‘The Innocents’ earned its high ratings

Anne Fontaine directs ‘The Innocents,” a movie released in 2016, which Janine and I were able to see this evening, thanks to streaming services. it’s a film well worth the time and emotional involvement.

The ravages of World War II impinge on a cloister of nuns in Poland, and the reverend mother tries to keep quiet a horrible secret, one that shakes the convent to the core.

Enter a French nurse — or rather — a desperate nun.

What follows is the melding of secular and religious, an attempt at peace in the middle of violence, a secular nurse coming to grips with the nuances and conflicts of religious life, nuns and postulants trying to make sense of a world that won’t leave them in peace.

In a microcosm of all the brutality of war, viewers come to grips with two extremes, oil and water, if you will.

The director, though, without stumbling weaves a tale that irresistible, heartbreaking, holy, hopeful. The cinematography is spot on, the characterizations entirely believable, the ending a beginning.

The movie may carry too much goodness for some (and there are some predictable moments) , but I found it believable, for some human beings are not content with the way things are and strive for better, believers and non-believers. In the worst of situations, there is room for grace.

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Piling on

I’ll never catch up with my reading and listening enthusiasms.

Currently, I’m reading An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Dan Murphy’s memoir Breakaway, the Fall 2014 issue of The Annals of Iowa, Maus, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (second time through, flipping to the footnotes this time), David Bush’s Canon EOS 7D (also for a second time), What If? by Randall Munroe, Watchmen, National Railway Museum Souvenir Guide, Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, November 2008 MacWorld (where did that come from?), Public Power Annual Directory and Statistical Report, my last issues of the now defunct American Photo magazine, Basin Today (the magazine of our regional electrical provider), the Fall issue of The Land Report, the Spring issue of Iowa Natural Heritage, The Art of Richard Thompson, Yosemite and the High Sierra by Ansel Adams, the November 15, 2007, issue Rolling Stone, the September 18, 1999 issue of Billboard and the November 19, 2017, lesson in the Sunday School Guide.

Listening to La Monte Young and The Forever Blues Band in “Just Stomping’ ” and “Lucy” by Candlebox.

Watching Angels in America, Elephant Man and Spider-Man.

I’m way behind in my periodicals. Letting subscriptions lapse or watching publications fold. Music and film are extremely fascinating. After listening or viewing a whole work, it’s instructive to tackle each one again in several-minute chunks to get a sense of what makes an individual work tick.

I figure, what’s the hurry? There’s so much out there to stimulate a person. I’m just sorry we can’t all be Methuselahs or Great Basin Bristlecone Pines to take more in.

Even information is polluted: Part Five

Here’s the last part of my summary of “Information Disorder,” authored by Claire Wardle, PhD, and Hossein Derkhshan and published by the Council of Europe. It addresses my concern about the complexity the modern consumer of news faces and the hard work it will take to advance any semblance of informed discourse in our digitally-connected societies.

Here’s the link to the 100-plus-page document. It’s a long, engaging document, tightly written, not easily summarized, since it covers a broad swath of the topic. So, what follows, is, by necessity, much longer than I’d like it to be.

So, I’ve broken this summary into pieces. All references are from that document, which is itself, heavily documented. I can take no credit for any of the ideas. My goal is to direct readers interested in the problem to the document itself. It’s a great starting point.

Techno fixes alone won’t solve the problem. With the ability to alter print, speech and video, there are ways around even the tightest technological controls.

Media strategies to help correct the problem include not airing spurious content, identifying sources of dis-information and then publicizing how those that produce content create their stuff (for instance, how bots work).

Education?
Create material on how to differentiate between opinion and hard news, as well as critical assessment of statistical and quantitative statements in the media, an understanding of algorithms and artificial intelligence and greater emotional skepticism. There is also a need to educate people on the power of images to manipulate and persuade: doctored images, fabricated videos, misleading visualizations or “memes” (images with text superimposed over top).

Good or bad, other countries are taking steps to regulate irresponsible speech on media, an indicator of how serious leaders in those countries are about the threat. Germany has implemented the Network Enforcement Law, which targets hat speech. But, a BBC World Service survey indicated that in only two of 18 countries, China and the UK, did a majority want their governments to regulate the internet. Leaders in Italy and the European Commission have called for regulation of mal-information. In the Czech Republic, a unit targeting “dis-information campaigns.” Singapore is also considering actions.

Near the end of this 109-page, meticulously documented paper is a summary of recommendations for action by technology companies, national governments, media organizations, civil society, educational institutions and grant-awarding foundations. Even if the rest of the paper is skipped, this five-page summary offers a glimpse of the complexity of what must be undertaken. Also helpful is a listing in an appendix of international fact-checking organizations and a link to a fact-checking database put together by Duke University’s Reporter’s Lab.

Even information is polluted: Part Four

Here’s part four of my summary of “Information Disorder,” authored by Claire Wardle, PhD, and Hossein Derkhshan and published by the Council of Europe. It addresses my concern about the complexity the modern consumer of news faces and the hard work it will take to advance any semblance of informed discourse in our digitally-connected societies.

Here’s the link to the 100-plus-page document. It’s a long, engaging document, tightly written, not easily summarized, since it covers a broad swath of the topic. So, what follows, is, by necessity, much longer than I’d like it to be.

So, I’ve broken this summary into pieces. All references are from that document, which is itself, heavily documented. I can take no credit for any of the ideas. My goal is to direct readers interested in the problem to the document itself. It’s a great starting point.

It takes effort to to pop the “filter bubbles” and break down the “echo chambers” that inevitably follow as algorithms tailor what individuals see. Here is a quick rundown of some of the efforts the study listed.
Apparently, Facebook has a “related articles” feature that gives multiple perspectives on a story. During the U.K. and French elections, Facebook offered a “Perspectives” feature — Users could compare positions by candidates or parties after clicking on a news story about the election.
If you use Chrome, an extension called “PolitEcho” offers the user the ability to plot Facebook friends on a graph based on political affiliation, an algorithm calculating that based on news organizations “liked.”
Chrome also supports the extension “Rbutr,” which connects web pages that argue against each other.
“Flipfeed” allows viewing of Twitter feeds of folks with views in direct opposition to your own.
The Wall Street Journal rolled out “Blue Feed, Red Feed” putting side by side examples of points of view from opposing perspectives.
Buzzfeed has “Outside Your Bubble,” a neutral platform for opinions from the web. Interestingly, public comments are rephrased as bullet points.
The Guardian has a weekly column “Burst Your Bubble,” five conservative stories for its famously liberal audience.
The Washington Post journalist Will Sommer’s newsletter “Right Richter” puts together right-wing perspectives for left leaners.
The web site http://allsides.com/ says its mission is to expose bias and provide numerous angles on a story, using crowd-driven ratings and its own algorithms.

Other ideas: Tim Cook, Apple CEO, suggested a public service announcement about dis-information. Still other ideas include labels to identify content on social media — taking down bot accounts — critical media literacy programs in schools — making fact checks and debunks easier to share — legislation, as in Germany, that fines platforms for hosting and not removing within 24 hours unlawful content, defamation, incitement to hatred.

Even information is polluted: Part Three

How do news outlets handle the problem?

Here’s part three of my summary of “Information Disorder,” authored by Claire Wardle, PhD, and Hossein Derkhshan and published by the Council of Europe. It addresses my concern about the complexity the modern consumer of news faces and the hard work it will take to advance any semblance of informed discourse in our digitally-connected societies.

Here’s the link to the 100-plus-page document. It’s a long, engaging document, tightly written, not easily summarized, since it covers a broad swath of the topic. So, what follows, is, by necessity, much longer than I’d like it to be.

So, I’ve broken this summary into pieces. All references are from that document, which is itself, heavily documented. I can take no credit for any of the ideas. My goal is to direct readers interested in the problem to the document itself. It’s a great starting point.

I especially appreciated the analysis of the effect of information explosion on local news media.
As advertising revenue is reduced, so is the wherewithal to keep reporters, so staff cuts happen, papers consolidate for the efficiencies or news venues close.
Since 2005, according to Dominic Pondsford of the Press Gazette in London, the UK has seen a loss of approximately 200 local newspapers since 2005.
Canadians April Lindgren, Jon Corbett and Jaigris Hodson of Policy Options, a public forum of Montreal, in a study commissioned by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said that if the Canadian commission watching over radio and television didn’t intervene, half of that country’s small and medium-market television stations could disappear by 2020.
Yemile Bucay, Vittoria Elliott, Jennie Kamin, Andrea Park in their story “America’s growing news deserts” in a recent issue of Columbia Journalism Review (https://www.cjr.org/local_news/american-news-deserts-donuts-local.php), point out that many cities have been left with one local newspaper or none at all.
That pattern is likely to continue.
In 2009, the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy presented a paper at The Aspen Institute, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.” It had this conclusion: Information is “as vital to the healthy functioning of communities as clean air, safe streets, good schools, and public health.
In a September 25, 2017 opinion piece in the New York Times, Nina Jankowicz, fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, wrote: “Without news that connects people to their town councils or county fair, or stories that analyze how federal policies affect local businesses, people are left with news about big banks in New York and dirty politics in Washington.… Readers compare this coverage with their dwindling bank balances and crumbling infrastructure and feel disconnected and disenfranchised, and latch onto something — anything — that speaks to them. That might be President Trump’s tweets. Or dubious ‘news’ from an extreme right- or left-wing site might ring true. Or they might turn to Russian disinformation, which exploits this trust gap.”

Businesses have to realize that their advertising helps support a free press. They need to realize that advertising space is a prime venue for spreading the news about their services and products. Advertising budgets need to be first to be discussed on business agendas. Governments, too, must stop trying to undermine the printing of legal documents. Sure, it costs money (tax dollars), but the print medium is a very safe way of getting the word out.

Even information is polluted: Part Two

What gets in the way of the transmission of unpolluted information? The need to be superior? Anger? Fear?

Here’s part two of my summary of “Information Disorder,” authored by Claire Wardle, PhD, and Hossein Derkhshan and published by the Council of Europe. It addresses my concern about the complexity the modern consumer of news faces and the hard work it will take to advance any semblance of informed discourse in our digitally-connected societies.

Here’s the link to the 100-plus-page document. It’s a long, engaging document, tightly written, not easily summarized, since it covers a broad swath of the topic. So, what follows, is, by necessity, much longer than I’d like it to be.

So, I’ve broken this summary into pieces. Following is part two.  All references are from that document, which is itself, heavily documented. I can take no credit for any of the ideas. My goal is to direct readers interested in the problem to the document itself. It’s a great starting point.

We live in a fluid informational society. Much is shared through “likes,” “comments” or “shares,” and the problem of polluted information affects us politically, medically and scientifically. Any hope of gauging the veracity of the information funneled to us through our media channels is dimmed by the sheer volume of the material coming at us and the immense work involved in gauging the truth of that flow of information.

It takes only a few actors in combination with the ability of modern communications to spread enormous amounts of mis-, dis- and mal- information. It gets scary in a hurry when a genuinely malicious actor gets into the mix. Witness the inundation in recent French and U.S. elections. The document gives great examples.

One focus is to return to the source of the information and the gatekeepers of that information. Research date and location is embedded in domain registration information of a “news sites.” Has a tweeted message appeared elsewhere, at the same time at widely separated points? Will debunking “add oxygen” to a piece of misinformation? Are we getting our story ideas more from social media than through personal contacts and trusted sources?

Questions to ask about where the information starts: Who initiated the information? Is it an organization? Are there financial, political, social or psychological components to the info? Who is the intended audience. Is misleading an intention? If so, who is the target?
Is the information meant for the long term? Is it accurate? Is it legal? Who is likely to spread the information?