Category Archives: media

Alex Jones as the Dark Side of Our Freedom

Here he is


There was a time when I would not have given a dude like Alex Jones the time of day. Why not? The conspiracy lies that he circulates, like the Sandy Hook massacre was a put up job, are beyond gross.

But he has used social media to build a following, and he has had that following for a long time now. Finally, he is getting yanked from social media platforms.   None too soon.  The weird thing is that he is not getting yanked because he spreads false information.

… the platforms cited hate speech, not misinformation and propaganda, as reason to ban Jones’ programming. While consistently peddling false information with no regard for evidence or fact is a public menace, it’s also the purview of the current president. (Donald Trump has appeared on InfoWars and praised Jones’ “amazing” reputation.) Plus, it’s a tougher case than these platforms simply saying Jones is using them to spread conspiratorial hate that leads to real-world harassment.

The question is how to protect ourselves from the next Alex Jones. And the one after that dude. Because his type of nonsense has become a fixture in 21st century America media.


Has Gwyneth Platrow Gone Bonkers?

You might think so after reading this part of her comments to Harvard students about the questionable advice her internet business “Goop” offers women.

It’s never clickbait, she told the class. “It’s a cultural firestorm when it’s about a woman’s vagina.” The room was silent. She then cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled, “VAGINA! VAGINA! VAGINA!” as if she were yodeling.

Hmmm … that does get your attention.  What is going on?

As the article points out, Gwyneth, along with Donald Trump, have come to realize something about modern media  Controversy gets attention. It matters less whether you tell the truth than you say things that raise the eyebrows. Trump uses this for political purposes. Gwyneth does this to get advertising revenue for Goop so that she can enjoy her high end life style.

And what advice does Gwyneth offer? Check out the article. Here is a sample

One article recommended that people steam their vaginas, a process that has been widely criticized by gynecologists , who say it could upset the vagina’s pH balance and lead to dangerous burns.

Steam? Did I read that right? Yikes!

Understanding Patsy Kensit

Recently, I have gotten interested in the TV series, “Who do you think you are?” The main reason is that I love history — especially personal and family history. I am endlessly fascinated how the choices people make or don’t make change their lives, and the lives of their families and descendants.

Case in point – Patsy Kensit. Patsy was a  “child star” and hwent on to be a successful actress, model and singer.

Image result for Patsy Kensit

But her father led a very different sort of life. Her father was a criminal. How did he get into that? Were his choices matters of individual preference (for example, was he just a bad person?) or was he driven more by circumstances?

Check out her “Who do you think you are?” adventure to find out. And be prepared. You are in for some surprises. Enjoy!

Thinking about the Assertive Quality of Modern Speech

The way we speak says a lot about our values. So, how do we speak these days? Consider this poem, recited during a Twitter advertisement, and posted by Fred Wilson on this blog.

The message is assertive. It asserts the power of the self when it is asserted. More specifically, the power of women when they assert that they are women.

I have nothing against this. To the contrary, I agree that we all should feel free to identify ourselves, be ourselves, and express ourselves. But there is something about the assertive quality of the delivery that pushes me away. That makes me feel a bit distant from the speaker.

In part it is because the poem does not ask me what I think. It tells me what the poet thinks. In other words, it does not celebrate connection. It celebrates an individual disconnected and dare I even say, self-absorbed?

Perhaps women deserve to be self-absorbed. But if they do, so too do I. So too, does everyone. And this may not be the type of life story that we want to share.

Or do we?

Some Dukes are Pretty Cool!

Aristocracy is not what it used to be. Nor is it likely to return to its former dominant position in society. Are we better off without that?

In some cases, perhaps yes. I wrote the other day, for example about the bad 5th  duke of Marlborough, who left little if anything better off when he exited the stage in 1840.

But not all dukes have been like that. And I was cheered by a show starring Mary Berry, the food writer, who visits various great country houses of Britain to showcase nice things one can find there. I was especially cheered by her visit to Goodwood and the Duke of Richmond and his family.

Here is a view of the main buildings

Image result for Goodwood

A quick note – Mary Berry may not be to everyone’s taste. She is not a hipster like Tony Bourdain  To the contrary, she is proper lady and kind and respectful to all. No snarky comments, or even a single bead of sweat in the kitchen as she prepares coq au vin.

Back to the story. Goodwood is unique among the great estates for a variety of reasons. First, the Duke himself, taking after his father has proved to be an innovative estate manager. This story about the founding of the motor sport race track on the property gives you a hint

During World War II a large area of farmland on the southwestern edge of the Goodwood Estate was developed as the Royal Air Force Westhampnett fighter base, which became a center of historic aircraft action during the 1940 Battle of Britain. After the war, RAF Westhampnett was closed to operations and returned to the Goodwood Estate. The late Freddie March then led the way in persuading British government ministries to permit the disused aerodrome perimeter tracks to be adopted for motor racing, which led to the opening of the Goodwood Motor Circuit in 1948.

Image result for Goodwood

The Duke and his family have embraced some highly attractive values in their care of the property and care for the animals that they maintain there. That would include organic farming.

Mary Berry gave an interview where she said this

It’s very difficult to pick out a highlight. I went to a dinner during Members’ Meeting: the room was so unusual and beautiful, with grass laid out over the tables and then the wonderful surprise of motorbikes zooming through the front hall. You are in the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden there’s a slight draft as the door opens and before you know what is happening a motorbike shoots past.

I really enjoyed spending time with Susan, Duchess of Richmond and Gordon. She is exactly the same age as me and we reminisced about how things have changed and how we do things differently. I appreciate her love of animals and her efforts to take in battery chickens, nursing them back to health. What strikes me about Goodwood is that the whole house is in such pristine condition. The present Duke has done some amazing things including restoring the Egyptian Dining Room. Susan found the little crocodiles that were on the back of the original chairs tucked upstairs in the attic and brought them out so they could be restored. I am full of admiration for such endeavours and have loved getting to know the family a little.

You can watch the episode via good old YouTube. One thing impressed me most. The duke is committed to doing fine preservation and renovation of  a historically important estate, yes. But he also seems to have a lot of fun in the process! Enjoy!

A final note. The above show was filmed not long after the duke and his wife had suffered from a break in and robbery at Goodwood. During the robbery, the Duke was physically assaulted. Historically important jewels valued at over £700,000 were stolen. No doubt he and his wife were traumatized by the experience. And yet, the Duke has not withdrawn from pubic view. Good for him!

Would You Reveal Your Content Consumption Strategy?

In the old days, that meant reading the newspaper, or if you were a bit nutty, perhaps two or three newspapers each day. I.F. Stone (a famous lefty investigative journalist in his day) used to do that, and cut out articles for future use. In those days, “cut and paste” literally meant cutting out stuff with scissors and pasting them to pieces of paper.

Things have changed quite a lot since then. Internet now produces a flood of content every day, which is potentially useful, and certainly highly distracting. Moreover, we are told that the higher volume  of exchanges that take place using shared information, is accelerating  learning. So there is more pressure to keep up — or drop out.

That changes one’s perspective on “content  consumption” and learning in general. Fred Wilson offers his expert advice on how he manages content consumption through his “routines”. Very useful!

Fred’s writes

I have a very strong bias to read/watch/listen to things that I know nothing about. I can go deep if I need to but I would prefer to be a mile wide and an inch deep in terms of what I know about.

He can do this because Fred has a powerful filter. His profession (venture capital) is all about sifting through lots of data to find things of potential value. That means Fred is very comfortable looking for new stuff as opposed to going deeply into a single topic.That gives him an intuitive sense of potential value. BTW, Fred also knows that going deeply into a single topic creates the risk of getting trapped within that topic — falling into a knowledge silo. In other words, he is looking more for the relationships between things than the ultimate meaning of a single thing.

I would call this an implicit strategy for filtering information to learn. Fred makes intuitive decisions about what interests him and what he can ignore. He does not get lost int he forest of data.

BTW, the link on I.F. Stone takes you to an old video where you will see Stone himself immediately reveal his filtering strategy for going through masses of content. He assumed that government routinely lies about what it is doing. Therefore one needs to search for clues (by going through masses of content) in order to get behind the lies and find the truth.

So what cognitive tools do you use to filter large amounts of data and learn? And using your filter, how do you select where to focus? Very good questions, I would say.

One last point — I agree with Fred about the need for humans to help direct you to where to focus rather than relying on tech to do that. He writes

Most importantly, I do not allow technology to drive what content I consume. I use Twitter but drop in and out of it occasionally to get a taste. I don’t drink from it’s fire hose. I let Google Now send me alerts but I understand they are filter bubbling me and mainly use it to make sure I see certain things. I have a Facebook account but have not actively used it since they went hostile on Twitter almost ten years ago.

Maybe some day technology will be able to do for me what humans can do, but today it is the exact opposite. Technology shows me things I already know about. Humans show me things I don’t know about.

I would add — and need to know about.

Forget the Super Bowl! What about the Commercials!!!

Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday and the Eagles play the Pats.

Who can be for the Pats here? (spoken like a true Philly native)

But seriously, the game — no matter how good a game it may be — is less important commercially than the ads that are aired during the game. Big time money is spent to make critical marketing statements during the pauses in the game.

And among the products getting hyped is the Amazon Echo.

Here is the teaser to the ad.

What do you think?