Vote Blue

October 28, 2014

For the past four years, the House GOP has wasted taxpayer money with frivolous votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the GOP-created legislation which has resulted in millions more Americans getting access to health care. GOP legislators, in session less than half the year, call struggling minimum-wage workers who sometimes work three jobs to feed their families lazy.

While our infrastructure crumbles around us, we have seen no meaningful legislation from the 113th Congress. Republicans got elected by promising jobs, but they have only voted to restrict women’s access to healthcare, impose Christian believes on the government in violation of the First Amendment, and shut down the government, costing taxpayers billions.

If you’re not outraged by the behavior of elected officials who care more about impugning the Black, Democratic President than helping Americans recover from damage done by his White, Republican predecessor, you haven’t been paying attention.

All 435 members of the House of Representatives, 33 of 100 Senators, and governors in 36 states are on the ballot. Voting out the Koch-brother-funded, Tea Party idiots would give us the opportunity to end obstruction, filibustering, and constant gridlock in Washington and see laws passed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25, eliminating tax breaks for companies that send American jobs overseas, reforming campaign financing, and giving Veterans expanded access to health care, education, and job training, etc.

But, the combination of Koch-brother funded lies (they’re paying for 44,000 advertisements in swing states alone), gerrymandering which has drawn ridiculously configured legislative districts to consolidate all left leaning voters in mostly right states, and voter suppression laws created solely to prevent the poor, people of color, students, and women from voting, could exacerbate the obstructionist House by creating a Senate that will waste time trying to impeach the president while stealing more from the American public.

If you don’t want to see Social Security, highways, state parks, public schools, etc. privatized so billionaires can make more money, if you don’t want to see income inequality continue to widen, if you don’t want to see another ALEC shill willing to destroy the civil liberties of the many to further empower the 1 percent on the Supreme Court, you need to Vote Blue in November.

While I would very much like to see a progressive third party take hold in the U.S., the reality is that takes time and work. It’s telling when you’ve never heard of any of the third party candidates on the ballot. We can’t build a serious third party by only putting candidates for national and state-wide offices up for election. In order to run viable campaigns for national and state-wide offices, third-party candidates need to start the same way their Democratic and Republican opponents did: at the local level.

“The race for the United States Senate is going to be close — in fact it’s going to be so close that a handful of voters may decide who controls the Senate in Washington,” admits one Republican supporter. “People of like-minds need to stick together so as to avoid the rise of a government that is in complete conflict with their values.” He wrote those words to scare GOP voters into forking over money and getting to the polls for the midterm election.

But, unless your values are Tea Party ignorance and obstructionism, you must Vote Blue. If you don’t vote, or you vote for Republicans or third party candidates, you are handing the United States government over to right wing nut jobs who can’t spell, but are determined to take away your health care, your reproductive rights, your ability to earn more than slave wages, your weekends, your vacations, your home, and your retirement funds.

If you want to take our country back from the corporations, the 1 percent, the racists, misogynists, homo haters, trans attackers, and forced pregnancy movement proponents, please Vote Blue next week. If you don’t, you will empower those who want to make sure you never get a chance to vote again.

Also on the Ballot

In addition to the lies generated by and on behalf of candidates, supporters of amendments on the ballot in a number of states are spewing forth deliberate falsehoods and misinformation about legislation that will cause even more harm.

For example, several states are voting on “personhood” amendments, but since the majority of voters do not support “personhood” these are worded to prevent voters in those states from figuring out that’s what’s at stake. Forced pregnancy movement proponents frame their campaign around stories of pregnant women killed by guns or in auto accidents whose fetuses were destroyed as well. The fact that these laws could make abortion and many forms of contraceptive illegal is conveniently never mentioned.

And in Oregon two critical amendments are getting misrepresented in the media and advertisements.

Opponents of Measure 92 — which would require labeling of foods containing GMO — claim it will cost consumers money. In reality, the labeling will cost very little, about $2.30 per person per year. What could prove costly is if food manufacturers decide to eliminate GMO food from their products to avoid the labels. And, we’re told if we want to avoid GMO foods, we can just buy organic.

The reality is there have been no scientific studies done to show whether GMO foods cause harm to humans. But, there is ample proof that they do result in harm to soil, song birds, bees, and water because of the increased used of chemical pesticides. Buying organic foods for individual households won’t prevent the massive damage that Monsanto’s pesticides used with its GMO seeds do to the environment and to small farmers.

Monsanto and DuPont are throwing millions of dollars against this Measure. They’ve gotten much of the state’s media to agree with them. Given that those media are reaping big bucks in advertising dollars, their reasons for voting against Measure 92 are at best specious. Given the low cost of labeling, which would be added to the existing labeling requirements, you have to ask what Monsanto and DuPont stand to lose if we simply notify consumers what’s in the food they eat.

If you vote in Oregon, vote YES on Measure 92

Proponents of Measure 90, creating a top-two open primary, claim this will give voters more choices. In reality, it will simply make it easier for corporate money to buy elections. Right now, the two-party primary system hurts the smaller third parties the most. When THEY say no, Measure 90 will make things worse, we should listen. Most telling about the impact of Measure 90 is who’s signed on to oppose it including Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, The Oregon Bus Project, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Pacific Green Party of Oregon, and the Oregon Progressive Party.

If you vote in Oregon, vote NO on Measure 90

Given the length of this post, I won’t go into further details about additional measures on the Oregon ballot, except to urge you, if you vote in Oregon, to also vote YES on Measure 88 (drivers’ cards for qualified Oregon residents) and vote YES on Measure 91 (legalizing recreational marijuana).


Banned Books Week: Why Readers Need to Care About Ebook Sellers’ Arbitrary and Capricious Content Guidelines

September 23, 2014

On Dec. 5, 2012 I published “Aunt” Grace.”

On May 11, 2013 I learned that “Aunt” Grace won second place in the National Leather Association: International John Preston Short Story Award for excellence in literary works in SM/leather/fetish writing published in 2012.

On Sept. 3, 2014 my publisher account with All Romance was terminated because of “Aunt” Grace.

A little background: Previously, I had only published my novels and short story collections (including the two that contained “Aunt” Grace) on All Romance. With the loss of Kobo retail outlets in U.K., the death of Sony and Diesel, and Amazon doing everything possible to bury my books, I saw potential for replacing some of these lost sales if I increased what was available at All Romance. I decided to invest more in that market and spent several weeks reformatting all my short stories and resizing all the covers to meet the site’s requirements.

I worked with the publisher relations supervisor to manage some technical difficulties I had in taking advantage of the interface that allowed books published on All Romance to be sold in the iBookstore. Then I received a notice from the Chief Operating Officer, accusing me of violating the site’s content guidelines, specifically regarding “Works which contain incest or pseudo-incest themes for the purpose of titillation” and “Works that are written for or being marketed to the barely legal market.”

The latter accusation was aimed at Jail Bait and Teacher’s Pet. While I admit the blurbs (designed to sell books) toy with the “barely legal” angle, that’s not what the stories are about. They both tell a story of an 18 year old discovering her sexuality, constrained by society’s one-sided, misogynist standards regarding women’s pleasure. (Two Brothers, about two young male virgins, one of the other stories that appears in Young & Eager, never gets banned for violating “barely legal” guidelines, even though the younger brother is only 18. Of course, that one gets criticized because the two brothers are in bed with the same woman and OMG, they might touch each other, even though they don’t.)

Both Jail Bait and Teacher’s Pet and the collection they appear in together are now published on Apple and Kobo, two of the most restrictive markets in terms of prurient content, via Smashwords. From the beginning, the first story was always available for sale on both markets in another collection, further proof that all these “content guidelines” are arbitrary and capricious.

Most of the All Romance COO’s ire appeared to be directed at “Aunt” Grace.” She erroneously claimed it “contains a pseudo-incestuous relationship between Grace and your protagonist, who she refers to and has thought of as a niece.” She terminated my account without warning, removing 60 plus works from two markets because she had a problem with three, forcing me to scramble to reformat everything yet again.

First, pseudo incest is an oxymoron. Incest is sexual intercourse between closely related persons. If people aren’t closely related, there’s no possibility of incest. Pseudo is defined as pretended; false or spurious; sham.

“Aunt” Grace contains no incest, pseudo or otherwise. The characters are two women who became acquainted as young girls because of other people’s marriage and who rediscover their attraction to each other as young adults.

It involves two women who are not legally related. Grace’s mother married the father of the boy who grew up to become Jen’s father long after both Grace and Jen’s father were born. Jen’s father never appears in the book. Jen grew up calling Grace “aunt” because that was required then, even though they weren’t related in any way and weren’t that far apart in age.

The two women always had the hots for each other. Their attraction was constrained more by their families disapproval of their orientation than their “relationship.” In the book, although Jen calls Grace “aunt” out of habit at first, the word “niece” is used only once, and that’s facetiously,
when Grace introduces Jen to her slave.

“Jen, this is my slave, Emma. Gurl, this is my,” Grace cleared her throat, “niece, Jen.”

It’s worded to make it obvious to most readers that Grace does not think of Jen as her niece.

The story is also about Jen fighting against misogyny in her chosen career and prejudice against her sexual orientation. She finds refuge, and a chance to explore BDSM, in Grace’s leather family.

I ran into the same specious objections to “Aunt” Grace at
Kobo and Apple. In both cases, in order to sell this award-winning story, I had to make arbitrary and capricious language changes, changes that eliminated the women’s backstory and reduced the characters’ depth. I also switched the cover to say “Sir Grace” instead of aunt.

This was not the first time my work was banned by All Romance. In 2012, Broken and Shattered were kicked off the site.

I write books as Korin I. Dushayl about the dark side of BDSM, including questionable consent and abuse of power. I’ve redefined them as transgressive because the sex scenes in them often aren’t supposed to be erotic (which doesn’t mean that some people won’t find them arousing). But, if any character exploits another in a story I write, it’s obvious to readers (if not the character themselves) that the relationship is inappropriate at best, criminally damaging at worst. I don’t portray abusive stalkers as romantic heroes.

I’m all for labeling books based on what’s in them so adult readers can choose what they purchase based on their own personal preferences, triggers, and boundaries. One person’s hottest sex scene ever will make another person want to hurl.

However, it is inappropriate and inexcusable for any individual or corporation to make arbitrary and capricious decisions about what other adults get to read.

Further proof that all this hoop jumping is for absolutely no legitimate reason and that so-called “content guidelines” are arbitrary and capricious:

  1. both Apple and Kobo sell the original “Aunt” Grace as part of another collection and no retailer has voiced any objections to that other collection;
  2. as of this writing, Apple still has not accepted Two Brothers for sale from Smashwords even though it was one of four books All Romance neglected to pull and the exact same story is still for sale on Apple via All Romance;
  3. I had to change the title and cover of Young & Eager to get it sold on Kobo even though all four stories within the collection were already for sale individually.
  4. On Amazon, Apple, and Kobo I must call my Family Dynamics collection, Leather Family Dynamics (although at least on Amazon, unlike the other two, I didn’t have to change “Aunt” Grace).
  5. Apple published and then pulled Sir Grace in the space of a few days. I was told I needed to change the category listed from “Romance > Erotica” to “Erotica > Romance” and I’m still waiting for it to be available for sale again. Meanwhile, that version of the story is available for sale on Apple in Leather Family Dynamics.

Arbitrary and capricious? Can anyone deny that?


Even Smashwords admits, in much kinder words, to the arbitrary and capricious application of “guidelines” by Apple. In explaining the reasons why books accepted by Smashwords don’t get distributed to Apple, the site states the process “is performed by humans, and is therefore subject to some inconsistency from time to time. You may also find that things that were okay a year ago are no longer acceptable to them going forward.”

In the midst of all this, Amazon had the unmitigated gall to encourage people to read really old books that had once been banned such as Madame Bovary and The Prince while arbitrarily and capriciously banning current work by numerous erotica authors.

All Romance, Apple, Kobo, and Amazon will continue preventing you from reading books the way they were written — how the author believed was the best way to tell the story, the way you may find entertaining and/or arousing — unless readers protest. The retailers have made it quite obvious they don’t give a rat’s ass about their authors. We’re just content providers and if any single person — on the retailers’ team or a random visitor to their websites — finds our content objectionable, it’s gone.

The only way to change this puritanical attitude that readers have to be protected from evil authors who produce books those readers might want to purchase and consume, is to yell loudly and repeatedly at any retailer that bans books for arbitrary and capricious reasons. Better still, purchase your books from other retailers, or whenever possible from authors and publishers directly, and let the retailers know why.


Do I Pass?

July 29, 2014

I consider myself a trans ally. Depending on how you define “activist,” you might even consider me a trans activist.

I have trans friends, belong to trans support groups, post articles about trans struggles and persecution, bitch slap trans hatred when I can.

Do I PassBut, when I see a “Do I Pass?” post I cringe. Not because of what it means to the poster as much as what it means about what the poster experiences outside “safe” trans space.

Often, in these pictures, I see a very worried face looking back at me. Mostly what I see is a beautiful person desperately seeking acceptance for who they are.

The need to pass grows out of the gender binary — strict definitions of what “men” and “women” should look, sound, and act like.

I could be considered a cisgender woman and I don’t fit within the gender binary. Neither do some of my other cisgender friends. Why in the world must we hold trans people up to a standard that many cisgender people can’t meet (or don’t want to)?

I somewhat identify as the gender I was assigned at birth. If I’m given the choice, I identify my gender as FemDom — put that in your binary where you will. I definitely don’t accept the presentation/constructs assigned by society to the female gender. I’ve been mistaken for a man on the telephone. I choose to use initials rather than a first name, so I am constantly referred to as Mr. and he. I prefer to wear men’s clothing because it’s more comfortable and practical. I don’t wear makeup because it takes too much time and money to do so, especially since I’m allergic to all but the most expensive cosmetics. But, I’m not considered butch because I wear my hair curly to my shoulders and feminine jewelry.

I have trans women friends who are more tomboys than femme. I also have very femme trans women friends who I didn’t realize were trans until they felt comfortable enough with me to confide that fact. I have watched friends transition from male to female and from female to male. And, I’ve seen many of them try too hard to meet artificial binary standards while they were doing so.

If you’re not comfortable in your own skin, how do you find a gender expression that does make you comfortable? Especially in a society that’s so stuck on a binary that it slaughters people who don’t fit on one end or the other?

I remember a few years back I worked as a volunteer checking identification for an excursion. An older woman approached me, dressed in a smart, classic skirt suit. Her hands shook as she handed me the driver’s license that identified her as a man and a letter from her doctor explaining she had a gender identity “disorder.” I wondered how hard she had to consider whether or not she wanted to go on this wonderful expedition because of the pain of dealing with the paperwork. I was just grateful she ended up at my post and not with someone who would have scorned or interrogated her. She was frightened, close to tears, and it wouldn’t have taken much to terrorize her.

The question “Do I pass?” holds disproportionate weight in the transgender community, generating myriad emotions. Some ask because they desperately want to be accepted by their family, their friends, their colleagues, the clerk at the grocery store, as the gender denied them at birth. Some ask because in a society where “trans” is justification for violence, there’s safety in passing. And, some ask because they want confirmation that how they appear to others matches the way they feel inside.

Even a trans person who “passes” 100 percent of the time will occasionally seek a confidence boost by asking. Deep inside, especially if they’re early on the transition journey, they can still fear someone outing them as who they used to be.

But everyone who asks the question “Do I pass?” shares an insecurity that they don’t.

How do those of us who are trans allies, activists, and even those trans men and women more secure in their gender presentation respond to the question “Do I pass”?

Let’s start by not holding trans men and women up to a standard many cis women and men can’t meet. Let’s not allow artificial standards of beauty, that almost no one can achieve without Photoshop assistance, prevent us from seeing the allure in anyone who doesn’t attain them. Let’s not confuse gender identity with gender expression and force people into a binary that prevents them from being themselves.

But, most importantly, let’s remember it really isn’t any of our business whether or not someone is trans unless they choose to share that information with us. If someone tells you they are a woman or a man, just accept that, even if they don’t dress, talk, or act like you think a woman or man should. And, if you mistakenly address that woman with a deep voice as “Sir” or the man with breasts as Ma’am and they inform you that you’ve misgendered them, just apologize and don’t make the same mistake again. Nothing else required.


Forced Pregnancy Movement

June 19, 2014

Let’s call a spade a spade and stop granting the right-wing, evangelical, misogynists their self-preferred, and totally erroneous, title of “pro life.”

You can’t claim “pro life” if you spend time, money, and energy fighting to prevent people from getting life-saving medical care resulting in thousands of deaths each year.

You can’t claim “pro life” when you actively try to eliminate one of the best, proven methods of preventing unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions: fact-based sex education in schools.

You can’t claim “pro life” when you campaign against allowing womGynoticianen access to the most significant abortion prevention option: contraceptives.

You can’t claim “pro life” if you don’t work to provide pre-natal care for women so they can deliver healthy babies.

You can’t claim “pro life” if you argue against paid family medical leave that allows parents to care for their children when they’re newborns, sick, or injured.

You can’t claim “pro life” if you advocate cutting programs to feed, clothe, house, and educate those children you force into this world.

You can’t claim “pro life” if you justify laws that prevent same-sex couples from adopting the children you forced into the world then abandoned, preventing them from having a stable home because (and only because) homosexuality squicks you out.

You can’t claim “pro life” if you don’t support realistic minimum-wage laws that would eliminate the oxymoron “working poor” — poverty kills.

You can’t claim “pro life” if you refuse to take action to prevent the slaughter of children and other innocents and keep it legal for any idiot, criminal, and nut job to carry automatic weapons and enough ammunition to take out a municipal police force into schools, theaters, restaurants, etc.

You can’t claim “pro life” if you promote “Stand Your Ground,” police brutality, urban warfare, rape culture, and trans hatred — all of which cost people their lives.

You can’t claim “pro life” if you favor the death penalty.

In short, you can’t claim “pro life” if the only thing you do to “protect” life is use lies, outrageous and unnecessary procedures, and inappropriate clinic-closing regulations to stop women from terminating pregnancy … even when it means their lives are at risk, even if the fathers are rapists, even if they’re brain dead, even if the fetuses probably won’t survive.

If that’s all you do you, aren’t “pro life,” you’re a hypocrite who is part of the forced-pregnancy movement which only has the one goal of coercing women to deliver babies, babies you don’t give a rat’s ass about once they’re born.

So, if you’re pro-choice, pro-women, pro-freedom please stop using the term “pro-life” to describe members of the forced-pregnancy movement.


Coffee Shop as Office

April 29, 2014

Once again I recently walked out of a tea/coffee shop without making a purchase because every single table was occupied by individuals with computers using the business as their personal office space.

I just wanCoffee Shop as Officeted to sit for half an hour and enjoy a cuppa and maybe a snack, depending on what the food options were. Since this was a new-to-me-establishment, I had not yet had a chance to check out the menu. I didn’t bother. I won’t go back.

I understand that some people don’t have a convenient place they can work, write, or do homework. I know there are others who find the environment of a busy coffee shop inspiring. I understand that some businesses don’t want to alienate “customers” by setting a time limit on how long they can hog a table.

And, if they mostly rely on takeout customers who grab a cuppa and run off, it may be a viable business plan.

But, how many potential customers like me are driven away each day because the tables are monopolized by those who purchase one beverage and stay for hours upon hours? How much money is the establishment losing to those who allow it to pay their overhead and provide them a free place to work? (And, no, even a $5 cup of coffee is not appropriate “rent” on table space for more than half an hour.)

In reality, these people do have other options: the public library, student facilities, their own damned bedrooms, a corner of the sofa in their living room, their hotel room when they’re traveling. I’ve worked, written, and done homework in them all.

Whatever excuses given for the “need” to work in coffee shops, the reality is those who do so are parasites. The business pays for the electricity that powers their laptop and their phones, the rent on the space they’re occupying, the water they use in the restroom. The establishment purchased the table they pile their books/reference material on, the chair their ass occupies and the one they put their backpack on to prevent anyone else from sitting at “their” table.

All the shop owners get in exchange is the sale of one measly cup of coffee and maybe, if they’re lucky, a sandwich.

Why has this become an acceptable practice?

I will not pretend I have never written words in a coffee shop. (And, I did write a story in which the character did so regularly, but that was fiction.) I occasionally attend write-ins to socialize with other authors and write in tandem for a few hours. But these are rare events and I always try to purchase more than one item. We’re also half a dozen writers occupying six seats not one writer monopolizing two or more. And, when I can, I encourage the scheduling of them at hours when business is slow and no one else would be using the space.

The particular day mentioned at the beginning of this post, the shop was our last stop. We went home and Patrick made me a pot of tea and heated up some coffee for himself. I worked on my computer while enjoying my rooibos, in the space I own, where I pay the bills, at a desk I bought, sitting in a chair I purchased. But, I put fewer dollars out into the community and perhaps missed an opportunity to try a tea I’ve never tasted before. Plus, a business that has been on my I-want-to-check-it-out list lost its spot without an opportunity to win me as a regular customer.


Talking to Your Daughters About Sex

April 3, 2014

Parents who refuse to provide accurate sex education for their own children often become caretakers of their teenagers’ grandchildren. Today’s guest, erotica author Missy Jane, discusses why she has no intention of repeating her parents’ mistakes.

Talking to Your Daughters About Sex
by Missy Jane, author of Erotic Influence

As the mother of four daughters I had some serious decisions to make when it came to educating them about sex. At what age should I have the talk? How much is too much, and how little is too little? What do I think they need to know, and at what point do they need to learn for themselves?

My own experience was very limited. No one in my house was allowed to talk about sex. To be honest, I’ve no clue how I learned. I do know that both of my sisters got pregnant and ran away from home as teenagers. I also know by the time my mother finally agreed to put me on birth control I was already pregnant. This is not the outcome I want for my girls.

Luckily my daughters know what I write. They know I’m always open about sex and they can ask me anything. I chose to educate them young, around eight years old. Why? They were already hearing things at school that brought up questions most parents would cringe at. When your third grader hears the words blow job you really have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I chose to be completely honest with my girls and educate them on the birds, bees, condoms, and VDs so they wouldn’t learn the hard way. So far, we seem to be on the right track and the honesty flows both ways.

I have a serious problem with not educating our kids about safe sex. I do understand the religious reasons some people are hesitant. I was raised Catholic, in a family that tried to stick to the doctrine as much as possible. It obviously didn’t help (see mention of sisters above). So, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself, who am I hurting here? In my opinion, giving my girls all the facts and letting them know all the options, hurts no one. I’m not going to get into a religious discussion here, but I don’t feel I’ll burn in hell for talking openly and honestly to my children. If anything, I feel it makes them safer. We talk about gun safety, food safety, car safety, and numerous other threats to our kids. Why in the hell not safe sex?

Having four daughters can be nerve wracking for many different reasons, but I don’t want to raise my grandchildren because my daughters are kids themselves when they have them. I’m raising girls with long-term goals to have careers and lives before making babies. I’m also raising girls with enough self respect to know when to say no. I’ve taught them to think for themselves and recognize the boys who won’t respect them as they deserve. They know there’s a man out there for them when the time is right. What kind of romance author would I be if I didn’t talk up the perfect hero?

Overall, I think the most important aspect of sex education is to not expect anyone else to give it to my children. The one thing I don’t do is wait for their schools to inform them about sex. By the time the school decided to show them the infamous film for girls, I had already told them all about it. I’ve taught them how to walk, talk, eat, and many other things. Teaching them to be safe once they decide to be intimate is a no brainer. Teaching them there is a time and place for intimacy, and a certain age when it’s not yet acceptable is also common-sense in my book.

Sure they’ve read YA books, seen movies, and even TV shows where a young character decides to have sex. Does that mean they’re going to run out to look for a partner? Nope. And I can say with confidence I’m not being naïve because I spend time with my girls and know them well. I also talk to them and most importantly, I listen.

About Missy Jane
Missy Jane is the alter ego of a married mother of four who was born and raised in Texas. A few years ago she finished reading a book by Mercedes Lackey and thought “Now, what if…” and a monster was created. Missy now spends most of her time lost in worlds of her own making, alternately loving and hating such creatures as vampires, shapeshifters and gargoyles (to name a few). When not writing, she spends her time reading, taking photos of her beautiful daughters, and training her husband to believe she’s always right. Excerpts from Missy’s paranormal and erotic tales can be found at on her website and blog. Missy can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

About Erotic Influence (Sequel to Erotic Images)
Annie may be a shy twentysomething who spends her days keeping track of her wayward teenage sister, but Rick noticed her living across the street as soon as he moved in. Now he can’t stop fantasizing about his sweet, innocent neighbor and wanting her has become an obsession. He just has to convince her to give him a chance instead of always running away.

Buy it at Ellora’s Cave.


Cacophony of Gossip, Fabrications, Deceptions, etc.

March 13, 2014

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a newspaper (or three) delivered information to your doorstep (or you grabbed a copy from a kiosk on the way to work). You might have listened to snippets of news on the radio during your commute. And if you lived long enough ago, in a large enough community, you might have also received (or picked up) an afternoon paper.

You might even have read a weekly or monthly news magazine delivered to your mailbox or selected at the newstand. But, except for Uncle Walter or David Brinkley on the evening news that was it. A finite number of words, pieces of paper, and broadcast signals, devoted to delivering information each day.

Now, thousands of mainstream “newspapers” and “magazines” (some of which no longer have print editions) post information online. Access to international news organizations for an enlightened perspective on the inanity and inaccuracy of U.S. media reporting is a few keystrokes away. You can read about the same event from a dozen different perspectives eliminating the concept of “objective” reporting from your vocabulary.

And, then there’s the blogs, many offering better researched, higher quality reporting than the once-respected standards such as the plagiarizing New York Times or the right-wing-slanted Wall Street Journal. This is especially true for obscure topics or ones that require significant, educated analysis to understand their subtleties.

(Of course some blogs are just soap boxes for ill-formed, unsubstantiated opinions, but that’s another post.)

If you don’t want to cycle through numerous publications or constantly refresh the ones you’ve chosen as your standards, Twitter and other “streams” offers you instant access to almost everything published – including rumors, innuendoes, parodies, satire, and outright falsehoods.

Now, rather than accept what some (usually white, middle aged, male) editor decides is newsworthy, you can select the sources that provide the information that’s of interest or is useful to you.

Unfortunately, this inundation of material has created numerous problems. The primary one is the proliferation of misinformation. U.S. and foreign media outlets too often pick up false rumors and parodies and pass them off as facts. How many times have some celebrities’ deaths been reported, before, and decades after, their demises? How many iterations of the same urban legends have been disseminated via Facebook, G+, and Tumblr?

No one is fact checking even though resources to do so are readily available such as Snopes and about.com’s Urban Legends (as well as others). Even previously reliable sources have posted and printed inaccurate and, sometimes blatantly false, information.

Anyone who shares knowledge gleaned from the Internet, whether with just friends and family or with hundreds/thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, should take responsibility for the accuracy of what they disseminate. But, too many tweet, tumble, and pin articles based only on the headlines or someone else’s post, never verifying or sometimes even reading the actual content. And, not only is a picture no longer worth a thousand words – it provides no proof. (See “John Adam” aka action figure “Cody” above.)

Those who don’t get confirmation from more than one “reliable” source, just pass along false information (sometimes inadvertently, at times deliberately) and add to the cacophony of gossip, fabrications, urban legends, deceptions, constantly recycled old news, etc. increasing the dilemma for everyone.

Of course, the second most problematic result of information inundation is the sheer volume of data now available. (Although not everyone can retrieve everything, a fact driven home by academic friends pleading for someone to share papers they can’t access because of their location.) No doubt, one could spend every waking moment reading online reports, updates of reports, analysis of reports, and localization of reports or trying to confirm whether the article posted on your favorite site bears any resemblance to the truth.

So, where do we draw the line between well informed and news junkie? How do we tune out the lies and innuendos to find something resembling the truth (assuming we aren’t angry old white men just looking for confirmation of our right-wing nut job fantasies)?


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