Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Fighting Fake News with Fake News

After billionaire schmuck Mark Suckerberg (British spelling) testified before Congress that he'd allowed Cambridge Analytica to use Facebook as a virtual glory hole, I expected the scandal would force the US to expel British diplomats, make the BBC register as a foreign agent--in my opinion, The Guardian too--& vilify, besmirch & otherwise smear the Queen & Theresa May. 

OK, the last of these I do anyway & it's nothing to do with Cambridge Analytica.  

The upshot of the scandal/investigation/bullshit is that Facebook (as well as Twitter & Reddit, if I'm not mistaken) is stepping up its efforts to filter feeds to protect us from fake news.  I'm not sure exactly how the censorship--er, filtering--system works, but I'm pretty sure its purpose is banning any info or opinions that our corporate overlords don't want shared.  Instead, FBers will be treated to generous & unadulterated doses of propaganda based on flimsy to no evidence in support of our latest war--er, "humanitarian intervention"--followed by a fluffy feature on Meghen Markle's upcoming royal nuptials.

If you haven't read Herman & Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent, you should.  In the meantime, New York Times lying sack of shit columnist Farhad Manjoo's "For Two Months, I Got My News from Print Newspapers.  Here's What I Learned" serves as a risibly good example of just how untrustworthy so-called vetted news is.



Saturday, March 31, 2018

Fistful of Comments on Books

In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez.  Sobbed my way through this tragic (based on real life events) story of the Mirabal sisters during Trujillo's reign in the Dominican Republic.

Ham on Rye, Charles Bukowski.  The On the Road of the K-12 crowd.  Certain passages sound very much like Bukowski's poetry.  Whether that's good or bad is a question readers must decide for themselves.

Plato & a Platypus Walk into a Bar, Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein.  Explaining philosophical concepts through jokes may sound funny, but the jokes are stale & the relationship to philosophic principles is often strained.  Well, I didn't get it.

Manufacturing Consent, Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky.  Great analysis & indictment of the "free press" & its wont to legitimize & enable insidious US foreign policies.

America's Deadliest Export: Democracy, William Blum.  While there's new material, it's basically a rehash of Blum's other, better, more detailed books, Killing Hope & Rogue State, both of which, the former esp., I highly recommend.

This Big Fake WorldAda Limón.  Enjoyable, funny & smart, but I have a complaint.  This "story in verse," as it says on the cover, refers frequently to one character as "our hero" in various titles & poems, which strikes me as neither necessary nor amusing, but rather cliche, esp. in comparison to the creativity Limón demonstrates elsewhere.

You Must Revise Your Life, William Stafford.  S'alright, but I like Writing the Australian Crawl better.

The Route As Briefed, James Tate.  An eclectic selection of interviews, essays, & fiction any Tate fan will enjoy, which I certainly did, despite my copy containing horrendous printing errors.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick.  I'd say that I like Dick, but that might give some of you the wrong idea.  I'd also say the book's better than the Harrison Ford movie supposedly based on the novel, but quite frankly, it's not even the same story.  It's a good movie, but as to its myriad differences, the term "blade runner" isn't used anywhere in the novel.  Re: the movie sequel, I'll probably watch it when it comes to TV, if it hasn't already.

To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway.  OK, the fragmented episodes may not actually contribute to the overriding story arc & it's chock full of gratuitous racial epithets, yet it's surprisingly not as bad as . . .

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway.  I'd first read this novel as a college freshman, but sweet Felipe, Matty & Jesus Alou, that was in another millennium & I was left (far-left, actually) with only a vague dream-like memory that I didn't enjoy it.  Now I remember why.  Slow pacing & insipid conversations make this, if not Hemingway's worst, potentially his most boring book.

Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck.  May I recommend Tortilla Factory instead?

My Man Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse.  Other than a few scraps here & there, I'd not read much Wodehouse & his comic shtik before.  Yep, he's witty, that's for sure.

Selected Poems, Alfred, Lord Tennyson. What can I say?  I kind of like Tennyson.  He's got a great ear--& awesome beard--though he does go on a bit at times.

A Mercy, Toni Morrison.  Terrific lyrically spun narrative. 

All of Us, Raymond Carver.  He's a great short story writer, but this volume of his collected poems shows Carver's prowess as a poet.  Sure, you may want to overlook those that read more like journal entries than finished poems, but there's an unflinching honesty in these poems that have caused me to read this collection from start to finish again & again.


Want more reviews?  Try clicking here.  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"Fake News" Stories Are Fake News Stories

Considering the hoopla surrounding supposed fake news, you'd think that misrepresenting facts has never been an issue in journalism before, yet fake news existed before the USA itself spewed from the wigged heads of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, et al.  What's new is the label "fake news."  Before the popularity of the internet, it was easy for conventional media to control what information reached the people, but since then, the relatively inexpensive mode (though the recent ruling negating net-neutrality may change this) of presenting alternative news reports has created a conundrum for corporate-owned news providers. 

With politicians & celebrities quick to defend the corporate media & defame the rest, it's no wonder that many Americans have bought into the notion that the only real news is the one presented by the "reliable" sources, such as Newsweek, Time, Washington Post, New York Times, CNN & the big three networks.  They are reliable in that you can rely on them to present a pro-American stance in nearly every circumstance, constantly vilifying & demonizing those who oppose the American view.  It is mostly through alternative news sources that we can learn what those in power don't want us to know. 

As a result, Google, Twitter, & Facebook, among others, have implemented filtering systems that limit what feeds you receive.  They don't want people to have to think about things themselves, to decide for themselves whether the reports are nonsensical or "fake."  These corporations have decided to take it upon themselves to help you form the right world view, i.e., that of the corporate elite.  Of course, there is fake news.  As I mentioned, much of what the mainstream media presents is "fake" in that it presents only a limited view, one that's heavily biased.  That you can't believe everything you read remains true regardless of the source.  But to label as "fake news" any report that doesn't fit the narrative that the mainstream media conveys is yet another attempt to control what we know, what we think. 

Most of us probably remember the oft-cited quote from newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst ("You furnish the pictures.  I'll furnish the war."), who helped sell the Spanish-American War to the American public.   Even if the quote itself is apocryphal, the fact is that Hearst's papers carried stories with a clear jingoistic edge.  Many Americans like to believe this example is an outlier, not the normal manner in which the press works.  Many have apparently already forgotten the media's role in selling the war in Iraq--er, make that wars.  Unfortunately, in most instances, the press operates as a propaganda tool, readily accepting & rarely questioning the government's account of facts.  Likewise, their audiences afford the media that same leniency, literally buying their stories wholesale.   

The current media Russia-hate blitz fits perfectly into the "propaganda model," developed by Noam Chomsky & Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, in which the authors analyze raw data from newspaper articles to determine the editorial biases of the so-called "free press."  The conclusions they reach, it would seem in every instance, is that the mainstream press (including, yes, The New York Times) rarely questions government reports, but instead buys & sells the government & its corporate masters' point of view to the public. 

Below are two links to The Real News interview with Max Blumenthal detailing many of the ways the media is misrepresenting the facts in the Russia-hate hysteria, as well as an article by Aaron Maté in The Nation, dispelling many similar assertions.  My hope is that, even if I'm preaching to the choir, reading or listening to them will give you a new, better informed perspective. 

    

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Death of Knut House Press

Some time in 2017, Knut House Press went out of business.  As a result, my collection of poems, Walking in Chicago with a Suitcase in My Hand, published by Knut House Press, is no longer in print.  While there are still a few copies of the black & white edition of Walking in Chicago available at Amazon--& at a deep discount, I might add--the color edition is no longer available.  (It would also appear that the Kindle version can still be purchased, but I don't know if that will continue.)

Needless to say, I'm deeply saddened by the turn of events.  I am free to market my book to other publishers--it was a finalist at a half dozen other poetry contests before Knut House published it, so maybe there's some interest--& may pursue this course at some point in the future.  However, I have no immediate plans to do so.  As of now, Walking in Chicago has limited availability.