SYDNEY, N.S. —
This is the third of six stories profiling the mayoral candidates in the upcoming CBRM municipal election. In this installment, candidate Chris Abbass talks about the criticism he’s faced on social media and why he thinks he’ll be the next mayor.
Profession: Photographer, sales and hospitality (now retired)
Political experience: Was runner-up to former Sydney mayor Manning MacDonald in 1990; member of former Sydney Ratepayers Association
Family: Wife Ruby de Loyola; sons Alex, 26; Jaden, 18; and C.J., 17
He’s been compared to Donald Trump and accused of being misogynistic and homophobic.
But Cape Breton Regional Municipality mayoral candidate Chris Abbass says he’s been both misunderstood by the public and wrongfully maligned by his political foes.
A 58-year-old North Sydney resident and member of the famed photographic family, Abbass has emerged as a controversial figure in the six-person race to become the next leader of the municipality. He says it all dates back to a social media post he made on Sept. 4 at 11:28 a.m. that called out incumbent Cecil Clarke and councillor Amanda McDougall for focusing on their personal lives instead of their platforms.
In the case of the openly gay Clarke, Abbass questioned why he made frequent mention of his husband, while in McDougall’s case, he questioned the expectant mother’s posts about “gardening and family time.” People immediately began voicing their disapproval.
“The heat came from this thing so fast and furious it was unbelievable,” Abbass told the Cape Breton Post in a recent interview.
“It probably wasn’t the best post that I wrote but there’s nothing misogynistic in there. I’m using the terms they use. What, is it that once Cecil Clarke uses the word ‘gay’ then nobody else can use that term because he’s gay and we’re not? Or once one candidate is pregnant, she’s the only one that can use that word? Because if we do there’s something wrong with us, we’re oppressive? I think we’re setting a bad precedent here, especially with everybody saying to me that I’m bashing Amanda McDougall because I’m calling her out on her expenses, I’m calling her out on it and she addressed none of them.
“The election is not about my wife, or Mr. Clarke’s husband, or Amanda McDougall’s partner.”
In fact, Abbass admitted he is targeting McDougall — but not due to her gender, but because she’s the perceived frontrunner.
“She’s the one to beat so why wouldn’t I focus on the one to beat? I don’t want to come in second. I didn’t spend all this money and all this time to come in second,” said Abbass.
Location of the Sydney landfill in the centre of the city
Use money spent shipping solid waste to Guysborough County to relocate and create a more effective landfill
Mayor and council expenses
Elected CBRM officials would have to appear before a citizen review board of four to six qualified people to justify their expenses each month
Improve efficiency in overall spending, focusing on policing and public works
Create a zero-based budgeting system where each department must justify each expenditure
“I’m no prince, I’ll tell you that right now — never have been — but I’m interested in doing something and doing something right and talking in plain language and stating in plain language, ‘Hey, you’re spending too much of our money,’ and they turned it into ‘Why are you bashing her?’
“I’m sure she’s a nice person. If I was to try to run against her by being nicer than her — everybody is saying I’m not that nice. Well, I guess I’m no prince, but whatever the people who are saying these things, I’m certainly not that.”
And Abbass said he’s been called much worse than ‘not nice’ during the campaign.
He said people online have accused him of spousal abuse, sexual crimes, fraud and spreading hate literature — all claims he called “total fantasy.”
“If we’re talking about attacks, if you were to go on Facebook and look, then you’ll see attacks. People that follow me from post to post to post, just with insult after insult after insult, personal remark after personal remark, threat after threat after threat,” he said.
Abbass said his wife has also been the victim of his detractors. He said her car has been spit on because of the Abbass for Mayor sign she has in it and that they even phoned police after a co-worker allegedly made a threatening remark.
However, Abbass said he also has his supporters.
“I’m getting dozens and dozens of phone calls every day from people supporting me,” he said.
“They like what I’m saying. They like the plain language I’m using. They like the idea of holding the mayor and councillors accountable.
“We’ve got to start tightening our belts around here and that starts with mayor and council.”
And while he has his share of critics, Abbass said that message will resonate with enough voters to make him the next mayor.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if he thinks he can win the race. “Why do you think they’re all so adamantly at me?”
COMMENTARY: How comics can teach media literacy and help identify fake news – Global News
At this point, most of us know the drill when it comes to COVID-19: proper hand hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing.
But does setting fire to cell towers make your list? Probably not. A conspiracy theory linking 5G mobile technology to the COVID-19 outbreak has ignited fears worldwide, prompting just this response from a few individuals in Québec, who set ablaze seven mobile towers.
Although such destructive responses are rare, thousands of digital consumers have absorbed aspects of this falsehood, pushing fringe beliefs into the mainstream despite refutations from the World Health Organization and multiple agencies in Canada and the United States. What started as a conspiracy turned into a real crisis for the people who immediately believed what they’d heard.
My research focuses on critical media studies and ideological representations in news and popular culture. I regularly offer workshops to schools and community groups that engage the public in contemporary media literacy issues. My book, Won’t Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide To Fake News, helps readers identify the underlying purpose of the messages they receive and learn how to do basic research before accepting the validity of what’s being presented to them.
New study suggests social media feeds source of COVID-19 fake news
Dealing with fake news
As consumers, we need to learn how to filter content and become our own educators, editors and fact-checkers to ensure the information we act upon is trustworthy. In a constantly changing informational and political environment, it’s no wonder we often struggle to separate fact from fiction.
Articles, videos and other forms of content can generate large amounts of money for the websites that host these pieces. Most of their income comes from clicks on advertisements, so the more people who visit their sites, the better chances they have of boosting ad revenue. This feedback loop has led many publishers to lean on false information to drive traffic.
The threshold for making believable fake news has fallen as well. A conspiracy theorist, for example, can create a web page using a professional template with high-quality photos in just a few clicks. Once the content has been added, sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms requires even less effort.
These misinformation and fake-news campaigns amplify and circulate through false digital accounts using automated programs known as bots that use certain keywords to influence and impact conversations among like-minded clusters of people. The results can foment discord on hot-button Canadian policy issues — like immigration and refugees — possibly disrupting election outcomes.
Generating anxiety and undermining truth
Canadians are expressing anxiety about the social impact of fake news, with 70 per cent fearing it could affect the outcome of a federal election. The Pew Research Center warns that fake news may even influence the core functions of the democratic system and contribute to “truth decay.”
Dubious and inflammatory content can undermine the quality of public debate, promote misconceptions, foster greater hostility toward political opponents and corrode trust in government and journalism.
The effects of misinformation have been evident throughout the COVID-19 epidemic, with many citizens confused as to whether a mask will decrease the chances of spreading the infection. Similar tactics are being levelled against Black Lives Matter protesters, such as labelling them all as rioters when videos and photos show most behaving peacefully.
Conspiracy theories about the “Chinese virus,” amplified by politicians in Canada and the U.S., have fanned the flames of anti-Asian sentiments following the spread of COVID-19. Data from law enforcement and Chinese-Canadian groups has shown an increase in anti-Asian hate incidents in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Who and how to trust
Aside from a few social media platforms that identify misleading content and provide a brief explanation, most information online or in print can appear factual. So how can we figure out which sources to trust?
As a sociologist who focuses on critical media studies, I formed focus groups and collected input from my students to create a resources to guide readers through identifying fake news. While regulation and legislation are part of the solution, experts agree we must take swift action to teach students how to seek verification before acting on fake news.
In my findings, students identified several reasons why media outlets post or re-publish fake news, including making mistakes, being short-staffed, not fact-checking and actively seeking greater viewership by posting fake news.
The students pointed to holistic media literacy and critical thinking training as the best responses. This finding runs counter to the tactics currently used by publishers and tech companies to label or “fact-check” disputed news.
One student summarized this mindset best: “As citizens and consumers, we have a responsibility to be critical. Don’t accept stories blindly. Hold those in power responsible for their actions!”
Getting multiple perspectives is a great way to expand our digest of viewpoints. Once we can see a story from more than one angle, separating truth from falsehood becomes much simpler.
At this point, I transitioned from recording perceptions of fake news to determining how to identify it. Providing students with information about the nature and agendas of fake news, in an immersive format, seemed to be a key step in engaging and cultivating their critical literacy capabilities. Information delivery was a key consideration.
Illustrating the narratives
Researchers have shown graphic narratives can accelerate cognition by focusing the reader’s attention on crucial information. Images clarify complex content, especially for visual learners. Comic books require readers to create meaning using multiple factors that helps develop a complex, multi-modal literacy.
A major goal of my book involves unpacking the motivations behind the news we consume. Consider why a particular person was interviewed: Who do they represent? What do they want us to believe? Is another point of view missing?
Won’t Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide to Fake News is the culmination of my research and the insights drawn from media literacy scholarship. This guide helps readers understand what fake news is, where it comes from, and how to check its accuracy.
If there’s one habit my students and I hope everyone will develop, it’s this: pause before sharing news on social media. Double-check anything that immediately sparks anger or frustration and, remember, fake news creators want a reaction, not thoughtful reflection.
How Donald Trump's Presidency Has Changed The Media – NPR
Kelowna woman learns lesson from public shaming on social media
A Kelowna woman wants others to know of the repercussions of inflammatory social media posts after an experience she had last week.
On Oct. 20, Shelley Hughes saw a man screaming and uttering threats near her home. She posted about it in a neighbourhood Facebook group saying the man looked like a known criminal in the area and a fair number of comments racked up. She later learned the man was actually a 16-year-old who was having a mental breakdown, she said.
“Things got a little bit out of control on the Facebook group,” Hughes said, adding that she got in touch with the teenager’s mother and learned about their story.
“We have to be mindful about what we post, including me, because I was participating in the rhetoric,” Hughes said. “Yes we do post to watch out for each other but we have to be clear. It was a lesson for everyone how quickly it can get out of hand.”
Hughes posted a follow up to her original post, explaining the family had fallen on hard times.
“We need to pull together,” she said. “We need to bring some compassion. It takes a village so let’s be this village.”
The Facebook group is meant to be a neighbourhood watch but sometimes the comments get out of hand, she said.
Her message is to be mindful of the facts before turning to social media.
“It can be used as a useful, positive tool but also in a very bad way,” Hughes said.
She hopes by sharing the story and the lesson she learned that others will follow suit. She said the community has been supportive when she posted a second time explaining the situation.
“Our community needs to get back to being that village and slamming people on social media is not the way to do it. Have I learned a lesson? I have. What do we do with a lesson? We learn from it and we respond to it,” Hughes said.
Thanksgiving, fewer restrictions contributing to Canada's surge in COVID-19 cases, experts say – CTV News
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