Episode 38: The Media's Bogus Generation ObsessionCitations Needed add
“Baby Boomers are bloating the social safety net!” “GenXers are changing the nature of work!” “Millennials are killing the housing market!". The media endlessly feeds us stories about how one generation or another is engaging in some collective act of moral failing that, either explicitly or by implication, harms another generation. It’s a widely-mocked cliché at this point, namely the near-constant analyses detailing what Millennials have “killed” or “ruined” lately - everything from Applebee's to diamonds to top sheets to beer to napkins.
The first rule of drama––and by implication, the media––is to create tension. But what if tensions that actually exist in our society, like white supremacy and class conflict, are too unpleasant and dicey to touch––upsetting advertisers and media owners who benefit from these systems? To replace these real tensions in society, the media repeatedly relies on dubious and entirely safe points of conflict, like those between two arbitrary generations. It’s not the rich or racism that’s holding me back--it’s old people running up entitlement spending or lazy youth who don’t want to work!
In this episode we talk about why this media trope isn’t just hacky and cliche, but also subtly racist and reactionary.
We are joined by Adam Conover, host of Adam Ruins Everything on truTV.
Episode 37: Black Lives Matter, Dreamers, and the Problem of 'The Perfect Victim'Citations Needed add
"A pillar of the community"." A straight-A student who dreamed of becoming a doctor". "A loving father"."Here through no fault of their own". "She was hysterical and out of control." "He was no angel."
The press, both local and national, humanizes some victims of state or corporate violence, while demonizing others. Despite good intentions and seemingly without noticing, the media all too often create tiered systems of moral worth by trying to find “the perfect victim.”
The media’s search for the perfect victim, and its corollary desire to smear those with less than perfect pasts, makes humanity conditional, further entrenching negative stereotypes and destructive narratives about entire communities.
In this episode, we dissect the real time auditing of those who die or are deported and how we can expand our moral vocabulary to protect all vulnerable people and populations.
We are joined by both Joel Sati and Charlene Carruthers.
Episode 36: Maplewashing — Looking Behind Canada’s Progressive VeneerCitations Needed add
For decades, Canada has been a go-to point of reference for American progressives as a country the United States can and should strive to be. And while there are many parts about Canadian society that are measurably preferable, leftists in Canada find their country's glossy, socialist paradise image to be overblown and often a barrier to meaningful change.
This episode examines this tension, the reality versus perception, what we can learn from each other, and the common and existential thread we share of white settler-colonialism.
With guests Eriel Tchekwie Deranger of Indigenous Climate Action and writer Luke Savage.
Episode 35: The Total Blackout of the Korean LeftCitations Needed add
When Americans read about the Korean "conflict" in the Western press, the articles are populated almost entirely with Serious Western Talking Heads, weapons contractor-funded think tank "fellows," and former and current U.S. military brass. Who's never consulted, much less heeded, are peace and left activists from the Korean peninsula.
The notion that perma-hostility from the U.S. and arming the South to the teeth is in Korea's best interest -- and is assumed to be popular -- is simply taken for granted by U.S. media. But is this a reflection of the sentiments of most Koreans? What are the forces that oppose nonstop U.S. military occupation and endless war? How come we rarely, if ever, hear from them? And who does this wide spread erasure benefit?
Our guest today is Christine Ahn of Women Cross DMZ.
Episode 34: What the Hell is Wrong with MSNBC?Citations Needed add
MSNBC is by far the most influential mainstream media outlet on the American Left. It sets the tone and defines the boundary for what is acceptable discourse among American liberals. But major issues the Left is generally thought to care about - imperial war, worker strikes, Palestine, climate change - are almost entirely absent from coverage, as the network increasingly looks like a 24-hour Trump-Russia infomercial. What is the point of having a liberal cable news network when it ignores so many major issues on the Left and pushes a narrative that, in the aggregate, does little beyond selling more weapons systems and inflaming US-Russia proxy wars in Syria and Ukraine? How did MSNBC get this way? What are the corporate forces making it so terrible, and is there hope for a more thoughtful, politically relevant network? We are joined, anonymously, by a former MSNBC employee. Transcript: https://medium.com/@CitationsPodcst/episode-34-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-msnbc-5a4538f32ef
Episode 33: Liberals' Obsession with the Phantom Reasonable RepublicanCitations Needed add
The unlikely rise of Trump in the past three years has created a chasm in the Republican party: those who embrace the President’s wild, unorthodox, nativist style and those who––with much posturing and self congratulation––reject his brand of conservatism. The latter group, generally called “NeverTrump” Republicans, occupies a special, protected status in Serious Centrist media––despite representing only 5% of the population.
Major outlets like The Washington Post, The Atlantic and the New York Times employ roughly 20 #NeverTrump conservatives between them; there is no greater affirmative action policy in U.S. media than for anti-Trump conservatives. So long as they reject Trump, #NeverTrump pundits can get away with the most odious points of view – anti-Arab racism, climate change denial, literally suggesting women be hanged en masse for having abortions.
What accounts for this? Where does the institutional obsession with finding a Reasonable Republican come from and why is there such a widespread denial that Donald Trump does, in fact, actually and accurately represent the GOP as it exists today?
We are joined by Slate's Osita Nwanevu.
Episode 32: Attack of the PC College Kids!Citations Needed add
We’ve heard this scare story a million times: A theater group at Wesleyan won’t perform The Vagina Monologues because it’s offensive to trans women! Oberlin is banning classes featuring white authorsI Rich, sheltered college students, increasingly indoctrinated by radical Marxist professors, are asking for safe spaces!
But how much merit is there to the popular trope that college kids are hypersensitive and coddled? Is there really a free speech crisis America’s campuses? What are the origins of this evergreen complaint? Who does the constant harping on the threat of “political correctness” and anti-free speech undergrads actually hurt? And more importantly, whom does it benefit?
Today's guest is David Palumbo-Liu, professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University.
Episode 31: Fake ISIS Plots and the Selling of Forever WarCitations Needed add
We’ve seen the headlines hundreds of times: “ISIS plot foiled”, “ISIS in Brooklyn", “Woman Stopped At Airport on way to join ISIS”. These stories strike fear into the hearts of Americans everywhere, especially in the build up to the war effort against ISIS in Summer 2014. The terror group was everywhere, recruiting our teenagers and attempting to strike in every major city––seemingly all at once. But what do these headlines mean exact? What is an “ISIS plot”? What is the gap between the image the media provides versus the reality of what’s occurring? On this week’s episode we dive into the 17 year-long phenomenon of the US media assisting the government’s war on terror by parroting dubious claims of al Qaeda and ISIS plots when the vast majority of the time––no al Qaeda or ISIS are involved. With guest Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Episode 30: Liberal Media’s Myopic Military WorshipCitations Needed add
Fighting against the far right forces of the Republican Party and their auxiliary white supremacist media makes attempts to appropriate notions of nationalism into a liberal mold a compelling short cut for Democrats looking for easy clapbacks and viral RT’s. The temptation to promote a kinder, gentler, "woke" patriotism is understandable. But what is the collateral damage of this approach? From the justifiably horrified response to mass shootings to the jingoistic worship of all things military, what is the long-term downside of lifting up #VetsForGunControl and retired military brass as a counter to the vulgarity of Trumpism? Can the Left – including liberals – embrace a more holistic and anti-imperialist moral grammar that avoids short cuts and rejects the idea of nationalism altogether? We are joined by Maggie Martin, co-director of About Face.
Episode 29: The Asymptotic ‘Two State Solution’ (Part II)Citations Needed add
The idea that there exists an ongoing effort to achieve a “two-state solution” in Israel and Palestine - often referred to as The Middle East Peace Process™ - is uniformly taken for granted by American media.
This "two-state solution" is always at different stages of viability, yet never quite works out. Presidents fail to achieve it; Palestinian violence makes it "more difficult"; Israeli settlements are "unhelpful" to it. But how honest is this effort? How are nonstop obituaries for a phantom "process" helping to maintain the status quo, or worse? How much does this infinitely regressive effort deliberately mask an ongoing and active policy of ethnic cleansing by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza?
In Part II of this two-part episode, we discuss this "two-state" racket with Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Episode 28: The Asymptotic 'Two State Solution' (Part I)Citations Needed add
The idea that there exists an ongoing effort to achieve a “two-state solution” in Israel and Palestine - often referred to as The Middle East Peace Process™ - is uniformly taken for granted by American media. This "two-state solution" is always at different stages of viability, yet never quite works out. Presidents fail to achieve it; Palestinian violence makes it "more difficult"; Israeli settlements are "unhelpful" to it.
But how honest is this effort? How are nonstop obituaries for a phantom "process" helping to maintain the status quo, or worse? How much does this infinitely regressive effort deliberately mask an ongoing and active policy of ethnic cleansing by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza?
In Part I of this two-part episode, we discuss this "two-state" racket with Professor Noura Erakat.
News Brief: How to Respond to Knee-Jerk Bigotry on Live TVCitations Needed add
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 PseudoscienceCitations Needed add
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-WhistleCitations Needed add
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 add
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 FriedmanCitations Needed add
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 add
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 PornCitations Needed add
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 PastCitations Needed add
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 ColorCitations Needed add
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.
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.
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