I read the Jan. 28 front-page article "Millions of followers, and all of them fake" because it raises questions about the veracity of everything we see and read on the internet. We live in an age of very sophisticated manipulation, and the bot black market for bogus Facebook and Twitter followers is just the tip of a very large iceberg. If bogus followers can be bought to influence people, why not bogus product reviews on Amazon or some other site? When we think about going out to dinner, how many of us pull out our smartphones to check Yelp or some other app to read the reviews before we decide where to go? However, in an age of bot black markets, are those reviews real or fake?
In an information-based society where that information is at our fingertips, the potential for abuse and manipulation goes on and on. The question of what information is "real/true" or "bogus/fake" becomes a blur and impossible to discern. It reminds me of my pre-internet childhood, when many people would choose a restaurant based upon how many cars were parked in front of it. That was fine until some of the more enterprising restaurant owners asked the local car dealers or their friends and employees to park out in front to create the illusion of traffic and popularity. However, the gig was up when you went inside and discovered that the restaurant was virtually empty, the service was poor and the food was awful.
Sadly, these are fairly simple and innocuous examples. The real issues are much more complicated, serious and troubling. Our government and its intelligence agencies, foreign governments and their intelligence agencies, political candidates, political parties, political action committees, etc. I am not a Twitter user, but I think we all know of a certain someone who is a big-time Twitter user, maybe the "biggest ever," and now we should all wonder how many of his followers are real and how many are fake.
David R. Witte, Plymouth
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In this climate of "fake news," we should all take care not to jump to conclusions, generalize without facts and purport to speak for others. The writer of the Jan. 28 letter "Racism: If Edina is taking action, trust me, it's sorely needed" claims fear and intimidation while attending an Edina City Council meeting because of all the police cars in the parking lot. Apparently she missed the signage indicating the Edina police share the building with the city. She neglected to mention any discussion of the city meeting, preferring to cite her generalized opinion that people of color are afraid to enter Edina due to police conduct. Her gross generalization based on false assumption and hearsay without any attempt to cite facts adds nothing of value to actual, thoughtful discourse on the issue.
Jean M. Mitchell, Edina
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Last week, I had the privilege of walking along Nicollet Mall, where I enjoyed all the festivities of the upcoming 2018 Super Bowl. At every intersection, an automated voice reminded pedestrians to "wait." Just as with a song or a catchy little ditty, I still can't get that word out of my head. Perhaps I should "wait" before jumping to conclusions, "wait" before judging others, "wait" before saying something I'm going to regret, "wait" before sending that poorly written e-mail and "wait" before giving up on my special projects. Mercifully, all good things come to those who "wait!"
Sharon E. Carlson, Andover
Whatever policy we favor, it should understand families
The immigration debate asks the question: What is a family? In middle-class America, we usually think of a mom, a dad and kids under 18. Sometimes it's one parent, or any couple committed to each other long-term, with or without children.
But in most of the world, and increasingly in economically stressed America, the nuclear family includes grandparents and adult children who stay together to take care of one another. If one person loses a job, others take up the slack. Paying rent and buying groceries, caring for infants and the aged, giving insulin shots, getting kids to school and helping with homework, imparting values and character — whoever has the time and ability can do these jobs. And it can all work.
We should not impose a narrow view of family on people from other cultures. Splitting up such families is cruel. And it's expensive for government safety-net programs to provide what extended families could do for themselves. With poverty, homelessness, addiction and end-of-life medical costs on the rise, who is to say that the old way of defining a family is better?
I don't know what form a compromise on immigration may take, but it should at least reflect how families work in the real world.
Richard Adair, Minneapolis
MINNESOTA GOVERNOR'S RACE
Well, this is sure shaping up to be something dismal
I was completely appalled at Hennepin County Board Member Jeff Johnson's comments in a recent interview with the Star Tribune ("Johnson: 'Naive' to deny some want sharia law in U.S.," Feb. 2). His portrayal of the dangers of Islam was fearmongering at its worse. As a commissioner of one of the most diverse counties in the state, his job is to unite us, not throw out misleading and dangerous accusations against an entire faith community. And he is the Republicans' leading candidate for governor — heaven help us. Commissioner, could you please tell me what "Republican values" are that you insist someone must have before caucusing with the Republicans? Sounds to me like you need to be Christian, and I am pretty sure being Caucasian would help. As a lapsed Catholic no longer affiliated with a Christian religion, I can see I have no place in that party. With rhetoric like this, no wonder former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is thinking about a comeback.
Michelle Hayden Soderberg, Plymouth
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So Pawlenty thinks he might run for governor. Again. I guess he didn't notice that voters want new faces. Voters rejected Mitt Romney and another Bush and Clinton and haven't pursued Michelle Obama to run. We're not interested in shopworn retreads. Spare us.
Kathleen Winters, Roseville
SIZE OF GOVERNMENT
An analogy …
The writer of the Jan. 28 letter "Needed: not just new federalism, but less government overall" proposes the idea that we could shrink government and enhance efficiency by giving taxpayers "the option to direct 25 percent of our federal and state tax liability to nonprofit service organizations of our choice." Imagine a potluck dinner party where everyone just happens to bring a bag of chips or a dessert. I prefer to end up with a full meal that will nourish all the partygoers. That takes planning and coordination. We already have the option of making tax-deductible donations to nonprofit service organizations of our choice, so really it seems that the letter writer is just proposing chopping government spending by 25 percent and leaving more of our public services to (pot)luck.
Eileen Deitcher, Shoreview
Track down this film
The Feb. 2 Outdoors article about the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships "Have skates and stick, will travel" brought to mind the 2008 documentary "Pond Hockey." The film focuses on the tournament at Lake Calhoun (now Bde Maka Ska), then the site of the championships, and explores the culture of pond hockey. ESPN's John Buccigross characterized the film as, "the best and purest hockey movie ever." I have watched the film many times since 2008; the fact that my sons were the filmmakers is only one of the reasons.
Thomas Haines, Eden Prairie