Sunday, November 27, 2016

As the Film "Network" Turns 40 Years Old

  • On Nov. 27, 1976, the film “Network”, written by Paddy Chayefsky, was released. Its story satirized the rise of sensationalized television news and focused on Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) who 1) was a failing network news anchor, 2) announced that he would kill himself while on the air, 3) was repositioned as the “Mad Prophet of the Airways” and 4) memorably expresses his frustration with society with the catchphrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”  
  • Beale also said “Television is not the truth, Television is a goddamn amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats. Storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business. So, if you want the truth, go to God, go to your gurus, go to yourselves. Because that’s the only place you’re going to find any real truth. You’re never going to get any truth from us. We’ll tell you anything you want to hear. We’ll lie like hell.”
  • And … “Less than 3 percent of you people read books. Less than 15 percent of you read newspapers, the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers. This tube is the most awesome goddamn force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people.” 
  • Note: The film won Academy Awards for best actor, best actress, best supporting actress and original screenplay.   
  • CBS CEO Les Moonves (speaking at a Feb. 2016 Morgan Stanley investor conference) about Donald Trump’s campaign said, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS”.
  • Financial Times U.S.  Managing Editor Gillian Tett last week said, “In political terms, a vote for Clinton seemed akin to eating spinachA vote for Trump, however, was more like eating ice-cream laced with whisky for breakfast — something that establishment people did not want to admit to.”

  • Regarding “news as infotainment” - The Internet has become the new television and the infotainment problem seems to have increased, extending across many media distribution channels.
  • Regarding Les Moonves’s comment – It is likely that his view is shared across the industry.
  • Regarding Gillian Tett’s comment – Making you “feel good (or less bad)” rather that considering “what’s good for you” continues to drive many business and political endeavors.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Challenges of Fake News, Algorithms and more

  • On Nov. 12, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading. These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here … Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other … That said, we don't want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.”
  • Addressing concerns about a fake story in its news feed, Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville, said “The goal of search is to provide the most relevant and useful results for our user… in this case, we clearly didn’t get it right, but we are continually working to improve our algorithms.”
  • On Nov. 17, U.S. President Barak Obama said “Because in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it's packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television … If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect.”
  • On Oct. 25, German chancellor Angela Merkel said “I’m of the opinion, that algorithms must be made more transparent, so that one can inform oneself as an interested citizen about questions like, ‘What influences my behavior on the internet and that of others?’ Algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception; they can shrink our expanse of information.”
  • Regarding fake news – Any automated process used to identify “fake” or biased news will likely introduce its own set of biased outcomes.  As a result, users should take a more active role in understanding the integrity of their news sources.
  • Regarding algorithms – Algorithms can help manage tasks ranging from the repetitive to the complex.  Requests for more checks and balances to improve system design and minimize biased logic will likely increase.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

U.S. Presidential Election: Selected Observations - and Moving Forward

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel - "I offer the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, close cooperation."
  • German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier - "Nothing will be easier, a lot will be more difficult. We don't know how Donald Trump will govern America."
  • German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen - “Donald Trump knows that this wasn't an election for him, but against Washington, against the establishment”
  • Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - “Congratulations to President-Elect Donald Trump! His candidacy took many by surprise. At each stage, he defied expectations, and his journey has ultimately taken him to the White House … It has been a contentious, ugly election season, that has exposed a bitter divide in the American people. Many will celebrate this result, while others will understandably be surprised and disappointed.
  • Washington Post journalist Paul Waldman  - “While Trump managed to gain an electoral college victory, not only did he get fewer votes than Hillary Clinton … he got fewer votes than Mitt Romney in 2012, fewer votes than John McCain in 2008, and fewer votes than George W. Bush in 2004. … fewer than 26 percent of eligible American voters cast their ballots for the [Trump] … What’s also important here is how poorly Hillary Clinton did. She got 6 million fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2012, and nearly 10 million fewer than he did in 2008”
  • Film maker Michael Moore -  “Everyone must stop saying they are "stunned" and "shocked". What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren't paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair.”
  • Beverly Gage - New York Times on ”LISTEN, LIBERAL: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?” – “The social critic Thomas Frank poses ... that liberals in general — and the Democratic Party in particular — should look inward to understand the sorry state of American politics. Too busy attending TED talks and vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard … the Democratic elite has abandoned the party’s traditional commitments to the working class. In the process, they have helped to create the political despair and anger at the heart of today’s right-wing insurgencies.” 

  • Regarding Trump - His supporters will find comfort in the potential to appoint U.S. Supreme Court judges, but the “drain the swamp” clean -up of Congress may fall short of expectations as he seeks to 1) reduce corporate and personal tax rates, 2) decrease government regulation, 3) promote pro-energy policies, 4) restructure trade deals, 5) change Obamacare and 6) increase infrastructure spending.
  • Regarding shocked Democrats – Examining why labor support has weakened, may be a good place to start in the “rebuilding” process.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Approaching the U.S. Presidential Election - and Beyond

  • From Oct. 20 to 25, the Pew Research Center surveyed 2,583 adults about the U.S. presidential election.  Findings included: is the U.S. Presidential candidate 
  • patriotic” - Clinton (61%), Trump (61%), 
  • “a strong leader” – Clinton (52%), Trump (46%), 
  • has “poor judgement” – Clinton (56%), Trump (65%),
  • hard to like” - Clinton (59%), Trump (70%), 
  • has “respect for democratic institutions” Clinton (63%), Trump (43%).
  • Is the Republican party united (17%), 
  • is the Democratic party united (58%).
  • Singer Sheryl Crow, in her petition “Shorten the US Presidential Election Cycle” said, “By the time Americans go to the polls on November 8th, this Presidential campaign will have run over 600 days, kicking off with Ted Cruz’s announcement in March of 2015. This election cycle has been extremely damaging and has incited fear and hatred in a country founded on the beauty of our differences and the desire to lift each person, no matter race, religion, political party, or economic status, to reach his or her fullest potential. Countries across the globe have limited campaign seasons to as short as 6 weeks …  The American people have been extremely disrespected in this campaign season with the ugliness that pits us against each other and with nonsense and fear-mongering … We cannot sustain another lengthy slugfest like what we have witnessed for the past two years … “
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, speaking at the Heritage Foundation said, "This city [Washington, DC] is broken in some ways. At some point, we are going to have to recognize that we are destroying our institutions … [members of the government] aren't thinking things through … We have decided rather than confront disagreements and the differences of opinion, we will simply annihilate the person who disagrees.” 

  • It is easy to understand that an election cycle with 1) a protracted length of campaigning , 2) record levels of spending, 3) many surprising twists and turns, 4) concerns about FBI actions and 5) one too many Weiners - has resulted in voter anxiety and fatigue.
  • As the world looks on at the outcome of the vote, hopefully the road ahead is more constructive and less divisive.