Musings, politics and environmental issues

Posts tagged ‘violence’

Foreign news rarely reliable

Foreign news may actually be reliable sometimes, but I suspect it’s either because the news is very short or because a foreign correspondent (or “stringer” as they seem to be called) actually lives in the place where the reporting is from. Basically, reporters who get their news from elsewhere, or from an agency, don’t have the background to be able to understand the complexities of issues they’re writing about, or don’t know that the underlying premises are wrong. Or they take things out of context.

For instance, sometimes the Icelandic Foreign Affairs Ministry and other institutions have had to spend considerable time correcting incorrect information after inaccurate articles. Such articles come from “foreign news” journalists of national overseas news media, who may be able to report trivial news like the Icelandic president liking pineapple on his pizza but who do not have the background to report on issues such as Icelanders’ views towards EU membership, the housing crisis or other significant issues. It’s not just what IS reported that matters. What is left out, intentionally or unintentionally, is also important (that statement is actually valid for all reporting).

A friend in Kenya pointed out inaccuracies in how the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service incorrectly reported the latest elections in Kenya, and it’s well known that bad news sells, so that if a news agency journalist reports violence at a demonstration, that will be reported worldwide, whereas usually violence is only a very small part of demonstrations. During the pots and pans revolution in Iceland in 2009, there was violence one night, but it was NOT perpetrated by demonstrators but by petty criminals, who were using the opportunity to their advantage. The demonstrators ended up by protecting the police.

Another current example concerns the recent programme on CBS about how virtually 100% of Downs’ embryos are aborted in Iceland after screening. The head of the obstetrics department at the National University Hospital here is now having to explain that the statistics were used to prove their point, which means that viewers were being misled.

Some media sources have foreign correspondents based in particular countries, and such people SHOULD be able to report relatively accurately. And that’s fine. But for news from smaller countries,  I suspect that news media rarely use input from outsiders, even though those outsiders may be ideally suited to report in detail on issues.

So this is a plea to print, online and broadcasting media: develop a network of stringers in different countries and use them. Like me in Iceland, for instance.

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Link between climate change and increased violence

This has nothing to do with Iceland, but is interesting nonetheless.

A multidisciplinary group of researchers from the University of California, led by Solomon Hsiang, have discovered a link between increasing temperatures and increasing bouts of violence. A press release about the study can be read here, but this is a summary of it. As a pacifist and environmentalist, I feel the results are interesting.

Because the nature of climatic events differs across locations, the authors had to develop a standardized method to carry out the research and thus they converted climate changes into location-specific units known to statisticians as standard deviations. They found that a standard deviation shift of 1 towards hotter conditions caused the likelihood of personal violence to rise by 4% and intergroup conflict to rise by 14%.

The authors found similar patterns of conflict around the world that were linked to changes in climatic, such as increased drought or higher than average annual temperature. Examples include spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; increased assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia; land invasions in Brazil; police using force in the Netherlands; civil conflicts throughout the tropics; and even the collapse of Mayan and Chinese empires.

The researchers examined various aspects of climate such as rainfall, drought or temperature, and their associations with various forms of violence within three broad categories of conflict:

  • Personal violence and crime such as murder, assault, rape, and domestic violence
  • Intergroup violence and political instability, like civil wars, riots, ethnic violence, and land invasions
  • Institutional breakdowns, such as abrupt and major changes in governing institutions or the collapse of entire civilizations.

The findings of the study suggest that a global temperature rise of 2 °C could increase the rate of intergroup conflicts, such as civil wars, by over 50% in many parts of the world.

The results proved all three types of conflict exhibit systematic and large responses to changes in climate, with the effect on intergroup conflict being the most pronounced. Conflict responded most consistently to temperature, with all 27 out of 27 studies of modern societies finding a positive relationship between high temperatures and greater violence.

However, the authors point out that conflict is a complex subject and they are not claiming that climate is the only or primary cause of conflict.