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In the Wake of Abu Akleh’s Murder, Media Continued to Obscure Israeli Violence 

FAIR - 8 hours 1 min ago


On May 13, two days after the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli Occupation Forces, as her loss still dominated international news cycles, thousands of Palestinian mourners gathered to pay tribute to the woman who had given them voice for so long. They came to lay her body to rest.

Twitter (5/13/22)

Immediately, as the funeral procession was just starting, images emerged of Israeli forces attacking the pallbearers as they attempted to carry her coffin across the courtyard from the French hospital in East Jerusalem. One of the first reports came from British-Egyptian correspondent Emir Nader with BBC News investigations, who posted footage and said on Twitter (5/13/22): Horrible scenes as Israeli security forces beat the funeral procession for slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the crowd momentarily lose control of her casket.”

Al Jazeera carried the funeral live on air, and the footage showing the attack was widely shared over social media. One Twitter user (5/13/22) described the video, referring to the IOF, or Israeli Occupation Force:

Everyone switch on to Al Jazeera right now. This is one of the most horrifying things I’ve seen. IOF is attacking mourners carrying Shireen’s body from the hospital right now. They’re using stun grenades and tear gas and charging at them with horses and batons.

The Intercept (5/13/22) noted the footage that unfolded on live television, stunned viewers and only “intensified the outrage over her death.” Video was quickly remixed and shared, and the article linked a 45-second video on Twitter (5/13/22) posted by Rushdi Abualouf, a Palestinian journalist working for the BBC. Described as “the closest video” of the attack, it mixed Arab instrumental music over a slowed version that show helmeted, uniformed riot police singling out pallbearers and smashing bare arms with batons as mourners struggled to keep the casket upright.

The language of obfuscation

Mirroring the euphemism-dominated coverage of Abu Akleh’s killing (FAIR.org, 5/20/22), many of the first corporate press reports employed language that mystified what was happening at the funeral.

MintPressNews editor Alan MacLeod recognized the language of obfuscation, posting a series of news headlines on Twitter (5/13/22) that transformed black-clad Israeli riot squads wantonly beating pallbearers into “clashes.” Referring to an article he wrote for FAIR (12/13/19), MacLeod (5/14/22) observed that the word “clash” is used by media “when they have to report on violence, but desperately want to obscure who the perpetrators are.”

Violence comes from nowhere, it simply erupts: CBS‘s headline (5/13/22) was, “Shireen Abu Akleh Funeral Sees Clashes Between Israeli Forces and Palestinian,” updated later that day to report that “Violence Erupts” at the funeral as Israeli forces “Confront” mourners. The Times of Israel (5/13/22) had “Violence Erupts as Journalist’s Casket Emerges From Jerusalem Hospital.” And the BBC (5/13/22) went with “Shireen Abu Akleh: Violence at Al Jazeera Reporter’s Funeral in Jerusalem.”

CBS News (5/13/22)

CBS‘s language prompted one Twitter user (5/13/22) to wonder about

the best term for lies by omission, untruths couched in deliberately obfuscating language. Perhaps “willfully misleading”? Denial of facts, even gaslighting, given the footage circulating of attacks on pallbearers….

An exception was a report from Jerusalem by Atika Shubert for CNN (5/13/22) headlined, “Video Shows Israeli Police Beating Mourners at Palestinian-American Journalist’s Funeral Procession.” It opened:

Israeli police used batons to beat mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh…. Tear gas was fired by Israeli forces and at least one flash bomb was used.

Mondoweiss (5/13/22) pointed out that the “White House says it ‘regrets the intrusion’ into Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral, but it doesn’t condemn Israeli police actions.”

Repression as retaliatory

Reporting went from bad to worse when the Israeli government issued an official statement claiming that police had to respond to Palestinian violence. Many Western news outlets repeated the claims.

Under an early BBC video (5/13/22), after “clashes broke out” and “violence erupted,” the text read, “Projectiles are seen flying towards the police, who also fired tear gas,” and then, “Israeli police said officers at the scene were pelted with stones and ‘were forced to use riot dispersal means.’”

Intercept (5/13/22)

In a later, longer version, the BBC text (5/13/22) opened with, “Police said they acted after being pelted with stones,” and repeated, “Police said officers ‘were forced to use riot dispersal means.’” The body of the text included on-the-ground reporting that accurately described what happened, only to be followed with more back-and-forth accusations.

The descriptive reporting on the funeral attack and Israeli brutality, followed with patched, confused “balance” between Palestinian and Israeli statements–contention often going back decades–began to characterize coverage. This style of journalism presents repression surrounded in a fog of inevitability, rendering even eyewitness accounts inexplicable, without context or solution.

As many reports repeated Israeli justifications for the attacks, presenting Israeli state repression as retaliatory, the Intercept (5/13/22) refuted the official Israeli version, showing how it fabricated Palestinian violence.

On Twitter (5/13/22), activist Rafael Shimunov explained how the Israeli police account used drone video to “prove” that two of the mourners had thrown rocks at police:

But a comparison of that video to ground-level news footage showed that the police video had been edited to remove the initial police charge and slowed down to make it seem as if a man who just waved his arms in frustration had thrown something at the officers.

Shimunov concluded that the mourner had no stone, his “action was putting his body between them and Shireen Abu Akleh’s casket.” He added: “To be clear, no stone justifies attacking mourners at a funeral of a journalist assassinated by your military.”

‘This isn’t a tussle’

All the media techniques come together on a CBS video posted on Twitter (5/13/22), with overlaid text saying police “clashed” with mourners, and that the “tussling” was so bad they almost dropped the coffin. “Projectiles could be seen flying through the air as Palestinians chanted anti-Israeli slogans,” the network declared.

The response on Twitter was outrage. One user (5/13/22) replied:

This isn’t a tussle or push back. This is an occupying force abusing its power. The sooner @CBSNews calls it how it is, the sooner we can pressure change. Do better.

Another “fixed” the headline, changing “clashes” to “attacking,” and switching Abu Akleh being “killed” to “assassinated.” Another Twitter used said, “These are violent occupiers (who killed journalists prior #ShireenAbuAkleh) invading a funeral… not a ‘tussle.'” Yet another asked:

Oh clashing was it? Clashing? Very interesting choice of words for being attacked by armored thugs during a peaceful memorial for a journalist those armored thugs also murdered.

Another tweeter was “imagining the headline ‘Ukrainians left dead in Bucha after clashes with Russian forces.’”

Posting an unedited video in response to CBS, a user asked: “Why was this clip cut?… to falsify the facts of course.”

Al Jazeera (5/12/22)

In fact, the actual footage was stunning for its clear view of one-sided violence—beginning unmistakably when helmeted Israeli forces stormed the crowd and began to beat pallbearers with batons. The pallbearers stumble and are sometimes ripped from their positions, but they never retaliate. One tries to shield his head with his arm. A man wearing jeans, tennis shoes and a sleeveless shirt kicks at the helmeted, uniformed police, trying to stop them from hitting the pallbearers. Those carrying the coffin do all they can to prevent it from falling, ignoring the blows.

Al Jazeera (5/12/22) interviewed Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, who said that Israel has a track record of creating ambiguity over social media as a strategy to “muddy the waters,” knowing that many press accounts will repeat their claims.

‘Incitement’ or expression?

Explaining the funeral attacks, the Intercept (5/13/22) reported, Israeli police “said they attacked the procession because mourners waved Palestinian flags and chanted nationalist slogans.” 

NPR (5/13/22) also reported, “Police said the crowd at the hospital was chanting ‘nationalist incitement,’ ignored calls to stop and threw stones at police.” It added, citing police, that “the policemen were forced to act.” NPR went on to explain why police raided Shireen’s family home, saying they “went” there “the day she was killed and have shown up at other mourning events in the city to remove Palestinian flags.”

The CBS video (5/13/22) posted on Twitter overlaid with text also read, “Al Jazeera said Israel had warned her brother to limit the size of the funeral and told him no Palestinian flags should be displayed and no slogans chanted.” They followed with, “The network said he neglected to take that guidance given the outpouring of grief and anger over the reporter’s killing.”

Slate (5/22/21)

No comment is made about Israeli repression of Palestinian freedom of expression. “Neglected” and “guidance” are unlikely choices of words from Al Jazeera, given that the network published a scathing piece (5/12/22) slamming Western media coverage for obscuring and denying Israel’s murder of its journalist, calling it a “whitewash.” Al Jazeera has assigned a legal team to refer the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces to the International Criminal Court (Al Jazeera, 5/27/22).

Though CNN journalist Atika Shubert (5/13/22), reporting from the funeral, acknowledged Israeli attacks, she ended by saying that the family was “told not to display the Palestinian flag, that was a special request, but as you can imagine, it’s very difficult to control these crowds,” and the flags were flying. The “request” was a raid on Abu Akleh’s family home, where flags were forcibly removed. Restrictions on flying the Palestinian flag are normalized within these stories, not exposed as violations of human rights and freedom of expression.

When US media routinely repeat without comment Israeli “reasons” for “clamping down” on any display of support for Palestinian statehood, or that Palestinians were “chanting nationalistic slogans,” amounting to “incitement,” they condone the repression of Palestinian rights, which would cause other countries to be called dictatorships, or at least authoritarian regimes. Yet Israel is still listed as a democracy. As Nolan Higdon (5/28/22) pointed out, “You Can Kill and Censor Journalists or You Can have Democracy—You Can’t Have Both!” Such attitudes toward Israeli repression of Palestinian expression are a major contradiction by US media institutions, which themselves enjoy press freedoms and should be able to recognize when those freedoms are being violated.

Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian American and Columbia University professor, told FAIR that US media are “terrified of being attacked if they don’t repeat the Israeli versions of events. They live in constant fear. This happens on the ground, and during editing.” These practices were confirmed in an article published in Slate (5/22/21) last year, when a journalist admitted having trouble “reporting the truth” from Gaza.

‘System of domination’

There are rules for occupying forces articulated by the International Committee of the Red Cross on Occupation and International Humanitarian Law (4/8/04); these prohibit the collective punishment of occupied peoples. Violent repression of nationalist slogans and the Palestinian flag violates the International Declaration of Human Rights, rights which are established for those living under occupation.

Twitter (5/13/22)

Writing for Common Dreams (5/23/22), the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis and Princeton’s Richard Falk noted that Israeli forces “threw Palestinian flags to the ground and violently beat mourners—including the pallbearers.” They placed the attacks into a context of “the structural nature of Israeli violence against Palestinians,” citing an Amnesty International report on Israeli violence in the Occupied Territories characterizing it as a “Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity.”

The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and the supposedly defensive attacks on mourners are part of a “pattern of repression…far more pervasive,” and in fact codified in the country’s Law of 2018, which grants only Jewish citizens the right of self-determination. Along with Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and B’tselem, Bennis and Falk concluded that this “constitutes the crime of apartheid.”

This point was made visually online by Tony Karon (Twitter, 5/13/22) , a lead editorial writer at Al Jazeera, who set pictures of South African apartheid next to Israeli attacks on the funeral with the text:

African police in ‘87 attacking the coffin of Ashley Kriel to seize the ANC flag that draped it: Israeli police attacked the coffin of #ShireenAbuAkleh today, trying to seize Palestinian flags. Apartheid regimes waging war on their victims, even after death.

US responsibility 

For decades, the United States has unconditionally provided Israel with “political, diplomatic, economic and military support,” Bennis and Falk wrote. Military subsidies alone amount to about $3.8 billion every year, “most of it used to purchase US-made weapons systems, ammunition and more. This makes the US complicit in Israel’s criminal wrongdoing.”

With 20% of Israeli’s military budget supplied by the US, “the bullet or the gun used to kill Shireen could have even been purchased from US weapons manufacturers with our own money.” The use of US military aid for repression is a violation of US law:

CNN (5/26/22)

The Leahy Law’s restriction on military aid is unequivocal: “No assistance shall be furnished,” it says, “to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

To date, there have been six investigations into the killing of Abu Akleh, all that find conclusive evidence that the journalist was killed by Israeli Forces. “A reconstruction by the Associated Press lends support to assertions” from both the Palestinian Authority and Abu Akleh’s colleagues, the news service (5/24/22) reported, “that the bullet that cut her down came from an Israeli gun.” CNN (5/26/22) explained, “There were no armed clashes in the vicinity,” and the text over a map reads, “Footage from the scene showed a direct line of sight towards the Israeli convoy.”

Demanding the fatal bullet

Much has been made of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, and the Israeli demands that it must be turned over to them (New York Times, 5/12/22). This offers a last talking point for Israeli’s claim that Palestinian fighters are responsible for shooting her.

Committee to Protect Journalists (5/26/22)

For example, when Reuters (5/26/22) reported on the investigations into her killing, it added Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s response on Twitter (5/26/22): “Any claim that the IDF intentionally harms journalists or uninvolved civilians is a blatant lie.” Reuters also included his demand that the Palestinian Authority hand over the bullet for ballistic tests to see if it matched an Israeli military gun.

Palestinian tests, noted by Reuters (5/27/22), have determined that the bullet that killed Abu Akleh “was a 5.56 mm round fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle, which is used by the Israeli military.” But Reuters followed that with the Defense minister’s claim that the “same 5.56 caliber can also be fired from M-16 rifles that are carried by many Palestinian militants,” adding: “Al-Khatib did not say how he was sure it had come from an Israeli rifle.”

As Khalidi pointed out, “Anything the Israelis say, even about an investigation, will be repeated, you will still get the Israeli version—that in the name of balance.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (5/26/22) cited the numerous reports, including the findings of the Dutch-based Bellingcat Investigative Team, confirming Israeli culpability, and joined 33 other press freedom and human rights groups calling for an independent investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing.

‘The world knows very little’

Yet on June 3, 2022, the New York Times’ editorial board wrote, “The world still knows very little about who is responsible for her death.” The wordy piece repeated every Israeli talking point, including the justification of the funeral attack, saying Israeli police “appeared to want to prevent” the funeral from becoming a “nationalist rally,” and said the officers had acted against a mob “in violation of a previously approved plan.” In other words, pallbearers and mourners were attacked for expressing political opinions and allowing Palestinian society to participate in the burial of Abu Akleh.

The Middle East Eye (6/8/22) reported that when Abby Martin, host of the Empire Files, confronted Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, she asked why there has been “absolutely no repercussions” for Israel over Abu Akleh’s killing. Blinken responded that the facts had “not been established” in the killing of the veteran Al Jazeera journalist, yet no independent investigation has been started.

Twitter (6/7/22)

Washington Post reporters (6/12/22) reviewed the audio, video, social media and witness testimony of Abu Akleh’s killing, and confirmed that an Israeli soldier likely shot and killed her. Mondoweiss (6/12/22) reported the findings, expressing hope that the report would “add pressure on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to actually demand an independent investigation and accountability.”

Yet even though the Post’s editorial board (6/13/22) referred its its own reporter’s investigation as “impressive,” it still called on the Palestinian Authority to agree to a joint investigation with Israel, with US participation. In what amounts to an attempt to control the narrative about Abu Akleh’s killing, the Post editorial cited “emotional” reasons for refusing to back calls for an international investigation, saying, “We’re skeptical such an impartial inquiry is possible given the high emotions, and low trust, that permeate global discussion of the Middle East.”

On June 14, 2022, journalist Dalia Hatuqa, who covers Israeli/Palestinian affairs, told Slate’s Mary Harris (6/14/22) that Blinken had promised Shireen’s famliy that there would be a full investigation, then she continued: “But honestly, nothing’s happened. It’s been a month. It’s not that hard: There’s footage, eyewitnesses, all kinds of stuff. This isn’t a mystery.”

The post In the Wake of Abu Akleh’s Murder, Media Continued to Obscure Israeli Violence  appeared first on FAIR.

Dave Zirin on Football Prayer Ruling, Howard Bryant on Black Athletes & Social Change

FAIR - July 1, 2022 - 11:24am


Coach Joseph Kennedy’s “private, personal prayer” (photo: Sotomayor dissent).

This week on CounterSpin: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion on Kennedy v. Bremerton that “the Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.” The case was about whether there was a problem with a Washington state assistant football coach leading prayers—Christian prayers, lest you be confused—in the locker room before games and on the field. The Supreme Court that we have today, for reasons, determined that Kennedy was protected in his right to express his personal religious beliefs—by dropping a knee, on the 50-yard line of a public school playing field, and calling on players to join him—and that they presented no harm to anyone, or to the nominal separation of church and state.

It’s another Supreme Court ruling that bases itself in a reality that doesn’t exist. This ruling in particular irritates meaningfully, because of course we know that “taking a knee” is the sort of gesture that is either a fresh wind of free expression, or a horrible affront to the values we hold dear, depending on who does it.

So we’ll hear today from Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation and author of many books, including, most recently, The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World.

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Paul Robeson

And we’ll get a little corrective background for corporate media’s current conversation, about the voices of athletes or performers who are mainly told to “shut up and sing,” and their actual historical role in social change, from journalist and author Howard Bryant.  CounterSpin talked with him in June 2018, and we hear part of that conversation this week.

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Plus Janine Jackson takes a quick look back at coverage of Supreme Court nominees.

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The post Dave Zirin on Football Prayer Ruling, Howard Bryant on Black Athletes & Social Change appeared first on FAIR.

Mass Shooters’ Most Common Trait—Their Gender—Gets Little Press Attention

FAIR - June 30, 2022 - 6:10pm


There were a few things the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shooters who killed a combined 31 people had in common: Both used AR-15-style rifles bought legally. Both were just 18 years old. But perhaps most overlooked in the corporate press as a shared characteristic worthy of commentary: They were both male.

Scholars, activists and even healthcare professionals have long highlighted the gendered nature of mass violence. Since 1982, of 129 mass shootings that killed four or more people, men or boys were perpetrators in 126 of them (Statista, 6/2/22).

Toxic masculinity

Newsweek (5/28/14): “Misogyny—and the sense of entitlement that comes with it—kills.”

The concept of toxic masculinity originated in the pro-feminist men’s movement of the 1980s, and argues that hegemonic ideals of masculinity that promote emotional repression, violence and power are deeply harmful, not only to society at large, but to men themselves (American Psychiatric Association, 9/18).

There’s also a significant connection between mass shootings and other types of misogynistic violence and ideology: Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen allegedly emotionally, financially and physically abused his wife prior to the 2016 massacre (Rolling Stone, 6/13/16). Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza had a Word document on his computer explaining “why females are inherently selfish” (New Yorker, 3/10/14). University of California shooter Elliot Rodger posted a YouTube video in which he ranted about women not being attracted to him and swore to seek revenge (BBC, 4/26/18). Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho allegedly stalked and harassed two students leading up to the massacre (Newsweek, 5/28/14). Nova Scotia shooter Gabriel Wortman allegedly restrained and beat his partner leading up to—and just hours before—the shooting (Business Insider, 5/16/20). This list is far from exhaustive.

A 2021 study (Injury Epidemiology, 5/21/21) found that in 68% of mass shootings that injured or killed four or more people between 2014–19, the perpetrator either killed at least one partner or family member or had a history of domestic violence.

A 2013 essay by Jackson Katz published in the pro-feminist men’s activist journal Voice Male (Winter/13) argued that news media have repeatedly failed to identify maleness as one of the greatest predictive factors of mass violence. After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the press rushed to blame jihadism and Islamic radicalism, but overlooked

the ideology of a certain type of manhood that links acts of violence to masculine identity. It is the idea that committing an act of violence—whether the precipitating rationale is personal, religious or political—is a legitimate means to assert and prove one’s manhood.

Between the Buffalo shooting on May 14 and June 9, more than two weeks after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, US newspapers published more than 20,000 articles discussing one or both shootings, according to a search of the Nexis database and the website of the Washington Post (which is not in the Nexis database). But of those thousands of articles, FAIR found only 37 unique pieces that made links to toxic masculinity, misogyny, or differences in socialization of boys and girls. Seven were syndicated columns reprinted in multiple outlets, bringing the total times such pieces appeared to 51.

‘Differences in socialization’

The fact that nine of the nine deadliest mass shootings since 2018 were committed by males is apparently a less disturbing pattern to the New York Times (6/2/22).

Only eight of those 51 total pieces were published in the news sections of newspapers; the rest were in the opinion sections. Four of the mentions of masculinity or misogyny in news articles (USA Today, 5/25/22, 5/25/22, 5/26/22; New York Observer, 5/25/22) referenced the successful lawsuit brought by the families of the Sandy Hook victims against Remington, the producer of the semi-automatic rifle used in the assault, which ran ads targeting young men and suggesting the weapon granted them their “man card.”

A front-page New York Times article (6/2/22) sought to investigate why so many mass shooters tend to be young, largely downplaying the question of gender and masculinity, but did quote Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine pediatrics professor Sara Johnson, who pointed out “major differences in socialization for males and females related to aggressive behavior, appropriate ways to seek support, how to display emotions and acceptability of firearm use.”

Notably, the Washington Post referenced misogyny and/or masculinity in three news articles (5/15/22, 5/28/22, 6/3/22)—more than any other paper in our search—and embedded a 2019 Post mini-documentary on American masculinity and gun culture in another (5/24/22), which otherwise did not mention the topic.

In its June 3 news article, the Post described the trend of young men committing acts of gun violence, chalking it up mainly to age and lack of brain development, but also cited a study that noted the role male socialization plays:

Peter Langman, a psychologist who researches school shootings, noted in the Journal of Campus Behavioral Intervention that “the sense of damaged masculinity is common to many shooters and often involves failures and inadequacies.”

The reporters also quoted Eric Madfis, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Washington at Tacoma, who said, “We teach boys and men that the only socially acceptable emotion to have is not to be vulnerable and sensitive, but to be tough and macho and aggressive.”

The other two Washington Post articles covered the Uvalde shooter’s history of threatening teen girls online (5/28/22), and a post by the Buffalo shooter using misogynist slurs to complain about New York’s gun laws (5/15/22).

‘Confronting misogyny’

 Leah Binkovitz (Houston Chronicle, 6/7/22): “Misogyny intertwines and cross-pollinates with a range of extreme ideologies, from white supremacy to anti-Jewish hate, because of the way they appeal to a retrenchment of supposedly threatened identities.”

In opinion sections, most mentions of the gendered nature of mass shootings came in columns or op-eds (35), with an additional eight mentions in editorials.

While most of the opinion pieces (72%) agreed that toxic masculinity and misogyny contribute to mass violence, it was seldom more than a fleeting mention. Out of these 31 opinion pieces that viewed these as factors, only eight (26%) centered their arguments on it. The majority tended to focus on other issues, mentioning pathologies related to masculinity in passing.

“The motives and reasons for mass shootings are varied: disputes, racism, misogyny, festering grievances, work-related issues, mental illness,” wrote Thomas Gabor in a column that focused on the need for stricter gun laws and background checks (Gainesville Sun, 5/29/22; Palm Beach Post, 5/31/22). An op-ed by Rich Elfers (Enumclaw Courier-Herald, 6/8/22; Quincy Valley Post Register, 6/8/22) suggested “de-glamoriz[ing] guns as a symbol of masculinity and coolness” as one way to prevent mass shootings.

In one of the more pointed columns drawing attention to the role of misogyny in mass shootings, Leah Binkovitz (Houston Chronicle, 6/7/22) wrote:

The connection between mass shooters, who are overwhelmingly men, and domestic violence, sexual harassment and misogyny has been made again and again and again. And yet it remains, by and large, a muted part of our response and soul-searching each time. Confronting the full scope of gun violence, however, has to include confronting misogyny.

Two papers (Eagle Times, 5/24/22; Columbian, 5/26/22) published a column by activist Rob Okun, urging Americans to stop ignoring “how these murderous men were socialized as boys and men” and recognize that Buffalo, like countless other mass shootings, was not only racist but also “an affirmation of male supremacy.”

‘Womanish wimps’

Cynthia Allen (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6/4/22): “Our decades of eschewing gender roles and their associated characteristics in pursuit of equality have had some undesirable effects.”

To compare, all 12 of the opinion pieces arguing against the idea that toxic masculinity leads to mass shootings made it their central argument.

The most-reprinted column, by conservative Tribune News Services columnist Jay Ambrose, appeared in seven different papers, including the Boston Herald (6/1/22) and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (6/2/22). It attributed teen mass shooters’ behavior to “raggedy families,” arguing that “a missing father can mean missing lessons in masculinity for the boy,” which leads to bullies harassing them as “womanish wimps,” culminating in “supposedly brave, masculine acts” of violence by the fatherless boy. It ended with  a call for “helping to rebuild the family in this country” and “restoring certain old norms.”

Another syndicated column, by Cynthia Allen, blamed the poor police response in Uvalde on “decades of eschewing gender roles and their associated characteristics in pursuit of equality,” and the Uvalde shooter’s actions on fatherlessness (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6/4/22; Miami Herald, 6/8/22)

In an even more direct attack on the concept of toxic masculinity, Miranda Devine at the New York Post (6/2/22) wrote that the reason for the much-criticized police inaction on the day of the Uvalde shooting was that men are “vilified” and bullied for bravery.

Out of all of the outrageous and horrific details of the shooting, Devine chose to bemoan the fact that heavily armed officers, who opted to handcuff one distraught parent and pepper spray another as a shooter took 21 lives inside, failed to act because “the only acceptable man now is a man who wants to be a woman. We celebrate ‘pregnant men’ and ‘chestfeeding’ men.”

Miranda Devine (New York Post, 6/2/22): “We pathologize manly virtues and bow to the tyranny of identity politics that seeks power by overthrowing a make-believe patriarchy.”

Eight of the opinion articles were editorials—six agreeing that toxic masculinity contributes to violence, and two disagreeing. One was from the news organ of a right-wing think tank, the Foundation for Economic Education (5/25/22), which argued (citing Jordan Peterson) that blame on toxic masculinity is “misplaced,” because “aggression is an innate part of human nature,” and that it’s incorrect to think boys and girls should be socialized in the same ways. The other was part of a list of “fast takes” compiled by the New York Post editorial board (6/1/22), citing a Spectator World (6/1/22) piece that argued that not all masculinity is toxic, and that “there must be consequences to telling men that…their behavior is wrong, and that all their intentions are tainted by dint of their chromosomes.”

Relegating the bulk of these conversations to the opinion sections of papers presents them as adjacent “culture war” debates between the left and right. If the central role that  gender and masculinity play in mass shootings is never acknowledged as a fact, how can it ever be addressed?

The writers who sought to dismiss the significance of toxic masculinity in their columns and editorials demonstrated a deliberate false understanding of the concept, beating a straw man to argue that not all masculine traits are harmful. The “not all men” argument distracts from the very real crisis that a disproportionate number of men are driving.

It’s a bogus way for the right to play the victim in the midst of unspeakable tragedy—a harmful ruse accommodated by an overall lack of coverage, a dearth of news articles, and a shortage of opinion pieces that truly center toxic masculinity’s role in mass shootings.

Featured image: Collage of mass shooters compiled by JSTOR Daily (10/21/15).


The post Mass Shooters’ Most Common Trait—Their Gender—Gets Little Press Attention appeared first on FAIR.

Misogyny, Theocracy and Other Missing Issues in Post-Roe Coverage

FAIR - June 30, 2022 - 4:10pm


The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a shattering blow to women, as well as to anyone who believes that women should have the same rights and same autonomy over their bodies as men. It is an enormous victory for the forces of authoritarianism and misogyny. States will now punish women for having non-reproductive sex by forcing them, if they get pregnant, into involuntary servitude. It is an augur of minority rule.

I don’t consider any of those conclusions controversial. To the contrary, they are essential to understanding what the court’s decision really signifies.

But they are almost entirely missing from mainstream-media news coverage, which has instead presented the erasure of reproductive rights primarily as just another political issue with two sides and some complexity.

“There’s been a lot of good opinion writing,” Nancy MacLean, a scholar of the radical right at Duke University, told me in an interview. “But in the mainstream media coverage, there’s a lot of both-sidesism: an attempt to be fair in a way that doesn’t alert readers to what the real stakes of the situation are.”

“The mainstream media has bought into misogyny and sexism,” Carrie Baker, a professor at Smith College, told me. “I don’t even think it’s intentional misogyny and sexism,” she said. “It’s like unconscious bias. They’re so used to prioritizing the worldviews of white people and men that to do other than that feels biased. It infects the entire media.”

Mona Eltahawy, who writes the Feminist Giant newsletter, put it even more bluntly. “What the US media is incapable of doing is saying clearly that this is a white supremacist Christian movement driven by white supremacist, Christian zealots who are patriarchal to the core,” she said:

They’re tiptoeing around it, they don’t want to call them zealots, they don’t want to call it a theocracy, they don’t want to say they’re patriarchal, they don’t want to say they’re anti-feminist. They just tiptoe around all of this, mostly, because these are white Christian people, including white Christian women.

So let’s take a look at what the feminists I interviewed, and whose work I read, believe  is missing from the mainstream news coverage.

It’s about women

Guardian (6/24/22)

“We’re looking at women facing involuntary servitude to the state,” said Nancy MacLean. “It’s a war on women—in the context of a war on democracy.“

“What’s missing from the press coverage is any real discussion of the agenda of having power over women’s lives and destiny,” said Jodi Jacobson, a journalist and longtime advocate of reproductive justice. The hostility towards women is on full display on social media, Jacobson said. “Basically, if you look at what these guys are saying online, they’re saying: ‘Your bodies are ours now.’”

Moira Donegan wrote in a stand-out Guardian column (6/24/22) about the many, many things the story was not about (but which the press is nevertheless obsessing over). Among them: “who was right and who was wrong,” “the US judiciary’s crumbling legitimacy” and the “vulgar” question of ”what this withdrawal of human rights might mean for [the Democratic] party’s midterm election prospects.”

She added: “The real story is not about the media who will churn out the think pieces, and the crass, enabling both-sidesism, and the insulting false equivalences and calls for unity.” Then came this powerful conclusion:

The real story is the women…whose lives will be made smaller and less dignified by unplanned and unchosen pregnancies, the women whose health will be endangered by the long and grueling physical process of pregnancy; the women, and others, who will have to forgo dreams, end educations, curtail careers, stretch their finances beyond the breaking point, and subvert their own wills to someone else’s.…

The real story is the millions of women, and others, who now know that they are less free than men are—less free in the functioning of their own bodies, less free in the paths of their own lives, less free in the formation of their own families.

The fury of negation

Atlantic (6/27/22)

The news on TV was so disconnected from her own reality that journalist Molly Jong-Fast (Atlantic, 6/27/22) wrote:

The idea that Roe was about anything other than power was so profoundly delusional that I felt like throwing my cellphone in Central Park’s Turtle Pond…. After a weekend of seeing media outlets treat the loss of Roe like everything else, I wanted to write something about how it really feels to watch the rights of my sisters being taken away. I wanted to write something about how it feels to watch the conservative Supreme Court spit on us. I am just one voice, but I want to tell you that I hear you. I understand your rage, and I feel it too.

“The media misses the punitive impulse of the entire right-wing coalition,” MacLean told me. Abortion wasn’t a major political issue until the early 1970s. It wasn’t until “it became associated with the woman’s movement and women’s freedom and autonomy” that the right wingers turned so ferociously against it.

Their core credo, MacLean said: “Women should not be able to engage in non-reproductive sex, and if they do, they should face the consequences.”

The road to Gilead

“I have not heard one media outlet talk about the fact that this is part of a Christian nationalist agenda,” Jodi Jacobson said. “What I have heard is media outlet after media outlet putting on the same people who have lied us to this place.”

Civia Tamarkin, a filmmaker whose 2017 documentary Birthright: A War Story was about the right-wing war on women, told me the old abortion imagery of danger and coat hangers is “missing the point, especially when they say ‘keep abortion safe.’”

“It needs to be jail bars now,” she said. “Abortion is safe, but people are going to self-induce with medication and they’re going to be charged criminally. They’re going to end up in jail.”

Tamarkin described her documentary as “a real-life Handmaid’s Tale.” Now we’re one big step closer to Gilead. “The similarity is government-forced child-bearing to populate a country. That’s what it’s all about,” she said. “’Handmaid’s Tale’ is about a theocratic autocracy, and that’s exactly what we are living now.”

In the book, all-white Gilead is suffering from depopulation. In the US, Tamarkin said, the equivalent is “the white nationalist fear of ‘replacement.’” Replacement theory has recently made a huge public resurgence in the right-wing media. It stipulates that Western elites, manipulated by Jews, are bringing nonwhites into the United States to replace white voters in order to achieve their social and political goals, which ultimately include the extinction of the white race.

The anti-abortion movement—at least in part—“is very much about maintaining white supremacy in a time of a dwindling white population,” said Carrie Baker. But, I asked, won’t an abortion ban also lead to more nonwhite babies? “They can disenfranchise people of color,” Baker said. “But they need more white bodies.”

The economic toll

“What’s really missing is what this means for women’s basic equality,” Caroline Fredrickson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, told me. “Controlling reproduction is what has enabled women any facsimile of equal status.”

Fredrickson said that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s comment in May should have gotten more press coverage. Yellen told a congressional committee: “I believe that eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.”

Fredrickson said the economy “depends on women’s liberty, and women’s liberty depends on bodily autonomy, as well as significant investments in family supports.

“Only if we see how women are hampered in having a truly fair playing field in the economic sphere will we recognize the true burden of forced parenting—and parenting without social and financial supports,” Fredrickson said.

The threat to democracy

Salon (6/24/22)

Amanda Marcotte wrote a powerful piece in Salon (6/24/22) casting the decision as “a malignant minority imposing an authoritarian will on the majority.”

“The end of Roe isn’t just a tragedy for human rights,” she wrote. “It’s the surest sign yet that American democracy is collapsing, and Republicans are securing the ability to force the majority of Americans that keep voting against them to live under minority rule.”

Similarly, Duke’s Nancy MacLean mocked the view that “Oh we’re not taking away this fundamental right, we’re just giving it back to the states.” With the Supreme Court’s blessing, Republicans who control state governments have rewritten district lines and passed laws that make it almost impossible for Democrats to win even with a majority of the votes.

“It’s a fiction to say that somehow democracy is operating at the state level,” MacLean said. “We’re not going to be able to fix this, because we no longer have operative democracies.”

The science is clear

“I think that what is bad about the media coverage right now is that it is acting as if there are both sides to science and to medicine,” Pamela Merritt, executive director of Medical Students for Choice, said in an interview.

“They don’t do that with any other area of medicine,” she said. “I would like to see the press cover some of the outrageous claims about abortion the same way they covered the use of dog de-wormer to treat Covid,” she said. “They don’t take that kind of aggressive stance” when it comes to anti-abortion conspiracy theories, she said.

Abortion is safe. It is significantly safer than carrying a child to term. It’s also common (as well as popular). Journalists shouldn’t attribute those facts as if they were opinions. (It’s like climate change that way.)

“It is more common than major dental surgery in this country,” Merritt said. “One out of three or four people capable of pregnancy get an abortion,” she said. “Just look at the numbers.”

The anti-abortion movement is a huge, well-funded machine, underwritten by billionaires like Charles Koch and a network of dark-money donors.

“It’s not grandmas out in front of a clinic,” Merritt said. “I don’t appreciate reading articles that make it sound like the pro-abortion and reproductive rights movement lost to a bunch of grandmas in front of clinics. We lost to a well-funded, coordinated national campaign that doesn’t have to address any dissent in their ranks.”

The role of the Catholic Church

There’s been little if anything in the news about the role of the American Catholic Church in getting Roe overturned. But Smith’s Carrie Baker says its role is central, and sinister.

“The architect of the anti-abortion movement in the US is the US Conference of Catholic Bishops,” she said. “The Catholic Church has bankrolled this movement. They bankrolled the packing of the court.” All six justices who concurred in the Dobbs opinion were raised Catholic.

And Baker said it is not a coincidence that the church also has a long and sordid history of condoning pedophilia and sexual abuse of parishioners by priests. “Sexual abuse and forced pregnancy are two sides of one coin,” she said. “And that coin is misogyny.”

Women are notoriously excluded from the Catholic hierarchy. “They want to keep women subordinate,” Baker said. “I think they want to continue the sexual abuses of women and children,” she said. “How else do we make sense of this confluence of events? I think it’s a fundamentally corrupt institution that wants to maintain its power, to be able to take sexual advantage of children and women.”

Usual suspects in denial

One reason the news stories you’re reading and hearing are insufficiently cataclysmic about the extent to which this is an attack on women and a move toward authoritarian theocracy is that the people reporters normally call for comment aren’t talking like that either.

“None of the major pro-choice groups, of which I am no longer a fan, are framing it that way,” said Jacobson.

Medium (6/28/22)

And while news reporters reflexively turned to Democratic leaders to find out what’s next, opinion writers have correctly pointed out that those Democratic leaders just don’t get it.

“Aside from a very vocal progressive segment, Democrats from President Biden on down have uttered their disdain but frankly, they are devoid of the anger and passion that this perilous moment demands,” independent journalist Nida Khan wrote on Medium (6/28/22).

Indeed, the White House appears to be trying hard to make the overturning of Roe into an “everyone” issue, with President Biden, for instance, stressing “the broader right to privacy for everyone.”

But it’s about women. The top issue for Democratic leaders right now is the midterm elections, not women. So leadership on this issue will have to be found elsewhere.

Sample nut graphs

What are some of the essential paragraphs of context missing from new stories about the overturning of Roe?

Tamarkin answered:

I would put in there that this is not about abortion, this is about control and power and the intersectionality of racism, sexism and classism by a fearful white nationalist portion of the country that is determined to obliterate the line between church and state and create an autocratic theocracy. It’s not about controlling pregnancy, it’s about controlling the population demographics here. It’s about suppressing people of color and a return to the enslavement that comes with economic subjugation.

Merritt said articles should stipulate

that abortion is incredibly safe. It is the most regulated medical procedure in any state in the US. That abortion is common, and that bodily autonomy is fundamentally a human right. I would also add that we cannot stop abortion. You cannot put the pill  back in the bottle. What we’re really talking about is sending people who are capable of pregnancy to jail.

Write more like this

New York Times (6/29/22)

I’ll end by expressing appreciation and quoting for one excellent piece in the New York Times on Wednesday by Julie Bosman (6/29/22), who wrote:

In dozens of interviews this week, American women who support abortion rights recalled the moment when they heard that Roe had been overturned, and the waves of shock and fury that followed. They reflected on how access to legal abortion had quietly undergirded their personal decisions, even if they had never sought one themselves. They worried that the progress many women have made since abortion was legalized — in education, the workplace and in the culture—would be halted.

And they reconsidered their own plans and those of their children: whether they should live, work or attend colleges in states where abortion has been banned, how they could help other women with unwanted pregnancies, and whether they would ever recover the constitutional right to receive a safe abortion, a guarantee that tens of millions of women have known their entire lives.

“It’s been quite disorienting, in terms of our humanity,” said Jennifer Solheim, 47, who teaches literature at the University of Illinois Chicago.

One article like this isn’t nearly enough, though. That every woman has had her citizenship degraded and that the forces of autocratic theocracy have triumphed is essential context for every story about the death of Roe.

This post originally appeared on Dan Froomkin’s website Press Watch (6/30/22).

The post Misogyny, Theocracy and Other Missing Issues in Post-Roe Coverage appeared first on FAIR.

‘This Country Would Want to See Money Taken From the Pentagon and Reallocated’

FAIR - June 30, 2022 - 10:13am


Janine Jackson interviewed the National Priorities Project’s Lindsay Koshgarian about the People Over Pentagon Act for the June 24, 2022, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Janine Jackson: Corporate news media make little mistakes, misrepresentations that have impact. But day after day, they do something bigger and deeper that affects us all at an almost cellular level. And that is to accept and propagate the story that the United States doesn’t have enough to provide for the basic needs of its people. Some simply must suffer. But the country does have enough to sink billions of dollars into weapons of war to defend the system that, you know, demands suffering for large numbers of us.

It doesn’t make sense. And to the extent that it does, wouldn’t a humane country be challenging every penny that goes toward killing people to see if it might be used to support people?

If you ask them, the US public wants such a reprioritization. But what happens when lawmakers, people in actual positions of power, call for such a thing and attempt to outline how it might happen?

Lindsay Koshgarian is the program director of the National Priorities Project. She joins us now by phone from Massachusetts. Welcome to CounterSpin, Lindsay Koshgarian.

Lindsay Koshgarian: “The Pentagon shouldn’t be a jobs program. If we need a jobs program in this country, and we do, we should create a jobs program.”

Lindsay Koshgarian: Thanks so much for having me.

JJ: I am unfortunately confident that many or most listeners don’t know anything about it. So would you please just tell us about the bill introduced by Democratic House representatives Barbara Lee of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin? What is that bill, and what would it do?

LK: Absolutely. It makes sense to start with our Pentagon budget and just how big it is, because, of course, the bill is about relocating some of that money. So our Pentagon budget right now, it is approaching $800 billion, and President Biden has suggested a budget that would go over $800 billion. Meanwhile, many folks in Congress are pushing for a budget that goes even above what President Biden has asked for, and what the Pentagon has said is enough.

So that’s the background. The budget as it is now is higher than it was at the height of the Vietnam War. It is higher than the next nine countries combined, some of which are our allies, and it is 12 times as much as Russia. So it’s a huge, huge amount of money.

It’s also more than half of the discretionary budget that Congress allocates every year. That means that less than half is left for things like housing assistance, homelessness programs, public education, public health, the CDC, medical research. All of these things have to fit into less than half.

So what the Lee/Pocan bill is, it’s introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Mark Pocan, and it suggests that we should cut $100 billion from the Pentagon budget in order to reallocate that money to other priorities.

National Priorities Project

And this number is significant for a couple of reasons. One is that it would take us back a couple years. The budget has been growing every single year. It would take us back a few years and get rid of some of that growth.

Another is that last year there was a study from the Congressional Budget Office that showed that you could cut $100 billion from the Pentagon budget without even changing what our national security mission is. So even if we kept all of our wars going, even if we kept our hundreds of overseas bases, even if we kept our hundreds of thousands of troops that are around the world at any given time, you could still basically do all of those same things if you cut $100 billion.

So this is not even a significant cut. It’s not even a remaking of our national security, even though we need a remaking of our national security. And you could do all of those things without touching troops’ pay or benefits or their childcare or any of the things that folks in the military rely on.

JJ: That’s an important inoculation against what you are likely to see about pulling blankets off soldiers in foxholes.

LK: That’s right.

JJ: OK. Well, it’s important to say that this didn’t drop from the sky. This is not the first iteration that we’ve had. There was a Sanders/Lee/Pocan bill a couple years back. But also, it’s not just, “Hey, let’s start thinking about this.” This legislation builds on work that groups have been doing.

National Priorities Project (6/16/19)

LK: That’s right. And we are one of those groups. So a couple of years back—and at that time, the Pentagon budget was smaller than it is today—we did a study where we found ways to cut up to $300 billion off of the Pentagon budget. And that was by doing things like closing some of our more than 700 overseas military installations; no other country has more than 20. It would be doing things like cutting back on some of the most expensive weapons systems, cutting back on the number of planes and ships that we have.

For example, the US military has 11 aircraft carriers. No other country has more than two with a third in the works; that’s China. So we’ve got many, many more than they have. So we can cut back some on that and still be ahead of any other country. And cutting back on things like nuclear weapons.

And then there’s also cutting back on some of the bureaucracy. One of the things that we suggested doing was shifting the military health system into a larger universal health system for all Americans.

So by doing things like that, we found that you could cut up to $350 billion a year from the Pentagon budget. And there are many other groups that have come up with similar lists of ways to cut tens or hundreds of billions of dollars from the Pentagon budget.

JJ: Let me just draw you back to a point you made earlier. Some legislators want more than the Pentagon is asking? How does that make sense?

LK: Yes. This is something that actually happens year in and year out. And it comes from a couple of places. One, of course, is the military/industrial complex. Any time the military asks for fewer planes, or they ask to retire some ships, like they’re doing now, there are, of course, contractors who either build those systems or get the contracts for maintaining those systems, and the contractors don’t like that, so they always object.

Then there are the parochial political concerns. So a lot of times, if the Pentagon wants fewer of a certain ship, and that ship is made in a particular congressional district, you get opposition on the basis of that local economy, even though we know that if you took those same dollars and put them into job creation in healthcare or education or infrastructure, you could create more jobs in that local economy than by the shipbuilding or other investments in war.

So those are a couple of the big things. The contractors are immensely powerful. They take, in any given year, around half and frequently more than half of the entire Pentagon budget. It’s a huge, huge industry, and a huge problem of how much power they wield over the congressional process.

It’s a local community problem. The answer to that, of course, is that the Pentagon shouldn’t be a jobs program. If we need a jobs program in this country, and we do, we should create a jobs program.

And so those are the two big reasons why you see folks in Congress pushing for more money.

JJ: Again, that reprioritization is what people, when you explain it and ask them, that’s what they want. So if it doesn’t happen, you would hope that the media story would be “Why don’t people’s desires and their basic needs translate into policy?” rather than trying to convince people that they’re too dumb to understand what needs to happen. I wonder what you would like to see more of, or less of, in terms of news media attention to these issues.

American Friends Service Committee (2/15/22)

LK: Yes, it’s a great question. Cause you’re right, we have polling, recent polling, that shows that a majority of folks in this country would want to see money taken from the Pentagon and reallocated to all of the things that we know we desperately need, like healthcare, like education, like infrastructure. So we know that people are behind that, but we also know that our political system frequently doesn’t follow the will of the people.

And one of the reasons is Congress is very captured by industry. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can do about it. Being captured by industry really comes down to wanting to be reelected. And so if folks vote, and if folks communicate with their member of Congress, we can put forward very effective counter pressure toward that. So we need more of that, first and foremost.


But we also do need a media that is more accountable. They’re too credulous about threats, whether it be from China or from Russia. And both of those are threats that are overblown. China is not primarily a military threat to the United States, and so we shouldn’t respond to it in a military manner.

And Russia has proven to be both less strong militarily and, also, it is something that the entire world community can deal with, through means like diplomacy and through means like building institutions that enforce international law, and ways other than the US spending more money on our military.

So those are the kinds of things that we need to see the media asking questions about, pushing back on members of Congress and asking them if what we really need is more money for the Pentagon.

National Priorities Project (9/20/19)

JJ: And I would just say, finally, what I would hope to see is also a building out, a talking about the other part of it, which is what it might look like to devote those resources to human needs. There’s plenty of stories there to talk about, what would various social issues and problems look like with an infusion of resources? There’s a way to tell the story that’s about what we could have.

LK: That’s absolutely right, yes. We need to see a redefining of security. The Pentagon, in theory, is supposed to be keeping us safe. But meanwhile, we still have hundreds of deaths from Covid. We are still in an opioid epidemic. We are heading into a wildfire and hurricane season that–we don’t even know how bad it will be yet, because of climate change.

Those are all things that we need for security. And we did a study as an example of the kind of things that we could be doing, if we weren’t putting so much money into the Pentagon. We found that in the 20 years since 9/11, we spent $21 trillion on supposed security. And that for just a quarter of that cost, for less than $5 trillion, we could have had an entirely renewable energy grid in this country.

And that could be done. We could have done it already. And so what we need to desperately do is make sure that in the next 20 years, we don’t make those same choices again. We need to put money where we need it to be, and solve the problems that are actually the most dire problems we have.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Lindsay Koshgarian. She’s program director of the National Priorities Project. They’re online at NationalPriorities.org. Lindsay Koshgarian, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

LK: Thanks so much for having me.


The post ‘This Country Would Want to See Money Taken From the Pentagon and Reallocated’ appeared first on FAIR.

‘In the Middle East, We Are Hearing a New Set of Excuses to Justify the Same Old Policy’

FAIR - June 29, 2022 - 5:10pm


Janine Jackson interviewed Raed Jarrar about Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia  for the June 24, 2022, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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New York Times (6/5/22)

Janine Jackson: During the 2020 campaign, the New York Times explained, Joe Biden pledged, if elected, to stop coddling Saudi Arabia, after the brutal murder of a prominent dissident and Washington Post contributor, Jamal Khashoggi. “We are not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them,” Biden said. “We’re going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.” 

When officials said Biden would visit the kingdom in July and meet with Mohammed bin Salman, understood as the architect of Khashoggi’s murder, the New York Times explained, “It was just the latest sign that oil has again regained its centrality in geopolitics.”

NPR said it tighter, telling listeners, “Biden has changed his tune on Saudi Arabia,” and “oil is a big part of the reason.” Vox had a long, twisty piece about the visit as a sign of “tensions” in Biden’s foreign policy. He wants policy to benefit the middle class, like trying to lower gas prices, but he wants policy to center human rights, a “reflection,” the outlet assures us, “of Biden’s gut feeling about democracies delivering better for people.”

Pity the earnest soul trying to make sense of US foreign policy by way of news media, always being asked to believe in values that are nowhere in evidence, principles that are overthrown at the first turn—and, above all, something called “realism,” that always seems to afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. 

Vox (6/21/22)

What would a humane, independent press corps be talking about when we talk about Biden’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia? We’re joined now by Raed Jarrar, advocacy director at DAWN, Democracy for the Arab World Now, an organization founded by Jamal Khashoggi. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Raed Jarrar. 

Raed Jarrar: Thank you for having me again. 

JJ: Jamal Khashoggi comes up in virtually every piece about this visit. Bloomberg‘s editors say that “Biden isn’t likely to elicit any public contrition, but Saudi leaders should at least guarantee that no similar atrocity will take place again.”

You get the impression from coverage that Saudi leadership did one bad thing, so maybe we should all just try to get past it. It’s very strange, but given an absence of information, that might be what many people will come away with. 

RJ: And that is a very misguided analysis, obviously. The Saudi government, and many other governments in the Middle East—Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and others—have been committing human rights abuses on a daily basis.

And the Biden administration made big, grand promises before President Biden came into office. But regardless of these promises, what the administration is doing now is that it is breaching US and international law by continuing to support and aid these abusive and apartheid governments in the Middle East. And, unfortunately, we are just hearing a new set of excuses to justify the same old policy. 

Raed Jarrar: “His visit will not help peace. It will not help human rights. It will not help US interests in the region.”

JJ: Well, yeah, because people are going to read stories saying this visit is a bad idea, or it’s a good idea, or it’s a bad thing but we have to do it…. What we’re not seeing is discussion of what might be the real purposes or the likely outcomes of this trip. And I wonder what you make of that, and of this sort of scramble to present it as a necessary reset in terms of US/Saudi policy. 

RJ: I wish there was a reset in US/Saudi policy. It is more or less the same for the last decade. The US policy in the Middle East in general has been on autopilot for decades, and many think tanks and human rights organizations in Washington, DC, have been pleading that this administration should change the status quo, and should rethink US foreign policy in the Middle East, whether it’s the $3.8 billion that we give to Israel every year, whether it’s the $1.3 billion that we give to Egypt every year, whether it’s the hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Emirates.

These are entrenched practices and policies that have been taking place for a long time. They are so deeply rooted in Washington, DC, protected by special interests and lobbyists, and all of the reasons why DC is broken.

So the fact that the administration is continuing the exact same policy now…. The administration is telling us that it’s for our own good, or it’s for the realpolitik, just to be reasonable and realistic, that we have to go down the path of funding apartheid in Israel and selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and doing all of these crimes, supporting all of these crimes in the region.

It’s not true. That’s actually not true. The United States does have an option to stop these policies, shift our policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, and start abiding by our own law. We have existing US law that prohibit the United States from funding and aiding and selling weapons to human rights abusers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

We have other options when it comes to energy; we don’t have to actually have all presidents fly and shake the hand of the mastermind of the murder of Jamal Kashoggi to bring us oil. That’s not true. There are so many other options for energy independence. There are many other options for the reduction of use of energy in the US. There are options for getting other types of energy. There are options of getting oil from other places. 

These narratives that we’re dealing with now are fake narratives, lazy narratives to justify the status quo, because changing the status quo in DC is not easy. 

JJ: Absolutely. And part of what presents an obstacle is this kind of misinformation or even disinformation that comes from the media—and from politicians. I’m just looking at media credulously repeating Biden’s quote: “Look, I’m not gonna change my view on human rights. But as president of the United States, my job is to bring peace if I can…. And that’s what I’m going to try to do.” 

Going back to the Bloomberg editors, they say, “Healthy US/Saudi ties are critical to calming a volatile part of the world.” So I think even well-meaning folks are reading that and thinking, “Okay, well, shaking hands with someone, if that’s going to calm volatility, and if that’s going to bring peace, well, then I’m for that.”

Bloomberg (6/21/22)

And yet distinguishing that from actual diplomacy is something else again. 

RJ: That’s right. And listen, I grew up in the Arab world. I am half Palestinian and half Iraqi. I grew up in different parts of the Arab world, in Iraq and Jordan and Saudi Arabia and other countries. And I’m very familiar with the narrative of trying to use Israel/Palestine, and peace for Israel/Palestine, as a justification to continue abusive government policy. 

This is how we grew up. Saddam Hussein always told us that we have to not criticize the Iraqi government, because he’s working to bring peace and end the occupation of Palestine, right? Assad says the same and Mubarak said the same, and all of these other dictators.

And now we are hearing, ironically, a similar narrative coming from the United States. So President Biden is telling us that to bring “peace” to Israel/Palestine, he needs to travel to the region and normalize relationships with dictators, normalize relationships with apartheid regimes. That is not true.

The United States’ role in Israel/Palestine is a part of the problem, and there is no war between Saudi Arabia and Israel that President Biden has to go there and negotiate an end or peace treaty for. What President Biden is doing is, he’s continuing a negative US role in the region, a negative US role that has contributed, along with apartheid Israel, to additional human rights abuse in Saudi Arabia.

And his visit will not help peace. It will not help human rights. It will not help US interests in the region. It will help maintain the very narrowly defined special interests that we have here in Washington, DC, whether they are the oil lobbyists or the weapon lobbyists or Israel lobbyists or Saudi Arabia lobbyists, the very, very narrowly defined interests that come from very, very, very small groups. Those are the people who are benefiting from this. 

The United States as a country is not, the US people are not, and people in the Middle East region are not. 

JJ: Let me just ask you, finally: While many in elite media are trying to hurry us past the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and see that as something to put behind us in order to move forward, lots of folks are not supporting that and, in fact, have put in place, a symbol to say that this is not something we’re going to forget. Let me just ask you to end with that street renaming in DC, which I understand is in front of the Saudi embassy. Is that right? 

(CC photo: Joe Flood)

RJ: That is right. Last week, we finally officially changed the name of the street outside of the Saudi embassy to Jamal Khashoggi Way.

We placed official street signs, after the DC council voted to change the name of the street, and after the DC Department of Transportation worked with us to unveil these signs. We have four signs right outside of the Saudi embassy. One of them is immediately outside the door of the embassy. So everyone who’s going to the embassy will see that. 

But not only this, if you look at Google Maps today, at the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC, the name of the streets right outside that has been changed also on Google Maps to Jamal Kashoggi Way. And this is a daily reminder to anyone who is going to the embassy, whether they work there or visiting, that Jamal Kashoggi has not been forgotten, and we will continue to fight for justice for Jamal.

We will also try to work on other streets around the United States, around the US consulates, maybe in Los Angeles and Boston and New York, to also change the names of the streets there to Jamal Kashoggi Way, so that will serve as a permanent reminder to everyone who passes there every day about the crime that took place in 2018.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Raed Jarrar, advocacy director at DAWN, Democracy for the Arab World Now. They are online at DAWNMENA.org. Raed Jarrar, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin

RJ: Thanks again for having me.

The post ‘In the Middle East, We Are Hearing a New Set of Excuses to Justify the Same Old Policy’ appeared first on FAIR.

Depp/Heard Verdict a Loss for Violence Survivors—and a Free Press

FAIR - June 29, 2022 - 2:12pm


Amber Heard found out that speaking out against sexual violence (Washington Post, 12/18/18) can cost you $8 million.

The high-profile Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation trial ended with what seemed like a split decision: Both were found to have defamed each other. But with the jury awarding millions more in damages to Depp than to Heard, the outcome suggests that she defamed him more. The chilling effect of the ruling on survivors of domestic violence who want to speak out against their abusers is clear, but the damage from the case extends to all issues that depend on unfettered discussion in a free press.

Entertainment media coverage turned the legal battle of the two celebrities into a “media circus” (CBC, 4/24/22; HuffPost, 5/17/22), a voyeuristic and sadistic form of entertainment that harkened back to the days of the Jerry Springer Show. Progressive and centrist news outlets seemed reluctant to dig into the details of the case, perhaps assuming that the trial was a frivolous celebrity story. “Usually reliable outlets tended to steer around the facts,” an analysis on public radio’s WNYC (6/2/22) noted. Yet the substance of the allegations was gravely serious: Heard wrote a Washington Post op-ed (12/18/18), in which Depp’s name does not appear, where she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”  

The verdict has been loudly condemned, especially by feminists who saw the outcome as a successful retaliation by a powerful man against a woman who dared to call him out publicly (Guardian, 6/2/22). Us Weekly (6/4/22) reports that Heard plans to appeal.

Blow to a free press

Heard’s op-ed didn’t mention Depp, but it outlined an agenda for fighting gender-based abuse as it painted a picture of her own personal hell—not just as an intimate partner, but as a participant in a public conversation. “I write this as a woman who had to change my phone number weekly because I was getting death threats,” she wrote, noting that for months, “I rarely left my apartment, and when I did, I was pursued by camera drones and photographers on foot, on motorcycles and in cars.”

The op-ed was written with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, the trial revealed (Guardian, 4/28/22).

Daily Beast (6/1/22): “Depp and his attorneys chose to file their suit in Virginia…because of the state’s weak protections against frivolous defamation suits.”

Numerous outlets speculated that Depp had pushed for a Virginia venue because its laws are laxer when it comes to so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs (Bloomberg Law, 5/16/22; WTTG, 5/30/22). The Daily Beast (6/1/22) said, “Virginia’s anti-SLAPP laws are far weaker than California’s, which allow those accused of defamation to file a motion to dismiss the case before it even gets to trial.”

Given the outcome of the trial, how likely is it that the Washington Post, and many other outlets as well, will think twice about commissioning a public face to speak about serious matters of public concern that are rooted in personal experience? The fact that Depp had earlier lost a libel case over the Sun calling him a “wifebeater” in Britain, whose legal system has traditionally given less protection to journalists in defamation cases, is a bad sign for the ability of the First Amendment to protect the press from complaints about damaged reputations.

The Depp/Heard trial did not directly challenge the central legal protection for criticism of the powerful, the 1964 Supreme Court ruling Sullivan v. New York Times, which requires that public figures suing for libel prove “actual malice,” that is, that the statement at issue was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” As Fabio Bertoni pointed out in the New Yorker (6/3/22):

Once the jury determined that the statements were false—that is, they believed Heard was lying about the abuse—the step to finding that she knew they were false when she made them was virtually automatic.

But that doesn’t mean that the spectacle of a well-known celebrity taking contested claims to court and winning legal vindication won’t encourage other public figures to follow suit. Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted of murder charges after shooting and killing protesters during the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprising in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has already indicated that the Heard verdict has inspired him to pursue defamation suits against outlets that covered his case (Vice, 6/3/22). “Johnny Depp trial is just fueling me,” he tweeted. “You can fight back against the lies in the media, and you should.”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin already brought suit against the New York Times for a retracted connection it drew between a Palin ad and a mass shooting (FAIR.org, 2/25/22). She lost, but her defeat only increased the grumbling by right-wing judicial activists that the “actual malice” standard ought to be tossed out altogether (FAIR.org, 3/26/21). Undoing that standard would make it much easier for public figures like Depp—or powerful politicians and CEOs—to sue news outlets for defamation.

In the wake of the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade, other longstanding precedents look less permanent than they once did. Justice Clarence Thomas has made clear his enthusiasm for eliminating the Sullivan standard—most recently in his protest against the Court’s declining to hear the case of a homophobic ministry that tried to sue over being called a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Following the “originalist” logic that brought down Roe, Thomas wondered whether “the First or Fourteenth Amendment, as originally understood, encompasses an actual-malice standard” (Washington Post, 6/27/22).

Legal hammers

New York Times (6/3/22): When media report women’s #MeToo stories, “both the women and the press assume the considerable risk that comes with antagonizing the rich, powerful and litigious.”

The rich and powerful have been able to use legal hammers to attack the press in other ways. Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel famously funded the lawsuit that ultimately took down Gawker (Guardian, 6/10/16). As Forbes (6/21/16) said at the time:

Critics have argued that Thiel’s money gives other billionaires a blueprint for how to silence media outlets they dislike. Thiel’s approach has also added a new twist to what’s known as “alternate litigation financing.”

As the New York Times (6/3/22) discussed, these kinds of lawsuits have become worrisome for news outlets during the #MeToo movement, as they “showed the delicate considerations for publishers—an engine of the #MeToo movement since it erupted more than four years ago—when they air those claims.” The Times‘ Jeremy Peters noted, “Both the women and the press assume the considerable risk that comes with antagonizing the rich, powerful and litigious.” Noting that the Washington Post had added a note to the Heard op-ed explaining that parts of it had been found to be defamatory, Peters explained:

For the Post, which was not part of Mr. Depp’s lawsuit, even appending the editor’s note carried some legal risk. Because the jury found that Ms. Heard’s essay was defamatory, updating it with new information could be considered tantamount to republishing it and, therefore, grounds for a lawsuit. When Rolling Stone was found liable for publishing the false account of a woman who said she had been raped at a University of Virginia fraternity, a jury found that the addition of a correction could be used to find the magazine liable for defamation—even though it had no liability for the initial publication itself.

When then-President Donald Trump said he wanted to reopen libel laws in order to sue news organizations (Politico, 2/26/16), he was likely blowing hot air, but in reality, the change in legal attitudes toward defamation and the media is happening before our eyes. Writers and potential writers have watched the Heard verdict closely, with the biggest takeaway being that one fiery op-ed implicating a public figure could make for legal trouble—all the public figure would have to do is find the right venue, the right jury and the right lawyer to make the right charismatic case to that judge and jury. That’s a kind of legal cancel culture we should worry about.


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NYT Hypes NYC Police Spending, Buries School Cuts

FAIR - June 25, 2022 - 2:24pm


New York Times (6/10/22)

The New York Times (6/10/22) reported on NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ first budget agreement, saying it “excludes…proposals to significantly increase staffing levels at the city’s jails…[and] increase the Police Department’s budget.” This is the culmination of a fierce debate, the Times told readers, between a mayor with “politically moderate roots” and a progressive city council “over how best to confront rising concerns about crime.”

The Times article, by Jeffery C. Mays and Dana Rubinstein, framed the budget as mainly an issue of law enforcement priorities rather than a question of austerity. Even though there is no looming fiscal emergency, the mayor has cut school budgets, homeless services and mental health services (Gothamist, 6/14/22). Critics blasted the fact that while police funding remained flat, spending for other services were cut (Politico, 6/17/22). The mayor had received backlash from lawmakers (Gotham Gazette, 3/2/22) over his desire to cut other city agencies while sparing the cops.

But the Times piece ignored the cuts to education altogether, even though the conservative New York Post (6/10/22) mentioned how the mayor was forced to talk about a $31 billion cut to schools when pressed by reporters. The Post (6/13/22) went so far as to give the issue of education cuts a whole article.

The Times coverage, by contrast, was completely one-sided in its coverage of the budget deal. While it included one dissenter saying the deal didn’t set aside enough for the city’s rainy day fund, it featured no criticism of cuts to other vital city agencies. The Times only covered the schools cuts days later (6/15/22), burying the news in a piece that framed opposition to the budget around Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a deceptive frame that portrayed anger against the budget cuts as intra-party squabbling rather than citizen outrage.

‘Rein it in’

New York Times (2/16/22)

Interestingly, before Adams took office, the Times (12/31/21) complained about the previous mayor’s “costly legacy” of expanding the city workforce, suggesting that Adams “might have to rein it in.” In a way, the vanguard paper of urban liberalism foresaw and celebrated a neo-Reaganite rollback of the previous administration’s social democratic agenda.

And it’s not like the city is lacking in dissident voices regarding the budget. NYC Democratic Socialists of America co-chair Sumathy Kumar said in a statement (Twitter, 6/10/22), “By cutting funding for schools and housing when the city is flush with resources, Mayor Adams’ first budget fails working-class New Yorkers.”

Brooklyn elementary special education teacher Annie Tan, noting that her own school could lose more than 12 staffers,  told FAIR: “It is devastating to the school’s culture to lose that many educators…. The budget cuts mean a loss of staff, experts at what they do.” She added, “It’s the media’s responsibility to make that real.”

The Times (2/16/22) had previously reported on the mayor’s initial budget proposal as a tough-on-crime agenda.  Reporter Emma G. Fitzsimmons admitted that it called for cuts to the rest of city services, while also admitting that the city was far from broke: The budget “projected that it would receive $1.6 billion more tax revenue in the current fiscal year than originally forecast, because of higher than expected personal and business income taxes, sales taxes and transaction taxes.” Meanwhile, “higher property tax values contributed to a $726 million increase in revenue for the next fiscal year.”

‘Hailed as a national leader’

New York Times (6/3/22)

This framing of the budget agreement came after the Times (6/3/22) previously lamented that the moderate Adams was having difficulty pursuing his agenda because of progressive lawmakers in Albany, framing those lawmakers as out of touch. Adams, Fitzsimmons pointed out, “was hailed as a national leader in the Democratic Party.”

Hailed by whom? The Times never told us, although a number of national outlets have perpetuated this idea, reporting that Adams has been meeting with national party leaders (Politico, 5/20/22) and that he is considering a presidential run (Fox News, 5/21/22).

Both of these developments are overhyped. It’s normal for big city Democratic mayors to have relationships with top party leaders. And each of the last three mayors–Bill de Blasio, Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani–ran for president, with none of them coming within spitting distance of a party nomination. Adams’ job performance polling is all over the place, with CBS (6/7/22) recently reporting poor polling numbers, and the New York Post (6/8/22) admitting that even while approving of his charismatic style, respondents still disliked his results.

What’s clear is that the Times leadership certainly thinks Adams is a national leader, even if there is little evidence for this. A decision to frame Adams’ first budget agreement as a sensible approach to the issue of crime, rather than a conservative scaling-back of city services and employment, fits in that kind of editorial judgment.

Downplaying critical issues

Why is crime the central framing of the budget story? Yes, crime is a major concern for many New Yorkers (Spectrum News, 4/25/22), but as FAIR (6/21/21) has noted, crime is a major factor largely because local media have overhyped crime in their coverage. And in her criticism of the budget, City Council Member Tiffany Cabán noted that the budget kept the city’s “current bloated levels of funding for policing and incarceration intact,” adding that the budget “fails to increase funding to data-driven, community-based violence prevention programs.”

New York Post (6/21/22)

The Times’ lack of focus on critical issues has not gone unnoticed. “It’s infuriating that the media are going towards that, and I think it’s because the mayor has shown himself to be retaliatory,” Tan said, referring to Adams’ penchant for going after critics in the media (New York Post, 2/16/22, 6/5/22). She added that the media are making the calculation that if “they piss off Mayor Adams, he will not speak to them, and that they will lose the ability to speak to him for a news story.”

Consider the context. The Rent Guidelines Board appointed by Adams approved “hikes of as much as 3.25% for new one-year leases for the Big Apple’s roughly 1 million rent-stabilized apartments,” while “new two-year leases for rent-stabilized units can jump by 5%” (New York Post, 6/21/22). Unless Adams is contemplating above-inflation wage increases for city workers in the near future, these kinds of hikes herald a regime of fiscal austerity, one that will hit non-wealthy residents the hardest.

The Times should not be acting as a public relations arm for City Hall as it pushes an austerity agenda. Nor should it attempt to prop up a “moderate” mayor as a national leader.

ACTION ALERT: You can send a message to the New York Times at letters@nytimes.com (Twitter: @NYTimes). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective. Feel free to leave a copy of your communication in the comments thread.

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‘The Miscarriage of Justice Catalyzed a Whole Movement Led by Asian Americans’

FAIR - June 24, 2022 - 4:53pm




Janine Jackson interviewed Helen Zia about the legacy of Vincent Chin for the June 17, 2022, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Vincent Chin (1955-1982)

Janine Jackson: Vincent Chin was beaten to death in Detroit in June 1982, by two white auto workers who reportedly said it was because of him that they had lost their jobs. At the time, listeners may recall, Japan was being widely blamed for the collapse of the Detroit auto industry. Chin was Chinese-American.

Elite media, as reflected by the New York Times, didn’t seem to come around to the story until April 1983, with reporting on the protests emanating from Detroit’s Asian-American community about the dismissive legal response to the murder. Chin’s killers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, were given probation and fines, with Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Charles Kaufman infamously saying they “weren’t the kind of people you send to jail.”

It took protest for big media to attend to that legal perversity, and the broader context of anti-Asian hatred and scapegoating. And it’s civil rights activism that has been the legacy of Chin’s death, 40 years ago this week, activism of which our guest is a key part. Helen Zia is co-founder of American Citizens for Justice, and author of Asian-American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, among other titles. She joins us now by phone from Detroit. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Helen Zia.

Helen Zia: Well, it’s my honor to be with you, Janine.

JJ: I saw you speak recently in Detroit and say that Vincent Chin’s horrific murder, its circumstances and then the legal failures, are all extremely important, but that that’s not the whole story that’s being acknowledged right now with this 40th remembrance and rededication. The story of Vincent Chin’s killing is also about what came after, what grew from it. Can you talk a little about what that was, and is?

HZ: Oh, absolutely. It was a horrific killing, and not only that, but a continued miscarriage of justice, where the justice system failed at every turn, for a young man who was killed and attacked on the night of his bachelor party, because of how he looked, at a time of intense anti-Asian hate. And all of that was very important. It brought attention to the whole idea that Asian Americans are people, that we are humans, that we are Americans, and that we experience racism and discrimination.

But that’s not all that was important, because that event and the miscarriage of justice catalyzed a whole movement, a civil rights movement led by Asian Americans, with Detroit, Michigan, as the epicenter of that civil rights movement that reached all across America for Asian Americans, and also had a huge impact on, really, democracy in this country, in many, many different ways. And it represented the solidarity of people from all walks of life.

Helen Zia: “An injury to one is an injury to all, and we have a basic interest in joining together to ensure each other’s safety.”

We were in Detroit, now a majority Black city, back then was a majority Black city, and we had incredible support from the Black community, as well as the Arab-American community, multi-faith, multi-class, people from all walks of life, not only in Detroit. And then it became a national movement, really sparked a discussion, a movement that took the moment of the killing of Vincent Chin, and then the injustice that followed, but turned it into a civil rights movement, a human rights movement, that has still an impact today.

And that’s why we’re talking about this. It’s to remember that moment, but the legacy as well—of people coming together in solidarity, with the idea that an injury to one is an injury to all, and we have a basic interest in joining together to ensure each other’s safety. That we are part of a beloved community, that no community should live in fear of violence or hate. And this notion of all our communities being so divided, can we ever be allies, let alone come together…

And so that’s what we’re remembering: Let’s not forget that, actually, we have been in solidarity. And let’s take the lessons of that and move it forward to today, because we need that desperately.

JJ: When you say remembrance and rededication, which is what this event series is about, I really like that rededication part, which has to do with acknowledging that, as you say, an injury to one is an injury to all.

HZ: And that’s completely right. And that’s why we are saying it’s more than remembrance, it’s about rededication. It’s about taking the hard work that happened, and coming together in unity and in solidarity and building a movement. There’s nothing simple about that; there’s no Kumbaya. It really takes people working hard together to bridge understandings and undo misunderstandings, break down stereotypes and build a common understanding and a common bond between communities.

And so when, as you say, communities are portrayed in the news or in TV or in movies, that this is just that community’s concern; it doesn’t involve other people… Anti-Asian violence, well, hey, “that’s just Asians. And we don’t even know that they’re Americans. We don’t even know that they were on this continent for several hundred years.”

And so I think you’re right, that’s a way of sort of pigeonholing people and keeping us apart, instead of looking at the true commonality. If we talk about Vincent Chin or violence against Asian Americans, we also talk about Buffalo and we talk about Coeur d’Alene, and how ideas of white supremacy and even active white supremacist groups, they lump us together. They don’t see us as separate groups. They connect the dots in a very negative way. And so it’s really incumbent on all thinking people, and especially our media, to be able to connect those dots too, and not keep us separate.

And it is often, I think, an unconscious way of saying, “Well, that’s this group’s problem, then the other group has this problem, and never the twain should meet.” And, unfortunately, that’s part of what, on the ground, we have to overcome, and do that education, to say no, actually, we’re all in this together. And media has such an important role to play in that, if we can break through that as well.

New York Times (9/10/83)

JJ: Yeah, and I just wanted to add, it did seem from my looking into it that it took the protests for big media to attend to Chin’s murder, but even then, some of what we saw was—here’s this Times piece from September 10, 1983, “Asian-Americans See Growing Bias.” And then the opening is, “Asian-American leaders say they are alarmed by what they regard as rising discrimination against their people.” So even there, there’s kind of a “maybe it’s not true. Maybe it’s just a perception.”

I wonder, have you seen shifts in media? You’ve obviously been working on this for a long time. Are there more openings now? Do you have to explain things less? Have you seen shifts in the way that media approach this set of issues?

HZ: You know, there are shifts, there has been progress. But I have to say, we still have to do that basic “Asian Americans 101” all the time. Back in 1982, ’83, Asian Americans were so invisibilized, and so minoritized, that the whole country really had no concept of who Asian Americans are. So when we started first trying to raise this as an issue, and have our press conferences and things like that, we were asked questions like, “Well, where did you all come from? Did you all just sort of land in America?” More or less saying, “Are you all fresh off the boat?” And we would have to say, “Well, many Asian Americans are immigrants, but, actually, we have been also on this continent for hundreds of years, fighting in the Civil War, having records that go back to the 1500s in the Spanish archives of Mexico and ‘New Spain’ of that time.”

And it was all about an education to say, you know what, we are not this foreign invader that just landed here. And that’s what we had to do over and over again. Questions like, “Do you all speak English?” And you would just have to say, “What do you think I’m speaking with you now?” And then, “Why do you speak such good English?” And I have to answer it more grammatically, saying “Well, I speak English well because I was born and raised here.”

And, yes, we’ve progressed from that time. But, unfortunately, even as we see in this terrible pandemic, the dual pandemic of Covid and hate, that includes the anti-Asian hate that’s been going on, when those were first reported by people who were attacked in different incidents, and they put it on social media, the first response, overall, was, “Wow, this happens to Asian Americans? Who knew that?” It was more surprise, and eye-opening.

And so that was, in a way, the news. And we see that not being challenged by media. When, for example, in Atlanta eight people were killed as the killer went in search of Asian Americans, and killed six Asian women who were working, and the police immediately say, “Oh, this has nothing to do with race.” And we don’t see the pushback on that, querying that. It’s sort of like it’s almost accepted — until, now, what makes a difference is the communities, the grassroots, the people on the ground, saying, hey, what do you mean? This has everything to do with race, it has everything to do with gender and how Asian Americans are viewed.

So the difference is that there’s more of a voice, there’s more of a community, and organizations that actually can correct failings, or just where the ball is dropped, and the questions that should be asked or followed up on aren’t. So that’s a difference. Maybe we have to explain a little less. But, really, we have to explain over and over again.

And to your point about this being seen as, “Well, it’s just an Asian-American issue.” Part of the teaching constantly has to be, no, this is really connected. Hate crimes are connected. The Vincent Chin case had a big role to play in the Hate Crimes Prevention Act that was signed in 2010 by President Obama, that also included gender and sexual orientation and disability.

The broadening of the concept of civil rights, and who’s protected, really was argued in 1983 by Asian Americans to say that immigrants and Asian Americans should be protected by federal civil rights law, because that was not a given. There were a lot of racism deniers back then, and even today, so unfortunately we do have to counter kind of the same misconceptions that existed then and today. The fight and the education never ends.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Helen Zia, co-founder of American Citizens for Justice. You can learn about the 40th remembrance and rededication at VincentChin.org. Thank you so much, Helen Zia, for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

HZ: Thank you, Janine. Thank you and FAIR for all the work you do.


The post ‘The Miscarriage of Justice Catalyzed a Whole Movement Led by Asian Americans’ appeared first on FAIR.

Raed Jarrar on Biden’s Saudi Trip, Lindsay Koshgarian on People Over Pentagon

FAIR - June 24, 2022 - 11:12am


(cc photo: Joe Flood)

This week on CounterSpin: Elite news media are saying that Biden has to go to Saudi Arabia in July despite his pledges to make the country a “pariah” for abuses including the grisly murder of a Washington Post contributor, because…stability? Shaking hands with Mohammed bin Salman makes sense, even in the context of denying Cuba and Venezuela participation in the Americas Summit out of purported concerns about their human rights records, because…gas prices? It’s hard to parse corporate media coverage of Biden’s Saudi visit, because that coverage obscures rather than illuminates what’s going on behind the euphemism “US interests.” We talk about the upcoming trip with Raed Jarrar, advocacy director at DAWN—Democracy for the Arab World Now.

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Chart: National Priorities Project

Also on the show: “Congressional Republicans Criticize Small Defense Increase in Biden’s Budget Blueprint,” read one headline; “Biden Faces Fire From Left on Increased Defense Spending,” read another. Sure sounds like media hosting a debate on an issue that divides the country. Except a real debate would be informed —we’d hear just how much the US spends on military weaponry compared to other countries; and a real debate would be humane—we’d hear discussion of alternatives, other ways of organizing a society besides around the business of killing. That sort of conversation isn’t pie in the sky; there’s actual legislation right now that could anchor it. We talk about the People Over Pentagon Act of 2022 with Lindsay Koshgarian, program director of the National Priorities Project.

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Plus Janine Jackson takes a quick look at media coverage of gender therapy.

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The post Raed Jarrar on Biden’s Saudi Trip, Lindsay Koshgarian on People Over Pentagon appeared first on FAIR.

NYT Centers Trans Healthcare Story on Doctors—Not Trans People

FAIR - June 23, 2022 - 4:57pm


New York Times Magazine (6/19/22)

Right-wing media are whipping up a dangerous anti-trans frenzy in this country, as evidenced quite clearly by the rash of anti-trans laws being passed by GOP-controlled states, and recent violent white nationalist attacks on Pride and drag queen events. But “liberal” media are also culpable for this shift against trans people and their very right to exist.

In the latest example, the New York Times Magazine‘s cover story “The Battle Over Gender Therapy” (6/19/22) wondered if gender-affirming care for trans kids shouldn’t be so easy to access. In doing so, it laundered far-right views for a broader audience, making hostility to trans people’s basic rights more acceptable.

The Times‘ Emily Bazelon wrote that she interviewed “more than two dozen young people and about the same number of parents” for her story. On the magazine’s cover, a young fair-skinned person’s hand, wrist encircled with flowers, rests on a lightly stubbled leg.

But those young people are not at the heart of the story, which opens with a cisgender doctor, Scott Leibowitz, who works with trans youth and is helping to revise international guidelines on care for trans adolescents. After publishing a draft of the revision for public comment, Leibowitz and his co-authors, Bazelon explains, were prepared for backlash from “opponents of gender-related care,” but they

also faced fury from providers and activists within the transgender world. This response hit them harder, as criticism from your colleagues and allies often does.

It’s explicitly framed as a compromise position: the reasonable path between extremes. Later, Bazelon points to another medical professional who “worries that the loud voices on all sides are the extreme ones,” and says:

In our society right now, something is either all good or all bad. Either there should be a vending machine for gender hormones or people who prescribe them to kids should be put in jail.

Limiting transition

But as trans historian Jules Gill-Peterson (Sad Brown Girl, 6/15/22) pointed out, just because doctors offer gender-related care doesn’t mean, as Bazelon suggests, that they are allies to trans people. “​​Transgender medicine was deliberately intended by its architects to prevent and limit as many trans people as possible from transitioning,” Gill-Peterson explained:

It has primarily done so by establishing the narrowest of eligibility criteria possible. And the great expense of transition has kept it out of reach for most trans people, regardless of whether or not they might be able to qualify under any medical model.

No matter how often trans advocates explain this central issue to journalists, “liberal” media continue to churn out stories taking doctors as the foremost and neutral experts on the matter, and centering “tricky questions”—Bazelon’s words—about potential regret on the part of those transitioning.

In other words, while the right and the medical establishment may see themselves as being on very different sides of this issue—and justifiably so, in many ways—both still seek to control whether or which trans people get to exist. By placing doctors in the center of the story of trans healthcare, acting as the “balance” between trans activists and the right, is to misrepresent the playing field, and to stack the deck against those who should be centered: trans people themselves.

‘Clear claim to being marginalized’


Them (5/25/21)

Bazelon quotes several trans activists who are critical of the medical profession. She notes that trans people have “often been failed by healthcare providers.” She also notes that “there is often no gender clinic and sometimes no therapist or doctor to help transgender kids—who often still face bullying and harassment—navigate the process of coming out,” such that “states like Arkansas are banning care where it is already rare.” But none of this changes her basic story and its assumptions.

Nor does her acknowledgment that rates of regret for trans adults are “very low” (as in around 1%) and rates of suicide attempts for trans kids are “terribly high” (35%) stop her from, at the same time, highlighting several stories of regret.

Bazelon describes stories of multiple adolescents who announced they were trans, but later backtracked before starting medical treatment, as what can only read as “dodged a bullet” stories, with references to “the way [internalized] misogyny affected their thinking,” or the supposed allure of the chance to “join a community with a clear claim to being marginalized and deserving of protection.”

She writes of Grace Lidinsky-Smith, who “has written about her regret over taking testosterone and having her breasts removed in her early 20s,” and “wished she’d had the kind of comprehensive assessment the last Standards of Care endorsed for adults.” (Bazelon does not note that Lidinsky-Smith is an activist who leads a group that supports strict limits on transition, arguing that “desistance is common.”)

At the same time, only one story of an attempted suicide is told—in the voice of a parent Bazelon found through an anti-transition online group, and who claims her child, who had previously attempted suicide, became “more volatile” after starting puberty suppressants.

Elevating stories of detransition is very popular in centrist media (see, e.g., FAIR.org, 5/5/22; Them, 5/25/21), but it creates the illusion that the risk of changing one’s mind about transition is much more common than it is, and that the risk of young people not being able to access care is much lower than it is. In a political environment that is putting trans youth in the crosshairs, the New York Times‘ failure to listen to and center trans people in their coverage is criminal.

You can send a message to the New York Times Magazine at magazine@nytimes.com (Twitter:@NYTMag). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

The post NYT Centers Trans Healthcare Story on Doctors—Not Trans People appeared first on FAIR.

‘The Times Is Telling You to Choose Between Rights and Safety’

FAIR - June 22, 2022 - 3:22pm


Janine Jackson interviewed Alec Karakatsanis about the recall of Chesa Boudin for the June 17, 2022, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

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Politico (6/1/22)

Janine Jackson: Politico, in a not-stupid piece on the ultimately successful recall campaign against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, referred offhandedly to Republicans across the country running on public safety, “betting voters will punish Democrats for embracing a more lenient approach to sentencing and incarceration.”

In reality, the work of decarceration, as understood by people who’ve been studying and advocating and doing it for decades, involves deep engagement with communities and their human needs. It’s nothing less than an intentional, accountable reprioritization of social resources. It is emphatically not doing less, which is what is implied by the term “leniency.”

That kind of apparently lazy but very meaningful misrepresentation in a phrase, writ larger, is the media coverage of Chesa Boudin’s recall, coverage that our guest has been monitoring and breaking down on Twitter and elsewhere.

Alec Karakatsanis is founder and executive director of Civil Rights Corps, a civil rights lawyer and public defender. He’s author of the book Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Alec Karakatsanis.

Alec Karakatsanis: It’s so great to be here; thank you so much.

New York Times (6/8/22)

JJ: Everyone knows somebody who argues by only mentioning information that supports their point of view, and obscuring rather than engaging any that doesn’t, no matter how germane. It’s an obnoxious, regressive way to have a conversation. But it’s something worse when you pretend it’s journalism. So I’d like to have you talk us through the problems with this June 8 New York Times article, but maybe just start by saying why you chose to take it up. We see crap crime coverage every day. Why did this stand out to you?

AK: I think elections are a particular moment of consciousness, where people are paying attention more than they ordinarily would to political punditry, to commentary, to articles about policy. And I think it was a particularly important moment at 5 am, the morning after the election, when the New York Times put this article online.

And based on the placement the Times gave it in various of its platforms, it is estimated by the analytics tracking company Meltwater to have had the potential reach of 170 million people. So for me, it was a very prominent and very important article, which the New York Times pitched as its main takeaway from last Tuesday’s elections.

And so, for that reason, I thought it was profoundly troubling that the Times created such a dishonest and dangerous narrative, that what the voters were somehow telling us is that we need to double back down on mass incarceration policies that, by every conceivable available metric, have been an utter failure as a matter of keeping us safe, and a disaster as a matter of human rights and basic human dignity.

JJ: So how did this story do that? What were the sort of mechanisms in the story itself that pushed that conclusion?

AK: If we had 10 hours, we couldn’t cover them all, but I’ll do my best!

JJ: I know!

AK: Virtually every word and clause in the article was an effort designed to concoct, out of nowhere, a false narrative that the election was a victory for tough-on-crime right-wing policies.

So the first problem with the article is, who is it relying on? Who pitched it? How did it get there and why?

I think the second and most glaring problem, that I lead with in my analysis of the article, is that it bases its entire thesis, that voters are sending a “tough on crime” message, on just two races: the mayor’s race in Los Angeles, and the DA recall in San Francisco. In order to do that, the article had to ignore the vast majority of elections in California and across the country.

And if you look at the other elections in California on these issues, progressive candidates trounced their opponent. The following races were completely and utterly ignored by the New York Times: the California attorney general’s race, where a progressive reformer absolutely trounced the tough-on-crime opponent, who everyone had been talking about and boosting prior to the election. She ended up coming in, like, fourth place. Tiny percentage of the vote, trounced by the progressive California reforming attorney general. Same thing with Contra Costa, Alameda.

LA Times (6/17/22)

If you look at the local races in Los Angeles, well, the Times gives almost the entire article to boosting Rick Caruso, the former Republican, billionaire real estate developer. As more results have come in in the days since the election, he actually is now losing, and Karen Bass is beating him.

And if you look at the other local races, a city-wide race for controller was a referendum on police budgets, and the progressive candidate, Kenneth Mejia, trounced the longtime, multiple-incumbent city councilperson. And Mejia ran a transparent, clear, effective campaign about very popular things: investing in our safety through schools, housing, healthcare, treatment—rather than more and more cash for surveillance technology and overtime. And these are very popular positions, it turns out. And the Times just ignored all of that, as well as a number of other LA city council races.

I’ll just pause there, because I want people to understand that the entire framing of the article was based on two examples, one of which has now turned out to be utterly false, in terms of the local Los Angeles mayor’s race, where the very basis of their narrative, that this former Republican billionaire had won, is now incorrect, as more votes have been counted. But two, it all relied on ignoring these other races.

JJ: Right, and that selective storytelling amounts to an important misrepresentation, and then misdirection. And just to tease out one thing that you’ve said, the focus on elections often leads media to talk about people and individuals, and to ignore the voters and the public. And what you have indicated repeatedly is that the policies, these policies about engaging the criminal justice system, about reprioritization—these are popular policies. And if the media were genuinely interested in being the people’s voice, then even if a particular candidate lost, they would still be engaged with whether the particular policies and ideas were well-received and popular with the people.

AK: Absolutely. This is another key point. So if you look at the New York Times article, it claims that voters were motivated by what it called “unchecked property crime” in San Francisco. If you look at the actual data from San Francisco police themselves, property crime is significantly down under the tenure of the current DA. So is violent crime, way down in San Francisco. By every conceivable metric on which every local prosecutor and police budget and set of policies are measured, the tenure of this progressive DA was an enormous success.

What the Times ignores is there was a huge $7 million effort led by Republican billionaires and the police union to tarnish the DA himself. And much of that was based on complete fabrications, total disinformation, lies—but a very, very active local media effort.

Another tech venture capitalist rich person hired an entire media outlet and its full-time reporter to just boost these right-wing lies in San Francisco itself, the kind of resources that are hardly ever thrown at local journalism anymore. It was really incredible to watch.

All that was ignored by the Times, and, instead, they tried to make it look like the voters were rejecting Boudin’s policies. But if you actually look at the available polling that we have for voters in San Francisco, every single one of Boudin’s major policy priorities were enormously popular with the voters. This is a really interesting story, and the Times just completely ignored it, because this does not fit its narrative that voters don’t want progressive policy.

New York Times (6/8/22)

JJ: Here’s a bit from a Times piece:

California called for order. Wracked by the pandemic, littered with tent camps, frightened by smash-and-grab robberies and anti–Asian American hate crimes, voters in two of the most progressive cities sent a message on Tuesday: Restore stability.

There is a breathtaking amount of work being done there. The definition of “stability,” poverty is a crime, sickness somehow is also a crime, Asian Americans want a carceral response. It’s so freighted. And it’s just their kind of “Hey, here’s our conclusion, take this away,” you know?

AK: I think I want to highlight something that you said, which is incredibly important. Obviously, there’s so much misinformation and propaganda in there. But one thing in particular stands out. And there were a few other moments in the Times coverage where it was a little bit more explicit about this. But essentially what the Times is saying is that there is a tradeoff between what it calls order and stability, and civil rights, or humane treatment of people in the criminal system, and that by being more “lenient,” we actually lead to less stability and order.

This is the core flaw, and what I call propaganda element, at the center of so much New York Times reporting. And I think the reason is that there is a scientific consensus. What the Times is doing is violating that scientific consensus, as if the Times were saying that climate change is not happening. There is a scientific consensus that the solution to problems of drug use and mental illness and homelessness and the low-level behavior and activity that the Times is referring to when it talks about “disorder,” there’s a consensus that you do not solve those problems through more police, prosecutors and prisons.

Those problems must be solved through investments in medical care and mental health treatment, and affordable housing and places to live, and investment in schools. One of the most robust findings in the scientific literature is that investment in early childhood education, in schools and teachers, actually reduces all forms of crime years into the future.

Alec Karakatsanis: “The only way we’re going to get to real safety in our society…is by actually investing in the things that lead to safety.”

We know all of these things. What the Times is trying to do is tell people you have to choose between respecting people’s rights and treating them “leniently,” and safety. And this is false, because the only way we’re going to get to real safety in our society, the way that every other comparably wealthy country has achieved much higher levels of safety and lower levels of violence, is by actually investing in the things that lead to safety.

There’s one other thing that I want to point out, which I think is very important. The Times suggests that the voters and the politicians who are pursuing progressive policies somehow don’t care about safety. They say, “Some voters are foremost demanding action on systemic disparities, while others are focused on their own sense of safety in their homes and neighborhoods.”

So this says, “Some people care about social justice, while other people care about safety.” That is absurd. Does anyone seriously believe that the millions of poor people, Black people, young people, immigrants, teachers, nurses, public health experts, faith leaders, crime survivors, who’ve been fighting against systemic injustice and inequality in their community, they don’t care about the safety, also, of their neighborhoods? That is just such a false dichotomy, and it’s so prevalent in reporting in the New York Times over the last couple of years,

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Alec Karakatsanis of Civil Rights Corps. The book Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System is out now from the New Press. Thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

AK: Thank you so much.


The post ‘The Times Is Telling You to Choose Between Rights and Safety’ appeared first on FAIR.

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