Friday, August 26, 2011

Stressed Buffet Offered by the Hurricane, News Quake

By Gary Berg-Cross

It’s not your parent’s news cycle. Between the jolt of Earthquakes to our attention, a slow moving hurricane that just might wash out our beach resorts or dismantle a major city we are in one of those super-busy News cycles. Add to this the Libyan situation which mixes war, tyrants, democracy and oil and it’s all too much making it feels like the cognitive counterpart to overeating at some junky food buffet. But its hard to resist watching what is unfolding, which seems as hard to resist fried onions.

It’s been a summer news buffet starting with politically high stakes showdowns like the US debt ceiling drama. At times we have been on watch for imminent implosions of such as with the Greek or Italian economy. Important topics, all too often covered in a sleazy, political way. We have become hyper-vigilant after our credit rating took a hit and people pointed heated fingers without much light. The series of sudden stock market plunges was juxtaposed with the creeping famine in the Horn of Africa. Any of these would normally have held the front pages and commentator attention for days, even weeks. But this buffet cycle they are pushed off by scandal stories like the Murdoch affair or the Norwegian massacre.

It’s a head spinning news overload. Stories step on each other so fast that reflective time is lacking to digest seed information that often rings of half truth and innuendo. There are so many channels of info that the low achieving popular push out the more thoughtful channels and
commentators. The result for the consumer is a stuffed head lacking in healthy, meaningful knowledge. Are they really cutting
the small budget of the National Endowment for the Arts & the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to reduce the deficit in a meaningful way? The effect is what one Guardian Reporter called “news twilight.” That’s a condition where there is little story follow up, so one cannot even be sure what has been confirmed and what has not.
Information, especially TV just spews by and there isn’t time to reel it back. So it just passes into memory as a fragment without analysis. I was reminded of a vivid version of this as we approach the 9/11 anniversary. Brewster Kahle (founder of the Internet Archive & the Open Content Alliance, a group of organizations committed to making a permanent, publicly accessible archive of digitized texts) was discussing their effort to building a library archive that allows people to go back and analyze and understand TV and Internet materials, that we can have critical thinking about what is broadcast on television or across the Web. One project is "Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive," which catalogs 3,000 hours of domestic and international TV news footage from 20 channels from the week around September 11, 2001. Kahle was asked about the snippet showing Palestinians celebrating on the streets after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Most of us didn’t hear or see Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian responding that;

Palestinians were totally shocked by what had happened. Israel immediately started showing footage, footage that were not related to jubilation by Palestinians about the innocent victims of September 11. The footage that they showed is when Palestinians, in 1993, went down the streets, gave the soldiers the olive branch, and they were in festivity that peace is around the corner. OK? So there was a mix-up there. It was not the Palestinians rejoicing what happened on September 11th.”

Which version is the truth? Honestly I don’t know. Kahle’s archive apparently doesn’t yet go back to 1993 on this item. It’s not easy to go back, go capturing information going forward is possible. It’s just going to be one giant archive.

I’m a fan of archiving, libraries, information and easy access to it. So I will be watching the path of Hurricane Irene. But unexamined medium without library discipline and critical analysis is often a poor diet. When the earthquake shook my world I got on Twitter to find out what the collective cloud of tweeters knew. It was a start and soon I had a link to a definitive USGS site for FACTS. I later read in WAPO that minutes after the quake there was an article about it posted on Wikipedia

Wikipedians needed just eight minutes to cooly consign the “2011 Virginia earthquake” to history — the elapsed time between the temblor and the first bulletin in the online encyclopedia.”

Not everything that was posted was accurate, since some had anti-Washington message, but the editors corrected it. Great!

Twitter and Wikipedia can be informative and empowering if not enlightening. But too much of contemporary Western societies now lives on a diet of information overload. This is stressful, reducing intellectual performance and resulting in poor judgments. These are symptoms of a new concern in the Information Age which some call cognitive overload. This is a term originally used to describe the state noticed earlier among computer workers. Now we are all highly multi-tasked and as a result experience distractions & stress. We all may experience a form of cognitive overload called “technostress” from the abundance of information that we can’t easily incorporate into our normal schedule. Everywhere there is information being thrown at us. The naked, human information processing system can’t keep up and adequately digest one tragedy before another
happens. It is compounded by new means of communicating which is
a major contributing factor to people’s super-saturation with vast amounts of information instantly served via Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Like all advances these offer their challenges and are part of an enlightened road we started on centuries ago. The original Encyclopedie was a step towards information overload by a quality team of writers. You could argue it put us on the road to information overload. But unlike our current media diet is was a very structured one bound together as they said with a progressive principle, “only by the general interests of humanity and the sense of mutual-good will.”


Explicit Atheist said...

"Which version is the truth? Honestly I don’t know."

Snopes comments on this false claim that the video did not depict some Palestinians celebrating the Sept. 11 attacks

The assertion that Israeli television news broadcast video of Palestinians celebrating a 1993 peace accord immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks on the Twin towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon in Virginia and misrepresented that 1993 video as depicting Palestinians celebrating the attacks is almost certainly false. But even if, in some single instance, some television station somewhere pulled an eight year old video and falsely displayed it as current news, the fact remains that there is video of Palestinians celebrating the attack,. Furthermore, that video is not Israeli unless you consider Reuters to be "Israeli". Here is a statement from Reuters about their video:

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Since archiving is inadequate and the context of supposed films not well documented we are left with impressions formed from a series of counter claims by witnesses. Wikipedia has one:

"Annette Krüger Spitta of the ARD's (German public broadcasting) TV magazine Panorama states that footage not aired shows that the street surrounding the celebration in Jerusalem is quiet. Furthermore, she states that a man in a white T-shirt incited the children and gathered people together for the shot. The Panorama report, dated September 20, 2001, quotes Communications Professor Martin Löffelholz explaining that in the images one sees jubilant Palestinian children and several adults but there is no indication that their pleasure is related to the attack. The woman seen cheering (Nawal Abdel Fatah) stated afterwards that she was offered cake if she celebrated on camera, and was frightened when she saw the pictures on television afterward."

Explicit Atheist said...

There were also spontaneous public celebrations in Nablus, Ramallah, and Lebanon, according to eyewitness journalists from AP and Reuters, some of whom are themselves Palestinians. This is multiple eye-witnessed, well documented, beyond any reasonable question, a historical fact. In my view it is nuts, I mean really crazy, to raise questions about this as if there is any justification to have any doubts. Here is a word for word copy of an AP story:

Bin-Laden Poster Seen at Gaza Rally

The Associated Press
Friday, Sept. 14, 2001; 6:09 p.m. EDT

JERUSALEM –– About 1,500 Palestinians, many supporters of the Islamic militant group Hamas, marched in a Gaza Strip refugee camp on Friday, burning Israeli flags and carrying a large poster of Osama bin Laden, who has been named as a key suspect in this week's terror attacks in the United States.

After the rally, plainclothes Palestinian policemen questioned several journalists, including staffers of foreign news agencies, and confiscated videotape and film as well as camera equipment. An Associated Press Television News video was among the materials taken, and an AP photographer was warned by officials not to publish pictures of the bin-Laden poster.

AP protested and demanded return of the video and other material.

The journalists were told police would review the material before deciding whether to release it.

Officials of Yasser Arafat's self-rule government refused to comment on the record and did not respond immediately to AP's protest.

The Palestinian police said in a statement that the rally in the Nusseirat refugee camp took place without a permit. "The Palestinian police confiscated media material which documented illegal acts," the statement said.

The Palestinian Authority has sought to prevent coverage of demonstrations in support of those who carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

Earlier this week, Palestinian police stopped camera teams and photographers from covering a rally in the West Bank town of Nablus in which several thousand Palestinians celebrated the attacks in the United States. Palestinian officials said the demonstration did not represent widespread Palestinian opinion.

Friday's march in the Nusseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip was led by supporters of Hamas, a militant group that has claimed responsibility for suicide attacks against Israel. Demonstrators burned several Israeli flags and effigies of Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

A large Osama bin Laden painting was carried by two men in the crowd. Bin Laden, an exiled Saudi millionaire, has been named by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell as a key suspect in Tuesday's terror attacks.