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Careful with those DoubleQuotes: Benedict & Francis

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — two popes, two images, and vive la différence ]

It seems that back in the day, I missed this classic example of what I call DoubleQuotes in the Wild:

JP II Francis


I was reading an article in the Catholic Herald this morning, because they’re changing format in response to “just how much technology had reshaped the world in the eight years between the elections of Benedict XVI and Francis”, and my attention was caught by this para:

That change was captured beautifully in an image that did the rounds during the conclave. It showed two crowds waiting for the white smoke. In the first, dated 2005, the faithful milled around under street lights, with just one clunky clamshell mobile phone visible. The second, dated 2013, presented a twinkling ocean of iPads, Nokias, iPhones and Motorolas. The message was simple: almost everyone today is online, seemingly all the time.

That expresses the power of DoubleQuotes very nicely — but I hadn’t seen the twinned images, so I went in search of them, and discovered that NBC New’s Facebook page had posted the image under the caption:

What a difference 8 years makes: St. Peter’s Square in 2005 and yesterday.


That’s accurate as far as it goes, but others presented the two images just a tad differently, as in:

NBC posted a powerful image of St. Peter’s Square showing how different things looked in 2005 when Pope Benedict was chosen from the new world of 2013 with Pope Francis.

and that’s not quite right. As Emi Kolawole pointed out in About those 2005 and 2013 photos of the crowds in St. Peter’s Square:

A composite image has been making its way around the Internet that appears to juxtapose images of the throng in St. Peter’s Square in 2005 during the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election with the audience present during that of Pope Francis.

But here’s thing, the photos weren’t taken at those times.

Post photojournalist Nick Kirkpatrick did a little digging and found that the lower photo (shown below this paragraph), which features a sea of smartphones and tablets, was, indeed, taken during the announcement of Pope Francis’s election. But the top photo (shown above), which shows an audience with far fewer gadgets was taken during the funeral procession of Pope John Paul II — a very different mood and event type. There was no one addressing the crowd from the balcony, for example. So, the comparison isn’t quite accurate.

Indeed, Kolawole’s piece reproduces the original caption to the upper photo:

People fill Via Della Conciliazione boulevard about half a mile away from the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican after Pope John Paul II’s body was carried across the square into the Basilica for public viewing on April 4, 2005. With tens of thousands of mourners outside hoping for a glimpse of the body, 12 pallbearers flanked by Swiss Guards carried the late pontiff’s body on a crimson platform from the Sala Clementina, where it had lain in state since the previous day. (LUCA BRUNO – AP)

— and follows up with photos like this one, of the crowd in St Peter’s Square when the election of Pope Benedict XVI was announced:


— which does indeed show more than a few digital cameras raised to capture the event, though not as many as at the “comparable” in 2013.


But then the photo of the 2013 announcement was taken looking towards St Peters, over the shoulders of the crowd, while the photo from 2005 was taken facing into the crowd — and the 2013 announcement was made at night, when the presence of so many digital cameras and phones lit up the square, whereas the announcement of 2005 was made in broad daylight.

So. With DoubleQuotes, wild or otherwise, it’s always a matter of caveat emptor.

Stage Two of any rigorous use of the DoubleQuote mechanism, after the juxtaposition has been made, should therefore take the form of critical thinking, providing a clear analysis of the similarities and differences between the two “quotes” (texts or images or whatever) so that we are not misled by superficial resemblances into conclusions that jump the proverbial shark.

Nor is Francis — though both be Peter — identical to Benedict.


With gratitude for today’s twitter feast..

Monday, October 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — high risk furniture — a single tweet with linked explanation, plus two sets of tweets I’d like to see further explained, explored and examined ]

First, a single tweet from Max Fisher with a catchy title and link, where the URL provides free access to the article in question..

Single tweets like this with URLs are at the heart of intelligent twitter-use, and twitter #FFs are the curatorial device for honing in on them. But there have also been occasions when a string of tweets sets forth a noteworthy argument or tale, as in:

  • Jenan Moussa twitterstreams ISIS rules
  • Teju Cole on Nairobi: death and birdsong, death and poetry
  • Second, here are four tweets from Phil Arena via Adam Elkus:

    Fascinating ideation here, that I’d love to see developed.


    And much the same goes for these five diagrammatic tweets from Darin Self via Phil Arena:

    These are really on the edge of my comprehension, but then again I quite deliberately read above my pay-grade, believing that old saw of Browning‘s:

    A man’s reach should exceed his grasp — or what’s a heaven for?


    Snopes for CIA in al-Sham, Onion for State in Russia?

    Thursday, October 9th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — perhaps it’s time we took the evident upside-downness of the world more upside-down-seriously ]

    icon of St Vladimir Putin


    I’ve run across death by crucifix twice this week, once in an episode of Sons of Anarchy, and once in what purported to be an image of a Christian girl repeatedly raped and gruesomely killed by ISIS — but which turned out to be an anti-Islamic propaganda piece photo-shopped from a promotional video by Canadian special effects artist Remy Couture, who was apparently looking to improve the “realistic” quality of horror movies — Snopes ferreted out the details

    It might be good if CIA inserted Snopes in ISIS-held territory, to verify stories like this one, from Niqash:

    war of flags: extremists in mosul disguise civilian houses to fool air strikes

    Abu Omar decided to leave his house in Mosul and take his family to other accommodation. The reason? A member of the Sunni Muslim extremist group known as the Islamic State climbed onto the roof of his home recently and planted one of the group’s distinctive black flags there. The flag makes his family and his home a target for allied air strikes, Abu Omar, as he wished to be known for security reasons, told NIQASH.

    But when his family tried to leave, they were shocked to find that fighters from the Islamic State, or IS, group told them that they couldn’t leave.

    At a meeting in Abu Omar’s house in the Al Arabi neighbourhood of Mosul, he says he feels sure that his family will be killed now.

    Sadly, Abu Omar and his family are not the only ones to get a black IS flag on their property. There are dozens of other families who are facing a similar situation around Mosul.

    If true, this is a curious abuse of the “black banners from Khorasan” about which I’ve frequently posted. If untrue, it’s an interesting propaganda smear that might just give the “caliphate” ideas… but who, at this distance, can tell?

    Snopes could be a real asset in situations like this ..


    To be honest, hwoever, it would take a select group of reporters from the Onion working for State’s hashtag diplomacy unit to beat the one-woman campaign to recognize Vladimir Putin as a saint — see the icon at the head of this post.

    The story is told thus in a recent Time magazine blog-post:

    According to Der Spiegel, a sect of the Russian Orthodox Church based in the village of Bolshaya Elnya believes Putin is a reincarnation of St. Paul. The similarity apparently lies in the fact that Paul the Apostle persecuted Christians before sainthood, just as Putin did some unrighteous things as a Soviet KGB officer.

    Led by Mother Fotina, who considers herself a reincarnation of Joan of Arc, the female followers in the village spread out prayer mats at a homemade altar in a functional three-story brick building – called the Chapel of Russia’s Resurrection – and pray for the success of their (political) patron saint.

    “God has appointed Putin to Russia to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ,” said Fotina. “He has the spirit of a czar in him…Every day we’ve prayed for him to return to the Kremlin.”

    And once again, BTW, we get that “end times” theme cropping up..


    Respective results of Jihad vs Democracy in a “wild” DoubleQuote

    Monday, September 22nd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — not sure of the original provenance, but the content speaks for itself ]


    The French text reads:

    A jihadist infographic suggesting the Muslim Brotherhood ws wrong to believe in democracy while rejecting jihad

    Perhaps David Thomson, if he sees this post, could comment on where he found this double image.

    By “DoubleQuote in the Wild” I’m referring to the practice of discourse by juxtaposition of similars or opposites — in this case, the juxtaposition of opposing images.



    DoubleQuoting hashtags on Gaza

    Friday, August 15th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — don’t be fooled by the pretty colors, what you see is just a mass of data points artfully displayed ]

    Here’s a fascinating graphic from the quantitative mode of analysis:

    I really don’t have much to say about this, except that if a prayer is fired off each time the hashtags #prayforgaza and #prayforisrael are posted, the divine listening apparatus must be a stereo system.



  • Gilad Lotan, Israel, Gaza, War & Data: Social Networks and the Art of Personalizing Propaganda
  • Lotan’s article is worth reading. Here’s the point that interested me most:

    Haaretz accommodates the most connections on both the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli sides of the graph, having the highest betweenness centrality. Compared to all other nodes in the graph, Haaretz is most likely to spread throughout the wider network. It has the most potential for bridging across biases and political barriers.

    Lotan closes with a plea for us all to “be more thoughtful about adding and maintaining bridges across information silos online”. May it be so.


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