The Question of Hierarchy: An Interview with Colin Jenkins | Brenan Daniels
Interview | March 9th, 2017
Social hierarchies still exist because they are a natural extension from the more tangible/structural economic hierarchy. The dominant culture in this type of society needs such social norms. The Marxist theory of base and superstructure is useful in this regard, and I think I get into some of this in the piece. A materialist conception of history tells us that society is constructed on an economic base, or is based on the modes of production, because it is this fundamental arrangement that ultimately determines how people fulfill their basic needs. Everything else builds off of that arrangement.
Gangsters for Capitalism: Why the US Working Class Enlists | Colin Jenkins
Analysis | February 2nd, 2017
Through its reliance on the relationship between labour and capital, fortified by state-enforced protections for private property to facilitate this relationship, capitalism creates a natural dependency on wages for the vast majority. With the removal of 'the commons' during the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the peasantry was transformed into a working-class majority that now must serve as both commodities and tools for those who own the means of production. While those of us born into the working-class majority have little or no choice but to submit to our ritualistic commodification, we are sometimes presented with degrees of options regarding how far we allow capitalists, landlords, corporations, and their politicians to dehumanize us as their tools.
Fake News: It's Ideology, Stupid | David I. Backer
Commentary | February 2nd, 2017
Simply put, this "fake news" thing is just ideology. Plain and simple. And the sooner we integrate this concept into our toolbox for interpreting media, the better. The philosopher Louis Althusser revolutionized how we think about ideology in the 1970s. His definition is the most helpful one in this case. He defines ideology as "imagined relations to real conditions of existence." There's a difference between real conditions and someone or some group's imagined relation to those conditions. Generally speaking, real conditions are extremely complex, while people's imagined relations to that complexity are simplified versions that vindicate their agendas.
Remembering Martin Luther King in the Age of Trump | Jim Burns
Commentary | January 16th, 2017
This year's celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assumes special significance, poignancy, and urgency as we remember King during the same week that Donald Trump assumes the U.S. Presidency. My university, like many other institutions across the United States, paid homage to Dr. King. Yet leaving the commemoration, replete with speeches that praised King's dream, I wondered whether the paradox of celebrating the life of a Black anti-capitalist, anti-war radical juxtaposed with Trump's empty "Make America Great Again" sloganeering was lost on many of those in attendance.
Media Monsters: Militarism, Violence, and Cruelty in Children's Culture | Heidi Tilney Kramer
Commentary | December 20th, 2016
As cartoon images of militarism and prison fill children's heads, the school-to-prison pipeline is active in the schools of poor neighborhoods and those of color mimicking the prison system - and these children have largely been slated for a life in prison or the military. Pushing students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system - often for minor offenses such as getting behind in their homework! - is as disturbing as the JROTC instituting programs on the middle school level as a way of getting especially inner-city, racially targeted recruits.
White, Working-Class America: My Family of Addicts | Susan Anglada Bartley
Commentary | December 7th, 2016
There is a pain that many of us hide, a truth that is hard to bear. It's a pain that starts slow, like a pin-prick, but flames into a fire that burns forever, until we are all consumed. We are a family of addicts. May I speak to you privately, family? White addicts and family members of addicts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and nationwide, especially those who voted for Trump, this is for you. As a fellow family member of multiple heroin addicts, I feel your pain, but family, hate will not heal our broken hearts.
America Is Indefensible: Reflections on Donald Trump and American History | Adrienne Cabouet
Commentary | November 23rd, 2016
American greatness, upheld by Donald Trump in his much derided but now iconic campaign slogan but also by Hillary Clinton in her many unapologetic exhortations of this country's exceptionalism, has always been fueled by atrocities and by the deaths and dehumanization of hundreds of millions of people all over the world. America's foreign and domestic policy is, and has always been, genocide, theft, torture, slavery, and organized campaigns of sexual abuse and rape that have spanned the entire globe.
To Live Among Broken Men: Theorizing Rape and Incest | Danny Shaw
Analysis | July 26th, 2016
On April 9th, Ronald Savage rocked the hip hop world with his testimony about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Zulu Nation founder, Africa Bambaataa. Initially, the Zulu Nation dismissed the allegations "as nothing more than a continuation of the decades long HIP HOP COINTELPRO campaign to discredit and destroy the Universal Zulu Nation." However, as more survivors of Bambaataa's abuse emerged, the momentum shifted. It was clear that Bambaataa had abused children, other leaders had covered up for him and that a thorough investigation and process of healing was necessary. While many people are understandably shocked that sexual abuse could penetrate the inner-most circles of pioneering Zulu Nation, this is also an opportunity for our communities to reflect on just how commonplace sexual abuse, incest, pedophilia and rape is.
Dallas Shooting: Where Peaceful Existence is Impossible, Violence is Inevitable | Frank Castro
Analysis | July 12th, 2016
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Malcolm X famously commented "[President Kennedy] never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon… Chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad." Following the backlash of what many considered Malcolm's callous remarks, the Civil Rights leader clarified his original statement on air by saying the president's assassination was a result of the climate of hate in America, that ultimately it must be a reflection of something deeper. Half a century has passed, and still the significance of Malcolm's words linger not because so many people found them insensitive, but because he touched on the truthful lived experiences of those who have found themselves on the receiving end of United States empire. He was among the few of his time to acknowledge that America, sooner or later, would reap what it sowed.
The Ancestors, Africanism, and Democracy | Nyonsuabeleah Kollue
Analysis | June 22nd, 2016
My mother begins every important discussion with the phrase "the old people used to say", first, for the purpose of showing respect for the ancestors, and second, to give a sense of legitimacy to the knowledge that she intends to pass on to me. However, as I have become older and more in tune with the reality of an African legacy that is equal parts beautiful and gruesome, I've often wondered, why is it that African peoples only seem to incorporate knowledge passed down from our ancestors into the private and domestic aspects of our lives? Why isn't this knowledge applicable to the political and economic structures in independent African countries today?
The Price of Utopia: Abundance & Injustice | Nicholas Partyka
Analysis | June 22nd, 2016
One important value of utopian thinking is that it permits one to think about themselves in relation to society, their place in the social order, to reflect on basic commitments and values of their societies, to consider the proper aims of their society. Few take time to consider the basic structure of the societies they live in, few notice the myriad of inter-connected systems of coordinated behavior, sometimes voluntary sometimes coerced, that create the often seamless appearance of the regularity and orderliness of society.
Lying Down, On the Job: The Ableist, Racist, Classist Underpinnings of 'Laziness' | Lindsey Weedston
Commentary | June 9th, 2016
Hello, I'm a lazy Millennial. In other words, I'm from a generation that has worked more hours for less money than any generation before me, but occasionally I eat a granola bar for breakfast instead of pouring myself a bowl of cereal. According to some, including many writers of online thinkpieces, that's enough to make me "lazy." But the problem isn't me, or young people in general, or any group that's historically been decried for its idleness. Like Millennials, groups that are called "lazy" are often the hardest-working people around. They're just subject to ableism, racism, classism, and other bigotry that codes exploitation or exhaustion as "unwillingness to work."
Pain and Expression: An Interview with Panic Volkuskha | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Interview | June 9th, 2016
Before I ever heard of narrative therapy, I was making comics about the stories that I told about myself and the stories others told about me -- what it was like to be seen as an intelligent, high-achieving student when inside I was incredibly anxious and self-loathing. I was sexually abused at a fairly young age, by a kid my own age, and those memories are pretty fragmented. For awhile, I was plagued by the fact that I couldn't fully remember what happened. So I made a comic about what I did remember, how it made me feel, and how I accepted it as a part of myself, but not as what defined me. It really helped to lessen some of the anxiety and intense emotion surrounding the event; even if I didn't have the full "real" memory, I had my true experience of it.
The Bosses' Utopia: Dystopia and the American Company Town | Nicholas Partyka
Analysis | May 20th, 2016
At many points in American history wealthy capitalists saw it as beneficial to construct planned communities for their workers. These ran the gamut from unsanitary ramshackle slums and ghettoes with little planning or services, to highly elaborate planned communities designed according to the proprietors' ideology of choice, in which even small details were prescribed and regimented. In some of these capitalist-inspired utopian experiments, designed to 'elevate' workers, one can see clear examples of many dystopian themes manifested in real-life. Looking at the experience of company towns one readily discerns significant dystopian elements, e.g. some rather reminiscent of George Orwell's now famous Big Brother. The high-handed, obtrusive, and moralistic scrutiny of private life; the regimentation of work and social life; the uniformity of living standards; strictly imposed and enforced moral codes, are all dystopian elements one can find in the work of the most well-known dystopian writers, e.g. Orwell, Huxley, and Zamyatin.
Art, Race, and Gender: An Interview with Son of Baldwin | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Interview | May 20th, 2016
Comic books are the reason I'm a writer today. My earliest writings were me attempting to create my own superhero stories. Additionally, two superheroes in particular played a major role in the shaping of the very unsophisticated political consciousness of my childhood: Wonder Woman and her black sister, Nubia. Wonder Woman comics were filled with stories that touched on very basic, elementary feminist principles. And with the introduction of Nubia, a very clumsy race awareness was brought to the fore. Both impacted me in ways that I can't fully articulate, but suffice to say, they were my first child-like understandings of identity.
War and Propaganda: An Interview with @Animethinktank | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Interview | May 20th, 2016
I tend to write on subjects I want to understand, but most of all there was an injustice yet incumbent journalism remained silent despite a story full of revelation. At least one publisher should have taken interest because the people involved aren't obscure and Syria remains a hot topic. There indeed was no excuse especially because all the heavy lifting was essentially done with evidence found, counter accusations made, and conspiracy unearthed even down to a written confession. The event is a perfect live case one can study and even interact with to understand exactly how journalism is designed to further real world objectives which is essentially based around population control at home and abroad.
"Why Don't You Just Get a Better Job" and Other Dumb Shit People Say to Low-Income Earners Stuck in Precarious Work | Chloe Ann King
Commentary | April 27th, 2016
For most of my working life I have been stuck in the hospitality industry which is lowly paid, painfully precarious and poorly regulated. In New Zealand, where I live, hospitality employers mostly treat you as nothing more than an easily replaceable unit to turn-over-profit. I have spent over a decade in this industry and as such I have become acutely aware of the fact that no matter how many shifts I work or how many poorly paid jobs I undertake; I will never have enough money to meet rising living costs. Sometimes, my life is a bit depressing. You know what I mean? I get up, I go and work one of my multiple jobs and I come home. Each week I check my bank balance and I feel pretty put-out about how low my pay is as compared to how hard I worked for it.
Capitalism as a Form of Human Sacrifice: The Comedy of Innocence & The Comedy of Guilt | Nicholas Partyka
Analysis | April 13th, 2016
The mention of human sacrifice is likely to conjure a bevy of fantastic notions, images of exotic locales, and perhaps visions of pre-historic peoples dancing around a fire or an altar. For some, the idea may even trigger a visceral disgust. Despite killing untold numbers of persons for heresy or apostasy, the main religions of the Western world reject human sacrifice as a part of their practice of religious worship. The God of Abraham, that little episode with Isaac notwithstanding, does not require the shedding of human blood as a feature of the way He proscribes being worshiped. Many things may still be sacrificed as part of Christian religious practice, but blood, human or animal, is not one.
The Value of Utopia: The American Tradition of Radical Utopianism (Part 1) | Nicholas Partyka
Analysis | February 15th, 2016
For many centuries persons, peoples, and civilizations, have dreamed about what an ideal society (utopia) would look like, and worried about ways in which society could be much worse (dystopia). Utopian dreams and dystopian worries are powerful tools for thinking about what sorts of changes a society should pursue or avoid, and what underlying dynamics these proposed changes expose. This series examines the tradition of utopian and dystopian thought in western culture, beginning with the ancient Greeks, but continuing on into the modern period. Our focus in this series will be on the important social, political, and economic ideas and issues raised in different utopian stories.
Misogynoir in the Stars: Intersectionality and the World of Sci-Fi Films | Sean Posey
Commentary | February 2nd, 2016
Thespian Lupita Nyong'o took Hollywood and the world by storm in 2013 when she skillfully crafted one of the most memorable performances in years in Twelve Years a Slave. This newcomer, a dark-skinned woman with roots in Kenya and Mexico, soon became the darling of the press and the fashion world. (She's twice since appeared on the cover of Vogue.) In 2014, she became only the sixth black actress to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. It soon became obvious, however, that Hollywood could not figure out what to do with Nyong'o. She appeared in a small role in the action film Non-Stop in 2014. But it remained unclear what roles she was up for next-despite having a newly minted Oscar and one of the highest public profiles of any young actor or actress in Hollywood.
Race, the History of Sociology, and the Marginalization of W.E.B. Du Bois: Lessons From Aldon Morris' Book, "The Scholar Denied" | Julian Go
Analysis | January 18th, 2016
If Aldon Morris in The Scholar Denied is right, then everything I learned as a sociology PhD student at the University of Chicago is wrong. Or at least everything that I learned about the history of sociology. At Chicago, my cohort and I were inculcated with the ideology and ideals of Chicago School. We were taught that American sociology originated with the Chicago School. We were taught that sociology as a scientific enterprise, rather than a philosophical one, began with Albion Small and his successors; that The Polish Peasant by W.I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki was the first great piece of American sociological research; and that the systematic study of race relations and urban sociology originated with Robert E. Park and his students.
American Violence in Chicago and Beyond: The Morbid Symptoms of Our Interregnum | Jim Burns
Analysis | December 7th, 2015
On November 24th, Chicago police officer Jason van Dyke was indicted on first-degree murder charges for the public execution of 17 year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014. The same week, the Chicago Police moved to fire police detective Dante Servin for murdering 22 year-old Rekia Boyd in 2012, and on December 1st, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Chicago Police Commissioner Garry McCarthy. Those events have shed even greater light on the systematic racist violence woven through the history of the Chicago Police Department and the city government more broadly. That brutal history includes the Department's complicity in the assassination of Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and fellow Black Panther Party leader Mark Clark in December 1969.
Our Neoliberal Darkness: Catastrophe as a Commodity, Violence as Public Curriculum and Pedagogy | Jim Burns
Analysis | November 24th, 2015
As reports of the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris emerged the evening of November 13, I remember breathing the audible sigh one breathes at hearing news simultaneously shocking and unsurprising. That sigh also expressed a sense of despair in knowing that the West would react with violent hubris to an act of terrorism largely manufactured by the West's own historical violence toward the Middle East, which stretches far further into history than the U.S. response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
A Bayonet is a Weapon with a Worker on Each End: Rethinking Veterans Day | Colin Jenkins
Commentary | November 11th, 2015
In 1885, the Knights of Labor organized a successful strike against Jay Gould's Missouri Pacific Railroad. In response to the strike, Gould famously growled, "I can hire half the working class to kill the other half." Gould was right. In any hierarchical arrangement, where power and wealth become concentrated in the hands of a few, this tactic becomes available to those wielding this power over a vast majority. Among the masses of workers, slaves, and impoverished, there will inevitably be many willing to "police their own" in order to be in the masters' good graces. History is rife with these examples. In ancient Greece, the "most prized" slaves were awarded authority positions over their fellow slaves, sometimes given special status as overseers. Masses of slaves captured or bought from nearby Scythia were transformed into an official police force, known as the Scythian Archers, and were "brought back to Athens to carry out the laws of the state," which basically amounted to controlling and strong-arming the slave population in the city. Naturally, their willingness to brutalize their fellow slaves was rewarded with special privileges.
The Bully's Pulpit: On the Elementary Structure of Domination | David Graeber
Analysis | November 10th, 2015
In late February and early March 1991, during the first Gulf War, U.S. forces bombed, shelled, and otherwise set fire to thousands of young Iraqi men who were trying to flee Kuwait. There were a series of such incidents-the "Highway of Death," "Highway 8," the "Battle of Rumaila"-in which U.S. air power cut off columns of retreating Iraqis and engaged in what the military refers to as a "turkey shoot," where trapped soldiers are simply slaughtered in their vehicles. Images of charred bodies trying desperately to crawl from their trucks became iconic symbols of the war. I have never understood why this mass slaughter of Iraqi men isn't considered a war crime. It's clear that, at the time, the U.S. command feared it might be. President George H.W. Bush quickly announced a temporary cessation of hostilities, and the military has deployed enormous efforts since then to minimize the casualty count, obscure the circumstances, defame the victims ("a bunch of rapists, murderers, and thugs," General Norman Schwarzkopf later insisted), and prevent the most graphic images from appearing on U.S. television. It's rumored that there are videos from cameras mounted on helicopter gunships of panicked Iraqis, which will never be released.
Who Were the Witches?: Patriarchal Terror and the Creation of Capitalism | Alex Knight
History | October 29th, 2015
This Halloween season, there is no book I could recommend more highly than Silvia Federici's brilliant Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (Autonomedia 2004), which tells the dark saga of the Witch Hunt that consumed Europe for more than 200 years. In uncovering this forgotten history, Federici exposes the origins of capitalism in the heightened oppression of workers (represented by Shakespeare's character Caliban), and most strikingly, in the brutal subjugation of women. She also brings to light the enormous and colorful European peasant movements that fought against the injustices of their time, connecting their defeat to the imposition of a new patriarchal order that divided male from female workers. Today, as more and more people question the usefulness of a capitalist system that has thrown the world into crisis, Caliban and the Witch stands out as essential reading for unmasking the shocking violence and inequality that capitalism has relied upon from its very creation.
The Virtual Colosseum: Overcoming Social Media's Dark Side | Frank Castro
Commentary | October 22nd, 2015
At its height, the Roman Colosseum could hold some 50,000 spectators, truly a feat for its era. Even now, millennia after its prime, in a world of mountainous skyscrapers and sprawling stadiums, it remains a sight to behold. But just beyond its billowing arches and columns rests a nasty reminder of human cruelty: an arena atop a sea of imprisoned, sweat-soaked bodies, cut through with blood-rivers of men killing each other for the sound of applause. This is where, for centuries, Romans held gladiatorial games, death matches between competing slaves, so-called criminals, and, at times, 'exotic' wild animals. In the arena, murder became socially acceptable sport. It became entertainment.
Institutionalizing Lone-Wolf Terrorism: How Fascist Organizations Inspire Mass Violence | Shane Burley
Analysis | September 21st, 2015
As Mulugeta Seraw and a friend hopped out of their ride's car, they didn't notice the pack of three skinheads wearing tight Levi's tucked into leather boots, laces tied from toe to ankle. The gang were members of East Side White Pride, affiliated with the larger White Aryan Resistance. Seraw was a student who had come to Portland, Oregon from Ethiopia, likely expecting Portland's long reputation of diversity and liberal values. It has another history, one that is caked in the KKK revival in the Northern USA and would later be marked by white expansion and gentrification. When the three men saw him on the corner of SE 31st and Pine street, a flurry of racial slurs were thrown before they took a baseball bat and caved in his head. This was just one of the many violent attacks that marked the war on the streets of Portland in the 1980s and 90s, where Antifa and anti-racist skinheads went literally up in arms with Volksfront, Hammerskin Nation, and other white pride gangs. The blood was visible on the corner of that street for weeks, and some swear you can still see it at night.
Said the Slingshot to the Bomb | Jeremy Brunger
Commentary | September 21st, 2015
What some called the period beginning at the end of World War II and ending in the early 1990s, at the fall of the Soviet Union-the Cold War-others, with wider-ranging views, called the Atomic Age. Not only was industrial life irrevocably transformed on a scale coincident with the turn from stone to bronze, with its polymers, transistors and transmitters, and space travel, its plastics and its consumables; so was the concept of collective fear which centered on the atom bomb. Einstein once quipped that a war after World War III would be fought with sticks and stones. Theodor Adorno wrote in Negative Dialectics that the march of human history leads from the slingshot, with our warring ways from infancy onward, to the megaton bomb: if there truly was some internal logic guiding the events of history, it was the horseman, one of four, who called himself War. The Bible references these harbingers of doom because nomadic horsemen were the natural enemies of settled agrarian life, of course, and any literal reading of a mythopoetic book fits one for the dunce's cap.
Dylann Roof and the Right: Domestic Terrorism and the Mainstreaming of Extremism | Sean Posey
Analysis | July 21st, 2015
In April 2009, a Department of Homeland Security report leaked to the public entitled "Right Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." Released within months of President Obama's inauguration, it bravely sketched the broad strokes of a nascent white nationalist backlash. Yet the report was pilloried by a variety of pundits on the right. However, the recent mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina-and a rising tide of extremist attacks before it-confirm many of the worst predictions in the report. And as the media dithers, the rhetoric of white nationalism and far-right extremism is once again finding expression in the form of mainstream pundits and even presidential candidates.
Misery's Reply: A Conversation with Chris Hedges on Religion, Poverty, and Crime | Jeremy Brunger
Interview | July 8th, 2015
No, it's not going to change. Because it's owned by large corporations that have a vested interest in perpetuating the tawdry and the fallacious, as well as the cult of self, which is really what Facebook is about. What will happen in the media is what's always happened, and that is that real critics and real journalists who exist on the margins will shame the commercial media at a certain point into doing their jobs. That's what happened with Ramparts in the 1960s. Ramparts never made any money, but Ramparts exposed COINTELPRO and atrocities in Vietnam; so you know that's the dynamic that's always been true within the capitalist democracy, where the media is dependent on the elites for access and money in order to survive.
Eternal Fascism and the Southern Ideology | Jeremy Brunger
Analysis | June 20th, 2015
Umberto Eco's 1995 essay "Ur-Fascism" informally outlines the most striking qualities of fascistic theory and practice. It remains one of the most popular tool-kits for intellectuals in discovering where the barbarity of fascism might once again materialize, for Eco was convinced fascism did not die at the end of the second World War. If there is an "eternal fascism" inherent to Western life, the critical observer must ask: in which groups is it most fostered? Is it limited to bald-headed neo-Nazis manufacturing methamphetamine by moonlight, the poor white lumpenproletariat of godforsaken boondocks, the aged reactionaries of the Mediterranean and the Rhine?
Are Your Choices as a Parent Your Own? | Anna Brix Thomsen
Commentary | May 28th, 2015
This made me curious and I started wondering whether it was all part of a clever marketing scheme? I then began researching the brand Parent's Choice and I discovered that it was a line of products targeting working class families with cheap diapers and baby formula as part of their range. I am not entire sure how this woman got sponsored by Walmart to write the post and the statement, so I decided to investigate Parent's Choice to see if I could find a link between the brand and the initial statement I had seen on Facebook. I did not find any direct links, but instead I found something else entirely, something much darker and sinister than I could have ever imagined.
Sexuality and Kink: Talking BDSM | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Interview | April 2nd, 2015
I think the most common misconception people have about BDSM is that it's like rape, that it's all about the gratification of the sadist who is an evil person randomly forcing the masochist to endure things for their pleasure. In reality, consent is absolutely everything. Perhaps most emblematic of this is the popular trend of a 'safe word.' Some people use an actual word, others use a system of color coding similar to a traffic light. Whatever your choice, if a safe word is used it means "I am uncomfortable, stop." To continue at that point is the ultimate breach of trust in BDSM, and it can signify the end of a relationship. Since the general conception is that the masochist is the one being used by the dominant, it's supremely ironic that such a powerful tool rests mainly in the hands of the submissive.
Art and Self-Care: An Interview with Emm Roy | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Interview | February 20th, 2015
I'm excited about how we experience and relate to the universe. I want to know, feel and experience as much as possible, and it makes it difficult to focus. I'll see something and I'll think it's the best thing ever, but then five seconds later I'll see something else and I'll fall in love with that too, so it's hard to pay attention. It made school difficult for me as a kid. Learning was important to me, but I couldn't pay attention in class, so I didn't do well. My dad wanted to help so he researched a few alternate learning methods. We tried several things until we realized that doodling and cartooning worked for me. I can't learn anything just by sitting still and listening to a teacher, but I can learn by creating and interacting with the information I'm receiving.
From Utoya to Paris: Anatomy of a Double Standard | Darryl Barthe
Analysis | February 12th, 2015
If what a person says is inconsistent with what is understood of that person's character, context and material interest, there is no choice but to render that person's motives suspect. Questioning people's motives is always a daunting proposition, however, and this is particularly true when the people whose motives are called into question are powerful people. No one relishes being called a liar, after all, and this is especially true of liars. Yet, when one is incapable of shaking off the sense that they are being lied to, and when one's better sense tells them that they are being deceived, that one is better off following their intuition rather than playing into a gentlemen's game of "hide and seek," where compunctions against quarrelling prevents the sort of direct confrontation necessary to clear the smoke and cover the mirrors.
American Sniper: The Casualties of War Live Far Beyond the Grave | Frank Castro
Commentary | January 27th, 2015
American Sniper has been in theaters a while now. On the surface it is the story of a Navy SEAL named Chris Kyle, dubbed "The deadliest sniper in American history", and his military exploits throughout the American invasion of Iraq. But beyond the conspicuous lobby for patriotism I saw a window into something else, something that the Joseph Goebbels (read: Clint Eastwood) of America cannot take credit for. I am reminded that not only does war steal the lives of countless people, but it murders the living too - of lives we could have lived. Films like American Sniper highlight that war-idolizing is a weapon of mass destruction, and when wielded on the spiritual and moral fronts of a war for our collective humanity, often the battle rips asunder the relationships we hold most dear. It is a reminder that when the dust settles and the shells are spent, the casualties of war live far beyond the grave.
Charlie Hebdo: Intolerance and Totalitarianism more than Freedom of Expression | Jiwan Kshetry
Commentary | January 27th, 2015
Journalists using their pencils and pens being brutally murdered with Kalashnikovs, can there be anything more despicable than that? To borrow the words of a 'common man,' a bunch of terrorists trying to apply blasphemy law with AK-47 on non-believers, can there be anything more outrageous than that? Should we let some psychopaths decide what limits we should impose on our 'freedom of expression'? All of a sudden, a large number of human beings worldwide are asking these questions to themselves. Mainstream media (MSM) all over the world have multiplied and amplified these questions to such an extent that another cohort of people with ambivalent feelings towards the issue are increasingly feeling guilty for not being as outraged by the French killings as the former cohort and thus not contributing enough to preserve the sanctity of freedom of expression in the world.
Charlie Hebdo and the Hypocrisy of Pencils | Corey Oakley
Commentary | January 15th, 2015
It was Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight who tipped me over the edge. To be fair, he wasn't wholly responsible. If it wasn't for all the lunacy that preceded him, I probably would have dismissed his cartoon as just another Herald Sun atrocity, more a piece of Murdoch-madness to be mocked rather than trigger for outrage. But context is everything. And after days of sanctimonious blather about freedom of speech and the Enlightenment values of Western civilisation, his was one pencil-warfare cartoon too many. The cartoon in question depicts two men - masked and armed Arab terrorists (is there any other kind of Arab?) - with a hail of bomb-like objects raining down on their heads. Only the bombs aren't bombs. They are pens, pencils and quills. Get it? In the face of a medieval ideology that only understands the language of the gun, the West - the heroic, Enlightenment-inspired West - responds by reaffirming its commitment to resist barbarism with the weapons of ideas and freedom of expression.
War by Media and the Triumph of Propaganda | John Pilger
Commentary | December 11th, 2014
Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers? Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what's called the mainstream media is not information, but power? These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war - with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China.
Activism and Ableism: A Discussion with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Interview | November 19th, 2014
Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) are led by disabled people. We welcome all disabled people and non disabled allies to join us. We have an outreach of over 50,000 supporters. We work with lots of other groups, these can be grass root anti-cut groups, identity groups, trade unions-the main aim is equality and human rights for disabled people. But any form of inequality or injustice for any group is wrong and should always be challenged. Since 2010 in the UK we have seen inequality and injustice increase to outrageous levels. This has contributed to an estimated 32 deaths of disabled people per week due to a reorganisation of welfare. The Government call it welfare reform and 'savings', but what we are seeing are cuts that remove even the basic support from people leaving them without food, heat or dignity. This costs lives. We started with a slogan: 'Cuts Kill'. It is heartbreaking to find 4 years down the line that that slogan has become an everyday reality for disabled people.
The Intersection of Poverty and Diet: Why Judging People for Buying Unhealthy Food Is Classist | Wiley Reading
Commentary | October 7th, 2014
As a nation, we're slowly realizing that whole, fresh foods are good for you and that cooking at home can save you money and provide you with better nutrition. Overall, this is a great trend. It's becoming easier and more common to get fresh food, whole foods, local foods, and organic foods. Unfortunately, though, this shift in culture has also begun to produce a toxic byproduct: better-than-thou attitudes and judgments about low-income people's decisions about food. "Why do they waste their money on junk food?" "Why doesn't she cook for her children?" "Ugh, look, he's buying his toddler a Happy Meal." Many of us have thought things like this or heard other people say things like this. We are very concerned with how poor people (or people we assume are poor) spend money on food. The truth is, though, we rarely have all the facts when we judge these people. Let's change that.
Black Parenting and the Flawed Science of "Whoopings" | Shaka Shaw
Commentary | September 17th, 2014
By now, if you've been on social media at all over the past 24 hours, you have seen the latest in what seems like an ongoing series of NFL players being caught in the act of treating their families poorly. Fresh on the heels of the Ray Rice wife-beating incident, we now have the case of Adrian Peterson, who is being charged with child abuse ("reckless or negligent injury to a child") after he allegedly used a "switch" (thin tree branch) to beat his child (some stories state the child is a four-year-old, while others omit this information as not having been released).
Shoulders Back: Combating the Consequences of Gender Stereotypes | Syard Evans
Commentary | September 11th, 2014
She stood, stone-faced, with her shoulders back and her chest held high. Her face was expressionless, and her chin was tucked in tight. This was her "nervous but determined stance." I marveled at how distinctive and developed a "nervous but determined stance" could get in just 11+ years of life. The whispers were occasionally interrupted by blurted shouts, "Look! It's a girl." As if a person possessing female genitalia had not been seen in public in the last three decades. She cut her eyes to me and said, "So stupid," without ever relinquishing the solidity of her stance. She was firmly committed to being there, and nothing some half-pint sized little boy said was going to move her from her steadfastness. As I looked at her, I saw the three-year-old who once told me that she really liked climbing trees, but climbing trees was a "boy" thing. I responded to her then by asking, "What makes something a "boy" thing? If you like it, why can't it be a "you" thing?"