News Brief: How to Respond to Knee-Jerk Bigotry on Live TV· Citations Needed
Citations Needed is off this week, but we do have a fascinating interview with Hoda Katebi on her now-infamous WGN television segment. In this News Brief, we explore what it means to "sound American," the politics of women's clothing, and why everyone with even a single drop of Iranian blood is expected to be an expert on nuclear energy and international affairs.
Episode 27: How the Media Mainstreamed Racist Pseudoscience· Citations Needed
If one were to approach New York Times-reading liberals circa 1990 and tell them about a crime-fighting policy that arbitrarily harassed black and Latino youths who had committed no crime and threw the book at low-level nonviolent offenses, they would be rightfully outraged at the idea. But, if one were to couch this exact policy in pseudoscience promoted by mercenary sociologists and glowingly written up in The Atlantic, these same liberals would not only accept it, they'd be its primary advocates. This is that story. This is the story of how the racist pseudoscience of Broken Windows and Stop-and-Frisk that started on the rightwing fringes slowly seeped into the centrist and liberal media and how two new racist pseudosciences, predictive policing and high profile "gang raids", are – again, with the help of liberals - taking their place. We are joined this week by Josmar Trujillo.
Episode 26: The 'Welfare' Dog-Whistle· Citations Needed
The term "welfare" is thrown around so casually in political speeches and media coverage we hardly notice it anymore. CNN reports that “GOP will tackle Medicare, Medicaid, welfare in 2018," while The Washington Post insists that “Trump recently called on Congress to move to cut welfare spending after the tax bill.” CBS News tells viewers that “Washington eyes welfare reform." But what do these outlets and the Republican Party actually mean when they talk about "welfare"? What programs are they referring to? The exact definition of "welfare" – which supposedly ended over 20 years ago – remains unclear. While the word "welfare" and the welfare state has a positive connotation in Europe, in the United States it's more often than not a malleable propaganda term meant to dog whistle programs for African-Americans and Latinos while signaling to whites that their checks and corporate handouts will remain untouched. In this episode, we dig into the racist history of anti-welfare crusades, the political purpose of pathologizing poverty, and the meaninglessness of phrases like "welfare reform," with guest Sarah Jaffe.
Episode 25: The Banality of CIA-Curated Definitions of ‘Democracy’· Citations Needed
Few words elicit such warm feelings as the term "Democracy." Wars are supposedly fought for it, foreign policies are built around it, protecting and advancing it is considered the United States' highest moral order. Democracy's alleged opposite - broadly called "authoritarianism," "autocracy" or "tyranny” - is cast as the ultimate evil. The stifling, oppressive boot of the state that curtails liberties and must be fought at all costs. This is the world in which we operate and the one where the United States and its satellite media and NGO allies fight to preserve and defend democracy. So how is "democracy" defined and how are those definitions used to justify American exceptionalism? Where do positive and negative rights come into play, and how do societal choices like illiteracy, poverty, and hunger factor into our notions of freedom? On today's episode, we discuss the limits of democracy rankings, the oft-cited "Polity IV" metric devised by the CIA-funded Center for Systemic Peace, and more with guest George Ciccariello-Maher.
Episode 24: Highlighting Alternative Media - The Moral Limits of Dunking on Thomas Friedman· Citations Needed
Here at Citations Needed we enjoy nothing more than ragging on corporate media - indeed, it’s our primary job. But can constant snark and negativity breed cynicism? Recent feedback from some of our listeners has us wondering if the act of media criticism need also make room for some media complimenting, lest we succumb to the forces of defeatism. In this episode, rather than critiquing the myriad problems with the corporate press, we decided to highlight two smaller media organizations fighting back against tremendous forces - in this case, environmental destruction of native lands and the carceral state – by building alternate systems of communication, news-gathering, storytelling, and organizing. With guests Jade Begay of Indigenous Rising Media and Jay Donahue of Critical Resistance and The Abolitionist newspaper.
News Brief: Why the Media Should Stop Calling it a "Government Shutdown"· Citations Needed
It's not a "government shutdown", it's a liberal government shutdown––or, more precisely, a backdoor rightwing coup. Our words should reflect that. Relevant article: It’s Not a Government Shutdown. It’s a Right-Wing Coup www.thenation.com/article/its-not-…right-wing-coup/
Episode 23: The Media's Grim Addiction to Perseverance Porn· Citations Needed
We’ve all seen these feel good segments on the local news. The adorable and resourceful seven-year-old in California who's been recycling cans since he was three and now has $10,000 saved up for college. The Oklahoma community that chipped in to buy a car for a beloved Walmart greeter so she wouldn't have to walk to work in the bitter cold anymore. The “inspiring teen” who returned to his fast food job soon after being injured in a car accident. No doubt, these are all heartwarming tales of perseverance in the face of adversity, a testament to the can-do spirit of average citizens––but they're also something else: ideological agitprop meant to obscure and decontextualize the harsh realities of poverty, the exorbitant cost of higher education and healthcare, and the profound absence of basic social services in the United States. What are the origins of this ethos? Whom does it benefit and, perhaps most important of all, how does the media consistently work to reinforce this "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mythology? We are joined by Tony Valdés of the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center.
Episode 22: Trumpwashing -- How the Media Uses Trump to Launder Our Criminal Past· Citations Needed
The unique threat and vileness of Donald Trump’s presidency can’t be overstated. Since he took office a year ago, he’s increased civilian deaths in Afghanistan by 50%, increased civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq (surpassing Obama’s death toll in just under 7 months), issued dozens of nuclear threats against North Korea, unraveled the Iran deal, bombed Hezbollah, Iranian and SAA positions in Syria, signed a smash and grab tax bill for billionaires, and issued order after order making life hell for immigrants and other vulnerable communities. But with this unique threat comes a rhetorical habit of "Trumpwashing" that, while perhaps tempting in the short term, will - in the long term - have disastrous effects. The desire to revamp the image of the pre-Trump Republican party and the United States in general – a concept Ali Abunimah coined “Trumpwashing” - is a favorite rhetorical tic of Russia-obsessed democrats and centrist extremists who’s primary charge is treating the phenomenon of Donald Trump as anomalous from American history, rather than its most pure, and even logical, manifestation. This trope - in addition to denying the realities of the past hundred years of American politics and policy - carries with it pernicious long term effects. We discuss this broader narrative with The Intercept's Jon Schwarz.
Episode 21: Quantifying Negative Media Portrayals of People of Color· Citations Needed
According to one 2014 study, 75% of white Americans don’t have any non-white friends. Put another way, white people’s perception of African Americans and other people of color comes primarily from media representations rather than actual interactions. As such, how communities of color are portrayed in the media – from news and opinion pages to movie and TV screens – is tremendously important. Two newly-published reports reveal how these perceptions are consistently distorted to over-emphasize Black and Latinx criminality, center white people in sympathetic portrayals as either victims or heroes, and overwhelmingly lump immigration coverage in with coverage of crime and violence. In this episode, we discuss the bare statistics of how people of color, immigrants, and the poor are shown in media, why it matters, and the consequences of media makers from newsrooms to Hollywood perpetuating destructive stereotypes. We're joined by some of the people behind these reports, Lucy Odigie-Turley of The Opportunity Agenda and Nicole Rodgers of Family Story. *** The Guests Lucy Odigie-Turley is the Opinion and Media Research Coordinator with The Opportunity Agenda. An experienced communication researcher with training in both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, Lucy conducts and organizes multi-methods research to assess dominant media narratives and public opinion about poverty, immigration, and criminal justice. Nicole Rodgers is the founder and executive director of Family Story, a communications and research organization that elevates stories of diverse families. A strategist with broad expertise in communications, branding, and research in the public interest, Rodgers is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Role Reboot, an online magazine dedicated to storytelling and social critique from a new generation of Americans rethinking “traditional” family, breaking through stereotypes, and bucking expectations about gender roles. *** The Reports Redefining Sanctuary: Analysis of public attitudes and media coverage of sanctuary jurisdictions and related immigration policies Lucy Odigie-Turley | December 2017 | The Opportunity Agenda A Dangerous Distortion of Our Families: Representations of Families, By Race, In News and Opinion Media Dr. Travis L. Dixon | December 2017 | Color Of Change
Episode 20: Lotteryism, Part II -- A Most Dangerous Game: How Sports Are Used to Fleece Public Trusts· Citations Needed
Previously on Citations Needed, we discussed the notion of "Lotteryism," that is, the use of the media by large corporations to obscure solidarity in favor of morality tales of "making it." It's a scam to extract resources from local governments in hopes they can "win" corporate cash, headquarters, facilities, and, of course, the promise of "jobs". Cities around the US and the world debase themselves to compete for the "honor" of hosting the Olympic Games, the World Cup, or just a new sports team - shelling out millions, if not billions, of public funds to build arenas and stadiums that average citizens often can't even afford to set foot in. On this episode we discuss how the media helps sports owners and other corporate forces fleece the public. With guest Dave Zirin, Sports Editor at The Nation. Follow him @EdgeofSports.
Episode 19: Lotteryism Part I -- How a Compliant Press Fuels the Spectacle of 'Winning'· Citations Needed
"Lotteryism" is the use of the media by large corporations to obscure solidarity in favor of morality tales of “making it”. It’s the atomization of parties of mutual interest by lording over them the promise of something greater than what they could achieve if they simply banded together. Lotteryism is an ideology and a PR operation. Lotteryism, above all, renders us politically impotent. Lotteryism is a scam practiced by large corporations in various iterations to extract resources from local governments in hopes they can “win” their money, "jobs", or presence in their city. Cities compete in a race-to-the-bottom to offer billionaire team owners the best tax breaks and enticing perks. Bill Gates uses it to pit state education departments against one another for funding. Corporations like Mercedes-Benz and Amazon use it to get massive tax breaks and sweetheart deals in cities that want their headquarters. Walmart uses it against local governments to skirt minimum wage requirements and crush unions. The media––namely local media––mindlessly go along with these spectacles without any context or critical analysis. How is the Lotteryism scam practiced? Who does it benefit? And, most importantly, how can we fight it? With guest Anne Orchier, an organizer with NOlympics LA. (And stay tuned for Part II, next week, when we'll be joined by Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation.)
Episode 18: Fake News Panic and the Silencing of Dissident Media· Citations Needed
In this episode, we dive into the Fake News hole with Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, New York Times best selling author, and activist Chris Hedges. Since Hillary Clinton's surprise 2016 loss to Donald Trump, there have been thousands of articles, columns, and op-eds lamenting the rise of so-called “fake news” and its pernicious effect on our democracy. The definition of what exactly "fake news" is has never quite been made clear - yet this hasn’t stopped major corporate media outlets and even the U.S. Congress from rushing to curb this uniquely pernicious and dangerous threat. The primary response to this alleged crisis - the creation of a tiered, fact-checking system for social media that effectively bifurcates “real news” and “fake news” - has many in alternative, leftist, and libertarian media claiming the anti-Fake News algorithms made by Twitter, Facebook, and Google have reduced their web traffic and readership. While it’s difficult to gauge the specifics of these individual reports, it does seem clear at this point that dissident media has taken a hit from efforts to stop co-called “fake news.” So what are the origins of this panic and whom does it benefit? How can one protect against obvious bullshit without bestowing the power to arbitrate truth unto a handful of U.S. national security state-aligned corporations and tech giants?
Episode 17: Whitewashing America's Role in Yemen· Citations Needed
Over 15,000 civilians dead and almost a million reported cases of cholera. 17 million people unsure of where their next meal will come from, including 7 million on the brink of starvation. Nearly 3 million people internally displaced. Hunger, disease, and bombs. That's what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have wrought on Yemen. After almost three years of wanton destruction by U.S.-supported Saudi bombing campaigns and, most recently, a total land, air and sea blockade, the vast majority of Americans still haven’t heard much about the dire circumstances facing the people of Yemen. They've heard even less about how the United States is enabling, facilitating, authorizing, aiding and abetting this slaughter. By and large, the media has almost entirely ignored the decimation of Yemen and its civilian population. When it is touched upon, America's central role in the conflict is often omitted, as is––even more inexplicably––Saudi Arabia's. The violence is routinely referred to as a regional "proxy war" between Gulf monarchies and Iran or Sunnis and Shias, rather than a U.S.-backed massacre. On this episode, Adam and Nima, joined by Dr. Sheila Carapico and Dr. Greg Shupak, look back at the media’s coverage of this tragedy, why it let Obama off the hook for it, how the typical “cycle of violence” framing is used to obscure U.S. responsibility, and what can be done to lay blame where it belongs moving forward. With guests Dr. Sheila Carapico and Dr. Greg Shupak.
News Brief: #J20 Trial Update and the Political Definitions of 'Violence'· Citations Needed
In this News Brief Nima and Adam catch up with the latest from the #J20 trial, how the media shaped coverage early in favor of the state, and the racist roots of criminalizing protest. With guest Sam Adler-Bell. “It’s a Police State Mentality” — J20 and the Racist Origins of Criminalizing Protest | Sam Adler-Bell | November 13, 2017 | Mask Magazine http://www.maskmagazine.com/the-organized-issue/struggle/j20-racist-origins-of-criminalizing-protest
Episode 16: Editorial Boards––Protectors of Establishment Ideology· Citations Needed
Editorial boards are the establishment voice from above, handing out decrees of moral and political import behind an anonymous byline. Major papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have an Official Position and it's important that Important People hear the Official Important Position. But of what use is this 19th century artifact? Whose interest does it serve and why does it even still exist? On today's show we attempt to answer these questions and more with guests Janine Jackson and Jim Naureckas of FAIR.org
Episode 15: The Real Estate Page As Colonial Dispatch· Citations Needed
Real Estate sections are mostly breezy, fun profiles of the super rich buying up houses and remodeling the ones they already own. Harmless escapist fun? Maybe. But how we write about real estate reveals casually racist and colonial attitudes that are rarely, if ever, examined. In this episode we talk about why the way we talk about the real estate industry matters and how the white civilizing mission never went away. With guest Aaron Cantú.
Episode 14: The Iran Deal Protection Racket· Citations Needed
We are told time and again from Republicans and nominal liberals alike that Iran desperately wants to acquire nuclear weapons, was "racing toward the bomb" before the implementation of the multilateral Iran Deal - officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and was merely months away from holding the world hostage with a nuclear arsenal before being stopped by diplomacy, aided by "crippling sanctions." The core axioms of this narrative are never really challenged, even by those viewed as progressive on foreign policy. But how correct are these assumptions? Why does the media keep saying Iran has a "nuclear weapons program" when it doesn't? Will the nonstop back and forth over Iran's "nuclear ambitions" ever cease? Using both Nima and Adam's own analyses, we attempt to answer these questions and more as we take a deep dive into the Iran Deal protection racket.
Episode 13: The Always Stumbling US Empire· Citations Needed
"Stumbling", "sliding", "drawn into" war––the media frequently assumes the US is bumbling its way around the world. The idea that the United States operates in “good faith” is taken for granted for most of the American press while war is always portrayed as something that happens to the US, not something it seeks out. On this episode, Adam and Nima explore the media's commitment to the narrative of "United States as reluctant warrior," whose leadership and decision-making always has the "best intentions." We also examine the new Ken Burns and Lynn Novick PBS series on Vietnam which traffics in many of these tropes. With guest Professor Hannah Gurman.
Episode 12: The New Atheists, Celebrity Crusaders For Empire· Citations Needed
Since the mid-2000’s, a specific breed of liberalism has emerged broadly called “New Atheism”. While the movement is hardly a monolith, it has at its core features of liberal chauvinism, anti-"political correctness", “science”, secularism, and a general deference to U.S. foreign policy consensus. It’s biggest champions, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Maajid Nawaz, Bill Maher and the late Christopher Hitchens were and are major features in mainstream discourse–from television shows on HBO to major podcasts to writings featured everywhere from The New York Times to The Guardian to The Daily Beast. For years, however, leftists of all stripes--anti-imperialists, socialists, progressives--have expressed concern over this brand of liberal chauvinism, its outsized place in the media and its ability to turn the U.S., and white Americans in particular, into The Real Victims; its ability to offend the religious while championing boilerplate National Security consensus and imperial wars abroad. It seemed vaguely provocative but who was it really offending? And, more importantly, who was it serving? We discuss with guest Luke Savage.
Episode 11: The Deficits Racket Part II -- Racist Media as Barrier to Govt Spending· Citations Needed
If broad government programs are so popular why don’t we just vote them into existence? One of the primary barriers to democratic socialism--or spending in general--is racist media coverage and racist attitudes about how government programs are administered. In this episode we explore how media-fueled racism and means-tested nickel-and-diming makes radical change that much more difficult. With guests Sean McElwee and Noel Cazenave.