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U.S. Media Outlets Are Still Banging the Drums for the Afghanistan War – In These Times

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There are plenty of reasons to criticize the foreign policy of President Biden: his failure to fully end U.S. participation in the Yemen war more than five months after he pledged to; his staffing out of his foreign policy to a shadowy consultant firm called WestExec whose clients include military contractors and powerful corporations; his support for Israel’s brutal bombardment of Gaza.

But when it comes to U.S. press outlets, they’re more likely to critique Biden when he steps away from militarism. This reality was on full display following the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Bagram Air Base, which began in late June as part of the Biden administration’s broader exit from Afghanistan (which, it is important to note, does not constitute a full withdrawal and is likely to result in the farming out of the war to the CIA).

A wave of media coverage followed Biden’s evasive outburst at a July 2 press conference. He was responding to questions from reporters implying that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was irresponsible or harmful to Afghans, including one reporter who asked whether the U.S. exit would touch off a civil war. I want to talk about happy things, man,” the president said, cutting off the journalist. The president continued, I’m not gonna answer any more questions on Afghanistan… it’s Fourth of July [weekend].”

While the president’s remarks are certainly eyebrow-raising, given his responsibility for waging and shaping that war over the past two decades, they do not constitute a meaningful departure from Biden’s numerous other incidents of lashing out. Except in this case he was chafing at journalists’ questions that came from a seemingly pro-war perspective. And it did not take long for media segments criticizing the president’s remarks to start rolling in.

CNN’s The Lead ran a segment on July 2 titled, President Biden grew visibly frustrated after reporters asked him about the Afghanistan withdrawal” that used the press conference as one hook for a broader story about the U.S. exit. In the segment, correspondent Kaitlan Collins painted a grim picture of what a U.S. departure would mean. Although the official drawdown from Afghanistan isn’t over yet, the departure from Bagram air base sends a strong signal that U.S. operations are…This sprawling compound was often visited by U.S. leaders and became the center of military power in Afghanistan after being the first to house U.S. forces following the 2001 invasion. The U.S. is handing the air base over to the Afghan government amid new concerns about what they’re leaving behind.”

Nowhere does the segment mention that Bagram Air Base was once the site of grisly U.S. torture, where prisoners were held in dismal conditions, deprived of sleep, subjected to sexual degradation and humiliation, and suspended from ceilings — all while being held in legal limbo without charge, much like those detained at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay.

But beyond that omission, the segment fails to wrestle with a single tough question about the war itself, which is an undeniable failure even according to the military’s own stated logic, and has brought 20 years of occupation, death and displacement to the Afghan people. According to a September 2020 report from Brown University’s Costs of War Project, 5.3 million people in Afghanistan have been displaced (either internally or externally) by the U.S. war since it began in 2001. Where are the probing questions about whether the war ever should have been waged in the first place, or whether some of those people would still be in their homes if the United States hadn’t invaded? Instead, Collins postured as if she was being oppositional to power, when she was in fact siding with the Pentagon — the easiest thing on Earth for a journalist to do. (Jake Tapper, host of The Lead, knows this better than anyone. The war in Afghanistan has been a major boon to his career, the subject of his book about an untold story of American valor” that will soon be turned into a Hollywood movie.)

NBC Nightly News, hosted by Lester Holt, struck a similar tone in its July 2 broadcast, with correspondent Richard Engel saying that Biden did not want to draw attention” to Afghanistan when pressed about the impact of the withdrawal.” Engel continued, but not talking about it won’t stop this. As U.S. troops leave, some Afghan security groups are collapsing…Most Afghans do not want the Taliban to return.”

Despite Engel’s claim, there’s no evidence after nearly 20 years of war that U.S. presence erodes the Taliban’s power. In fact, all evidence suggests the opposite: Since 2001 the Taliban has significantly expanded its foothold in the country (yet the role of the U.S. occupation in strengthening the Taliban has been scrubbed from much media coverage). While polling is notoriously difficult in conditions of war, a survey from the Institute of War and Peace Studies from January 2020 found 80% of Afghans surveyed believe that peace can only be obtained through a political solution, not a military one. (The poll received funding from the European Union and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.)

The survey also found that 46% of Afghan respondents wanted U.S. and NATO militaries out of the country after a peace deal, compared to 33% who wanted them to stay. While such a definitive peace deal never came, this survey data does not show that the Afghan people want U.S. troops to remain in their country indefinitely. Yet, the framing from NBC Nightly News gives the impression that Afghan public opinion is in favor of an indefinite American presence.

These aren’t the only examples of major media outlets criticizing Biden over the withdrawal. This July Fourth, America will leave Afghanistan independence in its death throes,” reads a July 1 piece by USA Todays editorial board. Other outlets recirculated 2001 talking points from Laura Bush by declaring that the U.S. withdrawal will harm women and girls. We don’t have to wonder what will happen to Afghan women when the U.S. leaves,” reads an opinion headline in the Dallas Morning News. Yet the same pundits who supposedly care so deeply about the wellbeing of people in Afghanistan have been remarkably silent about the at least 47,245 civilians who have been killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of the war, a rate that has been disturbingly high for years. And they’ve had little to say about the fact that only 1.2% of people in Afghanistan have been vaccinated against Covid-19, portending a much broader humanitarian crisis to come.

Since it began, the war in Afghanistan has been met with protests around the world, and those protesters have had to contend with a bipartisan pro-war U.S. consensus — both in Washington, and in the press. The system functions by ensuring that anyone who steps out of line — even slightly, and even 20 years too late — is disciplined. This was apparent as early as September 30, 2001, when the New York Times ran the headline, A NATION CHALLENGED: Protesters in Washington Urge Peace With Terrorists.” And it persists to the present — even amid signs the war is deeply unpopular among the U.S. public.

There are manifold other ways that U.S. media outlets could frame American withdrawal. They could examine the rampant corruption and war crimes of the U.S.-backed Afghan military, air the voices of people who want the United States to leave, or ask hard questions about what a complete American exit — and U.S. reparations to the Afghan people — could look like. But after two decades of occupation, bombings, home raids and drone strikes, we’re still a long way from a free press that asks difficult questions when it comes to war and militarism. Instead, it’s relying on rote, self-serving cliches about a supposed humanitarian mission that simply never existed.

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Social media companies targeted in potential online harms bill, but legislation still a ways off – The Globe and Mail

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The federal government has launched a new consultation that it says will lead to combatting online hate shared on social media sites – a move that has prompted advocates to say real change isn’t coming fast enough.

The government is asking the public to respond to a proposal that includes creating a new Digital Safety Commissioner of Canada, as well as a Digital Recourse Council that Canadians can petition in order to have content removed from social media sites. The Recourse Council would have the power to make binding decisions to make sites remove content, though the consequences for not abiding by that ruling are not yet clear.

The plans, announced Thursday, focus on five categories of online harms: terrorist content, hate speech, content that incites violence, child sexual exploitation and the non-consensual sharing of images.

As government hosts antisemitism summit, opposition leaders say they should have been invited to speak

The government says it wants to bring in legislation on online hate, aimed at social media companies that play a role in sharing content. It would be in addition to Bill C-36, which targeted public hate speech by individuals. Bill C-36 did not pass into law after being introduced by the Liberal government at the end of the parliamentary session. If an election is called this summer, as is widely expected, the legislation will no longer move forward.

Despite a campaign being anticipated soon, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said the new online harms bill would be introduced as a top priority “very early on when the House resumes its work in the fall.”

“We’re hearing loud and clear from Canadians that something needs to be done about online hate,” Mr. Guilbeault said in an interview.

“What we’re presenting is what we feel is the best course forward, but we want to hear Canadians on that, and that’s what we’ll be doing in the coming weeks.”

The government has posted details of its proposed approach on the Canadian Heritage section of its website and is asking the public to provide feedback by e-mail. The potential legislation would apply to sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but would exclude private communication channels such as WhatsApp and telecommunications networks.

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said creating online hate legislation would be a positive move. However, he said that at the moment it’s only “a plan to make a plan.”

“It should not have taken this long and it should not be taking any longer,” he said. “My fear is that an election is going to get called and this just gets swept away into partisan politics and people forget about it.”

Mr. Farber also raised the issue of how the process of dealing with online hate still heavily relies on victims self-reporting to have content removed, and said he’d like to see more of the onus fall on a new commissioner instead.

Daniel Bernhard, executive director of the advocacy group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, said in a statement that platforms such as Facebook and YouTube must be held responsible for their role in promoting illegal content on their sites. “Legislation aimed at tackling online harm must send a clear message to these firms and their leaders: if you allow illegal content to circulate on your platform, you will pay a price,” the statement reads.

Rob Moore, Conservative Shadow Minister for Justice and the Attorney General of Canada, said in an e-mailed statement Thursday that his party is “deeply concerned with the Liberal’s plan to create an online speech regulator whose powers are overly broad and ill-defined.”

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

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Social Reset promotes healthy social media usage – Belleville Intelligencer

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In a world dominated by online algorithms, Social Reset is working to free people from social media and help them develop a healthier relationship with the internet.

Its campaign begins in August. Those participating will team up by pledging to reduce their social media usage for the entire month. One of Social Reset’s founders, Jordan Wiener, hopes this smartphone-less time facilitates meaningful connections with loved ones.

“The idea is that you get more time connecting with each other offline,” he said. “(Social Reset) is really not about, you know, raising money or doing any of this. It’s about putting down your phone, going outside and making memories with your friends and family.”

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Wiener is one of several Queen’s University alumni behind Social Reset; its current 10 volunteers and 14 ambassadors are primarily composed of former and current students. A shared desire to act in the face of complacency unites them.

“(Social Reset) started out of a frustration between the awareness of the social media problem and the action,” Wiener said. “I’d speak to friends for an hour, but I’d follow up with them a month later, and no one had done anything about it.”

He blames the design of social media apps for this dissonance.

“Everyone knows that this is a problem, but it’s something that’s really hard to do something about because these platforms can be so addictive.”

Social Reset is how Wiener and colleagues are fighting for change. In partnering with Jack.org and the Centre for Humane Technology, they’ve created an initiative to help participants re-evaluate their relationship with social media.

Pledging can be done individually or as a group. Social Reset’s website offers different pathways for people pledging alone, with a group of friends, or with family. All pledges will receive a weekly “Adventure Guide” containing ideas for smartphone-free activities.

While Wiener lives happily without any social media, he recognizes how platforms such as Instagram and TikTok can often become creative outlets. He believes that intention is central in developing a healthy relationship with them.

“So instead of compulsively checking your phone and going on and watching things that you don’t know why you’re watching, you (should) say, ‘I’m using social media for this’ and then use it strictly for that purpose,” Wiener explained.

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He warned that without intention, social media ends up using its users.

“(Otherwise) they’ve got you addicted to the algorithm, and they’re profiting off of you for each second that you spend on the platform,” he said.

The Social Reset team has also been teaching purposeful social media usage in classrooms through an educational workshop. It has interactive programming for all ages, but children in grades 7 and 8 have been their primary focus.

“We’re youth presenting this workshop to other youth,” Wiener said. “We explain how social media can be an awesome thing but also challenging. Then we leave the class to come up with their own ‘creative contract’ of rules that they’re going to impose and try for a week.”

These rules chosen by the children can be anything from not using phones before bed to dedicating more screen-free time to family.

“A week after they’ve done that, we come back in with them, and for 45 minutes everyone just kind of shares their experiences,” Wiener said.

Through its August campaign and educational workshops, Social Reset is working hard to improve our relationship with social media.

Those interested in pledging can find more information at thesocialreset.org.

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Social Reset promotes healthy social media usage – The Kingston Whig-Standard

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Article content

In a world dominated by online algorithms, Social Reset is working to free people from social media and help them develop a healthier relationship with the internet.

Its campaign begins in August. Those participating will team up by pledging to reduce their social media usage for the entire month. One of Social Reset’s founders, Jordan Wiener, hopes this smartphone-less time facilitates meaningful connections with loved ones.

“The idea is that you get more time connecting with each other offline,” he said. “(Social Reset) is really not about, you know, raising money or doing any of this. It’s about putting down your phone, going outside and making memories with your friends and family.”

Advertisement

Article content

Wiener is one of several Queen’s University alumni behind Social Reset; its current 10 volunteers and 14 ambassadors are primarily composed of former and current students. A shared desire to act in the face of complacency unites them.

“(Social Reset) started out of a frustration between the awareness of the social media problem and the action,” Wiener said. “I’d speak to friends for an hour, but I’d follow up with them a month later, and no one had done anything about it.”

He blames the design of social media apps for this dissonance.

“Everyone knows that this is a problem, but it’s something that’s really hard to do something about because these platforms can be so addictive.”

Social Reset is how Wiener and colleagues are fighting for change. In partnering with Jack.org and the Centre for Humane Technology, they’ve created an initiative to help participants re-evaluate their relationship with social media.

Pledging can be done individually or as a group. Social Reset’s website offers different pathways for people pledging alone, with a group of friends, or with family. All pledges will receive a weekly “Adventure Guide” containing ideas for smartphone-free activities.

While Wiener lives happily without any social media, he recognizes how platforms such as Instagram and TikTok can often become creative outlets. He believes that intention is central in developing a healthy relationship with them.

“So instead of compulsively checking your phone and going on and watching things that you don’t know why you’re watching, you (should) say, ‘I’m using social media for this’ and then use it strictly for that purpose,” Wiener explained.

Advertisement

Article content

He warned that without intention, social media ends up using its users.

“(Otherwise) they’ve got you addicted to the algorithm, and they’re profiting off of you for each second that you spend on the platform,” he said.

The Social Reset team has also been teaching purposeful social media usage in classrooms through an educational workshop. It has interactive programming for all ages, but children in grades 7 and 8 have been their primary focus.

“We’re youth presenting this workshop to other youth,” Wiener said. “We explain how social media can be an awesome thing but also challenging. Then we leave the class to come up with their own ‘creative contract’ of rules that they’re going to impose and try for a week.”

These rules chosen by the children can be anything from not using phones before bed to dedicating more screen-free time to family.

“A week after they’ve done that, we come back in with them, and for 45 minutes everyone just kind of shares their experiences,” Wiener said.

Through its August campaign and educational workshops, Social Reset is working hard to improve our relationship with social media.

Those interested in pledging can find more information at thesocialreset.org.

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