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Events and Life Mindsets Policy issues Politics and government Social Web

The greatest propaganda machine in history

Sacha Baron Cohen recently spoke about how social media services have become the “greatest propaganda machine in history”.

Much of the media’s focus, when reporting on his remarks, was on his attack on Facebook. While he certainly targeted Facebook, he also spoke about how Google, YouTube, and Twitter shape online discourse, and how they help spread lies, bigotry, and attacks on fact-based discussions.

Think about it.  Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people.  The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.  It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times.  It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.  And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous.  As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

Sacha Baron Cohen

As much as we embrace free expression, we find it difficult to draw a line when liars and bigots abuse their right to free expression because doing that feels like hypocrisy.

Free expression isn’t unlimited, though. And pushing back against channels that help propagate misinformation, abuse, and false statements that impact substantial segments of the population is becoming more important.

At the very least, it’s worth watching Cohen’s talk, or reading his remarks:

We should also think carefully about how much trust we place in services that profit from the social chaos we see around us.

Featured image by Miguel Henriques
Categories
Events and Life Politics and government Spirituality Travel and places

Tragedy and Inspiration in Jerusalem

My friend visited me recently, and I took some time off to spend with him. One of our day trips was to Jerusalem, primarily to visit Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

We started off by taking a relatively new train to Jerusalem from the Ben Gurion Airport. This train takes about half an hour to reach Jerusalem, and shaves an hour (or more) off the previous train route that left from Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem train station

As I mentioned recently, I really like the new station. It was a great welcome back to Jerusalem.

We took the light rail up to Mount Herzl, the site of both Theodore Herzl‘s grave, and Yad Vashem.

We arrived at Yad Vashem at a pretty busy time. There were easily half a dozen tour buses there already.

Yad Vashem

We picked up two audio guides for a self-guided tour (although the guided tours are apparently really good too).

The main museum was pretty crowded, although the tour groups eventually moved past us as we walked through the exhibits describing the events leading up to, and the Holocaust itself in visceral detail.

Walking through the museum takes time, and I almost always felt like I was moments away from tears as I listened to the narrative describing how European Jews were first marginalised, dehumanised, and then eradicated in the many death camps they were shipped to like cattle.

It took us three hours to make our way through the exhibits, and each step reinforced why Israel is so important. Having our own country with an effective military means that Jews are no longer subject to the whims of other nations who repeatedly return to old stereotypes, and prejudices.

What still alarms me (even though I know better), is that we see the same rhetoric being repeated in various countries as the Nazis used in the 1930s, and other groups used in the centuries that preceded them. It seems that some things never change. Some people seem to drift back to anti-Semitism when they need someone to blame.

From Yad Vashem, we made our way to the Old City, towards the Western Wall.

Western Wall

We arrived at the Wall after lunch at a nearby schwarma place, and during preparations for Yom HaZikaron (our memorial day for soldiers and victims of terror attacks) two days later.

This photo of these three men sitting, facing the Wall reminded me of a previous visit where I saw three monks leaning over the railing, looking at the Wall and it’s visitors.

From here, we made our way back out of the Old City towards the train station, and home.

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Politics and government Travel and places

Growing up in an Israeli settlement

I enjoyed Iris Zaki’s documentary titled “What It’s Like to Grow Up in an Israeli Settlement“. The interviews seem to be part of Zaki’s documentary film titled “Unsettling“.

I especially like how it was an interview with Israelis living in Tekoa, a settlement town, by an Israeli. If you’re interested in what seems to be a pretty honest perspective from Israelis living in one town, it’s worth watching this:

“This week we bring you Iris Zaki’s thought-provoking short film “Natural Born Settlers.” A self-described liberal from cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, Zaki wanted to get behind the politics of Israel’s controversial settlements in the occupied territories — so she moved there, temporarily, setting up an improvised cafe where she could chat with settlers from her own generation.”

I also enjoyed the Vox documentary series (1, 2, 3) about Israeli settlements. Most of the documentaries I’ve watched tend to present pretty dramatic, skewed perspectives of the settlements, and the Vox documentaries seem to be more balanced, given my experiences in Israel so far.

Categories
Politics and government Science and nature

Grainy Moon photos were a ruse!

Those grainy Moon photos the public saw back in the early days of NASA’s Moon missions were a ruse!

No, not that ruse. Humans really went to the Moon. The ruse is that NASA actually captured much higher resolution images, but didn’t disclose them publicly because they didn’t want the Soviets to know how good their imaging technology was at the time.

According to World of Indie

Fifty years ago, 5 unmanned lunar orbiters circled the moon, taking extremely high resolution photos of the surface. They were trying to find the perfect landing site for the Apollo missions. They would be good enough to blow up to 40 x 54ft images that the astronauts would walk across looking for the great spot. After their use, the images were locked away from the public until after the bulk of the moon landings, as at the time they would have revealed the superior technology of the USA’s spy satellite cameras, which the orbiters cameras were designed from. The main worry was the USSR gaining valuable information about landing sites that the US wanted to use. In 1971 many of the images were released, but nowhere near to their potential quality, and mainly to an academic audience as public interest in the moon had waned. Up until 2008 most of the reported images from the project were the 1966 versions that were grainy and lower quality.

McMoon: How the Earliest Images of the Moon Were so Much Better than we Realised

Instead, they were able to capture pretty high resolution images, like this one:

An Earthrise over the moon’s horizon, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on August 24th 1966. Credit NASA/LOIRP (via World of Indie)

The story of how this was done, and the later effort to recover these images from storage, is fascinating:

It involves setting up shop in an abandoned McDonalds, and using a variety of old, and new tools to digitise this incredible archive.

You can find the catalogue here: Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project online data volumes (here’s a direct link to the .png collection). The images are pretty big!

Of course we also have some pretty impressive, high resolution imagery from more recent Lunar missions such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, too:

Via Kottke.org

Categories
Events and Life Politics and government Sports

Israeli national anthem played in Abu Dhabi for the first time ever

The Israeli national anthem was played in Abu Dhabi for the first time ever, at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam. Israel’s Sagi Muki won the gold medal.

In previous tournaments, Israeli athletes couldn’t compete under our flag, let alone hear our anthem play when they won medals.

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets Policy issues Politics and government

A perspective on what it’s like to be a Jew in the United Kingdom at the moment

Thank you for the thread. You offer a valuable perspective on what it feels like to be a Jew in the UK.

You shouldn’t be victimised for being a Jew, certainly not because of a distorted view of what our government is doing to keep us safe, here in Israel.

Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut

25 °C few clouds

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Applications Education Politics and government

An alternative to Israel’s expensive Microsoft licensing dilemma

Interesting article on OnMSFT: Israel, scared off by Microsoft subscription deals, won’t renew Office licensing agreements:

Under the current deal with Microsoft, Israel pays about $27 million a year for Office on the desktop, Windows, and server software being used across the government. The ministry issued a bold statement, saying “This will also encourage government ministries to re-examine their needs of using Microsoft technology or switch to other technology alternatives.”

Open source solutions are worth exploring. I’d love to see Israel adopt something like
LibreOffice, especially for schools where PowerPoint slides have become the default choice for notices.

I think Linux also makes a lot of sense for most people who just default to Windows because their computers come with it (albeit at a cost).

Schools, in particular, shouldn’t be sitting with PCs running Windows 2000. They can probably revitalise their old PCs with a lightweight Linux distro, and give kids an opportunity to use them for more than just gaming.

Certainly a switch like this is only possible with an investment, but the longer term benefits must outweigh the initial costs.

Categories
Politics and government Travel and places

What Palestinians ultimately want from Israel?

Israel is a complicated place. The perennial question is how to achieve peace with our neighbours? That question begs another question: what Palestinians ultimately want from Israel? Alwyn Lau answered that question in his article “What do Palestinians want from Israel?” in MalayMail Online recently:

From my conversations with people who support Palestine, the answers usually remain non-specific. It would appear the only precise “demand” which would satisfy their notions of justice would be for Israel to give back ALL the land to the Palestinians.

In other words, the only solution on the table would be for Israel to cease existing as a state in Palestine.

I didn’t know that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians such broad terms in exchange for peace back in 2000. The proposal was probably accompanied by a requirement that the Palestinians acknowledge the State of Israel and commit to peace, both of which were probably deal breakers for Arafat.

Israel’s critics focus so heavily on the distorted narrative created by the BDS and its allies, that they completely ignore the efforts made to achieve peace in the last 70+ years.

The thing is, we aren’t going to just throw our hands up in the air, admit defeat, and sacrifice ourselves and our homeland.  We will continue to raise our families, build our communities, and preserve our connection to our home (unless, of course, we destroy ourselves from within).

In the meantime, peace will continue to elude us. But we can live with that. Literally.

Source: Shoshanna Jaskoll

Shoshanna Jaskoll's tweet linking to the article
“Three rarest of all things on Twitter: accuracy, honesty, and integrity when discussing Israel and the Palestinians.”