Social media policies affect the nation’s policy

JACOB SMITH
STAFF WRITER

Twitter backfires on Facebook’s “hands off stance” by banning all political ads on their platform.

Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, spoke out recently and said that political ads can be misleading and present challenges to society.

Dorsey tweeted, “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought”.

This is has struck up a lot of discussion on campus between both students and faculty. Alexander Stephenson ’21 is currently doing research on political communication on social media.

I think Twitter’s decision to ban political ads is extremely dangerous for the future of politics.  The main goal for people in politics is to improve political participation right now.  There have been disputes around Twitter’s algorithm censoring people from the right wing, and in turn, creating one big echo chamber on Twitter.  The studies do not provide any evidence of that, however, they do show that there are more liberal users than conservative users on Twitter.  When it comes to improving political participation, there is a relationship between seeing and sharing political news on social media and political participation,” said Stephenson.

An immediate response to this decision came from the economy after Twitter’s stock dropped over 1% after Twitter made their announcement.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, made a decision before Twitter’s that essentially allows any political ads to be shown on their platform without fact checking.

Vice President for Planning and Chief of Staff at Alma College, Elizabeth Hall, also has a strong opinion on the issue.

“I think there are extremes right now that are going on. Twitter has taken the position that we are not going to do any political advertising at all, and Facebook has taken the position as we are going to accept all paid advertising and not do any effort to fact check. I think there is probably a middle ground, and I would prefer to see companies go there,” said Hall.

Since a lot of social media is made up by younger users, there is worry that these recent decisions will affect political decisions and beliefs that they have.

“Again, seeing and sharing politics directly leads to more political participation.  This is especially true with the younger generations.  The generations that are growing up in the age of social media will be the most affected because this ban limits the amount of exposure young people have to learning about political dilemmas. If our goal is to conserve our sense of democracy, we should not censor political ads, instead we should encourage them,” said Stephenson.

With a background in marketing and as a current marketing professor on campus, Hall also sees this concern for the younger population.

“I worry that Twitter has taken this positon because there as so many, in particular young adults, on Twitter that may be one of the primary means that they have of keeping up with what is going on in the world. Do they then miss an opportunity to find out what different political candidates are advocating and will we then lose some momentum in terms of voting if they are not engaged in the presidential campaigns, particularly? I think they are important constituents, obviously, we want more students voting and we want them engaged in the politics of the country,” said Hall.

Another concern on campus and nationally is whether this policy is going to be permanent or not.

“I don’t think this ban will be permanent.  I don’t know the cause of the ban, but I know limiting political speech is not something that usually goes over well with the American people.  If it were a permanent ban, I think Facebook may transition to a predominantly political venue for people.  That would be worst-case scenario, as we know how questionable Facebook’s algorithm is.  Facebook would definitely be a wild place too, because as of now they allow politicians to lie in their ads.  It would definitely be interesting,” said Stephenson.

The future of social media and politics is unknown as the 2020 presidential election continues.

Elizabeth Hall’s preference of, “paid political advertising with fact checking”, would be the obvious middle ground to these extremes but for now, that does not seem to be the solution for these social media CEO’s. Whether either of these policies are the best for the future of social media or not, it has surely caused an uproar of debate in the nation.

The Bolivian coup is a rerun

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

Reading the news regarding Bolivia over the past couple of weeks has left me thinking a lot about Jurassic Park. More specifically what the author of Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton, coined as Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. Crichton described this effect as “You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well…You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of the facts or the issues…In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs. And read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read.”

As most of us may know, on Nov. 10, Eva Morales stepped down from his post as President of Bolivia, but this isn’t the whole story. To see a fuller and more accurate picture, we have to know who Morales is in the first place. Morales was born to indigenous farmers in a small mining village where he grew up herding llamas. Later, becoming the union leader of coca growers, an industry that consisted heavily of former miners who had been laid off as a result of mid-80’s financial austerity in Bolivia. Through his life, Morales witnessed the effects of both colonial racism and neoliberal capitalism.

Morales defied all expectations when his campaigned for the Bolivian presidency by opposing corporate globalization and actually won, becoming the first ever Bolivian indigenous president. His supporters celebrated by waving the Wiphala flag, a flag symbolizing Bolivia’s indigenous people. Morales quickly got to work undoing centuries of colonialism by appointing indigenous activists to major positions in government and centering indigenous concerns in the national dialogue as well as the rewritten Bolivian constitution. With the political party he founded, Movement Toward Socialism, Bolivia began implementing recovery measures with huge success. The GDP grew by over 50%, poverty fell from 60% to 35%, and extreme poverty fell even steeper from 38% to 15%. On these popular reforms, Morales was reelected twice.

Like all Presidential administrations, Morales wasn’t perfect. Many have criticized him for seeking a fourth term in office, which was a violation of the Bolivian constitution. The Bolivian legislature narrowly voted to not grant him another term, but the Bolivian courts struck them down and ruled that Morales was cleared to run again. Morales won 47.1% of the vote, a large enough plurality to not require a run-off election against the second-place candidate. The Organization of American States then claimed that there were irregularities in the voting process without any actual proof, with the Center for Economic and Policy Research disputing this claim. Morales, confident of his popularity, offered to run new elections regardless. Despite this, the military asked him to step down. Wanting to stop the ongoing violence against his family members and party colleagues, he did and left for Mexico in order to gain political asylum.

This coup fits a sinister pattern that points to an obvious suspect. The United States has a habit of destabilizing foreign powers if they don’t cooperate in giving American corporations the resources they want or if they get too close to achieving functional socialism. This isn’t a tinfoil-hat conspiracy, these are open secrets that the US government has declassified and admitted. A few notable examples are the following (A more comprehensive list would require one to see Seth Lester’s “U.S. Policy in Latin America” presentation for Alma YDSA): In 1912, the US occupied Nicaragua and installed an authoritarian government for bananas; In 1916, the US began a brutal nineteen year occupation of Haiti for sugar; In 1919, the US engaged in a military intervention in Honduras for more bananas; In 1954, the US carried out a CIA operation to depose the democratically elected Guatemalan president and replace him with a decades-long brutal military dictatorship so the United Fruit Company could maintain profits; In 1973, the US carried out another CIA operation to depose the democratically elected socialist Chilean president and replace him with a 15 year- long fascist regime in order to avoid the positive example a socialist government might set; In 2003, the US started a a war in Iraq for oil; In 2009, the US used the Department of Defense to back coup in Honduras in order to take a leftist President out of office. All of these actions resulted in the unimaginably horrendous torture, rape, and murder of political dissidents that were far too gruesome to ever be described in a school newspaper. Yet all were justified by the American government due to the financial benefits it gave to US companies.

While we won’t know for many years the level of US involvement in the Bolivian crisis, we do know that the Trump administration has very publicly supported the coup. Western media has closely followed in Trump’s example and declared what happened in Bolivia as a victory for democracy.

As coup forces began to assert control over Bolivia and little-known lawmaker Jeanine Áñez declared herself president by ignoring succession rules, western media legitimized the illegal actions and initially downplayed the new government’s atrocities. Instead of reporting on the racist soldiers cutting off the Wiphala flag from their uniforms or how these soldiers were now being deployed to kill indigenous protestors, the media framed them as forces simply trying to “quell violence”. There is no focus on the racist tweets and remarks Áñez made against indigenous people, instead the western media like The New York Times frames the atrocities with calming headlines such as “In Bolivia, Interim Leader Sets Conservative, Religious Tone”.

So why the refusal to acknowledge what this historical pattern or even properly report on what is happening in Bolivia at this very moment? There’s no insidious conspiracy theory here, no shadowy figure secretly pulling the strings from behind the scenes. As I’ve said before, the real truth is that the mainstream media suffers from biases as a result of its structural values. And the structural values of both the media and the US government aren’t truth or justice, but instead the simple generating of profit. And until that changes, we should always take what these two institutions proudly declare with a heavy grain of salt. We might like to tell ourselves that these core democratic intuitions serve the people, but they won’t actually serve us until we really demand it and fundamentally restructure how they independently work. In the words of Jurassic Park’s Ellie Satler, “You never had control. That’s the illusion!”

China’s re-education camps

EMILY HENDERSON
STAFF WRITER

Since 2014, China has been placing Uyghur Muslims in re-education camps in an attempt to curb extreme terrorist acts within the country.

China has been one of too few countries that have not experienced many actions of terrorism in their recent history, and has often felt pride in that.

That pride changed to fear in 2013, when three individuals drove a car into a crowd full of people at the Gate of Heavenly Peace on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The drivers were Muslim extremists from Uyghur.

Shortly after this attack occurred, China opened these re-education camps and began to force parents and children with any ties to this region into them. 

Reporters from BBC have inside information from individuals who have been separated from their children. They claim Uyghur Muslims are not only being placed into these camps if they express any extreme thoughts or ideas, but are ripped from their children if they are merely practicing their faith. 

China has made claims that these camps are only in place to combat violent extremism, but some are comparing them to concentration camps.

They are two completely different things. These are education camps. The chinese online news also mention that they’re education camps, different from what the Western media has reported,” said Dr. Liping Bu, chair of the history department here at Alma.

This is not the first time that China has put its residents into education camps. The People’s Republic of China came to be in the 1950s, and this brought forth major social changes; the biggest being socialist values within the country. At this time, China instituted re-education classes for its upper-class citizens. 

“[China] conducted re-education classes for people who used to be of the upper class who had biased toward ordinary people to try to reshape their attitude so they could reshape their thinking,” said Dr. Bu. 

While some countries may feel as though the actions of China are on the extreme side, this is not the first time that China has used these tactics to reshape the ideas of their society.

These camps were first instituted in China in 2014, but they haven’t gained much media attention overseas until now.  The reasoning: leaked documents from China that tell officials within these camps to treat the individuals with “absolutely no mercy.”

This document has just recently come to light, and many other countries are now looking to China for an explanation, but some say that you must remain cautious of what you hear and see in the media. 

“You’ve got to check the sources in their original form. In the past, I have seen reports, which were in the Western news, that were completely off of the original documents. Read the original language, what does it say there?” said Dr. Bu.

No matter what the document may say, China is still building more and more education camps, and is placing Muslims into them each day.

Many Uighurs have come from the Xijian region to leave behind China’s birth control limits, study and have more religious freedom. They are now facing oppression at the hands of the Chinese government.     

“My understanding is that the government is trying to educate these people so they don’t use terrorist tactics. Once the political situation becomes tight the government can go beyond expectation,” said Dr. Bu.   

These camps, and all that they entail, are just now being questioned by other countries. While many nations are aware of their existence, the secrecy of China’s government makes it difficult for many to know what is actually occurring within these “re-education” camps.     

Concerts cover campus calendar

BAILEY LANGBO
STAFF WRITER

Photo by DYLAN COUR

As the semester comes to a close, groups across campus are gearing up to present what they’ve worked on for the past few months to their peers. Over the next few weeks, performances have been and will be taking place for both the campus and the public to enjoy.

On Nov. 23-24, the Kiltie Marching Band presented their annual Indoor Marching Show in Presbyterian Hall. The band, directed by professor Dave Zerbe, played their 2019 halftime show, Altered Carbon: The Human Element, as well as the debut of Legends of Middle Earth, a compilation of songs from The Lord of the Rings.

The show also hosted a variety of performances from other groups, including the Alma College Color Guard, directed by Earon Palma, the Alma College Pipe Band, directed by Andrew Duncan and the Alma College Marching Percussion, directed by Dave Zerbe and Dave Fair.

Although the marching season is over, the members look forward to next year and what’s to come. “I feel like band has always been something that I’ve just done because I enjoy it,” said Matthew Garland (’23). “I feel as though it’s been a great season, because I’ve made a lot of friendships through the band, and I look forward to next season because I’ll have a chance to better myself.”

“I have been in band for 10 years now, and the connections I’ve made in band are what have impacted me the most,” said Bruce Fowler (’21). “I believe this season went well. The halftime show had super intense and fun marching. The freshmen were all super talented and good at adapting to the intensity of being in a college marching band.”

“I always look forward to my next season of marching band,” said Fowler. “Although it’s hard work, band camp is the best two weeks of the year. Meeting the new freshmen and reconnecting with friends after a long summer of working every day is super refreshing.”

As well as the marching band, the Alma College Jazz Ensemble will be presenting their fall concert on Nov. 26. The event takes place from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Presbyterian Hall. The ensemble is directed by Jeff Ayres. “The concert is police-themed,” said William Brown (’22). “It’s led by the song The Jazz Police by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. We haven’t had a concert all year so it will be fun to perform for other people.”

In addition to the bands performing, the Alma Choir and the Alma College Chorale, both directed by Doctor Will Nichols, are joining forces to present Festival of Carols, an annual concert that is taking place on Dec. 7 at both 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 3:00 p.m. The concert features a variety of Christmas carols, as well as performances from student acapella groups, Scots on the Rocks and Pretty in Plaid.

“Being in choir has connected me with so many amazing people and formed so many friendships that I would not have without it,” said Blake Jonassen (’22). “It also gives me a space to be myself and express myself how I want to express myself.”

On Nov. 25, students are welcome to join their peers in the Chapel as they perform in the Walker Fall Voice Studio Recital. The recital takes place at 7:30 p.m. “Being in Vicki Walker’s studio has allowed me to hone in on my singing capabilities and given me the opportunity to prepare many more solo pieces to perform, which is something I was always scared to do in high school,” said Jonassen. “Everyone has worked so hard on their solos and the big group’s songs, so this recital is going to be special.”

All of the events listed above are free for students and faculty. Other ticket prices and more information about these events can be found at www.inside.alma.edu or by calling the Heritage Center Box Office at 989-463-7304.

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