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GQ (Australia) - - FIT -

Sarah Sil­ver­man and Jonah Hill took turns tear­ing strips off him. Hill came on stage and brought up the fact that a lot of movie stars have a ‘one for them, one for me’ ap­proach – wear a com­mer­cial job so they can work on one they care about. “But not my guy James. He has his own phi­los­o­phy,” Hill told the au­di­ence. “One for them, five for no­body.” It’s a good line. And Franco agrees that Hill had a point. “I was adapt­ing Wil­liam Faulkner nov­els and re­ally dark Cor­mac Mc­carthy necrophilia nov­els,” he says. “I would do a stu­dio movie and then some­times I would even pay for movies I wanted to do. “There’s this idea that producers are not about the art, they’re just about the bottom line. There’s some truth to that,” he adds. “But if you have a project that no­body will fi­nance, es­pe­cially some­one like me who’s been in the busi­ness for 20 years – that might be say­ing some­thing.” Dave is seven years younger, but James cred­its him as a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence. “He’s a lot wiser and more dis­cern­ing, more prac­ti­cally minded,” he says. “He’s the per­fect an­ti­dote for my artis­tic reck­less­ness. One of the things he’s taught me is to work on projects that are right for us and are mean­ing­ful. By do­ing that, we will do our best work.” Work has al­ways been Franco’s drug. He hasn’t touched pot since high school. But it’s easy to imag­ine that without enough projects to keep him dis­tracted, that shy teenager might come back. The one who par­ties, gets into trou­ble. After all, they say you never kill an ad­dic­tion – you just re­place it with some­thing else. “There you go, dude, that’s ex­actly what peo­ple do,” he says. “It is so hard to wake up to [ad­dic­tion]. It’s so hard to see it. I thought I was liv­ing the life I al­ways wanted to live. When I fi­nally did wake up, I was com­pletely iso­lated, emo­tion­ally, from ev­ery­one around me. “What­ever your re­li­gion or non-re­li­gion is, I truly believe we’re all look­ing for the same thing. We all just want to be happy or feel like we’ve con­trib­uted. And I’ve found that is syn­ony­mous with be­ing present. That’s what I didn’t have be­fore – when I was do­ing five bil­lion projects at once, I was ev­ery­where but present. “The curse of that is that I ac­tu­ally couldn’t en­joy my suc­cess. I was nom­i­nated for an Os­car, I was work­ing with all my he­roes. All the dreams I’d had as a young man had come true. And I still couldn’t en­joy it. It was never go­ing to be enough.” For the first time in as long as he can re­mem­ber, Franco is find­ing time for him­self. “It’s re­ally weird but this year had been the self-care year,” he says. “I was play­ing ten­nis to­day and if you looked at my life six months ago, you would never have seen me do­ing any­thing like that. What I love about things like play­ing ten­nis or learn­ing to surf is I don’t need to be a pro­fes­sional at them. I can just do it be­cause I en­joy it. Wow. What a con­cept! “I’m sure ev­ery­body has shit like this to learn,” he adds. “And it seems to me like I’m learn­ing lessons a lot of peo­ple learned when they were 18. But what­ever. Bet­ter late than never.” We might never re­ally know who the real James Franco is. And it might not even mat­ter. But like all of us, he’s just try­ing to find his way in life, feel com­fort­able be­ing alone with him­self. He’s not there yet, but he’s work­ing on it. “I’m feel­ing a lot bet­ter, dude,” he says, al­most to him­self. “I can hon­estly say I’m re­ally happy.” And, for now at least, maybe that’s enough. The Deuce airs on Show­case and Fox­tel Now from Septem­ber 11 “The most im­por­tant el­e­ment is trans­parency,” ex­plains Qiu of her fact-check­ing meth­ods. “Showing your process by us­ing pub­licly avail­able data and on-the-record quotes helps read­ers un­der­stand the logic. I also al­ways at­tempt to reach out to the orig­i­nal speaker to ask them for ev­i­dence back­ing up the claim. The bur­den of proof is on the speaker, and if they can’t pro­vide a good source, that’s a red flag.” Fol­low­ing her elec­toral loss, Hil­lary Clin­ton sin­gled out Face­book, in par­tic­u­lar, claim­ing ‘fake news’ sto­ries on the so­cial net­work had af­fected the in­for­ma­tion vot­ers re­lied on. After the elec­tion, Mark Zuckerberg said it was “crazy” to con­clude that ‘fake news’ on the plat­form had in­flu­enced the out­come. Nev­er­the­less, Face­book re­sponded to ac­cu­sa­tions that it fa­cil­i­tates the spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion. “We’re build­ing, test­ing, and it­er­at­ing new prod­ucts to limit the spread of false news and help peo­ple find a more di­verse range of top­ics, news sto­ries and view­points on Face­book,” says a Face­book rep­re­sen­ta­tive. “Our most re­cent mea­sures in­clude up­dat­ing News Feed to re­duce sto­ries from sources that post ‘click bait’ head­lines. We’ve also re­cently an­nounced an ad­di­tional up­date to the News Feed aimed at re­duc­ing the num­ber of links to lowqual­ity con­tent such as sen­sa­tion­al­ism and mis­in­for­ma­tion.” Ear­lier this year, Face­book also helped es­tab­lish the News In­tegrity Ini­tia­tive, “a global con­sor­tium fo­cused on help­ing peo­ple make in­formed judg­ments about the news they read and share on­line.” A Face­book rep­re­sen­ta­tive tells GQ it has also funded news lit­er­acy re­search in Aus­tralia. When it comes to re­fut­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion, Qiu says her fact-check­ing ar­ti­cles tend to fol­low a pattern that makes it easy for read­ers to di­gest. “I first state the claim with a brief de­scrip­tion of ac­cu­racy – ‘this per­son falsely said this’ or ‘the claim was this, but this needs more con­text’ – usu­ally bolded or as a sub­head,” she says. “In the body of the fact check, I try to pro­vide con­text for when and to whom the state­ment was made or at least link to a tran­script or video. Then I de­vote a few para­graphs ex­plain­ing why it’s false or mis­lead­ing.” Qiu points out this can also often in­clude us­ing in­for­ma­tion that is tech­ni­cally ac­cu­rate, but mis­lead­ing – out­liers on a data set, for in­stance. Those who dis­agree with cli­mate change often use this tech­nique to cherry-pick data that fits their view that the planet is not get­ting warmer. Since it’s so dif­fi­cult to change peo­ple’s be­lief in mis­in­for­ma­tion once they have been ex­posed to it, Prof Le­wandowsky is part of a group of re­searchers at­tempt­ing to dis­cover a fake news ‘vac­cine’ that can in­oc­u­late peo­ple against mis­in­for­ma­tion be­fore they re­ceive it. “The ba­sic idea is that you tell peo­ple ahead of time that they might be mis­led or ex­posed to false in­for­ma­tion,” he says. “We’ve found that it nul­li­fies mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion or, at least, re­duces it dra­mat­i­cally.” One of his stud­ies fo­cused on the to­bacco in­dus­try’s pre­vi­ous attempts to cloud sci­en­tific con­sen­sus on smok­ing and can­cer. “We gave [par­tic­i­pants] a story about how this happened in the ’50s and the tech­niques by which peo­ple were mis­led,” he says. “Then we pre­sented them with sim­i­larly mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion about cli­mate change and we found that it no longer worked – that mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion was ba­si­cally

neu­tralised by telling peo­ple about the tech­niques that are em­ployed by politi­cians or who­ever it is.” While in­oc­u­lat­ing peo­ple against mis­in­for­ma­tion can be use­ful, Prof Le­wandowsky says at least some re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with the reader. Be­ing aware of du­bi­ous or mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion is the first step. “Gen­er­ally, peo­ple who are scep­ti­cal and who look crit­i­cally at the ev­i­dence can do very well in dis­cern­ing what in­for­ma­tion is true and what isn’t,” he says. “Scep­ti­cism is a good thing. But it’s im­por­tant to point out that scep­ti­cism doesn’t mean that you just dis­be­lieve ev­ery­thing – it means look­ing at the ev­i­dence and that you believe things sup­ported by ev­i­dence.” Some have called this the post-truth era, a world in which dis­cus­sions of is­sues are de­fined not by facts, but by feel­ings. Bri­tish Con­ser­va­tive politi­cian and Brexit cam­paigner, Michael Gove, said last year that peo­ple “have had enough of ex­perts”. This new ecosys­tem, for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama told the New Yorker, “means ev­ery­thing is true and noth­ing is true”. But ev­i­dence does mat­ter. Ex­per­tise mat­ters. Facts mat­ter. Ul­ti­mately, the re­spon­si­bil­ity for be­ing well in­formed rests not with com­pa­nies but in­di­vid­u­als, to ques­tion in­for­ma­tion and seek out sources that con­front, rather than con­firm, our ex­ist­ing points of view. If there is some com­fort to be taken from the re­search of peo­ple like Pro­fes­sor Le­wandowsky, per­haps it’s that the most im­por­tant les­son in the fight against fake news is also the sim­plest – don’t believe ev­ery­thing you read. A short ride later, we’re thrust in­side a gaudy, end­less ar­ray of rooms – each im­pec­ca­bly fur­nished with mar­ble and chan­de­liers. Al Muderis sig­nals that he’s been in­side the palace once be­fore, a sort of child prop for a cer­e­mony held for Sad­dam Hus­sein. In a large room off a main cor­ri­dor, the IraqiAus­tralian fi­nally meets the man who’s in­vited him back. Stoic and gen­tle, Haider al-abadi probes with ques­tions on os­seoin­te­gra­tion. He queries the safety of the pro­ce­dure, and mar­vels about the re­mark­able way in which bone fuses to ti­ta­nium. “Have you seen The Ter­mi­na­tor?” asks Al Muderis. Al-abadi looks lost. “What about Robo­cop, have you seen Robo­cop?” “Yes, yes I have.” “It’s just like that.” The Prime Min­is­ter’s pri­mary fo­cus seems firmly set on the per­sonal well­be­ing of the in­jured. “It’s very im­por­tant for them to feel like they’re back to nor­mal again.” The em­bat­tled Prime Min­is­ter’s eyes go warm and bright when Al Muderis pulls out a lap­top and shows him a short clip of a once wheelchair­bound pa­tient walk­ing again. “He’s an Iraqi, he trained in Baghdad, and he’s will­ing to help his fel­low Iraqis,” the Prime Min­is­ter later tells GQ. “Every Iraqi is proud of him. He shows that Iraqis are very re­silient.” Step­ping back down the palace foot­steps, Al Muderis closes his eyes and, for a mo­ment, takes in the heat. The sur­round­ing gar­dens are pris­tine and man­i­cured, the ren­dered walls a warm, sat­u­rated beige. An ar­moured SUV pulls up and the mo­ment is gone. On his fi­nal night in Baghdad, Al Muderis is granted a rare treat – a glimpse of Baghdad, the real Baghdad, past the Green Zone. Owing to the fact that he was an in­vited guest of the Prime Min­is­ter, his han­dlers have erred on the side of ex­treme cau­tion at all times. As such, this ex­cur­sion in an ar­moured SUV is ac­ces­sorised by a mil­i­tary mo­tor­cade – the head of which is a Land Cruiser packed with Min­istry of De­fence of­fi­cers, each bran­dish­ing an M16 ri­fle. Fol­low­ing a brief pre­sen­ta­tion to a group of or­thopaedists, Al Muderis sits in a sprawl­ing restau­rant set on the banks of the Ti­gris River. The eater­ies and bars that line the wa­ter­way are where Baghdad comes to so­cialise – din­ners stretch­ing into the early hours of the morn­ing as lo­cals take in the cooler tem­per­a­tures, a wel­come respite from the sun’s harsh heat. As a child, Al Muderis used to swim in the Ti­gris, tak­ing courage from his older, brasher cousin. His child­hood home sits just up the river. From there, he’d take strolls along the wa­ter with his mother and fa­ther. Ap­petites even­tu­ally sated, the cav­al­cade folds back into the Green Zone at a glacial pace – se­cu­rity, nat­u­rally, is far slower on the way back. Be­fore leav­ing Iraq, Al Muderis de­liv­ers the open­ing speech at Tedxbagh­dad. To the or­gan­is­ers’ surprise, he in­sists on pre­sent­ing in English, telling the story of his jour­ney from Baghdad to Aus­tralia, and back. “Things have changed in this coun­try. I’m very pleased to see that this place is way bet­ter than when I left it.” He ends the speech with, “God bless you all,” and it doesn’t feel the slight­est bit disin­gen­u­ous. If you looked closely dur­ing the live per­for­mance of the na­tional an­them that opened the event, you could see tears crawl­ing down the doc­tor’s face. At the con­clu­sion of his talk, Al Muderis is mobbed by ad­mi­ra­tion and mo­bile phones. A dis­or­derly queue forms, and 20 min­utes of fan pho­tos quickly pass. “This is crazy,” he says, be­tween self­ies. Al Muderis’ grin only ends on be­ing firmly told by a prime min­is­te­rial del­e­gate that he’s a flight to catch. At Baghdad In­ter­na­tional, with the group out of earshot, the del­e­gate gen­tly men­tions that, a night ear­lier, at the pre­cise mo­ment we re-en­tered the Green Zone, a car bomb det­o­nated a few sub­urbs over. “It used to be one or two at­tacks a day,” he says. “It’s much bet­ter now, maybe only once every week or two. It’s safe.” As Al Muderis pre­pares to de­part, one fi­nal hur­dle presents itself – bag­gage al­lowance. The vast stack of pa­tient x-rays weighs in at some 20kg – barely fit­ting into his lug­gage. They are the im­ages he’ll need to fur­ther as­sess the next steps for each pa­tient. The same del­e­gate snaps his fin­gers, dis­ap­pears mo­men­tar­ily, and presents an ap­pro­pri­ately rugged so­lu­tion. The im­ages, care­fully col­lected, are now dou­ble bagged in in­dus­tri­al­strength garbage bags. Ev­ery­thing in place, Al Muderis is fed from the pri­vate lounge, back into the ar­moured Mercedes, bound for his flight. “I’m still in shock,” he says as the car crosses the runway. Sure, in this mo­ment, he still feels de­ci­sively more Aus­tralian than Iraqi. But the cul­tural ledger has tipped a frac­tion – like a com­pass even­tu­ally creep­ing back to True North. Some roots, maybe, are too deep to pull. On the tar­mac, he clutches the garbage bag full of x-rays close to his chest. They’ll act as a map – a rai­son d’être – back to Baghdad, in a few months time. Al Muderis then boards to busi­ness class, and the Aus­tralian de­parts, an Iraqi again.

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