Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Media

COVID hysteria and the truly misinformed / Follow-up: Nazis XIVa

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In Nazis XIVa, I noted:

(Similarly, I recently heard that some believed in around 600 thousand COVID deaths. No, not in the U.S.—in Sweden! No wonder that some are in a state of great fear of COVID… In Sweden, this would amount to around 6 % of the population (or around 20 million, if applied to the U.S.). The last real number that I saw was 18 thousand—or less than a 33rd of this overblown estimate.)

Today, I encountered a very interesting discussion of media failures during the COVID era—including a few more data points on the above:

In the summer of 2020, 1,000 citizens from several countries were polled on the pandemic. Below is the mean percentage that the sampling showed people thought the COVID-19 death tallies were after three months of the pandemic:

Country Population Percent that died from COVID-19 That Absolute Population Number Actual Number of COVID-19 deaths at the time
United States 9% 29,700,000 132,000
United Kingdom 7% 4,830,000 48,000
Sweden 6% 600,000 6,000
France 5% 3,300,000 33,000
Denmark 3% 174,000 580

(I note that the early time of the poll moves my original semi-current 18 thousand actual deaths down to a mere 6 thousand at the time, increasing the level of exaggeration from roughly 33 to roughly 100. I also note that the article laments how this poll was ignored in the news—which explains why I only heard of the 600 thousand as late as I did.)

Again: No wonder that some are in a state of great fear of COVID.

And, as similar claims seem to hold in other areas: No wonder that the Left manages to be elected, that nuclear power is feared, that pseudo-scientific nonsense about “White Supremacy” and “Patriarchy” is believed, etc., etc., etc.

We truly do need restrictions on the vote to those who (a) have a brain, (b) use it, (c) keep themselves informed.

I also note that this is further confirmation that it is the COVID pushers, not the sceptics, who are the poorly informed (cf. e.g. [1]), and that the overall article supports my claim (cf. [2]) that it is the “I have a bachelor in gender studies and read the paper!” crowd that is the problem—not those who question the papers and actually inform themselves independently.

(As to “Nazis XIVb”, there might be a while before I get around to it. Generally, I am both a little fed up with the topic and have overstrained my fingers with this-and-that, so the reduced rate of publication in the Nazi series is likely to remain reduced.)

Written by michaeleriksson

June 22, 2022 at 2:24 pm

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Issues with search listings and emotionally manipulative writing

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A recurring problem with online journalism is that the information shown in search listings is often highly misleading, including click-baiting, contents that turn out to be pay-walled after the user clicks the link, and a misleading impression of factuality (cf. below).

A recurring problem with journalism in general is undue emotional manipulation, cheap and pointless* human interest angles, etc.

*As opposed to more legitimate cases—they are rare, but they do exist. In contrast, it might be argued that emotional manipulation is always undue in journalism (and politics, advertising, and similar).

Both are exemplified by my search for an English source for the topic of my previous text (I encountered the topic in German): I was met by a number of entries in the search list that seemed to be calm and factual, but which turned out to be cheap attempts to provoke emotional reactions when I actually visited the pages. The source that I did pick was the least evil, by a considerable distance, of the four or five pages that I tried. Even here, however, we have a start of: “One-month old Haboue Solange Boue, awaiting medical care for severe malnutrition, is held by her mother, Danssanin Lanizou, 30, at the feeding center of the main hospital in the town of Hounde,” with a corresponding image. This in contrast to a search-list entry of “Hunger linked to coronavirus is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to an urgent call for action from the United Nations.”

In all fairness, that page lived up to the claims after the image and image text, and even the image text was not that bad. But what do some others do?

Consider https://kvoa.com/news/2020/07/27/covid-19-linked-hunger-tied-to-10000-child-deaths-each-month:

The lean season is coming for Burkina Faso’s children. And this time, the long wait for the harvest is bringing a hunger more ferocious than most have ever known.

That hunger is already stalking Haboue Solange Boue, an infant who has lost half her former body weight of 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) in the last month. With the markets closed because of coronavirus restrictions, her family sold fewer vegetables. Her mother is too malnourished to nurse her.

“My child,” Danssanin Lanizou whispers, choking back tears as she unwraps a blanket to reveal her baby’s protruding ribs. The infant whimpers soundlessly.

Excruciatingly poorly written, horrifyingly cheap, and a waste of time for anyone who wants to actually understand the situation (let alone is looking for a reference). This is the type of anti-hook and reader-despising drivel that kills my wish to read on.

The search-listing?

Virus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to an urgent call to action from the United Nations shared with The …

Calm, factual, and something that I would consider reading (and what seems to make a good reference).

Assuming that we wanted to include contents like the above, it should (a) have been moved to a side-bar, not the top of the main text, (b) have been written in a more factual manner. Consider e.g. (with some reservations for the exact underlying intents and facts due to precision lost by the poor original):

The children of Burkina Faso are at particular risk. The harvest is still far into the future and supplies are already low. The coronavirus restrictions have closed markets, which does not just reduce access to food but also the income needed to pay.

Many have already been severely hit, like Haboue Solange Boue, an infant who has lost half her former body weight of 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) in the last month. The closed markets have hurt her family’s vegetables sales and her mother is too malnourished to nurse her.

But it is not just the infant who suffers: the emotional stress on her mother is great.

Note the difference in tone, the lack of (or, at least, far lesser) emotional manipulation, how information is more accessible, and how much easier it is to actually get an idea of what goes on.

Excursion on perceived value of “emotional” writing:
The naive might argue that writing like the original would make it easier to empathize with and understand the situation emotionally. Not only am I highly skeptical to this, based on myself, but I must also point to two major risks: (a) That the reader falls victim to an analogue of emotional contagion.* (b) That reality is distorted (more easily than with more factual writing). More generally, decisions, including government policy, should be made by reason, not emotion.

*More generally, what is meant by “empathy” very often amounts to nothing more than emotional contagion—something which distorts understanding, leads to partiality, and brings about poor decisions.

The latter can be the result of e.g. exaggeration or melodrama, deliberate distortion, and different perceptions. Notably, using emotional writing, narrating reactions, speculating about the internal state of someone, whatnot, it is very easy both to give and to get the wrong impression. Moreover, internal states and external displays do not always reflect what is reasonable.* For an example of such distortion consider the following hypothetical example: “Felicia felt her heart compress painfully as she looked down on the dead body, the remains of her old friend. Tears welled up into her eyes and she sat down in shock. A moment ago, he had been so full of life and now he was gone, gone forever, ripped out of her life by a moment of carelessness. Oh God, what had she done?!?” Here is the hitch: I wrote this with the sudden death of a gold fish in mind and I wrote nothing that might not genuinely have applied in such a case (allowing for some metaphor).

*For instance, when I was a young child and my toy penguin lost an eye, I cried much more than when I, as an adult, learned that my mother had died. Cf. parts of an older text.

Excursion on search listings:
The situation with search listings is quite negative, and includes such problems as various web sites feeding different contents to different user agents, e.g. web browsers used by humans and the “spiders” that gather data for search services. A potential solution would be to require that spiders are fed the exact contents of a regular surfer and that search listings always show the first X words of the page contents. While the result might sometimes be misleading, it will often be better than today, there will often* be a clear indication whether content is pay-walled, and it might lead to better writing that gets to the point faster. The pay-wall issue could be partially solved by some mandatory content tag which can be evaluated by search engines to give the searchers a heads up.

*However, likely less often than could be hoped for, as a simple “pay NOW to read” message might be replaced by a teaser text followed by “pay NOW to read” to ensure that the latter is not present in the search listing. Indeed, such teaser texts are fairly common, even today.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 28, 2020 at 10:40 am

Another journalist speaks up / Follow-up: Poor journalism and journalism as a source of fake news (The New York Times)

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About two months ago, I wrote about problems with the New York Times, including criticism by a 16-year insider of that paper.

Today, I encountered another insiders’ view and see a further validation of both my take on this particular paper and the press and media in general (to some degree, society in general). This long resignation letter by Bari Weiss is worthy of being quoted in full and picking cherries out of it is hard, but the below is an attempt to do so:

[Lessons after Trump’s election:] the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.

Indeed, one of my largest criticism of the press is not that it has the wrong opinions (from my POV), but that journalists see themselves as the “enlightened few” and the rest of us (even those vastly more intelligent, better educated, and well informed) as ignorants who need to be fed pre-processed opinions.

Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions.

To this I note the two possible interpretations of “BILD dir deine Meinung”, the slogan of BILD, Germany’s largest (and likely worst) news-paper: It could be read as an imperative to “Form your own opinion!”; it could be read as a presumptuous and reader despising “BILD [gives] you your opinion”.

Indeed, the distortions by the press regularly includes filtering out facts that could be interpreted in the “wrong” manner by the readers, leading them to opinions other than the journalists.

My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; […] [On Slack], some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name.

This repeats the enormous problems that exist e.g. in U.S. colleges, on sports teams, and whatnots. Moreover, note the hypocrisy of using claims for inclusiveness to exclude someone.

Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.

Note: Not “conservative”, not “rightist”, not “Trump supporter”, but actually just “centrist”. The linked to Wikipedia page says “Bari Weiss describes herself as a ‘left-leaning centrist.’ ”, making it even worse … Apparently, someone not solidly “leftist” is not welcome.

But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times. […] And so self-censorship has become the norm.

But how can a journalist who is not intellectually curious possibly do a good job? One who self-censors? Both are antithetical to good journalism.

Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired.

Persons being fired over expressing the wrong opinion is (sadly) nothing remarkable today and not unheard of even two decades ago. There are two particularly disturbing aspects here, however: (a) The short time-span, which points to a disastrous and disastrously fast trend.* (b) That even journalism is affected. Indeed, here and with some other quotes, it pays to bear in mind that the justification for the press is to a large degree to ensure expression of opinions that might otherwise be silenced and to ensure that someone criticizes what is wrong with society, the government, whatnot, even in the face of suppression attempts. When the press cannot do that or, worse, is complicit in the suppression of opinion, something is very, very foul.

*Note that both this resignation letter and the previous insider view seem to see the Trump election as something of a watershed. (But I consider this to be a bit optimistic about the age of the problems.)

Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these [PC, Leftist, SJW, …] views. Yet they are cowed by those who do.

I have heard similar claims about e.g. the U.S. college situation (at least outside the social sciences) and e.g. Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton points in the same direction for the overall population. However, this makes it the more important to take a stand, to not bow to threats, to not “apologize” for having said something “inappropriate” (“racist”, “sexist”, whatnot), to not have a “two thousand ants can’t be wrong—this is a great place for a picnic!” attitude, etc.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 15, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Utterly insufficient data, insight, and thought

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One of the largest problems today is that too many, including many politicians, make decisions based on utterly insufficient data, insight, and thought. All to often, there is not even the slightest awareness that data, insight, and thought are utterly insufficient. To make matters worse, they can make quite far-going commitments or take extreme actions based on this utterly insufficient data, insight, and thought.

A favorite example of mine is a young* girl from my own school in Sweden: she had become a member of the Social-Democrat’s youth organization and was sufficiently dedicated that she was interviewed in the local paper on the matter. Why had she landed with the Social-Democrats? Well, someone had given her a pamphlet and she had liked what she read …

*I do not remember exactly when this was, but we were likely somewhere in the range 15 through 17, i.e. roughly thirty years ago.

But: if we grab a pamphlet from a wide range of parties, chances are that we would like what we read, for reasons like there being a simplistic focus on issues with broad support, that more controversial opinions are not mentioned, that practical issues (financing, notably) are swept under the carpet, and that other parties have no possibility to make a counter-statement in that very pamphlet. Indeed, pamphlets often border on sloganeering, with claims like “we fight for a fairer society” and “we want to save the environment”. As can be seen, these claims are often not even very party specific. That they often mean different things by the same words, e.g. “fair”, makes the matter even trickier.

A pamphlet can be no basis for joining a party. Even more extensive information, like a party program, might well fall short. Indeed, one of the reasons why this particular story has remained with me over the years is the extreme contrast to my own* choice of party, at roughly the same time: I read the actual party program of all the seven (?) parties in parliament, Communists included, a considerable amount of other information, and even after joining the one side, I read much of what “the other side” wrote.

*At the time, Moderaterna, broadly a Conservative/Libertarian party. They have changed for the worse over the years. (And I have not been affiliated with any party since I left Sweden.)

A current example, and one (again!) demonstrating the danger of a too one-sided press and a too one-sided propaganda, is the cause of death in the George-Floyd case.

Before I continue, let me stress that I am not saying that main-stream opinions about cause of death are wrong—merely that they are too unfounded to be “right for a good reason”. They might (as I suspect) or might not also be wrong, but I do not pass final judgment on that matter, because I have not done the leg-work to come to a firm own conclusion. However, I do point to e.g. the Zimmerman–Martin tragedy for a situation where the main-stream opinion was almost certainly severely wrong and where I have done the leg-work. Also see the Mavi Marmara incident for a similar case of how the situation can change when a reader moves beyond the simplistic message of incompetent and, very often, partisan journalists.

Now, the cause of death seems to be almost universally described as the knee* on the neck, including even in German news reporting, where I today saw the claim that Floyd died after having pleaded for his life a dozen-or-so times (!!!!with video evidence!!!!). However, there appears to be considerable doubt on this point when we move behind the scenes, as described e.g. in several recent articles on UNZ, including [1]. Among the issues often discussed we have that Floyd had taken a very large, possibly life-threatening, dose of fentanyl before the events and that he had severe prior heart and other health problems. This while the (apparently, and contrary to media claims, sole) autopsy rules out e.g. suffocation through the knee on the neck. Certainly, if he did plea for his life a dozen-or-so times, that speaks against suffocation. (“How art thou out of breath, when thou hast breath / To say to me that thou art out of breath?” as Juliet protested.) A few pleas, possibly, but here it seems much more likely that Floyd experienced a lack of oxygen (or some other symptom) for a reason not immediately related to air flow to the lungs. In [1], there are even claims (which I have not verified) that point to breathing problems prior to the alleged murder and that Floyd might have wanted to rest on the ground.

*Something, incidentally, that makes the whole “taking a knee” thing seem quite tasteless to me, its prior history notwithstanding.

From what I* know at this stage, it is possible that even a drugged and unhealthy Floyd would have survived without the knee, but it is also possible that he would have died anyway. Remove the knee, and he might or might not have lived. Remove the drugs, and he might or might not have lived. Remove his health problems, and he might or might not have lived.

*I am a medical layman. Others might do better, but the typical journalist and the typical protester are not among them.

On the outside, it seems extremely likely that Chauvin, the “knee”, had no intention of causing death or permanent harm. Indeed, if he did, he would have to be Darwin-Award level stupid to do what he did on camera and in front of witnesses. Certainly, I have not seen one shred of proof that the event was motivated by racism. (Also see an earlier text on this situation.)

In a sane society, we might right now have an objective debate about what police methods are or are not safe, demeaning*, whatnot. What we do have are near-blanket condemnations of “racist murder”, “institutional racism”, “racist police”, etc.—not to mention riots and looting.

*If someone kneed on my neck, I would raise hell afterwards, even if the method was medically safe.

I am going to go as far as to say that, unless further evidence appears and provided that the trial is fair, Chauvin will ultimately be acquitted of any murder charge, simply because there is next to no possibility to gain “beyond reasonable doubt” if even half of the “off screen” claims are true. There might or might not be room for a manslaughter conviction or some relatively lesser crime (reckless endangerment?), but not murder.*

*I have not attempted to verify exactly what charges might apply in what jurisdiction and how they differ in detailed meaning, but my general intent should be clear. (Here too, I am a layman.)

Of course, if he is acquitted, we can cue the next round of riots … (“Racist jury!”, “Racist justice system!”, etc.)

A few quotes from [1] that are highly relevant to the main topic and which well match my own concerns in the abstract*:

*I do not vouch for the details, e.g. what goes on with specifically “The Minneapolis Star Tribune”, and I do not agree with e.g. the over-generalization implied by “None” in the first quote.

None of the people watching the video had any awareness of any of the facts. And the media made sure they still have no awareness of the facts.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is no doubt afraid of (1) having all advertising pulled by businesses afraid that they will be burned out, (2) afraid of being burned down itself, and (3) afraid of being called racist by its employees which always has more force than when it comes from outside, and (4) the editors are afraid of being fired for being racist.

And then there are the many readers for whom it is of the utmost emotional importance that Floyd was murdered by white police for racist reasons. These readers are immune to all facts. One told me that fentanyl is not toxic. Another told me that it is not possible to overdose on fentanyl. Yet another told me that the medical examiner is white and his report is a racist report. Another asked me when did I become a racist.

What we are dealing with is not only the brainwashing of white students as to the evil origin of their country and their inherited guilt, but also their inability to think rationally and to make an objective conclusion from evidence. This was once the purpose of education, but no more. Today students are taught that their emotions are what is true, and their emotions are manipulated by the lies that they are taught.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 9, 2020 at 9:32 pm

Poor journalism and journalism as a source of fake news (The New York Times)

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A while back, I encountered a quite interesting article, in which a renowned* journalist deplores the The 2016 Election and the Demise of Journalistic Standards.

*One Michael Goodwin. While unknown to me, apparently he is “the chief political columnist for The New York Post” and “he worked for 16 years at The New York Times”, among other qualifications relevant for the current discussion.

He is, obviously correct, but too optimistic, e.g. in that he says “We were generally seen as trying to report the news in a fair and straightforward manner. Today, all that has changed. For that, we can blame the 2016 election or, more accurately, how some news organizations chose to cover it.”: The problem in lacking standards has existed for a very long time before that, although it is conceivable that the trend has been slower in the U.S. than in e.g. Germany and Sweden. If the public has acquired a greater awareness of this problem through the reporting around the 2016 election, then this is a good thing—but, make no mistake, many were aware long before that. My own first complaints in writing are likely more than ten years old by now, and I had been an unhappy camper for a long time before that.

A particularly interesting claim:

The [New York] Times’ previous reputation for having the highest standards was legitimate. Those standards were developed over decades to force reporters and editors to be fair and to gain public trust. The commitment to fairness made The New York Times the flagship of American journalism. But standards are like laws in the sense that they are designed to guide your behavior in good times and in bad. Consistent adherence to them was the source of the Times’ credibility. And eliminating them has made the paper less than ordinary. Its only standards now are double standards.

While I cannot vouch for his estimate of the past of this paper, the trend well matches the problems and trends that I have seen elsewhere. Cf. e.g. portions of the my discussion of the Relotius fraud or my suggestions for a new press ethics [1] (and a number of links from these pages). In fact, if his claims about The New York Times hold true, it can be argued that my new press ethics is on many points just a return to an older press ethics …

Earlier today, I found an article on Minding the Campus dealing with the New York Times, specifically a recent, highly problematic Pulitzer Prize awarded for its highly problematic “The 1619 Project”. As discussed in this article and several preceding on the same site, there are grave problems with historically incorrect claims that even fairly basic fact checking would have caught—and which appear to have been made out of a wish to push a certain political angle relating to slavery, exploitation of Blacks, and similar, beyond what is warranted by actual history. (The alternative is gross incompetence, which, obviously, can never be ruled out when it comes to journalists.)

This, too, plays in well with some of my past writings, including (again) [1] and a portions of a recent text on fake news and COVID-19. In particular, we have here publications that at least partially* are “fake news”, journalistic fraud, “bad science”, or whatnot, yet are not only accepted as “non-fake news”—but actually wins Pulitzers …

*I have not studied the project in detail, myself, and I do not rule out that there is considerable valuable and correct content (but neither do I rule out that there is not). The deficits repeatedly detailed by Minding the Campus are, however, sufficiently extensive and severe as to make the whole irredeemably bad journalism, the type that rightfully should get journalists fired and “you will never work in this town again”-ed. But instead, again, it wins prestigious prizes …

Written by michaeleriksson

May 11, 2020 at 8:03 pm

Hypocritical media

with 3 comments

I have already written about the Swedish media, its very hypocritical stance towards free speech, and its intellectually dishonest reporting. Today, I encountered an article series in DN, Sweden’s leading morning newspaper, that forces me to take up the question again:

While strictly filtering their own reporting through an overly politically-correct sieve, while writing with a clear gender-feministic bias, and while suppressing comments on their websites that are too deviating from the “correct” opinion, DN now launches at all out attack on the blogosphere and racism on the Internet.

Notably, this “racism” is often nothing but an irritation at the situation in Sweden, where a disproportionate number of crimes are committed by immigrants, where many immigrants live on Swedish welfare, and where many see a danger (whether real or not) that “the Swedish way” will go under. This is conceptually something different from racism and should be treated just like other political opinions: Fair evaluation, fair debate, and the right to free speech—not pre-conceived rejection, exclusion from the debate, and defamation. Even opinions that are, in a strict sense, racist are not automatically a cause to limit free speech—just as being a Creationist or Communist is not a reason to be forced to silence.

(Note that I am myself an immigrant, having lived in Germany for more than 12 years. My basic opinion on free migration is positive—and many of the views expressed e.g. on Fria Nyheter (cf. the above link) are incompatible with my own. The issue here is one of intellectual honesty and fairness, and the dangers of suppressing free speech and debate. This in particular as there are legitimate arguments both pro- and anti-immigration in Sweden’s case.)

Consider a few comments (from a few of the long articles, which are mostly more of the same):

Internet har blivit de främlingsfientliga gruppernas plattform. Bloggar, sociala medier och nyhetsartiklar svämmar över av rasistiska kommentarer.

(Internet has become the platform of the alien-hostile groups. Blogs, social media, and news articles [presumably referring to the comment functions of the traditional news papers] are flooded with racist comments.)

(http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/nyheter/internet-uppsving-for-ultrahogern-1.1075039e)

I have spent a very sizable part of my spare-time reading blogs in the last few weeks, and the statement is an exaggeration at best. As far as “racist” goes, it is down-right wrong: Most are opposed to the current rate of immigration or the behaviour of the immigrated population, but not racist. The same applies to my experiences of the Internet, in general, since 1994.

Nyhetssajter som DN.se är på inget sätt förskonade från rasistiska kommentarer. I allt större utsträckning tvingas DN.se stänga av kommentarsfunktionen eftersom de medverkande bryter mot lagen.

(News sites like DN.se are by no means protected from racist comments. To an increasingly higher degree, DN.se is forced to turn of the comment function, because the participants break the law.)

(Ibid.)

I have seen comments that were perfectly legal being deleted—including those that were merely critical of the news reporting, e.g. by mentioning biases shown by the journalist…

På DN.se gillar vi debatt – kärlek till det fria ordet är en förutsättning för att jobba på en plats där just det fria ordet är kärnan i verksamheten.

(At DN.se we like debate – love of the free word is a prerequisite to work in a place where the free word is the core of the business [occupation?].)

(http://www.dn.se/blogg/dnsebloggen/2010/04/09/sa-hanterar-dnse-problemet-med-rasistiska-kommentarer-6922e)

At best hypocrisy, at worst an outrageous lie: DN does not practice what it preaches—free speech applies only to journalists and those who do not deviate too far in opinion. Note the next quote.

Läsarkommentarerna på DN.se ska ligga inom ramen för vår policy, exempelvis plockar vi bort inlägg som är rasistiska eller sexistiska.

(Reader’s comments on DN.se must be within the limits of our policy, for example we will remove opinions that are racist and sexist.)

(Ibid.)

Apart from this policy, by its nature, being arbitrary, this explicitly rules out racist and sexist opinions. Notably, the definitions of “racist” and “sexist” in Sweden (like in the US) typically go beyond what is justified. It is not uncommon that negative statements about women and foreigners are called sexist or racist in a blanket manner—even when they happen to be true, respectively the maker of the statement has reasonable grounds to believe that the statement is true. The Swedish attitude towards sexism is notably of the same kind that got Lawrence Summersw thrown out of Harvard for stating established science.

Efter dödsmisshandeln av en 78-årig kvinna i Landskrona exploderade rasismen på nätet. Skitsnacket flödar, samtidigt görs så mycket information som möjligt tillgänglig för allmänheten – sann eller ej.

(After the man-slaughter of a 78 y.o. woman in Landskrona [apparently perpetrated by an immigrant over a parking disagreement] the racism on the net exploded. The bull shit [literally, “shit talk”] is flowing, at the same time as much information as possible is provided to the public – true or not.)

(http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/nyheter/mobben-har-flyttat-till-natet-1.1074484e)

I note that Swedish papers are rarely keen on limiting themselves to true information. Further, that they artificially (try to) limit the access to information. Further, that the omissions they make are often as bad as lies.

In the end, the relevant question to ask is “Why are these opinions voiced on blogs?”—with the, at least partial, answer “Because they are suppressed in conventional media.”. Worse, there is a fair chance that this suppression drives those with a limited negative view on foreigners, based on reason, in the arms of unreasonable movements, e.g. of the Neo-Nazi kind. (Which, I stress, also have a right to free speech—and should be met with arguments ad rem.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 9, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

The International Women’s Day…

with 4 comments

…has been a major annoyance to me for roughly the last week. The reason: Swedish newspapers.

While women have a very rough deal in many countries, and while an international women’s day still has legitimacy, the situation is very, very different in Sweden. Feminists (in particular gender-feminists) have had an enormous influence both on politics and on various media—and society has been transformed to such a degree that men are now (on average) the disadvantaged. All the while, pseudo-scientific “gender-studies” are given public financing, media keep spouting a “women are disadvantaged” message, and any man who dares to speak up for equal treatment (note: “equal treatment”—not “restoration of a medieval patriarchy and oppression of women”) risks being branded as a misogynist. Looking at my own early years, through the lens of my far more nuanced adult world-view, I would go as far as say that the joint effect of the school system and news reporting amounted to feminist indoctrination.

Even during a normal week, there are some feministic gripe being spread through the newspapers, topics not inherently related to men and women are given a “gender spin” (e.g. by high-lightning the proportion of women involved or by writing a separate article on the break-through this or that means for women), men and women are given different treatments for doing the same thing, etc. A typical example is that whenever women have less than 50 % of something (e.g. a particular job or award), the reporting goes in the direction of “failure”, “we have a long way to go”, “men must learn to leave space for women as their equals”, or similar—this completely disregarding actual accomplishments, who is interested in doing what, and other factors that legitimately affect the selection. No such statements are made when men are in the minority: On the contrary, when the University of Lund recently gave a few men preference based on their sex to compensate for a clear over-weight of women in their psychology program, the newspapers raised hell about women being discriminated against—and the courts found it to be illegal. Apparently, however, the same kind of discrimination, favouring women, is perfectly acceptable for “Militärhögskolan” (“Military College”, where future officers of the Swedish military are educated).

In the last week, this has taken so ridiculous proportions that SvD and DN (the two leading morning newspapers) had about as many articles on women, the Women’s Day, “gender issues”, and various artificially angled articles, as they did articles on other topics put together. (Looking at their respective website entry-points when it was at its worst; for several days it must have been roughly a quarter to a third of the total.)

In contrast, I did not even notice when the International Men’s Day (November 19) went by—in fact, I only became aware of it when looking up the Women’s Day in Wikipedia today…

Written by michaeleriksson

March 10, 2010 at 5:44 am

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Avatar, box office, and the development of records

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Comparing box office numbers is a tricky thing: US domestic box officee has Avatar as the clearly highest grossing film in raw dollars, but it reaches only place 15 in an inflation adjusted viewe—behind all three original Star Wars movies and Gone with the Wind, the 71. y.o. queen of the box office. (Retrieved on 2010-02-25; in both cases beware that box-office figures change over time.)

Still, such comparisons provide an excellent illustration of a common phenomenon that applies much more generally:

Records tend to be smashed, with the new record standing out for a long time, while the rest of the world slowly closes up, possibly even surpasses the record—and then the record is smashed again.

This is by no means an infallible rule, but surprisingly often, it is correct. (In particular, when correcting for e.g. phases of rapid natural growth due to changing circumstance or a period of weak records, say because a new technique or material has dramatically changed the circumstances).

Consider the list of Highest-grossing films (US and Canada)w provided by Wikipedia, and note how the number one spot tends to reside with a clear all-time leader, with the occasional series of several breakings leading up to a new clear number one. (This is even more obvious if we compensate for the extreme inflatione between Star Wars and E.T.)

A similar principle appears in the world-wide box office, but less clearly (and with a lot more leg-work).

For other examples look at Wikipedia’s Timeline of world’s tallest freestanding structuresw or some of the world record progressions in athletics present at http://www.athletix.org/e (but beware that what is considered a smashing in athletics is very different from in the box office; also note some counter-examples like the men’s high jump until Sotomayor). Alternatively, try your hand at an arcade game and note how your high score develops over time.

Written by michaeleriksson

February 25, 2010 at 1:03 am

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