I like to catalog evidence of the US government’s criminalization of thought here, in case any of you think I am a crazy conspiracy theorist overstating my case. And it does sound crazy sometimes (though maybe only to those of us raised with white privilege–I suspect it is a lot less crazy sounding to African Americans who may be more used to viewing the US government as an institution of unjust repression).
But it’s undeniable, too. To whit, even Gawker, hardly a bastion of left-wing anything, is posting about the CIA/Bush administration targeting of Juan Cole. And let’s not forgot the ongoing FBI probe in Minneapolis targeting anti-war activists.
It may seem to some of you dear readers that I am overreacting, and that such individuals, if guilty of no wrong doing, will be acquitted and the FBI/CIA will leave them alone. Or, if they have committed illegal protest acts, then they knew the risks they were assuming and should not shrink from facing the penalties.
Here’s the problem with that: the reason the CIA was gathering sensitive personal information on Juan Cole is so that they could find a way to silence his political speech in his personal life. Perhaps an email policy violation at the University of Michigan. Perhaps even just gathering unrelated details that could be used to accuse Juan Cole of a crime down the road in several years.
Think of any movie you’ve seen about the civil rights struggle in the southern US: remember those scenes where the car gets pulled over, and then the cop busts the light bulb, and then takes the cars occupants to jail or worse? FBI and CIA probes are like that. The order in which these events unfold really matters. Searching for unrelated wrongdoing in order to shut up someone’s political speech will probably turn up something that can be used against someone, but that doesn’t mean it was a justified search.
And another point, perhaps to be elaborated in a later post: these governmental probes, infiltrations, investigations are not the exception but the rule.
Today I was confronted with a campaign ad so racist and misogynist that it’s hard for me to find anything else to say about it. There’s little analysis to be done, because if you are confused by why portraying young black men = gangbangers (no room to doubt) yelling “give me your cash bitch” at a white woman legislator, while a faceless female ass shakes in the middle of the screen is racist and misogynist, I don’t know if I can help you understand it.
Here’s the ad on Gawker.
And here’s what Scatterplot had to say about it.
What I guess I can say about it is that the fact that such a thing can be aired in an effort to actually convince someone of something is a truly terrifying statement about politics in the United States. Just like I see from the Republican presidential primary debates, the supposed center is starting to be terrifyingly to the right. One of the few comforts for me in this climate, I guess, is to continue to seek out pockets of autonomy, moments of liberation, and keep seeing “revolution” as a constant everyday process rather than as the end-goal or single event. Because if it wasn’t clear in the 1980s and 1990s, it’s crystal clear now that the United States is not going to see any kind of truly democratic seachange anytime soon, the backlash in Wisconsin notwithstanding. Not if this discourse is the criteria for where votes go…
Let me just start by saying: I am not really a sports fan, and I am definitely not a basketball fan. I know next to nothing about the NBA and am not that interested to learn. However, when I got on the internet this morning the collective schadenfreude at the Miami Heat’s loss was unavoidable. It seemed like every other message on social networking sites was a celebration of the Mavericks’ win, and this from people who were neither from, nor live, anywhere near Texas.
Something about this immediately doesn’t sit right, since almost all of these people are white and they just seem so damn excited to demonize a Black man. Over at the Nation, Dave Zirin wrote a nice post about James’ post-game quote and how it reflects a collective decision to direct anger at an athlete rather than at, say, our politicians. What Zirin doesn’t quite spell out, but what stands out for me, is the fact that people (mostly white people, I’m guessing) seem to have an easier time enforcing moralistic narratives on Black athletes. It’s hard not to feel like James’ choice to join the Heat is not somehow related to the feeling that he should be grateful and humble for the success he’s found, which is a profoundly racialized narrative. The schadenfreude from last night’s game just seems as though people are glad to see James ‘put in his place.’
Meanwhile, over at New Black Man, David Leonard discusses the complexity involved in such situations, illustrating nicely how sports fandom isn’t just about the politics of race, but yet at the same time always is.
Updated to include this link to a post about Ohio’s decision to “honor” the Mavericks for beating Lebron James.
It definitely doesn't look like this.
I followed the trail from this post at Feministing today to Jessica Valenti’s post about pay for activist work. Pretty interesting stuff to think about. Certainly I’m often infuriated at the way that social service work is generally done by young women who are expected to do incredibly draining care work for an income that almost qualifies them for food stamps (no exaggeration there, really). This shows so little respect for the work, for the women who do it, and especially guarantees that the low income communities of color that constitute the client base will continue to receive inconsistent and inexperienced assistance at every agency where they are supposed to be supported. [Mind you, this is an insider critique; I’m not saying young women are incapable, just that a balance of age and experience would generate better service provision as well as less burnt out, more effective social service workers.]
On the other hand, I find myself stopping short of wholeheartedly endorsing Valenti’s points because I’m wary of the entire system of activist superstars. I wonder if it might not be better to work toward eliminating the uppercrust of nationally known activists in favor of building activist capacity more broadly. It seems that Nonnie Ouch is already a kick-ass activist in her own right–why does she need Dan Choi to come inspire her peers?
And someday soon there will have to be a post on money and Marxist alienation.
Just read this Bitch post on Oprah and found myself wondering what a forthright article from Oprah might contain, if she were to write a piece like Roseanne Barr did. I guess it’s all a performance, but I found it fascinating to learn what a clearly defined and intersectional idea of feminism Roseanne has and I’d love to know the same about Oprah. Especially since some of the more appalling/compelling parts of this Newsweek expose are still rolling around in my head… Oprah’s show surely does sometimes revel in a revolting level of materialism and that bit about the gift from her assistant gives one pause.