453. VIVA LA COMUNICACIÓN! ABAJO LA TELE-COMUNICACIÓN! THERE ARE NO LONGER VISIONS, THERE ARE TELE-VISIONS; WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE HUMAN RELATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS?

-Television is chewing gum for the eyes. (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Do not be fooled: The media are ‘ideology formers’. We have to hold them responsible for the introduction and sustaining of many key pro-status-quo concepts (Manuel Acunia)

-The fraud of some media is that they respect neither ethics nor facts. (Luis Britto) nor human rights (HR)…?

1. Simplistic slogans as those in the title of this Reader aside, never forget: To force adults to fall in line, dictatorships use blood and fire therapies; democracies use television. (Eduardo Galeano, Apuntes para Fin de Siglo)

2. As you probably guess, 80% of humanity is not allowed to join the consumer society; they can see it on TV, so those who do not consume things must consume fantasies*. This is why there are no longer visions, there are tele-visions. (Remember!: Revolution is not to be understood as what a new detergent can do in your kitchen!). (E. Galeano)
*: Ultimately, TV manufactures the illusory reality and the need for endless consumables that publicity needs to sell. Take a quote here: “I was told by a US network executive that during non-election years up to 70% of his news division’s revenues are from pharmaceutical corporation’s advertising. That executive told me that if one of his talk show hosts allowed me on the air, he would fire that host. Losing an advertiser is a major catastrophe for a network.” (Robert F. Kennedy)

3. ‘Tell me how much you consume and I will tell you how much you are worth’. This is how your TV set, the electronic preachers and universal factories of public opinion in your living room, spread the gospel of modernization. Not innocently, the consumer society sells us the myth of social climbing. (E. Galeano) So, there is nothing new under the sun: Things are the way they are ‘sold’ to us and not the way we would want them to be. (Louis Casado) [I ask you: Where does this leave HR?].

4. It is also true that most consumers of news choose sources that align-with rather than challenge their political ideology. People deliberately avoid information that threatens their happiness and wellbeing. They are also remarkably adept at selectively directing their attention to information that affirms what they believe or that reflects favorably upon them, and at forgetting information they wish were not true. (George Loewenstein) [Where does this leave HR?].

5. Both politics and media coverage have been clearly marked by classic ideological divisions between the left and right poles of the political spectrum. Trust in the media is also largely based along such political fault lines. No surprise then that, as HR proponents, we tend to be suspicious of the media and take it for what it is.

Is the internet and its simple language all it is taking to change the world? (Paulo Coelho, The Zahir)

6. Take Facebook or Instagram: the medium here focuses our attention on images and on videos that reward our emotional appeals over our rational ones.** Instead of a quest for knowledge, they engage us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing. (Hossein Derakhshan)
**: Intelligence bothers, it offends the mediocre –and never has there been so much reaction by them. Just consider the veritable chicken coup that the social networks have become. (Arturo Perez Roverte)

7. Ever wondered if computers and cell phones program you?! (E. Galeano) So, you see? There is more than the have/have-nots gap; there is the know/know-nots gap as well. The same society that guarantees you liberty of expression cuts your access to certain knowledge and cuts your tongue on key issues like HR, democracy, discrimination, equity, equality…..you name it.

8. Do not get me wrong, data and facts that the internet feeds us incessantly can and do have good value: it is said they focus our debates, but do they focus our debate on ideas (HR not being the least)?*** (Roberto Savio)
***: A rhetorical question here: Does literature still have a future in this world where all five-year-old children are electronic engineers? (E. Galeano)

And then there are statistics and algorithms

-Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable. (Attributed, though not necessarily factually, to Mark Twain)
-Sanity is not statistical. (George Orwell, 1984)

9. There is always the danger in the flawed assumption that numbers are neutral and objective. You know this, as much as you know that correlation is not causation**** and that statistics tell you the how, but not the why (a key issue for HR!).
****: This can be usefully amended to ‘correlation is not necessarily causation’, as it is the nature of the relationship that needs to be determined.

10. But are you also aware that narrow casting by search engine algorithms expunges plural views? Google and Facebook do it for us, and we do not even notice. (Cathy O’Neil, Emily Bell) But we ought to, because it is not technology giants, with their focus on market valuation and profitability, who are going to focus on this crucial aspect forever marking our digital life. Changing this will have to be a collective effort, like any struggle for egalitarian values, so as to retrieve the credibility of the information space –also a key issue for HR. (A.S. Panneerselvan)

11. Ah! and finally: If we get up in the morning and the first thing we do is check emails, we are allowing others to dictate our priorities for the day; the important projects you want to focus on will get pushed back…

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
Your comments are welcome at schuftan@gmail.com
www.claudioschuftan.com

Postscript/Marginalia
-Google processes more than three billion search queries a day. It has altered our notions of privacy, tracking what we buy, what we search-for online –and even our physical location at every moment of the day. Every business trying to reach mass-market-consumer-demand online knows that Google is the gatekeeper. The fact that it is a monopoly, with an almost 90 percent share of the search advertising business, is a given that we have all come to accept. It’s a Google’s world; we just live in it. So it matters how this company works. When a company is dominant enough, it sets the tone for an entire era. And the rules set by Google are the rules we all abide by.
Google contributes to rendering the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron. ‘Surveillance capitalism’ will soon involve the heart of Google’s business.
We have an obligation to care about the values of the people who run Google, because we have given Google enormous control over our lives and the lives of our children. As the former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris points out, “Without realizing the implications, a handful of tech leaders at Google and Facebook have built the most pervasive, centralized systems for steering human attention that has ever existed, while enabling skilled actors (addictive apps, foreign governments) to hijack our attention for manipulative ends.” The future implications of a couple of companies having such deep influence on our attention and our behavior are only beginning to be felt. The rise of artificial intelligence combined with Google’s omnipresence in our lives is an issue that is not well understood by politicians or regulators. Somehow the citizens of the world have been left out of this discussion of our future. Because tools like Google and Facebook have become so essential and because we have almost no choice in whether to use them or not; we need to consider the role they play in our lives. By giving networks like Google and Facebook control of the present, we cede our freedom to choose our future. (Jonathan Taplin)

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