Don't Buy the B.S.

Iraqis are not the only folks these days being served B.S. disguised as steak. In fact I have some real news for the Iraqis - you folks ain't seen nothin' yet! Just wait until things settle down there enough for the Madison Ave. crowd to set up shop.

If Iraqis want a preview of the kind of dis-/mis-information they will get should they ever fully join the Western world, just come on over to my place and watch a couple of evenings of American network and cable TV.

Where to begin? How about we start with the Saddam Husseins of corporate America -- Big Tobacco. Spare me the tales of Saddam's brutality. Big Tobacco is killing more folks every day than Saddam killed during his entire twisted career. Nevertheless, no tobacco industry executives are on trial. Their stocks are still traded on the exchanges and doing quite well, thank you.

But wait, what's this? Tons of anti-smoking are suddenly appearing nightly on my TV. They show clean-cut, preppy parents cavorting with playful towheaded children. These Norman Rockwell families appear on my screen filtered in soft, gauzy light. A sincere, fatherly voiceover advises us that "Anytime is a good time to warn our children about the dangers of smoking."

At the end of the ad is a text tag telling us that if we want more anti-smoking tips we should go to the Philip Morris website, where we can also learn about the superior taste and smoothness of their cigarettes.

My two sons, now in their 20s, have left home. But apparently no one told the Marlboro Man because almost weekly I get the most amazing things addressed to my boys in the mail. These packages contain the strangest combination of the delightful and deadly. Inside one was a beautifully done cowboy cookbook, featuring coupons for dirt-cheap smokes. (Everyone knows real cowboys want a smoke after a hearty meal of beans and rice. Are YOU a real cowboy?)

Often, as I open these Marlboro packages in the evening I notice one of the same company's anti-smoking ads droning away on my TV. Then my head explodes.

What's that all about?

Well, have you been keeping track of the Bush administration's handling of the Justice Department's civil suit begun during the Clinton years against Big Tobacco? If not, it's no surprise you're a bit confused.

Read More Show less
ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up