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Freedom of Speech (and the lack thereof)

posted in Media on August 18th, 2007

Normally, I refrain from posting entries that contain a political message, even if it is only remotely political, but this one really deserves some air time:

According to Matt Mullenweg’s blog, Turkey blocked access to wordpress.com, Automattic’s hosted blogging service.

Earlier this year, YouTube was blocked because of a video that insulted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Insulting the founding father of that Nation, apparently, is a criminal offense, punishable with a prison sentence. The interesting thing though is that the video was not posted by a Turkish national, but rather by a Greek critizen.

During the past couple of years, Turkey has struggled to gain admission to the European Union and they have done a great deal to improve various shortcomings situations for which I commend them.

However, it really does make me wonder if a country that kills access to a blogging service because it does not agree with the views stated on said site has the right character to join a community as diverse as the European Union.

After all, the motto of the EU is “united in diversity”. Thinking about the recent events regarding freedom of speech in Turkey, I, for one, am unsure how the European diversity compared with the Turkish way of dealing with journalists (and those that dare to voice their opinion) could possibly fit together in a peaceful way.

For the record, I do realize that the way the government acts does not necessarily resemble the way many Turks would act, but when it all comes down to a black and white picture, the government was elected as a representative of the Turkish citizens …

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Editorial Discretion

posted in Media on March 20th, 2007

In the late 20th century, most people would select newspapers based on their political preferences or religious beliefs, only a small percentage, namely the (y)UPs would select a publication based on the merit they would get out of reading it.

While this percentage has increased quite a bit in recent years, it is still evident that people don’t like to break with old traditions and would rather read a newspaper that feeds them information that is deemed fit by their particular “group” rather than a newspaper that reports just because there should be reports.

If you take a look at Middle Eastern countries, you’ll see that just about every journal, gazette and in general, 98% of the publications are tainted by religious beliefs. The reasoning for this is simple: If you control what the masses believe, you control what they do.

Yes, information in today’s world is still worth it’s weight in gold and with the right information you’ll still be able to wield power over someone.

However, with everything that can be abused for personal gain, there are also some things you can do that will eventually result in something good happening (or something bad not happening).

A week ago, in a tragedy that caused a huge ripple effect in the Dutch media unfolded. A father, of reasons unknown to me, first disposed off his mother-in-law and then threw his children in front of a train.

Many newspapers, especially the ones aimed at the lower working class, described the whole event in great detail. One newspaper however decided that they’d rather not fuel the fear and hate of their readers.

De Volkskrant opted to publish an interview with an expert in the field of suicide prevention and suicide research. Said expert conducted a study about the effect of articles that discuss tragic events, like the one listed above, have on the society at large. His conclusion: the more you read about suicide and murder, the more likely you are to become victim to one of those events yourself.

His statement, of course, needs to be put into proper context: if you are a perfectly sane person, you will probably not experience any side effects, other than a feeling of sadness that will quickly subside. On the other hand, if you are a person suffering from depression and have already tried to mutilate yourself, you are a lot more likely to be affected by news reports about this kind of events.

All in all, I believe that these two publications made the right choice by not describing, in vivid detail, how the events unfolded exactly but rather only mentioning it “by the way”.

Sure, if you don’t see something, doesn’t have to mean that it isn’t there, but I’d rather not open my newspaper every day to be greeted with, yet another, firsthand account of someone killing his next of kin.

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Does respect come with a job?

posted in personal stuff on February 21st, 2007

I was just talking to a friend of mine who had an interesting experience:

She and a friend of hers were speeding along a quiet neighbourhood, when all of a sudden a police officer pulled them over. Now, first thing most people would do is panic, but these two people kept their cool and actually managed to have a nice chat with the officer. Long story short, he didn’t sign a ticket and, awkwardly, asked for the number of the girl.

Regardless if he got it or not, I was wondering what I’d do in a similar situation (albeit, with a female cop):

The officer just saved you $50 or more and all they ask for in return is your number because they find you attractive and maybe even interesting. Should you feel obliged to give it to them? If you would, is it because you feel obliged to, because said officer kept your records clean or is it because the officer commands respect and you wouldn’t dare oppose someone in such a function? Would you give them your details based on a purely social evaluation, not taking the officer’s job into consideration?

Now, what would happen if the situation was slightly altered: replace the cop with a soldier, would you still feel that the job commands the same respect as a police officer does? Does a soldier command more respect? What about a firefighter, a (commercial) pilot?

If you give them your details, would you go for something highly associatable, like your land line number, something you could easily get rid off, like a prepaid cellphone number or would you go for a, rather anonymous email address?

An interesting topic to think about.