Saturday, 25 April 2020

Is Western Media Really Unbiased and Objective?

News media in the Western world are the freest, while media is systematically clamped by rulers in non-Western countries. 

This is an accepted “fact”, justified by criteria such as Freedom of speech, Press Freedom and Independent Journalism etc.

Different Kinds of Media Biases

There are four kinds of biases in news media: 
  1.  Censorship and suppression by the ruling elite of a country e. g. North Korea
  2. Parochial disinterest – we are not interested in anything beyond our own affairs
  3. Civilizational bias – we will use our “freedom” to show whom we choose to in bad light, but they can never do the same to us. If they try, we will attack them relentlessly

1.   Censorship by the ruling elite of a country

Visit the North Korean official news outlet and you’ll see instantly how the universe revolves around the Supreme Leader. 

Iran’s official news agency gives almost the same impression.

We have to be careful to not assume that a “supreme” leader’s photo with the text “total power” on the first page makes that media censored. 

This is the easiest to detect bias that non-profit organisations like Reporters without Borders have done immense amount of work to fight against. 

2. Parochial disinterest – we really don’t care about anything outside our own narrow sphere  

This bias is very understandable as limiting focus due to choice of readers/watchers, sometimes due to a lack of resources. Take for example, one of  the official news agencies from Somalia, Puntland Post Somaliland and Puntland are self-declared states of Somalia. 

USA Today will give you the same feeling as you leaf through it. But they do have a disclaimer, which says “National newspaper”. 

3. Civilizational bias – we will use our “freedom” to show whom we choose in bad light, but they cannot do the same for us.  

This is the most difficult bias to detect, but yet it is the most pernicious and persistent. If you talk about this, you will instantly get most of your liberal friends turn against you by calling you a delusional conspiracy-theorist.

Knowing so much from movies and serials about the Third Reich’s, Soviet Union’s, President Putin’s or China’s propaganda machines you instantly have cognitive dissonance when thinking about the contemporary “free” Western Media with such a discriminative lens.

During the last few weeks, when the Covid-19 pandemic has been wreaking absolute carnage in the UK, the statistics show this picture.

But if you look at the BBC, official news page, (most people get their news from the front page and never go beyond into individual sections), there is no mention of how UK is suffering, yet there is constant attack on how some other countries are not doing things “right”. 

On any day, the only news from India, a country that has managed, through the largest lockdown in human history, to contain the pandemic far better than the Western countries, contains the implicit message “Look how badly poor developing-country India is doing. What else can you expect from them!” Yet, surprisingly, the “less-free” Indian media doesn’t retaliate. 

BBC attacks Singapore for its Covid-19 handling. 

Yet Singapore’s “less-free” media doesn’t retaliate by pointing out the situation in UK.

Generally, in the West, bring up any topic to do with Islam or Muslim and you notice a very interesting policy. 

On one hand, you will see some totally deluded people blaming Islam or Muslims for everything that, according to them, should have been done differently, e.g., immigration, education and even their coffee. 

On the other hand, most of the Western media, especially the North European ones, will carefully avoid mentioning Muslim or Islam in any way because they are afraid of conflicts and claim they are protecting “human rights”. The media will publish stories of atrocities on Muslims, e.g., the Rohingya atrocities in Myanmar: 

or Indian Police Accused of Brutality in Kashmir, without fact-checking and contextualising issues. 

And give even the Nobel Prize to a young girl paraded as a sacrificial lamb of peace to show that “We love Muslims and Islam, look we are defending you!”

But, at the same time, most of the people implicitly support their chosen Western governments selling weapons of mass destruction and waging one-sided wars that have killed more than 20 million people (mostly Muslims) in unnecessary Western wars, according to Global Research, based in Montreal, Canada.

With the current Covid-19 pandemic, things are getting rather deadly. The Global Network Against Food Crises, an official body jointly functioning under EU and the UN, warns recently that Covid-19 pandemic would soon unleash a famine of biblical proportions if the Western powers continue to wage wars there. 

Another interesting bias of the non-US Western media, is showing president Trump, who constantly gives them ammo every time he open his mouth, as the mouthpiece of US’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

In fact, the information given out by the US authorities and some media outlets about the Covid-19 pandemic has been the best and the most detailed among all the countries of the world. Infinitely more detailed and useful for understanding the wider social and demographic implications of the crisis. This categorical information presenting has been remarkably shoddily done by the Nordic welfare states that pride themselves as being the most advanced in the world. 

Test for yourself these biases, and you will be surprised. 

Professor Noam Chomsky, in his 2002 book, Media Control, The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, gives two definitions of democracy

Definition 1- “the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free.

Definition 2 – ”the public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled.

The difference among “Supreme Leader” societies and the “Free” societies then becomes such that “Supreme Leader” societies keep the people in the second definition by crude force. 

In the “Free” countries, people are led to believe that definition 1 works for them, but in reality the effects of the people’s decision making interventions (e.g., through open elections) are contained and leveraged to keep crucial business such as staging wars going on as usual.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Working From Home (WFH) Tips During the Covid-19 Pandemic - Part 2

......continued from Working From Home (WFH) Tips During the Covid-19 Pandemic - Part 1

2.  Manage relationship with colleagues, supervisors and other stakeholders 

They are facing similar challenges as you in working from home. For some it could be much worse. Imagine having to live quarantined in a small apartment with a spouse you are divorcing from or one who is abusive or a violent alcoholic. This crisis is a great opportunity to see your own position from another person’s point of view. Then, you can take some practical steps to help your interaction with your colleagues.

a.   Dress professionally for your WFH role (at least from the waist-up)

  • People who dress up differently for WFH compared to their free time report that doing so makes it easier for them to transition from free time to work and the other way. Liane Cassavoy's excellent post about giving the professional background impression shows how bathrobe and to-do-laundry in the picture frame doesn't give a professional image.

  • People with school-aged kids have reported that the whole family dressing up for going to school and work, then going for a quick walk around the block and coming back home to settle in their study or work spots have been more effective than just starting the day without this ritual. 

b.    Make and follow your daily to-do-list

  • Putting clear time limits gives your mind a strong signal that this is the time you’ve got, and this is what you need to achieve (the to-do-list) in that time. It also signals intent to colleagues: 
Yes, we’ve bonded, complained how our national health authorities should handle the Corona crisis better, but this is our to-do-list and we’re going to do it in this time limit.” 
  • You are trying to locate your mental arousal level in the optimal zone (Yerkes-Dodson law of human arousal and performance, 1908). Too little stress and you get bored, lonely, and too much stress gives you burnout and breakdown. Remember, boredom and loneliness are consistently the biggest complaint about working from home according to research.  
  • At the end of the work day, cross out all you’ve done from your to-do-list. Place your exercises (last week’s tips) also in this to-do-agenda. What does the Christian/Jewish/Islamic God do at the end of the sixth day of creation? 
“Saw everything he had made, and behold it was very good!” 
  • Acknowledging achievement helps you discover meaning, and your chances of getting happiness as its by-product becomes much higher. 

c.   Communicate more clearly

  • If you’re the team leader, address every team member by their name. 
  • Ask each person how they’re coping. Listen actively but keep it compact.
  • Signpost the virtual meeting: “We have four topics on our 1-hour meeting agenda. We’re still in topic 2. Topic 3 will need a lot of discussion. Let’s speed up.”
  • Say out clearly what you expect from each person, by when. 
  • Make everyone’s work visible. Many shy persons don’t speak up on virtual meetings, especially with sketchy internet connections. It could make some others think that this shy person may not have anything to contribute. Making everyone’s work visible will help everyone feel motivated and valuable.
  • Say clearly what challenges you’re having and what are your expectations about the team, each person and yourself as the team leader.
  • It’s ok to say in advance “My kid can suddenly walk in. If she does, I’ll handle it and get right back.” This honesty will make you more human and approachable. 
d.    Double check all commitments

  • In face-to-face interactions we get visual cues, which may be missing in online meetings. 
  • Some persons may have “Bad hair day” and choose not to have the video on. So, to compensate for the visual cues, double check by asking: 
Am I right in understanding that you’ll deliver me this report by tomorrow 14:30?”
  • Always thank people in meetings and wish them a good day when you sing-off. This creates a pleasant association about you and makes cooperation smoother.
  • Be honest to your boss and colleagues about what you’re doing. Say clearly if you need to go for a short jog in the middle of the day (unless there is a crisis deadline).
  • Focus on what you have produced at the end of the day. Can you show clearly what has been your contribution?  

e.   Discover something interesting – learning points

  • Have something to contribute – Avoid getting sucked up by the news and find something interesting you’ve heard, read or seen that would be of interest to others. Gossiping about others is banal, anyone can do that. But only great minds talk about ideas. 
  • Try to search for some meaning – why are some processes followed. What is the etymology of this professional term? Doing this will give you a new inquisitive approach to life, and make you a far more interesting person. Remember: As Viktor Frankl said 
success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself.

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3.   Negotiate with family members about sharing space, home office resources, internet connection and undisturbed working time

Previous experiences of working from home might be very different from the current one. Earlier you could go to the gym, local pub or out with friends to let off some steam. This is not possible now. So, you need new approaches.

a)   Clarify ground rules

  • When you or your partner/spouse are on a video conference and cannot be disturbed. 
  • If there are small kids, can the other adult make sure that small kids will not be too noisy and barge in on mummy’s or daddy’s video conference? This is the classic viral video of kids barging in as they do in this hilarious BBC viral video.   
  • If you are online conferencing, should others avoid playing online or watching movies using the same internet connection that would make your conference quality sketchy?
  • When is the shared lunch or dinner time? When is the coffee break?
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b)   Discuss how each family member is coping and letting off steam

Families discussing this regularly are reporting lesser conflicts and frustrations than families who are not discussing these issues.
  • What are the shared activities that you’ll be doing together now that going to the gym, shopping mall, movies together are not feasible?
  • How is each family member doing their part to support the others?
  • Set targets - How do we celebrate week 3, 4, 5, 6 etc., of quarantine?

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4.   Manage your own feelings, attitude and optimism more skilfully

This is the most important part of everything. 

If you can’t manage yourself, you will quickly ruin the atmosphere of your home, and then also your colleagues will react negatively to you.

a)   Health - Stay fit and maintain your energy level

  • You are only 5-15 steps from the fridge – how to stay fit when you can’t go to the gym or play tennis regularly?
  • Micro-exercise regularly. Do some push-ups. Doing something physical will let the steam off. That really helps. Stretch regularly. Walk around your home, or do some push-ups every two hours. If you live in a two-storey house and are working in the ground floor, use the upstairs bathroom every time you need to use one. This way you get some exercise.
  • Sore elbows are a big problem. Use the spring-finger-grip exerciser. These cheap exercising tools help prevent painful tennis-elbow, joint pains.

b)    Keep clearly defined work hours and a to-do-list for each day

  • Having clear limits helps better maintain your work-life balance! Primarily it gives your conscious and unconscious minds a strong signal that this is the time I’ve got, and this is what I need to achieve (the to-do-list) in that time.
  • Make a to-do list – even a few errands. At the end of the work day, cross out all you’ve done. This gives a feeling that you have achieved what you should. Place your exercises (last week’s tips) also in this to-do-list. Remember: You are trying to locate your stress level in the optimal zone (Yerkes-Dodson law of human arousal and performance, 1908). Too little stress and you get bored, lonely, and too much stress gives you burnout and breakdown. Stay productive and nor bored.  

c)     Pay attention to nutrition and immunity boosting 
  • What are the foods, drinks and supplements that boost your immunity and keep your energy level high? There is a lot of individual differences here. Discussing this issue with family members will create a we-are-in-this-together feeling, which means less conflict and more synergy. Besides, this discussion will help you see family members as unique persons. 

d)    Check your attitude and motivation 

  • Sometimes you will feel that you can’t get anything done. Stop working at once and do something physical, clean the office and home. Go out for a spin if you can. Then sit down (in some other place than the work spot), close your eyes, breathe deeply in and out and calm yourself. You can also listen to some relaxing music and lie down. 
  • Find learning points in the whole WFH situation. How have others responded to this crisis? What are the funny anecdotes and experiences you have heard? Any tips you could share? Any tips you could apply and experiment?
  • Reach out to other people and discuss with them. This will help you loosen the power grip of the constant stream of complaints and negative thoughts from bad news going round and round in your own head.
  • Be grateful – lots and lots of people do not have the work that you are complaining about. Cultivating daily a sense of gratefulness creates more space in you for positive feelings and optimism. It takes only a little bit of light to remove the darkness. When people around you see how you have brought more light in yourself, they respond in kind and soon you all feel much stronger optimism, positive feelings about WFH and then you get more work done.

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  • Yerkes R M, Dodson J D. (1908) Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology18 (5): pp. 459–482.
  • Thompson, Derek. The Coronavirus Is Creating a Huge, Stressful Experiment in Working From Home. The Atlantic. March 13, 2020