Jul 25 2014

A personal view of social media as a battlefield in Ukraine (Guest blog) #PolisSummer

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‘URGENT-Malaysian Aircraft Crashed in Ukrainian Territory occupied by separatist groups. More to follow’.

That message from BBC notification service stared at me from my phone screen and I stared back, rereading it for 15 times before my brain converted those horrific words into meaning. I did not believe it… Notification message services failure, miscommunication on the grounds, traffic controller misinformation – anything, but the truth, but that was it.

This article by Polis Summer School student Kateryna Bakulina @bakulinak

After 3 hours my Facebook newsfeed offered me a great variety of versions of what happened, who to blame and how it affects global politics.

One suggested that the Ukrainian army was trying to get President Putin’s jet and by mistake took down passenger airplane. One of the other flagrant conspiracy theories, which included direct speeches from eye-witnesses who live in the area where wrecks were found, saying that bodies did not smell fresh enough and this might be Malaysian Airline Plane 370, that disappeared earlier this year.

I am now relatively immune to TMI (Too Much Information!) of any kind. Coming from Kiev and mentally surviving the Ukrainian revolution from a distance has helped me to grow some resistance to constant flows of the most horrifying information and gruesome lies. The coverage of MH17 was nothing new. Neither in the screaming hatred from Facebook newsfeeds nor in unreasoned claims and ridiculous standpoints of both Ukrainian and Russian national media.

Everyone tried their best to accuse involved party they despise the most. The rational of Ukrainian and Russian main TV channels and publications are easily understood. They are in information war for the last 6 months and there is no better time for counter-offensive than moment of crisis and a factual vacuum.

One of the incidents is a photo of separatist holding Teddy Bear, described as a ‘trophy’

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 08.02.54

Western Media resorted to cheap snapshot reporting, taking the pictures out of context and playing with feelings of victims` families.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 08.01.09Not surprisingly people on social media reacted negatively to that.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 08.00.56In fact, he just picked it up to show to the journalist and then gave his sincere Orthodox  condolences by crossing himself – see this video for the full context of what was an act of sympathy not cruelty (starts at 33 seconds):

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 08.06.09

From personal pages Facebook users poured interpretation of the catastrophe, if they were part of investigative groups and had personal access to black boxes.  Ukrainians were shouting   ‘Putin is a new bin Laden’ , while Russians relocated  ‘the axis of evil’ in the northern hemisphere.

Everyone defended  their versions, blindly repeating the same ‘facts’ , dismissing any opposite thought , dialogues in the comments looked  like a conversation between the deaf and  the dumb. It seemed that everyone already forgot about the extent of the manmade catastrophe and recurred to victims just when there was no other counter-argument rather than accusing someone of callousness.

The search for truth turned into the carnage  and social media was the battlefield. Giving voices to people , social media platforms became a double edge sword, providing space for dialogue, on the one side , and clashing people, on another. More voices should mean diversity , but , unfortunately it does not mean that they do not jumble into cacophony.

Obviously , you can`t blame social media for polarising society, it is ‘us’ and how we use the supposed benefits of technological age and to take most of it in our search for truth , struggle for democracy or fight for change we need to keep up the dialogue , not try to out-scream each other.

This article by Polis Summer School student Kateryna Bakulina @bakulinak

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Jul 23 2014

“Stronger than corruption, mistakes and lies”: being political and right wing in France (guest blog)

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“You know for a right-leaning person, you are surprisingly nice”.

If I had been given one euro for every single time I heard this sentence, today I would probably be a billionaire. I am French. I am nineteen. I am right-leaning. And this simple fact has caused me many problems, created me many enemies amongst my peers, and sometimes lost me friends.

[This article by Polis Summer School student Flavie Philipon]

Although France is a nation that is the home to various political beliefs, it remains the land of the 1789 revolution that suppressed the monarchy, that gave power to the people, thus a country where the Socialist Party – which is currently in power – embodies the most popular values. Continue reading

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Jul 22 2014

“Time to discuss”: a former US intelligence analyst says that Snowden and Manning were right (guest blog) #PolisSummer

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This article by Polis Summer School student and former Marine Corps signals intelligence (SIGINT) analyst Derek Matthews.

The intelligence community is bound by a code of silence and not the unspoken kind. Every individual goes through a thorough background check. When I was in boot camp, an FBI agent was flown to my hometown to interview my friends and family to see if I harbored any anti-government sentiments. After I cleared my investigation I was brought into a room with no windows and I had to leave my phone outside.

They played a video that explained that I would be entrusted with secrets that maintained the nation’s security, secrets I would most likely have to carry to my grave. I signed documents that explained I could be sent to military prison if I disclosed classified information to anyone without a clearance, or discussed classified material with anyone outside of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), even if they also had a clearance. Continue reading

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Jul 22 2014

Between personal and public interests: a look back at the impact of Snowden and WikiLeaks (guest blog)

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This article by Polis Summer School student Luciana Amaral.

Phone tracking systems, computer hacking, surveillance state and social network spying. It looks like the plot of a science fiction movie, but according to Eric King, Privacy International’s Head of Research, at the LSE Polis Summer School, this has somehow become the reality in many countries around the world.

The lack of privacy issue has come back to headlines after American former National Security Agency system analyst Edward Snowden delivered documents that revealed a worldwide surveillance apparatus to journalist Glenn Greenwald, at that time at British newspaper The Guardian, and filmmaker Laura Poitras. Continue reading

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Jul 21 2014

Copy Approval – a clash of journalism and citizen ethics between Sweden and Britain?

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”The story took a year to work out. It was never told before, less so published. The subject was sensitive and the people interviewed were vulnerable, so I had to compromise a little.”

What compromising did Sarah Morrison, then a journalist at The Independent have to do? What ethical short-cut did this morally-motivated reporter (who now works for Global Witness, a human rights NGO) have to take to secure the first every feature length story ever told in British mainstream media about intersex women?

Actually, very little, from my point of view.

(This article by Swedish journalist and Polis Summer School student Rakel Lennartsson @RakelEvaMaria ) Continue reading

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Jul 20 2014

“Gunman at Yale” So worth tweeting! How ‘citizen journalists’ can turn a drama into a crisis on social media

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Last year, on the first day of Thanksgiving break, I was sleeping in my dorm room at Yale when I got waken up by a phone call from school: there was allegedly a gunman on campus. That was only three months after I went to the United States, and I couldn’t believe what I used to see on TV was actually happening around me.

This article by Polis Summer School student Jingyu Yuan.

Several minutes after the campus-wide call, two close friends of mine came to hide in my room and we double checked that we locked the door. About ten minutes later, I saw an NBC truck parking right outside my dorm room, which arrived roughly at the same time as the SWAT team. This was when we realized the seriousness of this matter. Continue reading

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Jul 17 2014

The beautification of photojournalism

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This article by Polis Summer School student Aylin Elci.

As the cliche goes, “a photo is worth a thousand words”, but what are consequences of using “pretty”, “highly aesthetic” or “artistic” photos to convey the reality of war?

In 1972, Pulitzer-prize-awardee-to-be Nick Ut immortalized a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running away from a cloud of napalm in a world-renowned photo. At that time, press coverage of war had little or no military restrictions and to the despair of some – the American government – war was reported unreservedly.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 23.11.36

Continue reading

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Jul 16 2014

War reporting from afar: covering the covert drone war

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This post is by Polis Summer School Student Carmen Zheng

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2 28 15 AM

Source: the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Prior to the 1990-91 Gulf War, a journalist coined the term The Powell Doctrine, named after then Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell. Vowing to utilize every resource and tool available against the enemy to minimize United States casualties, The Powell Doctrine has been successful in being the driving force behind the U.S. military’s usage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), also known as drones. The controversy over UAV’s is that drone strikes result in excessive collateral damage, sometimes killing more innocent civilians than military combatants at once. Continue reading

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Jul 11 2014

Stopping everyday sexism

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everydaysexismThis article by Polis Summer School student David Winter.

While studying in London I have witnessed multiple instances of ‘everyday sexism’. The first was the use of the ‘c’ word, in passing, by an American male while out for drinks. This was overheard by a female in the group, who asked him not to use that word. Sadly, soon after he did, repeatedly. Needless to say, the female was disheartened by his choice. Later that night I overheard one of his friends say that she should not have been upset by his using this word and that he did not like her because of it. Continue reading

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Jul 10 2014

The secret to good political reporting: patience

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Report by Polis Summer School student Rayhan Uddin

Walking the corridors of Parliament, brushing shoulders with politicians and hacks, coffees and lunches with highly influential people, receiving inside information from anonymous sources to earn yourself the political scoop of the day. It’s the stuff of aspiring journalists’ dreams. However, as Isabel Hardman explained in her lecture to the LSE Polis Summer School , being a successful lobby journalist doesn’t happen overnight. The trade requires great patience: both in the journey to becoming a political hack, and having made it.

Isabel Hardman, Assistant Editor, The Spectator

Isabel Hardman, Assistant Editor, The Spectator

Learning to report

Hardman began her journalism career at Inside Housing, a niche weekly magazine that specialises in the UK social housing sector. Though not the most glamorous of jobs, she said the experience was invaluable in teaching her the necessary skills to report well. Hardman learnt how to interpret and make stories out of technical data and government documents, a skill which is very useful to her now at the Spectator. Indeed when asked about breaking into journalism, Hardman suggested that it’s best to search for jobs and internships in trade magazines or local publications, instead of diving straight into the large national newspapers (where interns or novices may simply get lost in the scale of things and end up making the coffee). Continue reading

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