Party Training

      As a teenager in High School and soon to be in college, I do not have the time or the desire to pay attention to politics and make sure I am in the “in” with everything that is going on politically in the world. Usually how I get my insight about the news is through my parents. I observe politics through my mother’s democratic eyes and my father’s republican eyes. I listen to what they say and usually end up agreeing with either one of them on what the issue may be. The problem with this is that I am just agreeing with one of them because its all I know. I believe that this happens all the time, kids choose to be what their parents are because it is an easier alternative than going out and doing your own research to figure out your own view, and also most kids do look up to their parents and follow what they believe because they trust their parents.

           We are very influenced by our parents in many ways. My family has never been incredibly engaged with politics, so I tend to not be as engaged about my political opinions and views in class compared to those who grew up in a family extremely political absorbed. Parents are role models and children grow up learning from them. Psychologist, James Marcia, concluded that adolescents that have not gone through an identity catastrophe tend to conform to the expectations of their parents, including political attitudes. Jennifer Peterson is a good example of this. When voting, Peterson looked to her parents for information because they “knew” better than her, which influenced her decision on who she would vote for.

     The Gallup Youth survey taken showed that seventy-one percent of teens say that their political ideology was the same as mom or dad’s political ideology. Another factor of parents being such a big influence on political ideology is that teens look at being politically active as an adult duty. Most high school students are not focused on politics and news because in their eyes parents take care of that stuff. It is easier and more sufficient for teens to accept the views of their parents.

Parents influence us through out our lives. We look up to them and see them as people who know better than us. Our political views are highly influenced by our parents because of these reasons. I struggle with my political views because both of my parents have different views from each other but I do look up to both and do side with either on of them. I am an example of following my parents’ ideology.

Sources: http://firstvote2012.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/parents-influence-childrens-political-attitudes/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/14515/teens-stay-true-parents-political-perspectives.aspx

http://www.nssa.us/journals/2007-28-1/2007-28-1-13.htm

Know the facts. Get the Truth.

In an attempt to become a more informed citizen, an average American would likely utilize the Internet to gather facts. The main problem is that most news sources are biased, which an average American has come to accept. A further problem arises when the average American realizes that he cannot believe even the seemingly credible sources.

Political cartoon satirizing the “mainstream” media because it is actually biased.

 

I am here to inform you about AttackWatch.com for one main reason: everyone should know the extreme bias of the media and the misleading individuals submitting this truthless information to the world. It has been established the the purpose of the parties is to get their candidate elected, but the extent to which someone would go to get elected is revealed by analyzing AttackWatch.com.

 

Basically, the website aims at changing the American mindset to support President Obama. During the 2012 election, its main purpose was obviously to rally supporters for Obama. It achieved this by denouncing every negative statement made by conservatives, and providing an endless list of reasons why conservatives are bad. Jeremy Bird, director for Obama for America, stated “the site’s goal is to offer resources to fight back against attacks”.

 

Now, this website does not seem too terrible, and, at least, it has a clear purpose. In visiting the URL, the problem is presented promptly. Two years ago when the website was newly created and relatively uncriticized, its URL was AttackWatch.com. Unfortunately the website received so much criticism that the web address was changed, but only the address and graphics were altered. Today, AttackWatch is masked by the much-less-dramatic title, l.barackobama.com/truth-team/attack-watch/. Nevertheless, the website remains what it was two years ago, and some analysis is necessary.

 

The most infamous feature of this website is “Report an Attack“. There are several things wrong about this function. The word choice ‘attack implies something it is not. The dictionary definition of the word – to criticize strongly or in a hostile manner – shows the misleading nature of the word choice. Politicians receive much criticism, it comes with the territory, but few would go as far to say that they were attacked. For readers, this brings up feelings of sympathy for supporters and disgust for opponents. These feelings are bolstered when looking at the form for reporting an attack.

 

Report an Attack form

Report an Attack form

The source of the “attack” quickly deteriorates from understandable to ridiculous. A TV Interview is provable and likely to contain negative comments about Obama – whether or not it deserves to be reported is another story. Scanning the other sources on the drop down menu, my eyes are glued to “Rumor”. Have we suddenly teleported in to George Orwell’s 1984? Is it now necessary to report to the government the rumors circling society? Freedom of speech is greatly prided in the United States. Is it really freedom if it is now acceptable to report a rumor?

 

Orwell, in a letter concerning his purpose behind writing 1984, says that society has a “tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer.” Basically, people believe what they hear – politics is no exception – because of their yearning for the truth. They are not offered the truth, so they believe the lies. I share this concern with Orwell and worry whether Attack Watch is the father of paranoia-based websites.

 

If the articles were fact based, there would be no reason for panic, but they are clearly biased. Links include “Romney’s Distortions” and “Obama’s Promises Kept“. Focusing on one of these “kept promises”, straight from the link, let’s look at facts.

http://l.barackobama.com/forward-is/

The above bold statement is not based in facts. Looking at dollar amounts shows that our country is not “beginning to pull out” of the economic crisis:

http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/histdebt/histdebt_histo5.htm

The national treasury’s website displays the monetary value of the national debt.

You do not need to be good at math to know that  debt amounts are not improving when increasing. To see more sparsely supported articles check out attackwatch.com (it forwards to http://l.barackobama.com/truth-team/attack-watch/).

 

Understandably, one may worry about the future of the country based on the fact that the president is uploading websites to report rumors about himself and publicize fact-weak articles about himself.  This worry can be relieved by looking at the public’s response.

 

  • “In less than 24 hours, Attack Watch has become the biggest campaign joke in modern history” – The Washington Post
  • “This is the audacity of stupid.  The president must be in full panic mode.  There must be a sense of deep foreboding for Team Obama to go farcical” – The Washington Times
  • “Second-rate version of previous Big Brother sites created by Team Obama” – Fox News

 

Altogether, the website has inspired those who already supported Obama, and added ammunition to the legally obtained guns of the conservatives. Katie Hogan told the Washington Post that “100,000 people had signed up for the site in the first 24 hours.” Yet, conservatives provide ceaseless scoffing for the site.

 

To shed some hope for the country’s future: Fueled by Obama’s unkept promises surrounding healthcare, Americans are now questioning his credibility, altogether.

 

And now for some comic relief:

B.Y.O.S.B.

Courtney1I’m gonna get on my soap box for a second to talk about my recent trip to London over winter break with my dad. Our shared love  of history, culture (in this case: pub crawls), and walking made for a really fantastic vacation. It was all very ideal for truly taking in every aspect of the greatest city on Earth, and we did do just that- except for London attraction that we wanted to so badly to experience the more we learned about it and that is “Speakers Corner”.

Courtney2“Speakers Corner” is located at the northeast corner of the massive 340 acre Hyde Park near the iconic Marble Arch. It’s just a little stretch of land identical in every way to the rest of the park except on Sundays from around 12-6pm. The two of us stood at the site in the cold rain on New Years day. It was pretty vacant apart from the occasional disgruntled human huddled under a broken umbrella, but had we been there three days earlier we would have witnessed hordes of people from business men from the financial district or blue collar workers on lunch break to university students and housewives to homeless radicals and ordained ministers. They all gather to Speakers Corner, step onto their platforms and bellow out to the onlookers and their sermons, creeds, and calls to action.

This tradition dates back to 1866 when the Chartists occupied the land protesting the suppression of workers rights- specificallyCourtney3 freedom of speech and right to assembly. Police efforts failed to quell them, and 6 years later the UK parliament officially granted Brits the protected right to hold public meetings in the park.

Speakers Corner is a cornerstone of British history in their quest for democracy amid monarchy and has become a living symbol not just for the UK but also to many other countries. A few blocks of pavement where any passerby is free to voice their opinions, converse in dialogues, or even stand upon their soapboxes (or for the more modern and aggressive orators: mini-ladders). This is the only place in the UK where pedestrians are literally on a pedestal and can have a voice free from Parliamentary procedure.

Courtney4Freedom of Speech is certainly something I take for granted here in the land of the free. Besides the occasional castle and the fact that all the cars are opposite, London feels like a city in America. Its as easy to forget about the monarch government as it is to forget how not too long ago the Brits didn’t have their individual freedoms guaranteed like ours in our bill of rights. In fact, freedom of expression wasn’t explicitly guaranteed until the 1998 UK Human Rights Act. This inspired me to look up the real difference between their rights and ours.

European Convention on Human Rights
incorporated in the UK Human Rights Act 1998 – Article 10: Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers..

US Bill of Rights 1791 First Amendment to the Constitution – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In America, laws are passed to grant rights to its citizens, but in Britain, laws are passed to limit government’s ability to interfere. Besides just general connotations due to differences in philosophy, parliament has no “supreme law” and can therefore make “exceptions” to granted freedoms as much as they feel inclined.

Courtney5Speaker’s Corner may be a symbol for freedom of speech but unfortunately there is an unspoken reality that speakers can’t actually say anything they want in hyde park, in the same way that “freedom of speech” isn’t an absolute freedom neither in the UK nor here in the US. However what can legally be defined as terrorism or hate speech is broader in the UK…. So no, you cant stand on your soap box and declare that you wish to KILL THE QUEEN or that @#$%! or *$#@#$ or say anything someone can complain to the police about- because they will arrest you. But hey! Next time you find yourself wandering in Hyde Park walk up to the northeast corner and stand where Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell, and William Morris have stood. Oh and B.Y.O.S.B.

Bibliography

http://www.speakerscornertrust.org/library/about-free-speech/the-commitment-to-freedom-of-expression/

http://www.speakerscornertrust.org/library/about-free-speech/a-brief-history-of-londons-speakers-corner/

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/4519/Speakers–Corner–You-Have-The-Right-To-Remain-Vocal

http://www.quora.com/Freedom-of-Speech/How-does-freedom-of-speech-differ-in-the-United-Kingdom-when-compared-to-the-United-States#step=4

http://london.travelape.com/attractions/hyde-park/

http://www.offtolondon.com/hyde_speak.html

National Security Scandal

In June of 2013, The Guardian, a British newspaper, leaked information concerning classified National Security Agency documents that led to the discovery of surveillance used by the NSA, which included the collection of millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet records. Days later, NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed himself as the whistleblower, justifying his actions by claiming that his leak was an attempt to defend citizens privacy by speaking out against unlawful surveillance which breached the rights of citizens.

 Snowden

The controversy surrounding the legality of the NSA surveillance program has risen to the federal court. On December 16, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled in favor of individuals bringing lawsuits against the NSA, but awaits an inevitable appeal from the Justice Department, which said it was reviewing the decision. “The court concludes that plaintiffs have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the government’s bulk collection and querying of phone record metadata, that they have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their Fourth Amendment claim (of unlawful search and seizure), and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent…relief,” Leon wrote. This ruling marked the beginning of the onset of cases that are likely in the next few months which will likely end up at the U.S. Supreme Court as evidenced by Leon’s recognition of the possibility of an appeal.

NSA logoLater that month, U.S. District Judge William Pauley gave a contrasting ruling, claiming that the NSA’s “data-mining” is “a critical component of the country’s effort to combat the threat of terrorism. While the judge upheld the program, he also said that the National Security Agency is subject to be monitored by The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and Congress. Pauley argued that a program like this might have even stopped the attacks on September 11, 2001 had it been available.

Department of Justice

The Justice Department is pleased with the decision that upheld the legality of the NSA’s surveillance, but this contrast in ruling will raise the likelihood that this case will go to the United States Supreme Court. The distinction between protecting the rights of citizens and harming them by damaging civil liberties is a fine line on which the NSA has been balancing ever since the terrorist attacks in 2001. Is this practice helping to save lives by preemptively stopping terrorist attacks, or is it damaging the civil liberties that comprise the very foundation of our country?

Sources:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/16/judge-nsa-surveillance-fourth-amendment/4041995/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/intelligence-leaders-push-back-on-leakers-media/2013/06/09/fff80160-d122-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/multimedia/timeline-edward-snowden-revelations.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/27/new-york-nsa-phone-surveillance/4219055/

The Hollywood Party

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“Do young adults listen to and trust the information they receive from celebrities? Much research has been done to investigate the extent to which celebrities influence first-time voters as well as whether celebrity activism and endorsements are effective in garnering the youth vote.” -Scott Buron

Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce Knowles, and Jimmy Fallon all hold spots on the Forbes “100 Most Powerful Celebrities” list.  Many of these celebrities use their power and fame to reach out to the poor, the needy, and to help the underdogs in our society; but I believe they cross a line when openly discussing their political views.  So, what’s the big deal?  Why shouldn’t these Hollywood stars be able to use their fame to endorse their favorite political party?

In 2007, Oprah Winfrey famously announced on her wildly popular TV show that she supported 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama. This started a trend, an era, and a fashion statement of wearing your favorite political candidate on your sleeve, sometimes literally.  Gradually, more and more of Hollywood’s A-Listers have loudly, proudly, fashionably, and musically shared their political opinion with the public.

barack_obama

This issue stems from a bigger problem of our society and its fascination with Hollywood’s royals.  Starting from a young age, teens look up to their favorite actors, singers, and comedians and try to mimic their style, we listen to what they have to say, and some even follow what they do.  With this kind of power and influence in their hands, celebrities have started to take advantage of award shows, interviews, and their style choices to influence others in their political views.

0511_obamaCLooney_630x420

During the 2013 American Music Awards, Macklemore used the time allotted for his acceptance speech to discuss the Trayvon Martin case and his blunt opinions towards inequality in our country.  As an American citizen, Macklemore has the freedom of speech, but I also believe there is a time and a place for politics and a Sunday night award show is neither the time nor the place.  Likewise, celebrities such as Gwenyth Paltrow, Tim McGraw and Jay-Z have used their time on talk shows such as Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and the Jay Leno Show to discuss their strong political beliefs. 

The most interesting, and to me, puzzling example of celebrities using their fame to promote politicians is through their style.  During the 2008 presidential election, Beyonce Knowles wore a simple Barack Obama t-shirt in public and was photographed by paparazzi wearing the t-shirt.  Within 3 days the same t-shirt was sold out in stores and online.  While this may happen with ‘ordinary clothes’ this is the first time sporting a presidential t-shirt has become a fashion statement.

440671660_orig

People are already so fascinated by the people in Hollywood and will go to extraordinary lengths to imitate their favorite stars.  Many celebrities have realized this and taken advantage of this power to persuade fans into their same political beliefs.  Ideally, celebrities should keep their political beliefs to themselves and allow the politicians do the campaigning and advertising.  The world of red carpets and paparazzi should not intersect with the world of elephants and donkeys.  Until the day celebrities become less of an influence, they should be able to say what they would like about political candidates but kept it to a minimum and only during appropriate times.