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Froma Harrop - The 'Spiral of Silence'

With folks yapping all day on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and the rest — how can there be such a thing as a "spiral of silence" online?

Easy. Just make the experience of online political debate so disjointed, impersonal and unpleasant that people shut themselves up. Or they hide out in groupings where everyone says much the same thing. In that case, what they're doing is cheerleading, not debating.

The "spiral of silence" is a theory that people hesitate to say things they believe others in their group won't agree with. It predates the Internet age.

Let me add that the "spiral of silence" disproportionately affects the shy, the thoughtful and the female.

Social media were supposed to free these cooped-up opinions by offering new venues for speaking one's piece. But this high-minded promise of a vast online town hall for pensive argument has fallen flat, according to a new report by Pew Research Center and Rutgers University.

If anything, people seem less willing to engage in real back-and-forth about public affairs on websites than they are in old-fashioned personal settings, the researchers found.

We're talking about politics here, not hiking trips, kitchen renovations and dog adoptions. And the politics we're talking about is not a rally for Sen. Foghorn — the sort of thing that works well online — but a real hashing out of political differences.

To find out how the public ranks social media as a place for political debate, the researchers asked questions about Edward Snowden's leaks of the National Security Agency's operations. They used this issue because polls found the public fairly divided on the subject.

Only 16 percent of respondents who use Facebook said they'd discuss it there. And only 14 percent of those on Twitter said they'd talk about it on Twitter.

But 40 percent said they'd be willing to debate the matter at a family dinner table and 32 percent at a restaurant with friends.

Why aren't we doing more political interchange online? For starters, the Web fragments us into bands of the like-minded. People with minority views can huddle with others holding the same views, making them feel safer, part of a majority.
Further, online interaction is notoriously devoid of restraints on anti-social behavior — doubly so when creeps hide behind fake identities or go anonymous. Not everyone can laugh at "You are an idiot." And for the vulnerable, squads of lowlife trolls can multiply the hurt.

Here's another possible reason for social media's poor showing as a stage for political debate. How can anyone engage in a serious discussion on Facebook with videos of goats nuzzling monkeys cluttering the feeds, alongside pix of weddings and kayaks?

As for Twitter, how can anything more complicated than the temperature in Chicago be discussed in 140 characters or fewer? What passes on Twitter for political debate is often a battle of links. People offer a link to a longer article or post and then add only a handful of their own words, such as "I agree" or "This guy is right" or "You're wrong, read this."

According to the Pew-Rutgers report, people weren't even using social media for basic information about the Snowden-NSA conflict. Almost 60 percent said that television/radio was one of their sources. Some 34 percent said they used online sources other than social media — mainly the sites of mainstream news organizations, I bet. Only 15 percent sought knowledge on the issue through Facebook, and a mere 3 percent used Twitter.

It all sounds paradoxical, but here we have it: Noise only increases the silence on things that matter to our society.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Bob Meade - Martyrdom . . .

A few days ago, while riding in the car, my wife turned to me and said that she had a dream in which she stood up in church and asked the congregation how many would be willing to die, rather than deny their Christian faith. Her dream had been incited by recent news events that reported on Christians and people of other non-Islamic faiths, being told to convert, or to be killed . . . possibly beheaded. Her question was serious, as would be the answers.

As we remotely watch the horrors of war spread across our big screen TV's, we see Christian churches being burned and parishioners of those churches fleeing for their lives or being killed. We watch as symbols of the Christian faith are demolished and piled on a heap of rubble. Pleas for peaceful resolutions to never ending animosities and intolerance are ignored. The Pope appeals for peace but acknowledges that it may take a "just war" to curb the ever increasing carnage. In doing so, he asks that the "just war" be limited to solving the problems at hand and not to be reciprocal in our cause.

In a speech to CEO's of multi-national companies, Herbert Meyer, a senior intelligence advisor to President Ronald Reagan, regarding the Islamic world, said, ". . . . We're trying to jolt them from the 7th century to the 21st century all at once, which may be further than they can go." That statement's validity is visible as we watch what is happening in the Middle East and is spreading throughout the world. Islamic Tribalism is in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Iraq, and is spreading rapidly throughout Africa. Many European countries are seeing their immigrant Muslim populations swell as they overwhelmingly out-birth the native populations of their host countries. Some, like England, seem to be caving in, ceding to the wishes of their immigrants rather than having the immigrants adapt to the British rule of law.

The west has built armies and navies, and has immense air power . . . all designed to fight large scale wars in accordance with the rules set forth in the Geneva Convention. However, those enormous war-making capabilities may not be the most effective way to deal with terrorism, or guerrilla warfare. The terrorist or guerrilla does not wear a uniform, does not march in lock step in a parade, cares not about the Geneva Convention, does not value life, and is willing to sacrifice a child by turning him or her into a bomb to be guided into a crowd of non-Islamic innocents. Radical Islamists only have one mission, to conquer the world and to enslave or kill all those who do not convert to Islam. They are willing to die in their effort to make that happen. As Islamists spread throughout the western world their mission spreads with them. In the time yet to come, it may not be a terrorist from Afghanistan or Iraq who poses the question convert or die, it may be someone from a neighboring town, or a co-worker, or your next door neighbor.

Will that prospect effectively "terrorize" our population? Will trust and harmony be eschewed in favor of protection of self and family? Will mob rule replace the rule of law? Instead of the west doing what Herbert Meyer said, ". . . trying to jolt them from the 7th century to the 21st century all at once . . .", will it be that it is they who take us back to the tribalism of the seventh century?

Part of our problem may well be that we are trying to use "faculty lounge" reasoning with non-professorial types. Our leaders say things like, "That is not the way things are done in the 21st century, either forgetting or being unaware that the radicals are not of this century . . . they see freedom as evil and believe human rights are confined to Sharia law. They are committed to their mission and it is with that with which we have to deal.

Sadly, many of our citizens are in denial. They believe what is happening in the middle east does not threaten our country. Often overlooked is that we are in a global economy and events elsewhere can have an impact on us, economically and otherwise. Russia, for example, has retaliated to sanctions we have imposed on them by banning our poultry products from being shipped into that country. That ban may have a devastating impact on that section of our economy. Further, we restrict our oil exploration while the Middle East is in flames, jeopardizing future imports of oil from that region and, of course, at higher cost. While that is happening, Russia, Europe's largest supplier of oil and natural gas, is making nice with Middle Eastern countries, knowing that their cooperative efforts can essentially put Europe and some of the United States into a deep freeze.

That brings us back to my wife's question . . . would Christians, or those of other non-Islamic beliefs, be willing to die rather than deny their faith? Would you be willing to die? They are!

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Monday, 01 September 2014 04:39

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Sanborn — Condo bubble?

There were a couple of articles recently in the Boston.com real estate blog about the Boston condo market. One was about a recent record setting $10.5 million sale back in May at the Four Seasons for a 3,525 square foot, four bedroom, three and a half penthouse unit. That's just shy of $3,000 per square foot folks! This same unit sold in 2000 for $6.3 million so someone made a pretty great investment.

That appreciation was the subject of another blog post which gives warning to a possible real estate bubble in the condo sector of the Boston market. It stated that the average price of a condo in Boston in 2000 was $438,000 compared to $738,000 today. That's a whopping 71 percent increase in prices.

The median price of a condo there is current at $330,000 compared to the bubble bursting year of 2008 when the median price was $274,000. Some feel that the market is just a tad overheated and possibly signaling another crash might be around the corner.

I don't think we need to work about a condo market crash here in the Lakes Region, however, as the two following charts show. Our peak year in terms of price was 2007 at an average of $209,417 and we currently coming in at an average of $176,504 two thirds of the way through 2014. Our peak year for total sales was in 2004 when 381 units were sold. We are well below that now with 206 units sold in 2013 and on track to finish off 2014 well below that.

So what's the difference between the high flying Boston market and the Lakes Region condo market? Well, the smart ass answer is just about 95 miles. The real answer is that the Boston condo market is a primary residence market and ours is mostly a discretionary vacation home market. We are all about fun and enjoying all that our area has to offer and the Boston condo market is about living in the city to avoid the horrendous commute to get into the city to go to work! And when people have to pay so much for housing in the Boston area they, unfortunately, might have to think twice about spending any free money they have on a second home up here.

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 8/25/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 August 2014 08:12

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Asian-bashing liberals & the minorities who enable them

Harry Reid is a bigoted Beltway corruptocrat with an interminable case of diarrhea of the mouth. The feeble-minded coot stuck his foot in that mess of a mouth again last week at the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. But as mortifying as the Senate Majority Leader is, there's an even worse spectacle: Asian-American liberals who keep giving top Democrats and their partisan operatives blanket passes.

Reid clumsily offered his assessment of the success and intelligence of business leaders of Asian descent at the gathering. "I don't think you're smarter than anybody else, but you've convinced a lot of us you are," he babbled. You put those uppity Asians in their places, Hater Harry!

During a question-and-answer session, Reid followed up his jibe with a crude "joke" about Chinese surnames that would make Archie Bunker cringe: "One problem that I've had today is keeping my Wongs straight."

Good thing the pale-faced codger didn't let a "ching-chong" slip out, too. You know it was ringing around between his ears. Mocking Asian monikers is a hanging offense if you're a Republican pol or conservative talk-show host. But it's just a meaningless gaffe by "diversity's" best friend when you're Democratic Senate Majority Leader.

That's why Reid's hosts obliged with subdued tittering. National news anchors selectively averted their gazes. The Asian American Journalists Association, so quick to issue sanctimonious guidelines for avoiding ethnic stereotypes, maintained radio silence. And the usual left-wing speech police who read racism into every word uttered by conservatives from "angry" to "Chicago" to "Constitution" to "Obamacare" saw and said nothing.

One bizarre group, Asian Pacific American Advocates, was only offended because they resent public attention paid to successful Asian Americans. They vented that Reid "falsely assumes that our communities continue to perpetuate the model minority stereotype, when we have been actively working to highlight the vast socioeconomic disparities within our communities." These confused people have spent way too much time in social justice 101 classes.

Back in Washington, D.C., the usually garrulous Democratic chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Rep. Judy Chu, responded by ... not responding at all. CAPAC Executive Director Krystal Ka'ai did not return my e-mail seeking reaction to the race-mocking Senate Majority Leader, who has now apologized for his "extremely poor taste."
Chu and her ethnic grievance caucus — which pledges to "denounce racial and religious discrimination affecting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders" — did find time over the past year to:

—  attack a Seattle theater production of The Mikado for its use of "exaggerated Asian stereotypes."

— "denounce" comedian Jimmy Kimmel for a kids' table skit that poked fun at America's debts to China.

— demand the firing of Fox News liberal chucklehead Bob Beckel for using "racial slurs" against Chinese people.

Here's another glaring omission by the Democrats' whitewashers: Neither CAPAC's press release archive nor its Twitter account has published a word about the ugly liberal racists in Kentucky who've repeatedly attacked former GOP Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Last year, left-wing super-PAC Progress Kentucky tweeted multiple China-bashing messages insinuating that Chao, the Taiwanese-American wife of GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell, was part of some conspiratorial plot to move jobs to Asia. The Progress Kentucky xenophobes denied engaging in race-baiting. But the dog whistle — dog trumpet — had been sounded, and the liberal racist hits keep on coming.

Earlier this month, Kathy Groob, a "progressive" supporter of McConnell's Democratic opponent, Alison Grimes, repeatedly insulted Chao on social media as his "Chinese wife". She's "not from KY, she is Asian," fumed Groob. You won't be surprised to learn that Groob had complained copiously about "sexism" and "racism" by the tea party.

When will doormat minorities grow spines and stop protecting the progressives of pallor who denigrate them? Collectivism is a hard, cowardly habit to break.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 09:49

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Susan Estrich - Liberals blind to anti-Semitism

There's a painful lesson to be learned for liberals, especially liberal Jews, from the hopefully concluded war in Gaza.

Most of my liberal friends desperately want to believe that the fact that Israel is subject to more criticism than almost any country in the world (including some very scary ones), that respected universities consider calls for boycotts, that student government slates (at UCLA) run and win on pledges not to accept travel from the Anti-Defamation League, that all of this and more has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it is a Jewish state, much less with anti-Semitism. No, it's not about holding Jews to a different standard; it's Israel.

Newsflash: Not so in this war.

Israel is not the "occupier" of Gaza. Israel did not build tunnels into Gaza.

Show me another country that would be castigated, as Israel has been, even in the American media, for protecting its citizens against terrorists who had secretly figured out how to infiltrate their towns and villages, who were sending rockets aimed at major population centers without even a pretense of targeting the military.

You know what the world would say if another country were the one taking on terrorists who have vowed to destroy us, as well. We would say thanks. We would say well done. We would be very glad that they were willing to send their soldiers into harm's way, that they were adept enough to target militants. Would the international media be castigating the country that first warned of impending attacks and then hit houses where the dead were pulled out carrying rifles to the cheers of the crowd? They would not.

How is it that Israel became the villain in a war it did not start, that was necessitated by self-defense, that cost needless lives because Hamas does not value the lives of its own people either?

One of my friends sent me an e-mail from an Israeli doctor whose team had saved the life of a Palestinian woman who had been burned by her own family (likely for straying beyond the proper limits for women).,She returned to Gaza and was encouraged to return to Israel for outpatient follow-up. She was stopped at the border, suicide bombs strapped to her body, on her way to her follow-up appointment in Israel. She planned to kill herself and those who had saved her life. Her family told her they would forgive her if she did.
This is why Israelis were overwhelmingly in support of this war. It is because it was a war of self-defense, part of the struggle for survival that we would like to believe is limited to the countries in the Middle East, but is built on hatred and hypocrisy that cannot so easily be cabined.

It is good that there is a ceasefire, good that families on both sides can sleep a little better and breathe a little easier, good that fewer lives may be lost in the short run. But we liberals cannot kid ourselves.

My mother saw anti-Semitism behind every corner and always urged me not to offend. I was determined to push back against those limits — when I was growing up, limits on who could live where and go to school where and even go fishing off of which dock — just like I was determined to push back on the limits imposed on women. No one's victim. Not me. We Jewish Americans have done very, very well and have much to be grateful for.

But blindness is more dangerous than paranoia.

It wasn't — it isn't — just about Israel.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

 

Last Updated on Friday, 29 August 2014 05:39

Hits: 118

 
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