WPTYs, Disinformation, and Fake News

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December 18, 2017 by libroshombre

 

Thousands of skiers are probably despondent today, now that “WAxit” was only a runner-up for the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s (ANDC) Word of the Year, or WOTY, since it’s easy to confuse foreign terms with familiar but unrelated local terms. WAxit refers to the most current of Western Australia’s recurring efforts to secede from the Australian federation. Other runners-up included “jumper punch” (an illegal punch in Australian Rules Football where the perpetrator grabs hold of his opponent’s uniform, or “jumper,” whilst slugging him), and “robodebt,” described by DailyMail.co.uk as “a term which describes the Australian governmental bungling involving thousands of automated debt recovery notices sent to the wrong people” in which false overdue notices “were sent to unsuspecting jobseekers, people on parenting, disability, and aged pensions, and those receiving family tax benefits – sparking anger in many of those who were chased by robot debt collectors.”

The ANDC 2017 word of the year was another politically-charged term: “Kwaussie: a person who is a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand, a New Zealander living in Australia, or a person of Australian and New Zealand decent.” This is a big deal, since the Australian Constitution forbids holders of dual citizenship from holding parliamentary office, and seven members of the parliament hold dual citizenship. After the highest court ruled last September that they couldn’t hold office, the resulting resignations broke the ruling parliamentary coalition.

Meanwhile on these shores Dictionary.com has declared “complicit” to be their WOTY and defined it as “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act.” In a year rife with resignations and investigations stemming from questionable political and sexual acts, “complicit”seems a sound choice. In an Observer.com article titled “The 9 Russian Words That Explain KremlinGate,” former National Security Agency analyst John Schindler described “Spy War” tactics employed by Russian intelligence services, and their Soviet and Tsarist predecessors, by defining some basic terms.

“First there’s provokatsiya (provocation), which is the cornerstone of the Russian espionage worldview … Provocation is complicated, but at its most basic level involves secret acts to confuse and dismay your enemy.” Schindler also described “Dezinformatsiya (disinformation) … Deza, as it’s called for short, is the original ‘fake news,’ an alluring amalgam of fact and fantasy – much of it unverifiable – designed to confuse readers and shift political discussions.” The public library’s our bulwark in providing reliable and verifiable information while representing all points of view on the contentious topics of the day. As they say, if you want to know something, you can ask Mr. Google and get 1.5 million answers, or you can call your library and get the right one.

I know public libraries are popular nation-wide and even more so in Alaska, and I know how and why print books remain popular, so I was befuddled when a friend sent me a FaceBook meme titled “Surprising Book Facts” that trotted out an array of suspiciously disturbing statistics, such as “33% of high school read another book the rest of their lives,” and “80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.” To his credit, the meme’s author, Robert Brewer, realized he’d been duped by relying on false statistics from a speech by the owner of Jenkins Group, Inc. a company providing ghost writing, distribution and other publishing services. On his website Brewer said, “I think it’s safe to say the statistics from the original graphic are questionable, and I am therefore recanting any and all connection to them. He created another, less shocking graphic featuring verified stats like, “25% of people over age 16 have not read a book in the past year,” “46% of adults score in the two lowest levels of literacy,” and “reading frequency declines after age eight.”

That last statistic is the problem the Guys and Gals programs will address this winter by sharing fun, kid-friendly books with 4th graders during lunchtime, and donating copies to school libraries where students will find hundreds of other fun books featured by Guys and Gals Read. If they read for fun, they’ll better comprehend important, not-so-fun things later on.

Meanwhile, both Fox News and theBBC picked “fake news” as their WOTYs.

 

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