Hoaxes are a phenomenon as old as humanity. But, in the internet age, with the dominance of social media, they can be multiplied on a massive scale.
Andrea Grignolio Corsini teaches History of Medicine and Bioethics at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. He had addressed the subject of hoaxes at the largest European conference on neuroscience, the FENS Forum:
“Fake news tends to create exclusion dynamics between different social groups… it consists of information manipulated with something real or of manufactured origin, created for political purposes.”
Grignolio says that this has been going on for a long time. He recounts how the Donation of Constantine – a forged Roman imperial decree, by which Constantine the Great supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope – was revealed as nothing more than a falsehood in 1440. The Italian philosopher Lorenzo Valla showed that the text used terms, expressions and grammar that did not exist in the Latin used at the time of the alleged drafting of the decree.
Since then, there have been manipulated texts against racial minorities, discoveries of life on the Moon (published by The Sun in 1845) and dozens of other examples of fake news well before the emergence of the internet. The new, digital version of this phenomenon has been a part of key events, such as the 2016 American presidential election, the Brexit referendum and the COVID-19 pandemic.
A research paper published last month in the journal Science explores the fierce fighting that took place between false and scientific information regarding vaccines at the height of the pandemic. Following a study of 1,365 Facebook pages, the researchers from George Washington University concluded that “the battle to get the best scientific guidance from Facebook users was lost to misinformation early in the pandemic, because some [parties] acted as dominant sources of guidance, while others were mostly recipients of it. When the acceptance of vaccines became essential, many parents – who were responsible for the health decisions of their young children and elderly relatives – had already reached out to anti-vaccine communities on social media,” explains Lucia Illari, co-author of the paper.
Another recent study carried out by the Communications Department at Carlos III University of Madrid has analyzed whether students between the ages of 11 and 16 are capable of distinguishing a hoax from real information:
“58.8% of the students [believed] a false headline about COVID, while 51.8% considered a headline containing a falsehood about immigration to be true,” says Eva Herrero, one of the study’s authors. The research also indicates that the majority of adolescents surveyed inform themselves through social media (55.5%), television (29.1%) and their family and friends groups (7.9%)… well ahead of online newspapers (6.5%) or radio (1%).
This last poll is very relevant. According to Grignolio, the vast new dimension of hoaxes is due to “a new social media ecosystem,” where falsehoods are generated by groups of like-minded users. In his opinion, the key elements of a virtually-circulated hoax are the “novelty or surprise” in its approach, the generation of “moral disgust,” polarization – which allows group feeling to be reinforced – and the appeal to emotions.
These elements subsequently reach the brain, where areas related to dopamine – which regulates emotion – and glutamate – the main excitatory neurotransmitter – are activated, explains Maria Antonieta de Luca, a professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Cagliary, Italy. Once the brain activity related to satisfaction is generated, the consequences are produced.
Ciara Greene, Director of the Attention & Memory Lab at University College Dublin, details how one of the main effects of disinformation is the formation of false memories:
“When people see fabricated news stories – or even doctored photos of events that never took place – they may not only come to believe that those events did indeed happen… they may also form a detailed memory of actually experiencing those events. This effect is more likely if the content of the fabricated material is consistent with your biases.”
“Memories,” she explains, “are stored and distributed throughout the brain. Every time we remember something, we actually reconstruct that memory. [Memories] are like Lego blocks.”
Research from the University of Texas has shown that sharing news articles with friends and followers on social media can prompt people to think you know more about a topic than you really do. Thus, false memory is exacerbated by the erroneous perception of knowledge.
“When people feel that they are more informed, they are more likely to make riskier decisions,” warns Adrian Ward, who participated in the research. Susan M. Broniarczyk – lead author of the paper on new articles – adds: “If people feel more informed about a topic, they also feel that they may not need to read or learn additional information about it.”
Is there a solution to all of this? A group of researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Bristol, in collaboration with Jigsaw – a unit within Google – think there is, especially after conducting an experiment titled “Inoculation Science.” The project consists of the creation of 90-second-long clips that familiarize viewers with manipulation techniques, so that they can better identify falsehoods regardless of the topic at hand.
Sander van der Linden, one of the researchers from Cambridge, says: “[This project] provides the necessary proof that psychological inoculation can easily be scaled to hundreds of millions of users worldwide.” Almost like a vaccine!
The videos improved the ability of people, from all walks of life, to spot misinformation. They also improved decision-making about whether or not to share harmful content.
“The inoculation effect was consistent between liberals and conservatives. It worked for people with different levels of education and different personality types. This is the basis for a general inoculation campaign against disinformation,” adds Jon Roozenbeek, lead author of the research from Cambridge.
Google has announced that Jigsaw will launch an immunization campaign on various social media platforms in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, to preemptively halt emerging misinformation related to Ukrainian refugees. The campaign is designed to build resilience against harmful anti-refugee narratives, in partnership with local NGOs, fact-checkers, academics and disinformation experts.
The team argues that the inoculation method may be more effective than verifying each falsehood after it spreads. “Propaganda and lies are almost always created from the same pattern… fact-checkers can only refute a fraction of the falsehoods circulating online. We need to teach people to recognize patterns of misinformation, so they understand when they are being misled,” says Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol.
The researchers believe that the benefits of “vaccines” against disinformation would be greater if they were incorporated across all social media platforms. The estimated cost for each view is a mere 0.05 cents.
Why we are having less sex: ‘Between TV series, work and Pornhub, I can’t be bothered’ | Society
Born at the start of 1990, Mariana has landed her dream job and she sleeps like a log, despite feeling slightly stressed from time to time. From Monday to Thursday she plays sports, Fridays and Saturdays she goes out with friends, Sunday is reserved for family, there might be a movie on Wednesdays and, every now and again, there’s sex.
“Very, very occasionally,” she says. “There are weeks when I don’t even think about it. Between getting home and watching a series, my work schedule, Pornhub and what I come across on Tinder — I can’t be bothered. I prefer to deal with it alone. There’s not much sex with anyone else.”
What Mariana doesn’t realize is that she’s one of many.
Whether someone is getting too much of something or too little depends on multiple variables — at the very least on what that something is and who is measuring it. If that something is sex, it is even more subjective. What is not subjective is that people are having less and less of it — less sex in general, and with each generation that comes along. With or without a partner. “It’s been happening for the past four decades,” notes José Díaz, the president of the Spanish Association of Clinical Sexology (AESC). Eusebio Rubio-Aurioles, former president of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) and now advisor to WAS, adds that the phenomenon is specific to “what is understood by the West, where the economy has been changing, as has the traditional structure of society and family.” The same thing is not happening in Asia, Africa or Latin America. “The realities are different, and the quality and quantity of information is unbalanced. No funds are dedicated to this costly research,” he adds.
Where studies are carried out, there “is a clear trend.” And it has been more pronounced since 2010. Or at least more visible. But, as the WAS advisor points out, it is “difficult to respond with academic rigor.”
There are a range of possible explanations given by specialists, most of which overlap: precarious working conditions or longer working hours, stress and depression, and increasingly less stable relationships or confusion, especially among young people, exacerbated by the growing sexual freedom enjoyed by women.
Although the trend seems clear, an accurate picture is more complicated, particularly since there are no regular follow-up studies. According to Díaz, the U.S. has carried out just two longitudinal studies over 20 years.
The result of the first study showed that Americans had sex nine times less per year in the early 2010s than in the late 1990s: on average, they went from having 62 sexual relations per year to 53. The second study showed sexual frequency between 2000 and 2018, when sexual inactivity increased among young men and women up to age 34, but especially between 18 and 24, and mainly among singles. The same declines were seen in Germany, between 2005 and 2016; in Finland, between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s; and in Australia, between 2001 and 2013.
The third part of the Center for Social Research’s (CIS) survey on social and emotional relationships during the pandemic offers a snapshot of what is happening in Spain. The question posed was: which situation best describes your sentimental and sexual situation? The survey found that 17% “do not maintain any type of sentimental or sexual relationship” while 5.5% have “an intimate relationship without sexual relations.” Moreover, after the pandemic, frequency of sex had increased for 8%, and fallen for 16%.
In her 30s, Sara and her partner’s sex life nosedived: “In January 2022 we began to argue a lot, to put on weight, and be less comfortable with our bodies,” she says, adding that she got depressed.
Roser, 33, who had no stable relationship, encountered a different set of obstacles. “I live in Barcelona and have to share an apartment,” she says. “Sometimes I think more about disturbing the person on the other side of the wall than about my own pleasure. There are a lot of people about, but it’s hard to enjoy it, to hook up, to get enough satisfaction from it to want to do it again.” Regarding apps, she adds, “It’s pretty crazy. You can talk to a lot of people, but then you have to make it concrete. It makes you dizzy and I get to the point when I decide not to devote any more energy to that person. When I do devote more time, it’s almost never that much. I sometimes think, what’s the point?”
According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), there are more than half a million shared flats and apartments in Spain. This, coupled with job insecurity, especially among young people, has had an impact on their sex lives, as does “any element of stress,” according to Díaz. “Stress is not an abstract concept,” he explains. “It produces hormonal changes that, among other things, generate high levels of cortisol and prolactin, two hormones that in turn decrease the level of testosterone, which is the hormone of desire, in both men and women. Chronic stress produces a decrease in desire.”
Anxiety and depression also play a significant role in undermining the libido. The Headway Mental Health 2022 report ranked Spain as the country with the second-highest number of mental health disorders in Europe, behind only Portugal. This affects mostly women, and increasingly adolescents. But these disorders are not confined to the Iberian Peninsula. More than 320 million people suffer from depression globally, 18% more than a decade ago.
Brenda, 27, a resident of Mexico City, is among them. She had to go back to her parents’ home and attributes her dwindling sex life to depression and medication: “Sertraline and, later, fluoxetine,” she says. “What struck me is that my individual sexual activity also decreased. I used to enjoy touching myself a lot, now I don’t feel anything.”
Anxiety and depression “are enemies of desire and enjoyment regarding sex,” says Díaz. “One of the symptoms of depression is the lack of desire, not just sexual but generally.” He explains that not all antidepressants reduce sex drive. While selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors do, there are others that “clearly stimulate it.” Experts also flag up masturbation and porn, as factors responsible for the decline in sexual relations.
The Nacho Vidal complex
Antoni Bolinches, clinical psychologist and author of Wise Sex, links the decrease in the frequency of sexual relations to two variables: “One is our stressful and complex work life.” Andrés, 34, is a prime example: “I get home around 10 p.m., so exhausted and with so many things on my mind that I barely have enough energy left to eat dinner.” Then there’s Nuria, 34, who has no partner, but rotates morning, afternoon, night and weekend shifts, which makes it difficult to coincide.
The other factor is men’s fear they won’t be able to perform. This fear is linked to two other issues. “The Nacho Vidal complex, triggered by the comparative affront of the erect penises in pornography,” and the change of roles between men and women “that has occurred over two generations,” involving the gradual disappearance “of the demanding man and the accepting woman,” says Bolinches.
“The freer the woman shows herself to be, the more men fear her,” he adds, thus producing the paradox that “the more sexual freedom, the more refuge in an autonomous and masturbatory sexuality.” Of the stories that reached EL PAÍS for this report, many made specific allusion to Bolinches’ point.
“They either tell me clearly or I lay off,” says Mau, 23. “I don’t know if it’s fear of rejection, of going over the line she has set or what.”
Meanwhile, Marcus, 33, says, “Now we ask questions that we didn’t ask before, and we often become self-conscious and censor ourselves. Flirting used to be an act of conquest by the man and surrender by the woman. Now it is much more horizontal, in the case of heterosexual relations.”
“Sometimes people are afraid to even get close,” says Claudia, 25. “But it’s easy to see when there is interest, right? What I do think is that there are things girls used to let go and now we don’t. Sexist jokes? Out. Racist bullshit? Out.” Claudia adds that these are just two of many things she will not put up with and it is difficult to find someone who won’t come out with something on the list. Nuria, the individual on the rotating shifts, believes women are less prepared to put up with stuff they don’t feel comfortable with. “We have raised the bar a lot,” she says. “We know what we want and what we don’t want. It used to be that you more or less put up and shut up but nowadays it’s more like, ‘I make my demands and if you don’t meet them, next.’”
Susana is in her 50s and holds a similar view. “I’m already old and I don’t come across anyone worthwhile,” she says. “My life is also very home-based. I work from home and it’s difficult to meet people. In the past, 80% of my relationships were sexually quite mediocre, bordering on bad. A snog, a fondle, and stick it in. Oral sex was scarce and when it happened it was generally bad. Guys are very influenced by porn, very phallic. I can’t be bothered anymore. It exhausts me. It pisses me off.”
Sporadic nature of relationships
Díaz points out that in these phallocentric situations the relationship is not between two people “but between two sets of genitals” and that this “impoverishes our quality of life.” Mariona Gabarra has been aware of this trend for the past eight years. She is a sexologist, and her theory is based on the sporadic nature of relationships, with the accompanying difficulty in maintaining “stable ties” that sociologist Eva Illouz flags up in her theory about the end of love.
Gabarra, who is also a consultant for Gleeden, a female platform dedicated to non-monogamous encounters, knows more and more young people in their 20s with sexual issues. In men, it’s erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. This is where expectations affect performance. It’s where “porn comes in, which is not bad in itself, but is bad as a substitute for sex education.”
“The upcoming generations are not grasping the fact that even if a relationship is sporadic, it is a relationship,” Gabarra adds. “If there is no complicity, chemistry or connection, there comes a time when sex doesn’t bring you anything. They have more freedom as many prejudices have disappeared, but they don’t enjoy sex, and they tell you so. They end up thinking that it’s not worth their time or effort to engage in that kind of relationship.” Jaime, 27, for example, says confinement has made him “used to” being alone. From a small village in Asturias in the north of Spain, he says he finds it much more effort than before to try to start something with someone and he is not always willing.
Meanwhile, Eusebio Rubio-Aurioles, of WAS, believes that the evolution of the Western world, which is increasingly individualized and where everything is postponed, is having a huge impact on the way we relate to each other: “The consequence? Less contact, less shared pleasure,” he says.” This chimes with the experience of Fernando (not his real name), 57. He ended a relationship just as he started a new job in which there was little chance of meeting people. Then, the pandemic sank his business. The last time he had a “more or less satisfying sexual relationship, it was sporadic and lasted just a few weeks” back in 2018.
Now he finds it “difficult” to find a woman who will stimulate him intellectually or attract him physically. So, he says, “the need, pleasure and desire are being shelved; and sex is becoming a memory. At 57, no one new enters my life.”
Denmark’s government said on Monday that it was committing an additional $2.6 billion to a fund for aid for Ukraine, originally set up in March, bringing the fund’s total to $3.6 billion.
Published: 29 May 2023 17:24 CEST
Danish Prime Minister poses in front of a Danish jet fighter during a visit to the Fighter Wing Skrydstrup air base earlier this month. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix
Western nations have pledged a steady flow of support to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion over a year ago.
“The war in Ukraine is at a very critical time with a serious situation on the battlefield, and therefore Ukraine needs all the support they can get,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told Danish public broadcaster DR.
First announced in March following an agreement by almost all parties in parliament, the Scandinavian country originally committed seven billion Danish kroner ($1 billion) to the fund, the bulk of which was intended for military aid.
Frederiksen said Monday the country would add an additional 7.5 billion kronor already this year.
“It is now that the Ukrainians need our weapons and our support, so it is urgent,” she told DR, adding that the fund was already running out of money.
Another 10.4 billion kroner was committed for 2024 as Frederiksen noted “there is no indication that next year will be a year of peace”.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky extended his thanks in a post to Twitter.
“This major contribution will further strengthen the combat capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the short and medium term,” the statement said.
In mid-May, Denmark also announced that it would help train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, as part of a European initiative.
Last week, Frederiksen did not rule out that Denmark would also donate some of its own F-16s, of which it has around 40.
The jets are planned to be gradually replaced by the more modern F-35 over the next few years.
Nick Cannon’s ‘consensual non-monogamy’: Fathering 12 kids with 6 different women | Culture
In the last 12 years, Nick Cannon (San Diego, California, 42 years old) has had 12 children with six different women. Five of them were born in 2022. The actor and host, with a long career behind him, has become a regular in the gossip press, which announces each of his new descendants with shock and fascination. While his personal life has generated unusual interest recently, he is more than used to media attention. Far from feeling uncomfortable, he speaks freely about the most private aspects of his life.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, he attempted to explain his particular family vision. As he explained, during the pandemic, some of the women with whom he had an open relationship expressed their desire to be mothers. He accepted. ”A lot of them are in the same age group. And I just wanted to give them what they desired. I kept saying, ‘I can handle it,’” he says. Cannon avoids labels, but he has described his relationships as “consensual non-monogamy” in an interview live-streamed on YouTube last summer. “To even pretend like I’m in a monogamous relationship, that would be misleading. Because, as we know, monogamy defines one thing, and people like to classify what I do as polyamory or polygamy, but even that, I always say to define me is to confine me,” he added. Currently, Cannon is the father of 11 children (Zen Cannon, the fruit of his relationship with Alyssa Scott, died at the end of 2021 of brain cancer at only five months old). He is the father figure of an unconventional family.
Given that his children are spread across six different homes, it seems difficult for Cannon to be present in all of them. To those who call him irresponsible, the artist insists that all of his children are perfectly taken care of, including from a financial perspective. After The Sun speculated last year that Cannon paid three million dollars to support his children, the entertainer responded that the quantity was much larger, though he did not specify the number.
His growing family is the subject of most headlines about Nick Cannon. In April 2011, his first two children, the twins Moroccan and Monroe Cannon, were born to Mariah Carey, the only woman who he has married. The artists went to the altar in May 2008 in the Bahamas and were together until their divorce in 2016. Cannon has confessed that the singer was the love of his life, but the incompatibility of their personalities ultimately posed an obstacle to the relationship. “Imagine if, like, Trump and Putin had to live in the same house,” he told the Los Angeles Times, alluding to his marriage.
After the twins, in February 2017, the model Brittany Bell gave birth to Golden Sagon Cannon. She would also have Powerful Queen Cannon in December 2020. In June 2021, the entertainer again became a father of twins, Zion and Zillion, this time with Abby De La Rosa. Only nine days later, his seventh child, Zen, was born. With the announcement of his eighth child, Legendary Love, with the model Bre Tiesi, in July 2022, he decided to stop and reflect, starting a period that he has called “celibate.”
“My therapist was one of the [people] who said I should probably be celibate,” he said on his radio program. He maintained the decision for months. At some point, though, it ended, because in September 2022, he became the father for the ninth and tenth time, with the model Lanisha Cole (mother of Onyx Ice) and, again, with Brittany Bell (Rise Messiah). Baby number 11, Beautiful Zeppelin, arrived in November, his second child with Abby De La Rosa. And the last one, Halo Marie, came at the end of 2022 with Alyssa Scott.
Fatherhood has caused Cannon to reflect on his own shortcomings, and a few years ago, he decided to resume his education and go to college. He told Forbes that he felt a sense of “emptiness” when he saw his children go through the education process. In May 2020, he announced on Twitter that he had graduated from Howard University, an emblematic institution of African-American education, with a major in Criminology and Administration of Justice and a minor in African Studies.
From a street gang to a host on ‘The Masked Singer’
Aware of the interest in his private life, Cannon draws attention to his work whenever he can. His career began with Nickelodeon, the youth entertainment chain that also put celebrities like Ariana Grande on the map. In 1994, he was part of the cast of All That, which continued for 10 seasons. Since then, he has formed a career as an actor and host, with some forays into the music industry.
Before landing his first big TV contract, his youth had been complicated. His parents were just teenagers when they had him, and he was raised primarily by his paternal grandfather. His father was one of the founding members of the San Diego Lincoln Park Bloods gang and spent time in prison. There, he found religion, and upon his release, he moved to North Carolina. Nick joined his father there, where the senior Cannon had a public television show that awakened Nick’s interest in the entertainment world.
The teenager started performing stand-up in bars, and he met Jaime Foxx, who glimpsed Cannon’s potential and brought him into his circle of African-American friends. Among them was Will Smith, who Cannon has publicly thanked for his success: “He told me that I reminded him of him. …[Will] gave me a TV deal, a record deal, put me in Men in Black II. He was truly a mentor when I was 16 and always was a great example,” he said on The Howard Stern Show after Will Smith’s infamous slap at the 2022 Oscars.
In addition to Men in Black (2002), Cannon played the lead role in the 2002 film Drumline, but he rejected projects as notable as Crash, which won the Oscar for best film in 2006. The actor has spoken about how, in the early years of his career, he prioritized economically appealing contracts above others: “I was just trying to get my mom out the hood. I went for the money a lot of times. There were huge directors that wanted to meet with me, and I’d be like, ‘How much?’ I was so good that if I would have focused on my craft, things could have been different,” he told the LA Times.
At the beginning of the millennium, he formed part of the group of pop-culture celebrities led by Paris Hilton. He partied with the controversial heiress and her circle of friends, which included Kim Kardashian, with whom he had a relationship of a little over a year when the host was 26 and the Calabasas businesswoman 25. And though the major film roles continued to recede, he never lacked work.
At 42 years old, he has a notable position in the entertainment industry. His family life is intense, and his work brings one project after another, whether on television or radio or in business. Today, he is a host on The Masked Singer, the successful South Korean show whose United States edition began in 2019. According to Cannon himself, he makes $10 million each season for the show. He also hosts Wild ‘N Out, a program for freestyle comics that was created in 2005 and now is on its 21st season on VH1. Cannon also owns sports-themed bars and restaurants around the US, as well as his own production company, Ncredible Studios.
Recently, he has appeared on the Fox program Beat Shazam, a game show presented by actor Jamie Foxx until his sudden hospitalization in April. Along with his friend Kevin Hart, Cannon just released Celebrity Prank Wars on Amazon Freevee. And he also hosts Counsel Culture, where he moderates conversations with men about current issues. He is also the face of a daily radio show, The Daily Cannon, released in April for Amazon’s application AMP. And in film, his latest role is a powerful agent on Hollywood Heist, a title which will also bring Alec Baldwin’s return to the big screen after the tragedy that occurred during the filming of Rust.
His professional commitments bring in earnings of $100 million a year, according to Cannon himself. His presence on television has made the artist a familiar face in the homes of families in the United States, who have also witnessed the growth of the host’s family off-screen.
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