Jan 18, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 166

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Guest Interview: Felix Biederman (@byyourlogic) discusses his investigative reporting for Deadspin on social media in Saudi Arabia, as well as the broader geopolitical future of the Gulf’s biggest kingdom and the US-Saudi alliance. Produced: Jan 15th, 2017.

Episode 166 (54 min):
AFD 166

Discussion Points:

– For marginalized people, is Silicon Valley tech a liberator from or enforcer of the status quo in Saudi Arabia? Can US consultants really modernize the kingdom?
– What is going on with Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen – and US media coverage of it?
– Would a US alliance with Iran be preferable to the current alliance with Saudi Arabia?
– Is it possible to safely disentangle US-Saudi ties without blowback and catastrophic meltdown?

Articles referenced:

Deadspin: “Your App Isn’t Helping The People Of Saudi Arabia”
Al Jazeera: “Saudi Arabia and the US: More military misfires”
The Globalist: “Does Saudi Arabia Want to Break Up Yemen?”

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Music by friend of the show @StuntBirdArmy.

The fall and possible rise of labor coverage in US media

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Longtime labor reporter Steven Greenhouse (now retired) wrote a piece for The Atlantic earlier this year headlined “Why the Media Started Caring About the American Worker Again,” with some of his reflections on the recent shifts in the media’s coverage of labor issues. Here are a few selected highlights:

I’m still worried about the state and fate of labor coverage—it’s mostly absent on television news, and, as media organizations continue downsizing, it may be one of the first things to go. Nonetheless, I am considerably less concerned than I was eight or so years ago.
[…]
But ever since the Great Recession began in late 2007—thank you, Wall Street—the news media have devoted far more attention to workers. More and more reporters and editors concluded it was important to cover what was happening to workers—how they were being thrown out of their jobs, foreclosed upon, forced into part-time work, strong-armed into accepting wage freezes, relegated to long-term unemployment. The media’s interest in issues like these has remained high long after the recession ended, partly because the downturn opened the eyes of many reporters and editors to the plight of the American worker—and their eyes remain open. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that editors see that these stories often attract a lot of readers.)

Beyond that, three recent movements have helped ensure more coverage of worker issues. Occupy Wall Street pushed the issue of income inequality into the national conversation…

More recently, the Fight for 15 movement has pushed the issue of low-wage work onto center stage…

The other movement that has spurred more coverage of labor is the Republican Party’s offensive against public-sector unions.
[…]
Despite all this, many labor stories remain badly undercovered. To name just a few: how the increasing use of volatile, ever-changing work schedules creates havoc in employees’ lives; the crazy, exhausting, and often dangerous hours that the nation’s truck drivers work…

 

The War on Chronology

Donald Trump’s quote about George W. Bush was literally as simple as “The World Trade Center came down during his reign” — which is a statement of chronological fact, without even making a judgment upon its significance or lack thereof, yet establishment conservatives are furious about that.

This emblematic is what we’re up against on a major scale: People who don’t just have an alternate worldview but an alternate view of chronological reality.

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: So many points of “conventional wisdom” from the political and media establishment in Washington (including both sides of the aisle, but especially conservatives) fall apart when chronology is applied to cause-and-effect claims they make. It’s not just “correlation is not causation” — it’s that they get the order of historical events consistently wrong in drawing broad conclusions about them. Everything becomes of the fault of their opponents (whether on their own side or the other side) by presenting the reaction to something as its historical cause.

Black Life in Retrograde

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The morning the news broke about the massacre in Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal, I was driving. Having been unemployed since early April I’d tried to make my money by ridesharing. I found it difficult and I never was able to make the ends solidly meet, but made more than I would have on unemployment. Like most mornings, I did my best to be awake and alert at five a.m. in order to catch rides to the airport. Like most mornings, I made my own coffee and turned on NPR. These activities always made me feel more in control, more put together, better at adulting. I heard the news shortly before my first ride, and I was numb.

I was so numb, that I drove nearly an hour north from my home while listening to James Blake’s “Retrograde” on repeat. Something about the melancholy music that buzzes with such heavy vibrations hypnotized me. These lyrics sunk into me for an hour:

Is this darkness of the dawn?
And your friends are gone
When you friends won’t come
So show me where you fit
So show me where you fit
I’ll wait, so show me why you’re strong
Ignore everybody else,
We’re alone now
We’re alone now
We’re alone now

 
The song is about finding love, but I clung to the emotion of darkness. I felt like we were truly at war with white supremacy. People are gone and we’re so alone here. If you asked me about that hour, I couldn’t tell you anything. All I remember was feeling cold; totally focused on moving forward with the sky full of blushing peach tones of the rising sun. I felt alert, yet dead, completely hollowed out, filling myself with this song.

I spent the later half of that day and the entire next day inside, crying, on the couch repeatedly asking ‘why’. And: Where are we allowed to be human? Where can we feel safe from slaughter?

I didn’t listen to it again for 11 weeks.

Now it makes me cry. It makes me feel despair. If I can get through a listen without tears I feel strong.

The reaction to the tragic killing of two reporters in Virginia in August truly seared this despair into my being. Read more

Valiant LA Times colonialists reach Black Twitter’s shores

If given a pen and endless amounts of paper and ink (or a computer since I live in 2015), I wouldn’t be able to accurately explain what Black Cool is. It’s ever-changing: a prism that separates into so many different cultures and subcultures. It’s extremely valuable, but the people who make it aren’t considered as valuable. It’s a coveted resource, and it has shaped Pop Culture the world over.

In the age of the internet, Black Cool travels fast. Words that used to take years to become part of the Pop Culture Lexicon now take days. White teenagers and major consumer brands adopt and discard the language like a fad, without regard for its originators or intended use. Black dances, fashion, humor, and much more have all become openly accessible to more than just Black people. That has become both a blessing and a curse.

On the internet, Twitter reigns supreme for disseminating information. The medium is proportionally more popular among People of Color than it is among White people, especially among younger users. Over the past few years more and more attention has been brought to what’s referred to as “Black Twitter.” The way it’s talked about you’d think Black Twitter was one, uniform group, much the way Black people are stereotyped. However Black Twitter itself is a prism, the epicenter of Black Cool on the internet.

And Black Twitter is being stalked.

On July 6th, it was revealed that the L.A. Times hired a reporter to “report on Black Twitter.” The release memo goes on to explain the reporter’s credentials, his schooling and his experience with social media. The memo does not say the exact purpose of having someone report on Black Twitter, other than to “create stories with and pull stories from” the Black Twitter community. Admittedly the L.A. Times could have good intentions, but the way this is being executed is unnerving.

With all of the appropriation that happens on the internet, this seems disingenuous. It almost seems as if the L.A. Times is attempting to mine Black Twitter for headlines. While news media should be looking for stories that affect people of color, and should be hiring people of color to share our stories, hiring one man to cover all of Black Twitter seems sterile. News sites like Buzzfeed — while they too have their issues at times — has multiple Twitter-active Black people on their staff. Those writers organically engage with Black Twitter often and are part of the larger community. Because of this, they have a better idea of when something crosses the line from interesting to exploitative. Also because of this, when they do cross that line or mess up in any way, Black Twitter has an avenue to check them, and many times they listen. It’s not just one person reporting back to a newsroom of disaffected people, it’s genuine, flawed, human interaction.

Black people are people, not animals in a zoo. Black Twitter is not an observatory where you can watch Black people interact in their native habitat, and media needs to stop treating it as such. This attempt to mine Black Cool from Black Twitter, by minimal interaction with it, treats Black people and our culture like a commodity. Black people deserve better representation. We also deserve to have our lives interpreted in as complex a way as our culture is. More than that, we deserve our privacy and the right to keep and protect what we created for ourselves. Our bodies and cultures are not just here for you to study. Sadly, too much of history has involved exactly that. Little wonder that the L.A. Times announcement has been greeted with such skepticism.

"The Colonization of Black Twitter by the Los Angeles Times in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen" (Credit: Bill Humphrey for Arsenal For Democracy.)

“The Colonization of Black Twitter by the Los Angeles Times in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen” (Credit: Bill Humphrey for Arsenal For Democracy.)

When will White violence be addressed?

Last week, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage in all 50 states in the U.S. legal. Right wing and conservative newspapers, websites and news broadcasting companies referred to this as an attack on Christianity. They fumed at the idea of gay marriage, saying it would ruin good Christian values and negatively influence young children. Yet in the weeks since the Emanuel AME church shooting in Charleston, 8 churches and counting have been set on fire, with almost complete media silence. It seems odd that this isn’t also considered an attack on Christianity.

In April, a “riot” broke out in Baltimore after weeks of peaceful protests went unheard. Hours of news footage replayed images of damage to police cars and the burning and looting of a CVS, while news anchors and viewers at home chided those involved. How could those people destroy their own neighborhoods this way ? — was their lament as they ignored the much deeper systemic problems in the city. Yet when 8 churches across the Southern U.S. burned, no one mourns the loss of property.

In Texas, the police were called and harassed teenagers at a pool party because of the perceived threat of their presence. They were accused of general misbehavior and were considered a threat to the other (white) residents there, and a 14-year-old Black girl was slammed to the ground by a police officer. Yet when nine people were murdered during Bible study, their killer was arrested unharmed and treated well.

There’s a very strict yet unspoken code of conduct that Black people have to live by in order to be even considered human and worthy of life in the U.S. That list becomes stricter and stricter with each passing day. It’s inhumane that perceived violence by Black people seems to bother White America more than the actual violence that happens to Black people daily from White people.

Instead of the violence towards us being addressed, we’re told the ways we must act in order for it not to happen. But as the list gets stricter, Black people in the U.S. are still being killed by police, racism, White supremacy and violence at an alarming rate.