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The Final Countdown Begins

The Outlook Chooses Top 10 Stories of School Year

For the final two editions of The Outlook, we will be listing and explaining the top 10 political stories of the school year. Each story will explain what the event was, how it affected the school year and why it was so newsworthy. This week will include events 10 to six and next week will have events five to one.

10. Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa)

Everyone who has been on a computer since the failed passing of the Stop Online Piracy Act, whether they were aware of what SOPA was or not, knew there was some buzz surrounding website restriction and pirated content. SOPA, a bill proposed to help target and eliminate the trading or downloading of illegal content, had sparked many angered outcries. not really because of the bill’s goal to stop the distribution of pirated content but for possible Internet censorship. Theories such as the government going into one’s computer and searching for illegal content had many people paranoid, which, in turn, inf luenced people to conduct protests.

But was this bill really necessary, especially when the 1998 Millennium Copyright Laws are already in place? Professor Robert Scott, specialist professor of radio and television, believes that an actual action towards stopping piracy was long overdue, doesn’t quite think that this bill in particular in going to do all too much in stopping illegal distribution. “I’ve worked on initiatives involving intellectual property rights and piracy issues and I continue to watch how significantly more challenging these issues have become. I’m very concerned for my friends who work in entertainment media and I remain concerned for the future of related industries and our economy as a whole. But I also believe SOPA and PIPA may not offer the most effective solutions. As we continue to experiment with new tools for information sharing and media distribution, we should also be more involved with the process of ensuring our freedoms as consumers, producers and citizens,” says Scott.

He goes on to mention that even though such piracy acts may not be the entire solution, everyone should care especially the college students. Scott states that, “Today’s college students use social networks and other Internet tools more than any other previous generation. The expectation is that they will continue to do so after they graduate – professionally, socially, as a form of communication, and in terms of their media consumption.” Moreover, many of these students will start careers in media and technology fields. It is time for this generation of digital natives to become less reactive and more proactive in the process. Instead of complaining via social networks and advocating online protest blackouts, we should become active participants in how we define and shape the future of the Internet.

9. Kony 2012

Kony1.jpg colorChild soldiers: Not a very gentle topic and one that most people would like to not. But, on March 5, 2012, the Kony 2012 video released on YouTube by Invisible Children took that very topic and forced people look at the issue head on. Most importantly is that it made people react in a way they had never before. Sophomore social work major Tess LaFera believes that this video gained so much attention because of the high levels of emotion used, especially when seen through the perspectives of the families of these child soldiers. LaFera goes on to mention that “The use of child soldiers has been an issue for at least the past 20 years, but people didn’t know much about it until the multimedia and social networking boom. While there is much controversy surrounding the Kony 2012 video and Invisible Children, the issue of child soldiers should be a priority especially among young people such as ourselves, because it’s a grave violation of human rights. The perpetrators of these crimes are violating internationally recognized documents such as the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Beyond that, they are putting children in danger of serious psycho-physiological ramifications, if not death.”

However freshman communication major Rezwan Ahmed, although agreeing as to the reveal of child soldiers, sees a different issue in the whole topic. “People finally realized that child soldiers are real things and mass media made it extremely easy to share the video, which is great. Though personally, I find it annoying when people care about child soldiers in Africa more than the ones that we killed and tortured and detained in Abu Gharib and Guantanamo,” Ahmed contends.

Whatever one’s point of view on the topic, it can safely be said that the whole issue of child soldiers seems to of finally come to light and people are actually speaking up about it. Funny to think that it all began with a 30 minute YouTube video.

8. SuperPACs

Political Action Committees or (PACs) are organizations filed with the government during political campaigns. The 2010 Supreme Court case, Federal Election Committee v. Citizens United, changed how these groups have to release information concerning donors and amounts of the donations. The Court saw that corporations are given the same protection under the First Amendment because political speech is the reason the Free Speech part of the First Amendment exists.

These political action committees have made news in running ads for political candidates of their choice, especially since donors and amounts do not have to become public knowledge. Gregory Bordelon, lecturer of law, said, “SuperPACs have been generating a lot of buzz not only because of the Citizens United case but also because of a D.C. Court of Appeals Circuit case called Speechnow.org v FEC, since media attention tends to focus more heavily on presidential election cycles rather than midterm election years, coupled with the fact that the fact that this is the first cycle in general that effect of these holdings are truly being realized, we’re seeing extraordinary amounts of money as independent expenditures being used to support presidential campaigns

Political comedian Stephen Colbert had segments dedicated to coverage of the SuperPACs and how they operate. This is how more people discovered what their functions were. Colbert won a Peabody award for his programs coverage of SuperPACs.

Michael Phillips–Anderson, communication professor, believes these SuperPACs have significantly impacted the Republican nomination. “SuperPACs have significantly changed the way that nomination and presidential campaigns are conducted. The Republican nomination contest went on longer than expected mostly because of spending by groups other than the campaigns themselves,” says Phillips–Anderson.

A lot of students may be asking, “Why should we care?” These SuperPACs are giving money to those in political campaigns and with a presidential election in November; every single part of these campaigns is under a microscope. The campaigns produce millions of dollars for each candidate and people want to make sure that each candidate is on an equal level. Most SuperPACs are large corporations who look to get candidates elected with their best interests in mind. So the question becomes: “What about the rest of us?”

Phillips-Anderson expresses concern for college students. “Monmouth students should care about this topic because the people giving these unlimited sums of money, when we do know who they are, are rarely people who have the interests of college students in mind. Their goal in spending the significant sums of money is to support candidates who will not seek radical change except to further reinforce their specialized, usually financial, interests. None of the large donors have expressed any interest in helping students pay for college or providing wellpaying jobs,” Phillips–Anderson says.

Boredelon added, “For many MU students, this will be the first presidential election in which they cast a vote. I think seeing the campaigning of the candidates, the disclosure amounts to the FEC and observing how the confluence of spending and campaigning culminate in November may spark an interest to become part of the reform on this matter.

7. The Arab Spring

The Arab Spring was a revolution in multiple Middle Eastern countries. These revolutions across the Middle East led to toppling of dictatorships decades old. The major dictators to fall were President Mubarak of Egypt and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. There is still a violent revolution going on in Syria where the sitting leader, President Bashar al-Assad, refuses to surrender power.

Egypt had been under Mubarak’s rule since 1981 and was forced out by non-violent civil protesters. Miriam Ayoub, a sophomore social work major, visited Egypt in summer 2011. She said the atmosphere really changed since the last time she visited. “There were many stories of robberies and vandalism done by the escaped prisoners at night.” She also said the military’s presence was heavily felt. Ayoub said, “There were army personnel with their tanks guarding the apartment complex.”

Libya’s leader, Gaddafi, put up a fight to keep control and ultimately lost out to the will of the people. Libyan rebels received air support from United Nations, which includes the United States, to allow for a possible democracy to occur. Gaddafi had been charged with numerous human rights violations and even attempted to attain nuclear weapons in the 1980s.

The Arab Spring rages on as Syrian rebels continue to fight to topple President Bashar al- Assad. Assad’s military has been seen on video beating, torturing and killing citizens of Syria. Social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube have displayed the actions and have gained international support from humanitarian groups.

6. Donald Trump and

donald trump coloredObama’s Birth Certificate When the name Donald Trump is heard it is almost immediately recognized, whether it is in relation to real estate, to any kind of pop culture phenomena and, as of this year, in the game of politics. It is quite obvious that Trump has a great amount of inf luence, no one can really deny that, but when Trump started going after President Obama demanding the President’s birth certificate, some eyebrows were raised. Professor Michele Grillo, assistant professor of criminal justice, has her theories as to why several news outlets were paying such close attention to this story, even if they were skeptical. “In my opinion, I think this was a top story for two reasons. First, it was Donald Trump who pushed this issue. Trump is well known in the business world as well as the political community. When he speaks, people listen. Because Trump felt this was an important issue, it made everyday people also believe this was an important issue. Second, once Trump brought the issue forward, the media highlighted Trump’s request for President Obama’s birth certificate. If the everyday public sees this headline daily, the public will come to believe it is an important issue that needs to be resolved,” says Grillo.


Grillo goes on to state she believes that the whole birth certificate scandal was taken to too high of an extreme. “I definitely view it as an invasion of privacy. However, when one runs for president, you also realize that your right to privacy is diminished to a certain degree. In addition, certain information, such as a birth certificate and yearly taxes, are a requirement for public record. The fact that Obama’s birth certificate was “demanded” was ridiculous, and whether or not it was demanded, Obama would produce a birth certificate anyway. I think that Obama not releasing it when it was first demanded was not in his best interest, as if he produced the certificate more quickly, the issue would have gone away that much sooner,” Grillo acknowledges.

Although the whole issue between Trump and Obama’s birth certificate seems to have faded away and won’t have all too much impact on anything in the near future, it seems safe to say that the nation’s interest was captured by the entrepreneur in a manner that didn’t have to end with the phrase “You’re fired.”