Paris, Beirut, and thinking how to responsibly signal boost

I am painfully aware that until the Paris attacks happened, I was unaware of the bombing in Beirut a mere two days prior. It didn’t trend on twitter. No one on Facebook mentioned it. There wasn’t an option to set my avatar to the colors of the Lebanese flag. And yet the same group organized both attacks, with the same goals.

I want you to take a moment to watch this video, which has nothing to do with Paris or Beirut, and then think about the pictures you see and the coverage each tragedy receives.

The way in which we present things to the world matters. When you think about what you can do, one of the things is to make sure that you are being responsible with how you share information. Don’t blindly retweet things. Actually read the articles, not just the headlines. Look at the pictures. And, most importantly, look for the stories from people who are being marginalized.

What can you do? You can boost the signal. You can be part of making sure the full story is heard.

Please feel free to share good sources in the comments below.

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9 thoughts on “Paris, Beirut, and thinking how to responsibly signal boost”

  1. This is a good reminder for all of us. What we learn about a person, or a company, or a book flavors the direction our thought process will take and ultimately how we react, how we treat that person, the opinion we have about a book before we start to read it. There seems to be a lot of ‘cheating’ going on since sites like Facebook started. It’s so easy to ‘like’ an opinion without even reading the piece itself. And you never get the real story from Facebook. I keep telling myself that I need to research things, instead of taking things at face value, but I haven’t so far, and I love research. It’s just laziness really

  2. I make a point of not allowing the bubble to form around me of only my own views.

    I have a handful of people on my feeds that are ardent supporters of Trump for President. I detest what they say. But if I did not hear their voices and try to figure out why they think that way I would not know if my own point of view was reasonable.

  3. Sérgio Teixeira da Silva

    The War Nerd is one of the few people to talk honestly about the affairs of brown people around the world. He correctly predicted a lot of stuff (I can tell because I was following real-time), he does talk about exactly this, ahem, selective ignorance, and his analyses always include the actual culture of the peoples in question.

    is the most recent free-access archive;

    is the latest place for his writings – it’s paid, but you may find “unlocked” articles by looking around; and

    is a podcast – it seems that tomorrow there’ll be a free one about the attacks.

  4. One of the things I’ve learned to do, whenever friends post from sites like ThingProgress, HuffPost, or other “repackaging” sites from either side of the spectrum, is to make sure to read the original sources they usually link to. If I want to share the info, I post the original unless there’s a compelling reason to prefer the repackaged version.

    The originals are almost always less sensationalist and have more complete information, putting things in context. I avoid posting anything that seems aimed at manufacturing outrage, villainizing a political party or group of people, or picking the craziest member of a state legislature to show what crazies live in that state or belong to that political party.

    I’ve also learned which friends tend to post particularly thoughtful and insightful posts on various topics I’m interested in – international news, science, health, special education. That way, my Facebook newsfeed has become a curated news stream for me.

  5. I first learned about observer bias as a teenager, where a student-run conference I attended was reported in the local paper in a way that left me thinking they’d attended a completely different event. I became convinced of the existence of media bias.

    It took a lot longer to realize I should watch out for my own biases, too.

  6. Rose Marie McSweeney

    Thanks for the thoughtful exhortation.

    It’s good for us to keep in mind that the video itself is a representation—a creation, really. It is a form of artifice to expose *other* cultural products as “artificial” while suggesting or stating that one’s own has seen through the misrepresentation or misunderstanding.

    The music, the editing, the quick cutting between th carefully packaged statements of the photographers, and above all the Canon logo in the corner . . .

    It’s a bit like watching a movie where one character reminds another, “This is not a movie!” That sort of maneuver can be very deceiving, claiming the ground of objectivity or accuracy within a representation or fiction.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful commentary. I have been speaking to many people this week about where/how we get our news and the waves of commentary and re-posting after the Paris events.

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