Category Archives: Media

Filmmakers: Stop repressing folks who film cops


And an amen to that!

From the Guardian:

A group of more than 40 documentarians, including eight Oscar winners, has called on the justice department to investigate the “harassment” and “targeting” of citizen journalists who record episodes of police violence.

Noting that the citizens who filmed the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Freddie Gray and Eric Garner were all subsequently arrested, the film-makers wrote in an open letter that it is “vital we defend the rights of these individuals to use video as a means of criticizing unjust police activity.”

The undersigned filmmakers include Going Clear director Alex Gibney, Citizenfour director Laura Poitras, Cartel Land director Matt Heineman and The House I Live In director Eugene Jarecki.

“Mainstream media has paid ample attention to the images captured by these citizen journalists. Largely, it has ignored the methods in which they were recorded and distributed, and the penalties for those involved,” the letter states.

Like in other high profile police killings from the last two years, the cases of Sterling and Castile, which inspired nationwide protests throughout much of July, both gained attention largely through the release of bystander video.

Study: Partisan social media only confirm bias


Sure, we all knew it, but it’s nice to see confrmation.

From Ohio State University:

A new nationwide study suggests why heavy users of partisan media outlets are more likely than others to hold political misperceptions.

It’s not because the people using these sites are unaware that experts have weighed in on the issues. And using ideologically driven news only sometimes promotes misunderstanding of what the evidence says.

“Partisan online media drive a wedge between evidence and beliefs,” said R. Kelly Garrett, lead author of the study and professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“The more people use these sources, they more likely they are to embrace false claims, regardless of what they know about the evidence.”

Partisan media have effects on both Democrats and Republicans, the researchers found.

Strikingly, use of partisan media contributed to misperceptions above and beyond the influence of partisanship itself.

“What you believe isn’t just about what party you belong to. Where you get your news matters, too,” Garrett said.

Garrett conducted the study with two former graduate students: Brian Weeks, now with the University of Michigan, and Rachel Neo, now with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Their results appear online in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication [open access] and will be published in a future print edition.

Garrett said that the study’s focus on changes in media use and political beliefs over time gives the researchers a unique opportunity to understand how these two factors influence one another.

Data came from a three-wave panel study conducted during the 2012 presidential election. Participants were interviewed first during July-August 2012, a second time in August-October and a final time in November. A total of 652 nationally representative participants completed all three surveys.

All participants were asked about their knowledge of and beliefs about four different issues in the campaign, two of which favored Republicans and two that favored Democrats.

The well-documented falsehoods favored by Republicans were the claims that President Obama was not born in the United States and that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Democrat-favored misperceptions were that Mitt Romney actively managed Bain Capital when the firm started investing in companies that outsourced work abroad, and that there was an immediate drop in marine life diversity in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill.

The researchers measured how often participants visited websites characterized as favoring liberal positions, including the New York Times, MSNBC, Huffington Post, ThinkProgress and Daily Kos; and those favoring conservative positions, such as the Wall Street Journal, FOX News, Drudge Report, TownHall and Cybercast News Service.

One explanation for why partisan media encourage misperceptions is that their users are sheltered from the truth. For example, it is sometimes suggested that viewers build their own “echo chambers” where they never hear facts that contradict what they believe. But there is no evidence of that in this study, Garrett said.

“In fact, we found modest evidence that the opposite sometimes occurs – people who were heavy users of ideological news sites were more likely to say they’d heard evidence related to one of the issues,” he said.

There’s more! Continue reading

Media Muslim depictions foster intolerance


Back during our first year of posting here at esnl, we took an in-depth look at the demonization of Muslims in America’s films and television shows, the subject of the insightful documentary Reel Bad Arabs.

Back when esnl was a kid in the days just after World War II, screens large and small were dominated by villains who either spoke with German accents [“Vas ist das, dumbkopf?!“], pseudo-Japanese accents [You know very rittle, Amelican!”] or in Hollywood’s version of how Native Americans spoke [“How,” being the greeting, often followed by “Me big chief.”]

But these days, thanks to the massive blowback from the armed petro politics of Bush I-Clinton-Bush II-Obama/Clinton era, screens large and small are dominated by villains who pray toward Mecca and say things like “Time for you to die, infidel!

If you suspect that all those negative portrayals of Muslims might be having an adverse impact, you’d be correct.

From Texas A&M University:

What if most or all you know about Muslims is from what you see in the media — terrorists depicted in movies and TV shows, news reports on suicide bombings and mass shootings. What would your perception of Muslims be? Would you have stereotypical beliefs and negative emotions about them, and would you support policies that are harmful to them? Very likely, according to research co-authored by a Texas A&M University professor.

In “Reliance on Direct and Mediated Contact and Public Policies Supporting Outgroup Harm” [$6 read-only for 48 hours, $38 to read and print out], published in the Journal of Communication, Srividya Ramasubramanian, associate dean of liberal arts and professor of communication at Texas A&M, and her co-authors, used multiple studies, surveying non-Muslims on how much they relied on direct contact with Muslims versus media-based contact. Then they measured participants’ negative emotions toward Muslims, perceptions of Muslims as aggressive, support for civil restrictions against Muslims, and support for military action against Muslim countries.

“We observed that almost on a daily basis, media depictions of Muslims are extremely negative,” Ramasubramanian says. “Almost without exception, they are portrayed in stereotypical ways as violent, criminal and extreme. Islamophobia is on the rise and even some American political leaders have expressed hateful sentiments towards Muslims.”

The researchers found a correlation between people who rely on media depictions of Muslims and having negative attitudes, versus those with direct interactions who were less likely to view Muslims negatively.

“Our findings show that individuals who rely on the media for information on Muslims have greater negative emotions toward Muslims and increased perceptions of Muslims as aggressive, which in turn leads to support for civil restrictions against Muslims and military actions against Muslim countries,” says Ramasubramanian, who studies media psychology and cultural diversity, especially the effects of media stereotypes on users’ attitudes, emotions, and policy support towards marginalized groups.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

John Oliver nails the crisis in U.S. journalism


The latest edition of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver offers a most brilliant, incisive picture of everything that’s wrong with American journalism in our brave, new digital age.

Its both hilarious and tragic, and incorporates many of the themes we’ve been featuring here at esnl.

And most importantly, the segment hammers on one of our favorite themes: The bedrock roll played in all journalism by the community newspaper.

Oh, and, yeah, without that foundation, corruption flourishes.

The segment also features the Las Vegas Review Journal, the paper where we got our start in daily journalism, and Sam Zell, the former Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune owner [among others] who is now the biggest apartment owner here in Berkeley.

From Last Week Tonight:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Journalism

Program notes:

The newspaper industry is suffering. That’s bad news for journalists — both real and fictional.

Hollywood seeks a kill switch on your videos


Following up on today’s earlier Headlines of the day, Cory Doctorow of Boing Bong documents the latest corporate move to track and control your media use:

20 years ago, Congress ordered the FCC to begin the process of allowing Americans to buy their pay TV boxes on the open market (rather than every American household spending hundreds of dollars a year renting a trailing-edge, ugly, energy-inefficient, badly designed box that is increasingly the locus of networked attacks that expose both the home LAN and the cameras and mics that are more and more likely to be integrated into TVs and decoder boxes) — now, at last, the FCC is doing something about it.

Right from the get-go, the entertainment industry has hated this: the pay TV companies want to keep that sweet $200+/year/customer paycheck rolling in, and the studios want to keep DRM intact, allowing them to continue to restrict the features in your home theater, far beyond anything that copyright allows (and since removing DRM, even for legal reasons, is legally fraught, these restrictions gain the force of law, even though Congress has never passed a copyright law giving rightsholders the power to control those uses).

Now, the Copyright Office (one of the most thoroughly captured agencies in the federal government) has jumped into the fray, taking the legally nonsensical — and drastically anti-public-interest — position that copyright gives the rightsholder the power to minutely control the public’s conduct while they are in the presence of a copyrighted work.

For example, I was once in a digital TV DRM standards meeting where the MPA’s rep argued vehemently for a flag that would cause a set-top box to switch off any outputs that led to a remote screen (for example, a wireless retransmitter that let you watch TV that was being decoded in your living room on a set that was in your bedroom). He argued that “being able to watch a TV show in one room that’s being received in another room has value, and if it has value, we should be able to charge for it.” He made similar arguments about limiting the length of time that a viewer could pause a show, arguing that while a 15-minute pause to go to the bathroom could be had for free, longer pauses (say, to settle a crying baby, cook dinner, or helping your kids with their homework) should be monetizable.

This is the view that the Copyright Office has endorsed. It’s wrong as a matter of law — copyright does not give rightsholders the privilege of “minutely specifying” (Hollywood’s term!) the experience of viewing, listening, reading or playing. It’s also a disaster as a matter of public policy. The Copyright Office should know better.

Read the rest.

Headline of the day: Charges of battery to ensue?


From the Guardian [more here]:

Your battery status is being used to track you online

Battery status indicators are being used to track devices, say researchers from Princeton University – meaning warnings of privacy exposure have come to pass

UPDATE: Another piece of technology that’s equally ominous, via the Intercept:

Microsoft Pitches Technology That Can Read Facial Expressions at Political Rallies

  • At one exhibit, titled “Realtime Crowd Insights” a small camera scanned the room, while a monitor displayed the captured image. Every five seconds, a new image would appear with data annotated for each face – an assigned serial number, gender, estimated age, and any emotions detected in the facial expression. When I approached, the machine labeled me “b2ff,” and correctly identified me as a 23-year-old male.
  • It interpreted my facial expression as “neutral,” with a bit of “surprise.”
  • “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an Application Programming Interface (API), or a software tool that connects web applications to Microsoft’s cloud computing services. Through Microsoft’s emotional analysis API – a component of Realtime Crowd Insights – applications send an image to Microsoft’s servers. Microsoft’s servers then analyze the faces, and return emotional profiles for each.

Chart of the day: The message of the medium


From Tivo Research, partisan televisual preferences:

BLOG Pol TV