Prostate Foundation Rejects Cash from Reddit Users Feeling Guilty Over Jennifer Lawrence Pics

Alternet - Media Culture - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 11:25pm
“We would never condone raising funds for cancer research in this manner,” foundation says.

A philanthropic group has rejected donations from a fundraising campaign taken up by Reddit users in the wake of their sharing hacked nude photos of celebrities, the Daily Dot reported.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation had reportedly received more than $6,000 from Redditors, as site users are known, who subscribed to a thread connected to the distribution of pictures of actresses like Jennifer Lawrence (pictured above), Mary Elizabeth Winstead and others. “Reddit The Fappening,” as the thread is called, was listed as the foundation’s top fundraiser before the donation was rebuffed.

“We would never condone raising funds for cancer research in this manner,” the foundation said in a statement on its website. “Out of respect for everyone involved and in keeping with our own standards, we are returning all donations that resulted from this post.”

Lawrence contacted authorities after the photos, allegedly hacked from iCloud accounts, began proliferating online. Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday that Apple attributed the thefts to “targeted attacks” and not a breach of iCloud security measures.

Buzzfeed reported that several Reddit users have accused 27-year-old Bryan Hamade of putting the photos online.

Hamade, who works as a “coding specialist” for an Atlanta marketing firm, denied the allegation, saying he posted a screenshot connected to the hacks in an effort to trick users of another forum, 4chan, into giving him Bitcoin believing he had the pictures.

“I am just an idiot who tried to pull one over on 4chan and lost big time and stupidly left this identifying information,” Hamade was quoted as saying. “They took my proof and back traced it — it isn’t remotely true. I am not a hacker. I have no idea how the hell someone could hack into all those accounts.”

Hamade is reportedly seeking an attorney after being harassed online and on the phone by 4chan users, some of whom have allegedly threatened to hack his own websites.

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Categories: Media

Op-Ed: Shameless Fund-Raising: We Need Your Support!

Alternet - Media Culture - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 6:18pm
You can depend on AlterNet to be tough, inspiring, creative, honest, relevant and fair.

The AlterNet team has launched our critical fall campaign to raise $50,000. As a non-profit media source, we depend on our readers' support for our financial health. In exchange we are committed to delivering high-quality, provocative journalism and opinion writing from the best writers available.  

We have avoided bugging you. We haven't asked for help in almost six months. But now is the time. Please support us at the level you are comfortable with. You can depend on AlterNet to be tough, inspiring, creative, honest, relevant and fair. We will provide you with powerful investigations, strong and savvy opinions, and the facts you need in order to make a difference.  Your contribution to us is an investment in our long-term survival as a democracy. We mince no words. The future is dark, the path to change is far from clear. Our hope comes from your dedication and ours, to keep pushing to make this a better world. We are in for the long haul. We hope you are, too.  Our depth, range, diversity of content, passion for the issues, and size of audience means AlterNet sticks out from the crowd. Five million different people visited AlterNet in August. Please invest in one of America's premier progressive news sources. Here is some of what we offer...for free: 
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Chris Christie's Totally Accurate Occupation Faux Pas

FAIR Blog - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 3:13pm
The New York Times reports that Chris Christie is consulting with the likes of Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice to get past a previous foreign policy problem: saying something completely accurate about Israel.
Categories: Media

Does the Public Want More War?

FAIR Blog - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 2:37pm
USA Today's August 29 edition boasted the front-page headline "More Want US to Flex Muscle." The evidence comes from a new Pew poll, so it's worth noting how that data is transformed into a desire for US "muscle-flexing."
Categories: Media

Watch Charles Bowden on DN! "Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields"

Democracy Now! - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 11:59am

Author and investigative reporter Charles Bowden died Saturday at his home in Arizona at the age of 69. Watch one of our most recent interviews with him in April 2010, when he had just published "Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields."

See all of Bowden's interviews on Democracy Now!

Bowden reported extensively for newspapers and magazines, and authored 11 books, many about drug violence in Mexico after the passage of NAFTA. In 1998 he wrote "Juárez: The Laboratory of our Future," with a preface by Noam Chomsky, an afterword by Eduardo Galeano, and graphic images taken by Mexican photographers.

Many journalists admired Bowden's prose and dedication to the craft. Cartoonist Max Cannon told The Tucson Sentinel: "He lived on his own terms to the extreme — he was a master wordsmith, a detective, a poet, a scholar, a gentleman rogue, and a fearless traveler into humanity's darkest places."

The Arizona Republic noted that Bowden's work as a reporter followed his first career as a history professor.

[Bowden] left a position teaching history at the University of Chicago, worked in manual labor for some time, and eventually became a reporter for the now-defunct Tucson Citizen. There he spent years reporting on gruesome crimes before he moved on to other investigative journalism, [writer Barry] Graham said.

"He would actually refer to a book or an article as a song," Graham said. "He taught me to go to some of the ugliest, darkest places in life but not to write a horror story about it. To go where most of us really don't want to go but, essentially, to sing a song about it. To capture the music of what happened."

Categories: Media

The Great Naked Celebrity Leak of 2014 Is Just the Beginning

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 10:26am
There is always curiosity about the bodies of nude celebrity women, and there is always danger in being an 'Other.'

Privacy is a privilege. It is rarely enjoyed by women or transgender men and women, queer people or people of color. When you are an Other, you are always in danger of having your body or some other intimate part of yourself exposed in one way or another. A stranger reaches out and touches a pregnant woman’s belly. A man walking down the street offers an opinion on a woman’s appearance or implores her to smile. A group of teenagers driving by as a person of color walks on a sidewalk shout racial slurs, interrupting their quiet.

For most people, privacy is little more than an illusion, one we create so we can feel less vulnerable as we move through the world, so we can believe some parts of ourselves are sacred and free from uninvited scrutiny. The further away you are from living as a white, heterosexual, middle-class man, the less privacy you enjoy – the more likely your illusions of privacy will be shattered when you least expect it.

For celebrities, privacy is utterly nonexistent. You are asked intrusive questions about your personal life. You can be photographed at any moment. Your family is investigated, photographed or harassed daily – parents, children, sometimes even siblings also losing any semblance of privacy simply because you share the same blood or name. Celebrity is, in some ways, an infection that is only marginally beneficial.

We’re not going to cry for celebrities, of course, not really. When you choose that life, you must sacrifice certain dignities for the privilege of fame, of fortune. For the most part, these intrusions or privacy are all in good fun, fodder for gossip magazines and websites – because ... celebrities, they’re just like us! They go to the grocery store! They drink coffee! They wear sweatpants! Celebrities are just like us until they aren’t, until such intrusion involves the celebrity woman’s body, in intimate poses, splayed across the internet for delectation and debauchery and debate.

On Sunday, a user on 4chan made good on a promise made several days ago and leaked nude and otherwise revealing photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Lea Michele, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Hope Solo and other famous young women. This leak is likely only the beginning. Because there will always be another leak, because there is an insatiable curiosity when it comes to the nude celebrity woman’s body. She puts herself in the public eye and, in turn, we are entitled to see as much of her as we so desire, or so I am sure the justification goes.

It goes without saying that there aren’t many nude photos of men being released. Men are largely free to bare their bodies as they choose without repercussion, unless, as is the case of Dave Franco with Allison Brie and Justin Verlander with Upton, the man happens to be in a picture with a young woman, collateral damage.

It’s not clear what the people who leak these photos hope to achieve beyond financial gain and a moment of notoriety. I suppose such impoverished currency is enough. The why of these questions is hardly relevant. These hackers are not revealing anything the general public does not already know. BREAKING: beneath their clothes, celebrities are naked.

What these people are doing is reminding women that, no matter who they are, they are still women. They are forever vulnerable.

The racy images of these nubile bodies are the biggest story on the internet, and every site that refuses to reprint the images has already left itself absolved while leaving a prurient trail of breadcrumbs. The permanency of such violation is a bitter thing. These leaked images are instantly widely available and they always will be. The images will be downloaded and viewed and shared. These women’s lives and their private choices will be dissected. They are women, so they must be judged.

Revealing nonconsensual nudes of the famous female body is not new. In 1983, Vanessa L Williams was the first black woman crowned as Miss America. She had little time to enjoy her achievement, however, because Penthouse published naked pictures of her, and she was forced to relinquish the crown. Williams has gone on to a successful career in film and television, but her biography will always have this footnote. She will always be reminded of the time someone decided to put her in her place because she had the audacity, as a woman, to rise too far.

Nor is this exploitative exposure of women’s naked bodies an issue that only famous women must deal with. Celebrities are just like us after all. This practice is so pervasive that it even has its own name – revenge porn, nude photos and explicit videos unleashed on the internet, most often by disgruntled ex-lovers. There are websites and online forums dedicated to this pernicious genre. Lives have been, if not ruined, irreparably harmed, because we are a culture that thrives on the hatred of women, of anyone who is Other in some way, of anyone who dares to threaten the status quo.

The Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of 2014 – or perhaps we should call it The Great Celebrity Naked Photo Leak of August 2014, given that this happens so often that there won’t be only one this year – is meant to remind women of their place. Don’t get too high and mighty, ladies. Don’t step out of line. Don’t do anything to upset or disappoint men who feel entitled to your time, bodies, affection or attention. Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against you. You bared body can always be used to shame and humiliate you. Your bared body is at once desired and loathed.

This is what we must remember. Women cannot be sexual in certain ways without consequence. Women cannot pose nude or provocatively, whether for a lover or themselves, without consequence. We are never allowed to forget how the rules are different girls. I suppose we should be grateful for this latest reminder.


    Categories: Media

    Paul Krugman on the Woefully Underreported, Surprisingly Good News About Medicare

    Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 9:14am
    Not that the deficit hawks will listen.

    Remember those scary rising healthcare costs, the ones that historically have risen much faster than G.D.P.?

    They are a thing of the past, Paul Krugman informs us in today's column.  "Health spending has slowed sharply," he writes, "and it’s already well below projections made just a few years ago. The falloff has been especially pronounced in Medicare, which is spending $1,000 less per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office projected just four years ago."

    Wow, this is really great news. Why aren't we hearing more about it? Could it be because the deficit scolds who continue to hold sway in the halls of power don't want us to hear it, and refuse to acknowledge it? Could be, because, as Krugman writes, "a big implication of the Medicare cost miracle is that everything the usual suspects have been saying about fiscal responsibility is wrong."

    And the usual suspects don't like that.

    Per Krugman:

    For years, pundits have accused President Obama of failing to take on entitlement spending. These accusations always involved magical thinking on the politics, assuming that Mr. Obama could somehow get Republicans to negotiate in good faith if only he really wanted to. But they also implicitly dismissed as worthless all the cost-control measures included in the Affordable Care Act. Inside the Beltway, cost control apparently isn’t considered real unless it involves slashing benefits. One pundit went so far as to say, after the Obama administration rejected proposals to raise the eligibility age for Medicare, “America gets the shaft.”

    It turns out, however, that raising the Medicare age would hardly save any money. Meanwhile, Medicare is spending much less than expected, and those Obamacare cost-saving measures are at least part of the story. The conventional wisdom on what is and isn’t serious is completely wrong.

    Of course, this is not the only aspect of the whole healthcare debate that conservatives are being proven wrong about and most of the media are ignoring, according to Krugman.

    Other healthcare stories that you are not hearing about? The supposed savings from running Medicare through for-profit insurance companies. This, Krugman points out, is the way the drug benefits work, "and conservatives love to point out that this benefit has ended up costing much less than projected, which they claim proves that privatization is the way to go."

    Not so fast conservatives. It turns out "the budget office has a new report on this issue, and it finds that privatization had nothing to do with it. Instead, Medicare Part D is costing less than expected partly because enrollment has been low and partly because an absence of new blockbuster drugs has led to an overall slowdown in pharmaceutical spending."

    Finally, there's that whole "sticker shock" bugaboo that opponents of Obamacare kept trying to drum up to scare people off reform. Not happening, Krugman reports."Over all, health insurance premiums seem likely to rise only modestly next year, and they are on track to be flat or even falling in several states, including Connecticut and Arkansas."

    Obama was right that not only that we should, but that we can provide access to healthcare for uninsured Americans, and it's going to be harder and harder to deny as time goes on. And austerity hawks are wrong that Medicare is unsustainable. "It turns out that incremental steps to improve incentives and reduce costs can achieve a lot," Krugman says, commonsensically, "and covering the uninsured isn’t hard at all."

    There you have it: Another conservative economic myth debunked.

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    Categories: Media

    Marketplace Reporter Deeply Confused About Public Ownership

    Alternet - Media Culture - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 5:15pm
    Marketplace is all about private business, not public enterprise.

    David Brancaccio is a solid reporter.  Perhaps the cognitive dissonance of talking about public ownership on a program called Marketplace caused him to go astray.  Nevertheless a few days ago he did his listeners a disservice when he commented on the city of Somerset, Kentucky’s new venture: Selling gasoline directly to city residents.  

    Somerset’s entrepreneurialism got him to explore other municipal enterprises,   “I looked around for some precedents and they are interesting.”

    So far so good.  Tens of thousands of precedents exist of public ownership and they are indeed interesting.  But a listener to Brancaccio could not be faulted for coming away with the impression that public enterprises are few and far between.

    Brancaccio began by observing, “Some cities have long had municipal public utilities. The power company in San Francisco is owned by the city and county, for instance.”

    That’s an oddly understated way to talk about municipal electric companies.  Yes San Francisco owns a power company.  But the Hetch Hetchy’s series of dams were built primarily to provide water and the electricity they generated is delivered only to the public sector.  No sales are made to residences or businesses.  That’s the province of an investor owned utility, PG&E.

    Much more instructive would have been the revelation that more than 2000 cities boast full fledged electric power companies, including big cities like Los Angeles, San Antonio, Austin and Seattle.   Better yet, Brancaccio might have described one or two of the many titanic struggles between plundering private, unresponsive corporations and the people that preceded the creation of these government enterprises. 

    Despite abundant evidence to the contrary Brancaccio insists that public enterprises are the exception.  “More typically however, the response to high prices or other perceived market failures has not been ownership of the retail outlet by a municipality. Instead, the solution is more often local citizens banding together. Heating fuel co-ops are common, in which locals pool resources to get a better price on oil by buying in bulk.”

    Actually heating fuel coops are not at all common.  Only a few dozen exist and many of them are buying clubs, not genuine cooperatives.  On the other hand, more than 100 cities own their own natural gas companies, including Somerset, Kentucky where sales of compressed natural gas for vehicles anticipated the sale of gasoline. 

    Brancaccio might have educated his listeners about the latest wave of public enterprises-- municipal broadband networks. In the last decade over 150 cities laid fiber or cable to every address in town. Another 250 offer Internet access to either businesses or residents. About 1,000 created school or library networks. 

    These municipal networks offer some of the fastest speeds and lowest prices in the country.  And their service is incomparably better than that offered by Comcast and Time Warner, although admittedly that is a very low bar.

    Brancaccio is correct that often citizens band together to create cooperatives when the private sector fails them. But rather than talk about heating fuel coops he could instead have told his listeners about the great resurgence of the nation’s credit unions--7200 with 100 million members, up by 10 million in just the last six years, and $1 trillion in assets. 

    As I said, perhaps Brancaccio felt inhibited in talking about the virtues of public and cooperative ownership under the auspices of the Marketplace. When Marketplace reporters talk about business, listeners can almost always be assured they are referring to private business not public enterprise.  Nevertheless, I hope Brancaccio revisits the issue in future broadcasts and lets people know that cooperative and government enterprises are not on the periphery of the economy but are a successful and growing component of it. 

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    Categories: Media

    Watch The Mainstream Media's Top 3 Biggest Blunders This Week

    Alternet - Media Culture - Sat, 08/30/2014 - 1:45pm
    From spotty Ferguson reporting to Newsweek's Africa panic, corporate media really botched their news coverage.

    On the show this week: On the day of his funeral, the New York Times declared that Michael Brown was "no angel." We look at that and other shoddy reporting from Ferguson. Plus Newsweek spreads farfetched fear about Ebola and African immigrants, and we look at how often union leaders appear on the Sunday chat shows. (Brace yourself.)

    Watch the new episode of FAIR TV below: 


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    Categories: Media

    Stephen Colbert Mocks GOP for Believing ISIS Can Be Defeated With the Power of Make-Believe

    Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 7:13pm
    Colbert mocked conservatives for living in a world of imagination on the subject of the threat posed by ISIS.

    On Thursday night’s episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert mocked conservatives for living in a world of imagination on the subject of the threat posed by ISIS.

    He began by angrily pointing at a photograph of President Barack Obama and saying, “this guy right here needs a hard dose of reality — right, woman who lives in a world of imagination?”

    Colbert then cut to a female Fox News personality, who said, “Can I just make a special request from a magic lamp? Can we get, like, Netanyahu and Putin in for, like, 48 hours as head of the United States? I don’t know, you know, I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right.”

    “Yes,” Colbert responded, “as long as we’re making shit up, as a conservative, my allegiance is to an ever greater imaginary leader — Ronald Reagan. He is the one we should be pretending is stopping this crisis, and Newt Gingrinch agrees. Yesterday, he posted a lengthy fake speech he imagines Reagan would give if he were still around.”

    “And it is exactly what Ronald Reagan would say if he were still alive and somehow still president, serving a ninth term in office at the age of 103,” he continued, before quoting Newt quoting “Reagan”:

    “And if Newt knows exactly how Jefferson felt,” Colbert said, “I’m sure he’ll also write a fictional speech that Jefferson would have given in 1984 when Reagan decided to get our Marines the Hell out of Lebanon. Fake Jefferson would have been just as disappointed in Real Reagan as Fake Reagan is in Real Obama. I can only imagine what Newt will imagine fake Obama will have to say about the Middle East policy of President Blue Ivy.”

    “Nation,” he concluded, “I too can imagine our way to a better world, because I, like Newt Gingrich, believe we can defeat ISIS with the power of make-believe.”

    Watch the entire August 28, 2014 episode of The Colbert Report via Hulu below.


    Categories: Media

    Fox News is Tearing Us Apart: Race Baiting and Divisiveness Hits a Disgusting New Low

    Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 6:52pm
    Night after night, Fox News doubles down on hate. Whether George Zimmerman, Bundy or Ferguson, it just gets worse.

    The continuing right-wing effort to make a hero out of Michael Brown’s killer, Darren Wilson, may not turn out so well, if the past is any guide. Remember Cliven Bundy? Donald Sterling? George Zimmerman?

    Just because liberals don’t like someone doesn’t mean he should automatically be a hero to conservatives.  There was a point when even the National Review seemed to recognize this — editor Rich Lowry once wrote a column titled “Al Sharpton Is Right,” about the need for charges to be filed against George Zimmerman, when Florida officials were dragging their heels.

    But that time is long gone, apparently. And as a result, the right seems well on its way to aligning with the reemergence of a 21st century form of lynching, even while furiously insisting that they are totally post-racial. Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling — the more readily and thoroughly renounced — didn’t kill anyone, of course. But Zimmerman and Wilson both did, and both, to varying degrees, acted under color of law, which is precisely how plain old-fashioned lynching used to work, in a shadow realm that would not have allowed the killing of whites (except, of course, for “race traitors” who allied with blacks).

    It didn’t take long for people to start rallying to Darren Wilson’s defense.  In less than a week, several hundred thousand dollars had been raised on his behalf — with a healthy smattering of hateful racist messages in support, such as “I would have donated double this amount, but you missed his accomplice” — and Fox News had run a flood of false, unsourced stories, claiming that Wilson’s eye socket had been broken, implicitly “proving” that he had been in a heroic struggle for his life.

    It was the overnight creation of what Joan Walsh called “a thriving franchise of the nation’s booming white grievance industry.” In contrast, things moved more slowly when it came to making George Zimmerman a hero. Fox News and most of the rest of the right virtually ignored Trayvon Martin’s killing for months, and even when they suddenly snapped to, it took a while for them to adopt Zimmerman as one of their own. Now, in contrast, it’s all happening at warp speed.

    Two decades ago, the acquittal of the officers who beat up Rodney King touched off the most widespread urban riot in a generation, but there was nothing similar in that coverage to the way that first Zimmerman, and now, apparently, Wilson are being treated as heroic figures. Given the role right-wing media plays in hero creation, it was only natural to turn to Media Matters for some perspective, and senior fellow Eric Boehlert made several points to Salon, to describe how we got here.

    First, Boehlert reminded us, today’s conservative media were unlike anything in existence in 1992; second, that it was Obama’s relatively benign comments that led conservatives to politicize the killing of Trayvon Martin; and third, that conservative media’s 16-month involvement in smearing Trayvon Martin and defending George Zimmerman had created a new narrative niche, which was now readily filled with similar attacks on Michael Brown and defense of Darren Wilson. (Though Boehlert was describing the broad sweep of developments, one Media Matters blog post highlighted Geraldo Rivera’s virtually identical pattern of victim-blaming in both cases.)

    Finally, more broadly, Boehlert noted  that white victimization — and thus rallying around victim/heroes — is the cornerstone of Fox News’ programming, even as it’s embraced the ideology that racism has been eradicated (never mind the actual facts), and concluded that the real racists are those who still talk about race.

    “We have a right-wing media that’s very different from the Clinton era right-wing media, in which, everything has to be partisan,” Boehlert told Salon. If today’s media had been around back then, he said, “The L.A. riots would’ve been depicted as partisan. It would’ve been a left-right thing. The cops would’ve been the good guys no matter what; people — obviously the looters and rioters are separate — but anyone who raised questions about the beating would’ve been agitators, probably would’ve been ACORN or were communists or things like that.”

    Fast forwarding to the Obama era, Boehlert continued, “You’ve got a right-wing media that I think kind of tipped its hand with the Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case. For the first few weeks there was very little coverage, very little passion on Fox News or the right-wing blogs about that story.”  Similar points were made at the time by Judd Legum at Think ProgressSimon Owens at the Moderate Voice, and Boehlert himself at Media Matters.

    “Rich Lowry actually wrote a piece saying Al Sharpton was right, someone should be indicted for that murder,” Boehlert continued — a point we’ll return to in a moment. “Then Obama addressed it, and once Obama enters the conversation about race, you know, they went from zero to a hundred … they decided that the story was partisan, and that supporting Trayvon Martin was the Democratic position, supporting the guy who killed an unarmed teen was the Republican conservative position, and so they set up the markers, and went for  it. And the way they did that was they smeared a dead teenager for 16 months until Zimmerman’s acquittal.”

    To understand the process of shaping the polarized narrative, it’s helpful to go back to the moment before, to Lowry’s Sharpton column. It was an odd mix of name-calling and common sense. Al Sharpton was a “longtime provocateur” and a “perpetually aggrieved, shamelessly exploitative publicity hound,” but like a stopped clock, “he occasionally will be right,” and this is one of those occasions, Lowry argued. Zimmerman, he said, should be arrested and tried:

    We may never know what exactly happened in the altercation. We do know this: Through stupendous errors in judgment, Zimmerman brought about an utterly unnecessary confrontation and then — in the most favorable interpretation of the facts for him — shot Martin when he began to lose a fistfight to him.

    Lowry took note of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, but blithely downplayed the complexities of how it actually works in practice (“It is one of the reasons that the police didn’t press charges against Zimmerman,” he admitted) and invoked its pure-as-the-driven-snow transcendent spirit:

    But the law is not meant to be a warrant for aggressive vigilantism. It was Martin, chased by a stranger who wasn’t an officer of the law, who had more reason to feel threatened and “stand his ground” than Zimmerman.

    The jumbled mix of attitudes displayed in this piece might even be stable in some political environments — but not ours.  As Alex Pareene noted shortly afterward (“Why Rush Limbaugh and the Right Turned On Trayvon Martin“), the same day Lowry’s column appeared everything changed:

    On March 23, two things happened: Buffoon Geraldo Rivera made his infamous remarks on the role Martin’s style of dress played in his death — a dumb point dumbly made — and President Obama told the press: “My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

    It was basically on this day that everything went to hell. The story of an unarmed teenager shot dead while walking home and a police force that decided that didn’t constitute a crime suddenly became a partisan issue with numerous points of contention.

    Just to be clear, what Obama said was “totally innocuous,” as libertarian-leaning commentator Josh Barro noted at the time (“Trayvon Martin and the Right’s Race Problem”). Obama was responding to a press conference question, and Barro saw the right’s reaction as troubling. He cited the examples of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, then said:

    The claim running through these objections is that black Americans cannot have any special concerns in need of airing. Many of the issues raised in the Trayvon Martin case—was Trayvon Martin singled out for suspicion because he was black? Did race influence the Sanford police’s handling of the case? What is the burden of profiling on young black men?—are therefore off limits.

    Barro went on to say that “Conservatives, almost universally, feel like they get a bad rap on race,” that they “catch heat” when they make a wide range of arguments that Barro clearly feels have some merit. But then he said:

    Why do conservatives catch such heat? It’s probably because there is still so much racism on the Right to go alongside valid arguments on issues relating to race and ethnicity. Conservatives so often get unfairly pounded on race because, so often, conservatives get fairly pounded on race.

    And to clarify what he had in mind, Barro went on to the topic of birtherism, about which he concluded:

    Republican rejections of Birtherism tend to focus on the issue being “a distraction,” as RNC Chairman Reince Preibus puts it, rather than pointedly noting that it is a nutty, racist conspiracy theory.

    There has been a clear strategic calculation here among Republican elites. Better to leverage or at least accept the racism of much of the Republican base than try to clean it up.

    Barro still seems to identify as a Republican, so that’s going pretty far. But almost 50 years after Nixon first launched his “Southern Strategy,” it’s a bit late to start worrying. More to the point, given the extent of GOP birtherism, sometimes it feels like if Republican elites cleaned up the racism in their base, they wouldn’t have a base at all.

    Their only recourse is to insist that it’s not really racism, because folks like Al Sharpton and Barack Obama are the “real racists” — you know, folks who notice race and say something about it.

    This was a point made by Kevin Drum the next day (“The Conservative Agenda in the Trayvon Martin Case”). Drum first noted that “A week ago, the worst I could say about right-wing reaction to the Martin case was that conservatives were studiously ignoring it,” but that things had suddenly changed. It wasn’t surprising that conservatives had been silent, he noted, as there was no obvious conservative principle at stake in the shooting of Trayvon Martin:

    There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says neighborhood watch captains should be able to shoot anyone who looks suspicious. There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says local police forces should barely even pretend to investigate the circumstances of a shooting. There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says young black men shouldn’t wear hoodies.

    And yet, he noted “as Dave Weigel points out today, the conservative media is now defending the shooter, George Zimmerman, with an almost messianic zeal,” most notably working itself up into a frenzy over a faked — even debunked — photograph of Trayvon as gangsta. So, clearly there must be some principle at stake, but what is it?  Drum then quotes from an L.A. Times Op-Ed by Jonah Goldberg, explaining that we shouldn’t care about Martin’s death because it was “a statistical outlier” — more blacks are killed by blacks than by any other race.  And this brings Drum an  epiphany:

    Quite so. And that, it turns out, is the conservative principle that’s actually at stake here: convincing us all that traditional racism no longer really exists (just in “pockets,” says Goldberg) and that it’s whites who are the real racial victims in today’s America.

    Alex Pareene’s piece, mentioned above, had a more elaborate analysis, citing four reasons that Martin’s killing had become a left-right issue: 1) Movement conservatism’s denial of racism (corollary: “accusations of racism are the new racism, and said accusations are invariably politically motivated”). 2) President Obama is extremely polarizing. 3) The killing was already political, given the role of Florida’s “stand your ground” law. (“Part of the frantic defense of Zimmerman is an attempt to ensure that liberals never, ever go back to the gun control advocacy they essentially gave up on after the 1990s.”) 4) Racism. The plain ole gut-level kind  (“the sincere belief that if a black kid got shot, he probably had it coming”).

    Of course, you don’t have to dig too deeply into (2) and (3) to find racism there as well. But the story here only begins with recognizing the presence of racism; it’s much more about how racism changes, adapts, morphs, interacts with other issues and concerns, and, in the end, continues the age-old tradition of justifying the extra-legal execution of arbitrary victims “who just happen to be black.”

    An example from now-distant history may be helpful here. During slavery, it was commonly propounded that the whites were both smarter and stronger than blacks. There were even faux concerns that if slavery were abolished, the black race would die out, unable to survive on its own. Once slavery ended, however, things changed. The “happy docile slave stereotype” (there were always multiple variants) was replaced by the predator/rapist, whose purported presence served to justify wave upon wave of lynching epidemics.

    What these examples show is how fluid racist ideologies can be under pressure, and yet still fulfill their same basic function of justifying and naturalizing racially stratified outcomes. The book “Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression” explains how stratified societies maintain themselves with a mixture of hierarchy-enhancing and hierarchy-attenuating ideas, values and “legitimating myths,” which can vary over time, but still continued to produce stratified outcomes provided newer legitimating myths emerge to support hierarchy, as the older ones fall out of favor.

    In America as a whole, perhaps the most useful framework for understanding this process in the so-called post-civil rights era is Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s concept of “colorblind racism,” as explained in his 2003 book, “Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States.” While the idea of a “colorblind” social order was, in the 19th century, a relatively radical, emancipatory idea, more recently the notion has been turned upside down, with the claim that we are already colorblind, except, perhaps, for those who still see racial injustices. The concept of “colorblind racism” neatly captures what’s involved in this shell game.

    “The central component of any dominant racial ideology is its frames or set paths for interpreting information,” Bonilla-Silva explained, and he identified four such frames at the heart of colorblind racism: 1) Abstract Liberalism, using ideas associated with political liberalism (such as “equal opportunity,” the idea that force should not be used to achieve social policy) and economic liberalism (choice, individualism) — in an abstract manner to explain racial matters. 2) Naturalization (“That’s just how things are.”) 3) Cultural Racism (arguments like “Mexicans don’t put much emphasis on education” or “Blacks have too many babies” to explain the condition of minorities.) 4) Minimization of Racism, which simultaneously acknowledges and dismisses persistent racism (“It’s better now than in the past” or “There is discrimination, but there are plenty of jobs out there).

    With this framework as background, it’s not hard to understand the evolution of even more pernicious extremist variants in the right-wing media, which Boehlert sketched out. It began with Andrew Breitbart and his website announcing that “basically racism had been eradicated, and that anyone who talked about the topic was therefore a racist,” especially “civil rights activists and civil libertarians … because by raising questions, or talking about it, or discussing it, they were trying to rip the country apart, because the country is already solved racism.”

    Thus, the allegation is that simply talking about race in America makes you a racist. It is, as Boehlert called it, “a very odd brand of projection” that’s “very weird and complicated,” but that’s where the roles of endless repetition and cognitive closure come in. They naturalize and normalize what would otherwise clearly be both arbitrary and bizarre. After years in development, the result can be quite stunning, as Boehlert went on to note:

    That’s like Glenn [Beck] that went on Fox News and called the president of the United States a racist, because he dared to discuss it in the wake of the Henry Louis Gates arrest in Cambridge. So that’s why he was denounced as having ‘a hatred of white people. Why? Because he talked about race.”

    Of course, the framework of colorblind racism also explains the persistence of racial stereotyping, albeit in a “cultural” framework.  But the right-wing media takes this aspect to extremes as well, which accounts for another, contradictory tendency: the persistence of “increasingly race-baiting rhetoric,” including all manner of things that Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck have been saying about Obama since his inauguration. “This is some of the most rancid, insulting kind of gutter rhetoric you could imagine,” Boehlert said.” But the cone that they’ve tried to protect themselves in is that the other people are the racists. It’s very weird. I guess said, it’s a lot of weird projecting going on.”

    While the development of colorblind racism as Bonila-Silva describes it took place over decades, the nastier variants in the right-wing media developed much more rapidly, spurred on in part by Obama’s election. They have now burst forth in multiple forms, one of which is the automatic demonization of any black victim, and the matching valorization of whoever killed or injured that victim. Of course, the specific details of any given case are not always so accommodating to the pre-determined colorblind racist script. As a result, in the killings of both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, we’ve strikingly similar false claims about both victims, as well as the men who killed them, and some of those claims have persisted quite powerfully, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    While we’ve seen some of those attitudes most brazenly expressed on the Darren Wilson Gofundme site, we see more subtle echoes reflected in statements of support that are carefully crafted to conform to “all-American” norms, such as calls for due process — which Michael Brown, naturally, did not get, and which would not be threatened by treating Wilson like any other murder suspect.

    This reflects a broader phenomenon, the persistent power of misinformation, which an inter-disciplinary collection of researchers has been studying for some years now. Most recently,I wrote about one study of misinformation in the context of three initiatives on Washington state’s 2006 ballot. The issues involved were much less charged than the murder of an unarmed black teenager, but all the better, it occurred to me. It may be easier to anecdotally recognize extremely charged distortions in a rapidly shifting framework of rationalizations (unless you’re a Fox News devotee), but as a matter of scientific methodology, it’s easier to study less-charged distortions in more stable issue areas.

    So, did someone with hands-on experience studying those less-charged distortions see similar issues at play, as I did? I decided to ask Justin Reedy, principle co-author of the Washington state study. “Just anecdotally, I’ve seen some things that support both of the phenomena that we think might be happening with misperception: shoddy information in the media, and spontaneous creation of ‘facts’ or ideas that are in keeping with one’s values,” Reedy told me.

    It’s one of several important open questions in the field just how much distortion wells up from below and how much trickles down from above, and there’s no reason why the proportions should be either similar or stable across different domains, especially in times of dramatic flux, which are particularly challenging to study.  But one can’t help noticing how top-down and bottom-up influences can get jumbled together, as when Fox’s Geraldo Rivera speculates on how white jurors will respond at trial:

    RIVERA: The white jurors will look at that convenience store surveillance tape. They will see Michael Brown menacing that clerk. The white jurors will put themselves in the shoes of that clerk. They’ll say, of course the officer responded the way he did. He was menaced by a 6-foot 4-inch, 300-pound kid, 10 minutes fresh from a strong-armed robbery. The officer was defending himself. The white jurors will put themselves in the white officer’s place. The black jurors will see Michael Brown, despite his flaws, as the surrogate for every black youngster ever shot. [Fox News, "Outnumbered"]

    Rivera is purporting to present a “balanced” picture: what white jurors will see vs. what black jurors will. And it’s quite true that jurors tend to have racially informed perspectives. But what’s not true is that the surveillance tape had anything to do with the shooting, or that it should play any role in the trial. Hence, virtually all of Rivera’s speculation about how white jurors would think is fatally tainted.  On the other hand, the black jurors are presented as intentionally ignoring evidence; “despite his flaws” apparently refers to the surveillance tape, which is legally irrelevant and has no place in a murder trial.  Such is the false balance that Rivera presents. It does not take any sort of leap to view Rivera’s performance as providing instruction and guidance, as well as encouragement, for how white jurors should act, in order to legalize modern-day lynchings.

    After Zimmerman’s acquittal, Boehlert wrote, in a retrospective overview:

    Pledging to uncover the “truth” about the shooting victim and determined to prove definitively that anti-black racism doesn’t exists in America (it’s a political tool used by liberals, Republican press allies insist), many in the right-wing media have dropped any pretense of mourning Martin’s death and set out to show how he probably deserved it.

    He was certainly correct to focus attention on dichotomization (what psychologists call “splitting”), which links Martin’s alleged victim-worthiness with Zimmerman’s innocence, if not heroism. Naturally, the very act of “proving” that Martin had it coming was itself a classic form of racist behavior. The belief that such “proof” would “prove” that racism doesn’t exist is itself only the latest twist in a very old story of how racism rationalizes itself.

    The question now is how much both sides of this dichotomized narrative will be allowed to advance unchallenged, and more important, whether we will be able to bring new narratives into the discussion.  Allowing that old dichotomized narrative to advance means opening the way for a new era of lynching, at the hands of “heroes” like George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson and countless others like them — despite the incredible proliferation of social media and monitoring devices that should, in theory, help empower us with unprecedented knowledge, transparency and capacity for collective action.

    But the tools we have at hand are only as good as the hearts and minds that use them.  And our hearts and minds are only as good as our commitment to learn hard truths from our history, rather than blindly repeat it.


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    Categories: Media

    Washington Post Editorial Page, Meet Noam Chomsky

    FAIR Blog - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 5:31pm
    The Washington Post stands firm against Russian aggression, since Putin has violated an "international norm" that is "uncontroversial." Do those rules apply to the US, though?
    Categories: Media

    FAIR TV: August 29, 2014

    FAIR Blog - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 3:47pm
    On the show this week: On the day of his funeral, the New York Times declared that Michael Brown was "no angel." We look at that and other shoddy reporting from Ferguson. Plus Newsweek spreads farfetched fear about Ebola and African immigrants, and we look at how often union leaders appear on the Sunday chat shows. (Brace yourself.)
    Categories: Media

    Playboy's Shockingly Astute Guide to How to Avoid Harassing Women on the Street

    Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:29pm
    Wait, what? Playboy? Feminist-y?

    Earlier this week, Playboy announced plans to rebrand its Web content in order to get on the “shareability” train, indicating that the site would focus more on safe-for-work lifestyle pieces in addition to its traditional “girl content” (which has since been shrouded by new front-page items such as “Why Do Guys Like MILFs?”). While the transition to SFW content shouldn’t come as much of a surprise (this isn’t the first time Playboy has tried to make its site office-appropriate, after all), one article in particular shows a surprising change of tone. The post, a handy flowchart titled “Should You Catcall Her?,” is sort of … well, it’s sort of feminist.

    The chart explains when it’s acceptable to make explicit or sexually suggestive comments to women on the street. Your thought, reader, might be “Never,” which isn’t necessarily off-base. But Playboy’s answer, shockingly, is a bit more nuanced, and offers a concise lesson in consent. The infographic essentially concludes that yelling at a woman on the street is only acceptable if and when she has said, in no uncertain terms, that she would like to be yelled at on the street — oh, and it has to be a two-way street, so she can yell right back. Unless the woman has said explicitly that it’s OK to be explicit — or unless potential catcallers are interacting with cats instead of human women — Playboy tells readers plainly, “Nope. Don’t do it.” Pretty solid advice.

    There have been plenty of other helpful guides to avoiding street harassment; Playboy’s is not the best. But, considering it was posted on a site that has literally made a joke of consent before, the chart could be a sign that Playboy’s new SFW model is more overtly socially conscious than posts that readers are more likely to keep to themselves.


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    Categories: Media

    Trust the New York Times to Tell You Not to Trust Twitter

    FAIR Blog - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:06pm
    The Newspaper of Record wants you to know that you shouldn't trust Twitter's coverage of Ferguson. But their examples of inaccuracies aren't all that convincing
    Categories: Media

    Why the Grace Shown by James Foley's Parents Is Unfathomable to Me

    Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 1:35pm
    No anger, resentment, nor calls for revenge. They're not even mad at him for going back to Syria.

    I got mad at my son for cutting his finger the other day. He had accidentally broken the lightbulb in a lamp he dropped while loading the car for college, after I told him— specifically—to get a tool to remove the socket, or he would cut himself doing it. He ignored me, tried to remove the socket and cut himself, of course. I was steaming about it for hours. Didn't even feel sorry for him.

    It kills me when my kids don't listen to me. I have so many "I told you so" moments, and let me tell you, those moments give me no pleasure. I don’t handle them very well. I wish my kids would just listen to me in the first place. Haven't they learned that I am almost always right? I also find it impossible to resist telling them I told them so.

    Tonight I heard an interview with James Foley’s mother on NPR. It is hard for me to believe she can even speak right now—yet she not only speaks, she says beautiful things. Foley’s parents have consistently said the most remarkably graceful, lovely things, starting the very day after the video of their son’s beheading in Syria surfaced. They have only said things celebrating him, his spirit, his work, his life, his accomplishments, his bravery, his desire to tell suffering people’s stories. His mother expressed huge gratitude to the released hostage who memorized James' letter to his parents, and was happy to report his state of mind was positive, even in captivity. I am in awe of the Foleys' grace about their murdered son.

    Even though they told him not to go back to Syria.

    His mother let that drop in the interview. The interviewer kind of led her there; it wasn’t like she was dying to say it. She said, “Of course, we didn’t want him to go back to Syria.” He had, after all, already been kidnapped and tortured in Libya for 44 days while documenting Qaddafi’s fall. It was terrible. He made it out, and then, lo and behold, he wanted to go back into another warzone. That must have killed his parents. Imagine the conversations. His mother acknowledged that James had had a privileged upbringing—meaning he had lots of other choices—but said he felt driven to tell the Syrian people’s stories. She was proud of that.

    I have not heard one angry or resentful word from James Foley’s parents. Not one word of anger or blame. Not for Obama or the government for failing to rescue him, no resentment for his fellow hostages who are still alive, some freed, no "why my son, and not someone else’s?" I have not even heard them blame ISIS, for pete’s sake. No calls for vengeance, airstrikes or swift justice.

    It reminds me of my friend Amy*, whose husband Ben* died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Almost made it out. Ran down 111 floors, then got killed by falling building parts. They found his body. Amy has three children, including my daughter’s preschool classmate at the time. I don’t think Amy ever gave a single crap about rooting out Al Qaeda, killing Osama bin Laden, or the war raged in her husband’s name.

    I have seen other instances of exceptional grace shown by mothers whose children have been killed. I once interviewed a mother of a raped and murdered girl who visited her daughter’s rapists and murderers in prison, and came to understand that their lives had been terrible. She forgave them, vowed to help kids like them, started a support group for parents of murdered children, and fights for stricter gun control (ha!).

    I can only imagine that James Foley’s parents achieved their state of grace and acceptance in stages. Foley was taken hostage by ISIS in November 2012. His parents must have run the scenario that he would not make it out alive through their heads over numerous sleepless nights between then and now. They must have practiced letting him go. You have to let your children go—even to their terrible fates.

    Can I learn that? Can I outgrow the "I told you so" phase? 

    Now the Foleys just seem proud of the man their son became. He was someone who wanted to document atrocities and suffering; who helped keep his fellow hostages’ spirits up; who probably made a few mistakes along the way, and didn't always listen. He was someone who, unfortunately, died young, but lived a life of his own choosing. That's what we all want for our children—right?

    *Names changed to protect privacy.

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    Categories: Media

    10 Things to Look For in Ken Burns' Much Anticipated New History of the Roosevelts

    Alternet - Media Culture - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 11:23am
    Will Eleanor Roosevelt's championing of the American worker feature strongly?

    Labor Day is a time to reflect on the state of work and unions in America. It’s also a time to remember our history. Getting that history right is important in terms of the lessons we learn. Ken Burns is about to lead us on another historical journey, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” beginning September 14. This multi-evening, seven disc, hardcover book event weaves together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, “three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics.”

    The Roosevelts were involved in some of the most tumultuous and significant times of the 20th century. No matter how long the PBS special is, it will not be able to include every important issue and activity in their combined histories. The question is whether the American labor movement will be covered at all. The trailers are not promising.

    For Eleanor Roosevelt in particular, any history that is subtitled as “intimate” does not bode well for her: the niece, wife, wounded woman.  We know a lot about her “intimate” life, but far too little about her policy, political, diplomatic, and activist life. Most histories have completely overlooked her significant support for and active involvement with unions.

    On Labor Day 1940, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her syndicated "My Day" newspaper column that for all citizens “Labor Day must be one of the most significant days on our calendar. On this day we should think with pride of the growing place which the worker is taking in this country…That is as it should be in a democracy.”

    As First Lady, a member of a union, the Newspaper Guild, for over 25 years, delegate to the United Nations, and architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes workers’ rights, she thought that individuals taking responsibility and acting collectively to improve their lives and their communities was a model for democracy around the world.

    She wrote over 8,000 syndicated newspaper columns, authored 27 books, wrote an average of 50 articles a year and gave 50 speeches each year. Her letters and meetings were legend as the governor’s wife, as First Lady, and as a political force and world leader in the years after the White House.

    Eleanor Roosevelt learned much about issues and politics from her Uncle Teddy and she worked as part of an effective team with her husband Franklin, though not always in agreement.  She carried her message on labor to the United Nations and around the world after his death. The Labor Day History Challenge is to watch “The Roosevelts,” see if any of the following Eleanor Roosevelt quotes, or related sentiments, are heard or seen in the special, and then report to PBS.

    1. “We should educate public opinion not to profit by labor anywhere unless it was done under decent living conditions.” (1933)

    2. “Many people do not believe in unions…There are only two ways to bring about protection of the workers, however, legislation and unionization.” (1937)

    3. “Everyone who is a worker should join a labor organization.” (1941)

    4. “I do believe that the right to explain the principles lying back of labor unions should be safeguarded, that every workman should be free to listen to the plea of organization without fear of hindrance or of evil circumstances.” (1941)

    5. “[A ban on strikes is] an abrogation of fundamental rights.” (1945)

    6. “[The right to join a union] is an essential element of freedom.” (1948)

    8. “Without organized labor the unorganized groups would slide back quickly to poor conditions, which would hurt the prosperity of the nation.” (1954)

    9. “I am opposed to ‘right to work’ legislation because it does nothing for working people, but instead gives employers the right to exploit labor.” (1959)

    10. “No method of complaint and adjustment can take the place of collective bargaining…teachers have no other recourse but to strike to draw attention to their legitimate complaints.” (1962)

    If none of these quotes or ideas appear then tweet, go on Facebook, or email Ken Burns and PBS and ask, “Where is labor’s part of this story?" If between 1 and 5 quotes or sentiments appear, thank them for at least mentioning workers and their issues. If six to 10 appear, write Ken Burns and PBS and let them know you are using social media to tell family, friends and coworkers about this great show they should all watch. Let them know you will be showing clips at union conventions, local union meetings, in history classes, and labor education programs. Let them know you will be happy to cooperate with a new PBS special on workers and the American labor movement.

    As Mrs. Roosevelt reminded us, “We must remember that this nation is founded to do away with classes and special privilege; that employer and worker have the same interest, which is to see that everyone in this nation has life worth living."

    Happy Labor Day.

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    Categories: Media

    Newsweek's Monkey Meat Ebola Fearmongering

    FAIR Blog - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 5:01pm
    Newsweek's cover story is built around the idea that illegally imported "bushmeat"--what we would call "wild game" if it were being eaten in the United States--could carry the deadly Ebola virus. But is there any evidence that imported meat could actually carry Ebola? On that score, Newsweek comes up empty.
    Categories: Media

    Part 2: Yvonne Ng on the "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video"

    Democracy Now! - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:56pm

    We continue our conversation with Yvonne Ng, senior archivist for WITNESS, a group that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. She has been giving advice for the growing number of people filming protests, human rights violations and police abuse with their smartphones and video cameras — particularly with respect to how to properly preserve such video. She co-authored their resource, "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video."

    Watch Part 1, 'After Police Abuses Caught on Video, a New Guide Teaches How to Best Archive and Distribute Footage'

    AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we continue our conversation on the growing number of people filming police abuse on their smartphones and with video cameras. Yvonne Ng is the senior archivist for WITNESS, which trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. She co-authored their "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video," which is available in English and Spanish and Arabic, after hearing from activists that this was a skill set that they were largely missing.

    Welcome to Democracy Now!

    YVONNE NG: Thank you for having me.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, before we talk about archiving, how people should actually film when they want to document something?

    YVONNE NG: Yeah, so, a few tips that I can share is, well, first of all, be prepared. So bring extra memory cards and extra batteries with you. So, if you're filming an incident and you're afraid that footage might be confiscated from you, you want to swap out those cards and preferably work in pairs or in teams, so you can hand off those cards to somebody else. The second thing is to, when you're filming, document landmarks that are notable or street signs, and this makes it easier for people to verify and identify your video later on. So we've seen this, for example, in Syria, where activists are using mosques as ways to identify where certain undocumented footage is taking place and so that they can map where things are happening.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we've had a bunch of questions coming to us on Facebook about this, one of them from a Byron Windhorst, who asked, "Are there any phone apps that will 'livestream' in real time to a website so people around the world can view what is happening at the very moment one is holding the phone?"

    YVONNE NG: Yeah, so there actually are a number of live-streaming services, and they're all kind of similar. One important thing to note with the live streaming is that often they have options for recording your session or keeping a copy of your session that you can download afterwards. And that's important to do, because you don't want just a copy of your live stream to stay on this site that often you have no control over. You want to have a copy yourself, so that you can preserve it, so that it can be used later, so it can be viewed by more than just the people who happened to be tuning in during that one moment that you were filming.

    AMY GOODMAN: We have another question someone sent in on Facebook from Guari Adelkar, who asked, "What online video/photo portals/apps, that won't strip us of our privacy of course, do you recommend to make an actual difference, both in terms of the number of people who can see it, and to catalyze legal action against injustice?" I'm assuming what this person means is how can it not be traced back to them, but they want to post it.

    YVONNE NG: Well, it's important, with whatever service you choose, to know what information that site makes available to others, whether that's through some kind of back end or whether that's just to the general public. So, YouTube, for example, like, you can—there is a face-blurring tool, so you can blur faces. If you upload videos, you can make private or unlisted videos. But YouTube, there is a lot of data about the video that you can access via, let's say, its API or just, you know, on the interface. So, to protect privacy, you just have to be aware of what the different services expose.

    AMY GOODMAN: And what about editing video? What effect does that have? You go out, and you want to show this, and you want to show that, but all the stuff in between you don't think is important. Will that compromise the video you put up? They'll say, "You changed it."

    YVONNE NG: It's not that if you don't have the original video or that if you've edited, it's not usable at all. But by keeping the original footage unaltered, unedited, in its original format, you're sort of increasing the chances that it can be used, because it can be shown to be authentic. You know, editing a video, people don't know what was taken out and why you took it out. So, you know, it's not that it can't be used, but you want to keep at least a copy of the raw footage, if somebody wants to see it later on.

    AMY GOODMAN: You said actually two copies. You want to keep a copy of the raw footage on two different hard drives or in a computer and give to someone else.

    YVONNE NG: Yeah, and when you edit a video, like you were mentioning before, you're creating a new video, so that original metadata that's part of your original file is not going to be in your new video. So you can share an edited version of the video. Let's say you need, for privacy reasons, to blur someone's face or to take out some sensitive information, but keep a copy of your original.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I'm wondering if you could sort of assess the impact of these citizen videos. It's only been 25 years. I remember when I interviewed the guy who did the Rodney King video back in 1992. He was an Argentinian businessman who just happened to be in his apartment. He had just gotten a video camera as a birthday present the day before. And when he heard the commotion outside his window, he took out the camera from the box, used it for the first time to film the Rodney King video. And now we've had, in 25 years, this explosion of citizen video.

    YVONNE NG: Yeah. And it's interesting. The Rodney King video was actually shot on videotape, which in some ways is actually a lot easier to manage than the digital files that activists are creating now, because with a videotape, you can put it on a shelf for a little while, at least, before you have to digitize it to preserve it. But, you know, the digital files that activists are creating now are fragile, sort of from the moment that they're created. And that's why archiving is relevant now to activists who are shooting video. It's not really just an afterthought.

    But to your question about, you know, what difference archiving videos make, one example that I can give is, the Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga, was on trial at the International Criminal Court. He was the first person that that court was able to sentence. And video was used before and during his trial to prove that he conscripted child soldiers. There was video of him talking to children at military camps. There was footage of him using children as their bodyguards. And so, the crimes that he was convicted of happened from 2002 to 2003. He wasn't arrested until 2006. And then his trial took another six years after that. So, that video had to be available and preserved for at least 10 years to be used in the case. And even beyond that 10 years, you know, now those videos are part of the historical document. They're how we understand what happened. They're part of the official record. So, that is like the impact of these videos. It goes much beyond its sort of initial upload or use to just get that information out there. It really has a long-term value.

    AMY GOODMAN: And then I want to just ask, finally, about your organization, WITNESS. I mean, we just interviewed the head of Amnesty International. They were—Amnesty USA. They were headed to Ferguson, because these international organizations, Human Rights Watch and others, are looking more and more at the United States—

    YVONNE NG: Yeah.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and practices that are going on here. WITNESS, too, is known as an organization that provides video cameras for people around the world to document the abuses of dictators and their militaries.

    YVONNE NG: Yeah.

    AMY GOODMAN: And yet you're working now with people here in the United States.

    YVONNE NG: Yeah. I mean, we work all around the world, and that's where we've learned a lot of the knowledge that we have, that we are able to share in our resources. And one of the important things that we know is that the local communities understand their context best. So the way that we've produced our resources are so that they can be easily downloaded for free, they can be customized to local needs, and they can be republished by local organizations. And we also rely a lot on local expertise. So, you know, rather than producing some resources ourselves, we depend—we point activists to local expertise. For example, the ACLU has great resources on, like, your rights to film during a protest.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Yvonne Ng, for joining us, senior archivist for WITNESS, which trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights, co-author of the "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video." It's available in English, in Spanish, in Arabic. And we'll link to it at our website. I also want to say special thanks to Democracy Now!'s own archivist, Brendan Allen, who first brought the "Activists' Guide to Archiving Video" to our attention. Our records stretch from the early '80s to today and include interviews, oral histories, field recordings and footage of people and histories that often go undocumented. The archives are an integral part of our show. We use material from them almost daily. So, thanks so much, Brendan, and thanks to all of you who make Democracy Now! possible. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

    Categories: Media

    NY Times Vs. Cuomo: A Sign of Ethics on the Rise?

    Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:46pm
    Gov. Andrew Cuomo's team was stunned not to get the 'paper of record's' endorsement.

    This article first appeared in

    Members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team are “stunned” by latest endorsements of his opponent, Fordham University Associate Law Professor and Top Wonk Zephyr Teachout. The New York Times declined to make an endorsement in the race, attributing the unusual decision to the Governor’s “failure on ethics reform” … meanwhile, Teachout has garnered endorsements from the National Organization for Women’s New York chapterSierra Club,the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the New York State Public Employees Federation, and The Nation, who called her “a savvy, trust-busting progressive.”

    The Working Families Party (WFP) had initially tapped Teachout to run against Cuomo in response to the Governor’s interference with an ethics commission and overall lack of adherence to progressive principles. Cuomo might have thought he was in the clear when he eventually secured the WFP endorsement in a backdoor deal in early June; however, a WFP member recently told the Daily Beast: “There is definitely a sense right now of buyer’s remorse” … perhaps that is why Cuomo is refusing to debate his up and coming progressive opponent?

    Is the TEACHOUT challenge a teachable moment for ethically-agnostic politicians? Should Mug Shot Perry and Gov. Bridgegate read the tea leaves and pack in their presidential ambitions? Or is this just a bump in the road for Cuomo? Time will tell…

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    Categories: Media