Category Archives: Open Government

Bamboozled no more…..

If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.  We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.  The bamboozle has captured us.  It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.  Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.  ~ Carl Sagan

One way to come to grips with the challenge We the People face at this juncture is to frame the information crisis in an alternate context.  This repot by First Draft News is a useful tool to reorder the mental format for thinking.  One year into the Era of Our Discontent, we struggle mightily to recognize the complexity of information disorder, to recognize that the very premise is “disorder.”  We fail to recognize – or perhaps admit – that the complexity of information disorder online” starts from the premise of “disorder”.  Consider this:  https://firstdraftnews.org/coe_infodisorder/

The struggle to unravel the intent and complexities of our information state is a shared challenge:

We the People face today’s challenge with both heads and hearts.  Take just a minute to heed the words and appreciate the attitudes of these wise gentleman as they speak with both:  https://vimeo.com/253191   To read their position paper on Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression click here: https://jmp.princeton.edu/statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

We the People face the challenge to aim high

Tolerance is another word for indifference. W. Somerset Maugham

The spirit of tolerance, though true and essential, is a vague concept. I have always grumbled – sometimes raged – at the word and concept of “tolerance.”  In most situations and on most issues I care too much to passively tolerate.

The challenge we face today demands more energy, more passion.  Today’s challenge is to embrace, to work shoulder to shoulder, to share the values, the burden and the benefits of the society and the culture envisioned by our founders.  It’s the principle we as Americans have always celebrated with pride.  We honor the fact that no individual, even the president, is the center of the universe.  The core value of the democracy we share rests on the stated principle that it’s not “me” but “us”.

The Constitution goes so far as to spell out just how we go about achieving the goal of creating and living in a democracy.  As a matter of fact, the Constitution is fairly explicit about the presumption –- and commitment — that We the People are responsible for making the democratic system function.

The good news buried in today’s political debacle is that the challenge to the democracy evokes the best from the nation’s residents and, in many cases, from the institutions that We the People have created over time.  As we practice the fine art of crafting an enduring democracy we are increasingly aware of the means at hand – the law, the press, open elections, a just judicial system, free speech, history, education, technology (managed with care.)

At the same time, we have come to understand the sophisticated and systemic ways in which any of these can be “weaponized.”  Experience is teaching us the subtle in which malevolent manipulation of the tools can undermine democracy processes and principles.   Over time we have grown to realize the extent to which accepted democratic institutions and structures can be shaped to create a society and a culture that we cannot and will not tolerate.  We know in our souls and feel in our hearts that we must join forces to resist with the fierce persistence and unflinching integrity democracy demands.

Once we get outside of our own shadow we begin to comprehend, if dimly, that the whole of our democratic society really is greater than the sum of the parts.  We can no longer be indifferent….

Our Founders always wondered about how long it would last. The price of liberty is everlasting vigilance. You’ve got to be on your guard every minute or you will lose it.  Michael Novak

 

 

Truth ain’t goin’ away – So what do we do now?

A year ago this weekend we were inaugurating the 45th President of the US.  We were marching with pride in the Women’s March and girding our loins for what was to come.  A year ago I posted these comparatively hopeful comments. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/information-and-media-not-weapons-but-tools/  Somehow I thought we would recognize and eschew the attack on truth and facts and informed citizenship that was to follow.

As the weeks and months passed, reality happened and hope faded with each proclamation, every disruption of information integrity, every political appointment, every charge that the press is the “enemy of the people,” every assault to truth that emanated from the Oval Office and environs.  The more I observed the more I admitted what a well-oiled army of deconstructionists had invaded the nation.  They came with a diabolical action plan brilliantly designed to attack the very essence of an informed democracy.  As a lifetime protagonist for a free press, an informed public and the fundamental principle of truth, I was and am cut to the proverbial quick.

In truth, hope faltered.  Though I kept writing blog posts, they were sappy – most never posted. Posted blogs were generally limited to calendars of events, posts that passed on information produced by organizations and individuals whose words and acts were braver and more articulate than my own.  Mine was silent resistance here to the insidious and methodical attack on truth.   I started to characterize this blog as Moping Around with Mary……

The anniversary of the inauguration prodded me back to Poking.  It’s clear that industry is not going to honestly address, much less solve, the onslaught of alternative facts, propaganda, foreign interference or any other strategy that cuts into corporate profits.  Consider the latest brain burst from Mark Zuckerberg: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/1611a52828318ba7

Clearly, it cannot remain to the gurus of corporate America to lead the crusade for truth.

And so I’m back to thinking and writing,  sharing on this blog, more about how it remains to us as thoughtful individuals, as institutions and as a society to “speak truth to power.”  It takes work and guts.  And yet, as the great philosopher Elvis Presley who advised us that “truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.”  Though I’ll continue calendar highlights that might fall through the cracks, I’ll go back to more thought posts about basic principles of truth, the right and responsibility to know, freedom of the press and the insidious peril to this democracy.

Words matter.  Truth matters.  Ideas and opinions matter.  Inspired by the weekend Women’s March I’m determined to stop moping and return to poking around and speaking out.  My hope is to “go high” with renewed energy and commitment to truth and to the ways in which the press, education, libraries, civic discourse and individual engagement and action can keep hope alive.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. ~~Desmond Tutu

 

Newspapers + Archives = Access

National Newspaper Week cannot be crammed into just seven days.  The deeper you delve, the more resources come to the surface. National Newspaper Week is also co-terminus and a propitious link with American Archives Month commemorated in October.

During this week we celebrate the symbiotic relationship. Newspapers and archives are links in an information chain on which our search for truth depends.  Newspapers determine and share the stories; archivists assure that the words, the statistics, the opinions are accessible over time.

Though newspapers and archives create and preserve the record it is the skill and commitment of those who do the work of each institution that we honor.  Now, more than ever, our focus is on the information chain as an interconnected whole – even more, we focus on the evolving and expanding role of journalists and archivists who work in tandem to facilitate the free flow of information and ideas that fuel this democracy.

To underscore the collaborative role of these institutions, on Day #7 of National Newspaper Week and as we look ahead to National Archives Month the focus is on newspaper archives.

Clearly, the digital age has transformed the process of archiving of newspapers.  As a result, strategies are in flux; at times there is duplication; at other times there are gaps. The challenge for professionals and the public is to remain positive and persistent.  Above all, information seekers need to know that the intellectual process of preserving the record and making it accessible is a human endeavor. Archivists, librarians, scholars, and others are on hand or online to guide the individual search.

Some starting point for searching newspapers – Please note that these are starting points only – guides to other resources

MINNESOTA NEWSPAPERS – RESOURCES

MN Historical Society Newspaper Hub – the starting point which will identify and link to relevant files: http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/hub

http://sites.mnhs.org/library/content/newspaper-collection

http://mnnews.com/index.php/mn-newspaper-websites/

Minnesota Newspaper Directory:  http://mnnews.com/index.php/mn-newspaper-websites/

Minnesota Newspaper Association. (mna.org)  Membership organization that maintains listing for member organizations http://mna.org/newspaper-directory/

Listing of local newspapers (incomplete) https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&tbm=lcl&q=newspapers+minnesota+local&oq=newspapers+minnesota+local&gs_l=psy-ab.12…0.0.0.183480.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0….0…1..64.psy-ab..0.0.0….0.ujHrTkXHq8c#rlfi=hd:;si:;mv:!1m3!1d1055050.836006896!2d-94.0380186!3d44.591910049999996!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i635!2i557!4f13.1;tbs:lrf:!2m1!1e2!2m1!1e3!3sIAE,lf:1,lf_ui:1

RELATED RESOURCES –  Examples

http://www.loc.gov/ndnp/
National Digital Newspaper Program
A partnership between the Library & the National Endowment for the Humanities

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/about

University of Minnesota Libraries – Archives http://archives.lib.umn.edu/search utf8=&op%5B%5D=&q%5B%5D=minnesota+newspapers&limit=&field%5B%5D=&from_year%5B%5D=&to_year%5B%5D=&commit=Search

INTERNATIONAL RESOURCES – EXAMPLES ONLY

http://www.onlinenewspapers.com – international

https://www.thenews.com.pk  –   International

https://elephind.com –   historic digitized newspaper archives

NOTES:  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trendy tools to translate post-truth terms

Learning a new language is always a challenge.  When the language to be acquired is designed to confuse and conquer, the task requires readily accessible  reference resources that clarify definitions and suggest appropriate usage.  The challenge is confounded when the language is repurposed with wild abandon.

Fortunately, lexicographers and wordsmiths are at the ready to capitalize on the opportunity presented by a newly contrived language, particularly when the use of that language is designed to misinform the public and to weaponize the native tongue.

Following is a listing of user aids that have been hastily crafted to clarify terminology currently in popular use in the conduct of political, governmental, and financial discourse:

Alt-right glossary https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alt-right_glossary

‘Post-truth’ named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/15/post-truth-named-word-of-the-year-by-oxford-dictionaries

Your post-election glossary, from ‘alt-right’ to ‘fake news’ http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/16/us/post-election-glossary-trnd/index.html

Donald Trump Glossary https://qz.com/845040/donald-trump-glossary/

Glossary for the age of alternative facts: https://www.thefactinista.com/pages/glossary-for-the-age-of-alternatie-facts

The 2016 Presidential Election: A devil’s glossary https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/the-2016-presidential-election-a-devils-glossary/505901/

Post-truth, propaganda, and bullshit: a glossary https://senseandreference.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/post-truth-propaganda-and-bullshit-a-glossary/

Cyberbullying Glossary, Cyberbullying Research Center https://cyberbullying.org/glossary

What They Say vs. What They Mean: An Inside-the-Beltway Glossary.  http://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/09/28/what-the-say-cs-what-they-mean-inside-beltway-glossary

Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and   murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.~ George Orwell

Weaponization of information-Can truth survive?

Long ago and far away a library educator friend published an early info age book that promoted and explained the role of the library as an access point to information useful to the citizen activist.  Her intent was positive, to explain to activists the potential of reliable, authoritative, timely information that would affirm and validate a proposed action.  When her publisher suggested the title “Armed for action” she objected to the militaristic tone….

Now I realize that my friend was prematurely wise to eschew the “armed” image.  In this age information has morphed into the transportable  “weapon of choice”  to foment political action.  Though weaponizing information is usually attributed the Russians it is important to acknowledge that Putin’s tactics are not unique…

To be certain of the implicit evil of weaponized information, I checked with Merriam-Webster to affirm that use of the word “weapon” definitely connotes negative intent: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weapon

In truth, information is simply a resource, the user determines the use… My friend’s benevolent theme may seem naïve now – though just when information deserves no blame for the fact that it’s been weaponized.  Though history is replete with lies, the digital age opens the floodgates to their unfettered flow and proliferation.

And so we are drowning in a flood of commentaries on the weaponization of information; a smattering of opinion pieces are listed below.

Okay, information can be used as a weapon.  And yet the essential power lies in the receiver of information who is challenged to think and act according to the content and source of the information.  The “armor” we need today rests with the individual or institution that will take or resist  action based on the weaponized information.

As a society, we are called upon to grapple with the challenge to make “critical thinking skills” the norm—or in today’s parlance, how do we “normalize” critical thinking…  I prefer, and frequently quote,  my good friend Ruth Myers who would often ask, How do we inoculate learners with a healthy dose of “perceptive paranoia?”

The Founders, influenced by Jefferson,  envisioned a democracy founded on citizen access to and wise assessment of information.  Knowing this, we should focus not so much on the weaponry as on how we harness the power of good information (aka truth) to support this democracy.  In a word, how do we sustain a political system based on truth, and arm “we the people” with the power to recognize bald-faced lies when they are aimed at us with malicious intent.

RELATED READ: Social Media Helped Trump Win By ‘Dumbing Down the World,’ Twitter Founder Says  https://www.printfriendly.com/print?url_s=uGGCF_~_PdN_~_PcS_~_PcSJJJmpBzzBAqErnzFmBEt_~_PcSArJF_~_PcS

Tomorrow’s journalists – challenges, rights, and great promise

The First Amendment is not so construed as to award merit badges for intrepid but mistaken or careless reporting. Misinformation has not merit in itself; standing alone it is antithetical to the purposes of the First Amendment as the calculated lie… The sole basis for protecting publishers who spread false information is that otherwise the truth would too often be suppressed. Supreme Court Justice Byron White

As often happens thinking and learning about a topic leads me to deep thoughts on where we go from here, how we are the creators of our own future.  Thus, reflecting on a recent post about Constitution Day (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/we-the-people-celebrate-constitution-day-by-learning/) led me to reflect on our role as individuals on whom the Founding Fathers depended to meet their high expectations – specifically, 21st Century economic, technological and political  challenges that re-order the historic relationship between government, the press – and “we the people.”

As is their way, my thoughts turned to what comes next – Who and what forces will work to preserve the inalienable right to know?  What are characteristics, the status, the working environment of the nation’s journalists?   And thus I found myself wondering what are the influences on aspiring journalists, what is their training, and what will lure a fledging seeker of truth to risk a life as a professional journalist?

Clearly, these concerns were shared by those far wiser:

Moreover, the Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Committee has produced a resource guide specifically related to Constitution Day 2017. http://jeasprc.org/2017-constitution-day-lessons/.  In fact. the Scholastic Press Rights Committee is an information mecca of essentials.  The Committee has published a video intro and links to new materials, lessons learned and timely resources on the rights of student journalists.

Other timely resources include these:

  • An article by Matthew Smith on the “importance of independent active press” focuses on the Constitutional rights aspect of student journalism focuses on the local scene: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2016/05/06/your-right-to-know-state-should-protect-student-journalists/
  • The Journalism Education Association report entitled “Promoting Scholastic Press Rights Legislation: A blueprint for success” is exactly what the title suggests, a comprehensive blueprint for action. This is thorough and timely review of the rights of student journalists, steps to be taken in a student press rights action plans, related organizations that support student journalists’ rights, sample laws and recommended language. One essential feature of this resource is an excellent listing of related organizations, historical information about past legislation, and the names of experts who can offer opinions about legislative language.
  • The JEA also hosts a robust website, http://jeasprc.org that features a unique “Tools of Truth Landing Page” that covers current topics related to student journalists’ rights  http://jeasprc.org/tools-of-truth-landing-page/
  • The Student Press Law Center, established in the post-Watergate era, now headquartered in Virginia, focuses on the legal rights of high school and college journalists: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Student+Press+Law+Center&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
  • The National Scholastic Press Association (http://studentpress.org/nspa/), located near the campus of the University of Minnesota, “promotes the standards and ethics of good journalism as accepted and practiced by print, broadcast and electronic media in the United States,”

Constitution Day 2017 inspires us to take a long view of a free press.  To do so demands that we get a better sense of what’s happening in student journalism.  Some indicators are close at hand:

In high schools and colleges throughout the nation young journalists are tackling major issues of social justice, civil rights, press freedom and the right to know.  Their rights demand attention and deserve recognition.

“I became a journalist is to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”Henry Luce

IMPORTANT UPDATE: https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/aug/28/Student-Journalist-FOIA-Grant/