Tag Archives: Facebook

Pondering whether journalism ethics apply to bloggers

A longtime friend of mine — and a former journalism colleague — posted an item on social media I feel like sharing here.

Because of journalism ethics, I can’t like candidate pages. Even though I might like the candidate.

My friend still writes for a major West Coast daily newspaper. He is a freelance columnist, meaning he isn’t on the newspaper’s payroll; he is self-employed, but he gets paid by the media outlet for his commentary.

It brings to mind a question I’ve had regarding my own status, as a former journalist who writes a blog that concentrates on politics and public policy … along with the occasional slice of life entry.

I, too, do not “like” political candidates’ pages. Yes, I do talk about candidates, whether I support them or oppose them. The blog allows me to lay out my own bias for the world to see and to make judgments about whether my bias comports with their own.

Do I “like” pols’ pages on Facebook? Should I continue to avoid doing so? My gut tells me that even though I no longer work for anyone but myself, I shall eschew such statements. It’s not that I want to disguise my political leanings; those who read this blog know where I stand.

It’s just that old habits hang on. I damn sure didn’t “like” these candidates while I was working for a living. I’m just not ready to start doing so now.

Alex Jones: no free-speech martyr

Alex Jones has been kicked off some social media platforms.

I have to offer a huge round of applause for those platforms that have seen fit to abide by the standards they set for those who use them. Jones didn’t do that. He’s gone at least from those particular venues.

Who is this clown? He’s a talk-show blowhard and noted conspiracy theorist. His infamy grew exponentially when he alleged that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. — where 20 first- and second-graders and six teachers were gunned down in 2012 — was a “hoax.” He said the grieving parents were actors brought in by anti-gun activists to carry the cudgel for disarming the American public.

He is a monstrous purveyor of hate speech.

Facebook, Apple, Spotify and YouTube all have banned Jones from using their platforms to spew his garbage.

Jones’s response has been predictable. He says the First Amendment guarantees him the right to speak his mind. No matter how vile his thoughts might be.

Hold on, buster.

This argument reminds me of discussions I had throughout my journalism career with individuals who would submit letters or other commentary that I found unsuitable for publication on the opinion pages I edited.

They would say, “But what about free speech?” My response was the same. “You are free to purchase and run your own newspaper and then you are free to publish whatever you want. We have rules and standards and your submission falls short of them.”

So it is with Alex Jones’s hate speech. The social media platforms are within their own constitutional rights to set standards that those who use them must follow. Jones crossed many lines with his hideous pronouncements.

He’s still able to spew his filth. The U.S. Constitution allows it. He simply is no longer able to do so using the venues whose owners and managers have done what they should have done long ago.

They cut him off.

Facebook steps into election interference maelstrom

The social media platform known as Facebook has taken its share of hits regarding whether it has done enough to protect subscribers’ privacy.

So now we hear from Facebook that it has uncovered a widespread attack on our nation’s electoral process in advance of the 2018 midterm election.

The Hill reports: Facebook said in its post on Tuesday that “whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.”

The IRA has gotten involved in this year’s election and Facebook is seeking to act as an Internet whistleblower.

The Hill continued: The social media company did say that while it lacked the “technical evidence” to attribute blame directly, it found that misinformation strategies carried the hallmarks of the IRA’s previous efforts.

“Some of the activity is consistent with what we saw from the IRA before and after the 2016 elections. And we’ve found evidence of some connections between these accounts and IRA accounts we disabled last year,” Facebook said explaining one case in which one of the inauthentic pages briefly had an admin who was also an admin in IRA page from 2016.

On a conference call with reporters, Facebook said that it used a “range of leads” similar to this to detect inauthentic accounts.

I understand fully that we are talking about a tremendously complicated process that requires equally tremendous sophistication to prevent. How does the world’s most sophisticated nation remain so vulnerable to this kind of cyber assault?

I fear we are heading for a new kind of war against forces and interests that are intent on disrupting our democratic process. As elusive as the enemy has been in our “international war on terror,” the cyber foes that have declared war on us are going to take this fight into an entirely new realm.

Blog spurs tension among strangers

As much as l enjoy — even love — writing this blog, it produces at least one uncomfortable side effect.

I distribute High Plains Blogger’s contents along several social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, to name three. It’s the Facebook distribution that results in something that gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Blog supporters and critics read my entries. They respond to statements that come from the blog. Then someone else will respond to the individual who is commenting on the contents of the blog.

It doesn’t matter who starts the exchange. It can come from someone on either side. When it commences, though, it occasionally gets personal.

It’s an intriguing aspect of this community “discussion.” Strangers who have never looked each other in the eye presume to know the other person’s motives. For that matter, I have total strangers who read this blog regularly who presume to know my own motivations and they respond with some sort of faux knowledge. But … that’s OK with me. I let it slide.

When individuals start yammering at each other in response to High Plains Blogger, I find myself feeling badly when someone ascribes nefariousness to someone else’s point of view. Or, they accuse someone of ignorance.

I don’t intend to dissuade commenters from speaking out freely and passionately. It’s an American thing to do. I like that individuals get worked up. However, it does make me a bit queasy when the commenters get personal with their newfound foes over each other’s comments.

None of this will deter me from using this blog to speak out. It’s what I do these days now that I no longer am a working stiff.

I’ll just have to suck it up when readers of this blog — be they friend or foe — decide to go after those on the other side of the gaping political divide.

Stay tuned. Keep reading. And by all means, feel free to offer your own perspective. It’s a great country, yes?

Be careful of the ‘magic word’ in social media spats

It’s an acknowledged truism in baseball that when you get into an argument with an umpire, uttering the “magic word” will get you ejected from the playing field in a New York nano-second.

What, pretell, is that magic word? It is “you.”

That’s right. Shout the word “you” at the ump and he’ll toss you. As in “f*** you!” or “you son of a b****!” or “you blind b******!”

The profanities? No sweat. Just don’t attach “you” to the vilest epithet you can utter.

That rule of thumb ought to apply to social media spats. I quite frequently witness these arguments erupt along my social media networks, namely my Facebook news feed. They usually originate with an item from High Plains Blogger that I distribute to my Facebook “friends” and my actual friends, who also happen to read these musings on Facebook.

Two or more readers of the blog then will get involved in arguing back and forth about a point I seek to make in the blog. I usually stay out of it. I prefer to let them go at it, tooth and nail, hammer and tong.

I’ve been fortunate in this regard: Whenever I do exchange thoughts with critics of my blog, the folks on the other other end usually are civil enough to respond like ladies and gentlemen. I don’t have to invoke the Baseball Rhubarb Rule that gets activated whenever someone blurts out the magic word “you.”

I don’t like name-calling when dealing with just plain folks like myself. Yes, I’ve been known to attach a pejorative description or two to people in high places. The president of the United States, for example, has received his fair share of name-calling from me. But, hey, if he can dish it out … right?

I’ll continue to seek to stay above the nastiness that erupts occasionally along this particular social media network, but I won’t stand for anyone dropping the magic word on me as their way of impugning me.

Hey, everyone has their limit.

Social media: sometimes a poisonous purveyor

I am likely never to fall totally in love with social media. I have accepted its presence our lives. However, there are times when I detest it with — as my mother used to say — “with a purple passion.”

Amarillo City Councilman Howard Smith has posted this item on Facebook, which I’ll share here:

It has come to my attention that a Facebook page has been created called: Howard Smith for Mayor 2019.

I want this to be crystal clear. I did not start this page, nor do I support it.

I am excited to continue my work on the Amarillo City Council. I have absolutely NO intention of running for Mayor.

I think Mayor Nelson is doing a tremendous job, and I am honored to work alongside her and my fellow Council Members to help move Amarillo forward.

Additionally, a GoFundMe account has been created to pay legal fees to oppose the building of the MPEV.

I, Howard Smith, did not contribute to this fund. I support the MPEV.

During this digital age when misinformation is so easily distributed, I encourage you to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

I respectfully ask that anyone pretending to be me or anyone utilizing my name please stop immediately.

What, do you suppose, caused this little item to show up? My hunch is that it has something to do with that recent dust up regarding Ginger Nelson’s decision to crack down on applause during City Council meetings.

As for the MPEV construction, if Councilman Smith says he supports it, I’ll take him at his word.

Social media can be pervasive. They can spread rumors faster than a Texas Panhandle wildfire. It become incumbent on those who become subject of social media discussion to use the media to counteract it or to endorse it, whichever is the case.

Howard Smith has counteracted what he suggests are unfounded rumors.

It’s good to stay alert.

Happy to report this friendship shows durability

A recent trip to the Golden Triangle produced a wonderful — but not surprising — acknowledgement from a friend whom I have known for more than three decades.

His name is Fred. He and my wife and I managed to catch up during our visit to the Beaumont area.

Fred reads this blog frequently. He is critical of my political point of view. He sees the blog mostly through Facebook, which is one of the social media platforms I use to distribute my musings about this and/or that political happenstance.

My old pal noted that his wife once questioned why he reads this blog, reminding him that he disagrees with my leanings so vehemently. “Hey, no problem,” he said to me. “It’s only politics. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.”

There, dear reader, are the magic words.

I was heartened in the extreme to hear my friend say that to me. I wrote a blog post more than five years ago about that very thing and how this blog has cost me a friend or two along the way.

True friendships outlast politics

It just goes to show you that real friends don’t let politics get in the way of solid relationships … such as the one Fred and I have forged.

Thank you, my friend.

Trump vs. Bezos, er … Amazon

Gosh, do you suppose just possibly the president of the United States is angry with Amazon.com because its owner, a guy named Jeff Bezos, happens to also own one of the nation’s leading newspapers — which has written deemed to be critical articles of the same president?

Let’s try to assess the real reason for Donald J. Trump’s anger.

He contends that Amazon is undercutting the U.S. Postal Service. He’s been tweeting his brains out over Amazon. It’s been Amazon this and Amazon that. He’s been browbeating and berating the company via Twitter.

I have to wonder out loud: Why hasn’t he gone after Facebook with equal ferocity, given that medium’s relationship with a company, Cambridge Analytica, that used Facebook customers’ individual data for political purposes — which allegedly sought to benefit the Trump presidential campaign?

Not a peep from POTUS on that one.

Amazon? That’s a different story.

Bezos’s newspaper, The Washigton Post, has been dogged in its reporting of matters affecting, let’s see, “the Russia thing,” Trump finances, the Cabinet shuffle, the chaos and confusion within the West Wing, Jared Kushner’s role as a Middle East peace broker … that kind of thing.

Trump keeps yapping that The Post is reporting “fake news,” which in itself is the height of irony, given that the president is the “purveyor in chief” of fake news. But … I digress.

Trump’s so-called anger with Amazon looks to be nothing more than a case of cyberbullying by the leader of the free world against an Internet mogul who moonlights as the owner of a first-class newspaper that doesn’t slobber all over the president to his liking.

So many ways to get sucked into social media war

I am going to declare this for all the world to hear.

Never will I allow myself to get into a Twitter War with anyone! Never! It won’t happen.

Yes, I am involved with social media. I have a Facebook account with more than 725 “friends” and acquaintances on the social medium. I have gotten into a snit or two with some of my “friends” who have unfriended me along the way. I got into another argument with someone with whom I got disconnected; I am unsure how that happened. Whatever.

I keep reading about individuals waging a “Twitter War” with someone. Or with some group.

I am moved to ask: Who declares victory? Is it the party who calls it quits first? How long does one wage such a “war”?

You know perhaps that I don’t like engaging in Facebook Wars, either. I see too many of these exchanges go on seemingly until the proverbial cows come home. They do get personal and nasty.

I feel quite badly that some of these exchanges over Facebook occur as a result of High Plains Blogger posts I share via that medium. Some of my actual friends will read something, they’ll comment on it and then they launch a fusillade of responses. Some of them are favorable to the person who posts the original response; others of them are, well, unfavorable.

The war commences.

I won’t go there. I don’t have the stomach of any kind of social media warfare. Hey, I’ve seen the real thing, I mean, actual warfare where people shoot guns and drop bombs on each other.

When people go to “war” via social media, well, they can count me out. Either they have too much time on their hands, or I am too preoccupied with writing this blog.

Facebook becomes den of negativity

I am going to come clean on something that doesn’t fill me with much pride.

Facebook has become a negative place. I must admit to contributing to that negativity. I regret that, but I won’t apologize for it.

I use that social medium to distribute posts on High Plains Blogger, along with Twitter, LinkedIn and Google. I seek maximum exposure for these musings/spewage. It’s improving. Indeed, I just passed the total number of page views and unique visitors year to date that I garnered in all of 2016, and we still have nearly three months to go in the current year.

I’m proud of that growth in readership.

However, I am not proud of the negativity that erupts on Facebook occasionally as a result.

Here’s what I witness with distressing regularity: I’ll post something on the blog; it goes to Facebook; my network of friends and acquaintances read this stuff; some of them comment. Then the back-and-forth commences.

I have an out-of-body experience of sorts reading these jabs and snipes and insults tossed among people who, for the most part, are total strangers. I have friends in the Hill Country who take umbrage at a comment from someone in the Panhandle. Some of my West Coast friends get riled up at something said by someone on the East Coast. One of my Gulf Coast peeps fires off a critique of a comment from someone in, oh, the Pacific Northwest. One friend who lives in Germany got involved in a mini-snit recently with one of my fellow Americans over gun violence.

The more they exchange barbs, the more heated it gets. It devolves into actual name-calling.

And what is the cause of all this nastiness? Something that came from little ol’ me. I choose to stay out of these disputes, unless someone misinterprets something I posted in the blog that precipitates the fight. Short of that, I feel like an intruder.

Arguably the most fascinating aspect of this involves individuals with whom I am not connected via Facebook or any other social media. They, too, get involved in some of this name-calling. It’s all quite strange, man.

A part of me wishes I could curtail this negativity. Another part of me welcomes the give and take, although I’d prefer to see a bit more “give” than “take” in some of these exchanges.

Now that I’ve come clean on my contribution to the Facebook negativity, I want to declare my intention to keep doing what I’m doing. The blog posts will continue to go out along my Facebook network.

If those who take serious offense at something that someone else says about whatever, well, that’s on you.

Enjoy.