The real news on ‘fake news’: politicians use it to discredit media, and journalists need to fight back


Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Andrea Carson, La Trobe University and Kate Farhall, RMIT University

During the 2019 election, a news story about the Labor Party supporting a “death tax” – which turned out to be fake – gained traction on social media.

Now, Labor is urging a post-election committee to rule on whether digital platforms like Facebook are harming Australian democracy by allowing the spread of fake news.

While the joint standing committee on electoral matters (JSCEM) will not report until July next year, our latest research finds that politicians are key culprits turning the term “fake news” into a weapon.

Following the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, we investigated if Australian politicians were using the terms “fake news”, “alternative facts” and “post-truth”, as popularised by Trump, to discredit opponents.




Read more:
Merchants of misinformation are all over the internet. But the real problem lies with us


With colleagues Scott Wright, William Lukamto and Andrew Gibbons, we investigated if elite political use of this language had spread to Australia. For six months after Trump’s victory, we searched media reports, Australian parliamentary proceedings (Hansard), and politicians’ websites, press releases, Facebook and Twitter communications.

We discovered a US contagion effect. Australian politicians had “weaponised” fake news language to attack their opponents, much in the way that Trump had when he first accused a CNN reporter of being “fake news”.

President-elect Donald Trump refused to take a question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta, calling him fake news in January 2017.

Significantly, these phrases were largely absent in Australian media and parliamentary archives before Trump’s venture into politics.

Our key findings were:

  • Conservative politicians are the most likely users of “fake news” language. This finding is consistent with international studies.

  • Political users were either fringe politicians who use the term to attract more media coverage, or powerful politicians who exploit the language to discredit the media first, and political opponents second.

  • The discourse of fake news peaks during parliamentary sitting times. However, often journalists introduce it at “doorstops” and press conferences, allowing politicians a free kick to attack them.

  • ABC journalists were the most likely targets of the offending label.

  • Concerningly, when the media were accused of being fake news, they report it but seldom contest this negative framing of themselves, giving people no reason to doubt its usage.

Here is one example of how journalists introduce the term, only to have it used against them.

Journalist: Today, we have seen a press conference by President Trump where he has discussed at length this issue as fake news. Prime Minister Turnbull do you believe there is such a thing as fake news?

Prime minister: A very great politician, Winston Churchill, once said that politicians complaining about the newspapers, is like a sailor complaining about the sea — there’s not much point. That is the media we live with.

This kind of sequence suggests journalists play a role in driving and reinforcing fake news discourse to the likely detriment of trust in media.

One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts provides the most extreme example of the weaponisation of fake news discourse against mainstream media:

Turns out the ABC, in-between spewing fake news about our party, ruined ANZAC day for diggers… . The ABC are a clear and present threat to democracy.

Roberts was not alone. Politicians from three conservative parties claimed the ABC produced fake news to satisfy so-called leftist agendas.

What we discovered is a dangerous trend: social media users copy the way in which their politicians turn “fake news” against media and spread it on the digital platforms.

Despite this, our findings, published in the International Journal of Communication, offer hope as well as lessons to protect Australian democracy from disinformation.

First, our study of politicians of the 45th Parliament in 2016 shows it was a small, but noisy minority that use fake news language (see table below). This suggests there is still time for our parliamentarians to reverse this negative communication behaviour and serve as public role models. Indeed, two Labor politicians, Bill Shorten and Stephen Jones, led by example in 2017 and rejected the framing of fake news language when asked about it by journalists.

figure 1: Total number of instances of fake news discourse use between 8 November 2016 to 8 May 2017 by politician. N = 22 MPs; N =152 events. *MPs who use fake news discourse to refute it rather than allege it.
Authors

Second, we argue the media’s failure to refute fake news accusations has adverse consequences for public debate and trust in media. We recommend journalists rethink how they respond when politicians accuse them of being fake news or of spreading dis- and misinformation when its usage is untrue.

Third, academics such as Harvard’s Claire Wardle argue that to address the broader problem of information disorders on the web, we all should shun the term “fake news”. She says the phrase:

is being used globally by politicians to describe information that they don’t like, and increasingly, that’s working.

On the death tax fake news during the 2019 election, Carson’s research for a forthcoming book chapter found the spread of this false information was initiated by right-wing fringe politicians and political groups, beginning with One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts and Pauline Hanson.

One Nation misappropriated a real news story discussing inheritance tax from Channel Seven’s Sunrise program, which it then used against Labor on social media. Among the key perpetrators to give attention to this false story were the Nationals’ George Christensen and Matt Canavan. As with the findings in our study, social media users parroted this message, further spreading the false information.




Read more:
How fake news gets into our minds, and what you can do to resist it


While Labor is urging the JSCEM to admonish the digital platforms for allowing the false information about the “death tax” to spread, it might do well to reflect that the same digital platforms along with paid television ads enabled the campaigning success of its mischievous “Mediscare” campaign in 2016.

In a separate study, Carson with colleagues Shaun Ratcliff and Aaron Martin, found this negative campaign, while not responsible for an electoral win, did reverse a slump in Labor’s support to narrow its electoral defeat.

Perhaps the JSCEM should also consider the various ways in which our politicians employ “fake news” to the detriment of our democracy.The Conversation

Andrea Carson, Associate Professor at La Trobe University. Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy, La Trobe University and Kate Farhall, Postdoctoral research fellow, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Supermarkets are not milking dairy farmers dry: the myth that obscures the real problem


Gary Mortimer, Queensland University of Technology

Australia’s federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has called for a boycott of supermarket-branded milk. He is angry about lack of support for a “milk levy” of 10 cents a litre wanted by the dairy industry to support drought-stricken farmers.

Fellow National Party colleagues have called for nothing less than a royal commission into the supermarkets’ support for farmers. Nationals leader, and deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, has said he is open to the idea.

Amid intense price competition across many supermarket categories, the price of milk stirs passions like nothing else.

But calls to boycott supermarket-branded milk are misguided; and a royal commission would not be money well-spent.

The widely held belief that supermarkets are hurting dairy farmers by driving down the price of milk is incorrect.

It overlooks basic supply chain dynamics and the findings of the 18-month-long inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which was ordered by then federal treasurer Scott Morrison to investigate the low milk prices paid to dairy farmers.




Read more:
Helping farmers in distress doesn’t help them be the best: the drought relief dilemma


Indirect relations

Looking at the supply chain for fresh milk helps show why the retail price of supermarket-branded milk does not determine the price paid to farmers as some claim.

There are many players within a food supply chain: producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and consumers.


Fresh dairy supply chain volume map:
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Dairy farmers typically sell their milk to processors, who then sell to supermarkets. There is a relationship between the supermarket and processor, not supermarket and farmer. Whether the supermarket sells a litre of milk at $2, $3 or $4 has no direct relationship on the price the processor pays to the farmer.

In the words of the final report of the competition watchdog’s Dairy Inquiry, “the farm-gate price paid to farmers for milk used to fulfil private label milk contracts is not directly correlated with private-label milk retail prices”.

Blame dairy processors

The ACCC’s report does identify a range of market failures due to bargaining power imbalances and information asymmetry, but these are crucially between dairy farmers and processors.




Read more:
Murray Goulburn and Fonterra are playing chicken with dairy farmers


Dairy farmers’ weak bargaining power means any higher price paid by supermarkets to processors would not necessarily result in higher farm-gate prices. The ACCC report notes that farmers get no more money for the milk that is sold at higher retail prices (such as branded milk).

Processors, not supermarkets, set farm-gate prices in response to market conditions (global and domestic demand), at the minimum level required to secure necessary volumes. Farmers are not paid according to the type or value of the end product their milk is used in. They are paid the same price for their raw milk regardless of what brand goes on the container.


Distribution of revenue from sale of private label vs branded fresh drinking milk:
ACCC Dairy Inquiry

Also blame consumers

Supermarkets are under pressure to keep food prices low, particularly on staples such as bread, milk and eggs. This is evident from the fact that campaigns to get shoppers to exercise their power as ethical consumers quickly run out of steam.




Read more:
We are what we eat: the demise of the ethical grocery shopper


In April 2016, for example, national attention on the plight of dairy farmers led to a campaign encouraging shoppers to leave “supermarket branded milk” on the shelves. In a single month the supermarket brands’ share of milk sales dropped from 66% to 51%. Then it began to rise again. Within a year it was back to nearly 60%.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/NyTIZ/1/


Adding to confusion

While a milk levy to directly help farmers during the drought has many supporters, the disconnect within the supply chain means it is near impossible for retailers to pass the money directly to the intended beneficiaries. That, again, depends on those who buys the milk from the farmers – the processors.

Despite this, and because the ACCC inquiry’s findings have so far done little to dispel myths about the price of milk, retailers such as Woolworths have seen it as prudent to embrace the levy idea and publicly demonstrate support for dairy farmers.




Read more:
Time to get regulation back into Australian dairy?


All the additional proceeds from its “Drought Relief” milk go back to processor Parmalat, who is responsible for distributing the money to suppliers in drought-affected areas. Coles, meanwhile, has slapped a 30 cent levy on its three-litre milk containers, with the funds going to the Coles Drought Relief Fund.

These measures arguably add to continuing confusion about how the milk market works and the relationship between farm-gate and retail prices.

In the court of public opinion the supermarkets probably had no option but to go along with the charade.

A minister for agriculture, however, should know better.The Conversation

Gary Mortimer, Associate Professor in Marketing and International Business, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Racism is real, race is not: a philosopher’s perspective



File 20170825 23353 tytjlu
There are no races – biological or social – only racialised groups.
from www.shutterstock.com

Adam Hochman, Macquarie University

We live in a richly diverse country, populated by Indigenous Australians, recent immigrants, and descendants of relatively recent immigrants. Some feel threatened by this diversity; some relish it.

Most of us, I think, are unsure quite how to talk about it.

We have many words to describe diversity. We ask people about their ancestry, their ethnicity, and – most awkwardly – their “background”. We seem least comfortable asking people about their “race”, and with good reason.


Read more: The markers of everyday racism in Australia


Racial classification has been used to justify some of the most heinous crimes of modernity, including those committed on our own shores. Asking people about their “race” can make you sound a bit, well, racist.

Yet “racial” classification is still commonplace. Many articles in The Conversation use the term “race” to describe human diversity. For example, one asks what’s behind racial differences in restaurant tipping?, while another tells us that infants learn to distinguish between races.

Racialised groups

What justifies the continued use of racial classification? Nothing, or so I argue in Replacing Race, an open-access article published recently in the philosophy journal Ergo.

I argue that there are no races, only racialised groups – groups that have been misunderstood as biological races.

The reader may object – “surely, I can see race with my bare eyes!” However, it is not race we see, but the superficial visible biological diversity within our species: variation in traits such as skin colour, hair form and eye shape. This variation is not enough to justify racial classification. Our biological diversity is too small, and too smoothly distributed across geographic space, for race to be real.

This is not merely an opinion. From a scientific perspective, the best candidate for a synonym for “race” is “subspecies” (the classification level below “species” in biology). When scientists apply the standard criteria to determine whether there are subspecies/races in humans, none are found. In chimpanzees yes, but in humans no.


Read more: Human races: biological reality or cultural delusion


Racial classification is unscientific. However, humanities scholars have their own justifications for race-talk. Many argue that while there are no biological races, there are social races. Race, as philosophers put it, is a social kind.

In my view, the redefinition of race as a social kind has been a major mistake. Most people still think of race as a biological category. By redefining it socially, we risk miscommunicating with each other on this fraught topic.

Race does not exist

Not only is the redefinition of race as a social kind confusing, I argue that race does not exist even as a social kind. Racism is real, in both an interpersonal and a structural sense, but race is not.

Once the idea of race is divorced from biology, strange things start happening, conceptually. What makes a group a “race”, if race is social, rather than biological?

We could say that races are just the groups that are labelled as races, but this doesn’t work. Just as witches are not women accused of being witches, races are not merely groups labelled as races. There has to be something more to the group for it to qualify as a social kind.

Nobody has put their finger on this “something more”. Some tie “race” to “essentialism”. Essentialism is the view that groups have essenses: fixed traits that all members of a group have, and which are unique to that group. “Social races”, on this view, are groups treated as if they have some unchangeable essence.

This move fails. While racialisation is often essentialising, it is not always. If you look at current “scientific” racism, you’ll see that it’s all about alleged inborn average differences between the so-called “races”, not racial essences (which does not make it any less horrid, or more plausible).

Moreover, essentialist thinking is not only applied to racialised groups. Gender is also essentialised, and so is ethnicity.

Remember when I said strange things start happening when race is defined socially? Well, if races are social groups subject to essentialism, we would have to accept that men and women constitute de facto races!

Let’s abandon “race”

We should abandon attempts to save the category of race. There is no good way to make sense of the category from a biological or a social perspective. There are no races, only groups misunderstood as races: racialised groups.

Racialised groups are not biological groups, in the sense that they are not biological races. Yet how you are racialised does depend on superficial biological characteristics, such as skin colour. That is to say, racialised groups have biological inclusion criteria, vague and arbitrary as they may be.

These biological inclusion criteria are determined by social factors. Philosophical debates about “race” have relied on a dichotomy between the biological and the social. However, this is a false dichotomy: the biological and the social interact.

In racialisation, the biological and the social interact with a number of other factors: administrative, cultural, economic, geographic, gendered, historical, lingual, phenomenological, political, psychological, religious, and so on. I call this view “interactive constructionism about racialised groups”.

The category of the “racialised group” can be of great value, politically. It offers a way for those who have historically been treated as members of “inferior races” to assert and defend themselves collectively, while distancing themselves from the negative and misleading associations of the term “race”. “Race” is not needed for purposes of social justice.

According to researcher Victoria Grieves in her article Culture, not colour, is the heart of Aboriginal identity,

Being of Aboriginal descent is crucial because this is our link to country and the natural world. But at the same time, Aboriginal people do not rely on a race-based identity … continuing cultural values and practice are the true basis of Aboriginal identity in the whole of Australia today

The category of race is not needed for cultural identity or political action.

The ConversationWe need to be talking about racism, racialisation, and racialised groups, not “race”. Given that “race” fails as both a biological and a social category, let’s consign it to the dustbin of history’s bad ideas.

Adam Hochman, Lecturer, Macquarie University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bhutan: Behind the Veil of Silence


The link below is to an interesting article concerning the real situation for people living in Bhutan – especially if you are Nepalese.

For more visit:
http://www.firstpost.com/world/the-ethnic-cleansing-hidden-behind-bhutans-happy-face-918473.html

Article: Real Life Police Dramas


The link below is to an article that contains a number of photos/scans of newspaper articles reporting on police call outs. They demonstrate why society is so troubled these days – not.

For more visit:
http://twentytwowords.com/2013/02/15/what-the-police-get-called-about-in-one-of-americas-richest-towns-15-pictures/

Christianity and Social Benefits


The following article reports on a Christianity that is ‘acceptable’ to the world, but yet lacks the true power of the real thing. What do you think?

http://online.worldmag.com/2012/04/11/doughnut-shaped-religion/

Myanmar/Burma: Has Real Change Arrived?


The world is watching with interest as the beginning of change appears to have arrived in Myanmar/Burma – but is it real and will it last?

For more visit:
http://www.mnnonline.org/article/16748

Pornography in the Church: Concerns Raised


The article below raises concerns about the level of pornography in the church and the consequences of it. I believe there are real reasons for concern and it is something we all need to address as Christians.

For more see:
http://www.christiantelegraph.com/issue12979.html