from the world's big
Fake news is everywhere. Even in places that were once legitimate.
Consider the decline and fall of the South China Morning Post.
- The South China Morning Post is a respected paper with a long and noble history that has recently made more than a few missteps.
- Critics of the paper allege that it has fallen into the hands of Beijing and is now little more than a propaganda outlet.
- The use of a legitimate news source to peddle propaganda is nothing new, but it may be the shape of things to come.
We are awash in fake news. It just isn't from the places the people seemingly most concerned with the problem think its from. The problems of entire websites, papers, and televisions networks that spew easily falsified garbage into the world are well known.
More concerning, perhaps, are the cases when legitimate sources are brought down into the muck. It is all the more dangerous because a history of accurate and unbiased reporting can make a propaganda sheet seem like legitimate news. As a case study, consider the decline and fall of the South China Morning Post.
Propaganda from a trusted news source
The South China Morning Post is one of the oldest papers in Hong Kong. Recently, it was sold to the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, the owner of the Alibaba conglomerate who recently became a member of the Communist Party. This event raised more than a few eyebrows.
Since Alibaba's take over of the paper, some strange articles have made their way into it. Frequent BigThink readers might recall the news that China had invented a laser gun capable of burning clothing at a great distance despite the agreement of scientists that the weapon as described would violate the laws of physics. Another recent article explained how Chinese scientists have altered the atomic properties of copper to have similar properties to gold in a way that could leave you thinking they had pulled off acts of pure alchemy.
A bigger problem might be the recent political turn of the paper. Ever since its purchase by Alibaba the paper has been moving into the orbit of Beijing. In 2016 the newspaper printed an interview with the famed Chinese dissident Zhao Wei in which she recanted her past activism. Just how the paper got an interview with a person in detention was never explained, and the conversation looked suspiciously like the forced confessions that have become common under the leadership of Xi Jinping.
In 2017 the paper printed and then retracted a story critical of Xi Jinping and his connections to foreign investors, allegedly over issues of accuracy. Given that the retraction occurred only a week after Forbes made a similar retraction over businessmen in Hong Kong, many found the official story to be fishy.
After a second interview with a man detained in China, this time the kidnapped owner of a Hong Kong bookstore, which looked like a fake or scripted confession many international observers began to denounce the paper. Magnus Fiskesjö, a Cornell University professor, explained that in his view "the SCMP can no longer be trusted as an independent news organization."
His view is shared by many former employees of the newspaper who have left over the last few years in response to what they see as the paper being increasingly under the thumb of Beijing. Stephen Vines explained that he left the paper over minor issues but should have left after the second fake interview mentioned above. He described the SCMP as having played the role of a "useful idiot" in furthering Chinese propaganda.
Former reporter Paul Mooney also explained after his sacking by editor in chief Wang Xiangwei that the paper has taken a distinctly pro-Beijing turn with articles cut or assigned with an eye to China:
Talk to anyone on the China reporting team at the South China Morning Post and they'll tell you a story about how Wang has cut their stories, or asked them to do an uninteresting story that was favorable to China.
Is this an isolated case?
Disturbingly, no. There are an increasing number of seemingly legitimate news sources in the world today that are little more than well-dressed propaganda machines. Russia Today is a global news service controlled by the Russian government that spews propaganda, conspiracy theories, and anti-Western editorials out of sleek looking newsrooms.
Al Jazeera, which is owned by Qatar, has also been accused of being state media. The news service is known for taking a distinctly pro-Qatar viewpoint in international news and has been accused of both anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism.
In the United States, we have Fox News, whose viewers, critics say, are less informed than those who don't watch any television news channel at all. The list of general inaccuracies, controversies, and rather obvious right-wing bias at that network is well known.
Again, such tactics are nothing new. The Soviets used independent journalists to push propaganda, often to great success. One such case was when they managed to get the New York Times to report that there was no famine in the Ukraine by manipulating their lone correspondent. What is new about it today is the creation or acquisition of entire enterprises to do the job one left to papers clearly owned by the state.
What do you call it when a formerly legitimate and unbiased paper of note begins to turn itself into a sleek-looking sheet that toes the party line? Is it still fake news if you can trust half of it? Is it a brilliant propaganda play? Or is it just good business? In any case, the world should brace itself for new waves of misinformation coming from sources that seem trustworthy.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
A recent study on monkeys found that stimulating a certain part of the forebrain wakes monkeys from anesthesia.
- Scientists electrically stimulated the brains of macaque monkeys in an effort to determine which areas are responsible for driving consciousness.
- The monkeys were anesthetized, and the goal was to see whether activating certain parts of the brain would wake up the animals.
- The forebrain's central lateral thalamus seems to be one of the "minimum mechanisms" necessary for consciousness.
Pixabay<p>When the team electrically stimulated a part of the brain called the central lateral thalamus, located in the forebrain, the monkeys woke up: they opened their eyes, blinked, reached out, made facial expressions and showed altered vital signs. </p><p>"We found that when we stimulated this tiny little brain area, we could wake the animals up and reinstate all the neural activity that you'd normally see in the cortex during wakefulness," Saalmann told Cell Press. "They acted just as they would if they were awake. When we switched off the stimulation, the animals went straight back to being unconscious."</p><p>This area of the brain may function as an "engine for consciousness," Redinbaugh told Inverse. Although past studies have shown that electrical stimulation can arouse the brains of humans and animals, the new findings are unique because they reveal which specific neural interactions appear to be minimally necessary for consciousness.</p><p>"Science doesn't often leave opportunity for exhilaration, but that's what that moment was like for those of us who were in the room," Redinbaugh told <a href="https://www.inverse.com/science/first-squid-mri-study-brain-complexity-similar-dogs" target="_blank"><em>Inverse</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Future applications<p>The team said the findings could have many applications down the road, but more research is needed.</p><p>"The overriding motivation of this research is to help people with disorders of consciousness to live better lives," Redinbaugh told Cell Press. "We have to start by understanding the minimum mechanism that is necessary or sufficient for consciousness, so that the correct part of the brain can be targeted clinically."</p><p>"It's possible we may be able to use these kinds of deep-brain stimulating electrodes to bring people out of comas. Our findings may also be useful for developing new ways to monitor patients under clinical anesthesia, to make sure they are safely unconscious."</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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