtures of good and evil.  As a result, a theme of the show would be that evil exists everywhere in all groups in society, just as good exists everywhere in all groups in society.

Then…

BenjaminBenLinus was revealed in all his evilness. For anyone who has not seen LOST, Benjamin Linus is the embodiment of the supreme evil of THE OTHERS.  He is an angry, bitter, blood-thirsty, boastful butcher of people; a cold, corrupt liar; a ferocious, hostile, mean conspirator; a menacing, merciless murder; a treacherous, vain plotter; a renegade, ruthless schemer, and a selfish, violent slaughterer  … and to top it all off he is what my mother used to call plámásaí , which in Irish Gaelic literally means an ”insincere flatterer.” He is totally deceptive in his behaviour; he smiles and lies through his teeth.

Are There Any “Reliable Sources”?

What does this have to do with “understanding content”?  We can only “hate” and “fight against” and even go so far as “to kill” ideas, people and actions we believe are “evil.”  As a result, a great deal of propaganda in mass media and in social media focuses on making people despise those who “our side” or the “good people” want us to oppose.

At a school level, children carry on hate campaigns of “bullying” against THE OTHERS.  At a community level, people carry on campaigns of gossiping against THE OTHERS.    At a national level, people carry on political campaigns of propaganda against THE OTHERS.    At an international level, people carry on wars against THE OTHERS.

“Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see” is a quote which is attributed to Benjamin Franklin.  However, that was written before Photoshop and video tools enabled the manipulation of images, before mass media allowed careful selection and censorship of what is seen and heard. In the not too distant future, psychologists will study your interest patterns and social grouping, tailoring messages to your particular mind set though social media such as Facebook or Twitter.

How do we know that what we are seeing and reading every day is not manipulated?

We cannot.

Do we have any tools that can help us to become more aware of manipulation? What can we do and assist other to do?  Are there any “unbiased” sources that we can use to find “true” information?

What are your opinions?  What can we do?

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Filed under content, General Information, LOST

Understanding Content – Avatar


First, a confession – I am a lifelong science fiction fan… and, an even more telling confession; I remember the excitement when the first episode of Star Trek aired on TV. Consequently, I was delighted when a Christmas present from my son and DIL was a visit to town to see 3D Avatar. Beyond the incredibly beautiful visual experience, which was like moving through a painting, the most interesting aspect of Avatar was the fact that Sam Worthington’s character, the marine, Jake Sully, actually did “walk a mile in another’s shoes/moccasins.” And “walking that mile” did literally change his perspective.

Content and Literacy

What does Avatar have to do with understanding content and literacy in the 21st century?

I hoped that Social Media would give an opportunity for people to literally “see the world through each other’s eyes,” without being subjected to Mass Media filters and gatekeepers. Understanding the limitations and problems of different groups, within our own country and in other parts of our world, would create greater openness and greater empathy, leading to positive solutions to intractable world problems.

Accomplishments of Social Media

What has Social Media accomplished so far? It has allowed people who share similar ideas to more effectively find each other and reinforce commonly shared views. In addition to common global issues, most areas of the world have regional controversial issues. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, the most publicized controversial issue is the annual seal hunt. Each spring in the past, the hunt has given rise to competing mass media campaigns. This year, I had anticipated there would be competing Social Media campaigns. Looking at FaceBook this morning, I noticed the opposing camps have already started.

Movement to Social Media

In the future, we will to see more advertising, promotion, and political campaigns move to Social Media. To quote Mashable.com, “For the first time in 23 years, Pepsi will not have any ads in the Super Bowl. Instead, the company will be spending $20 million on a social media campaign it’s calling The Pepsi Refresh Project.”  We have all heard of the effect of Social Media on the election of US President Barack Obama. What will be the future impact of Social Media on communication of ideas?

Propagating a Point of View

Much of the literature about Social Media discusses how to use Social Media to market or to propagate a specific point-view. For example, the “experts” suggest how to become “personable” in Social Media, since being “sociable” multiplies “trust” in the message you are delivering. They want the reader to perceive the message as coming from a trusted friend…which can be very useful…but it can also be truly scary.

From the point of view of marketers and branders, Social Media has a number of obvious advantages. A few of these advantages are:

  1. Allowing people who hold the same views to find each other through networks of friends and followers. By mining information about selected groups, marketers can target their messages to a very specific demographic with known opinions on a number of matters.
  2. Permitting people to express views with relative anonymity. This enables marketers to send carefully worded planted comments  to groups in order to influence opinion.
  3. Letting people use “loaded” words, sweeping generalizations, and other types of expressions without being challenged. Marketers can utilize this in two ways: they can plant message to goad people into more extreme views or they can maliciously add questionable material to legitimate groups, discrediting the group with other sources and with some of its own members.
  4. Having no rules about who can join a group. Marketers can establish paid or unpaid “monitors” to penetrate groups to examine comments, enabling them to determine what type of advertising will be most effective for that particular demographic.
  5. Accepting multi-media materials from unknown sources.  Marketers can quote “data,” display photosphopped or staged images, and post edited videotape, for which they do not give legitimate sources.

Purpose of Social Media

Even without outside intervention from advertisers, marketers and branders, how Social Media impacts issues leads to a number of important questions. Why do individuals form groups and acquire followers in Social Media? Do they want to examine issues, stimulate informed discussion, or acquire knowledge…or do they form groups to reinforce and to exaggerate opinions already held, leading each group to espouse more extreme positions? What, if any, is the impact of these groups on people who are not committed to one side or the other?

As that widely distributed YouTube says, “We live in exponential times.”

The world is faced with overwhelming amounts of data on overwhelming problems – social, economic, medical, political, and environmental. Social media has enormous potential to be a bridge to allow people to develop understanding and empathy for each other’s problems by “walking a mile in another’s shoes/moccasins.”

So far, what I have observed is people comfortably slipping into their old shoes and old thoughts, sometimes propelled by varying amounts of deliberate manipulation and misinformation. If Social Media is to have any impact on solving world issues, we need paths to each other’s situations. Like Jake Sully, we need to develop empathy by “walking a mile in another’s shoes/moccasins.” We need to be able to clearly recognize and distinguish fact from marketing, branding, and propaganda.

The first step to achieving that goal is greater awareness of many of the tactics of propaganda which are being used by all sides. Over the next few weeks, I intend to discuss these in more detail.

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Filed under FaceBook, Literacy, Social Media, Twitter

Understanding Content – Introduction


Text messaging, email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Flickr, and other social media have made high level literacy more important than ever in all our lives. We could choose what, when, and whether to read in a book, magazine or newspaper or look at TV or a video; now we are bombarded with text and images through internet devices.

When a person lives in Newfoundland and Labrador, analysis of content and graphics written about the province becomes a consuming interest because of the amount of misinformation that has been published in various formats about the province. Newfoundland has a small population and is in a relatively remote area; as a result, it is not well known. When reports in various formats are given about the province, its life style, and its people, I immediately check for factual accuracy, weighted words, and visual cues. Over the past few years, the quality of reporting has improved, because people have become more familiar with the province due to advances in communication technology; however, incorrect information and misinformation takes a long time to overcome.

The level of misinformation about this province has offered a tremendous advantage for judging the veracity of information presented on all topics and all places. Because I am so used to examining information written about our province, I have picked up the habit of looking at other material in a similar way. Weighted words, misleading visuals, and sweeping generalizations jump off the screen (or the page.) The extent to which people are willing to believe anything that is published, in print or electronically, never ceases to amaze me.

Today, while much of the information received through social media is from acquaintances, business associates, and friends that we have chosen to follow, advertisers and propagandists are surging [the term is used deliberately] into Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Are we prepared for this onslaught?

In the past, product advertising was much less targeted. It was assigned to certain print publications or TV programming based on less clearly defined data such as age group or perceived socio-economic group. In social media, advertising can be much more targeted based on very specific demographics and interests.

Propaganda is much more dangerous. Lurking in your Facebook, in your email attachments, and/or your Tweets can be people who are deliberately spreading propaganda, usually filled with misinformation, weighted words, and selected visuals which convey hatred and/or contempt for selected races, groups of people, or ideas.

Over the next few weeks, I will be presenting a series on this topic. Meanwhile, see my Twitter list “News and Commentary”twitter.com/eracose/news-commentary. The list [which is of necessity slanted towards Newfoundland and Canada] contains members with different and often opposing points of view. Though examining all, hopefully “truth” will become evident. If you would like to have your Tweets added to the list, please Tweet or email.

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Filed under Literacy, Newfoundland and Labrador, Photography, Social Media, Twitter