Fake News

Integrity is the moral standing stone of journalism. Without objectivity and validity behind the words of reporters, what are we? As the watchdogs of society, our job is clear: To convey information. When the truthfulness of that information is compromised we lose the trust of the public, the audience who depend on us, and we fail in using our entrusted power for accuracy and credibility.

The media can demonise. It can create folk devils. It’s happened before. Look at the Amanda Knox case. We can blow things out of proportion or we can help to sweep them under the rug. Sociological theories suggest 70% of crime goes unrecorded, for a multitude of reasons, and is known as ‘the dark figure’. If this is to be the case, in what society should we allow the people in whom we trust to give us the news, an already brief kaleidoscope of need-to-know societal events, to add falsehoods for personal or political gain?

A study showed 30% of fake news to be traced back to Facebook, which leads me onto one of the bigger questions that this phenomenon imposes: Is social media to blame? Contemporary society boasts knowledge at your fingertips, ready at the swipe, touch or click of a button, screen or device. With so many sources of potential news and data, how does one weed out the illegitimate from the legitimate? Don’t trust what you read online, everyone used to say, but that’s becoming less of a reality as the consumption of digitalised media becomes commonplace. Social media certainly makes it easier for fake news to spread, using moral panic, but fake news dates back to medieval times.

The blame game gives us a scapegoat, someone to point the finger toward and chastise. Sadly, this isn’t one of those instances that’s as black and white as you’re wrong and I’m right. If people didn’t have hidden agendas, fake news stories wouldn’t be the potent threat they are today. Journalists are people, with goals and desires that may contradict the ethics and theory of their work. The move away from print media has also added to the fact that it’s easier to put something out there in the big worldwide web. While all of these factors are not inherently bad, they also cannot be stopped as we continue to move in the direction of the digital.

Where does that leave us? Us; the journalists, the audiences, the victims of fraudulence. We each pose distinct differences that can mean the way I perceive something is not the way you perceive something. So what would telling everyone to decide by themselves what’s true or what’s not garner? Going back to the original question, if journalists don’t have objectivity and validity what does that make us? An ordinary civilian with a coin’s flip chance of figuring out the truth? To be honest, I don’t have an answer because I don’t have the whole truth. Neither do you. We each live with our fragments of truth.

The Importance Of Sex Education

As a young boy researching sex and finding anal bleaching and buttplugs, the Internet only led me down a more confusion-inducing phallic-shaped rabbit hole.

Having been taught in religious schools for the most part of my academic career, I’ve never actually been on the receiving end of a sex education lesson. Not only is this worrisome, as I’m now about to be 17 years old, it’s also eye-opening. Sex has often been a subject matter of taboo within Catholicism. The hush hush culture of it all has had its significant backlash and yet there continues to be an uncomfortably grimacing silence on it. This could lead to the question: How does one openly discuss sex without wanting to shrivel up into a ball of inflamed embarrassment?

Since abstinence has proven to not work, (when has denying a teenager something ever ensured they don’t do it?) the first steps would be to talk about contraception. I never so much got even a talk about condoms – how to use them, where to get them. Thank goodness for the Internet. But perhaps that’s where the issue stems. With so much information available to everyone, at all ages, at all times, people (adults) have begun to think the sharing of such information is redundant. Well, I can assure you that’s not the case. As a young boy researching sex and finding anal bleaching and buttplugs, the Internet only led me down a more confusion-inducing phallic-shaped rabbit hole. I’m pretty sure my parents were relying on the National Curriculum or the bravery of a fifteen-year-old with a concerning search history to ask them. Neither worked in their favour. Hence, the aforementioned Internet.

But is it perhaps possible to learn too much too fast? With no one controlling my information intake, I quickly became aware of lube, slut-shaming, polyamory, STDs, the spectrum of gender and sexuality, and a whole load of other sex+ related topics. Of course I’m still learning today, just recently I became aware of full-body orgasms, but the more I found out the more I was eager to learn. There was an odd epiphanial moment where I realised I needed to learn more about LGBTQ+ stuff and safe sex… which led me back into a 180 degree spin to the Internet, since that was my only real source.

I’m not discrediting the Internet as a good tool for learning, I owe it my full pseudo-sex education to this day. What I’m proposing is a wider conversation on sex, its stigma and everything we need to learn to be safe in contemporary society. More people are having premarital sex than waiting nowadays, but the standard of education is not meeting this changed norm. In the age of so much over-saturation of social media narcissism with perfect bodies and nude selfies, somehow sex ed. and health is still protested against being taught in schools. Here’s to the importance of better sex, safer sex and (in mine and many other LGBTQ+ people’s cases) queerer sex education where we can talk about these matters and not be forced to feel shameful. After all, knowledge is power and I’d much rather know about something before hand than have to find my way along down the road. *cough cough douching*

3 Underrated Artists That Deserve Mainstream Stardom In 2017

What do Stephen Wrabel, Grace Sewell and Brandon Skeie have in common?
They’re all talented – but underrated.

Wrabel

Stephen Wrabel, nixing his first name and being professionally known as Wrabel, began by writing songs for the likes of Ellie Goulding and Adam Lambert. Afrojack remixed Wrabel’s song “Ten Feet Tall” from his E.P. Sideways and featured it on his own album. The Afrojack song reached international success, being played over 72 million times on YouTube while the original version hit just over 1 million views on WrabelVEVO. The account has just over 25, 000 subscribers. His single “11 Blocks” was heavily praised and promoted by Kesha, a friend of Wrabel’s, and is a haunting song reminiscent of Adele’s early music on the connection between past lovers and moving on. Wrabel’s latest hit, “Bloodstain”, adds a more electro beat over the chorus of his soulful singing but it’s the chilling lyrics that drew me in. The music video aired earlier this month. Heartbreak seems to be Wrabel’s forte, drawing upon simplistic tones to get across the raw passion and emotion he’s experienced in his past relationships with men.

Grace

Best known for her cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Know Me” featuring G-Eazy, Grace Sewell is an Australian singer with so much more to offer than a one-hit-wonder cover. Like Wrabel, she is professionally known by a single name (her first) and like Wrabel her VEVO YouTube account has a criminally low number of subs. The Aussie singer’s debut album, FMA – Forgive My Attitude – features some of the bluesest, jazziest stuff since Amy Winehouse (who is actually one of her biggest inspirations, and you can really tell!). The singles off the album so far have been “Boyfriend Jeans” and “Hell Of A Girl” – songs that, while great, unfortunately don’t show-off her smokey vocals as much as, say “Church on Sunday” or “Hope You Understand” could. The singles also seem to typecast her in an off-brand to suit her seemingly FMA demeanour but there’s so many more layers behind her emotionally exposed songs that would be better off with their own music videos and promotion. From her Instagram @iamgrace, her latest project is a slow and sultry collab on DJ Cassidy’s song “Honor” with Lil Yachty.

Brandon Skeie

YouTuber who started with covers, Brandon Skeie’s singles “So Bad” and “No More Love Songs” are probably some of my favourite songs. Their attempt at unravelling the complexity of the toxic relationships Skeie has gone through not only fascinate me, they overwhelm me. Skeie’s music is simultaneously similar and different to current pop music; he somehow manages to make his sound individualistic in such an over-saturated genre that leaves his voice ringing in your ear. His powerful vocal range further emphasises the vulnerability of his lyrics. His cover of Adele’s “Hello” is his most watched video, landing him an interview with Huffington Post, but while his original songs don’t lack the quality of his covers they do lack the views. Recently, Skeie has been less active on his channel. His most recent publication was a duet dedicated to the victims of the Pulse mass shooting on Eli Lieb’s channel, and while he has been active on his Instagram there hasn’t really been news on his status with singing/songwriting. Hopefully, as there’s a post of him with Sabrina Carpenter, there’s some new projects in the works featuring his honeyed voice that finally lands him in a major media spotlight.

The Gay Superhero Love Story You Didn’t Know You Needed

It’s pretty much a smutty Superman/Batman fanfiction, only Batman kills and Superman glows.

A 6-part miniseries called Midnighter & Apollo was published by DC Comics last year in October, finishing up in March of this year. It has been critically acclaimed, even earning a nomination for Outstanding Comic Book in the 28th GLAAD Media Awards. The comic book features titular superheroes, Midnighter A.K.A. Lucas Trent, and Apollo, A.K.A. Andrew Pulaski, who have recently rekindled their relationship. It’s pretty much a smutty Superman/Batman fanfiction, only Batman kills and Superman glows.

Midnighter is a gritty, violence-loving superhuman with a computer-like brain when it comes to fighting and no qualms when it comes to killing. Apollo is a sun-powered, laser-eyed, super-strong symbol of hope to the people of Opal City who could give Superman himself a run for his money. They juxtapose in more ways than one, which seems to be the whole point of their relationship. In the 6th and final issue of the story, after Midnighter goes to hell and back (literally) to bring Apollo back from the dead, Apollo says that while his tormentor in hell, the demon Neron, believed his chosen superhero name to be named after a god because of his pride and narcissism in his own power – it’s actually because of the myth of Hyacinth. Hyacinth was Apollo’s lover whom, when he was killed, refused to let Hades takes his soul and turned his spilled blood into a flower instead. Apollo in the comics uses the analogy to explain that even though Midnighter believes he’s doomed, Apollo will always pull him, and anyone else who thinks they’ve fallen, back into the light.

In the same conversation, Midnighter explains why he kills and why he will continue to kill despite Apollo being uneasy about it in the beginning. Apollo does not try to change Midnighter, he understands and accepts him and that’s why their relationship is so balanced. Steve Orlando, the writer, believed a comic book focusing on a same-sex relationship was necessary and in exploring their relationship I believe it to also be necessary for the cinematic screen. There’s a lot of history to the Midnighter/Apollo relationship, some of which is touched upon in this mini-series, but it could be fully fleshed-out in a film (or possibly a franchise). The inclusivity and normalisation of LGBT+ relationships hasn’t hit the big screen in the superhero genre yet, despite the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend trending on Twitter. Let’s also not forget both Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and ex-Spiderman star Andrew Garfield made it clear they believed their superheroes should have same-sex partners (even sharing a kiss at the Golden Globes).

While the focus of the 6-part series may have been more on Midnighter than it was on Apollo, the characterisation and illustration of both characters has been praised. Midnighter is seen doused in blood for most of the series, as his fighting is mercilessly brutal, while Apollo glows during his time in hell, and the symbolism behind their shared kiss, the light engulfing both of them to pure-white, is beautiful. The religious connotations of hell are traded out for magical realism, and even though it could have been very easy for Apollo to go to hell simply because he’s gay writer Steve Orlando chose to avoid that and make his storytelling central to the characters flaws – Apollo’s pride, lust, anger and even murder are what Neron, the demon, believe to be characteristics that make Apollo’s soul tainted.

From their crime-fighting, to their mundane tasks, the couple come across as vibrantly real characters with an organic relationship that has you rooting for them to triumphantly kiss at the end (they have sex instead) after kicking the bad guy’s ass. Midnighter & Apollo is a depiction of two very masculine men being together, something that doesn’t get much light, and in one of their sex scenes (and even suggested by Apollo himself in a blink-and-you-miss-it quip) it’s made clear that Midnighter – the tougher, rougher, butcher one of the two – is the bottom. In depicting this character as a bottom, it broadens the once-narrow view of homosexuality and masculinity. Orlando himself said, in a panel on sexuality and race at Comic Con, “It feels audacious because of the drought of representation and depiction of queer romance and queer sex acts in fiction… Honestly, from my own mindset, Midnighter & Apollo is actually pretty tame, but it’s interesting because people have not seen this and have not been given what they deserve in so long.”

Hopefully, Midnighter & Apollo‘s success means more comic books portraying positive LGBT+ relationships are due. We can only hope that it also means that they’ll land on the big screen sooner rather than later.

Why Buffy The Vampire Slayer Is STILL Relevant, 20 Years Later

“The most important thing to me is that I have had people come up to me and say the show made me feel different about what I could be, about what I could do, about how I respond to problems, about being or being with a female leader. People getting strength from my own little terrors, there is no better legacy than that.”

SOURCE: Entertainment Weekly

Joss Whedon’s masterpiece Buffy The Vampire Slayer turned 20 years old in March. Entertainment Weekly hosted a reunion and wrote a spread about it in their latest issue, detailing cast interviews, secrets and much more. Whedon said, “The most important thing to me is that I have had people come up to me and say the show made me feel different about what I could be, about what I could do, about how I respond to problems, about being or being with a female leader. People getting strength from my own little terrors, there is no better legacy than that.”

These are the top 5 reasons why Buffy The Vampire Slayer is still relevant today, 20 years after it aired in 1997.

  1. THE METAPHOR: The physical expression of the horrors of high school becoming literal monsters. As Sarah Michelle Gellar put it, “Buffy is the ultimate metaphor, the horrors of adolescence manifesting through these actual monsters. It’s the hardest time of life.” Whedon stated he thought the show would only be good, that the metaphor and the layers behind Buffy would be something only the creators would understand and cherish but, much to his surprise, everyone immediately caught on – the pretty girl chasing the monster, subverting the horror genre, which leads on to the next point.
  2. THE TROPES: As with Whedon’s The Cabin In The WoodsBuffy is known for challenging the conventional rules of horror. Most notably is the pretty blonde girl dying, with Whedon instead purposefully making Buffy a slayer of things that go bump in the night. The Chosen One trope was also addressed multiple times throughout the show, with Kendra and Faith also being introduced as slayers, and then the whole premise of season 7 completely destroying the “in every generation, there is one” mythology of the slayer and distributing her power to all potential slayers in an epic feminist monologue (with a little help from Willow’s magic).
  3. THE ROMANCE: In the EW cover, Whedon says the Buffy/Angel story is the “grandest romance I’ll ever tell, there’s no arguing with it.” But after Angel left for his own titular spin-off, Buffy developed a controversial relationship with her ex-nemesis Spike who even got a soul to be with her. The fandom divided into the original battle over boys with #TeamAngel and #TeamSpike. Angel was Buffy’s Romeo, the brooding tall, dark and handsome first love of her life who became Angelus, his evil counterpart, if he ever achieved true happiness. Spike was the big bad who allowed Buffy to explore her power and darkness but, ultimately, was an abusive relationship that Whedon wanted to portray in length. Gellar made it clear her choice for Buffy was, and always would be, Angel.
  4. THE FRIENDSHIPS: Xander, Willow and Giles made up the reliable Scooby Gang that aided Buffy in her fight against the forces of darkness, which eventually grew to include Cordelia, Oz, Anya, Tara, Dawn and other characters throughout the seven season run. Friendship was a recurring source of strength for Buffy in her times of despair, depicting some of the strongest and most supportive female friendships in TV history. Willow’s sexuality was instantaneously accepted by the Scoobies, without a second of doubt, and they looked out for each other until the very last vampire was staked.
  5. THE LEGACY: Buffy spawned so many same-minded shows like The Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf,  Supernatural, True Blood and Grimm, to name a few. It inspired many networks to take on the strong female heroine lead like Jessica Jones, Supergirl, Orphan Black and iZombie all of which probably wouldn’t have happened without Buffy Summers.

On behalf of so many adoring fans, thank you.

American Gun Laws & Why I’m A Pacifist

Trump has stated that in order to prevent mass shootings, he would like to arm more citizens.

The percentage of households with privately owned firearms in the U.S., based on national surveys distributed in 2016, is estimated to be around 36% to 49%. With Trump in presidency, and already having signed a bill to revoke Obama’s gun check for people with mental illness, this percentage is very likely to increase.

Just today two reports of gun mortality have been announced. Two people were killed in a murder-suicide school shooting, with police having stated that they believe the teacher killed was known to the gunman, who shot himself shortly after. In the process, two students were fatally wounded. In Chicago, a father and son exchanged bullets over a dog-walking dispute that ended with the son pronounced dead at the hospital he was taken to, and the father in critical condition.

Time and time again we have seen mass shootings make headlines in the U.S.

50 killed, 53 injured in Orlando, Fla. (June 2016)

14 killed, 22 injured in San Bernardino, Cali. (Dec 2015)

3 killed, 9 injured in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Nov 2015)

9 killed, 9 injured in Roseburg, Ore. (Oct 2015)

5 killed, 3 injured in Chattanooga, Tenn. (July 2015)

The list goes on.

Trump has stated that in order to prevent mass shootings, he would like to arm more citizens. The sheer contradiction of that statement alone doesn’t need commenting on. The right to bare arms is written in the American Constitution, it’s built bone-deep into American society. Many politicians are even funded by the National Rifle Association.

The Global Peace Index indicates Denmark, Austria, Portugal and New Zealand as being in the top 5. They each have restrictive laws on gun ownership, directing resulting in far fewer firearm-related deaths.

Firearm-related death rate per 100,000 population per year:

Denmark 1.28 (2011)
Austria 2.63 (2011)
Portugal 1.58 (mixed years)
New Zealand 1.07 (mixed years)
United States 10.54 (2014)

In Denmark, a person must take a written multiple choice test and a practical test to acquire a hunting licence. If the tests are passed, police must determine if the person is fit enough to receive the licence. You even require a permit to keep edged weapons in the home. Similarly, self-defence is not a legal reason for owning guns in Portugal and New Zealand.

I am a pacifist because countries like Denmark, Austria, Portugal and New Zealand have proved that we don’t need guns to settle quarrels.

I am a pacifist because the number of guns surpasses the population of people in America.

I am a pacifist because war and violence is not the answer and humankind should have realised that by now.