Top Story: Dictators Go Social
Images have an immense power to persuade. They can also have the power of illusion. Put the two together, combine it with the digital world and you get a propaganda platform that screams BINGO to dictators.
One such dictator that has begun to take advantage of social networks is Syrian President Bashar Assad. What US State Department has called “a despicable PR stunt”, President Assad views as an opportune way to mask the horrific conditions in Syria that have been caused by his regime. This PR tactic is one we’ve seen before. Hitler used positive propaganda to mask the horrors of his regime, as did Saddam Hussein. What today’s dictators have that they didn’t is social media, which presents a new and more effective way to cover up regime brutality with images of benevolence.
Syria is plagued by a government vs. rebels conflict. Minority Alawite Muslims dominate the government while Sunni Muslims dominate the rebels. The country is in the midst of a bloody war that has killed 100,000 people and displaced millions more; yet take one look at Assad’s Instagram account, and you’d think that Syrians are enjoying a period of peace and stability.
The Instagram pictures feature Assad and his wife, Asma, showing affection towards Syrian men, women and children, who appear to welcome the couple with admiration. After one week of existence, Assad’s Instagram has 5,300 followers and 73 pictures. Whoever is monitoring the Instagram account seems to be deleting negative comments.
It is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous to report the reality of Syria’s current conditions. Syrian groups looking to make money off of ransoming journalists have made it risky for foreign reporters to stay in the country. Slowly but surely, Assad’s regime is becoming the sole source of news and information on Syria.
Aside from being guilty of instigating a civil war within his country, Assad is guilty of employing a false narrative of his regime in an attempt to counter his reputation as an inhumane tyrant. He is abusing the power of social media by using illusion and misapprehension to distort reality, which should encourage the opposition to explore ways for how it can be used to uphold the truth.
What do you think of the power of social media to spread a political agenda? How do you think social media can evolve to minimize wrongful usage?
Tool of the Week: The “Simple” Way to Bank
“Bank to the Future.” That’s the motto of Simple, an alternative banking solution that aims to live up to its namesake.
Much like other banks, Simple allows you to deposit checks via photo upload, gives you visa cards, they get access to the largest fee-free ATM network in America—50,000 ATMs, which is more than Bank of America. Simple takes customers money and gives it to their banking partners who hold the money in fully FDIC insured accounts.
What sets Simple apart is the level of customer service that comes with your enrollment. You have the ability to block and unblock your own card 24/7 without having to call a customer service number, wait 5, 10, 15+mins to speak with someone—though if you do have to call, they’ll answer on average within 3 minutes. You can protect a lost card with the push of a button with immediate effect.
If these features alone, wasn’t enough to get you thinking about signing up, how about operating hours like 9 AM – 10 PM EST weekdays and weekends, and they’ve even open from 10 AM – 7 PM EST on holidays! And for the cherry on top: through their mobile app, hours are extended by one hour and two hours on weekdays and weekends, respectively. Oh… and there is hardly any wait time.
As far as fees go… there are none. No hidden fees, no monthly card fees, acct maintenance fees, low balance fees, overdraft fees, no domestic transfer fees, or anything of that sort.
You can set goals that will take money from your account until you reach your amount and hashtag expenditures for easy categorization.
This video shows just a fraction of what they offer! Do you think this is taking banking to the future?
Under the Radar: Pinterest Price Alerts
Pinterest is the social network site of aspiration. Users get caught up in pinning away clothes, décor and accessories to boards titled “Wish List” or “Dream Things”. However, Pinterest has taken a step toward encouraging their users to actually make purchases with the debut of “price alerts”. The site can now be thought of as a money-saving tool, rather than a place full of products users long to buy.
Price alerts monitor the prices of pins and alert users when the price drops. Using price alerts is as easy as saving a product pin to a board, and if the price ever drops, you’re alerted via an e-mail notification. A Pinterest representative has been quoted saying that the site will try to aggregate the notifications into as few e-mails as possible, so as to not fill up users’ inboxes and turn a useful feature into a nuisance.
2013 has been an innovative year for Pinterest so far. In May, Pinterest introduced new pin types, including product pins along with others like recipe pins and movie pins. These new and improved pins show more information than the usual pin such as the prices of products, the retailers’ logos, links to the e-commerce websites and locations to purchase them. Online merchants can also “enhance” their product pins by adding codes to their websites that help Pinterest identify and validate the pins. As a result, Pinterest is credited with generating higher click-through rates to e-commerce sites.
Price alerting is challenging several startups that help consumers decide when it is the right time to buy a product. Decide.com, Nifti, Clipix and other tools for price alerting and tracking sales will find it difficult to compete with the ease and aesthetic appeal of Pinterest. Price alerts will make both Pinterest users and online merchants happy, in turn driving more traffic to the social network site that works to make purchase dreams come true.
Around the Hub: Comic Con
Thousands are expected to join the spectacle of superheroes, villains, and video game characters this weekend as Comic Con officially makes its way to our doorstep! Take out your costumes and join the masses of superhero aficionados at the Seaport World Trade Center on both Saturday and Sunday.
Although Comic Con doesn’t officially begin until Saturday, fans already got into the spirit at Faneuil Hall on Wednesday. Dick’s Last Resort hosted a Comic Con kickoff party that included “best-dressed” prizes. First place winner, Mark Sylvia of Bridgewater, dressed up as Spartan-051 from the “Halo” video game. Second and third place went to Lucas Jandreau of Dracut as Heinoustock Dave and Melody McGlame of Newton as Scarlet Witch, respectively.
An array of events is set to take place throughout the weekend to entertain fans. Another costume contest, a BBC film festival, artist panels, and games are a few events planned for the festival. Celebrity guests such as Laurie Holden of “The Walking Dead”, Kristen Bauer of “True Blood”, and Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner of “The Hobbit” will be making appearances. DC Comics Art Director Mark Chiarello will be present and conducting a limited number of portfolio reviews, and various guest artists will be in attendance throughout the event.
Keep a look out for the Comic Art Auction on Saturday from 5-7 p.m. in the Beacon Hill Room. The public auction will feature original comic book art. A portion of the auction’s proceeds will go toward The Boston One Fund for the Boston Marathon victims as well as The Mike Wieringo Scholarship for aspiring comic book artists.
Comic Con runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Will you be attending?