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VOLUME 16 NO. 6

EXAMINE THE NET WAY OF LIFE

JANUARY, 2017

©2016 Ski

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The Year 2016 could not end fast enough. It was the year that celebrity deaths piled up like a ski resort avalanche. Social media pushed itself to the forefront of news in the worst way. The trolls took over and bullied their candidate into the White House, to the horror of the clueless establishment.

The year ends with CNET putting together a list of the top 120 fake news stories. How is that a good thing? It is no longer wacky conspiracy theories or biased personal opinion that rules the day. It is hoaxes being elevated into hard news by many traditional media outlets to lazy to fact check. The Onion style has eclipsed the New York Times.

Whether it was a plan or a lucky accident, Donald Trump tweeted his brash narcissistic message to the forgotten masses to bulldoze the conservative Republican party into dust and kill the last remains of the Democratic Clinton era. It was the worst election in history. Issues were not discussed as it a personality driven game show of sound bites and accusations.

Trump was called a dangerous lunatic unqualified to hold office. He is now the ringmaster for a new circus that will invade Washington D.C. with a totally unknown agenda of populism, upheaval change and new conflicts of interest. Cynics would call it just a new flavor of old crony politics.

People voted eight years ago for change but got a larger, oppressive government which spends like a drunken sailor on shore leave.

In good times and bad times, people used to find comfort in the family and close friends. But this election cycle strained friendships with the extreme political banter in social media. The quick re-posts of fake news reports and incendiary views on issues drove many to stop speaking to the people closest to them.

It is ironic that the internet was created to help the free flow of information. It was set up to facilitate research between academics to find new truths in science and technology. But the net has been transformed into a free-for-all, mudslinging political professional wrestling tournament. The truth is the last item of concern when one can find someone on the net who agrees with your opinion.

In many ways, the digital community is an illusion. It is like a dime bag of heroin: an addictive escapism that quickly can cause irreversible damage. Social media friends or followers have begun to replace real friends in real life. The art of conversation is being replaced with 140 character misspelled mental goulash.

We used to think over-the-top TV evangelists were madmen with a twisted message for the hermit homebodies. But anyone with a broadband connection can be their own evangelist. In many cases, a boastful, angry, crazed and vengeful commentator. Haters will hate more from the comfort of their anonymous computer room. But this power has begun to spill over into physical attacks and unruly behavior in public malls and cable news discussion shows.

It may sound corny, but Truth, Justice and the American Way were the key values of the United States. It created an umbrella for anyone who wanted to work could find opportunities in a country where it was OK to innovate, take risks, fail then succeed.

The American Way as being part of the American Dream (good job, a stable family, a secure home, a car, and steady savings) seems to be eclipsed by the delusion that someone else will give you free stuff and take care of all your needs.

Justice took a fatal hit this year. Suicide by police action turned into assassinations on police officers. There is no justice when terrorists blow up innocents at clubs. The unequal application of the law still burns classes.

But Truth was the objective foundation that supported everything in society. Junk science, social engineering in schools, opinion based statements used as fact have all contributed to the decline in value of Truth. We can seize on the reasons for the decline in values but we cannot put the wild horses back in the barn. When people feel empowered by their own personal beliefs, then nothing can change them - - - including incontrovertible facts.

The non-truth as the new standard of behavior has crept into all aspects of our lives: politics, employment, contract obligations and interpersonal relationships. It gives cruelty a foot hold in how people treat other people. It is like the Devil gave a billion wishes in exchange for social chaos.

There are a few theoretical scientists who believe that our lives as we experience them may be just a grand virtual reality computer program. Even though we are three dimensional beings who breathe, eat, emote, change and die, it may be all fake because of concept of perception is a hidden construct.

It is sci-fi notion that things are not what they seem. But when you read the news or watch net videos, you can no longer truly trust what you are seeing with your own eyes. Hoaxes seem real like snake oil salesmen selling the cure to all ills. Except, patent medicines did not take down our society like the spread of vicious rumors and falsehoods that could adversely affect millions of people at one time.

 

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FAKE FAKE FAKE CULTURE

No one is immune from the Fake News monster. It is spreading throughout various parts of society.

In December, CNN, one of the media outfits that regularly complains about “fake news,” ran a fake news story of its own when it claimed that Russia was closing an Anglo-American school in Moscow as retaliation for President Obama’s sanctions. “Russian authorities ordered the closure of the Anglo-American School of Moscow, a US official briefed on the matter said. The order from the Russian government closes the school, which serves children of US, British and Canadian embassy personnel, to US and foreign nationals,” reported CNN. However, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova responded swiftly by denying that the school had been closed. “US officials anonymously informed their media that Russia closed the Anglo-American School in Moscow as a retaliatory measure. That's a lie. Apparently, the White House has completely lost its senses and began inventing sanctions against its own children. Zakharova said, accusing CNN of spreading false information.

Also in December, many news organizations published stories about a man who claimed he was kicked off a Delta Air Lines flight solely because his speaking Arabic made other passengers uncomfortable. The story went viral. Many outlets, however, negated to note an important fact: the individual in question is a YouTube prankster known for pulling similar viral stunts. Only after the prankster's claims were disseminated across all corners of the Internet did his past enter the picture in a meaningful way. Delta eventually denied his claim. As Business Insider reported, “It baffles me how anyone on the left combating fake news can turn a blind eye to the clickbaiting within its own ranks,” CNN host Jake Tapper said.

The Daily Mail (UK) remarked that the rise of fake news photos have been fooling people all year long. Photoshopping strange things into normal photographs has been common fare for a long time. But now clearly fake visuals get passed along as being real, then spread like wild fire, like the 7 headed cobra snake photograph. Since there is no photo editor or gatekeeper, these stunts do not get the correction that a normal news error.

Also increasing frustration, computer software vaporware continues to be an annual story. But instead of developers failing to come through with promised games, Kickstarter and crowd funded projects (where people put up real money in exchange for realizing the product) have also collapsed under allegations of fraud or mismanagement. There are more examples of campaigns that had no basis in reality except to collect money.

Dilbert creator Scott Adams issued a challenge to scientists to prove climate change. Why a cartoonist is putting his name into a controversial subject is unknown. But he believes that elitists in government have been bullying a false premise on the public. Climate change is a hot button topic which divides people into two unwavering sides. Proponents stand by their computer models while opponents debunk the research as junk science since the models contain numerous false assumptions to create a solution. Each side claims the truth on a subject that does not have a verifiable cause.

Con artists and tricksters have been around for centuries. A man in Washington was arrested for creating a Fake adult entertainment agency. He has been sued for deceptive business practices as he tricked women into his own personal sex and porn fantasy under the guise he was promoting them in the porn industry.

Deception is not the only thing. Fake relationships were part of the MTV lineup, glorifying catfishing - - - creating a false persona to lure a normal person to have emotional relationship with a fraud, usually a man impersonating a woman. Some think this is a harmless prank. Relationships are hard enough without a cruel entertainment undercurrent.

The FTC settled with adult site, Ashley Madison, who charged customers for interactive rendezvous from other married individuals. But it was alleged that most of the contacts were coming from computer bots impersonating an eager sex partner. Members had no idea if they were interacting with a human being or a artificial intelligence program. Experts believe this kind of false communication will increase in the near future.

Fake sex is taking its course in various fields. The porn industry is intersecting consumer electronics in the virtual and augmented reality space. The quest for new realism is fueling development of a growing sex robot industry. A 3D headset encounter with a film star lover is driving content which may create a new kind of addictive personality disorder since some people may retreat from real relationships to a virtual one.

Even if it is not explicit, there is a bridge fan service. Lee Min Ho is a handsome Korean leading man. He is every fan girl's dream. Innisfree has made these dreams a reality with their VR experience Someday in Jeju featuring Lee Min Ho as the male protagonist. The cosmetics company allowed fans at selected Innisfree stores to try out the VR and monitor their heartbeat throughout. From driving around in the car with the actor to roaming through the wilderness to frolicking in the beach, the reactions of the participants were recorded as they interact with Min Ho. It is a virtual date with a movie star. This concept may actually grow from an advertising marketing campaign into full blow celebrity interactive dating software. Instead of going to a movie to swoon over an actor or actress, you may be able to download in your home a date with them.

Deception is creeping into big budget movies. In Rogue One, a veteran Star Wars actor who was deceased was re-created through filmmakers, including Industrial Light & Magic, using a digital human vfx. When Carrie Fisher died, there was talk about her role in the next two Star Wars movies. (She had filmed one and one was to start production shortly.) The use of a deceased person's image is highly debated in legal circles as it touches upon probate, privacy and intellectual property issues. But movie studios could create their own computer generated movie actors. The question to audiences is whether they can tell the difference between real actors or realistic computer rendering. Or will they care?

In all cultures, love and romance is supposed to lead to marriage. It creates the next generation. In Japan and South Korea, the concept of marriage memories is being distorted by many young career women giving up on marriage to have their own photo ceremonies. In Japan there is a company that is giving people a virtual companion, an animated service device. Gatebox does a lot of the same stuff that Amazon's Echo does — it can automate your home in various ways, including turning on lights and waking you up in the morning. But it has an animated female maid character who interacts with its owner, much like a girlfriend would do.

Technology companies are also turning to robots to create fake babies. The Kirobo Mini will blink its eyes, mimic the high-pitched baby talk familiar to new parents, and recognize facial expressions through the use of motion detection. It is small enough to sit inside a cradle that snaps into a Toyota vehicle cup holder. It is powerful enough to simulate the intelligence of a 5-year-old. The belief among many people concerned about Japan's negative birth rate is that these companion babies are designed to tap into the parental instincts of Kirobo owners, possibly leading them to want a real child of their own. This strategy is similar to the one used by the team behind Yotaro, another robot baby introduced in Japan in 2010. This one used projection technology to put an emotive face on the robot, promoting a bond with its owners (and hopefully leading to some flesh-and-blood babies in the future).

The Telegraph (UK) also reported on the robotic love trend. In David Levy's 2007 best-selling book, Love and Sex with Robots, the author predicts it is a certainty that humans would be marrying automata by 2050. People currently have deep emotional bonds with their smartphones: panic, despair and a sense of hopelessness sweep over some if they lose the device or unable to use it for more than an hour. There may be a time that a personal robot will be protective, loving, trusting, truthful, persevering, respectful, uncomplaining, complimentary, pleasant to talk to and share experiences that a real spouse now currently provides their partner.

The Wall Street Journal reported that bankruptcy court trustees have hired investigators to comb social media to find debtors who lied in court papers on their assets. However, many investigators have found evidence of debtors bragging about undisclosed jewelry, expensive toys like boats, but later find out these boasts were lies. The industry's detectives - - - lawyers and accountants who serve as chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees- - - are learning what most teenagers already know which is that you cannot always believe what you see on Facebook and Twitter. The social media has no filter for posers or fake lifestyles.

Even the art world has been struck by strange fake claims. But in reverse. Two different artists in two different cases denied they painted what experts and galleries appraised as valuable masterpieces. The latest case comes from South Korea. The artist rebuked a museum's claim that one of its paintings was his work. The debate on whether the painting Beautiful Woman is a genuine work by late Korean artist Chun Kyun-ja. A government prosecutor recently concluded that the painting was Chun's creation. During a heated press conference in Seoul in December, Jean Penicaut, CEO of French image analysis firm Lumiere Technology, fiercely defended his firm's conclusion that there is only a 0.0002 percent chance the piece could have been painted by Chun. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, after conducting its own investigation and consulting with the country's National Forensic Service and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, had dismissed Lumiere's findings. Penicaut argued that based on a comparative analysis using Lumiere Technology's multispectral high-definition camera ---- which was invented by the company and is able to detect 1,650 different layers of a painting, Beautiful Woman, deviated from nine other works created by Chun from 1977 to 1985 in various aspects, including light dissemination and contrast. Bae Geum-ja, from the legal team representing Chun's surviving family, said in a statement released at the press conference that prosecutors did not reveal the list of experts who were involved in appraising the work and were told not to rebut their conclusion, or issue any sort of press release prior to the prosecution's announcement. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, which holds the painting and has been staunchly defending its authenticity, said Lumiere Technology's analysis contained overt mistakes. It is truly odd that the owners of a painting that could be worth millions no longer need verification from the actual artist to substantiate their claim.

In another Korean story, a historic book store that closed was reopened by new business owner near its original location. In trademark law, it could be considered pawning off the reputation of another business. In the center of downtown Seoul, Jongno Books started in 1907 that grew into Korea's first multilevel bookstore. It was a haven for writers and thinkers, offering not only Korean books of every kind but also English and Japanese publications, which was rare in Korea at the time. Stationery and music albums lined a corner of the fourth and fifth floors. It was also the first place to offer fixed prices for books. Businessmen from nearby offices and students would browse for hours; friends would designate the easily recognizable landmark as their meet-up spot. When the establishment closed down in 2002, writers lamented its demise. But 14 years later, a new bookstore with the same name opened its doors a few blocks away from the original spot, to the ire of the original owner. Jang Deok-yeon, who served as a CEO of the original Jongno Books, has been protesting the name of the new establishment. “It has nothing to do with the historical store that people remember. It is appalling that (the store) is using people's memories for advertising and promotion, to make it seem like the old store has been resurrected,” he said.

As you can tell, Truth, the objective verifiable fact that is the foundation of how civilization operates, is being displaced by white lies, fabrications and fraud. These fake trends damage the Truth. Truth will become immaterial in a world of clickbait headlines and more interesting fake stories. And then we will be worse off. We will not be able to trust anything or anyone.

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FAKE NEWS COMMENTARY FROM LAST ISSUE

The biggest fall out from the U.S. election was that Fake News is the paradigm. Fraudulent. Arrogant. Kismet. Envy.

The freedom of the Internet allows the easy distribution of information. It also allows the free flow of misinformation. Destructive rumors, gossip, hate speech, lies, scams and biased opinion fly around the net like close combat mortar volleys. With no gatekeeper to verify fact from vicious fiction, these bundles of misinformation get spread like an infection before antibiotics.

Facebook was the epicenter of the wrath of critics in the post-election rubble. But everyone had a hand in friendly fire of untruth and biased reports. The national news media was pro-Hillary. It gave Donald Trump the early primary spotlight because he was the joke candidate - - - someone who could destroy the Republican establishment so badly the Democrats could seize total power in DC Trump did vanquish the GOP establishment, but he also galvanized the blue collar middle class against the Democratic elitists.

The main networks relied too much on their own fake news engines, the polls, to ride themselves into kindling starter in the post-election dumpster fire. A telephone poll of 700 people a week does not make the results news. Instead of spending millions of dollars on pollsters and new TV election sets with puffy chest pundits (political consultants), the media could have hired thousands of journalists to go out into the nation and actually see what was happening in the country. The middle class in Middle America had been left behind, holding billions of public debt while their jobs left for overseas factories.

And then the fact checkers, the hoard of interested and invested voters on the net, decided it was easier to bash an opponent than find the truth. Finding the truth requires work and skill. Finding the truth requires an open mind. Find the truth takes time - - - something most people find useless when they click a few keys to tweet or post. Opinion has supplanted the value of fact in news events.

America was once warned about the industrial-military complex destroying the American democracy and the American dream. Only a few writers forewarned its replacement, the academic-government complex, from destroying American capitalism and imposing a new world (globalization) order on citizens. In the past year, there has been a fury of political correctness on college campuses and the lack of common sense tolerance rules in elementary and high schools. Safe spaces, trigger words, mandated diversity training and PC police state enforcement of social rules finally hit the boiling point from conservative and libertarian thinking silent majority who found the college tuition bills skyrocket to the price of house per year, with their children learning falsehoods.

When the protesters began screaming about a rigged election for Trump, they lacked a basic grasp of American history. Clinton may have won the popular vote, but that does not mean she won the election. Protesters, especially college students, had no clue what the Electoral College was or what voters actually were voting for in November. The cry for the Democrats to go the Supreme Court to reverse the electoral college by the popular vote was not naive ramblings but utter, clueless stupidity. Academia and government got bloated by their own self-importance to seize the public treasuries for one new social program after another.

So there is an army of partisan content creators to fill the web with their opinionated spin in the hope that a little snowball turns into an avalanche.

CNET reported after the election that fake news was haunting the two biggest Internet sites: Google and Facebook. Google listed a false Trump winning the popular-vote story prominently on Google News for those searching for election results. Other fake stories made the rounds, unchecked, on Facebook, where they racked up likes, shares and views. Facebook and Google are now two of the largest and most popular sites on the Internet As CNET remarked, they are also “the Hungry Hungry Hippos of digital ad dollars. Between them, they draw billions of visitors a day. So if Facebook and Google have a fake news problem, there's an argument to be made that the Internet itself has a fake news problem.”

The Pew Research Center believes that since most of the general public's research is through digital search engines and social media links, the net plays a significant role in developing (bad) habits in America's knowledge base. Facebook has said that the social network needs to be careful about becoming an arbiter of truth. In some ways, there is a little hypocrisy in that statement since Facebook had been accused in promoting stories in line with the owners personal political views. Google, meanwhile, has said it will only remove search results if they contain things like illegal content or malware. That means fake news continues to have a free range to populate news feeds.

The Washington Post reported that an Internet hoax creator was claiming he caused the Trump victory. Paul Horner claimed to have spread a viral slew of stupefying news hoaxes over the years, including one dozy about how a 3 million Amish voters in Ohio helped propel Trump to the White House. His tall tales spread like wildfire, and caught the attention of Trump's political team who posted links to his reports as if they were legit. Horner said Trump's followers did not fact-check anything - - - they would post everything as it was true. He was quoted as saying, “Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected.”

Perhaps, in some segments of the voter rage against the status quo, fake news stories had an impact. But the disturbing trend is that fake news stories are becoming a mainstream constant. Legitimate news organizations in the quest to be first on a breaking story will go live with speculation, rumor or false witnesses. But even the most thorough back-up to the truth will not erase the original wrong facts from the original report.

The irony is not lost on the journalism profession. With 40 percent of America finding their news solely on the net, traditional media outlets like newspapers are losing ground to non-professional posters and unchecked standards of care. The First Amendment was created as a check against runaway government abuse of the people. An informed electorate is the foundation for American democracy. An ill-informed or apathetic electorate are sheep for the powerbroker wolves.

But with Google and Facebook capturing the vast majority of media advertising dollars, professional fact finders, reporters, are being an endangered species. People have begun to accept falsehoods as truth. One of the seeds for this change was from the satire programs of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Report which twisted comedy into a crack cocaine applesauce that their viewers relied upon for their news content. But at the Cartoonist and Satire Festival at Duke University in September, writers from the Daily Show and Samantha Bee held a panel which included how detailed their fact-checking procedures are before any joke gets the green light. The detail in facts in a comedy show was required because if they made a critical mistake, the credibility of the comedian would lose impact on the viewers. The best satire is based on mockery of the truth. But now, the mock truth was been created in the lazy mind of the Internet viewer.

The 2016 election was the high water mark of fake news, insults, diversions and bombastic opinions that caused friendships to end and journalism put on life support for being caught up in the hype. It may be a cancer that will continue to grow with the Twitter-in-Chief Donald Trump and an entire army of unemployed Democratic strategists who will fill the cable airwaves for the next four years with daily rants.

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THE WHETHER REPORT

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STATUS

Question: Whether Facebook will become the primary source of news consumption rather than traditional media outlets?

* Educated Guess

* Possible

* Probable

* Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

* Doubtful

* Vapor Dream

Question: Whether alleged Russian hacking during the US election cycle lead to any meaningful sanctions?

* Educated Guess

* Possible

* Probable

* Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

* Doubtful

* Vapor Dream

Question: Whether trolls and anti-social behavior will increase as the Internet encompasses more our daily lives?

* Educated Guess

* Possible

* Probable

* Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

* Doubtful

* Vapor Dream


 

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EXAMINING THE NET

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