Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Birth of Yellow Journalism

The Spanish–American War (April–August 1898) is considered to be both a turning point in the history of propaganda and the beginning of the practice of yellow journalism.

It was the first conflict in which military action was precipitated by media involvement. The war grew out of U.S. interest in a fight for revolution between the Spanish military and citizens of their Cuban colony. American newspapers fanned the flames of interest in the war by fabricating atrocities which justified intervention in a number of Spanish colonies worldwide.

Several forces within the United States were pushing for a war with Spain. Their tactics were wide-ranging and their goal was to engage the opinion of the American people in any way possible. Men such as William Hearst, the owner of The New York Journal was involved in a circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and saw the conflict as a way to sell papers. Many newspapers ran articles of a sensationalist nature and sent correspondents to Cuba to cover the war. Correspondents had to evade Spanish Authorities; usually they were unable to get reliable news and relied heavily on informants for their stories. Many stories were derived from second or third hand accounts and were either elaborated, misrepresented or completely fabricated by journalists to enhance their dramatic effect.

Both Hearst and Pulitzer published images of Spanish troops placing Cubans into concentration camps where they were suffered and died from disease and hunger. The term “Yellow Journalism,” which was derived from the name of "The Yellow Kid" comic strip in the Journal, was used to refer to this style of sensationalized newspaper articles. The American public purchased more newspapers because of this form of writing, and this strongly encouraged Hearst and Pulitzer’s newspapers to write more sensationalized stories.  Some of the most sensationalized articles concerned “Butcher Weyler” and his reconcentration policies, and the Cuban Insurrection. Circulation continued to soar as the Journal reported that an American civilian was imprisoned without a trial and stating that no American was safe in Cuba as long as Weyler was in charge. Another major  article that enraged the American public was written by one of Hearst's reporters,  Richard Harding Davis,  who came upon the story while on his way back from Cuba.  The reporter learned of the story of Senorita Clemencia Arango.  Arango was forced out of Cuba for helping the rebels, and was supposedly strip-searched by Spanish detectives.  This angered the Victorian ideals of the American public even though the story was found to be in error

Hearst played a huge part in arousing the public’s intention to go to war with Spain. This activity reached its zenith after several years of articles concerning the situation in Cuba, Hearst ran a series of articles blaming the Spanish for the sinking of the MAINE with a mine. Hearst’s powerful articles pushed many Americans towards war with Spain. Because of his leading role in inciting the war, Hearst was nicknamed the “Father of Yellow Journalism.”

Why do I give you the history of yellow journalism? It is now the mainstay of news reporting. News outlets chasing advertising dollar have almost forgot the meaning of fair and even reporting. Fair and even reporting does not sell advertising. Sensationalism does. News outlets fan the flames of controversy in an attempt to boost readership. Ad rates are based on readership rates. Readers read, dollars come in. They really don't care about the overall affect on society. They rationalize that in a free press era the reader will get a fair and even story by reading multiple accounts from multiple sources. Except that people don't do that. They are sound bite addicts. We spend very little time checking the facts.

All you have to do it read the comments section of any article and you see that many of the readers didn't even comprehend the article they just read, more or less research it further. The media says that's our problem not theirs.

Folks, yellow journalism is alive and well. Do not believe what you read. Do not react to sensationalism. Small niches of society have managed to make great gains by using the media to project themselves as main stream. We need to seek the truth before we react. We no longer can rely on the media to present anything even close to resembling the truth.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lessons from Kaki King.. and others....

I have been thinking about a general principle that has come into my life several times in the past few weeks. It has to do with significant. Most of the time we feel we are far more significant that we really are. I'm going to paraphrase the conversation that started this line of thought. 

I was watching TED Talks, a great set of programs if you have never heard of it. This specific TED Talk was a performance by a petite, introverted, Finger style guitarist names Kaki King (if you don't know her Google it, it will amaze you. She is the first female on Rolling Stones "Guitar God" List. I'm listening to her as I write this). She talked about her place in the universe. She first laid out the concept of time running infinitely in both directions. How every moment was insignificant within this spectrum. But if every moment was equally insignificant, then every moment was equally significant. Her final statement was "Therefore this music will be the most significant music in your life, at this moment".

This fundamental concept has  worked in the shadows of several conversations over the last few weeks. More than likely this is the product of my Reticular Activating Systems, but let's say it is more than that. We think the universe is approximately 18 Billion years old. Now like the world is flat theory of old, this may prove to be untrue, but it us our current paradigm. So our entire life passes as a moment in the history of time. Each day we spend on this earth is even less significant. Each hour, minute, and second progressively less significant.  But each unit of time is unique to us. There will only be one. If we do not use it we cannot store it for another time. What we did with it becomes part of  history, even if we did nothing. 

That makes it the most significant moment of our life, at that time. Kaki was right. So  the question is; do we live like it is the most significant moment at the time? Do we realize how truly unique each moment is?

This bring me to list written by Andy Rooney, that I cannot verify, but hey it was on the internet so it has to be true....right..... here is a sample:

1.       That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.
2.       That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with. 
3.       That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
4.       That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.
5.       That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
6.       That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.
7.       That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
8.       That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.
9.       That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

The life lesson that come from this list is that life's little moments are important. We spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the big moments that lay ahead and very little time appreciating the little moments in front of us.

Is this the most significant moment in your life right now? What did you do with it?

Monday, January 26, 2015

How do We Help the Less Fortunate?

I am always concerned about the right way to help those less fortunate. The conundrum centers around the old adage of giving fish verse teaching to fish. First of all, there is the perception of wealthy. A couple of interesting data points on that issue:

Wealth is not liquid. It is generally determined by the markets desire to own verses scarcity. I diamond has little intrinsic value outside of its ability as a tool. The real value is determined by the disposable income of the buyer and the scarcity of the object. The same is true of stocks and bonds, or art. You cannot redistribute this type of wealth because it loses its value once you eliminate the buyers ability to buy. The same might be true of a large ocean transport. They can cost tens to hundreds of millions to build. But if we assume no one has the cash to buy it (we are redistributing wealth and cash is wealth) then the wealth value drops to almost nothing. Wealth isn't so much redistributed as evaporated.

What is wealth (top 1%) and who are they? The top 1% includes anyone with net assets of $800,000 or more.(a) There are about 47 million people in the world who meet this classification. There are eighteen million in the United State. Switzerland has the highest density. There are a couple of things to take under consideration. First, it is assets, not income. Young professionals may have a household income of over $200,000 per year, but very few assets. Older people, especially those who have saved wisely for retirement, may have little income, but a lot of assets. For retirement planning it takes about two million dollars in assets to generate $80,000 a year in income. The second considerations is cost of living. A  millionaire in Cape town will live much better than a millionaire in Paris.... By the way, to classify in the top 10%, your assets only have to be greater than $77,000.

So we can conclude that redistribution of wealth would be both hard to identify and hard to implement.

Let's say we find a way to redistribute some wealth without demotivating innovation. We find that fine balance that takes cash from the rich who have excess, but not from the middle class that just needs it to assure their futures. Also, we can't take too much via businesses, because businesses don't print cash, they get it from their customers. Taking too much from businesses will only cause inflation of prices as the business passes it on. Once we have the money, what do we do with it?

Second there is the methodology for helping. Well the "give a man a fish" approach won't work. We all know that. We have seen it over and over. Our entitlement system is living proof. A small per cent will learn to fish while they eat their first fish, but most will procrastinate as long as there is another fish. I have thought and written about the impact of advanced technology on the lower class. It's a train wreck waiting to happen. Most technology advancements displace low level jobs because those jobs are simple and repetitive. They are the exact jobs that the lower class is prepared to work.

Here, I think, is the hard lesson. It is a not so quick an answer. We have to elevate the lower class to have both a positive attitude toward and training in technology jobs. How do you elevate someone's attitude? Our attitude is more positive toward something that we are more comfortable with and understand. By increasing our exposure to different aspects of technology at a very young age, it loses its mystic.   The UK has made it mandatory to teach children to code as early as age five. The idea is to get them comfortable with technology early enough to stimulate interest. They make a game out of it so it doesn't seem all techy and scientific. By the time they graduate it will be as common to them and reading and writing.I think the key is mandatory, because people will not do it of their own volition. I mean if they would, they would already be doing it, right.

Zack Simms is a Columbia School drop out that now teaches programming to over 26 million students at a time. Seriously, he really does. He found that most of his peers didn't have the fundamental computer skills to effectively work in industry, himself included. He first got a friend to help write a program to help him learn programming. This was so successful that other people wanted to use it. CodeAcademy  now has 26 million students from over 100 countries, learning six different program languages. CodeAcademy is only three years old.

At the Davos Conference they talked about 8.4 million jobs left unfilled in technology because of a lack of skills. Technology jobs run the gamut of aptitude. Some are creative like digital art. Some are more hands on like hardware maintenance. Others require planning, programming, installing. Maybe it requires only an high level of technology understanding as in customer service or sales. You don't have to be a geek or a nerd. You can be yourself.

The way to redistribute wealth is to find a way for the lower class to create their own wealth. We might have to give them fish for a while, but I would suggest that we simultaneously nurture them into fishing for themselves. Life is much more enjoyable when a person feels independent and self reliant. Waiting for the government to determine your fish allocation, knowing your life depends on it, is a form of slavery. But knowing you have the skills to catch fish in any pond is freedom.

As more and more simple jobs like lawn care, cleaning, ground transportation, Fast Food Restaurants give way to technology, the lower class has to find a new way of making a living. Building and maintaining the very machines that took these jobs is the best answer. Start them young and when the time is right they will forge their own path.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Moving Down that Slipery Slope

I wrote a short blog on how we as a nation, in an effort to help those less fortunate then ourselves have created an environment that will eventually enslave the lower class.  Hard truths are hard truths. It is not our nature to want to hear them. We prefer to gather information that supports our point of view, not challenge it. One of the roles of the Reticular Activating System within our brain is specifically designed to ferret out those sources of information that move us from internal conflict to peace.

Even agnostic George Holyoake's in his 1896 publication English Secularism defined secularism as: That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good. So as Americans we strive to do what we feel is in the good.

I ran across an interesting whitepaper entitled "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization ", September 2013, Oxford University Engineering and Science Department. It's over seventy pages, but it boils down to the graphs below:

The population at the greatest risk of having their jobs replaced by automation are the low wage, low skill jobs represented by the lower class. If we add to this our propensity to compensate for low income by providing financial support through government programs, we are creating a class of people held in bondage. They just simply don't have the where with all to climb out of the dependance based inviroment they find themselves in. They have to find employment that catapults them from lower class to middle class in one fell swoop.

The problem is that they may find that the normal intermediary steps required to improve their financial life are punitive. They may actually have to decrease their standard of living, now at the bottom of the American dream, before they can move upward. They have to give up government subsidies, start paying taxes and still have enough income to maintain their lowly standard of living. Tough love...

Kerby Anderson talks about the ten stages in the decline of a nation. They are (with my interpretation):
1. Spiritual Faith (our founding fathers)
2. Great Courage (American Revolution)
3. Birth of Liberty (The Constitution)
4. Abundance (World leadership)
5. Selfishness (My specific wants and needs rule my decisions)
6. Complacency (sometimes under the guise of Tolerance)
7. Apathy
8. Moral Decay
9. Dependence
10. Bondage

I stopped notating after number six because I am not sure exactly where we are as a nation. We clearly have moved into, and perhaps beyond selfishness. Have we become complacent? It is hard to say. We seem to be broadening the definition of acceptable behavior. States now run the gambling concession through lotteries. States have also started to legalize drug use. Is this because we selfishly feel that we should not be stopped from doing what pleases us, or are we just too complacent to stop some fringe niche group from eroding our sensibilities. 

Twenty, thirty or fourty years from now, where will we be? Will we be a nation that has a substantial population that is dependent on the government to the point that they are incapable of taking care of themselves. Will those who actively contribute to the cofferes of the government be able to contribute enough? Will we be overtaken by Stage 3 or Stage 4 countries, some of which have population three and four times ours.

If this does happen.... will we all slip into bondage because we do not have the resources to maintain our independence? Will their economic engines run ours?