An interesting web capability called Churnalism was recently introduced in the United States, brought to us by the British Media Standards Trust. In short, just as plagiarism software operates, the Churnalism site will compare journalism with known press releases and attempt to identify the source of the information. This capability will also allow the user to determine if quotes have been taken out of context. It should be a great way to detect churn and spin while increasing media literacy.
Media channel Al Jazeera has an unprecedented chance to increase its psychological impact on Americans, if it doesn’t appear to be just another partisan outlet, but that chance may be floundering. In 2011 Wadah Khanfar, Director General of the Al Jazeera Network, left the channel after having built it up to represent an independent and fairly objective news resource in the Middle East. He was replaced by Qatari royal family member Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim Al Thani, an engineer specializing in gas and oil projects, as the royal family owns the channel which has resulted in further internal changes. This article in Germany’s Der Spiegel captures some of those issues and the hemorrhaging of talent while also keeping in mind that Al Jazeera is about to gain a foothold in America through its recent purchase of Current TV (Kühn, Reuter, & Schmitz, 2013).
Never before has another countries’ attempts at statecraft and influence had such an opportunity to communicate with Americans through media in their own homes. Even Britain’s BBC Network has found that challenging. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the station a huge plug when she stated that the United States was losing the international information war. Al Jazeera, she said, was “literally changing people’s minds and attitudes” and, like it or hate it, “it is really effective … In fact viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news” (Gornall, 2011).
Gornall, J. (2011, June 24). Arab Spring Brings Al Jazeera to Full Bloom. Retrieved Jan 12, 2013, from The National: http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/arab-spring-brings-al-jazeera-to-full-bloom
Kühn, A., Reuter, C., & Schmitz, G. P. (2013, Feb 15). After the Arab Spring: Al-Jazeera Losing Battle for Independence. Retrieved Feb 16, 2013, from Spiegel Online: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/al-jazeera-criticized-for-lack-of-independence-after-arab-spring-a-883343.html#ref=rss
The influence of popular violent video games, such as the Call of Duty series, has penetrated into the global consciousness and culture as an example of the media psychology. Last year Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 grossed $1 billion dollars in sales within 15 days of its release and $500 million dollars in the first 24 hours (LeJacq, 2012). Averaging $60 per game, that’s more than 1.5 million copies sold in 15 days. Its predecessor, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, sold 8.8 million units in the United States alone in its first month (LeJacq, 2012). Two recent examples seem to point to it becoming a cross-cultural phenomenon. The first example being of an Agence France-Presse (AFP) photo of a French soldier during combat operations sporting a facemask that resembles a character in the game known as “Ghost” to protect himself from dust. Continue reading
Al-Jazeera recently announced that it had finally broken into the American media by purchasing Al Gore’s Current TV network. It’s been a long time coming in this nation that appeared to support the mass psychological vilification of the channel following the agenda and cues of former President George Bush. During those years, Al-Jazeera was a new offering that presented the Middle Eastern perspective on world activities – a view that most in the Bush administration didn’t care for as it tended to be critical of American activities in the region – which can be seen in the documentary Control Room (Noujaim, 2004). Continue reading
Late last month the world, and Americans in particular, were subject to an ongoing propaganda campaign designed to further the cause for war against Iran using the media. On November 27th, Associated Press (AP) correspondent and bureau chief George Jahn authored AP: Diagram Suggests Iran Working on Nuclear Bomb which was published with an accompanying graphic “leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon. The officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named” (Jahn, 2012).
Examination of the graphic has shown that it can be found in common text books and on the internet, and further, that it’s flawed in its calculations (Greenwald, 2012). Greenwald interviews a number of different authorities on the topic who conclusively disprove the alleged authority of the graphic.
Therefore it appears as though the credibility of the reporter comes into question as well as “this isn’t the first time George Jahn has regurgitated dubious claims from diplomats critical of Iran. On September 11 of this year a nearly identical “exclusive” was published by AP…under Mr. Jahn’s byline, despite the fact that all the information contained within came from the November 2011 report, issued nearly a year prior. The article asserted that new ‘intelligence shows that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years” (Business Insider, 2012).
Jahn could appear to be using his position as an AP bureau chief to facilitate the agenda of a foreign nation, a similar agenda that has led to great losses internationally over the past 10 years. A quick Google Scholar search using the terms “George+Jahn+Iran” show that Jahn has been key author on many AP Iranian related stories going at least 10 years back, most of them focused on the issue of nuclear weapons. In his position at AP he has the potential of placing influential news on the dining roomtable, on the television, on the radio, or on the World Wide Web for global consumption. As a result, he also has an obligation to check the facts provided for him by a third party. The AP was founded in 1846 as a non-profit cooperative to share news between media organizations. As of 2005 it provides material to more than 1,400 newspapers, and 5,001 television and radio broadcasters. It operates 243 news bureaus globally and serves at least 120 countries (Wikipedia, 2012; Associated Press, 2012). In an establishment such as this, an agenda can shape or reinforce opinions worldwide via a single impactful, credible story or through the continuous drip of subtle messaging, thus telling a population what to think about.
McCombs observed that much of what people know about the world comes from various media sources, which is reinforced in direct proportion to the amount of emphasis the media place on a topic (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). Cognitively that means people are exposed to biased information designed to reinforce fear and shape attitudes. As discussed in the previous post, It’s a Mean World! Or is it?, the use of fear can easily manipulate and control a population, which makes them more susceptible to hard-line actions taken on their “behalf” (Associated Press, 2006; Associated Press, 2006; Heller, 2012). Jahn’s unquestioned facilitation of this agenda without checking his sources calls his credibility and professionalism as a journalist into question, regardless of how well established he may be. Indeed, it also reflects poorly on the AP as an organization that should be double and triple checking its facts before publishing them. Greenwald agrees that journalists have an obligation to protect their sources – to a point. That “anonymity ends when the ‘sources’ use them to disseminate falsehoods. Indeed, the obligation to protect these sources not only ends, but a different obligation arises: to tell the public who fed them the hoax” (Greenwald, 2012).
Associated Press. (2012). FAQs. Retrieved Dec 14, 2012, from Associated Press: http://www.ap.org/company/FAQs
Associated Press. (2006, Jan 3). George Gerbner, 86, Researcher Who Studied Violence on TV, Is Dead. Retrieved Dec 9, 2012, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/03/obituaries/03gerbner.html?_r=1&
Associated Press. (2006, Jan 2). George Gerbner; Studied TV Culture. Retrieved Dec 9, 2012, from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/02/AR2006010200577.html
Business Insider. (2012, Dec 4). Iran Disinfo Watch: The AP Gets Thrown Another Curveball. Retrieved Dec 8, 2012, from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/iran-disinfo-watch-the-ap-gets-thrown-another-curveball-2012-12
Greenwald, G. (2012, Nov 29). AP’s dangerous Iran hoax demands an accounting and explanation. Retrieved Dec 8, 2012, from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/29/ap-iran-nuclear-program-graph-explanation
Heller, K. (2012, Dec 9). It’s a Mean World! Or Is It? Retrieved Dec 14, 2012, from Media Psychology – Informing, Educating and Influencing: https://mediapsychology101.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/its-a-mean-world-or-is-it/
Jahn, G. (2012, Nov 27). AP: Diagram suggests Iran working on nuclear bomb. Retrieved Dec 7, 2012, from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57554866/ap-diagram-suggests-iran-working-on-nuclear-bomb/
McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The Agenda-setting Function of Mass Media. Public Opinion Quarterly , 36 (2), 176–187.
Wikipedia. (2012, Dec 14). Associated Press. Retrieved Ded 14, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associated_Press#History
Being in the media, purposefully or otherwise, can have unintended effects, many of which the media will never stop and apologize for. Such is the case for Neda Soltani, a professor of English literature, whose Facebook picture was downloaded and disseminated among Iranian protesters – en masse. According to the New York Times article In a Death Seen Around the World, a Symbol of Iranian Protests Neda Agha-Soltan, notice there is no “i” at the end of her name, was shot in the chest and died when she went to witness a protest in Tehran shortly after the conclusion of the elections that reinstated President Ahmadinejad. Her death was caught on video and subsequently went viral.
Shortly afterward the media published a photo of Soltani claiming it was Soltan – a mistake that Soltani has had to live with ever since. In an article for the BBC, Neda Soltani: ‘The media mix-up that ruined my life’, Soltani discusses the repercussions she has had to deal with to include becoming a martyr for a protest she did not participate in, government persecution, accusations of being a CIA spy, and becoming a political refugee.
There are a couple of things at work here. The first is media and journalistic responsibility – or lack thereof. Because of the speed at which news travels across the internet, media outlets feel more and more pressure to release information as fast as possible, without taking the appropriate amount of time to verify the facts, or allow the complete story to play out before reporting on it. This is all part of the cycle to bring in a larger audience, in order to attract more advertisers and increased revenue for which the media competes with other outlets. As Ahmadinejad is not a popular foreign leader here in the United States, the media rushed to publicize the fallout that followed. Soltani and Soltan were both used as pawns to frame the protests. Second, few members of the media have attempted to correct the record, which is part of what makes the BBC’s coverage important as a model for reporting. For a typical American media outlet, their is an old adage that “if it bleeds, it leads” which basically means that violence will always be covered right up front, especially political violence that can incorporate a pretty face as a victim. What is reprehensible is the lack of responsibility to correct the record in the aftermath — but that’s not what audiences will stop to see, or advertisers will pay for, as a result. Cognitively, people are conditioned and drawn to stop and witness violence or tragedy. It’s a part of our innate nature to be curious as to the fate of others. We learn through observation. The media plays upon this to garner attention and profit repeatedly. Increasing one’s media literacy in regard to the economic agenda of the media is the first step to understanding how audiences are told what to think about, and how to think about it, and to freeing one’s own mind from their effects.
BBC News Magazine. (2012, Nov 14). Neda Soltani: ‘The media mix-up that ruined my life’. Retrieved Nov 14, 2012, from BBC News Magazine: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20267989
Fathi, N. (2009, June 22). In a Death Seen Around the World, a Symbol of Iranian Protests. Retrieved Nov 14, 2012, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/world/middleeast/23neda.html?_r=0
Wikipedia. (2012, Nov 14). Death of Neda Agha-Soltan. Retrieved Nov 14, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Neda_Agha-Soltan