Hello-hello and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast – the weekly English show where we speak about everything under the sun. The major goal of this show is to help you improve your English and of course, learn something new. My name’s Katya, I’m your host, and today with me…
Eugene, hi there! What’s up?
Guys! After our previous episode, which was our 100th episode by the way, we got so much feedback from you! And that was so-so-so cool! So, we’ll be happy to hear even more from you! So, subscribe to our pages on any platform where you listen to our podcast, be that Apple, Soundcloud, Yandex, Google, anything.
And let us know what you think about our show! Rate and review our podcast, give us stars, leave comments, ask questions. And feel free to send your ideas about our next episodes. So what do you want us to talk about? What do you want to listen to? Let us know!
So and now we have a special guest. So Eugene, this is your first time here at the podcast, so why don’t you tell us something about yourself? So, who are you?
I’ve been teaching English for the BigApple for about 5 years now. Well, I’m really pleased to be here.
So can you tell us a little bit about who you are? I mean, what do you like doing? What are your interests?
Well, I like doing various things in my free time, but probably my major interest is English of course.
Of course. It’s your life, your passion, your job.
But okay guys, I actually that Eugene is way more than just English. It’s a person of various interests who’s just a little bit humble right now. Alright. Well, Eugene, Ben, are you ready to talk about some news?
Let’s do that! So and can you tell me – how do you keep up with the news?
Well it depends on what you mean by news. So for instance I always check the weather forecast every day, I love looking at Novosibirsk weather forecast cause there’s always something surprising. Traffic reports if you’re driving.
I mean, it depend what, it depends what’s necessary for your life. Because sometimes you don’t need to read about this terrorists act here and this tragedy there. I mean, it depends what you want to achieve, so.
That’s a cool way to look at it. To be honest I’ve never thought of news as, you know, weather reports and all the other types of information.
Well that often happens to me as well. For instance, on my way to work I’ll take a look at both the weather and political forecast, on social media and networking apps just out of curiosity.
So and what kind of news do you actually read then? So, Ben, you say that it’s weather forecast for example, but you try not to keep up with the international news then? I mean…
I used to keep up with international news on a 24/7 basis and it’s completely exhausted me. It’s just… It completely…
Well, it’s because… It’s almost like a video game almost, it was like an addiction.
And now I’m sober and… Yeah.
Now you should’ve said something like, you know, it’s been 1123 days that I haven’t checked the news. So what about now then? So what kind of news do you…
Well I like to occasionally read NGS.ru, so NGS.ru to keep up with the local news and I watch a few things on Youtube. But to be honest I try to stay away from the news as much as possible. I look at currency, yeah, the currency exchange rates, I look at the weather, look at local news.
But I try to stay away from international news because you only live one life. Well, maybe you live mor than one life if you believe something else, but you don’t wanna stuff your life filled with unnecessary information, it’ll drive you nuts.
Eugene, what about you? What kind of…
Well, personally, I’m not looking for any specific kind of news and, just to know what’s happening around the world and seems to be something rooted in our human nature, isn’t it? Well every morning while having breakfast and enjoying my cup of coffee I’m browsing through various tv channels to get recent updates on just what’s going on out there.
So for you it’s tv then? So you find out the news from the tv?
Yeah, the news just comes into my eyes.
So Ben what about you then? So is it tv for you or…?
Well sometimes I turn on the tv, watch izvestiya.ru just to see what’s going on around there. I mainly watch the news in Russian to learn Russian, I don’t really pay too much attention to the news. Whereas I used to pay a lot of attention to that. And yeah, like I said, it drove me crazy, so.
You know, to be honest, I think I used to, you know, read the news every single day to check out what is happening and then also I have a lot of people who make sure to tell about the news in their countries, you know, to raise awareness about what is happening.
Cause very often certain events are not, basically, are not covered in, let’s say, Russia or in the US. You know, things that are happening in different countries like France or Tunisia or, I do not know, Morocco. But as you said, it’s kinda exhausting at times, so later I switched to only reading just news about let’s say Russia for example, what is happening, especially while I was away.
And yeah, but now I only occasionally check out what is happening. I do now know whether it’s good or bad, you know, if that’s okay not to see, not to know what is happening sometimes. But every, I think every two days-every three days I check one of the websites or some of the communities and groups on vk, the ones I trust at least, and see what is happening.
And last year, to be honest, I used to, oh my god, I was like a lunatic, checking the amount of people, you know, who got diagnosed with Covid every single day. You know, in Russia, in the world, in the US, in my state. God. And I think that it kinda made me, you know, obsessed with it.
It’s just… Cause I mean, obviously you want to be aware of what’s going on around you, but at the same time you don’t wanna live in the state of adrenal exhaustion, if you know what I mean.
Yeah, it’s like the question of keeping up with the news and, you know, self-care. Cause my anxiety at that time just went through the roof, it skyrocketed. Yeah.
In fact I always get up with the information about covid situation, it makes you feel so gloomy I would say.
I know, I know. But we still keep doing that at the same time, even though it’s, you know…
It’s addictive. It’s why, I mean, fear is addictive.
Yeah, that’s true. Actually, we’re gonna talk about this aspect of news a little bit later. But let’s, for a second, talk about the channels then. So, tv, Ben, for you it’s mostly Internet.
And sometimes tv. I don’t have a tv at all, so for me it’s purely Internet. But then when we say internet, and when we say tv, it’s a little bit, you know, general. So what kind of channels do you prefer? And if it’s internet, what kind of sources on the internet do you use to check out the news?
Well, to be honest, I just look at the …, various different sources from left wing to right wing news, I read everything.
Have you ever noticed how the same event, the same situation is covered so differently depending by what source that is?
Like it was so obvious during the election time in November, you know, depending on the state and the newspaper they would tell the story in an absolutely different way. The same story, but the emotions you had were absolutely different. It’s fascinating, the power of journalism I’d say. So, Eugene, what about you? What kind of channels if it’s tv do you use?
Every now and again I switch on CNN international, BBC news just to maintain my level of English. But when the news rotates every 30 minutes they have the same thing and I really get bored and I switch it off.
Wait, so CNN it’s like only news?
So 24/7? Yeah, I could not imagine, you know, having this on.
Well, their news is in the background while I’m doing something at home, regular things. Household things. And just listening to the news helps me be updated.
Do you ever listen to news podcasts? Cause there are some podcasts, you know, where they talk about news, they give their own, you know, opinion about that.
Yeah I listen to this guy called Tim Pool, he’s a very big podcaster in the US. He used to work for Vice, but he had a problem with Vice news and now he makes his own podcast. I quite like his views because he used to be very much on the left, but now he’s, I wouldn’t say he’s on the right, but he is…
He is leaning towards the right, but he also… But he also is not a nasty person or anything. So he, like, mixes both viewpoints and I quite like his podcast, Tim Pool.
Well be careful with words like he’s not a nasty person just because he’s leaning towards the right. Be careful. Ben. Alright. And what about the ways people find out information or find out the news depending on the generation? Do you think there is any difference on how people of different generations keep up with the news?
Well no doubt different age prefer, age groups prefer different ways of getting information today. Take the so-called Generation Z or simply Gen Z.
Yeah, they’re colloquially known as zoomers, that’s right. The group of people who were born between the 90s and 2000s.
Um, no, they’re not! No, they’re not! Those were boomers.
They’re millennials, aren’t they?
Zoomers are the ones… I’m sorry, we just had a podcast and the episode on generations. Zoomers are the ones who were born after 2003, so they are currently 17, they’re in their teens.
Well anyway, Generation Z is one of the first cohorts to have internet technology readily available at a young age.
At a young one, yeah, Gen Z is like that. That’s why I believe Zoomers are using not just the internet, but they tend to, in my opinion, from what I’ve seen, Zoomers mostly use things like Twitter or Instagram. Not even, like, you know, websites of BBC news or CNN, but they are so into the social media for finding out the news.
Well as the first generation of digital natives, they are not only used to the availability of information, but also the immediacy of information. As one of them said I can simultaneously create a document, edit it, post a photo on Instagram and talk on the phone. And all from the user-friendly interface of my phone, which probably means that Generation Z takes the information instantaneously.
But that means that they also lose interest just as fast.
Yeah, we’ve briefly, not even briefly, but we talked about it in our episode on generation, so if those who do not know much Gen Z or Gen Y or other generations – make sure to check this out! But what about other generations? So, Gen Z, they want to know everything right now as fast as possible. What about the others? So, millennials, which are Ben and I, I believe.
Yeah, so I’m 92. We are pretty much the same as Gen Z’s I guess. Not too dissimilar from them.
And what bout generation of our parents, of our grandparents maybe? How do they find out the news?
They still read newspapers I guess.
I think so too, yeah. They prefer that old-style paper press.
Yeah, I like newspapers too, but I don’t wanna waste my money.
Do you think… Actually, I would like to ask Ben about it. So, because, and then we can compare with Russia. So, do people actually read newspapers widely in the UK? And in the US.
Well, on the tube, on the underground in London there’s this magazine, well, not the magazine, just newspaper called the metro. And that’s a, just a general newspaper that people read. It’s free of charge.
There’s also a newspaper called the Evening Standard which people read widely as well throughout London. That’s also free of charge, you see it at every underground station, every… Quite a few bus stops have it as well, so.
Haven’t you seen the metro issues here in Novosibirsk underground?
Oh, so is there a metro equivalent in Novosibirsk?
Yeah, and it’s actually called Metro I think.
So our in London is white and blue.
White and blue. It’s white and green here. I was once on that newspaper, Metro.
What were you doing on the newspaper?
I got, you know, a message from the journalist. It was the year that I graduated from university. And she’s like we’re making an issue about young teachers, so do you mind if we ask you a few questions? I’m like go for it. And that was my first year working as a teacher at a secondary school.
But, you know, it was actually fun cause the kids just ran into me. It’s like, and they’re like we have seen you, we have seen you in a newspaper. I’m like that’s so cool, how did you find out? They were like oh our grandma takes these to cut to the litter box for the cat and we saw you there. I’m like wow.
The litter box. So they’re gonna be using…
The peak of my career! Just the beginning. But yeah, but do people really read them in Russia, Eugene? Cause I don’t believe they do.
I can’t imagine someone’s reading the real paper, the newspaper nowadays.
Yeah, to be honest, like, in Russia I don’t think we do that. I don’t think I’ve seen a newspaper, not a magazine, but a newspaper being sold widely. So it’s changing. But in the UK people still do, so. Okay. I sometimes see people in the US, you know, reading newspapers.
I remember once seeing such a gentleman, you know, it was an old man, in his 70s maybe, looking just fantastic, you know, in a coat. And you know, reading the newspaper on a subway. I took a picture cause he was just looking so great.
From another generation, from another era.
Yes, it’s like from different time, yeah. So and what about tv then? Do you think that a lot of people watch tv to get the news?
Well tv’s almost dying out in a way. Most people just go online, I mean, what about Eugene? Do you watch much tv?
Having meals and watching tv is probably is probably what we all do nowadays.
But do you watch CNN via the internet? So you stream it on the internet? So you go on cnn.com and stream the video?
No, I’m subscribed to one of the tv providers here.
Oh, so you have it actually on the tv, not the…
Yes, real time CNN news and BBC world.
Do you have like a satellite dish outside your…
No, it comes through IP tv.
You don’t have to do anything special for that. I mean, just turn it on and do regular things. You can just prepare for your lessons.
Well, that’s, okay. Cause I believe if I had some news on while preparing for the lessons I would get easily distracted and pay attention to either the lessons or the news. That’s just me. I can’t concentrate.
Well I feel more comfortable doing some kind of work or house work and at the same time listening to something and in the background.
So we have tv and that implies a lot of channels like CNN, BBC. A lot of Russian channels like Channel 1, Russia channel, there is Russia today. We have Internet, which is even a vaster source, so we have numerous websites. So then we have Twitter, Instagram, so many profiles there. So and how to find a reliable news source in all this ocean of sources?
Well first you have to ask what information you’re trying to seek. So…
Can you elaborate on that?
So I mean, let’s say the weather forecast, you’re never gonna get a 100% accurate weather forecast. So the weather can’t exactly be described as fake news. Yeah, it completely depends on what you are trying to achieve, so if you want to learn about a certain event that’s taking place, you can never actually be sure about any source.
I mean, for instance, if you go back to the Iraq war, everyone was being told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And the British government and the American government said this is verified information. And it turned out to be false information.
I even remember the newspapers where there were photographs published, satellite images published of their military bases and they all said that they were really threatening to the world.
Exactly. I’m not in any way condoning Saddam Hussein.
I would say that today finding reliable sources of information could be really challenging, but personally I’d like to point out some major characteristics or, if you want, key elements of reputable publishers.
First of all, they create accurate content, check facts and if errors are made, they correct them easily.
Oh yeah! Oh damn, I remember we… mentioning it in one of the episodes, somebody did.
Oh yeah! It was about conspiracy theories! That there are, well, let’s say, companies and same goes with channels and news sources, that if they make a mistake, a reliable one usually they admit it. You know, they kinda, well, don’t give excuses, but at least, you know, they explain the situation, they say they’re sorry if that affected anyone anyhow. So yeah. Okay.
Well another thing that is worth pointing out is probably that they use reputable sources like people, documentation, and they verify those sources.
Then surely the British and American intelligence services would be considered as reputable sources and they get information wrong, so.
You know we can get into a philosophical question.
Like, what is true information then? But yeah. Well of course we can never be 100% sure that whatever we are reading is a 100% true, no matter if the sources are verified, if we believe this is an unbiased channel or an unbiased source. But yeah.
One more thing which is also important I think is that they present headlines with accurately represented the article content, headlines. And then probably they don’t play on readers’ emotions.
I would love to talk about that to be honest, cause yeah, I think, well, it’s my personal strategy maybe, but every time I see these, you know, sensationalist headlines, I’m like oh that’s something, like, they have a purpose here then.
So how can I trust a source which clearly the purpose to make somebody feel something. And I feel like this is applicable to fake news and reliable sources as well that if you read an article, and it might be true, but if you feel some strong emotions, then you have to question this source.
Like, why do they do it? They have some kind of a purpose. Cause every single source can present information in such a way that you don’t feel anything, they just present the information. But if they, you know, if a piece of news is written in such a way that it’s made to make you feel something – anger, happiness – then there is something behind this.
You mean they trigger strong emotions.
But one more thing which is also important I think – they produce their own content. They don’t just merely aggregate content from other sources.
But what do you mean by produce their own content?
So they don’t just repost messages and just take big chunks of information from other sources and publish on their media.
Well, so you’re talking about, for instance, do you know about associated press? The AP?
So they just amalgamates, they collect all different types of news sources and yeah, it’s kind of like a noticeboard of all the different news sources.
I feel like that would… That sounds very chaotic.
There’s also this, oh god, what’s the name of it? Damn it, my student told me about it, like a week ago. There’s this website where every single piece of news is very caricatured, it’s super ironic, satiric. And it’s the purpose of it, so it’s not real news.
No, it’s something different. But I’m pretty sure there are several.
Cause there’s this British magazine called the Private Eye which just makes a joke out of everything in the news.
And you know that it’s not, you know.
No no no, it’s all a joke, it’s fun to look up. It’s called the Private Eye, it’s funny.
Damn, there was some other source that my student mentioned. Damn it. I’m gonna ask, I’m gonna ask her what the website is. And anyhow, and the thing is that some people, before they check what the source is and what the website is, they start believing the stuff that they write about.
So which I guess, we can make a rule for the readers and for the listeners of the podcast – always make sure to check the source. You know, because sometimes you might click on the link, you know, read a piece of news that makes you super angry and then you believe it without checking it.
That actually brings the topic of fake news then. There’s one thing between reliable/unreliable source.
Fake news is actually nothing new. These bogus stories can reach more people than good old fashioned viral emails, accomplishing years’ past. And for instance studies shown many people cannot tell where what news is fake and what news is real.
This can create confusion and misunderstanding about important social and political issues. Well I see the dangers of fake news as follows. Like, fake news can affect your grades, for instance, professors require that you use quality sources of information for your research, assignments and papers. If you use sources that have false or misleading information you may get a lower grade.
Well I guess you are supposed to have some trustworthy sources and just most students just go to Wikipedia and just, you know, take it from there.
And one more practical thing there are – fake news can be harmful to your health, I mean, physical health.
Let’s talk about it! So can you elaborate on that? So how can that be harmful?
Well we were talking about the coronavirus, it just makes you anxious. And just at the end of the day anxiety, cortisol, which is the chemical in your body which is released when…
It is cortisol, the hormone of stress, but it’s way more than that now. Cause I do not know if you remember but last year when the pandemic just started there were so many sources claiming, you know, and blogs claiming that you can prevent the covid, you know, getting the covid by drinking certain chemicals.
And BBC say that last year just within the first, like, three months 800 people died because they, you know, drank methanol-based drink, no, cleaning products. Can you imagine that 800 people dead just because of fake news?
Well, to be honest, I don’t think they saw the news and drank, what is it, bleach or whatever it was. I don’t think it was… I think it was bleach wasn’t it?
Could you just drink bleach because of you saw on a newspaper.
You’re not gonna exactly survive in this world.
But it was not… I remember, I think it started with bleach and then people just went on crazy like, drinking things.
I mean, to be honest, there are always gonna be idiots in this world. Do you remember the Tide pod challenge?
Oh yeah, I was gonna mention it, with the detergent. Oh god. Every single time I use the tide pods now I think how could somebody actually?
Eugene do you know what this Tide pod challenge was? Do you know the washing detergent, yeah, it was the washing detergent that you put in the washing machine. What would you call it?
A challenge. I think they called it a challenge.
Yeah, a movement online somewhere.
What were they supposed to do?
Oh my god. So there are many fake, misleading news, so this is related to medical treatments and major diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Oh yeah, with diabetes I’m not sure, well, just because, you know, it’s a wider researched disease. But with cancer, yeah, people are ready to believe whatever if they can’t get the treatment, that’s true.
So to sum up on this medical issue we can say that trusting these false stories could lead to make decision that may be harmful to your health.
I have something else to add on the medical side of it. The thing is that sometimes you can clearly see that this is a fake source, it is fake news if you pay attention. But I have an example, and that’s my own example.
So during, I think it was in the summer, there was this page that was going around the Internet which was, it had the stamp, the official stamp and the seal of some kind of medical institution. It was the instruction on how to treat Covid.
And apparently someone got it from the doctors who, somebody called an ambulance and the doctors gave these instructions on how to get through covid. And it was so, well, not viral, but it was everywhere.
So when I got covid, and I didn’t have a visit, cause nobody actually came to see me, thank you healthcare system which we talked about, well, but yeah. And what was there for me to do? I used this pic from the internet, I followed the instructions, some of them.
I didn’t get the antibiotics as was suggested in the picture. And only, cause, you know, it looked valid. I thought, well, you know, might be that’s true. Only then, I think it was 2 months after I recovered, I saw several articles which were interviews with the doctors who said like most of that was not true.
We do not know where people got it. But then some of the people said yeah we followed it, we got well, I’m one of those people. But I think jesus, I followed these instructions without checking the source.
But also at the same time there were so many conflicting, well, theories, conflicting information about it. So yeah, I fell prey, victim, to some of the fake news that looked pretty much real I gotta say.
So yeah, medical, lower grades. What other…
One more interesting thing to notice. Different studies found that those, well, what I’m trying to say is that fake news make it harder for people to see the truth. And for instance people may have different political ides and fake news, fake news panic may actually be accelerating the process of polarization and could even cut out social relationship.
Well, thus we have more hatred, we have, yeah, well. I think we’ve seen that in 2020 a lot.
To be honest, I think this hatred has always been there, it’s just it just been… The light’s been shone on it by the Internet.
It’s always been there, but I feel like these fake news on the Internet, they kinda exasperate and amplify it. Cause it’s very easy to make people feel stronger emotions with the right words. Who was it that said that the word is mightier than the sword?
The pen is mightier that a sword, not a word.
Yeah. I can’t remember who… It’s a famous expression, I can’t remember who coined it.
I think this is an example right now. So okay, any other effects, negative effects of fake news that we can think of?
Well what was, I’m just interested, how was the Ebola crisis, how was it covered in Russia? Or the bird flu crisis? Was it a big event here in Russia? Cause it was a huge event in England, in the UK.
What I remember is that all news covered the events there, in the west, I mean, from Britain. I don’t think we…
Yeah, we didn’t have any kind of panic or anything like that.
There was like a milder panic in the UK, so when it came to bird flu, people were stocking on this drug called Tamiflu which is, I don’t know what it’s called, maybe it’s an anti, yeah, an antidote to the bird… I don’t know what the correct term is, but people were stocking up on this drug and…
Oh. No, I think in Russia we were just like, watched the news about what was happening out there in the world, but I didn’t feel any kind of effect of it.
At least… No, I don’t think there was any kind of a fuss about it here. So. Not about Swine flu, the bird flu, nothing like that. And I think Ebola too, like, Russia was like okay, it’s happening, somewhere else, not here.
Yeah. I mean, the bird flu, the Swine flu, but they were all just like little pre-curses to the Coronavirus. And the Coronavirus is the mother of all. Like a mother sheep.
Yeah. So and maybe you have noticed, especially in 2020 when the whole world was online and because of the lockdown we’ve spent way more time online than we would usually do. Have you noticed how some people shared and reposted, you know, things on Facebook, on Instagram? So what do you think about that? About sharing all these news, posts?
Well, I guess it might as well be another agent for a certain news channel, I don’t know, maybe… I’m not on Facebook to be honest, I’m on Instagram. But.
Instagram team! High five!
Are you talking about cross-posting?
Well, yeah, when you share somebody else’s post, yeah on your news feed.
Well it seems to be deep in our nature to share the information with others, but also to share stronger feelings and emotions with the others. And social media allows us to do that.
And sometimes, I think it sometimes can be dangerous. Like if we think about 2020, for example, and for quite a while people just posted, do you remember a lot of people posted this black square with the hashtag black lives matter.
But the thing is that they were only taking, you know, attention from the important things. This square did not help anyhow. You wanna help? Post ways that people can become allies, post information about how to donate to black-owned businesses for example.
But this black square doesn not show anything. You want to show you’re an ally, do that somehow else. So, yeah, I think this is just…
What we saw in 2020 were riots all over America, it was crazy. And people just jumped to conclusions and they acted upon information which barely exists. People just assumed that.
Of course there are some racist individuals as there are anywhere, but no one watched the footage of what happened to George Floyd, no one listened to all the evidence, they just assumed the police officer was racist. And it was a huge…
Because that was viral news, so people just, yeah, believed it, they just jumped, dived straight into it.
It’s crazy and yeah, it’s just. Yeah. Instant gratification.
Do you think then that there should be maybe more censorship as to what makes it to the media?
It’s a really good question. I mean, naturally my stance is democracy, freedom of information, but maybe we should have a benevolent dictator who sensors everything.
Wow, that’s just like, you know, you’re taking…
I haven’t come to a conclusion on this because what we saw this year, it was absolutely insane. Last year.
I think this question is also connected with wide spread of fake news as well. So the question raised today is probably is social media responsible.
That’s a good question actually.
In suppressing fake news and where the rules on censorship lie.
That’s actually been widely discussed as to if news has to be controlled, if there has to be some kind of censorship, who’s going to be responsible for it? Is it every single social platform? Like, is Instagram responsible for what the users post?
It depends what, because it depends if you consider these platforms to be platforms or publishers. So for instance Twitter, it advertises itself as being a platform, but it really almost like a publisher because it sensors some people’s information and not others.
And if you’re going to be a platform then you should not be held responsible in my opinion for other people’s information. But if you are a publisher then maybe you should be held responsible.
And according to a study published in a science magazine news, particular fake news, also travel fast along the social media channels. Fake news and false rumors reach more people becoming bedded more deeply into social network sites, in particular Twitter as you said it already.
I feel like fake news and social media they kinda go hand in hand together. It’s just so easy.
And they travel faster than accurate news, so probably in that way some kinds, some portion of censorship sounds quite reasonable to me personally.
But it also sounds like something so difficult to actually implement. You know, in terms of organization and functionality and people! Who’s going to do that? Maybe, maybe, just hear me out, they should train the AI to do that. Can that… Is that possible?
Can people back up, you know, people with actual scientific knowledge back up, you know…
When Google translate can finally translate everything then yeah, that would be… So when the technology gets there.
How can you be sure that it is not the AI that is spreading fake news?
Oh, that sounds like a conspiracy theory!
Sounds like that… I suspect… One of my theories is probably it is the AI who is to blame for creating Coronavirus.
Oh wow. We should have had you on our conspiracy theories podcast, we definitely should have. But since we’re talking about censorship, so right now we’re discussing more of a possibility of implementing it. But let’s look at an example where censorship thrives.
That is China. So and I remember Natalie told us in the episode of living and working in different countries how she was struggling with getting in touch with relatives and friends because of the censorship in China. So, do you know anything about it? Like, what’s the situation like in there?
Well I believe you can’t use… Well I can’t remember what websites and Natalie mentioned it.
Probably Google is banned there.
I think they have Google but it’s a different kind of Google.
I think some of the Google services are banned there.
And I know that Google maps are different in China. I watched this interesting documentary by the maps are not fully correct, maybe it’s to protect military installations.
Oh wow! Well, I know that, so well, they ban everything that deems, you know, potentially dangerous for the political regime or the country, you know, itself and, you know, whatever.
Exactly. And I know that right now it’s Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, some of the Google services – they are fully blocked. Well, they say “temporarily blacked out”, but this tempora… I hate this word.
Yeah, so it’s been like that for like such a long time that it’s not temporary anymore. So.
But anyway we can say that the country is a developing and the economy is growing. I’m sure they are doing quite well.
Well, the country – might be. What about the people? Are they happy? Are they satisfied with the way things are?
It could be probably their own choice, what do you think of that?
Well, you know, I believe that if there’s such a strict censorship they aren’t even allowed to complain about how they are not happy, cause then, you know, you complain about that then you mysteriously disappear and are never to be seen again. So, I don’t know.
I really do not know. But so, yeah, I know that the government in there is particularly keen on blocking everything that could in some way make social unrest. So basically everything that makes people think about the regime, about the political situation there.
Everything that could potentially make them unrest is blocked. And that could be anything basically, you know. Just asking them a question are you guys satisfied with everything? Like uh-uh-uh, what are you implying? Are you implying that you are not satisfied with the ruler? Too bad, too bad.
Honestly, I do not want things to be like that. I would love to have some censorship on things that are potentially dangerous for health let’s say or some other things. But total censorship sounds…
So I was just thinking about glasnost in the later years of the Soviet union, when information became more readily available. To what extent was there censorship, would you know? To what extent was there censorship in the later years of the Soviet Union or was it a complete free for all?
Both Ben and I are looking at Eugene for this.
You can’t make objective judgments that the information that is available you may think it is the whole information and the only true. But we don’t know what is hidden from us. How can you understand that? It’s not possible.
Yeah I did a long time ago.
If you re-read it now you kinda see…
Scary cause this is exactly what is happening right now. It’s like the combination, a combination of 1984 and the Brave New World that we live in. And the Animal Farm, damn it.
I have a memory of the 90s as my happiest years of my life, really. I was a student there at that time.
I lived here in Novosibirsk and did some …, I mean at weekends we travelled to different parts as the so-called shuttle, the sales managers, remember? We were shuttles. Do you remember these things? The word. We just had to go somewhere by boat things and brought them here and sell them at a high price. That’s all.
Okay. I mean I’ve heard about that, but yeah.
I was one of them and at the same time I was a student at a day-time department. I remember how things were. They were tough, I mean, like so-called mafia was in control here.
Oh, again, be careful with…
But if you were a student, it didn’t concern you at all.
That and other interesting fact about Eugene’s past.
I would have loved to be here in the 90s it would’ve been so fun.
Alright. So why don’t we actually talk about, well, since we’ve mentioned censorship, so do you know anything about blocking Twitter now?
What, here in Russia or…?
I think it’s here in Russia. Cause in China Twitter’s already blocked.
According to the news, our Russian news we want them about not publishing the content that is against our rules, I mean, against our laws. It’s children pornography and calls for suicide, what else? One more thing, I don’t remember.
Those things that are prohibited here, they should not be published on Twitter. But Twitter, they do not respond to our claims at all.
Exactly. So Twitter is an international company, and Russia can say like oh, there shouldn’t be any propaganda on Twitter and then basically, everything that, again, puts the government under question, you know. And they want to just ban it here. But I don’t think that’s ever gonna happen. They tried to ban Telegram and how did that work? It didn’t. So we’ll see.
But Telegram’s based here in Russia, it’s based in Petersburg, no? The company.
Is it? I kinda thought it’s an international company.
Nowadays with the new technologies it’s difficult to say where the companies, the servers are based everywhere in the world.
Well it’s invented in Saint Petersburg I believe.
One of our Russian guys is the founder of the company.
We should check this out and read more on that.
I believe I lack knowledge to be talking about that.
The Chinese do that, so technically I think it’s possible to limit access to some sources, some sites.
I’m the child of the Internet. I hope not. So and why, since we’re talking about news, why don’t we talk about three news that is widely discussed right now, well at least here in Russia. And I would like to talk about something that has made me feel so many emotions. So have you heard about the law on educational activity? Oh let me tell you about this.
So on March 16 which was, you know, not so long ago, the Russian State Duma adopted the third and final reading of the law which they called the law of… on educational activity. So it’s kinda like amendments to the education law. So what does it say?
So it says that members of the academic community and those involved in like popular education initiatives, they, you know, they have opposing, what is it like? Opposing views maybe and different information.
So the government have adopted the document that basically says that everything that is educational activity has to get the approval of the government. So and that puts any and all dissemination of knowledge under state control. Why? Because this legislation does not contain any definition for what is knowledge, what is education.
What the hell is educational activity, what is experience. And they say that it’s not only about education as higher education or schools. It’s anything that has any kind of teaching or giving you new experience, new facts, anything can fall under it.
And it’s not only higher education, not only schools, it’s blogs, language schools, anyone who gives lectures. Any professor form a university who gives lectures online on Youtube on, let’s say, astrophysics can now be banned because it’s not approved by the government.
So and you can imagine that that can have certain consequences. So and what can that lead to? So the government may check whether the educational activities complies with the law, they will start issuing licenses for educational activities and I’m sure not everyone will begiven them.
So what if it’s, you know, right now we have so many blogs who tell us about, let’s say, physics, journalism.
So my question is before this new act was there no state mandate on education?
Didn’t the government… Well the Russian government has a syllabus, has…
Of higher education and schools, yes. But what about, let’s say, us teachers?
Well if you’re working for a private school, any private school, if it hires employees it should have a license from the government, doesn’t it?
Yeah but they can check individual, like what exactly you are teaching. But think about it – okay, you work for a school. But what about those… Let’s say I’m a teacher and I want to make videos on Youtube teaching Russian. I might not get a license for it, it might be seen as some kind of information that is not approved.
So and now, you know, what’s the problem? The thing is that right now the scientific world is changing. So people give lectures on astrophysics, on chemistry, so and I’m pretty sure that if the government is to approve, they are not going to rely on the latest scientific news. They might be very subjective in it and very biased. So people say that this is the beginning of the total censorship on education.
Well it depends what… I mean maybe Russian government doesn’t want chaos in the country, I think that’s probably the motive behind it, no.
I see what you mean. But frankly I don’t share your pessimism about it. So these new rules can lead both to higher standards in education as well as to censorship. You never know now, really. And I’m sure that people who work in the educational sphere are quite intelligent people, they want…
I mean if you look at America, all this chaos is happening and people think… Of course there are some racists in America, but people think there’s literally a white supremacy epidemic and it’s just not the case in America.
And all of this comes down to professors at universities talking about how people of other races are still subject to immense suffering and slavery and that’s just not the case. I mean I’m not a spokesman for the Russian government, but perhaps they just see this and don’t want the same chaos. That’s just my speculation.
The good thing out of it I see that the government is pretty sure that there are some changes that should be made and probably they’re trying to improve the system and this is us who should participate in that and not to allow a strict censorship in the future.
Not to allow strict censorship, and how are you gonna change that?
Through your work. Yeah you have to participate, not go away from the whole system. But if…
Either the censorship is gonna come from the government or it’s gonna come from a big private company like twitter. So who is it gonna be? That’s the… Cause we pay…
Well starting with June 1 we’ll see what that leads to.
Yeah, we’ll see what happens.
But also since they say that it will also lead to more difficulties of bringing professors from different countries into the country. So who knows? Maybe you’re gonna be deported from out here, you, suspicious 3- citizenship guy. They say that yeah, if now…
It’s difficult enough for schools to bring foreign teachers and professors into the country, so it’s gonna get even more difficult cause every single candidacy should go through the approval process first. So and where’s the guarantee that this approval is going to be granted? So yeah.
Let’s live and see. If I were you I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Really.
Well as a person who hopes to get the hell out of here of course.
We have always found ways to deal with most difficult situations in our country.
Yeah. I wouldn’t like to go through these most difficult thing myself, but okay. What about the next news. And I have been, you know, hesitant whether we should include this into the podcast or not. So which is why a little bit of a disclaimer. So we are only sharing our opinion on what is happening.
We are not, you know, throwing what we think at you and say you should think the same way. No. It’s just, you know, friendly conversation. But have you heard and if so, what do you think about the recent conversation between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden?
Well I’ve gotta say that I think that’s… Well personally I don’t understand why NATO exists. And this is a complete… And it’s kinda the side point but I just don’t understand why there’s so much antagonism against the Russian Federation. I just don’t understand it. And quite frankly I think Putin is right to challenge Biden.
So can you, first of all, tell about the situation? To those who haven’t seen the news, who haven’t heard about this. So what is happening? What the hell are we talking about?
As far as I remember the journalist, I don’t remember his name, asked Biden Do you think Vladimir Putin is a killer? And Biden’s response was Mhm, I do.
Exactly. So that’s what happened. So what do you think about that?
He shouldn’t have done that.
He shouldn’t have done that.
It’s political ethics, that’s all. You may hate someone personally and not say openly especially when the United States is considered to be a benchmark of everything, of political or cultural values and everything. If you call a president of big… It doesn’t matter what size the country it is, like, you’re a killer. You can’t just say that and this is what I think. Unethical.
I totally agree with you, Eugene, I totally do. So and what was the reaction of Vladimir Putin to that?
Well I only saw the video clip with...
He offered online meeting and it’s a funny thing that nowadays with new modern technologies you can just open…
I think it’s fantastic, right?
It’s very clever response I think.
Cause usually it would be, well, in the past it would be okay, let’s schedule a meeting, you know, one month ahead cause everyone’s busy. But now he just said yeah, so he challenged Biden talk to him live, on air and he said like on Thursday or on Friday.
Yes. And let the whole world see it, right. Let the world decide who is right.
Exactly, let the world be the judge kinda.
That’s the definition of democracy in action.
And what I think is providing this opinion about our president, like, he’s a killer, Biden himself, put himself in a very awkward situation. Because now if he refuses, the world refuses to meet face to face and online, the whole world might think that they are cowards, United States are cowards.
He’s threading on thin ice.
But if he responds, it will be even worse for them, I’m sure. He’ll have to stand…
Yeah, it’s very difficult and I know that Russia has called home the ambassador to talk, to prevent the irreversible deterioration of ties. And I know that all the consuls have been called back home from Washington DC. So for safety reasons and they say that…
Well, I think our consul’s name is Anatoly Antonov, I know that he’s been called back from Washington DC to Moscow as they say the relations with the US has reached a blind alley. And in addition to that, to what Joe Biden said, he also said that on, again, on national, not even national, but worldwide news that Vladimir Putin would pay the price for the alleged meddling with the election.
And where is the evidence for that anyway? That’s the whole … topic.
Yeah, it’s just accusations that are not based on any data. Like, if you are going to throw accusation like that, be sure to back them up with some kind of…
It’s the arrogance of their politicians I’m afraid.
But who knows what that is going to lead to?
We may suffer, I mean, the citizens. Personally I have never seen any issues and felt issues with colleagues working from abroad. But this is the political system, but anyway how is it possible?
I don’t know, but I hope that it’s not going to, you know, change the relationship between people. But, let’s say, within three. Actually, that’s the question, and it’s not about the news. But when I talk to people about my experience in the US I very often hear the question like what was the attitude to you as a Russian? I said look, I’ve been to 17 states, so I’ve been all over the country.
And I’ve talked to hundreds of people of course. And within 3 years not a single person made any kind of negative remark about me being from Russia. Nobody. Not a single time. So I know that sometimes the media wants us to think like, oh, you know, people from Russia don’t like the Americans and vice versa.
No. That’s one of the examples of, you know, biased news maybe or fake news. Cause not a single time have I experiences any kind of negative reaction. So. Alright, and news number 3 is about culture, so no politics right now, no… Nothing like that, so have you heard about Eurovision and do you know any news about who is going to go from Russia.
Yeah it’s something beginning with M.
Yeah I’ve just remember the name, but I haven’t seen the song yet, shame on me.
Well the thing is that it’s been really… A little bit controversial because there are some people who are really narrow-minded, I’m sorry, yes, I’m throwing words like that. But the thing is that Manizha, she is a Russian-Tajik singer, so and she, well, basically won the Russian ticket to the Eurovision with the song Russian woman. And that sparked a lot of comments I would say.
I didn’t know about this.
Can you hum the tune at least?
So, oh on, no, no. I don’t have a… It’s very unusual and in general Manizha has a very unusual style. Cause she started, you know, it’s a mix of things, of styles, of music and the motifs. It’s not solely Tajik motifs or Russian motifs or, you know, something like that, it’s world motifs.
But do you think she is right to represent our country with that stuff?
I think she is. First of all there have been a lot of comments which are, in my humble opinion, dumb. Because people say how can a girl, who’s not Russian, present Russia? And people opposing this say, well, that’s the point. Russian has over 100 different nationalities, so it’s, you know, great that we are sending a girl who is from Tajikistan to represent Russia.
She has, you know, Russian-Tajik origins. The style that she has is fantastic. The songs that she has. They are not just songs about, I don’t know, like, you know, like people would expect to be something about love. No.
So for example the Russian Woman song it’s kind of a manifesto to feminism maybe. And she’s an activist herself and she sings how a lot of families in Russia are broken for example. So it’s not just a song. And through her art she expresses her thoughts on problems that we have in Russia for example. And she’s doing so with very unusual motifs, very unusual music and very unusual style.
So I am completely intrigued.
Oh you should listen to her songs.
Tonight I’ll definitely listen to it.
She has a song that is named Russian Woman. She has one that is named Africa, it has a little bit, like, you know, worlds’ motifs, so not… I just, I don’t know, you just have to listen to her. This is one of the singers that I advise my students to listen to, to know what, you know, to see an example of contemporary Russian musician. So, yeah.
Cause in the UK no one watches Eurovision but it’s really popular in Europe itself.
But UK takes part in it though.
They do, but no one knows anything about it. Which is the funny thing. It’s really popular in particularly Eastern Europe and maybe some other parts of Europe, but in the UK it’s just another day.
It’s a kind of Olympics I mean among the…
Yeah it’s like European singing Olympics. Yeah I remember telling my American students about that cause they’ve never heard about that. I’m like oh that’s… A lot of people watch it from the beginning till the end even though it’s like a lot of hours.
It’s pretty big thing here in Russia.
Yeah. And I remember last year it was supposed to be another band which is called Little Big, but the pandemic hit, so it never took place. Alright, any other news that you can think of? That are widely spoken? Okay, well, let’s call it a day then. So what do you think will be the main idea that you are going to take away from this episode? So what are you going to remember this episode by?
Well what would I say? Well I’d say is that just your life simple, don’t get washed away.
Yeah, take things easy, don’t drown in the swamp of news because it’s gonna make you anxious.
Be yourself and have objective mindset. So when you are getting the information from the news, you are your own judge to understand which news is false, which is fake, and today I think we helped our listeners to figure it out how to find the best ways.
Amen to that. Yes. Alright, so that was the BigAppleSchool podcast and today we discussed news. So thank you for listening dear listeners and remember, if you struggle to understand our conversation, you are always welcome to our website, which is BigAppleSchool.com/podcast where you can find full scripts of each episodes, so you can listen and read and that’s just fantastic.
Also if you want to get more content which will help you learn English you can follow us on social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Vk, Youtube, Telegram. We make sure that we don’t post any kind of fake news. We always fact check.
And if you have any kind of comments on what we’ve talked about today, if you want to share your opinion, please do that in the comment section. We are always happy to talk to you. So that was Katya and my guests for today were…
Eugene, thanks for having me.
Stay tuned and we’ll see you around!