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Informed Citizenship paradox in the age of media

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The beginning of 21st century was determined by the various political and social transformations at the global level. Perhaps, one of the major transformations at the global scale was digital media technology, which became the cornerstone of globalization. The word globalization refers to the political, economic and social integration at the global level as result of digital technology. In this regard, media sector across the globe has transformed at the greater scale due to rapid flow information through integrated channels. Perhaps, this marked the beginning of the information and digital age simultaneously. Across the developed west, specifically in the United States the dawn of digital age was smeared by the appearance of misinformation and propaganda, which has raised questions surrounding the informed citizenship.

Basically, it was the dawn of liberal democracy across the west, which has made media as the fourth pillar of the modern state system. Moreover, the liberal democracy literally refers to the set of values and ideals which protects the basic human rights, civil liberties and citizenship. Similarly, within democracy it is media, which is playing a central role in educating and informing the public about their rights and responsibilities of a citizen. Likewise, it is media which is promoting the democratic ideals and ensuring the accountability and transparency of the government before the public. In this respect, the concept of informed citizenship emerged as a major political discourse during the middle of the twentieth century because of the tremendous transformation in mass communication. Moreover, since the dawn of 20th century, media has become a platform for public debate and discussion which is often known as ‘civic education’ which is indeed one of the foundation of modern democracies.

As a matter of fact, for the establishment of the vibrant political culture within democracies, the concept of informed citizenship is central because it shapes the public opinion and determines the public policy making discourse. Moreover, it is mass communication in the form of TV, newspapers, radio, magazines and internet, which is contributing in civic education and hence, gives birth to informed citizenship. Although, I agree that in our age media is playing a central in shaping public opinion and in policy making but at the same time media is also major responsible for political polarization and misinformation. For instance, in our time the terms like misinformation and conspiracy theories are popular patterns of modern media discourse,which ignite political polarization and chaos.

Basically, the term conspiracy theory and misinformation is the legacy of the cold war, because it was the global competition between the two super powers Soviet Union and the United States that has overturned the dynamics of information flow through media technology. In the Soviet Union, all the media sources including Television channels and newspapers agencies were government owned. In this respect, the patterns of the flow of information was based on government guidelines, in which the newspapers and news channels were required to filter the information as per government guidelines. In the latter context, it was the issue of authenticity of the information, which has raised question about the reliability and the existence of the news source. Moreover, the fact cannot be denied that the condition of news information was pathetic because media was not permitted to criticize the leadership or government.

Similarly, in the U.S., although media was free but there were major issues connected concerning the validity of the information. For instance, if we want to understand the context of psychological and sociological fears and threats from the conspiracy theories then we have to briefly study the brutal McCarthian Age of 1960s. Basically, it was the reign of terror initiated by the McCarthian Age during the height of the US-Soviet rivalry that has brought the discourse of Conspiracy theories and misinformation at the center of Media studies. The word McCarthian Age refers to well a cherished anti-Soviet hysteria prompted by then malicious senator John Mccarthy to prosecute the soviet sympathizers and supporters inside the U.S.

On the contrary, the exact discourse of the conspiracy theories and misinformation were brought to the center of global sociological and political discourse in the 1980s and 1990s. The word conspiracy theory and misinformation refers to the socio-political and psychological propaganda that played a key in dichotomizing the patterns of the information flow by concealing the actual truth. Moreover, the whole discourse of the conspiracy theory is based on the authenticity and durability of the information flow. Likewise, in the recent years, the mysterious death and high profile assassination of the powerful personalities and superstars were subjected to misinformation and Conspiracy theories. Starting from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, mysterious death of Lady Diana in Car accident, to the speculation of the event of 9/11 as an insider Job, the word ‘Conspiracy Theory’ gained enormous popularity across media and public circles. Today, the rapid development in the information technology is polluting the essence and existence of information, which has become a major threat to democracy and informed citizenship.

In the latter context, if we examine the academic literature concerning the threat posed by misinformation to informed citizenship and democracy then it can be understood in two major domains. First and foremost, the epistemological domain which stresses on the empirical study of the conspiracy theories and misinformation. Moreover, the major aim of the epistemological study of the conspiracy theories is crucial to dig out the authenticity of the information sources. Likewise, when it comes to the literature of the conspiracy theories, researcher often prefer the epistemological investigation in order explain the literary and philosophical context of the conspiracy theories. Secondly, the sociological and psychological study and examination of the conspiracy theories. Basically, in the context of psychology, researchers often use the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud to explain the psychological basis of the conspiracy theories. Likewise, in the domain of sociology, researcher briefly investigate the sociological impact of the fake news that often creates the polarized environment of fear and terror in most cases such as the US election of 2016.

Perhaps, the polarized political situation during the 2016 election has exposed the lack of civic education in America and uninformed citizenship. Perhaps, the major reason behind the political chaos in 2016 U.S. elections was the result of unawareness about basic scientific knowledge, American history and the lack of civic education. Moreover, it was the negative role of media specifically social media that has changed the dynamics of voting and elections in 2016. Likewise, the feeble education system is also responsible for the lack of basic education about politics, democracy and voting during the elections. According to reports, majority of youth aged 18-21 were confused about voting during the 2016 elections because of the polarized political debate across public sphere. According to report published in 2010 by ‘The Atlantic has briefly exposed patterns of informed citizenship in America. The report has presented the following findings.

1. American know more about the Michael Jackson and his composer than about the first ten Amendments of the American constitution, which deals with the civil rights.

2. According to the survey conducts 30% of the respondents answered incorrectly about the American independence, the 1812 war, American civil war and emancipation proclamation.

3. More than third of the Americans were unaware that the right to trial by jury was guaranteed by the bill of Rights.

In contrast, the fact cannot be denied it was the lack of basic education and polarized media coverage during the 2016 elections, which has fomented political controversy regarding 2016 election results in the U.S. Although, media in America plays a central role in shaping public opinion but the role of media during the 2016 presidential elections remained odd and controversial. Perhaps, the American founding father James Madison had explained the current dilemma 200 years ago when he said; “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”. In a nut shell, the founding father has stressed on the informed citizenship in the public discourse and warned about consequences of misinformation.

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Addressing the infodemic should be the key priority of a Biden administration

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The 2020 election underlined the growing tribalism in the United States with many seeing it as a referendum on the soul, identity, and future of the United States.

One reason for the growing divisions is that Americans increasingly self-segregate, living in communities that reinforce their political, social, religious, and philosophical views facilitating the growth of visceral political anger. Consequently, everything is political and personal and compromises virtually impossible. 

The election and the result highlighted that millions of Americans, despite plenty of factual evidence to the contrary, hold views not based on empirical evidence. Millions believe the 2020 election was neither free nor fair and that Democrats support globalist cabalschild-trafficking, paedophilia rings.  

The tribalism is most visible in the way many Americans respond to the Covid-19 pandemic with 76% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents asserting the US had done a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, even though the virus continues to run rampant across the country. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary around 29% believe Covid-19 is an intentional bioweapon, others believe Bill Gates had planned the pandemic or that 5G technology is responsible for the outbreak. 

Without tackling the infodemic, a Biden administration would struggle because proponents of disinformation (the intentional spreading of untruths) and adherent of misinformation (belief in untruth) have increasingly moved from the fringe to the centre. 

A study from the Cornell Alliance for Science identified President Trump has the world’s biggest disseminator of COVID-19 misinformation. It is therefore unsurprising that so many Americans question not only the root of the pandemic but how to combat it. Consequently, many doubts any information that does not come from Donald Trump, especially as many of his supporters look at life in a binary way, of either full support or full resistance.   

Soon after being declared winner, Joe Biden announced the establishment of a COVID-19 advisory board composed of public health experts, whose role would be to aid in coordinating the response to the pandemic. However, relying on science is problematic as the hyper-politicisation has meant many Americans mistrust scientific findings, holding it to be equally biased.

Beyond a highly partisan Congress, which is likely to stall many of Biden’s policies, the administration would need to grapple with President Trump’s judicial legacy. President Trump not only appointed three Supreme Court justices thus altering the political leaning of the court, but he reversed the trend of promoting diversity. For example, in 1977, the judiciary was predominantly white and male, but successive presidents worked hard to bring forth minorities onto the bench to reflect the nature of American society. President Trump’s nominees could end up slowing down or torpedoing an ambitious, reformist agenda. Challenging the legitimacy of the courts would only add to the growing division, especially as studies indicate that over 60 percent of Americans have faith in the judicial branch.

Joe Biden is uniquely suited to address many of these challenges. Firstly, his age may be an advantage; he has lived through many changes, and he can rely on those experiences as he reaches out to people. He has blue-collar roots, and the fact that he attended a non-Ivy League university would appeal to many Americans suspicious of the elites. His religious commitment gives him a unique ability to speak to many of President Trump’s religious supporters; he just needs to find the tone.

Biden’s principal task should be to use to White House pulpit to speak with people, connect with them, and persuade them to abandon their hyper-partisanship. He should reject President Trump’s usage of executive orders, regulatory discretion particularly when things will get tough, such as Senate refusing to confirm his nominees. As an experienced bridge-builder, he must spend more time speaking with people, bringing them to the Oval Office to persuade them to support empirically-test policies. Reminding opponents, he secured the support of over 80 million Americans. 

The Biden administration will also face many demands from Progressive claiming they worked very hard to get Biden elected. They will argue, with merit, that having a moderate agenda, one designed to win over moderate Republicans and Independents is a betrayal. However, Biden emphasises his goal is to heal America, to bring an element of stability. To pacify the Progressive, he must emphasise he is overseeing a transitional administration, designed to restore civility and unity and lay the foundation for Kamla Harris.  

Reversing the infodemic would take time as it calls for healing divisions and encouraging many Americans to abandon many strongly held ideas, which requires empathy. Joe Biden has the skills to do bring about positive change, and for the sake of many Americans and the world, we must hope that he succeeds.

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Fakhrizadeh’s Assassination Could Endangers Biden’s Diplomacy

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Image source: Wikipedia

The international political situation heats up, especially in the Middle East, after the killing of Iran’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Apart from Mohsen, several other Iranian nuclear scientists have also been killed in the past decade.

Mohsen was attacked in eastern Tehran on Friday (27/11). He was ambushed by an armed group and the target of a Nissan car explosion before a gun battle broke out. He was rushed to the hospital, but his life could not be helped.

Iranian political and military officials have blamed Israel and US as the masterminds behind Mohsen’s assassination and attack. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for retaliation for Mohsen’s death. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said he would retaliate and appoint Israel as the mastermind behind the attack.

Iran and Hezbollah are currently said to be targeting Israelis and Jews around the world. Places owned by Israel and Jews will be the main targets of their retaliation for Mohsen’s death. Israel is also raising its guard. The Israeli government is reportedly on standby and is tightening the security of its embassies around the world. Jewish communities around the world are also asked to be on high alert. The Israeli military has also increased its vigilance along the country’s borders.

What is interesting is that the US secretly deployed the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier to the Arabian Gulf region last Wednesday. Although US Navy Fifth Fleet Spokesperson, Rebecca Rebarich, denied the movement of the fleet was unrelated to Mohsen’s assassination, the international public interpreted the aircraft carrier in order to anticipate the escalation of threats that might arise after the murder case.

There is not much information about Mohsen. Mohsen is the head of the research and innovation organization at the Iranian Ministry of Defense. He’s the main figure behind Iran’s secret nuclear development.

In April 2018, PM Netanyahu mentioned Mohsen’s name when uncovering a nuclear file which he said had been smuggled by Israeli agents from Iran. He named Mohsen as the head of a secret nuclear project called the Amad Project.

In its 2011 report, the UN nuclear weapons watchdog also identified Mohsen as the mastermind behind Iran’s nuclear technology. He was considered to have the ability to do so and at that time it was suspected that he still had an important role in these activities.

Mohsen’s assassination is certain to provoke a new confrontation between Iran and its enemies, including the United States and Israel, in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Mohsen’s assassination is considered as the culmination of the US and Israel’s strategic plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, various parties consider Mohsen’s killing to be the culmination of Israel’s long-term plan.

Mohsen has long been the target of several Israeli prime ministers as well as several directors of the Mossad spy agency. This murder was also predicted to aim at uprooting Iran as a country of nuclear knowledge.

However, some international observers have speculated that the main purpose of the assassination was actually to obstruct the US administration in the era of President-elect Joe Biden who will dialogue to find a diplomatic solution to end the conflict with Iran.

What’s more, President Biden has expressed his intention to re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which has been largely devastated since President Donald Trump left the deal in 2018.

Statement from Amos Yadlin, former head of Israel’s military intelligence and head of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Amos said whoever makes the decision to assassinate Mohsen should know that there are still 55 days left in which the White House has someone who sees the Iranian threat as they do. In fact, Amos says Biden is a different story. Amos’ statement certainly points to President Trump who is still in power in the White House.

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Biden’s victory: An Opportunity for Transatlantic Reconciliation after Trump and Brexit?

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Joe Biden’s victory Last November came at a critical point during the Brexit negotiations between The European Union and the United Kingdom. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether a change in the American presidency will substantially affect the talks between Europe and Britain. Realistically speaking, the effect the Democrats’ victory in the US will have, at least on Brexit talks before the end of this year, will be minimal.

On a positive note, now that Donald Trump has been defeated, this leaves very little room for the UK to use the threat of a quicker and better deal with the US to try to subdue the EU and make them accept a more pro British agenda. The UK has no longer the US is an alternative to fall back onto if no deal is the result of the negotiations by December 31st.

Since the 2016 British referendum, the decision to leave the EU was enthusiastically greeted by Donald Trump. In very simplistic terms, Trump saw The British “Yes” vote as an act that vaguely resembled his campaign slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again.” The long standing, more loyal foreign policy ally of the US in Europe, was slowly showing signs to move away from the multilateralism Donald Trump greatly despised.

Ever since the outcome of the Brexit referendum became official, Donald Trump voiced his strong support for the UK to pursue a hard Brexit, and even enticed the British government with the prospect of a robust trade deal between the US and the UK, to convince the UK to drop out of the EU without a deal. In reality, none of those big American promises ever materialised. From 2016 to 2020, Donald Trump did absolutely nothing to support the UK. Biden’s victory last November, makes any past promises made by Trump impossible to fulfil.

Biden will, in principle, follow a diametrically opposed foreign policy to Trump’s. He sees the EU, and not the UK, ask the key actor that will help him advance American interests in the European continent. While there have been mutual expressions of willingness to strengthen the relationship between the Americans and the British, Joe Biden has always been skeptical of Brexit, and has made it clear from the start that one of his priorities in foreign policy will be to rebuild the relationship with the EU rather than pursuing a trade deal with the UK.

Ideally, should the UK try to have some sort of leverage to negotiate with the incoming American administration, they need to aim to strike a workable deal between with the EU before the end of this year. That, however, seems unlikely to happen. From an American perspective, it is highly probable that the Biden’s administration will not prioritise any UK-US trade deal in the foreseeable future. There is a strong possibility that Joe Biden will focus on domestic and close neighbours (Canada and Mexico) Issues during his first year in the presidency.

While this is understandable, considering the legacy of the Trump, Biden also has to be careful enough to avoid the temptation to play hardball with the UK because of Brexit. If he does, this could prove to be a fatal mistake with long lasting consequences, specially in a moment when the West is struggling with its own internal weaknesses and the rise of external threats to its unity.

One aspect that both Europe and the US have to acknowledge is that the importance of the UK goes beyond striking a trade deal with the EU. Looking at the rise of more geographically widespread authoritarian and antidemocratic pressures from central, Eastern Europe, China and Russia, the UK is still plays an important role on the continent’s security. Talks on further cooperation on how the EU and the UK will cooperate on foreign and security policy once the transition period ends on 31st of December 2020 have not yet been held. The UK, unfortunately, is likely to remain a crucial partner on such topics especially due to its role as a prominent and active member of NATO, and therefore, talks on this issues should not be left unaddressed.

The UK is aware of its importance militarily, and this explains the £24.1 billion investment announced by the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, this year. This is the largest investment since the end of the Cold War and it aims to modernise the armed forces, as well as to expand the Royal Navy to turn it into the largest fleet in Europe.

This move will enhance the UK’s status as Europe’s leading military power. The UK has also been among the first respondents to recent security crisis in Ukraine and Belarus. Not engaging with the UK altogether in security and foreign policy issues may prove to be detrimental in the long run for the security in the EU, especially considering the rising tensions and instability in the Ring of Fire, from Belarus to Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Nagorno-Karabakh.

The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) allow for intergovernmental cooperation, this means that  states can pursue their own policies and coordinate them only when they align with the EU’s. The CSDP also allows EU member states to intervene when NATO as an alliance chooses not to. To date, there are 17 of such interventions, in all of these, the UK has been the biggest contributor.

Security is an area of opportunity for Europe and the US, Biden could potentially push for the Europeans to grant the UK an observer role in the Political and Security Committee, or the Foreign Policy Council to advance a common security and foreign policy for the region that wouldn’t only benefit Europe, but also the US interests in the wider European area.

Recently, the UK has been an advocate of what is called a “Global Britain” that echoes the times of the great British Empire’s prominence as a global player. How this will be achieved is still unclear. This grand strategy may fare impossible under current economic and political conditions in the UK and in the world, as well as with the uncertainty surrounding the future relationship of the UK with its neighbours after Brexit.

Anything can happen, the UK could pursue a close, special relationship with Europe where cooperation is prioritised, or there could be a more profound break between the two, where the UK sets its own agenda against the EU’s. For decades, the terms Europe and the EU have been used interchangeably. Now that one of the major European players is out of the organisation, both sides have not yet worked out how the future relationship will be. If it continues to be antagonistic this could send the whole continent into a spiral of chaos, reduced capabilities an increased volatility.

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