Actually, the quote above is not by Mark Twain. Most believe it was British PM Benjamin Disraeli who said it but that's subject to debate as well. Yet if one wished to score a point in a debate, a quote by a well-known author like Mark Twain would lend more weight to an argument than a quote by Disraeli.
There's fake news for you.
Truth is a matter of popular perception. The Machiavellis, Robespierres, and Goebbels’ would nod along to that. The fake news debate, though popularised by President Trump, has pervaded our society since the beginning of time in various guises (propaganda, disinformation and what-have-you). Yet the cynical lens through which we now view the world of reporting is on a scale unprecedented.
The subject of fake news has highlighted the remarkable levels of cognitive dissonance prevalent among us. According to a study by Gallup and Knight, 73 percent of Americans believe fake news to be a major issue with reporting in current times. I do not speak of “actual” fake news websites that deal in parody and satire such as The Onion; rather those claiming to be custodians of the truth. It's common to witness arguments in which one quotes articles from highly agenda-driven media sources such as Breitbart News or The Boston Tribune to prove a point.
More infuriatingly, the debate itself has made it rather convenient for the powers-that-be to label any news outlet that voices criticism as fake news.
Recently, an Indian news portal exposed the sudden spike in revenues of a company owned by the son of a prominent politician. The story got labelled as fake news immediately and the news portal now faces a $15 million defamation suit it cannot afford, unlike the opposing side.
So what can we, as individuals, do to ensure we remain informed and not manipulated?
Keep our eyes open. Here's how.
Be wary of emotional, inflammatory headlines. Content curators are encouraged to write flashy, click-bait headlines that pull in eyeballs, which is fine. But a news article with a headline intended to tug at emotional chords or making sensationalist claims should be given a wide berth. This goes for sharing articles on social media as well. Be responsible, read the whole story before posting it online.
Watch out for red flags. Thankfully, most fake news writers are lazy. Articles riddled with grammatical errors, anonymous authors, or clearly-photoshopped images are a strict no-no.
Fact-check sources. If you come across a claim that sounds suspicious, check the source. Odds are, it will lead you to another news website making the same claim. If it's not an original, reputable source, you should approach it with doubt.
Get help from the internet community. A number of resources exist that fact-check news articles and name-and-shame known offenders. A good resource is Snopes, arguably the largest fact-checking database at present. A similar one is Knife Media, which strips news stories down to bare facts and provides updates about the objectivity standards of prominent newspapers and magazines.
Finally and most importantly, figure out your own bias. For instance, I've always loved reading about dirty great snakes. Every other Google search I make is usually along the lines of "biggest snake ever" or "actual anaconda not Nicki Minaj Anaconda". So obviously, when I came across this piece, I was inclined to believe it (yes, I know).
Point being, before reading any news, take a moment to consider your own stance on the issue. Do you want a particular claim to be true or false? Unfortunately, our social media activities have long betrayed our predispositions. We tend to get the news we want to read. Simple awareness of your own proclivities may help you in distinguishing between news and cajoling.
The first step to fixing a problem is knowing you have one. Be informed, and do it right.
Sign up for our newsletter. Every week, our founder Mathys will send you the best stories about the world of doing good.
American Internet celebrity and makeup artist Jeffree Star wants to open his own vegan-friendly fast-food chain.
As reported by LiveKindly, Jeffre Star made the announcement during a live stream on his Youtube channel where he speaks to an audience of 11 million subscribers.
During the video, the makeup guru said that he is "in talks" to start the business. The concept? A vegan-friendly ('that's the real gag") restaurant, selling pink cheeseburgers and cotton candy fries.
Yes, you got that right.
As noted by LiveKindly, this is not Mr Star's first foray into the world of veganism. Over the years, his beauty brand Jeffree Star Cosmetics already launched a series of vegan products like Thirsty, a vegan eyeshadow palette, and, more recently, the four festive vegan lip scrubs.
We'll see whether these business plans will turn out to be something more substantial than a Youtube announcement.
Meanwhile, we can't help but gladly notice that plant-based burgers and veganism at large are gaining momentum across different audiences.
If we want to save our planet and ourselves from climate apocalypse, we need new policies and governmental action. We're not gonna save the Earth changing our household light bulbs.
Extinction Rebellion – a burgeoning social movement to fight climate change that is taking hold in the United Kingdom – is asking for just this: governments must tell the truth about the ecological emergency and enact legally binding measures to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025.
There are no other ways out of this mess: structural change is needed.
However, this doesn’t mean that as individual citizens we can go on a carbon spree without consequences. Or that all the ways to reduce our personal carbon footprints are equally ineffective.
Different studies highlight that there are four effective ways to cut on your individual carbon emissions. And no, changing light bulbs is not one of them.
While we should keep asking for top-down changes, it’s also good to remember that we can start making an impact on the environment right now by adapting our lifestyle.
1) Eat a plant-based diet
I enjoy the flavour of meat a lot and I’d find it difficult to go 100 percent vegetarian (let alone vegan) right now. Nevertheless, I can considerably decrease my meat consumption. This is already highly beneficial for the environment.
Moreover, I can advocate for meat alternatives like plant-based or clean meat.
2) Avoid air travel
Flights are a notorious source of gas emissions. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid flying. Many jobs require travelling on a regular basis and even though in many cases a virtual meeting will do just fine, there are still some occasions in which your physical presence is needed.
How to solve this ethical dilemma? One solution might be to donate some money to carbon offsetting schemes. These projects can go a long way in fighting carbon emissions.
3) Live car-free
Research shows that living car-free saves about 2.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (while a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year).
I’m lucky enough to live in the Netherlands, a country where it's easy to move around without a car. This is possible thanks to an efficient public transportation system and the omnipresent cycle lanes.
In this case, it’s interesting to notice how my personal decision to live car-free is supported by environmentally friendly public policies.
4) Have a small family
If someone doesn’t exist, she doesn’t have a carbon footprint. This reasoning might seem at the same time cynical and stupidly obvious. But it’s also true.
According to Population Matters, having one fewer child is 25 more effective in cutting carbon emissions than living without a car.
What else could I do to reduce my carbon footprint?
Support Cool Earth, a highly effective organization that we thoroughly vetted.
Cool Earth is not only an offset scheme. It provides grant funding to rainforest communities, supporting community work in rainforest protection and ensures their voice is heard in agreements about the future of the rainforests. At the time of writing, 234,436,540 tonnes of CO2 has been stored as a result of their projects. Their Asháninka project shields millions of acres of forest from loggers, with 901,679 acres saved to date.
You too can help to save our planet. A more liveable Earth is just a click away 👇
It’s known that many celebrities support noble causes. After all, if you’re a celeb, you supposedly got the visibility and the money. So, you’re particularly well-suited to help other people.
Some VIPs go the extra mile and found their own charitable organization.
But are these celebrity-powered charities effective? Or even: are they doing any good?
To answer these questions, we picked five charities founded by celebrities and ran them through our Kinder Vetting Framework. Let’s see what came out.
Our selection of charities below isn't based on any scientific criteria. We browsed lists of celebrity founded charities and tried to pick out a balanced list
These are the charities that we picked:
The Lopez Family Foundation. Co-founded by journalist Lynda Lopez and her sister singer Jennifer Lopez, the Lopez Family Foundation “advocates and invests in policies and programs that make a positive, measurable impact on communities and makes quality healthcare and health education available for underserved mothers and their children.”
Born This Way Foundation. A charitable organization created in 2012 by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta “with the goal of creating a kinder and braver world” (we can’t help but sympathize with such aim).
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Created in 1998, the foundation was established with the mission of protecting the world’s last wild places.
The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation was founded in 2003 by Angelina Jolie as a “conservation and community development program in the Samlout Protected Area” (Cambodia).
The Kinder Vetting Framework
At Kinder, we developed a vetting framework to assess the performance of charitable organizations. At the moment, it’s made of two steps but we’re working to add another two in the near future.
The first step is called Initial Screening. With it, we examine the transparency and accountability of charitable organizations by evaluating their official websites.
In particular, we evaluate the charities on five parameters.
This is a fairly low initial threshold. To pass the Initial Screening, you need a score of 95.
The second step is called Organizational Competence. With it, we try to determine whether a charitable organization is competent and well-suited to solve the problems it’s addressing.
If an organization fails the Initial Screening, we usually don’t vet it on its Organizational Competence. Our aim in the next months is to start reaching out to all the organizations that fail the Initial Screening, share our results with them, and ask if they’re willing to improve their score.
So, to start with, we just wanted to see whether the five celebrity-run charities passed the Initial Screening.
I asked our in-house research team to have a look. This is the screenshot that they shared with me:
Again, to pass the Initial Screening you need to score at least 95. None of them did.
Quite discouraged, I read the notes the research team attached to the screenshot.
All charities with the exception of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation lack relevant information about their strategic plans. At the same time, DiCaprio’s organization needs to improve on other parameters like publishing its financial statements.
The Born This Way Foundation’s website was deemed “quite minimalist” by the research team, lacking information about key staff members and financial statements. Similarly, the Lopez Family Foundation should expand its website to include financial statements, strategic plans, relevant information about key staff members, and contact information (they don’t even have a contact form).
Obviously, the fact these five charities don’t pass the Initial Screening doesn’t mean that they’re inherently inefficient. It just suggests that they should work more on their online transparency and accountability.
In general, Kinder is not in the business of bashing charities and we would never share an organization’s poor results without discussing them with the relevant stakeholders beforehand. In this case, we made an exception since these five charities are exceptionally well-backed.
And if you’re Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey, or Angelina Jolie and want to improve the Initial Screening score of your foundation don’t hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Header Image: The Wolf of Wall Street © Paramount Pictures