Category Archives: Politics

Lies, damn lies, and the press

In a widely run story, a teacher was wrongfully detained in Sudan after her students named a class teddy bear “Mohammed”. Absolutely ridiculous, to be sure.

Some facts about the recent rally:

  • From the BBC to AP, most media outlets count the rally at around 1000 protesters
  • Out of all those protesting, only a small group were calling for executions
  • The Sudanese government, while defunct for supporting the charges in the first place, have sentenced Gibbons to 15 days in jail
  • The UK government is appealing and chances are that by the end of the weekend this will just be another embarrassing moment in modern Sudan politics

However, in the media led this story with outrageous headlines:

As usual, NY Times had the most rational report, noting the small amount of protests were largely those ordered to be there by the government and that across the city the mosques weren’t calling for any violence whatsoever.
Just another wonderful sign that anything can be bumped to the top of the major networks, regardless of factuality.

Crabby Old Sensationalism

I enjoy Facebook. Ever since KU was added as a school, I have been a happy member of this social network. It has allowed me to keep in contact with friends old and new, correspond on coursework, and now it is becoming a new vehicle for career growth in my post-college life.

Being a fairly open platform, people can start and join any group they choose. Several of the ones I am part of include fan clubs for TV shows I watch, a group for the BVTV program (founding member, woo!), and a club sharing my disgust for the Ugg boot.

Imagine my surprise when Angela mentioned to me a post she read describing FB as a haven for bigoted speech! According to Crabby Old Lady, a new form of discrimination (learned no doubt from those repressive college environments) fills the site. Of course, I’m talking about ageism. Ageism? The idea is so foreign to me that I didn’t even know such a term existed.

Crabby, as she refers to herself, tried out FB. She doesn’t have a lot of free time, and she still finds no value in the site (“there doesn’t appear to be much going on at Facebook except people collecting friends”). On one tragic day, however, a friend alerts her to the horrors that lay inside the ivory walls of FB: ageist comments. Out of the hundreds of thousands of groups on FB, Freydberg happened to search around enough to find a handful of “hate-filled” group names, which have been reposted on Crabby’s page.

At the most, these names are hyperbole, and at the least they are an unbelievably small subset of users. For instance, the most “inflammatory” group they listed (“Ban Old People from Going back to School!!!”) has 60 members (the most of the list) out of 30 million. That’s 0.0002% of the FB population.

Apparently I do have more free time than Crabby, though, and I was able to scan through all 130 or so friends I have and none have joined any similar group. My friends cross all segments of society, and I’m happy to say that I love older folk. It appears my friends do to, or they simply aren’t crass enough to show their true ageism in a public forum.

I won’t go through her entire post point by point, but I did want to focus on one area specifically because she misrepresents racism, FB, and the elderly in one go. Crabby goes through a group of the posts using what she calls the “TGB bias test” (apparently for her site, Time Goes By), in which she does word substitution to show how hurtful these comments are. The greatest folly in using word substitution is that it elevates whatever issue you are challenging to the same level as your control. In this case, the comments made and the group names found on FB do not instill hate or prejudice into the reader as evidenced by the overstated nature of the comments themselves. To put such comments on equal footing as racism is wrong. Secondly, any word can be substituted in, so swapping pedophile or murderer in makes for a equally ridiculous result that is still valid using this test.

Crabby closes her post by calling Facebook “Hatebook” and suggesting that everyone cancel their accounts. An extreme measure to an extreme post. I hope Crabby understands that there isn’t widespread hostility in my age group towards our elders. However, harping on the few ageists comments out of millions in Facebook, then making the blanket assertion that all kids are out to get them, rings of the same kind of bias against kids Crabby herself finds against elders. It also verges on a digital “get off my lawn“. Maybe we need a new term, lessagism, to describe those older than us who feel we’re out to get them.

Burqa Banning

I ran across a shocking article today and I can’t really begin to describe my frustrations. Before going too far into it, take a look at these highly contradictory comments by Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk:

“The Cabinet finds it undesirable that face-covering clothing – including the burqa – is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens.”

“It is very important that we can see each other and can communicate with each other. Because we are so tolerant we want to respect each other.”

Now, I am admittedly quite liberal. I have read many articles from expatriates who go on and on about how “forward-thinking” The Netherlands are in all subjects. From their liberal social policies, their belief in strong public services, and their high quality of life, it’s hard not to agree with them. On occasions like this, though, it seems like they’ve taken a giant step backwards.  It’s appalling that their drug freedoms do not match their religious freedoms.

They claim to be protecting an open society.  The fact that they would try and group women’s rights into this is absurd.  Do I personally believe that extremist Islam restricts women’s rights?  Of course, but then again, taking any major religion to the extreme can lead to this.

But this has nothing to do with communication, women’s rights, or the flying spaghetti monster.  This is a war against immigration, taken to a new extreme.  Why would a Muslim family want to immigrate to a country where their own citizens cannot even express their religious freedoms?  Is the yarmulke next?  Necklace crosses?  Who else do the dutch not want in?