An astoundingly odd cinematic cigarette commercial from 1977

I can imagine the first brainstorm: "What if the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey was actually a massive pack of cigarettes? And they found it at the bottom of the ocean?" Here's the actual back story according to Big Dog Media Productions:

When health warnings first appeared on packets in 1971 and the rules for cigarette advertising rules were changed, tobacco companies were faced with the challenge of maintaining brand awareness and driving sales in a market made more aware of the risks than ever before.

The change in rules, coupled with a fresh approach to advertising in general, gave birth to a unique genre of advertising that neatly ticked the boxes of the rule book yet created an art form. As with Surrealist art, these ads aimed to surprise and intrigue the viewer by replacing the objects people expected to see in a particular scene with something incongruous – in this case, a packet of cigarettes.

Collett Dickenson Pearce was tasked with the advertising for Benson & Hedges in 1973....

The story goes that Frank Lowe, Managing Director at CDP in 1977, had two finished campaigns to present. After much debate, he took both campaigns to CDP’s Creative Director, Colin Millward, and asked him his view.

Colin said “…one will let you sleep at night, the other will make you famous.”

(via r/ObscureMedia, thanks UPSO!) Read the rest

Trump tells female reporter, "You're not thinking. I know you never do."

At a Rose Garden press conference announcing the new U.S. trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, President Trump was particularly nasty with ABC News’s Cecilia Vega. Read the rest

Academic publishing is a mess and it makes culture wars dumber

In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal suspected that cultural studies lacked academic rigor. So he wrote an intentionally nonsensical paper, Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, and submitted it for publication in the respected academic journal Social Text. It was accepted. Sokal exposed the hoax, the embarrassed academics made their excuses, and the paper was retracted. The imbroglio was posed largely as a story of flimflam and imposture in postmodernism.

This year, mathematician Theodore P. Hill co-wrote a paper about how the variability of traits differ between men and women. Uh-oh! It was accepted for publication by the respected academic journal The New York Journal of Mathematics. But within days it was gone, leading to accusations that scientific ideas were being suppressed. Upon close reading, though, the paper turned out to be, as Fields Medalist Tim Gowers put it, "a bad mistake."

The imbroglio is still being posed largely as a story of academic censorship due to The Feminists.

And just last month, researcher Lisa Littman authored a paper suggesting a social contagion model of transgender identification, replete with a DSM-ready diagnosis named "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria." Once more eyeballs (not least those of angry trans activists) fell upon it, serious methodological flaws were noted and both Littman's university and the publishing journal, PLOS ONE, began cringing at what they had put their names to. Read the rest

Britain's Channel 4 highlights Twitter abuse in ad campaign

Channel 4 in the UK:

We stand up for diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. One of the dark sides of this is online abuse. To highlight this disturbing trend, we’ve partnered with some advertisers to show examples of real abuse against real people in their ads. It may shock you.

Here are the ads. If the embed doesn't show, click the link above.

T.S. Eliot, as dissatisfied by life's pettiness as he was satisfied by his own conservative fatalism, ended his poem The Hollow Men with the famous lines "This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper." He later regretted it. People who survived bombings told him they heard nothing at all. Read the rest

The New Yorker editor's excuse for inviting Steve Bannon to headline its festival works for every New Yorker cartoon

The New Yorker invited white supremacist sponge Steve Bannon to headline its festival. The magazine is famous for its cartoons' caption competitions, but it was discovered not so long ago that the phrase "Christ, what an asshole" perfectly captions all of them.

I propose that editor David Remnick's excuse for inviting Bannon — "I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation" — is even better.

Read the rest

New York Times removes reporters' bylines from homepage

They're still on the stories' own URLs, but are gone from the homepage. Eric Lipton, an investigative reporter at the Times, points out: "But names of OP-ED writers still there."

Readers want to know who is behind a story before they commit to reading it, and this prevents it from happening. Current controversies over the Times' peaky opinion page, its chummy coverage of the far-right and its tendency to be steered by conservative anger are all becoming more personalized by obsessive readers. So it's inevitable that it will appear to be about certain individuals in some vague, paranoid way. Read the rest

Game review plagiarist surprisingly prolific

Filip Miucin wrote many game reviews, but it took until last week for the rampant plagiarism in his work to be identified by a victim.

The gaming site IGN is working to remove all of the posts written by former editor Filip Miucin, who was fired last week for plagiarism, after internet sleuths found that dozens of his articles and videos copied or rephrased from other websites without attribution.

What's odd this time around? How hard it is to find words by him that aren't found elsewhere.

“We’ve seen enough now, both from the thread and our own searches, that we’re taking down pretty much everything he did,” IGN reviews editor Dan Stapleton wrote on Twitter last night, referring to a thread on the gaming forum ResetEra cataloging the allegations. For days, people had pointed out more similarities between Miucin’s work and various other articles and message board posts.

I don't think I've ever seen someone so dedicated to plagiarism as a daily grind, rather than as a shortcut around the content requirements of a speaking career, book deal or some other more illustrious publishing objective. Reheated is everything from forum posts at NeoGAF to blog comments, which might bolster Miucin's claim that the plagiarism was unconscious.

“The bottom line is that what happened with the Dead Cells review was not at all intentional,” he said. “So, with that said, I just want to apologize to everybody at IGN for all of the undeserved criticisms and doubt that may have been sparked in their credibility as a respected source for games media.”

On Tuesday night, a small YouTuber named Boomstick Gaming published a video with the title “IGN Copied my Dead Cells Review: What do I do?” In it, he laid out a compelling case that the official IGN review of Dead Cells, written by Miucin, was a rewritten version of his own review, which had been published several days earlier.

Read the rest

Facebook news chief to media: ‘Work with Facebook or die’

The Australian reports that Facebook media relations chief Campbell Brown privately disclosed that Mark Zuckerberg is indifferent to publishers and offers the news media a simple choice: "Work with Facebook or die."

A senior Facebook executive has privately admitted Mark Zuckerberg “doesn’t care” about publishers and warned that if they did not work with the social media giant, “I’ll be holding your hands with your dying business like in a ­hospice”.

That's a strange thought, isn't it? Right down to how an attempt at intimidation is undermined its own awkward spitefulness.

Still, she (invoking he), is effectively threatening to destroy news publishers unless they comply with Facebook's vision for their future. So everyone has work to do.

Brown was hired last year after to help Facebook "smooth over its strained ties to the news media."

But Facebook executives said they were hiring Ms. Brown for her understanding of the news industry as a onetime White House correspondent, co-anchor of “Weekend Today” and primary substitute anchor of “Nightly News” at NBC News, and prime-time anchor on CNN, which she left in 2010.

Some commentators noted Ms. Brown’s ties to the Republican donor Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Education. Ms. DeVos’s family foundation funds The 74, an education-focused journalism site co-founded and led by Ms. Brown.

Hiring a DeVos crony to deal with fake news and media relations quickly became the Facebook Executives Puzzled By Human Emotion trainwreck it promised to be: Brown was last in the news threatening to sue The Guardian for breaking the Cambridge Analytica story. Read the rest

Ad space available on people's armpits

Japan's Wakino Ad Company is selling ad space on women's underarms for rates starting at 10,000 yen/hour. Their first paid campaign comes from Seishin Biyo Clinic for its armpit hair removal process. From Straits Times:

Meanwhile, Wakino is calling for aspiring models to raise their hands, as it has since embarked on a recruitment drive via its website.

The company, which said it is open to hiring male models as well, will also be organising an armpit beauty contest.

Read the rest

Undercover investigator: Facebook moderators were instructed not to remove racist far-right material

Facebook claims it is trying to limit fake news and hate speech. Facebook is not.

An investigative journalist who went undercover as a Facebook moderator in the UK says the company lets pages from far-right fringe groups “exceed deletion threshold,” and that those pages are “subject to different treatment in the same category as pages belonging to governments and news organizations.” The accusation is a damning one, undermining Facebook’s claims that it is actively trying to cut down on fake news, propaganda, hate speech, and other harmful content that may have significant real-world impact.

The undercover journalist detailed his findings in a new documentary titled Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network, that just aired on the UK’s Channel 4. ... The documentary insinuates that Facebook takes a hands-off approach to such content, including blatantly false stories parading as truth, because it engages users for longer and drives up advertising revenue.

It sounds like the Trump-loving right is the advertising bonanza of the decade! Social networks are where advertisers can get to that audience without anyone else being able to tell who is marketing to whom. Read the rest

What’s old is new again in this week’s fact-challenged tabloids

“Natalie Wood Murder Bombshell” screams the cover of the ‘National Examiner,’ above the headline “Robert Wagner Suicide Drama - As Cops Close In!”

Capital Gazette publishes despite newsroom attack

Though five of its employees were shot dead yesterday, The Annapolis Capital-Gazette vowed to put out an issue this morning and did so.

An otherwise blank editorial page memorialized the victims.

The Guardian

In the aftermath of the shooting, the Gazette’s reporters were back out covering the tragedy that had been inflicted on their own colleagues.

By late on Thursday evening, the newspaper posted its front page on social media as it went to press – “5 shot dead at The Capital” and “Laurel man, the suspected gunman, in custody”, read the headline and subhead.

As evidence grew that the gun rampage had been committed by an individual who specifically targeted the newspaper and its editing team, the response of the surviving journalists on the title was one of resolute defiance.

Read the rest

Tanzania's independent websites, podcasts and video channels have gone dark as the country's new blogger tax goes into effect

As of this Friday, anyone operating an independent online presence in Tanzania will have to pay a licensing fee equivalent to an average year's wages, and submit to a harsh set of censorship rules, as well as an obligation to unmask anonymous posters and commenters, with stiff penalties for noncompliance. Read the rest

More media paywalls rise--in price, too

Bloomberg's new paywall isn't terribly remarkable, but the price--$35 a month--suggests a new type of walled garden. Danny Chrichton favors the paywall model, but...

Incentive alignment is one thing, and my wallet is another. All of these subscriptions are starting to add up. These days, my media subscriptions are hovering around $80 a month, and I don’t even have TV. Storage costs for Google, Apple, and Dropbox are another $13 a month. Cable and cell service are another $200 a month combined. Software subscriptions are probably about $20 a month (although so many are annualized its hard to keep track of them). Amazon Prime and a few others total in around $25 a month.

Worse, subscriptions aren’t getting any cheaper. Amazon Prime just increased its price to $120 a year, Netflix increased its popular middle-tier plan to $11 a month late last year, and YouTube increased its TV pricing to $40 a month last month. Add in new paywalls, and the burden of subscriptions is rising far faster than consumer incomes.

I’m frustrated with this hell. I’m frustrated that the web’s promise of instant and free access to the world’s information appears to be dying.

The return of media to "channels" is inevitable because the internet is infested with normalcy and the forces involved are too great to stop, but so is the return to bundling. It'll ride in on the horse of "all your paywalls, one low monthly fee." Read the rest

Newspaper runs gun show ad on front page below Parkland massacre story

Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Sun Sentinel daily newspaper published an ad for a gun show on the front page just below stories about a benefit for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and another article about the guilty plea of the man who killed 5 people last year at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport. After Stoneman Douglas families and others responded with WTF, the paper apologized and then later announced a moratorium on gun ads. From the Miami New Times:

"It's a mess. It's horrible," says Julie Anderson, the Sun Sentinel's editor in chief. "We're taking every step possible to make sure our editorial staff always see ads before publication so something like this doesn't slip through."

In her statement, publisher Nancy Meyer said, "We deeply regret placement of a gun advertisement on our front page Wednesday morning. It has been against our policy to run gun and other types of controversial advertising on our front page."

(Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!)

Read the rest

"The Biology of Disinformation," a paper by Rushkoff, Pescovitz, and Dunagan

My Institute for the Future colleagues Douglas Rushkoff, Jake Dunagan, and I wrote a research paper on the "Biology of Disinformation" and how media viruses, bots and computational propaganda have redefined how information is weaponized for propaganda campaigns. While technological solutions may seem like the most practical and effective remedy, fortifying social relationships that define human communication may be the best way to combat “ideological warfare” that is designed to push us toward isolation. As Rushkoff says, "adding more AI's and algorithms to protect users from bad social media is counterproductive: how about increasing our cultural immune response to destructively virulent memes, instead?" From The Biology of Disinformation:

The specter of widespread computational propaganda that leverages memetics through persuasive technologies looms large. Already, artificially intelligent software can evolve false political and social constructs highly targeted to sway specific audiences. Users find themselves in highly individualized, algorithmically determined news and information feeds, intentionally designed to: isolate them from conflicting evidence or opinions, create self-reinforcing feedback loops of confirmation, and untether them from fact-based reality. And these are just early days. If memes and disinformation have been weaponized on social media, it is still in the musket stage. Sam Woolley, director of the Institute for the Future’s (IFTF) Digital Intelligence Lab, has concluded that defenders of anything approaching “objective” truth are woefully behind in dealing with computational propaganda. This is the case in both technological responses and neuro-cultural defenses. Moreover, the 2018 and 2020 US election cycles are going to see this kind of cognitive warfare on an unprecedented scale and reach.

Read the rest

Oft-cited student loan expert turns out to be fake persona affiliated with lenders

If you've been keeping up with the slow-burning student loan crisis -- the lifetime of debt imposed by the exploding cost of higher education -- you've probably read a thing or ten from Drew Cloud, one of the foremost experts on the subject. He's been quoted and featured in numerous articles, appearing in major news outlets such as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, always ready with insightful remarks and stunning statistics. But there's a problem with Drew. He doesn't exist.

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. "Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated.

There's going to be a lot more of these manifestations. One more thing that was charmingly cyberpunk when it was just pop stars or twitter avatars, but not so hot when it's a moneylender undermining youngsters embarking upon adult life while prtending to be advocates for their financial wellbeing. Read the rest

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