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Citations Needed

English, Political, 6 seasons, 301 episodes, 5 days, 3 hours, 38 minutes
Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.
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The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift (Part II)- How Corporate America Offset Liability Onto Its Workers

"How Railroaders Are Killed; Train Crews Grow Careless," read a 1906 syndicated article. "There is a kind of personality who is accident-prone," reported the Kansas City Star in 1944. Amazon's safety programs are "designed to keep its nearly one million warehouse workers worldwide fit and limber," The Seattle Times claimed in 2021.  For well over a century, it’s been standard practice for corporations, and the media more generally– echoing these "information campaigns" – to skirt, defy, or prevent regulations by shifting the burdens of protection and wellness onto relatively powerless workers. Just as corporations have historically shifted blame onto "consumers," as we discussed last week, so too have they shifted blame, and punishment, onto their own workers, at great social cost and much private profit. Of course, workers anywhere must bear some level of personal responsibility in matters of health and safety. But, as regulations have threatened their bottom lines, industries from railroads to retail, bolstered by US media, have seized upon this notion in order to render their workers the ones who bear ultimate responsibility for whether they’re healthy or sick, safe or injured, and in the most extreme cases, whether they live or die. This is the second episode in a two-part series on what we're calling "The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift." Part I discussed how this burden shift harms consumers. On this episode, Part II, we examine this anti-regulatory PR strategy, looking at the past and present of corporate deflection of responsibility, how media enable this subtle – but effective – practice, and discuss how media campaigns and media coverage have let us internalize the pro-corporate effort to off-load responsibility for workplace health and safety from the bosses on to the workers.  This episode was produced in collaboration with Workday Magazine. Our guest is the National Employment Law Project's Anastaia Christman.
7/10/202456 minutes
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The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift (Part I) - How Corporate America Offset Liability Onto the Public

“Choose the product best suited for baby,” Nestlé urged in a 1970s baby formula ad. “What size is your carbon footprint?” wondered oil giant BP in 2003. “Texting, music listening put distracted pedestrians at risk,” USA Today announced in 2012. These headlines and ad copy all offer a glimpse into a longstanding strategy among corporations: place the burdens of safety, health, and wellbeing on individuals, in order to deflect responsibility and regulation. Whether in the areas of transportation, climate, or nutrition and food safety, individuals, namely “consumers,” are increasingly expected to assume full responsibility for their own wellbeing, and are blamed, shamed, and punished–or worse, made ill or injured–when they can’t live up to these unrealistic expectations. Sure, everyone must bear some level of personal responsibility in matters of health and safety, obviously. But corporations from Chrysler to Nestlé, in concert with a compliant US media, have taken advantage of this truism to place a disproportionate level of obligation onto the people who work in their warehouses and buy their products. At the same time, they’ve been able to fend off even the most minor of structural changes–say, using less plastic or healthier ingredients–with often dangerous, even deadly, consequences. This is Part I of a two-part series on what we’re calling “The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift,” a process in which corporations deflect blame onto the relatively powerless. On this episode, we examine how corporations have shifted the burdens of liability onto “consumers” and other individuals, examining how the auto, fossil-fuel, and food and beverage industries have orchestrated media campaigns to frame the people they harm, whether directly or indirectly, as responsible for their own misfortunes. Our guest is journalist Jessie Singer. This episode was made in partnership with Workday Magazine.
7/3/20241 hour, 3 minutes, 29 seconds
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News Brief: Unions, Gaza, and Labor's Checkered Relationship With US Militarism

On this public News Brief, we are joined by author and historian Jeff Schuhrke to discuss labor's response to the ongoing genocide in Gaza, the history of union support for (and opposition to) U.S.-led war and imperialism, and his upcoming book, Blue-Collar Empire: The Untold Story of US Labor's Global Anticommunist Crusade.
6/19/202444 minutes, 10 seconds
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Live Show: Student Organizers Breakdown Media Distortions Over Gaza College Encampments

On this Citations Needed Live Show, recorded virtually on May 23, 2024, Adam and Nima discuss recent coverage of the campus protests over the ongoing genocide in Gaza, from the media's habit of pathologizing Zoomers to Biden's condescending implication they're just a foaming hate mob. We were joined by guests Layla Saliba and Jonathan Ben-Menachem.
6/12/202450 minutes, 2 seconds
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Ep 203: Ideological Shaping of the Possible Part II: How Corporate Think Tanks Function as Influence Laundromats

"Susan Rice examines U.S. foreign policy strategy with The Post's David Ignatius," read the title of a 2016 Washington Post Live conversation. "Key player in war on climate change? The Pentagon," CNN insisted in 2020. "Democrats Need To Learn How To Get Excited About the Center-Left," The Messenger proclaimed in 2023.  These posts were all facilitated, sponsored, or authored by a member of a Democratic-aligned, corporate U.S. think tank. Whether the Center for American Progress, Center for a New American Security, Center for Strategic and International Studies, or any other Washington, DC-based "Center" with a capital C, center-right to center-left think tanks are ubiquitous in major American media and in Democratic policymaking. This might seem unremarkable, even beneficial. Think tanks, after all, purport to be empirical institutions, designed to craft research-based policy proposals. But, given the prevalence of corporate funding in the DC think-tank world, these claims of neutrality contradict the anti-labor and anti-regulation records of major US think tanks, as well as their function as de facto corporate lobbying groups. On this episode, Part II of our two-part series on the relationship between political party officials, media, and the corporate laundering machine, we examine the revolving door between Democratic administrations and corporate and despot-funded think tanks, looking at how those institutions effectively serve as a stomping grounds of business industry influence on everything from climate to labor, healthcare to infrastructure. Our guest is The Intercept's Akela Lacy.
6/5/20241 hour, 9 minutes, 30 seconds
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Ep 202: Ideological Shaping of the Possible Part I: Democrats and the Black Box Corporate Consulting Industry

“David Plouffe's advice for 2020,” Axios shared in 2019. “James Carville: 'Stupid wokeness' is a national problem for Democrats,” CNN reported in 2021. “Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary under President Obama, discusses the debt ceiling deal and the latest job numbers,” MSNBC announced in 2023. On a regular basis, news media clue us into the latest prescriptions from so-called Democratic strategists: people who’ve served as advisers, cabinet members, or other high-ranking positions within Democratic presidential administrations, who’ve also gone on to make millions from corporate consultancy and PR. Whether Larry Summers, David Plouffe, or some other cable-news fixture, these figures are consistently trotted out to give a quasi-liberal, professional face to plain old pro-war, anti-Left austerity politics. It’s an obvious conflict of interest. If a presidential alum joins the board or C-suite of Uber or McDonald’s, for example, they shouldn’t be given the authority to weigh in on regulations or labor policy, especially on media platforms that claim to be somewhat left-leaning. If they work for a military contractor-funded “Strategic consultant” firm or, as is sometimes the case, directly for a weapons maker, they shouldn’t be offering talking head opinions on issues of war. But, within US media and politics, there’s a bipartisan, Gentlemen's Agreement not to acknowledge this, let alone condemn it. There’s a taboo against noting this widespread revolving door politics between the private sector, Gulf dictatorships, black box corporate consultancy firms and high institutions of government. Instead, it’s simply accepted that every White House, State Department or Senate job is an audition for a cushy board membership at Amazon, McDonalds, Raytheon, or a shady “consultancy” firm. On today’s episode, we’ll discuss the blurring of lines between Democratic and Republican politics and corporate PR, examining the revolving door between high status government jobs and the consultancy blob, as well as how cable and print news outlets give PR flacks a platform through which to treat horrible policies as just another product to sell. Our guest is the Revolving Door Project's Jeff Hauser, founder and Executive Director of the Revolving Door Project.
5/29/20241 hour, 2 seconds
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Episode 201: The Conservative, Faux-Erudite Rise of Nuance Trolling

“Here's why creating single-payer health care in America is so hard,” explained Harold Pollack in Vox in 2016. “The benefits of climate action…are diffuse and hard to pin down,” shrugged a Foreign Affairs article in 2020. “A nuanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” presented Aliza Pilichowski in The Jerusalem Post in 2023. Each of the above is an example of something that can be called "Nuance Trolling": The insistence that some major beneficial development like single-payer healthcare, ending wars and bombing campaigns, or the mitigation, even cessation, of climate change is impossible because the situation is too nuanced, the plan too lacking in detail, the goal too hard to achieve, the public isn’t behind it or some other bad faith “concern” that makes bold action an impossibility. Nuance Trolls present power-serving defeatism as savvy pragmatism, claiming over and over that no good, meaningful change can happen because no version of it will ever work. Nuance and complexity, of course, are real, legitimate things. Political, social, environmental, and economic dynamics often are complicated. But Nuance Trolls abuse this self-evident truism, using it as a mode of analysis designed to weaken  and water down movements for change that seek actual, material solutions to political problems, and instead promoting inaction to ensure the continuation of the already oppressive status quo.  On this episode, we examine the rise of the Nuance Troll and analyze the media’s selective invocation of “nuance” in order to stifle urgent movements for social justice, reducing poverty, curbing climate chaos and ending occupation and war.  Our guest is Natasha Lennard.
5/15/20241 hour, 19 minutes, 35 seconds
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News Brief: Axios, NYT Help White House Obscure Their Role in Rafah Invasion

In this News Brief, we breakdown the White House's latest attempt to arm and fund Israeli war crimes while looking like helpless. bumbling humanitarians.
5/8/202423 minutes, 42 seconds
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News Brief: Campus Anti-Genocide Protests and the Weaponization of Squishy, Bad Faith "Safety" Rhetoric

In this public News Brief, we discuss Establishment reaction to pro-Palestinian protests on US campuses, from liberal handwringing to police crackdowns to therapy-speak.          
4/27/202433 minutes, 10 seconds
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Episode 200 - The Rise of the War on Drugs 2.0: This Time It's Different, We Promise

“Sen. Chuck Schumer warns drug dealers are pushing rainbow fentanyl to children,” CBS News cries. “'It's very challenging': Inside the fentanyl fight at the border,” ABC News reports. “The hard-drug decriminalization disaster,” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens laments. In recent years, we’ve been warned about the growing threat of hyperpotent street drugs, particularly opioids. Fentanyl is disguised as Halloween candy to appeal to children. US Border Patrol doesn’t have enough resources to keep up with drug screenings. Efforts to decriminalize drug use and possession are causing chaos and suffering on our streets.  The dangers of drugs like fentanyl are, of course, very real, and concerns about them are certainly legitimate. But too often, media framings don’t reflect genuine concerns. Rather than offering urgent solutions to help those who are truly struggling-like reduced penalties, or stable housing and healthcare–media, alongside policymakers, consistently promote the same old carceral logic of the Nixon-era War on Drugs, turning a true public-health crisis into an opportunity to increase arrests and policing in general. On this episode, we look at the War on Drugs 2.0: This Time It’s Different We Promise, and how, despite lofty liberal rhetoric about how the War on Drugs has been cruel and counterproductive, media and elected officials are doubling down on fear-mongering, stigmatization, and severe prison and punishment.  Our guest is Emily Kaltenbach.
3/27/20241 hour, 1 minute, 38 seconds
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Episode 199: The Golden Age of Crybullyism

"Ex-officer Amber Guyger testifies in wrong-apartment murder trial: 'I was scared to death,'" a " story reported in 2019. "Starbucks Files Complaints with Labor Board, Accuses Union Organizers of Bullying and Harassment," reported Food & Wine Magazine in April 2022. "Labour MPs fear for safety as pro-Palestine protesters target offices," The Guardianwarned in November 2023. Within the last decade, we’ve seen the rise of a phenomenon we’ll refer to as “elite crybullying," in which people in power engage in political manipulation in order to portray themselves as victims. Routinely, we hear that armed American police fear for their safety around unarmed civilians, lawmakers feel for the their safety after there's a sit in protest and corporate executives are being unfairly intimated by union organizers.  It's a sleazy, manipulative tactic that not only flattens, but flips, power dynamics. By claiming to have been bullied or traumatized by those who oppose them, wealthy and influential figures suddenly transform themselves from victimizers into victims. Meanwhile, by this same perverse logic, they characterize their actual victims–be they organizing workers and peace activists, who merely seek to stand up for themselves, or people killed by military and police violence – as victimizers. On this episode, we explore the rise of ruling-class crybullyism, how elites increasingly traffic in the language of anti-bullying and therapy-speak to indemnify themselves from criticism, examine how cynical distortions of power relations recast the upholders of colonialism, labor abuses, and police violence as the oppressed, and the people who dare to object as the oppressors, all in an effort to silence dissent from the justifiably angry masses.  Our guests are Mari Cohen and Saree Makdisi.
3/20/20241 hour, 41 minutes, 16 seconds
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Episode 198: How The Atlantic Magazine Helps Sell Austerity and War to Middlebrow Liberals

“Teachers Unions: Still a Huge Obstacle to Reform.” “Countering Iran’s Menacing Persian Gulf Navy.” “Open Everything: The time to end pandemic restrictions is now.” “The Good Republicans’ Last Stand” Each of these headlines comes from the same magazine: The Atlantic. For 167 years, the publication has enjoyed elite stature in the American literary and journalistic worlds, publishing such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Barack Obama, and serving as a coveted professional destination for writers throughout the country. Founded by a number of esteemed 19th century authors, the magazine has long prided itself on its cultural and political depth. But beneath all of its high-minded rhetoric about democracy, free expression, fearlessness, and American ideals is a vehicle of center-right pablum, designed to launder reactionary opinions for a liberal-leaning audience. As the employer of warmongers like Jeffrey Goldberg, Anne Applebaum, and David Frum, under the ownership of a Silicon Valley-tied investment firm hellbent on destroying teachers’ unions, The Atlantic, time and time again, proves a far cry from the truth-pursuing, consensus-disrupting outlet it claims to be. On this episode, we dive into the history and ideology of The Atlantic, examining the currents of middlebrow conservatism, left-punching, and deference to boring business owners that have run through the magazine throughout its nearly 17 decades of operation. Our guest is Jon Schwarz.
3/13/20241 hour, 4 minutes, 31 seconds
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News Brief: Media, Billionaires' Attacks on Homeless People May Pay Off Big at Supreme Court

On this News Brief, we are joined by Jesse Rabinowitz of the National Homelessness Law Center to discuss the upcoming Johnson v. Grants Pass case, which will be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States on April 22nd 2024. This is the most significant case about the rights of homeless people in decades, determining whether cities can make it a crime to be homeless, to sleep outside, even when there is no safe shelter available to them. We discuss the boarder media narratives that got us to this cruel, irrational point.
3/6/202424 minutes, 24 seconds
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Beg-A-Thon Live Show 1-30-24: The Grim Popularity of Rise-And-Grind TikTok #Influencers

In this Live Show Beg-A-Thon recorded Jan 30, we break down the worst Rise-And-Grind social media stars and how they've moved from Silicon Valley-adjacent to subprime motivational content helping middle and working class people get through the daily grind. With guest Hussein Kesvani.
2/28/202459 minutes, 54 seconds
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News Brief: How US Media Obscures the Violence of the Generic, Sterile-Sounding "Border Deal"

In this News Brief we are joined by friend of the show, Maximillian Alvarez of The Real News, to discuss Democrats' pathetic, myopic, and nihilistic attempt to play the Racist Reverse Uno Card on Congressional Republicans.
2/21/202440 minutes, 33 seconds
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Episode 197: The "Human Shields" Canard as Catch-All Colonial Absolution

"Viet Cong Use Children as Human Shields," the Associated Press alleged in 1967. "'Civilian casualty?" That's a gray area," Alan Dershowitz argued in The Los Angeles Times in 2006. "We can’t ignore the truth that Hamas uses human shields,”"Jason Willick wrote in The Washington Post in 2023. For more than five decades, military forces with overwhelming firepower, including the U.S., Israel, and others have accused enemy combatants of using “human shields.” According to these allegations, militant resistance throughout the world, from the Vietnamese National Liberation Front to Palestinian militants, herd civilians in front of them, or hide in hospitals, religious institutions, and other public places, in order to evade attacks. In turn, they force the enemy to “risk” killing civilians, and they themselves bear responsibility for those who are killed. But rarely, if ever, have these accusations been true. Indeed, the term “human shields,” despite having a clear legal definition, has become a catch-all for militias or insurgency groups that merely operate among a civilian population, functioning as a convenient pretext for invading, occupying and colonial forces to kill civilians, and reinforcing racist conceptions about besieged populations. So why, and how, do media provide cover for governments that lie about and instrumentalize supposed “human shielding”? On this episode, we dissect the decades-old “human shields” accusation, examining how it dehumanizes and militarizes people living under occupation and invasions, demonizes resistance movements, and sanitizes civilian-killing aggressors as reluctant actors who "simply had no choice." Our guests are Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini.
2/7/20241 hour, 19 minutes, 16 seconds
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Episode 196: Benevolent Billionaire Despotism and US Media’s Softball Treatment of ‘Effective Altruism’

"Join Wall Street. Save the world," The Washington Post urged in 2013. "How to Know Your Donations Are Doing the Most Good," The New York Times proclaimed in 2015. "I give 10 percent of my income to charity. You should, too," Vox advised last November. Each of these headlines tops a piece that extols the virtues of Effective Altruism, a philanthropic philosophy, for lack of a better term, ostensibly dedicated to the pursuit of the best ways to address large-scale, global ills like pandemics and factory farming, informed by “evidence and reason.” The school of thought, popularized by figures like the academic and author Peter Singer and disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, has been widely embraced – or at least uncritically boosted – in mainline media for years. Superficially, this makes sense. Effective Altruism seems unimpeachably virtuous: It’s great if people want to solve the world’s problems, and so much the better if they’ve done their research. But beneath this surface lies a deeply reactionary movement, predicated on an age-old desire to characterize the wealthy as the solution to, rather than the cause of, the very problems they purport to want to solve. On this episode, we parse the rise, motives, and influence of Effective Altruism. We look at how the doctrine gamifies wealth distribution, falsely portrays the rich as uniquely qualified to make decisions about public welfare, often provides cover for eugenics and racism, and masquerades as a groundbreaking ethos of data-driven compassion while it merely regurgitates a 100-year-old rich person ideology of supposedly benevolent control over the masses. Our guest is Dr. Linsey McGoey.
1/31/20241 hour, 11 minutes, 35 seconds
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News Brief: The ICJ Ruling and the Essentialness of Squishy Western Liberal Support for Genocide

In this public News Brief, we react to the media spin around the ICJ's genocide ruling against Israel and how framing by the NYT and BBC seeks to uphold the logic of the so called "war" creating said genocide.
1/26/202418 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 195: David Leonhardt and the Elite Consensus Manufacturing Machine

"Make sense of the day’s news and ideas," urges The Morning, a daily New York Times newsletter. "Get smarter, faster on news and information that matters to you," Axios assures its readership. "This is how the news should sound," The New York Times again declares, via its podcast The Daily. Over the last ten years, roughly speaking, we’ve seen the proliferation of the daily digest-style newsletter and podcast at legacy and new media organizations. Inspired, at least loosely, by the so-called explanatory journalism of Vox and similar outlets that arose in the mid-2010s, publications now commonly offer bite-sized breakdowns of the news that allegedly matters most, delivered to the inboxes of upwardly mobile, dinner-party-hosting, perennially on-the-go professionals - or at least those who want to think of themselves as such. There’s certainly nothing wrong with accessibility in news media—quite the opposite, in fact. But, for corporate “explanatory” news models, it’s worth asking who makes the decisions about which news is the “most important,” and about how that news is framed. How do seemingly benign, even folksy promises to “make sense of the news” mask the ideology of corporate media institutions? And what are the dangers of herding audiences into a center-right political consensus that issues complaints like “campus speech is vexing” and “the left is less welcoming than the right”? On this episode, we examine the rise and hegemony of centrist micro-news platforms–from Axios’s trademarked "Smart Brevity" to The New York Times’ David Leonhardt’s newsletter The Morning and The Daily podcast–looking at how they package left-punching, pathologically incurious, glib news nuggets served up to busy, upwardly mobile, well-meaning liberals. Our guest is writer Jacob Bacharach.
1/24/20241 hour, 20 minutes, 44 seconds
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Beg-A-Thon Announcement Jan 30: The Worst Rise-And-Grind TikTok #Influencers

Get shredded! Get a hot trad wife! Close the Baxter Account! Join us Jan 30 at 8:30pm ET for a live show beg-a-thon with guest Hussein Kesvani, as we break down the most ridiculous and toxic rise-and-grind guys on social media, from David Goggins to Andy Elliott to Ed Mylett. We will be giving away merch, dunking on intense grifter assholes, and having a generally good time live on our YouTube channel.
1/24/20242 minutes, 14 seconds
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News Brief: Quantifying the Media's Selective Humanity in Gaza

In this News Brief, we are joined by Adam's anonymous co-author of their two recent studies—one of print and one of cable news—detailing US's media's double standards when covering the 'Gaza conflict.'
1/19/202457 minutes, 38 seconds
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News Brief: 5 Ways US Media Helps Put a 'Humanitarian' Spin on Gaza Ethnic Cleansing

In this News Brief, we detail how horrific population transfers, mass bombings, and collective punishment are spun as humanitarian gestures to protect civilians.
12/14/202340 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 194: The "Graying Population" Panic and the 90-Year War on Social Security

“Aging population to hit U.S. economy like a 'ton of bricks',” Reuters reported in 2021. “Aging Is The Real Population Bomb,” the International Monetary Fund cautioned earlier this year. “How an aging population poses challenges for U.S. economy, workforce and social programs,” PBS declared in June. “Why we’re borrowing to fund the elderly while neglecting everyone else,” The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell wrote just this past November. Year after year, it seems, American media issues the same warning: The population of the US, due to - among other factors - rising life expectancy and falling birthrates, is getting older, which spells doom for our economy. A graying public, we’re told, will inevitably upend the labor force, destroy productivity, bleed programs like Medicare and Social Security dry, and thus place an undue burden on the younger population. But the premises for this panic are based on misleading stats, goofy non-sequiturs, and misdirected faux class warfare. So, why do media keep insisting the olds are out for your hard-earned money? Who gets to shape our understanding of what an aging population actually means economically or socially? How does this narrative shift the burden from the state to the individual in terms of managing retirement benefits and systems of care? And what are the real harms of treating people over the age of 65 like they’re a cancer on society? On this episode, we examine the narrative that an aging population is necessarily dire, looking at how it’s instrumentalized to gut public benefits for seniors and thus for everyone, advance the financialization of retirement, and reframe the conflict between rich and poor as one between young and old. Our guest is social security expert Nancy Altman.
12/6/20231 hour, 13 minutes, 39 seconds
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News Brief: Media Adopts Israel's Simplistic 'Hunt for Hamas' Narrative, Providing Cover For Ethnic Cleansing

In this News Brief, we detail how American media focusing entirely on discrete "counter attacks" and adopting cool military-speak play-by-play ignores the much bigger and important reality of forcible population transfers and overt plans to remove Palestinians from Palestine.
11/21/202335 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 193: How Military Jargon and Cliches Make Mass Death Seem Sterile (Part II)

“U.S. shipment of 'lethal aid' reaches Ukraine amid Russia tensions,” NBC News reported in January 2022. “U.S. adopting 'deterrence posture' as aircraft carrier heads towards Israel,” France 24 announced in October 2023. The same month, The Hill warned about “Nutrition: The national security threat no one is talking about.”   This is part two of our two-part episode on the language of war. Last week, we discussed terms like “boots on the ground” and “military footprint;” “precision” or “targeted airstrikes;” “terrorism” and the very Orwellian phrase “enemy noncombatant.”   If you haven’t listened to that episode, we definitely encourage you to do so. On this episode, we examine more of the most insidious terms that U.S. media and government officials use to sanitize military aggression worldwide, how this is affecting coverage of Israel’s nonstop murderous bombing of Gaza, and discuss how we all can and should use clearer, more accurate terms to describe the real human stakes of state violence.   Our guests are Maha Hilal and David Vine.  
11/15/202351 minutes, 36 seconds
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Episode 192: How Military Jargon and Cliches Make Mass Death Seem Sterile (Part I)

“Israel Called Them ‘Precision’ Strikes. But Civilian Homes Were Hit, Too.,” The New York Times equivocated back in May 2023. “US Military Footprint in Australia Expands to Counter China,” Bloomberg announced in July 2023. “NATO to launch biggest military exercise since Cold War,” the Financial Times reported in September 2023. Far too often, media accept and parrot the terminology of the Pentagon, never pausing to consider how deceptive and pernicious this language may be. War reportage is regularly littered with euphemisms, metaphors, jargon, and esoteric acronyms that obscure the enormity of the warfare and war crimes waged and backed by the US, warping public perceptions of the violence happening throughout the world in service of US empire. Some major news outlets, such as the New York Times, have adopted policies not to use terms like “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a Bush-era phrase used to sanitize the committing, sanctioning and outsourcing of literal torture by the US government. More recently, the BBC has said it will no longer use the term “terrorist,” as it is “a loaded word, which people use about an outfit they disapprove of morally.” But, troublingly, many loaded, euphemistic words and phrases remain in the vocabulary of leading news media, painting a woefully inaccurate and incomplete picture of both the past and the current state of US-led and US-backed violence around the world. On this episode, Part I of a two-part series on the language of war, we’ll examine five of the 10 most insidious terms that US media and government officials use to sanitize military aggression worldwide, discussing how journalists, writers, and others in media can use terms that are clearer and more representative of the human stakes of war. Next week, we’ll complete the list of 10 with Part II. Our guests are Maha Hilal and David Vine.
11/8/202354 minutes, 49 seconds
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Ep 191: How Media's Use of 'The Economy' Flattens Class Conflict

“Writers Strike Fallout: $2B Economic Impact May Be Just the Beginning,” the Hollywood Reporter states. “Looming UAW strike could cost US economy more than $5B in just 10 days,” Fox Business announces. “In a Strong Economy, Why Are So Many Workers on Strike?” the New York Times wonders. We’re regularly exposed to news media’s updates on some vague notion of “the economy.” Though it’s never really defined, “the economy,” we are told, is something that will suffer if a work stoppage happens, even though striking workers might stand a chance to reap some real economic benefits. It’s also something that somehow does just fine, even thrives, despite rising homelessness, poverty, food insecurity, and general stress and anxiety among the public about their ability to afford basic needs. Against all of this, pundits wonder why people in the US have doubts about the strength of the economy, when, by their standards, it’s doing so well. But when “the economy” is at odds with the interests of the working public, what does that tell us about media’s understanding and use of the term? Whose interests are truly reflected in mainline media’s definitions, or lack thereof, of the economy? On this episode, we examine media’s use of the term and concept of “the economy,” looking at how and why metrics reflecting the interests of capital– like the GDP, the Dow, or IMF reports–are positioned as more important and accurate indicators of economic strength than metrics reflecting the needs of the average person. And how “the economy” is presented as a fragile precious thing that striking workers, protestors, and those seeking to interrupt the normal flow of life want to avoid damaging, at all costs. Our guest is writer Kim Kelly.
11/1/20231 hour, 17 minutes, 52 seconds
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Live Show 10/30/23: 4 Arguments Against a Gaza Ceasefire and Why They're Bullshit

    In this Live Show from 10/30/23, "4 Arguments Against a Gaza Ceasefire and Why They're Bullshit," we break down the four main arguments against a ceasefire in Gaza and why they make no moral, intellectual, or strategic sense.
11/1/202343 minutes, 47 seconds
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Live Show 10/16: Gaza Siege and the Liberal Handwringing Industrial Complex

In this impromptu Live Show recorded 10/16, we breakdown the latest efforts by Democrats to support Israel's brutal bombing and collective punishment of Gaza while still looking "deeply concerned" about the logical outcomes of this bombing and collective punishment.
10/18/20231 hour, 1 minute, 20 seconds
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News Brief: US Media, Washington Rush Head First into 9/11 2.0

In this public News Brief, we discuss the recent escalation in violence in "the middle east" and the quickly-forming bipartisan consensus to jam the issue into a simplistic, dehumanizing War on Terror narrative
10/11/202326 minutes, 58 seconds
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Ep 190: Why Media Insists the US is "Forced" to Commit Human Rights Abuses

"Realities have forced us to remain on diplomatic terms with several dictators," the Pampa Daily News stated in 1958. "U.S. ambassador to the U.N Samantha Power has been forced to look the other way as Saudi Arabia does as it pleases in Yemen," Politico told us in 2016. Biden is being forced to accept the flaws of America's friends," claimed The New York Times earlier this year, 2023. For decades, we've heard the same excuse regarding US foreign policy: 'Our leaders might not agree with the world’s dictatorial, reactionary governments, but they’re forced –– by some unknown geopolitical dark matter of realpolitik –– to support them for some broader, more noble goal.' Strengthening ties with the governments of Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Israel, The Philippines, and other countries under right-wing, human-rights-abusing governance might be a bit unpleasant, but it’s the pragmatic thing to do and, therefore, the morally acceptable thing to do. But countries that are not the United States or its allies are never said to be "forced" into carrying out human rights abuses or supporting those that do. They back bombings, ethnic cleansings, the oppression of women for the sport, because they are existentially evil. No outside mysterious entity ever "forces" them to have to make compromises on the altar of "reality." But there is nothing, of course, "forcing" these decisions on our own Western leaders, and in nearly every case, they're simply extensions of preexisting geopolitical relationships, imperialist policies, and arbitrary might-makes-right governance. On this episode, we discuss the media narrative that the U.S. is "forced" to maintain long-beneficial alliances with right-wing regimes, looking at how this suggestion falsely presents the U.S. as an unwilling, but ultimately helpless, participant in repression of human rights around the world. Our guest is author and NYU professor James Peck.
10/4/20231 hour, 11 minutes, 30 seconds
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Ep 189: PragerU, the 'Product Of His Time' Defense and the White Guilt Amelioration Industrial Complex

"Hitler was a product of his time," historian Kent Gardner told us in 1975, just thirty years after the end of World War II. "Was Frank Rizzo racist, or just a product of his time?" The Philadelphia Inquirer pondered in 2017 about the city's notoriously racist former police commissioner and mayor just 26 years after his death. "Christopher Columbus, no saint, was product of his time," explained a 2013 commentary in the Staten Island Advance. We often hear this sentiment in reference to historical atrocities. Slaveowners, colonizers, genocidal tyrants, and right-wing bigots from decades or centuries past didn't know any better. They were simply responding to the time and place in which they lived — a different time, marked by different social mores, moral standards, and laws. While it's perhaps fair to cite this cliche to explain, rather than justify, awkward song lyrics or offensive language and stereotypes used in movies from decades ago. But it's an entirely different issue with respect to how we venerate and remember the past. Especially since, in the most popular cases, famous people’s bad actions were roundly criticized, at the time. Long popular as a catch-all to hand-wave away the misdeeds of slaveowners, colonizers and war mongers, Increasingly educational movements on the American right––from Ron DeSantis trying to remake history education to conservative propaganda targeting kids like PragerU — this "product of its time" cliché and its close cousin "don't judge the past by the standards of today" is making a bit of comeback, if it ever went away at all. The defensive, superficially appealing cliche is a popular go-to for those who think we shouldn't criticize the supposedly sacrosanct secular deities of our past — from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. But the whole concept operates under a glaring double standard: how can we take pride in and venerate the supposedly good things Americans in history did but ignore and dismiss the bad things? How can we pick and choose our moral inheritance at will? How does the need for us to downplay slavery, colonization, and Jim Crow continue to be such a strong political force? And whose interests does this down-playing serve in 2023? On this episode, we dissect the notion that the reactionary forces of history have just been "products of their time." We'll explore the ways in which this and related concepts are not only inaccurate, but also convenient instruments of right-wing historical revisionism, and how the need to make people feel good about our civic mythology makes for bad history, and even worse politics. Our guest is historian and museum educator Erin Bartram.
9/27/20231 hour, 21 minutes, 1 second
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News Brief: GOP, Corporate Media Attempt to Manufacture Conflict Between Autoworkers and Climate

In this public News Brief, we break down recent attempts by Politico, Axios, New York Times and faux populist Republicans to pit autoworkers against climate mandates. Our guest Sydney Ghazarian.
9/20/202327 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 188: How Capital Repackages Substandard Products for the Poor as "Increasing Access"

"COVAX and World Bank to Accelerate Vaccine Access for Developing Countries," trumpets a World Bank press release. "How AI Is Making Healthcare More Affordable And Accessible," announces Forbes magazine. "How technology is helping improve financial inclusion around the world," reports CNBC.   It's a linguistic frame that appears regularly in media, PR, and policymaking. Those who can't afford the top-tier forms of basic necessities like housing or physical and mental healthcare, we're told, can have "access" to less expensive, lower-quality versions. Enter bottom-rung ACA marketplace plans, less effective COVID vaccines, homeless people living in train containers, scammy cryptocurrency apps, and clunky chatbot "therapists." After all, they're better than the alternative: having no healthcare, housing, or income at all.   But why must having nothing at all be the only alternative? Why isn't it possible to ensure high-quality essentials for everyone? And how does media's repackaging of substandard necessities as "increasing access" and fostering "inclusion" serve to make the barbarism of austerity politics seem palatable, even benevolent?   On this episode, our season seven premiere, we'll examine the trope of framing subpar material essentials as forms of "inclusion" for the poor or "increasing access" to important life saving and sustaining needs, exploring how media simply accept, rather than challenge, the manufactured austerity that allows this cruel stratification in the first place.   Our guest is writer, artist and pod host Beatrice Adler-Bolton.
9/13/20231 hour, 22 minutes, 22 seconds
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News Brief: Attack of the Salt of the Earth Republican Country Music Stars

In this News Brief we discuss two recent "controversial" country hits, “Try That In A Small Town” by Jason Aldean and "Rich Men North of Richmond" by Oliver Anthony––and their attendant partisan utility. Our guest, Citations' resident Country Music correspondent Alexander Billet.
8/17/202338 minutes, 7 seconds
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Episode 187: Undercover Boss, Uber-Driving CEOs, and the "Empathetic Executive" Schtick

“New Starbucks CEO plans to pull barista shifts in stores every month,” CNN announces. “Uber’s CEO moonlighted as a driver and it changed the way he operates the company,” Fortune insists. “Your DoorDash driver? He’s the company’s co-founder,” the Associated Press smirks. Month after month or week after week, we seem to hear the same stories about bold corporate executives who’ve decided to roll up their sleeves—metaphorically or otherwise—and join their lowest-level employees as a delivery driver, barista, or retail worker. Their stated goal: to “stay connected” to and “better understand” the company, its customers, and its workers. While these attempts to foster and express empathy may appear noble on the surface, they’re anything but. In reality, the CEO-as-worker stunt is an entirely self-serving project, creating a pretext for worker surveillance and a distraction from labor abuses like poverty wages and union-busting, all the while seeking to convince the public that corporate executives are honest, hardworking folks, Just Like You. Today, we will be dissecting the past and present of Undercover Boss-style corporate maneuvers, looking at the ways in which the C-suiter-in-the-trenches routine advances the squishy concept of “empathy” in order to obscure and undermine the material needs and demands of labor. Our guest is Ligia Guallpa, Executive Director of the Worker's Justice Project, a community-based, workers’ rights organization in New York City.
8/2/20231 hour, 4 minutes, 14 seconds
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Episode 186: Nativism in Media (Part III) - IMF, NAFTA and Global Inequality By Design

"The World Bank and its president have been doing an important, constructive job the past five years," announced The Southern Illinoisan in 1973. "IMF assistance [has] put Jamaica well on the road to recovery," reported The Winnipeg Sun in 1982. The Trans-Pacific Partnership “could be a legacy-making achievement” for Barack Obama, The New York Times suggested in 2015. These are the dominant narratives surrounding so-called "development" initiatives, whether structural adjustment loans or "free trade" deals. Agreements like these, we're often told, have been and continue to be essential to the economic maturation and societal improvement of poor countries. Countries that shift from nationalized to privatized industry and land, so called liberalize trade policies, and institute a host of other free-market reforms are destined for greater efficiency, reduced poverty, and that much-coveted "Seat At The Table" in the global economy. But, all too often, this isn't the effect of these initiatives. What we don’t tend to hear about is how economic development "agreements" engineered by wealthy countries like the US — e.g., IMF loans, NAFTA, or the TPP — don't promote, but rather reverse, the development of exploited countries. Media minimize not only these initiatives' destructive effects on economies, labor, and social programs in service of U.S. corporations, but also their relationship to the punitive U.S. immigration system, and their extensive role in mass global displacement. This episode – the last installment of our three-part series on media narratives about immigration (listen to Part I here and Part II here!) – explores the displacing effects of "development" and "free trade" deals, as well as their connection to an increasingly militarized immigration "deterrence" machine, asking why capital is allowed to move freely, but people aren't. Our guest is Dylan Sullivan.
7/26/20231 hour, 23 minutes, 24 seconds
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Episode 185: Nativism in Media (Part II) - The Artificial Cold War Distinction Between 'Migrants' and 'Refugees'

Immigration law should "stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents," the Obama White House stated in 2013. "Migrant Caravan Continues North, Defying Mexico and U.S.," The New York Times warned in 2018. "Biden Administration Invites Ordinary Americans to Help Settle Refugees," NPR announced in early 2023. For over a century, U.S. policy and media have distinguished between supposedly different types of immigrants. There are refugees, who are fleeing political persecution, and migrants, who are crossing a border for reasons that aren’t necessarily so noble. There are deserving immigrants, who are upwardly mobile and law-abiding. And there are undeserving immigrants, who are tax-dodging gang members. It may be easy to take this hierarchy of displaced people for granted, as it’s become so commonplace in U.S. immigration discourse. But there’s nothing natural or organic about it. These distinctions––between, for example, "refugee" and "migrant" –– are historically informed by racism, gendered notions of labor and a superficial, ideological distinction between negative and positive rights. The plight of certain immigrants is instrumentalized and prioritized over others, depending on their proximity to contemporary notions of whiteness, their ability to create cheap labor, and their utility to combating the spread of dangerous leftwing ideologies like anarchism and socialism. This episode – Part 2 of our three-part series on media narratives about immigration (listen to Part I here!) – examines the U.S. government's pattern of arbitrarily categorizing displaced people as some version of "good" or "bad." We'll look at how these distinctions are informed by, and often obfuscate, the U.S.'s global relations and imperialist expansion, and how the policies behind these categories turn people seeking safety and stability into geopolitical pawns. Our guest is writer, historian and professor, Dr. Rachel Ida Buff.
7/19/20231 hour, 16 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 184 - Nativism in Media Part 1: How Dehumanization and Militarization Manufactured a "Border Crisis"

"What one photo from the border tells us about the evolving migrant crisis," The Washington Post reveals. "The U.S. immigration crisis through the eyes of a border town mayor," reports Boston's NPR station. "Everyone can now agree – the US has a border crisis," proclaims CNN. There's a seemingly endless stream of warnings in news media that the US is being met with a "crisis" at the US-Mexico border. This crisis, according to the press—whether it’s called a "border crisis," "migrant crisis," "immigration crisis," or some variant thereof—is the movement of people away from countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and elsewhere, toward the United States. This phenomenon will supposedly distort, strain, and burden the US labor market, social services, housing, and economy in general. But, contrary to media framings, the movement of people isn't per se a "crisis." Nothing is inherently harmful about the movement of human beings from one place to another. The "crisis," instead, is the militarized and inhumane response to the movement of surplus and unwanted populations; it's US policy toward the people, especially from the Global South, who seek refuge here. It's the history of imperialist violence, the existence and enforcement of the border, and the deflection of responsibility away from the US, and onto the dehumanized and demonized asylum seekers. On this episode, part one of a three-part episode on immigration, we explore media's World War Z-conjuring "border crisis" narrative, looking at how it obscures the US’s role in creating the conditions so many people have no choice but to flee; how it reinforces false notions about immigrants and asylum seekers; and how it retcons the wealthiest, most powerful country in world history into an innocent victim, too fragile to support the people in dire need of escaping the wanton violence that very country helped unleash. Our guest is Boston University assistant professor Dr. Heba Gowayed.
7/12/20231 hour, 17 minutes, 28 seconds
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News Brief: As UPS Strike "Looms," Media Frames Working-Class Revolt as "Threat" to "The Economy"

In this public News Brief, we break down media coverage of the potential UPS strike––and the trend more broadly in labor coverage––that paints a strike as something that harms "the consumer" or "the economy" rather than what it is: the only thing that gives workers any power. Our guest is writer and media analyst Teddy Ostrow, host of The Upsurge podcast.
7/5/202340 minutes, 25 seconds
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News Brief: 2000s Zombie Neoliberalism Lives On in Obama's New Netflix Doc

In this News Brief, we review the former President's new docuseries and his attempt to paper over class conflict in favor of a Simply Asking CEOs To Be Nicer brand of politics. With guest Maximillian Alvarez of The Real News.
6/21/202350 minutes, 57 seconds
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News Brief: "Go Fly Yourself": Marketing 'Sex' and the Great Stewardess Rebellion of the 1970s

In this Live Interview with Nell McShane Wulfhart, we discuss the hidden labor and humiliation of the Airline Industry's "Swingin' 60's" image and how the "pretty faces" behind the tawdry ads fought back.
6/14/202346 minutes, 22 seconds
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Episode 183: AI Hype and the Disciplining of “Creative,” Academic, and Journalistic Labor

"Is artificial intelligence advancing too quickly?" 60 Minutes warns. "BuzzFeed CEO says AI may revolutionize media, fears possible 'dystopian' path," CBS News tells us. "TV and film writers are fighting to save their jobs from AI. They won't be the last," CNN reports. Over and over, especially in recent months, we hear this line: AI is advancing so fast, growing so sophisticated, and becoming so transformative as to completely reshape the entire economy to say nothing of our shaky media landscape. In some cases, those in the press deem this a good thing; in others, a bad thing but in terms that get the problem all wrong. But virtually all media buy the basic line that something big and transformative isn’t just coming, but is in fact already here. Obviously, we can't predict the future, but we can comment on the present. Yes, AI platforms can generate low-level marketing copy, pro forma emails, and shitty corporate art. But progress in these capacities does not, as such, portend a radical advancement into actual human intelligence and creativity. Meanwhile, there’s little to no evidence to support the claim that AI, namely large language models like ChatGPT, actually can perform – or even intervene to save time performing – any type of high-level writing craft, journalism, fiction, screenwriting, and a host of “creative” production. So why do we keep hearing otherwise? What purpose does this type of religious-like providential thinking serve? And who stands to benefit from the vague sense of a future of AI-written essays, articles, and scripts, no matter how terrible they may be? In this episode, we explore media's current Inevitability Narrative, namely its credulous warning that ChatGPT is about to do the work of media and entertainment professionals, examining the ways in which this narrative, despite the evidence to the contrary, serves as a constant, implicit threat to workers and a convenient pretext for labor abuses like wage reduction, layoffs, and union-busting. We also review how this media hype works to obscure the very real, banal harms of AI, such as racism, surveillance, over policing and lack of accountability for the powerful. Our guest is Rutgers professor Dr. Lauren M.E. Goodlad.
5/31/20231 hour, 32 minutes, 58 seconds
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A Citations Needed Live Show Beg-A-Thon: The Very Real Social Brain Rot of Ancient Aliens and Ancient Apocalypse

On this Live Show Beg-a-Thon, recorded on May 17, we discuss the pop culture phenomenon and appeal of pseudoarchaeology in its many forms, from fraudulent alternative history books like Erich von Däniken's 1968 book, Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, to television series like "Ancient Aliens" and "Ancient Apocalypse." Alongside guest Dr. David S. Anderson, we discuss how phony "what if?" theories often go beyond the goofy, guilty pleasure premises of extraterrestrial visitors and lost civilizations to promote Eurocentric, racist pap and a mindless distrust of "the scientific establishment" in the stupidest and least productive way possible.
5/24/20231 hour, 18 minutes, 25 seconds
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Ep. 182: Hardhats vs Hippies and the Cold War Curation of the Conservative Union Guy Trope

"Thank God for the hard hats!" declared Richard Nixon during his first term. "Why the construction workers holler, ‘U. S. A., all the way!,’" read a 1970 New York Times headline. "The Day the White Working Class Turned Republican," read another New York Times headline, 50 years later in 2020. We're now more than five decades since this narrative first arose: The hardhats love America, and the hippies hate it. Whether Nixon or Trump is in the White House, news media, film, and TV tell us that the working class—good, honest blue-collar folk—are people of God, family, and country, unlike those spoiled, rich, out-of-touch lefty elites. This binary framework is presented as organic, the result of working people and unions feeling left out by the lofty exclusivism of the Left. But, as history shows, this didn’t happen entirely naturally or spontaneously; the "hardhats vs. hippies" narrative was, in part, manufactured by right-wing political and union operatives, more concerned with a McCarthyist imperative to destroy any and all social movements in the global south than with any notion of worker justice and liberation. On this episode, we explore this history, looking at the ways in which rightwing factions of organized labor bolstered dangerous US foreign policy throughout the Cold War, deliberately crafting the false yet persistent notion that union Our guest is labor historian Jeff Schuhrke.  
5/17/20231 hour, 20 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 181: US Media's 5 Most Popular Revisionist Tropes About the Iraq and Vietnam Wars

"Charting a different course in the Vietnam War to fewer deaths and a better end," muses a book review in the Washington Post. "The Vietnam War was begun in good faith, by decent people," a Ken Burns PBS documentary tells us. "The Iraq War Reconsidered," reads a headline from The Atlantic. Often, especially when an anniversary of a U.S. invasion or withdrawal rolls around, we're told that the devastation wrought by the US war machine was complicated, flawed, but ultimately necessary if not beneficial. Sure, the United States has killed millions, destabilized power structures, wrecked communities and economies, lied about the reasons for doing it all, and drawn the ire of people throughout the world. But, in hindsight, many in U.S. media insists, a horrible act of war from a world superpower wasn't an unequivocal, deliberate, and needless crime against humanity, but somewhere between a misunderstood righteous cause and a bumbling, good faith mistake motivated by humanitarian concerns. An ideological system of reassurance therefore emerges. Once wars are broadly viewed as either wrong or a "failure" in the popular imagination — as in the case of Vietnam and Iraq — a cottage industry of punditry and pseudo-history emerges in the subsequent years designed to soothe the egos of elites and muddy the waters of both memory and reality for casual media consumers. Put another way: we all see a dead body on the floor, no one can doubt this. No one can reasonably argue the destruction of Vietnam and Iraq didn't happen. So, this cottage industry springs into action, on behalf of those that caused the death, working to get the guilty party a charge of third degree manslaughter rather than murder. It was an accident, they were mistaken, they had bad intelligence, they were driven by concerns for freedom and human rights. After all, those who destroyed Vietnam remained in power well into the 2000s. And those who destroyed Iraq currently run our major publications, universities, nonprofits, and think tanks. They still even run the country itself. So the incentive to make sure they all plead guilty to third degree manslaughter rather than first degree murder is tremendous, otherwise, we’re just a country led by war criminals — and this simply cannot be. We need absolution. We must remain, when all is said and done, innocent. On this week's episode, we’ll explore the war revisionism industry, breaking down five ways in which media seek to sanitize and justify even the most notoriously unpopular and horrific U.S.-led and backed wars — namely Vietnam and Iraq — as unpleasant, imperfect, mistaken, but ultimately incidental byproducts of a noble and righteous empire that, above all, meant well. Our guest is The Intercept's Jon Schwarz.
5/10/20231 hour, 37 minutes, 34 seconds
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Episode 180: Havana Syndrome and the Power of Mainstream, Acceptable Conspiracy Theories

"I Was A Teenage Conspiracy Theorist," The Atlantic magazine playfully titled a 2020 essay. "Choose your reality: Trust wanes, conspiracy theories rise," reported The Associated Press in 2022. "Do You Know Someone Who Believes in Conspiracy Theories? We Want to Hear About It," wrote The New York Times last year. Fears of "conspiracy theories" are a common trope in the U.S. media, a worry that's grown more acute with the rise of QAnon, anti-vaxx sentiment, anti-semitism and a host of other dangerous theories that unduly rot brains throughout the country. To a great extent, this understandable: Many ideas that meet the definition of "conspiracy theories" are, indeed, baseless and dangerous and can direct people's political energy and resources into wasteful, racist, and downright stupid rabbit holes. But that fact shouldn't delegitimize or foreclose all skepticism of those in power, but too often the term "conspiracy theory" is used to do just that. Repeatedly, media lump together so-called conspiracy theories, regardless of their accuracy, rationale, and ideology: at once, UFO chasers, QAnon, and the Black Panther Party being subject to FBI disruption are somehow placed in the same category of paranoid kooks. At the same time, unproven, and often debunked ideas advanced by media that also meet the definition of "conspiracy theories" — such as Saddam Hussein being behind 9/11 or so-called Havana syndrome — are treated as unassailable, meriting ongoing investigation, limitless resources, and of course, utmost solemnity. On this episode, we detail the double standards applied to conspiracy theories inside and outside of the realm of U.S. corporate media. We’ll examine the development of the concept of conspiracy theories and the media's selective invocations of the term to discredit real grievances directed at American power and the U.S. government, and moreover, how power-friendly conspiracies — namely those focused on Enemy States like the Havana Syndrome narrative — are permitted to fester and grow without pushback because their red yarn dot connecting implicates the right lists of Acceptable Bad Guys. Our guest is Jacobin writer Branko Marcetic.
5/3/20231 hour, 26 minutes, 34 seconds
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News Brief Live: Tucker Carlson's Transparent 'Contrarian Left' Co-Option Strategy

In this live streamed News Brief from 4/26/23, we discuss the recent firing of Tucker Carlson and the meta-discourse around whether or not "the left" should see any utility in petty, racist demagogues.
4/28/202341 minutes, 21 seconds
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Announcement: Citations Needed's Semiannual Beg-A-Thon Live Show on April 26!

Join us April 26 at 8:30 pm EST for our semiannual Beg-A-Thon live show! This time we will be discussing Ancient Aliens, Ancient Apocalypse, and all manner of racist, ahistorical History Channel and Netflix pseudoscience with Dr. Sarah E. Bond, Associate Professor of History at the University of Iowa.
4/19/20232 minutes, 14 seconds
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News Brief: Media's Credulous "Labor Shortage" Reporting Helps Lay Groundwork For Repealing Child Labor Laws

In this public News Brief, we detail how uncritical acceptance by centrist––and even liberal––media that the US is seeing an unprecedented "labor shortage" is helping justify repealing child labor protections in roughly a dozen states.
4/12/202326 minutes, 27 seconds
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News Brief: How Brandon Johnson's Win Upends US Media's Patronizing, Simplistic "Crime" Narratives

In this public News Brief, we break down Johnson's "surprise" win and how it undermines every lazy media trope involving local Democratic politics pushed over the last two years.
4/5/202321 minutes, 1 second
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Episode 179: From Budget Cuts to Book Bans — The Decades-Long Assault on Public Libraries

"Parents fighting schools to protect their kids are heroes, not book-banners," Fox News tells us. Are Privatized Public Libraries So Bad?" asks CityLab. "Huntsville Public Library could be privatized in aftermath of pride display dispute," reports Houston Public Media. For decades, public libraries have been under attack. Repeatedly, influential rightwing and centrist individuals, corporations, and governments––from Phyllis Schlafly to Ron DeSantis––have coordinated campaigns to weaken one of the most beloved and least means-tested public institutions in the country. They seek to, at best, restrict the materials, functions, and decision-making power of public libraries, and at worst, destroy public libraries completely, tossing aside the people who depend on them for education, employment, and often survival. What is it about public libraries that inspires such contempt? What's responsible for the chasm between the US population's perceptions of public libraries––which are overwhelmingly positive––and policymaking that seeks to ruin those libraries? And who suffers when one of the few true public goods left in the US is targeted and seized by reactionary forces? On this episode, we examine the decades-long right-wing assault on US public libraries, the history of book bans and defunding, attendant efforts to privatize public libraries, and how these intersect with the labor struggles of librarians nationwide. Our guest is president-elect of the American Library Association, Emily Drabinski.
3/29/20231 hour, 4 minutes, 7 seconds
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Episode 178: The Palliative Pop-History of American "Racial Progress" Narratives

"Our progress has been part of the living history of America," President Jimmy Carter declared in a 1979 speech. "America is a nation of progress, of moving forward," Senator Chuck Grassley stated in 2022 on the Senate floor. "The story of America is a story of progress and resilience, of always moving forward, of never, ever giving up. It's a story unique among all nations," President Joe Biden announced in his 2023 State of the Union. For decades - even centuries - policymakers, and media on their behalf, have employed some variation on the same rhetorical theme: the United States is a nation of progress, especially so-called "racial progress." Though our Great Experiment has been imperfect, we're told, it's constantly improving, steadily and automatically forging ahead toward its ideal state. Yes, we've been home to the violent oppression of untold sums of people, but look how far we’ve come! There have objectively been political gains for all groups historically and currently denied basic rights in the U.S. This is obvious. But the trajectory is far from linear, raising the question: How far have "we" really come? Are people, especially Black, Latino, and Native people, less likely to suffer through poverty than any time before now? Are police and prisons any less violent? To what extent have U.S. law and policymaking really evolved? On this episode, we dissect the liberal assertion that social, particularly racial, progress in the U.S. is inevitable, that there's this comforting "arc" of history bending towards justice. We examine how this idea came to be, who gets to define the metrics of "progress," and why it's dangerous to advance the tidy Vaseline-lens narrative that societal improvement is part of some preordained future. Our guest is Dr. Julian M. Rucker.
3/22/20231 hour, 12 minutes, 27 seconds
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Episode 177: Popular Anti-Union Talking Points and How to Combat Them

"Unions used to make sense but are obsolete in today's economy!" Unions are an "outside force" or "third party." "I'm a strong worker. Unionization will harm me personally and only help the weak and lazy workers." "Unions are rigid, old fashioned hierarchies." We’ve all no doubt heard these talking points at some point, if not often, from news shows, opinion pieces, TV dramas, members of our families, our co-workers and, probably most of all, our bosses. What’s remarkable is how little these general talking points have changed throughout the decades. Some versions of these pat anti-union lines have been around since there have been unions. It's generally unseemly to appear anti-worker or not OF the working class so opposition to the one thing that historically empowers the working class––unions––is seen as crass and politically incorrect. So, in its place has emerged a popular set of go-to, sophistic arguments that allow one to appear pro-working class without the messiness and ideological heavy lifting of actually supporting labor organizing and unionization. These McArguments––that after decades of anti-union messaging feel right without being right––appeal to ignorance, prejudice, vagueness and gendered and racialized perceptions of what labor is, and what labor deserves: the protection and stability offered by collective bargaining. On this episode, we detail eight of the most popular anti-union talking points, their origins, who they serve, their purpose and power, and––most important of all––how to combat them. Our guest is union organizer and author Daisy Pitkin.
3/15/20231 hour, 15 minutes, 15 seconds
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News Brief: Defensiveness and Demagoguery in East Palestine

In this News Brief, we discuss the initial lack of coverage of the devastating February 3rd train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio; the coverage of the lack of coverage; the GOP's "white genocide" exploitation; Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's defensiveness; and the real human stakes of decades of bipartisan deregulation and union-busting. Our guest is journalist Matthew Cunningham-Cook (@matthewccook5), a writer and researcher covering health care, retirement policy and capital markets. He is currently a reporter at The Lever.
3/1/202335 minutes, 29 seconds
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News Brief: The Battle Over NYT's Lurid, Tabloid Coverage of 'Trans Issues'

In this News Brief, we break down the recent controversy over the open letter sent by 1200+ NYT contributors pushing back on The Times' salacious coverage of "trans issues," and how the Paper of Record's response has proved to be thin skinned, sanctimonious, and hypocritical. With guests Eric Thurm and Julia Carmel.
2/24/202347 minutes
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News Brief: How Newspapers Aided Genocide in California - An Interview with Benjamin Madley

In this extended interview, we speak with UCLA Associate Professor Benjamin Madley about his book, "An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe," and discuss how newspapers, tracts, and paperbacks were an essential element in assisting and priming the public for the genocide of California's native population. Prof. Madley's work was instrumental in our research for previous Citations Needed episodes - namely, "Episode 158: How Notions of 'Blight' and 'Barrenness' Were Created to Erase Indigenous Peoples" and "Episode 172: The Foundational Myth Machine - Indigenous Peoples of North America and Hollywood" - so we were thrilled to dig even deeper into his work on this special News Brief.
2/15/202348 minutes, 9 seconds
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Episode 176: How the “Parental Rights” Rallying Cry Has Been a Rightwing Stalking Horse for Over 100 Years

"Surrounded by children, DeSantis signs the 'Parental Rights in Education' bill," ABC13 reports. "Biden partnered with organization which questioned parents' rights to be notified about their kids' transition" Fox News tells us. "Parental rights isn't a partisan issue. It's what's best for our children," an opinion column in The Washington Times warns. We've heard these cries for over a century from reactionary forces: we’re just a bunch of scrappy "parents" protecting our kids from sinister, secular forces of state control. But what does "parents' rights" mean exactly? Which parents' rights are we talking about? Which "rights" are we centering, and who funds which parents to assert which set of rights that, we are told, are essential to these "parents"? There is, of course, no essential "parents" cohort with a coherent ideology and view on education. But, as a term, it's a useful stalking horse for far right political projects targeting education, namely those opposing secularism, anti-racism, LGBTQ existence, labor, and teachers unions. A skeleton key for whatever reactionary cause doesn’t want to be presented as such. After all, who could oppose "parents' rights." Like the clever term "pro-life," the "parents' rights" label is similarly designed to put advocates of secularism and progress on the defensive, to erase parents who oppose a far-right agenda, and court sympathetic and whitewashing coverage from corporate media. On this episode, we discuss the history of "parents' rights" as a popular right-wing slogan, from its uses in opposing child labor laws in the early 20th century to pushing religious indoctrination in public schools in the 1990s to today's attacks on trans people and teachers unions; how its evocation by the right––and acceptance by media outlets––obscures the darker motives and political forces at work; and why any media framing of what "parents" want or don't want is inherently mugging bullshit. Our guest is Jennifer Berkshire.
2/8/20231 hour, 9 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 175: Selective Humanitarianism and the US Role in Afghanistan's Post-Occupation Famine

"History will cast a shadow over Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan," the Washington Post’s David Ignatius warned in April of 2021. "Biden's Betrayal of Afghans Will Live in Infamy," George Packer cautioned in The Atlantic magazine in August of that year. "The Cost of Betrayal in Afghanistan," wrote The Atlantic Council’s Ariel Cohen in Newsweek shortly thereafter. When news broke in April of 2021 that the Biden administration planned to withdraw all documented US troops from Afghanistan after a 20-year occupation, media outlets almost uniformly rushed to issue condemnations. How could the US, and the West more broadly, simply "abandon the Afghan people," especially women, we’d so bravely liberated? How could the US just up and leave, when it had invested and sacrificed so very much to counter the Taliban over the course of two decades?   This outrage stood, and still stands, in stark contrast to the media’s default state of indifference to the suffering people of Afghanistan, and the US’ extensive role in engineering that suffering. For many decades now, American, British, and other Western media have only really seemed to be concerned with the plight of Afghan people, namely women, when it serves to bolster the case for war, occupation, and the continuation of US regional hegemony. Meanwhile, during Afghanistan’s now second winter of famine after having more than $7 billion dollars stolen from its economy by the United States and its allies, these very same pundits and outlets are uniformly silent on this unfolding human rights disaster, caused, again, in large part, by the United States itself.   On this episode, we examine the media's pattern of selective, chauvinistic outrage when addressing the welfare of Afghan people. We also study how media diminishes the enormous role the US has played in destabilizing the country of Afghanistan and endangering its people, how media portray US military solutions as the only means of support for Afghan people, and how media treat Afghans as little more than pawns in a game of US soft- and hard-power expansion and domestic media-focused moral preening.   Our guests are Hadiya Afzal and Julie Hollar.
2/1/20231 hour, 31 minutes, 55 seconds
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Episode 174: How Your Favorite 1990's "Very Special" Anti-Drug Episode Was Probably Funded by the US Government

On a Very Special Episode of "Home Improvement," Tim and Jill lecture their son about the dangers of marijuana after he’s caught smoking a joint. On a powerful episode of ABC’s "Sports Night," written by Aaron Sorkin, sportscaster Dan Rydell delivers a four-minute monologue on how dope killed his younger brother. On a devastating episode of CBS's "Chicago Hope," a dozen teenagers are rushed to the emergency room after taking a new psychedelic drug at a rave. We’ve all seen these "Very Special" drug episodes throughout our childhoods and adolescence. For some reason, our favorite shows, seemingly out of nowhere, decided to dedicate an entire episode to the perils of teenage drug use. These episodes, mostly from the 1980s and '90s, have become a cultural punchline, something amusing and mocked but ultimately, one would think, harmless. But what most viewers don't know is that many of these episodes were not just part of a teen-oriented convention turned TV trope; a number of them were actually funded by the federal government to the tune of hundreds of thousands––sometimes millions–– of dollars to promote so-called "drug awareness." The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the late 1990s made a deal with multiple TV networks to include anti-drug messaging in show plots. In 1997, Congress approved a plan to buy $1 billion of anti-drug advertising over five years for its National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. From at least 1997 to 2000, the Feds paid TV networks to air what was ostensibly drug awareness public health information but was, in many key ways, propaganda to sustain and build support for the war on drugs. The White House drug office paid networks large sums of money to weave so-called "anti-drug" stories in their narratives, undisclosed to the viewer, often revising and approving scripts without the show writers knowledge. Rather than being harmless––if corny––anti-drug messages we can all now laugh at, these narratives were also part of a broader scare strategy to frighten, misinform, and prop up the federal government's war on drugs both at home and abroad. On this episode, we will review some of the major TV shows that ran these episodes, how much money they took in from the U.S. government, and how these tropes shaped and directly impacted public policy that promoted racism, imperial meddling in Latin America, and mass incarceration. Our guest is Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
1/25/20231 hour, 27 minutes, 39 seconds
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News Brief: 'Tough Love' Used to Justify Abusing Children and Surplus Black Population in Alabama

In this News Brief, we talk with Josie Duffy Rice about her new podcast, "Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children,” incarceration as racial disciplining mechanism, and what has––and hasn't––changed in our so-called "juvenile justice system".
1/18/202339 minutes, 7 seconds
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Episode 173: How to Sell Police Crackdowns on Homeless People to Liberals

"The city has had 125 daily interactions," New York Mayor Eric Adams tells the Daily News. "We’re working to solve the homelessness crisis, with innovative mental health interventions," San Francisco Mayor London Breed tells reporters. The city needs to "clean up homeless encampments," countless city officials tell us. Everywhere we turn, our elected –– largely Democratic –– governors and mayors are talking about quote "solving the homelessness crisis" without specifying what, exactly, these plans entail.   Saying elected officials are going to harass and displace the homeless population until they’re incarcerated or leave our city and wealthy neighborhood sounds unseemly and inhumane. But this –– minus the occasional and insufficient attempts to offer public housing –– is more or less the strategy of most big cities: Send in police to "sweep up" encampments, enforce low-level drug offenses and ticket the unhoused for loitering and camping, But saying this is the plan sounds mean, so, over the past couple of years, as America’s housing crisis has grown more acute and the end of COVID-era tenant protections unceremoniously sunset, a cottage industry of pleasant sounding euphemisms have emerged to sell police-led homeless crackdowns to squeamish liberals.   The right-wing, historically, is fairly upfront with its bootstrap, austerity logic. And they, for the most part, don't run major cities where the homelessness crisis manifests. Liberals and progressives –– short on resources and political incentive to actually address the underlying issues –– need to sell the same played out, discredited carceral attempts at removing Visible Poverty but, unlike Republicans, can't do so in explicit terms. So, a PR regime emerges to paper over these glaring contradictions, leading to heretofore unseen levels of bullshittery.   On this episode, we going to examine four popular euphemisms employed by "blue" city leaders to sell the same old carceral playbook to their wary, self-identifying progressive constituents, how these programs do little to address the central issues of a lack of affordable and free housing, and how city leaders –– with wildly insufficient federal support for housing, a foaming anti-homeless media and suffering from institutional political cowardice –– are left with little more than meaningless "emergency declarations," Tough Guy, Take Charge press conferences, and nice-sounding rehashes of the same failed, cruel policies of austerity and precarity.   Our guest is The Wren Collective's Henna Khan.
12/21/20221 hour, 23 minutes, 27 seconds
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Episode 172: The Foundational Myth Machine - Indigenous Peoples of North America and Hollywood

Soldiers from the US Cavalry defeat the Plains Indians, securing new territory for their burgeoning empire. A group of settlers fends off an armed Indigenous tribe on horseback in their intrepid effort to conquer new lands. A Civil War hero decides to head for the frontier in its waning days, forging an undying friendship with the Native people there. Each of these summaries describes a film made within the last hundred years that explores dynamics between white settlers and Indigenous people in North America in what we now know as the United States, and sometimes Canada. The problem, of course, is that these films, and so many others like them, don’t — to say the least — present this history accurately. Instead, since Hollywood’s inception, the viewing public has been primarily fed a diet of reductive, dehumanizing, and paternalistic depictions of Indigenous people. But why have stories involving Indigenous people so frequently involved the perspectives of white settlers? Why are the vast majority of these stories confined to the genre of the Western, replete with shootouts and stagecoaches? What role does the U.S. government play when it comes to the stories we’re told about Indigenous people, how has the historically simplistic portrayal of Native people benefited the interests of the United States and Canada? And how — above all — was the expansion of US empire westward and, later, across the globe, inextricably linked to the Hollywood project of romanticized Western ideals. On this episode, we examine the history of Indigenous depictions in Hollywood, looking at the ways the entertainment industry has sanitized the genocide and subsequent enduring abuses of Indigenous people, recycled centuries-old “noble savage” tropes, and argue that Indian dehumanizations wasn’t just an accidental byproduct of white supremacy, but was essential and central to the establishment of America’s sense of self and moral purpose. Our guest is Anishinaabe writer, broadcaster and arts leader Jesse Wente.
12/14/20221 hour, 30 minutes, 54 seconds
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News Brief: Biden, Congressional Dems Partner with GOP, Media to Discipline Rail Labor

In this News Brief, we are joined by Real News' Mel Buer and Max Alvarez to discuss the media campaign to obscure Biden and Congressional Dems selling out rail workers. 
11/30/202257 minutes, 22 seconds
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News Brief: Law & Order's Boring Anti-Bail Reform Diatribe

Five days before the midterm elections, the long-running NBC staple removed all subtlety and character work and explicitly lobbied against bail reform in a ham-fisted, boring slog of an episode. With guest Juwan J. Holmes.
11/23/202243 minutes, 23 seconds
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Episode 171: The Vacuity of "Radical Libs Forced Voters Into the Arms of the Right" Discourse

"How The Left Created Trump," revealed Rob Hoffman in Politico in November 2016. "Blame liberals for the rise of Donald Trump," insisted S.E. Cupp in The Chicago Tribune the year before. "How the left enabled fascism," explained David Winner in The New Statesman in 2018. For decades, we’ve been fed a narrative that the rise of any right-wing tendency is the fault of leftists and liberal scolds. The electoral appeal and success of fascist movements and politicians, we’re told, is first and foremost a reaction to blue-haired wokeness warriors whose language and protests alienate and antagonize Real People. These Real People, then, have no choice but to shift further right, where they find a political home – typically shared with the likes of faux-populists like J.D. Vance, Josh Hawley, and Tucker Carlson – that makes them feel included and represents their best interests. It’s a convenient refrain. Instead of placing the blame on wealthy and powerful right-wingers and centrists who actually benefit from the preservation of reactionary politics, or giving credit to left-wing activists for challenging devastating right-wing policies, this narrative instead demonizes the powerless, while insisting that those who are fighting for a better world should simply give up, lest their agitative ways turn off potential allies and create another Trump. Who does this narrative benefit, and how do both overtly right-wing and ostensibly liberal legacy media allow it to persist? On this episode, we dissect the concept that reactionaries’ politics are the result not of their own interests, but of a snarky, out-of-touch Lefties who say mean things and simply bring up racism, imperialism and other injustices too much, and if they simply went away, the Trump right would starve itself to death and be replaced by moderate, reasonable National Review politicians. Our guest is The Dig's Daniel Denvir.
11/16/20221 hour, 16 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 170: The Shallow, Audience-Flattering Appeal of the ‘Neither Right Nor Left’ Guy

"Clinton Says He's Not Leaning Left but Taking a New 'Third Way,'" reported The New York Times in 1992. "It's not left. It’s not right. It’s forward!" proclaimed former presidential candidate Andrew Yang during a 2019 Democratic debate. "Neither left nor right," reads the slogan of far-right French political party Front National. Every few years we hear about a new, trailblazing political vision that transcends traditional party lines, leaning not to the right or the left, but straight ahead. No longer, we're told, must we conform to antiquated political notions of "liberal" or "conservative," nor must we continue to tolerate the corrupt duopoly. Instead, we can embrace a forward-thinking alternative; a third way; a modern, pragmatic and new political paradigm. But for all the talk of moving "beyond left and right," there sure is a lot of right-wing sentiment. Rhetoric like this almost exclusively comes from neo-fascists, libertarians, and centrists – Glenn Beck, Bill Clinton, Andrew Yang, and the like – and virtually never from figures on the Left. Why is that? What political purpose does the false notion of transcending right and left serve? And why does this hackneyed concept continue to surface and resonate? On this episode, we examine the vacuous nature of claiming to reject political categories of "right" and "left." We analyze how this rhetoric disguises garden-variety right-wing austerity politics as a novel, barrier-breaking political vision, as well as how it taps into real frustrations with political systems, but obscures and absolves the causes of these frustrations through sleazy, sales-pitch style tactics. Our guest is writer Osita Nwanevu.
11/9/20221 hour, 12 minutes, 2 seconds
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Episode 169: How the Right Ventriloquizes "The Working Man" to Push Pro-Corporate Policy and Gut Welfare

"Yes, undocumented immigrants take jobs from working Americans. Here’s the proof," an opinion piece in The Washington Post tells us. "Save our truckers, not affluent students seeking a free ride," pleads longtime Republican consultant Douglas MacKinnon in The Hill. "Biden's Student Debt Cancellation Robs Hard-Working Americans, Will Make Inflation Even Worse," proclaims a so-called Expert Statement from the Heritage Foundation. There’s a warning we hear again and again, particularly from the Right: A policy that would actually help people must be stopped, because it’ll harm the Working Man. According to demagogues like Tucker Carlson and JD Vance – as well as many of their more liberal counterparts – immigration, labor organizing, protest rights, and student debt cancellation simply can’t be allowed, lest they harm hardworking, meat-and-potatoes plumbers and truckers. But these cynical admonitions disguise some very important truths. Progressive policies serve the interests of many of these plumbers and truckers, many of whom might want to organize their workplaces or have their debt relieved. And the supposed menaces of job-stealing immigrants or entitled lawyers who want others to pay off their loans aren't actually responsible for depressed wages or plummeting standards of living–corporations bolstered by U.S. policymaking are. On this episode, we examine the right-wing trope of ventriloquizing an imaginary “Working Man” in order to divert attention from policies that serve the corporate bottom line, We’ll detail how this tactic obscures class dynamics between labor and capital, reinforces racist conceptions that harm workers of color, and ultimately suppresses the rights of all workers while absolving their employers of wrongdoing. Our guest is filmmaker, author and Debt Collective co-founder Astra Taylor
11/2/20221 hour, 8 minutes, 41 seconds
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News Brief: Fentanyl In Our Halloween Candy and Liberal Messaging Failures of the Overdose Crisis

In this Halloween themed News Brief, we debunk the idea drug dealers are handing out fentanyl candy to our children. But we also examine why these copaganda panics are able to take hold: namely the failure of liberals to provide an alternative, non-carceral vision for how to handle the very real and urgent overdose crisis.
10/28/202241 minutes, 34 seconds
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A Citations Needed Live Show Beg-a-Thon: The Morality Politics of Star Trek + Pro Wrestling

In this Live Show Beg-a-Thon, recorded 10/20, we discuss the morality politics of Star Trek and Pro Wrestling with guests are Robert Greene II and Brandi Collins-Dexter.
10/26/20222 hours, 31 seconds
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News Brief: DC Media's "Fare Evasion" Meltdown

In this public News Brief, "DC Media's 'Fare Evasion' Meltdown," we discuss local TV news, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal's breathless coverage of so-called "fare evasion" and how our media decides which theft to care about and which to ignore.
10/19/202221 minutes, 54 seconds
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News Brief: Young Turks' Misleading Anti-Bail Reform Demagoguery

In this public News Brief, we discuss the nominally progressive news network's lies and omissions when covering efforts to reduce the US's unprecedented jail and prison population.
10/5/202236 minutes, 56 seconds
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Ep. 168: How Faux Folksy "Real World" Advice is Employed to Limit Political Possibility and Punch Left

"Increasing Numbers of US Students Look for a ‘Real’ World," read a 1965 headline from the magazine Moderator. "Academics: Get Real!," the Harvard Business Review implored in 2009. "‘Defund the police’ runs into reality," the Washington Post warned in 2021. "As Latin America Shifts Left, Leaders Face a Short Honeymoon," the New York Times declared in 2022.   We're often reminded that anyone who espouses some degree of left-wing politics – whether a student, activist, political leader, or anyone in between – is at odds with the "real world." Academics, especially those in the humanities, sit in their ivory towers. Organizers and demonstrators against state violence have their heads in the clouds. Elected leaders campaigning on elevating living standards don’t know what they're in for. But who's in charge of determining what’s ‘realistic’? Or what "the real world" is exactly? Why is studying theory, fighting for better healthcare, or working toward poverty reduction any less ‘real’ than plugging away at a spreadsheet for a weapons manufacturer or venture capital firm? And how did this pat and folksy concept of the "real world" emerge as a go-to dunk on eggheads and activists? On this episode, we seek to answer these questions, as we examine the canard that anyone to the left of a Goldman Sachs executive isn't living in or contributing to the "real world." Our guest is Street Fight Radio's Bryan Quinby.
9/28/20221 hour, 16 minutes, 24 seconds
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Ep. 167: The Attractive Anti-Politics of 'Gerontocracy' Discourse

"Why Are We Still Governed by Baby Boomers and the Remarkably Old?," inquires The New York Times. "Why Do Such Elderly People Run America?," The Atlantic wonders. "Gerontocracy Is Hurting Democracy," insists New York Magazine’s Intelligencer. "Too old to run again? Biden faces questions about his age as crises mount," The Guardian reports.   Though these headlines are framed as exploratory questions, news media seem to have their minds made up: the problem with Washington is that it’s chock full of geezers. In recent years, we’ve often heard that U.S. policymaking, helmed at the federal level by seventy- and eighty-somethings like Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi, and at the state level by the similarly aged Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley and Pat Leahy, is simply growing too old and out of touch with the electorate.   There’s some credence to this, of course. It’s certainly true that those occupying the most powerful positions in U.S. government, on the whole, don’t legislate to the needs of the public – whether on healthcare, policing, education – the list goes on and on. But is that really because of legislators' age? Why does age have to be the focus in this analysis, rather than policy positions and, relatedly, class interests, which exist independent of age? Who does it serve to reduce the causes of U.S. austerity politics and violence to pat, Pepsi marketing-style "generation gap" discourse? On this episode show, we detail how "generations" analysis is ineffectual and, more often than not, misses the mark. We'll discuss how fears of a "gerontocracy" can – if not in intent, in effect – malign old age itself, stigmatize the elderly and, above all, distract from what could be a substantive critical analysis of real, more profound vectors of oppression such as class, racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ currents.   Our guest in Winslow Erik Wright.
9/21/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 28 seconds
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Episode 166: The Convenient Conventional Wisdom of "Education as Great Equalizer" Appeals

"Education... is a great equalizer of conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery," stated school reformer Horace Mann in 1848. "Math is the great equalizer," preached Jaime Escalante, Edward James Olmos’ character, in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver. "The best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education," announced Barack Obama during his 2010 State of the Union address.   This message is everywhere, pervading political speeches, Oscar-bait films, think-tank papers, and everything in between. The key to economic upward mobility—we’re endlessly told, is education—a societal building block that is, or at least should be, accessible to every child, no matter their race, gender, or income level. It's a seductive, seemingly unassailable conceit, suggesting that we live in a meritocracy where second chances and generational wealth-building are possible, even probable, with a few simple tools.   But is there any truth to this idea? There’s a growing body of evidence showing that education level does not, in fact, necessarily translate to higher wages. Which raises the questions: Why has the idea that education is the ultimate anti-poverty tool persisted? Whose interests are served in its continuation? And who, in turn, pays the price?   On this episode, the Season Six premiere of Citations Needed, we detail and debunk the widespread conventional wisdom that education is the rising tide that lifts all boats, looking at the ways it reinforces themes of individualism and personal responsibility; obscures systemic issues like racism and worker exploitation in the labor market; and ultimately keeps people entrenched in, rather than liberating them from, poverty and low-wage work.   Our guest is Lake Forest professor Cristina Viviana Groeger.
9/14/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 18 seconds
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Ep. 165 - Labor Union Depictions in Hollywood (Part II): The Rare Pro-Worker Narrative

A white collar worker wrestles with whether to accept a promotion or help his co-workers organize. Salt miners stand up to the company that’s taken over their town. A factory worker exposes her employer’s union-busting tactics. Stories like these represent something we don’t often see in Hollywood: Unions and labor organizers as the good guys. Not as egomaniacs or zealots, thugs or grifters—but as heroes willing to risk their health, homes, and livelihoods for the greater good. This is in contrast to the anti-union depictions in pop culture we explored in Episode 164, part one of a two-part series on depictions of labor in film and television. We discussed Hollywood’s emphasis on corruption in labor organizing, focusing on depictions of bloated bureaucracy, organized crime, and autocratic union bosses in On the Waterfront (1954), Blue Collar (1978), and The Irishman (2019), among others. On this episode we address the inverse of that, looking at the rare but nontrivial examples that pop film has celebrated the accomplishments of labor movements, centered beleaguered workers with everything to lose, positioned abusive employers as the villains, and embraced themes of worker courage and heroism. While very often not perfect, these examples show that compelling, award-winning narratives can be crafted out of tales of collective action and collective bargaining. Our guest is Angela Allan.
8/3/20221 hour, 9 minutes, 55 seconds
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Ep 164: Labor Union Depictions in Hollywood (Part I): From Demonized to Ignored or Mafia Plot Cliche

Chances are you’ve seen this storyline play out on either a big or small screen: An FBI agent investigates a prominent labor leader. Or maybe a union boss orders a hit on a recalcitrant member of the rank-and-file. Or perhaps a union president skims money off a pension fund to make an illegal loan.   Plotlines like these derive from one of Hollywood’s longstanding and most favored tropes: the corrupt, mobbed up union, and more specifically, the corrupt union boss. It lends itself to countless stories: The rise and fall of a Mafia-backed labor head, the rebellion of rank-and-file workers against their tyrannical leadership, the precarious union on the verge of implosion. Accordingly, over and over again, we’ve seen stories of labor unions entangled with extortion, bribery, blackmail, theft and murder. But, even if union bosses can make compelling characters, why is it that they must all be corrupt mafiosi? Why is it that heroism in pop culture is overwhelmingly the domain of police, attorneys and doctors and hardly ever people fighting for labor rights and the collective power of their co-workers and communities? Why, instead of highlighting the courage of labor organizers and the life-changing protections won, must Hollywood repeatedly emphasize only unions’ historical ties to organized crime and a seamy underbelly of corruption, murder and intrigue?   On this show, part one of a two-part episode on labor depictions in Hollywood, we explore organized labor and unions in film and television, how these pop depictions inform broader public sentiment about unions. And next week, we’ll discuss some of the more positive portrayals of labor and unionism in film and television.   Our guest is writer and organizer Ken Margolies.
7/27/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 6 seconds
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News Brief: Biden's Dictator Tour and the Tedium of Our "Human Rights Concerns" Theater

In this public News Brief, we detail the strange quadrennial tradition of acting like the US is "abandoning its principles" by reaffirming decades-long alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
7/20/202229 minutes, 55 seconds
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Live Interview: How Our Simplistic 'Inflation' Discourse Fuels the War on Workers - with Josh Mason

In this Live Interview from 7/8/22, we break down US media's inflation discourse that places the blame for rising food and gas prices squarely on the shoulders of greedy Burger King cashiers living high on the government hog. With J.W. Mason, Associate Professor of Economics at John Jay College, City University of New York and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.
7/13/202237 minutes, 32 seconds
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News Brief: Forced Pregnancies, Gutting the EPA and Growing Frustration Over “Vote Harder” Messaging

In this public News Brief we catch up with the latest far right attacks on the liberal state and Democratic Party leadership's pathological inability––or unwillingness––to meet the moment.
6/29/202229 minutes, 34 seconds
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Ep. 163: The Media-Manufactured Mystique of the US Court System

"John Roberts Passes Test: Politicization of Judicial Appointment is Disheartening," read a 2005 headline from Salisbury, Maryland’s Daily Times. "Ignore the attacks on Neil Gorsuch. He’s an intellectual giant — and a good man," Robert P. George pleaded in The Washington Post in 2017. Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination "is beyond politics," South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn told CBS's Face the Nation in 2022.   We hear the same refrains over and over about the US federal court system in general and the U.S. Supreme Court in particular. They’re independent judiciaries. They abide by the Constitution, the rule of law, the law of the land. They follow legal precedent. They’re bastions of integrity and impartiality. It’s reassuring to think of our courts as measured, fair, upholding democracy, and acting in the public’s interest.   But history shows that these articles of faith are undeserved. The courts are profoundly political, and they wield power that affects every corner of people’s lives, from healthcare to policing, education to climate. So why is it that The Courts are awarded such mystique? What purpose does it serve to paint them as untouchable and unquestionable, existing outside of politics? And how does this framing stack the deck against those seeking long overdue and radical change to our systems? On this episode, we examine how media have helped manufacture the sense of ennobled secrecy of the Supreme Court and broader so-called "justice system," looking at the ways in which the courts’ power runs counter to the will and needs of the public, the creation of campaigns to feign judicial impartiality and apoliticism, and the American exceptionalism that undergirds popular framings of one of the world’s most reactionary institutions.   Our guest is writer Josie Duffy Rice.
6/22/20221 hour, 27 minutes, 49 seconds
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Live Interview: "Action News" & the Rise of Anti-Black Local "Crime" Reporting . w/ Layla A. Jones

In this Live Interview from 5/20, we are joined by Layla A. Jones of the Philadelphia Inquirer whose report, "Lights. Camera. Crime," brilliantly documented the White Flight origins of the "action news" genre and how it dehumanized⁠—and thus helped lawmakers gut⁠—black communities throughout the country.
6/15/202237 minutes, 15 seconds
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News Brief: Boudin Recall Coverage and how the NYT Sells 'Tough on Crime' Dogma to Squishy Liberals

In this News Brief, we examine two New York Times articles—one about Chesa Boudin and one about Eric Adams—and how they serve as object lessons in how liberal outlets repackaging 1990s-era Tough on Crime dogma as sophisticated, sanitized, and progressive.
6/8/202230 minutes, 50 seconds
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Episode 162: How the "Data-Driven" Label Sanitizes Cruel Austerity Politics

“Follow The Data” is the name of a Bloomberg Philanthropies podcast that debuted 2016. “How Data Analysis Is Driving Policing,” a 2018 NPR headline read. “Data suggests that schools might be one of the least risky kinds of institutions to reopen,” an opinion piece in The Washington Post told us in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the last 20 or so years, a trend of labeling concepts as “data-driven” emerged. It applied, and continues to apply, to policies affecting everything from education to public health, policing to journalism. Decisions affecting these areas will be more thoughtful, the idea goes, when informed and supported by data. In many ways, this has been a welcome development: The idea that a rigorously scientific collection of information via surveys, observation, and other methods would make policies and media stronger seems unimpeachable. But this isn’t always the case. While gathering “data” is a potentially beneficial process, the process alone isn’t inherently good, and is too often used to obscure important and requisite value-based or moral questions, assert contested ideological priors and traffic in right-wing austerity premises backed by monied interests. When our media tell us a largely unpopular, billionaire-backed idea like school privatization, “targeted” policing, or tax incentive handouts to corporations have merit they’re backed by “the data,” what purpose does this framing serve? Where does the data come from? Who is funding the data gathering? What data are we choosing to care about and, most important of all, what data are we choosing to ignore? On today’s episode, we’ll look at the development of the push to make everything data-driven, examining who defines what counts as “data,” which forces shape its sourcing and collection, and how the fetishization of “data” as something that exists outside and separate from politics is more often than not, less a methodology for determining truth and more a branding exercise for neoliberal ideological production and reproduction. Our guests: Abigail Cartus is an epidemiologist at Brown University. She focuses on perinatal health and overdose prevention in her work at The People, Place & Health Collective, a Brown School of Public Health research laboratory.
6/1/20221 hour, 32 minutes, 32 seconds
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News Brief: Rightwing Media's Increasingly Goofy, Hyper-Militarized Non-Solutions to Mass Shootings

In this public News Breif, we discuss the phoned-in, cynical response by Republicans to mass shooting and how they've devolved into a dark, meta self-parody.
5/27/202223 minutes, 39 seconds
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News Brief: Tucker & Co Try to Lawyer Their Way Out of Trafficking in Great Replacement Rhetoric

After a white nationalist kills 10 in a racist mass shooting in Buffalo, those most responsible for mainstreaming white nationalist talking points try and evade responsibility.
5/18/202234 minutes, 30 seconds
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Ep. 161: The Real Life Implications of Pop Culture's Fascination with the Dubious Science of “Criminal Profiling”

Criminal Minds. Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer. Inside the Criminal Mind. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Each of these is the title of a series, fictional or otherwise, or documentary that relies on the work of so-called criminal profilers. They’re all premised, more or less, on the same idea: That the ability to venture inside the mind of an individual who’s committed a horrific act of violence–say, serial murder, rape, or kidnapping–is the key to figuring out why that crime happened in the first place. This theory may sound promising at first blush; after all, the highest echelons of law enforcement in the US continue to use criminal profiling tactics to this day. But the reality is that, despite their prevalence in law enforcement both onscreen and off, criminal profiling techniques are largely ineffective, and in many ways, dangerous. Failing to consider institutional factors such as a culture of violence and easy access to weapons, patriarchy, austerity and other social ills that contribute to and reinforce violent crime, criminal profiling focuses almost exclusively on individual experiences and psychological makeup. Meanwhile, it categorizes “criminals” not as people who’ve been shaped by this social conditioning, but as neuro-deviants whose psychological anatomy is just different from yours or mine. On this episode, we examine the history of the practice of criminal profiling in the West; how the FBI and entertainment industry work in tandem to glamorize the profession, despite its harms; what the actual effectiveness of profiling is; and how it serves as yet another form of Hollywood copaganda. Our guests are Thomas MacMillan and Chris Fabricant.
5/11/20221 hour, 33 minutes, 58 seconds
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Ep.160: The 'Last $100 in Your Bank Account' Economy - How Media's Love Affair with Crypto, NFTs and Gambling Prey Upon Working People

"NFTs May Seem Like Frivolous Fads. They Should Be the Future of Music," argues Rolling Stone magazine. "How to Buy Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies: A Guide for New Crypto Investors," advises TIME magazine. "'I had $10 in my bank account': This 36-year-old went from living paycheck to paycheck to making over $109,000 selling NFTs," proclaims CNBC. Over the past couple of years, U.S. media have been breathlessly hyping a new economy of digital "investment opportunities" and asset speculation. From cryptocurrency to NFTs, sports betting to online streaming casinos, business rags and legacy papers alike extol the virtues of a financial climate in which seemingly anyone with an internet connection, a smartphone, and a few bucks stands a chance of striking it rich. It's what we're calling "The Last $100 In Your Bank Account Economy." Somewhere, somebody thinks there's too much idle money sitting in working and Middle Class people's bank accounts that isn't being properly exploited. This, to them, is a crime, and increasingly sleazy verticals are emerging to make sure it doesn't stay there for too long. After all: Don’t you want to make your money work for you? Don’t let it sit there and collect dust. Get in on the action, fortune favors the brave, the next frontier, you can hit a 10 way parlay, don’t be an idle beta, get in on the action!! Since the onset of the pandemic and the evaporation of government aid like unemployment and child tax credits, new gambling markets have exploded, filling the financial voids suffered by working people. Meanwhile, news outlets and sports networks have been at the ready, using the same old aspirational advertising tactics for lotteries, betting, and casinos. And it’s not just about paid ads, the media companies themselves––from Disney to Fox to Comcast are in the sportsbook business, and every outlet from Rolling Stone to the Associated Press are hawking NFTs, creating new frontiers of conflicts of interests. On this episode, we detail the history of media's water-carrying for lotteries and other forms of gambling; how the press primes the public, especially the poor, to accept new forms of gambling and speculation tools like NFTs and cryptocurrency as normal, inevitable, and full of promise; and the ways in which they are cashing in on this cynical, infinitely regressive universe of extracting the last dollar out of your bank account. Our guest is Motherboard's Edward Ongweso, Jr.
5/4/20221 hour, 23 minutes, 34 seconds
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Ep. 159: The Anti-Worker Pseudo-psychology of Corporate Personality Testing

"Is it a higher compliment to be called a) a person of real feeling, or b) a consistently reasonable person?" "Are you more successful at a) following a carefully worked-out plan, or b) dealing with the unexpected and seeing quickly what should have been done?" "Which word in each pair appeals to you more? a) scheduled, or b) unplanned?"   Questions like these are posed to millions of current and prospective workers and students every year. They come from personality tests, whether the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Clifton StrengthsFinder, or other surveys purporting to assess personality traits and job aptitude. Through a series of tens to hundreds of questions, personality inventories claim to identify qualities like dominance, neuroticism, or introversion, synthesize a user profile, and determine that user’s fitness for a given job.   But beneath this ostensibly neutral goal of matching a person with their ideal form of employment lies a much more sinister aim: Identifying and weeding out would-be dissenters, labor organizers, and union sympathizers. Additionally, studies have shown repeatedly that commercial personality tests like the commonly used Myers-Briggs have little to no scientific value. Why, then, does their use continue–with anywhere from 60 to 80% of prospective workers taking a personality test–and given their anti-labor history, what harms do they pose?   On this episode, we examine the history of personality testing used in military, educational, and corporate settings; the relationship between personality assessments, labor law, and the corporate consultancy class; how personality testing threatens the livelihoods of people based on race, disability, and other factors; and media’s role in laundering tests as benign instruments of self-realization.   Our guest is writer Liza Featherstone.
4/27/20221 hour, 3 minutes, 13 seconds
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Live Interview: What Happened to Our Politics After the End of History? with Luke Savage

In this Citations Needed Live Interview with Luke Savage from 3/22, we discuss his upcoming collection of essays, "The Dead Center: Reflections on Liberalism and Democracy After the End of History," the abandoned hopes of the Obama era, the rise of Trumpism and the inability—or unwillingness—of Liberalism to offer a moral and more just vision for the world.
4/13/202247 minutes, 44 seconds
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Episode 158: How Notions of 'Blight' and 'Barrenness' Were Created to Erase Indigenous Peoples

"It is safe to say that almost no city needs to tolerate slums," wrote New York City official Robert Moses in 1945. "Our ancestors came across the ocean in sailing ships you wouldn't go across a lake in. When they arrived, there was nothing here," Ross Perot proclaimed in 1996. "We proved we can create a budding garden out of obstinate ground," beamed Israeli president Shimon Peres in 2011.   These quotes recurring themes within the lore of settler-colonial states: Before settlers arrived in the United States, Israel, and other colonized places throughout the world, the land was barren, wild, and blighted, the people backward, untameable, and violent; nothing of societal importance existed. It was only when the monied industrialists and developers moved in, introducing their capital and their vision, that civilization began. This, of course, is false. Indigenous people inhabited North America long before Europeans did. Poor, often Black and Latino, people populate many neighborhoods targeted for gentrification. So how do these people–inhabitants of coveted places who prove inconvenient to capital–become erased from collective memory? And what role do media like newspapers, brochures, travel dispatches, and adventure books play in their erasure?   In a previous Citations Needed episode (Ep. 155: How the American Settler-Colonial Project Shaped Popular Notions of ‘Conservation’), we discussed the erasure of indigeneity, we explored the colonialist and racist foundations of conservationism in the US and elsewhere in the West. On this episode, follow-up to that episode, we explore how images and narratives of barrenness and blight are manufactured to justify the settler-colonial project, from 15th Century colonial subjects of Europe to urban neighborhoods of today.   Our guest is scholar Stephanie Lumsden.
4/6/20221 hour, 13 minutes, 29 seconds
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News Brief: The Squishy Liberal Euphemisms Big City Dem Mayors Use to Sell Criminalizing Homelessness

In this News Brief, we examine the convoluted, vague rhetorical labor involved in making purging unhoused populations with cops seem humane and anodyne.
3/30/202228 minutes, 37 seconds
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News Brief: 5 Worst US Media Reactions to Russia's Ukraine Invasion

In this public News Brief, we examine the most unhelpful, glib, self-aggrandizing, and cynical responses from American media to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
3/16/202236 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 157: How the "Culture War" Label Is Used to Trivialize Life-and-Death Economic Issues

"Let the Culture Wars Begin. Again," The New York Times announces. "How the ‘Culture War’ Could Break Democracy," warns Politico. "As The Culture Wars Shift, President Trump Struggles To Adapt," NPR tells us. "Will Democrats Go on the Offensive in the Culture Wars?" Vanity Fair wonders. Over and over, we’re reminded that so-called culture wars are being waged between a simplified Left and Right. Depending on who you ask, they tend to encompass issues under very broad categories: “LGBTQ rights,” “abortion,” “funding for the arts,” “policing,” “immigration,” “family values.” While there is some validity to the label of “culture war issue” – say, Republican opposition to an art installation, or tantrums over the gender of M&Ms – most of the time, the term is woefully misapplied. Despite what much of the media claims, LGBTQ rights, police violence, abortion, and so many other issues aren’t just “culture war” fluff in the same league as the latest Fox News meltdown about a cartoon character. Nor are they both-sides-able matters of debate. They’re matters of real, material consequence, often with life-and-death stakes. So why is it that these are placed under the “culture war” umbrella? And what are the dangers of characterizing them that way? On this episode, we discuss the vague nature of the term “culture war”; how this lack of clarity is weaponized to gloss over and minimize life-and-death issues like police violence and gender-affirming healthcare; and how the only consistent criterion for a “culture war” seems to be issues that impact someone other than the media’s default audience, i.e., a white professional-class man. Our guest is The Real News Network Editor-in-Chief Max Alvarez.
3/9/20221 hour, 26 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 156: How the "Investigative Journalism" Aesthetic Can Be Used to Launder Power-Serving Narratives

"Investigative journalism." It’s a term that conjures imagery of committed, industrious newsrooms like those in the Oscar-winning films All the President’s Men or Spotlight, filled with intrepid reporters dutifully scouring documents, scrutinizing photographs and taking secretive yet explosive phone calls at all hours of the night. It’s a rallying cry for TED Talkers and Brookings Institute essayists, many of whom extol the virtues of scrappy and scrupulous reportage that succeeds in taking down a crooked politician, exposing a company’s abusive policy, or otherwise changing the course of history. It’s common to think of investigative journalism as an honorable line of work - after all, investigative reports have exposed powerful misdeeds, labor abuses, air and water pollution, and racism in healthcare. But this isn’t the only form of investigative reporting in the United States. Too often, stories characterized as well-meaning investigative reports - local news pieces alerting viewers to the “dangers” of bail reform, or New York Times scoops on government “leaks” demanding billions more for military spending--end up reinforcing the very power structures they’re supposed to be challenging. While the title of “investigative journalist” is so often used as a catch-all term for a noble tireless, truth-seeking, deep-digging reporter who, like a determined fictional detective, follows a twisted trail of breadcrumbs to their blockbuster end, why should we assign valor to what can often merely be the lazy practice of government and corporate stenography? Or laundering intelligence or pro-police propaganda? On this episode, we discuss the ways in which investigative journalism is portrayed as an inherent good even when it serves powerful interests, how professional norms in the journalism industry seek to remove power dynamics in deciding what leaks are important and who is leaking them, and why investigative reporting without politics isn’t an inherently subversive or moral enterprise. Our guest is Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting's Jim Naureckas.
3/2/20221 hour, 6 minutes
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Episode 155: How the American Settler-Colonial Project Shaped Popular Notions of ‘Conservation’

“Among these central ranges of continental mountains and these great companion parks…lies the pleasure-ground and health-home of the nation,” wrote journalist Samuel Bowles in 1869. “Mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life,” mused naturalist John Muir in 1901. “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst,” opined writer Wallace Stegner in 1983. North American and European traditions of conservationism, especially those in the U.S., are endlessly celebrated in Western media, with figures like Teddy Roosevelt and John James Audubon placed at the forefront. They’re not without their merits, especially at a time when some of the world’s most powerful countries refuse to take action on climate change. What often goes underexamined or ignored, though, is the deeply racist, settler-colonial history–and very much still the present– that has informed the “conservationist” movement in the US and much of the North Atlantic. What have been and still are the ecological and human costs, particularly for Indigenous and Black people in the US, of this settler-colonial ‘conservation’ movement? Why, in the American collective memory, is the ‘conservation movement’ often credited to powerful white figures of the 19th and early 20th centuries, despite the extreme environmental and social destruction that they helped caused? And why should there be a need for a settler-driven conservation movement when the original inhabitants of, what we now know as the US and Canada already very often already had systems of ‘conservationism’ in place? On this episode, we study the racist origins of Western conservation movements, primarily in the United States; how the conservation movement and romanticization of nature have served the settler-colonial project; how these histories continue to inform certain currents of the mainstream climate activism of the present; and what an inclusive, decolonial understanding of environmental conservation can look like. Our guest is UConn professor Prakash Kashwan.
2/23/20221 hour, 29 minutes, 42 seconds
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News Brief: "Biden Crack Pipes": Anatomy of a Manufactured GOP Outrage––and Democratic Capitulation

In this News Brief, we are joined by friend of the show Zachary A. Siegel to discuss the extremely effective, extremely racist rightwing outrage over drug kits and how the Democrats refusing to defend the policy on its merits sets back harm reduction efforts.
2/10/202228 minutes, 44 seconds
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Episode 154: "Inclusive Patriotism": How Radicals Are Retconned into Liberal Champions of the American Project

2/9/20221 hour, 22 minutes, 56 seconds
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Ep 153: Crime Stoppers, America's Most Wanted and Rise of Vigilante TV News

"Let’s get this guy off the streets before he targets another innocent person." "If you’ve seen any of these fugitives, call our hotline now." "Thanks to a courageous tipster who did the right thing, this criminal won’t be bothering anybody else for a very long time." For decades, local and national media - from nightly news broadcasts partnering with Crime Stoppers to primetime TV shows like America’s Most Wanted - have warned consumers of dangerous criminals on the lam, lurking outside our neighborhood grocery stores. The FBI and police departments throughout the country, the public is told, are doing everything they can to catch The Bad Guys—they just need a little help from concerned, responsible, and vigilant citizens like you. Cue the calls to action imploring people to submit tips through hotlines, law enforcement websites, and social media. But what are the effects of this model, and how effective, really, is it? How does it shape the ways in which the US public understands crime? And why, after all of the scholarship documenting how police do little to make us more safe does this vigilante television addiction persist? On this episode, we examine how news and pop cultural media deputize and urge listeners, readers, and viewers to act as neighborhood vigilantes. We study how this instills a climate of constant, unnecessary fear; presents the current US and criminal legal system as the only option to reduce crime; excludes crimes against the poor and working class like wage theft, food and housing insecurity, and lack of healthcare; and how these systemics can inflict unjust harm upon the subjects of these anonymous tips. Our guest is journalist Tana Ganeva.
2/2/20221 hour, 8 minutes, 44 seconds
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Live Interview: Police 'Defunding' That Never Was and Abolitionism as a Long-Term Social Project

In this Live Interview from 1/11, we talk with Derecka Purnell, author of 'Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom' about her new book, her personal journey of embracing an abolitionist model and how, in the midst of a full blown reactionary moment over a rise in murders, activists can address legitimate fears of crime and provide an alternative vision to the cruel, failed "lock em up" approach.
1/26/202241 minutes, 6 seconds
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News Brief: Dem-Aligned Media Set Up Teachers Unions to Take the Fall for Midterm Losses

In this New Brief, we discuss the Winter of Labor Discipline and why holding the line against teachers unions is essential to establishing the "new normal" of working while sick with COVID for American workers.
1/21/202229 minutes, 38 seconds
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A Very Special News Brief - Hallmark's Anti-Labor Churn: A Follow-Up Conversation

In this follow up News Brief to our Christmas-themed episode on Hallmark, we discuss an angle we glossed over in our episode: the anti-labor business model of Hallmark films and how they portend a trend in the film industry more broadly. After our episode was published, a screenwriter with experience working with Hallmark and Hallmark-adjacent production companies reached out to us, sharing content guidelines and other materials about their creative and labor practices. On this Very Special News Brief, we chat with this anonymous screenwriter about the labor side of all the snowy, warm and fuzzy content churn.
1/19/202235 minutes, 9 seconds
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Ep. 152: Hallmark Christmas Movies and the Cozy, Conservative Nostalgia Machine

A blast from the past teaches a town to embrace tradition and believe in miracles we simply can’t explain. A cynical urban professional finds kindness and purpose while traveling through the heartland. Two old flames living in the fast lane discover, amid the magic of Christmas, that they were meant for each other all along. These loglines describe the plots of countless movies made for and broadcast by Hallmark, the famed greeting card company-turned-media conglomerate that has become synonymous with made-for-TV Christmas movies. The Hallmark Cinematic Universe is one in which the fantasies of conservatives everywhere are played out: everyone in town is part of a white nuclear family, bartenders and waiters are happy to be of service, single women are emotionally unfulfilled, police and the military are uniformly viewed as heroes, and the largesse of the wealthy brings joy to wholesome small towns. While it’s easy, and of course fun, to dunk on Hallmark and Hallmark-inspired Christmas movies, it’s also worth examining the political currents of Christmas movie schmaltz. What ideological precepts are their themes of nostalgia meant to reinforce? And what tropes do they perpetuate behind the cozy iconography of fuzzy sweaters and snow-lined sidewalks? On this episode, we seek to answer these questions, focusing on four movies: Journey Back to Christmas (2016), The Christmas Train (2017), Entertaining Christmas (2018), and Operation Christmas Drop (2020). We’ll dive into the ways in which nostalgia for an imaginary MAGA-style past informs their character development, settings, and plots, leaving little room for messaging other than ‘Let’s go back to the good old days.’ Our guest is writer David Roth.
12/15/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 12 seconds
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Episode 151: How Economic Jargon and Cliches Make Cruel, Anti-Poor Policies Sound Sterile and Science-y (Part II)

"Deregulation will make the economy more efficient and stimulate GDP growth," insist think tanks like the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute. "Fiscal hawks," claiming to be worried about the deficit, demand austerity measures to reign in government spending. When it comes to "entitlement programs," we hear that "there are always tradeoffs."   Time and again, the media and policymakers spew the same tired recitations meant to convey the seemingly natural, immutable laws of economics. The economy, we’re told, is thriving when business owners and hedge fund managers are making record profits, yet failing when investments in social programs have gotten too big. And that's just how it is. Terms, phrases, and sentiments like these are part of a lexicon of economic euphemisms, cliches, and other forms of business-school speak designed to blur class lines and convince us all that our current economic system - entirely a result of policy choices largely designed to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the broader welfare - is merely a function of cold, hard science, with rules and principles no more pliable than those of physics or chemistry. But why should we be expected to accept that a news report that “the economy” is on the upswing means the average worker is doing any better, when all evidence is to the contrary? Why should our media’s economic "experts" come from a pool of elite economics departments beholden to corporate donors and right-wing think tanks? And why must "the economy" be defined in terms of whether the Dow is up or down, rather than whether people have food, housing, healthcare, and job security? On this episode - Part II of a two-part series - we’ll examine another five of the most popular cliches, jargon, and rhetorical thingamajigs that economists, economic reporters and pundits use to sanitize, obscure, and provide a thin gloss of Science-ism to what is little more than power flattering cruel, racist austerity ideology. Our guest is writer Hadas Thier.
12/8/20211 hour, 3 minutes, 35 seconds
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Episode 150: How Economic Jargon and Cliches Make Cruel, Anti-Poor Policies Sound Sterile and Science-y (Part I)

“Supply and demand.” “It’s just Econ 101.” “Most economists agree...” “There’s always trade offs.”   Over and over, media and policymakers spew the same tired recitations meant to convey the seemingly natural, immutable laws of economics. "The economy," we’re told, is thriving when business owners and job creators are making record profits, and failing when investments in social programs have simply grown too high — and that’s the way it is and will, and should, always be. These terms, phrases and sentiments are part of a lexicon of economic euphemisms, cliches, and other forms of business-school speak designed to blur class lines and convince us that our economic system — entirely a result of policy choices largely designed to further enrich the wealthy at any the expense of the broader welfare — is a function of cold, hard science, with rules and principles no more pliable than those of physics or chemistry.   But why should we be expected to just accept that a news report that “the economy” is on the upswing means the average worker is doing any better, when all evidence is to the contrary? Why should our media’s economic so-called “experts” come from a pool of elite economics departments beholden to corporate donors and right-wing think tanks? And why must “the economy” be defined in terms of whether the Dow is up or down, instead of whether people have food, housing, healthcare, and job security?   On this episode, part one of a two-part series, we examine the first five of our ten most popular clichés, jargon, and rhetorical thingamajigs that economists, economic reporters, and pundits use to sanitize, obscure, and provide a thin gloss of Science-ism to what is little more than power-flattering, cruel, racist, austerity ideology.   Our guest is writer Hadas Thier.  
12/1/20211 hour, 17 minutes, 9 seconds
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Episode 149: How Fatness Became a Cheap Joke and Proxy for Moral Deficiency in Pop Culture

A character played by an actor in a fat suit shovels food in his face, unable to restrain himself in a fit of rage. Another falls, too lazy and out-of-shape to get up without the aid of others. And yet another loses weight and avenges the anti-fat bullying she faced growing up, finally earning respect as a thin person. We see all of these tropes ad nauseam in film, television, literature, and other forms of arts and pop culture. They’re a manifestation of a deep cultural hostility toward fat people - one that perpetuates a centuries-long stigma that both reduces them to their size and their eating habits, with little curiosity about any other facets of their lives, and equates their bodies with the sins of sloth, greed, and gluttony. The results: degradation, dehumanization, and a constant, unrelenting message that fatness is a moral failure. Whether in 19th Century sideshows and cartoons presenting fat people as the object of humiliation and scorn, sitcoms and movies of the 1990s using fat suits for a cheap laugh, or new dramedies that continue to miss the mark, the characterization of fat people as sin incarnate has hardly changed, thanks to a virulent and complex nexus of racism, classism, and misogyny. On this episode, we explore how mass media perpetuate anti-fatness in Western, and especially American, culture, examining the ways in which imperial conquest and capitalist development laid the foundation for hostility toward fat people; how even supposedly enlightened liberals use the thin patina of public health to mask routine anti-fat bullying; and the methods Hollywood and other sources of cultural products use to present fat characters as punchlines and nuisances who can only be kooky best friends or degenerate villains. Our guest is Professor Amy Erdman Farrell, author of Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture.
11/24/20211 hour, 17 minutes, 57 seconds
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Ep 148: The GOP’s ‘Rightwing Populism’ Rebrand (Part II) - Messaging Wars in 'White America'

“The elites are out to get you and your hard-earned pay.” “We’re spending too much on protecting foreign nations and not enough defending our own borders against immigrant invaders.” “China is taking your job and will soon take over your phone.” We are consistently fed this type of “rightwing populism” –– sticking up for the working man against an array of villains: coastal elites, liberal media and foreign boogeymen - but replete with seamy audience flattery, xenophobic and anti-Semitic dogwhistles and confusing, ever-shifting definitions of what exactly constitutes “the elite” and “the media.” With the rise and eventual presidency of Donald Trump there’s been no shortage of pontificating and reporting about the appeal of “rightwing populism” but one aspect worth dissecting is the way in which wealthy Republican-funded media deliberately seeks to win over confused and sometimes lefty media consumers with a clever mix of faux class warfare, vague appeals to post-partisanship and piggybacking off legitimate discontent with the Democratic party to sow nihilism and suppress voter turnout. From Jacksonian "Producerism" to Trump’s fake anti-imperialism to the shameless grifts of today’s billionaire-backed hucksters like JD Vance, the right has long tried to soap box about the beleaguered working man and rail against the mysterious - often urban, black, brown or Jewish - authors of his pain and suffering. In this episode, Part Two of our two-part episode on right-wing populism, we dissect three more tropes of "right-wing populism," detailing the ways the Republican messaging apparatuses seek to rebrand their stale platform every 10 years with a new, tweaked version of warmed over John Bircherism. Our guest is Poor People's Campaign co-chair Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis.
11/10/20211 hour, 20 minutes, 35 seconds
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Episode 147 - The GOP's 'Rightwing Populism'  Rebrand: How Billionaire-Backed Charlatans Pick Off Disillusioned Lefties (Part I)

“It’s not about right vs left, but the people vs the elites,” “Wall Street and the media are leaching off hard working Americans like you and me who play by the rules.” “Our elite have sold us out to China.” American media consumers are routinely fed, a particular, and often confusing brand of so-called “rightwing populism” –– nominally taking on “elites”, “the media,” and “bankers” and standing up for the every man but with a suspicious mix of xenophobia, self-help audience flattery, anti-Semitic dogwhistles and a semantics cup-and-ball game about how exactly, the speaker defines “elite” or “the media”. With the rise and eventual presidency of Donald Trump there’s been no shortage of pontificating and reporting about the appeal of “rightwing populism” but one aspect worth dissecting is the way in which wealthy Republican-funded media deliberately seeks to win over confused and sometimes lefty media consumers with a clever mix of faux class warfare, vague appeals to post-partisanship and piggybacking off legitimate discontent with the Democratic party to sow nihilism and suppress voter turnout. From President Andrew Jackson and Alabama governor George Wallace to today’s billionaire-backed charlatans like Tucker Carlson, Saagar Enjeti, JD Vance and Josh Hawley, there is a longstanding effort to take the working man and insist the author of his suffering isn’t a class of people marked by a concentration of wealth and power, but a deliberately ill-defined “elite” of snot-nosed, overeducated liberals, immigrants, Jews, secularists, women and academics out to undermine their culture and way of life. On this first part of a two-part episode, we focus on the many ways that “rightwing populism” operates to confuse and distract, to pick off independents, liberals and even leftists, exploiting real failures of the Democratic Party and use fake class war to muddy the waters of real class war. Our guest is Daniel Martinez HoSang.
11/3/20211 hour, 11 minutes, 22 seconds
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News Brief - Reconciliation Bill Negotiations: A Media Autopsy

In this News Brief, we recapped how, in the face of a once in a generation opportunity to relieve poverty and address curb climate change, US media largely gave us personality, Horse Race coverage, and defensive snark–– aiding conservatives efforts to winnow down the bill to a fraction of its original size.
11/1/202127 minutes, 56 seconds
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Episode 146: Bill Gates, Bono and the Limits of World Bank and IMF-Approved Celebrity 'Activism'

"Feed the world." "We are the world." "Be a light to the world." Every few years, it seems, a new celebrity benefit appears. Chock full of A-listers and inspirational tag lines, it promises to tackle any number of the world’s large-scale problems, whether poverty, climate change, or disease prevention and eradication. From Live Aid in the 1980s to Bono’s ONE Campaign of the early 2000s to the latest Global Citizen concerts, televised celebrity charity events, and their many associated NGOs, have enjoyed glowing media attention and a reputation as generally benign, even beloved, pieces of pop culture history. But behind the claims to end the world’s ills lies a cynical network of funding and influence from predatory financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, multinationals like Coca-Cola and Cargill, soft-power organs like USAID, and private “philanthropic” arms like the Gates Foundation. This arrangement reached its high point at the turn of the 21st century and continues today, largely in response to outrage from anti-Pharma and anti-poverty activists from the global south and anti-globalization protesters in the 1990s. This Bono-Bill Gates-World Bank model has gained virtually unchallenged media coverage as the new face of slick, NGO "activism," in opposition to the unwieldy, anarchist-y and genuinely grassroots nature of the opposition it faced on America’s television screens each time there was a G7 or WTO meeting. While this celebrity-NGO complex purports to reduce suffering in the Global South - almost always a monolithic and mysterious place called "Africa," to be more specific - suffering on a grand scale never meaningfully decreases. Rather, it adheres to a vague “We Must Do Something” form of liberal politics, identifying no perpetrators of or reasons for the world’s ills other than an abstract sense of corruption or "inaction." Meanwhile, powerful Western interests, intellectual property regimes and corporate money - the primary drivers of global poverty - are not only ignored, but held up as the solution to the very problems they perpetuate. On this episode, we study the advent of the celebrity benefit and the attendant Bono-Bill Gates-Global Citizen model of "activism," examining the dangers inherent in this approach and asking why the media aren't more skeptical of these high-profile PR events that loudly announce, with bleeding hearts the existence of billions of victims but are, mysteriously, unable to name a single victimizer. Our guests are economic anthropologist Jason Hickel and Health Action International's Jaume Vidal.
10/27/20211 hour, 43 minutes, 10 seconds
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News Brief - Colin Powell: Stumbling Empire Personified

In this News Brief, we recap the recap of Powell's life, from the handwringing over his Iraq War UN speech to the erasure of his role in covering up My Lai massacre to training rightwing death squads in Central America and the central importance of "Good Intentions" when venerating our beloved, bipartisan war-makers.
10/20/202126 minutes, 10 seconds
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Live Interview: How 'The Kaepernick Effect' Revealed Reactionary Forces in Youth Sports. with Dave Zirin

In this recording of a Live Interview for Patrons from 9/22, we speak with The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin about his new book, The Kaepernick Effect, and how a series of protests in youth sports, namely among black youth, set off firestorms and backlash in dozens of small towns throughout the country. And what the "leave politics out of sports" ethos says about the evergreen importance of racial disciplining in sports media. 
10/6/202158 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 145: How Real Estate-Curated 'Mom & Pop Landlord' Sob Stories Are Used to Gut Tenant Protections

“The eviction moratorium is killing small landlords” CNBC cautions. "Some small landlords struggle under eviction moratoriums,” declares The Washington Post. “Economic Pressures Are Rising On Mom And Pop Rental Owners,” laments NPR. ”[Landlords] can’t hold on much longer,” cries an LA Times headline. Throughout the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen a spate of media coverage highlighting the plight of the small or so-called “mom-and-pop landlord” struggling to make ends meet. The story usually goes something like this: A modest, down-on-their-luck owner of two or three properties — say, a elderly grandmother or hardworking medical professional — hopes to keep them long enough to hand them down to their kids, but fears financial ruin in the face of radical tenant-protection laws. But this doesn’t reflect the reality of rental housing ownership in the United States. Over the last couple decades, corporate entities, from Wall Street firms to an opaque network of LLCs, have increasingly seized ownership of the rental housing stock, intensifying the asymmetry of landlord-tenant power relations and rendering housing ever more precarious for renters. In the meantime, the character of the “mom-and-pop landlord” has been evoked nonstop — much like that of the romantic “small business owner” — in order to sanitize the image of property ownership and gin up opposition to legislation that would protect tenants from eviction moratoria to rent control. On this episode, we explore the overrepresentation of the “mom-and-pop landlord” in media, contrasting it with the actual makeup of rental housing ownership. We’ll also examine how the media-burnished image of the beleaguered, barely-scraping-by landlord puts a human face on policies that further enrich a property-owning class while justifying the forceful removal of renters from their homes. Our guest is Alexander Ferrer of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE).
9/29/20211 hour, 2 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 144: How the Cold War Shaped First-Person Journalism and Literary Conventions

“Write from experience.” “Show, don’t tell.” Self-knowledge. Self-discipline. Well-known conventions like these, whether delivered in classrooms, writing seminars or simply from one writer to another, often anchor traditional writing advice for literary authors and journalists alike in the United States. While they may seem benign and often useful, they also have a history of political utility. Thanks to a network of underwritten cultural projects and front groups, state organs like the CIA and State Department collaborated with creative-writing programs like the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and publications like the Paris Review to cultivate and reinforce writing tenets like these. The aim: to focus literature and journalism on the individual, feelings, and details, rather than on community, political theory, and large-scale political concepts. This, of course, isn’t to say subversive literature cannot be first person and sensory, or that these modes of writing are per se conservative––but there is a long and well-documented history of conservative, anti-Left institutions pushing them because, on the whole, they veered (or at least were thought to have steered) writers away from the dot-connecting, the structural and the collective. On this episode, we discuss the ways in which first-person journalism, solipsism and creative nonfiction, as taught and prized in the US, reinforce existing power structures, exploring how a Cold War-era history of state- and state-adjacent funding of literary journals, educational programs, and other cultural projects taught writers to center themselves and inconsequential details at the expense of raising urgent political questions and notions of class solidarity. Our guest is author Eric Bennett.
9/22/20211 hour, 8 minutes, 8 seconds
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Episode 143 - PR and Prop 22: How Silicon Valley Uses Hollow "Anti-Racist" Posturing to Sell Its Exploitative Business Model

In June 2020, founders of the ride-request app Lyft announced that they had launched “allyship dialogues“ and were committed to fighting “systemic racism” which they said is “deeply rooted in our society.” The same month, an Uber marketing campaign proudly recommended to “racists” that they should “delete Uber,” as they were unwelcome customers. At the same time, the food delivery service app DoorDash announced a series of initiatives to “support Black-owned restaurants.” Everywhere we turned, as popular uprisings against police violence and white supremacy filled the streets, Silicon Valley gig app companies that rely on and profit from the labor of predominantly Black and brown workers, insisted they too were committed to fighting racial injustice. But something curious was unfolding at the same time these multi-billion dollar companies paid lip service and made token donations to bail funds and civil rights groups: they were simultaneously pumping tens of millions more on pushing support for Proposition 22 –– a ballot initiative in California — that would exempt app-based transportation and delivery companies from a state law that required them to classify drivers as employees, permitting those companies to not provide essential benefits like healthcare, paid time off, and unemployment insurance. With 78% of ride-hail app drivers in San Francisco being people of color and 55% of Uber drivers in California identifying as such, the law would overwhelmingly impact nonwhite, disproportionately immigrant communities. Knowing this, and compelled by the broader corporate efforts to exploit the George Floyd uprisings as a branding opportunity, companies like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft and other app-based employers rushed to present the diminishment of worker protections not as manifestly anti-Black and anti-brown anti-labor laws, but actually empowering to drivers of colors. Spending millions on advertising, a patchwork of large donations to community groups planting op-eds in Black and Hispanic press, and focus-grouped language about employee “freedom,” “independence,” “being your own boss,” “flexibility” and general rise-and-grind framing, Super PACs alongside Bay Area and LA-based marketing firms aggressively targeted minority communities to back Prop 22, despite all independent analysis and labor organizations insisting it would be bad for workers of color. On this Season 5 Premiere of Citations Needed, we detail how this plan played out –– and ultimately won, how corporations buy off organizations and adapt nonprofit speak to harm communities of color, and how the idea of “third worker categories” –– like the ones pushed by Uber and Lyft are suspiciously similar to Jim Crow-era efforts to strip black and immigrant workers of the rights white workers were winning under the then-New Deal. Our guest is Veena Dubal, Professor of Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
9/15/20211 hour, 12 minutes, 3 seconds
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Ep 142: The Summer of Anti-BLM Backlash and How Concepts of "Crime" Were Shaped By the Propertied Class

"Concerns rising inside White House over surge in violent crime," CNN tells us. "America's Crime Surge: Why Violence Is Rising, And Solutions To Fix It," proclaims NPR. "Officials worry the rise in violent crime portends a bloody summer," reports The Washington Post.   Over and over this summer we have heard – and will no doubt continue to hear – the scourge of rising crime is the most urgent issue on voters' minds. Setting aside the way media coverage itself shape public opinion, the rising murder rates in urban areas is indeed very real and its victims disproportionately Black and Latino.   In response, like clockwork, Democrats and Democratic Party-aligned media have allied with conservatives and right-wing media are rehashing the same tired responses: more police, longer sentences, and tougher laws. But this time, they assure us it will be different: it won’t be racist and overly punitive. Instead, in addition to the return of 1990s Tough On Crime formula. we will get enough nebulous reforms and anti-bias training that it will somehow be enlightened and consistent with the demands of Black Lives Matter.   But everything we know about the past 50 years tells us this will not be true. Indeed, if more policing and prisons solved crime, the United States would be the safest country on Earth, but, of course, it is not. According to The American Journal of Medicine, compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States' gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher despite imprisoning people at rates 5-10 times what other rich nations do.   So why do lawmakers and the media always reach for the same so-called "solutions" when it comes to crime? What are the assumptions that inform how we respond to an increase in homicides and other violent crime? How can the wealthiest nation in the world throw billions of dollars, more police, longer sentences, and tougher prosecutors at our high murder rates only to continue to wildly outpacing the rest of the so-called developed world on this, the most urgent of metrics?   On this episode, we explore the origins of "crime," what crimes we consider noteworthy and which are ignored, how property rights and white supremacy informed the crime we center in our media, how the crimes of poverty, environmental destruction, wage theft, and discrimination are relegated to the arena of tort, with its gentle fines and drawn out lawsuits – while petty theft and drug use results in long prison sentences. We’ll study how these bifurcations inform both media accounts of crime and how we respond with more police, and longer sentences the second we are faced with so-called crime waves.   Our guests are Civil Rights Corps' Alec Karakatsanis and sociologist Tamara K. Nopper.
8/4/20211 hour, 55 minutes, 33 seconds
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Live Interview: How the ‘Pandemic Games’ Expose the Neoliberal Scam of Global Sporting Events

In this recording of a Live Interview for Patrons from 7/22, we discuss the scheduled shock doctrine of global sporting events like FIFA and the Olympics and how they use the PR spectacle of sports––and the emotional blackmail of "supporting athletes"–– to enhance security states, displaced the poor, loosen environmental and labor restrictions, and, above all, serve the interests of large corporate advertisers and real estate developers. with guests Shireen Ahmed and Jules Boykoff.
7/28/20211 hour, 2 minutes, 52 seconds
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Episode 141: How "Most Livable Cities" Lists Center Upwardly Mobile White Professionals

"America's 50 best cities to live in," reveals USA Today. "These rising U.S. cities could become the top places to live and work from home," reports CNBC. "The best U.S. cities to raise a family," lists MarketWatch. Over and over again in American media we hear stories centered around ranking, judging and analyzing the rather vague concept of a city. But who is being discussed when we talk about "cities"? How are "cities" a meaningful unit to understand a given space, especially in a country marked by runaway inequality and segregation? When we’re told Johns Creek, Georgia, is the best city for "young people," or Carmel, Indiana, is the most "livable," whose lives and experiences are the media really talking about? Who is the audience for these reports about the best cities for families, for nightlife, for safety, for education, for happiness? The criteria most U.S. corporate media uses centers a very particular constituent: Your average homeowner or prospective homeowner, usually white, upwardly mobile, namely, those who marketers, investors and real estate agents most want to reach. Cities then, aren't deemed livable for their fair labor practices, but for their business-friendly policies. They're not worth moving to for their abundance of free public space in low-income neighborhoods, but for their charming boutiques and chic restaurants. They don't rank high for their strong rent-control laws, but for their ability to attract tech companies and they capture attention not for their excellent mental-health statistics, but for their "booming economies". On this episode, we parse the ways in which media coverage of cities and urban living — often crafted by white professional-class writers for white professional-class audiences, and funded by faceless parent companies and corporate advertisers — centers the most powerful while ignoring the needs of the working class, the homeless, people with disabilities, and the vast majority of Black and brown residents. Our guest is VOCAL-NY's Jawanza James Williams.
7/21/20211 hour, 10 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 140 - Kicking the Hollywood Habit: Addiction Morality Tales in Film and TV [Virtual Live Show]

7/7/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 58 seconds
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Episode 139 - Of Meat and Men: How Beef Became Synonymous with Settler-Colonial Domination

"Beef. It’s what’s for dinner," the baritone voices of actors Robert Mitchum and Sam Elliott told us in the 1990s. "We’re not gonna let Joe Biden and Kamala Harris cut America’s meat!" cried Mike Pence during a speech in Iowa last year. "To meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat," lamented Donald Trump adviser Larry Kudlow on Fox Business. Repeatedly, we’re reminded that red meat is the lifeblood of American culture, a hallmark of masculine power.   This association has lingered for well over a century. Starting in the late 1800s, as white settlers expropriated Indigenous land killing Native people and wildlife in pursuit of westward expansion across North America, the development and promotion of cattle ranching — and its product: meat — was purposefully imbued with the symbolism of dominance, aggression, and of course, manliness.   There’s an associated animating force behind this messaging as well: the perception of waning masculinity in our settler-colonial society. Whether a reaction to the closure of the American West as a tameable frontier in the late 19th century or to the contemporary Right's imagined threats of "soy boys" and a U.S. military that has supposedly gone soft under liberal command, the need to affirm a cowboy sense of manliness, defined and expressed through violence and domination, continues to take the form of consuming meat.   On this episode, we study the origins of the cultural link between meat eating and masculinity in settler-colonial North America; how this has persisted into the present day via right-wing charlatans like Jordan Peterson, Josh Hawley and Tucker Carlson who panic over the decline of masculinity; and the social and political costs of the maintenance and preservation of Western notions of manliness.   Our guest is history professor and author Kristin Hoganson.
6/30/20211 hour, 20 minutes, 18 seconds
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News Brief: CNN Helps Biden Kick Off 'War On Crime 2.0: This Time It's Not Racist, Trust Us'

In this public News Brief, we examine 24 hours of CNN's mindless police stenography undermining modest bail reform in New York.
6/26/202142 minutes, 33 seconds
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News Brief: The Casual Soft Eugenics of Self-Help "Friendscaping" Content

In this public News Brief, we discuss a recent advice column in the New York Times advocating upwardly mobile professionals dump their fat and depressed friends and how it's part of a much broader trend of pop sociology repackaging cruelty and soft eugenics as "science-driven" self improvement.
6/16/202145 minutes, 44 seconds
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Episode 138: Thought-Terminating Enemy Epithets (Part II)

"Oligarch". "Hardliner". "Regime". All common terms seen in Anglo-American media when describing politicians and power structures in official villain states; yet - mysteriously absent when talking about ourselves or our allies. This Part II of our Citations Needed countdown of the Top 10 "Enemy Epithets," derisive descriptors that are deployed to smear enemies without any symmetrical usage for U.S. officials, policy or imperial partners. Designed to conjure up nasty images of despotism and oppression, often pandering to Orientalized prejudice, these epithets demand people shut off their brains and have the label do the thinking for them. We are joined again by FAIR's Janine Jackson and Jim Naureckas.
6/9/20211 hour, 17 minutes, 8 seconds
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Episode 137: Thought-Terminating Enemy Epithets (Part I)

"Hand-picked successor", "firebrand", "proxy" — In Anglo-American media, there are certain Enemy Epithets that are reserved only for Official Enemy States of United States and their leaders, which are rarely, if ever, used to refer to the United States itself or its allies, despite these countries featuring many of the same qualities being described. Over two years ago, in a two-part episode entitled "Laundering Imperial Violence Through Anodyne Foreign Policy-Speak" (Episodes 70 and 71), we explored the euphemistic way American media discusses manifestly violent or coercive US policy and military action. Words like “engagement”, “surgical strikes”, “muscular foreign policy”, “crippling sanctions” obscure the damage being unleashed by our military and economic extortion regime. Just as pleasant sounding, sanitized foreign policy speak masks the violence of US empire, highly loaded pejorative labels are used to describe otherwise banal doings of government or are employed selectively to make enemies seem uniquely sinister, while American allies who exhibit similar features are given a far more pleasant descriptor. This and next week, we're going to lay out the Top 10 Enemies Epithets — derisive descriptors that are inconsistently applied to smear enemies without any symmetrical usage stateside, designed to conjure up nasty images of despotism and oppression, often pandering to racialized and Oriental prejudice and, above all, asking people to shut off our brains and have the label do the thinking for them.
6/2/20211 hour, 11 minutes, 56 seconds
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News Brief: "Organized Crime" "Shoplifting Epidemic" Panic Hits San Francisco Media

In this public News Brief, we take a critical look at a recent wave of sensationalist "organized crime" "shoplifting epidemic" stories in national and Bay Area media and how they fit into a resurgent "Tough on Crime" narrative. We are joined by Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, Director of Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.
5/26/202148 minutes, 43 seconds
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Episode 136: The 'Ungrateful Athlete': Anti-Black, Anti-Labor Currents in Sports Media

"A good, hard working kid." "A 4.0 student." "He's asking for too much money." "They get paid to play a child’s game." "He shows up and does his work and never complains."   Despite the fact that the concept of paying college athletes has gained some mainstream support in recent years, much of the ideological scaffolding that exists to justify their lack of fair compensation is still very popular and widespread in sports punditry and writing, AM radio and play-by-play broadcasts. Scrutinizing GPAs and work ethic, talking about how "kids" are "becoming men," racialized claims of lazy or ungrateful players, and wildly different double standards for players and owners for when they attempt to maximize their economic interests all prop up a system that, despite liberal hand-wringing and box checking concern for not paying players at the highest levels, still relies on withholding compensation from college athletes for their labor.   The stakes go beyond just sports. This conservative cultural contempt for athletes as a whole mirrors and informs that of other workers as well. Whenever, say, nurses organize for better pay and safer working conditions or, in the era of COVID, teachers unions seek to continue virtual rather than in-person classes for the sake of public health, they’re dismissed as self-interested and domineering.   On this episode, we parse the racist, anti-labor characterization of athletes in media, how they are both scary threatening men and tiny children whose should be paid and breakdown how this topic has cultural implications to other labor struggles, by informing and reinforcing anti-union tropes across the board Our guest is Penn State professor Amira Rose Davis, co-host of Burn It All Down.
5/19/20211 hour, 33 minutes, 57 seconds
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News Brief: Debunking the 5 Most Common Anti-Palestinian Talking Points

In this public News Brief, we breakdown the most common anti-Palestinian tropes and why they're based on sophistry, ignorance, racism, or some combination of all three.
5/14/202137 minutes, 6 seconds
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News Brief: How US Media Helped Trump and USAID Weaponize "Aid" During 2019 Venezuela Coup Attempt

In this public News Brief, we recap a recent internal USAID report that details the group's role in Trump's 2019 Venezuela coup attempt, American media cheering on the obvious PR op like trained seals, and break down how Biden's weaponization of "aid" will likely not be very different. With guest Alexander Main of CEPR.
5/12/202144 minutes, 20 seconds
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News Brief: On Palestine, It's Time for Progressives to Stop Reading From the Same Outrage Script & Support BDS

In this News Brief, we breakdown the entirely predictable cycle of media coverage, liberal handwringing, vague "progressive" outrage, and why the most recent "clashes" should compel nominal progressive leaders like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to formally support BDS.
5/12/202121 minutes, 10 seconds
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News Brief: On Biden's TRIPS Waiver Support, Substance Matters More than Headlines

In this public News Brief, we dissect recent news that the Biden admin backs a TRIPS waiver at the WTO and why the ultimate terms of the agreement matter more than splashy headlines.        
5/6/202122 minutes, 4 seconds
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News Brief: #VaxLive is a PR Scam So Those Causing Vaccine Inequity Can Pose as Saviors of Global Poor

In this News Brief, we breakdown the anti-TRIPS waiver corporate and ideological forces behind the seemingly good-hearted #VaxLive concert on May 8th. Namely, the Gates Foundation, Johnson and Johnson and a who's who of global leaders working to prevent the production of cheap generic vaccines for the global south.
4/30/202128 minutes, 45 seconds
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Episode 135: The “Labor Shortage” Ruse: How Capital Invents Staffing Crises to Bust Unions and Depress Wages

"Trucking Shortage: Drivers Aren't Always In It For The Long Haul," NPR tells us. "The U.S. Is Running Out of Nurses," reports The Atlantic. "There's A Nationwide STEM Teacher Shortage. Will It Cost Us The Next Einstein?" Forbes laments. '"'The Future Depends on Teachers,' PSA launched targeting teachers amid shortage," notes a local FOX affiliate. Every few weeks, we hear about an essential industry suffering from a critical "labor shortage" –– nurses, truck drivers, software engineers, teachers, construction. According to corporate trade groups and their media mouthpieces, these industries simply can’t find trained workers to fill their ranks. But a closer examination of "worker shortage" claims reveals that there’s very rarely an actual worker shortage –– what there is, time and again, is more accurately described as a "pay shortage": industries not wanting to provide adequate compensation or safe work conditions for the available labor market that is perfectly willing and ready to work. Instead of a "worker shortage," there's a “"not hyper liquidity in the labor market" problem for capital –– the perfectly capable and trained workers industries do have are not easily replaceable, potentially or already unionized, and making demands of capital those industries simply don't like. In an effort to increase recruiting of new potential employees, promote legislation that loosens licensing or health and safety standards, and reinforce media-ready memes that American workers are lazy and greedy, industry lobbying groups constantly whine about "labor shortages," knowing the media will mindlessly repeat these claims without any skepticism or curiosity as to why they're reporting on the exact same "labor shortages" every year for 40 years. Our guest is CEPR's Kevin Cashman.
4/28/20211 hour, 4 minutes, 43 seconds
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Episode 134: The 80-Year PR Campaign that Killed Universal Healthcare

Almost every wealthy country in the world has some type of universal healthcare system--except for the United States. With over 170 million of its citizens left to fend for themselves in a sprawling and complex maze of Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, tax credits, child care subsidies, co-pays, deductibles and cost-sharing, the U.S. has not only the largest uninsured population, but also the most expensive system on Earth per capita. Why America doesn’t have a universal healthcare system has historically been explained away with a reductionist mix of pathologizing and circular reasoning. "America hates big government," "we love choice," "Americans distrust anything that reeks of socialism." And while this is true in some limited sense, it avoids the bigger question of why has American so-called "democracy" rejected the numerous proposals to enact a single payer or other forms of universal healthcare? While there may be some innate Protestant work ethic or rugged individual mentality at work here, there’s also been a decades-long multimillion dollar campaign funded by big business, doctor, pharmaceutical and hospital industry interests, and the insurance industry to convince the public to reject universal public healthcare. Indeed, if Americans were somehow intractably opposed to the notion––if they were hardwired to reject socialized medicine––these forces would never have had to spend so much money in the first place. On this episode, we explore the 80-year long campaign by capital to convince you to not support universal health programs, how these campaigns have historically fear-mongered against Communists, immigrants and African Americans, who benefits from a precarious, employer-controlled healthcare insurance system, and how this propaganda war on the American mind is anything but over. Our guest is Ben Palmquist, Director of the Health Care and Economic Democracy Program at Partners for Dignity and Rights.
4/21/20211 hour, 12 minutes, 42 seconds
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Episode 133: The Art of Fake-Ending Wars

"Yemen war: Joe Biden ends support for operations in foreign policy reset," reports the BBC. "Trump: US will be out of Afghanistan by Christmas 2020," cheered Military Times. "Trump Orders Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Northern Syria," the New York Times told us.   For decades, the United States has very often appeared to have "ended" wars that do not, in fact, end at all. Open-ended jargon like "residual counter terror forces," "Vietnamization," "military advisors," along with deliberately ambiguous timetables, process criticisms––all are used to confuse the average media consumer.   America's politicians know the American public broadly dislikes war and empire––and thus wants to see it restrained––but these same politicians don't really want to end wars so they have a frequent PR problem: How do you make it look like you’re ending a war or occupation without really doing so?   To solve this conundrum, American political leaders have perfected the art of fake-ending a war. Which is to say, announcing a war is going to end, typically around election time, only to––once the headlines make a big splash––backtrack, obfuscate, claim the "situation on the ground has changed" or the military involvement will only be in a "limited" or "defensive" capacity, shuffle troops around or find other thin pretexts to continue the war or occupation.   In this episode, we discuss the United States' history of fake-ending wars, who these pronouncements are meant to please, why troops levels are often impossible to know, and why so many of our so-called "wars" are not really wars at all, but military occupations that are never really meant to end.   Our guest is Shireen Al-Adeimi, assistant professor at Michigan State University.
4/14/20211 hour, 11 minutes, 9 seconds
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News Brief: Big Pharma, Bill Gates Spin Against Generic Vaccines for Global South as Biden a No Show

In this public News Brief, we break down the PR campaign against activists who want intellectual property rules suspended so that poor countries can manufacture their own generic vaccines. With guest Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen.
4/10/202154 minutes, 37 seconds
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News Brief: Austin Activists Combat Anti-Homeless Stigma in 'Prop B' Media Fight

In this public News Brief, we catch up with Austin activists Seneca Savoie and Chris Harris as they fight far right demagoguery, rich liberal NIMBY fence-sitting, and stigmatizing local media coverage of Travis County's unhoused population.
3/24/202140 minutes, 49 seconds
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Episode 132: The House Always Wins  -  How Every Crisis Narrative Enriches the Security and Carceral State

"It’s Time for a Domestic Terrorism Law," blares a Washington Monthly headline. "Tucson Police Helping Homeless with New Outreach Program," reports Tucson, Arizona’s ABC affiliate KGUN9. "Programs that monitor students' social media are seen as a means of heading off the next tragic shooting," says an article in GovTech. "How the Department of Defense could help win the war on climate change," explains Politico.   In the United States, it seems no matter what crisis emerges - the planet warming due to fossil extraction, QAnon white nationalists storm Capitol, mass shooting, substance abuse crisis, a surge in homelessness - the response from our pundit, think tank, and political classes is always, almost without exception, to frame the response in terms that empower, embolden and - most importantly - fund preexisting carceral and militaristic responses.   To fight the scourge of white nationalism under Trump and show we are serious about our anti-racism, the solution is apparently to give more money and surveillance powers to the FBI, an organization itself drenched in white supremacy and anti-Muslim violence. To show we are serious about climate change, we must give the reins of crisis management to the Pentagon. To show we care deeply about ending homelessness and poverty or addressing mental health crises and drug abuse, we must always ensure the police remain equipped, resourced and well-funded in order to monitor and target vulnerable populations.   This "House Always Wins" ecosystem is no coincidence; it is fueled by a patchwork of perverse incentives: security state and weapons contractor-funded “bipartisan” think tanks and media outlets ready with turn-key "solutions" to every social problem that further pad the budgets of those already in power: the FBI, Pentagon, ICE, NSA, police forces, large corporations all with their own power-serving "security" and "extremist" experts ready to jump on every crises to explain why those already in power deserve even more of it.   If the most basic environmental protections are to pass, they must relate to US military preparedness." If Mars is to be explored, it's to ensure the United States’s primacy over China and Russia. If there's an outcry for mental health services for unhoused people, police budgets surge to cover "training" and community outreach.   On this episode, we explore how, under our regime of austerity, the house always wins; namely, how the security state is, by design, enriched at the expense of much needed programs and infrastructure like education, housing, and healthcare - with media all too eager to convince us the solution is to instead simply further bloat the budgets of police departments, border patrol, federal surveillance and law enforcement.   Our guest is University of Illinois-Chicago professor Nicole Nguyen.
3/10/20211 hour, 30 minutes, 21 seconds
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News Brief: The Transactional Dog-Whistle Politics of the Term "Taxpayer"

On this News Brief, we discuss the ubiquitous weaponization of the term "taxpayer" in media and politics and how it deliberately smuggles right-wing, transactional and deeply racialized notions of people's relationship with their government into our cultural understanding of taxation, public spending and social services.   Our guest is the Law and Political Economy Project's Raúl Carrillo.
3/3/202152 minutes, 21 seconds
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Episode 131: The "Essential Worker" Racket - How 'COVID Hero' Discourse Is Used To Discipline Labor

"Elon Musk sent a thank-you note to Tesla's workers returning to work," Business Insider squeals. Walmart teams up with UPS to air an ad "thanking essential workers." "Jeff Bezos Just Posted an Open Letter to Amazon Employees About the Coronavirus. Every Smart Business Leader Needs to Read It," insists an article in Inc.   Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate leaders, politicians and celebrities have been quick to paint "essential workers," and those often described as "frontline" workers, as heroes — laborers conscripted, presumably against their will, into a wartime-like scenario of heroism and sacrifice as our country battles the ongoing coronavirus scourge.   The sentiment behind this rhetoric is understandable, especially from everyday people simply trying to express their deep appreciation for the underpaid labor doing the work to feed, house, care for and treat everyone else. But when deployed by powerful politicians and CEOs, the "essential workers as heroes" discourse serves a more sinister purpose: to curb efforts to unionize, preemptively justify mass death of a largely black and brown workforce, protect corporate profits and ultimately discipline labor that for a brief moment in spring of last year, had unprecedented leverage to extract concessions from capital.   As Wall Street booms and America’s billionaires see an increase of $1.1 trillion in wealth since March 2020 — a 40% increase — while the average worker suffers from unemployment, depression, drug abuse and a loss of healthcare, it’s become increasingly clear that “essential” never meant essential to helping society at large or essential to human care or essential to keeping the bottom from falling out, but essential to keeping the top one percent of the one percent’s wealth and power intact and as it turned out to be the case, massively expanded.   Indeed, 2020 saw the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in decades, a transfer largely made possible by the essential worker as hero narrative, with little discussion or debate. In March 2020 everyone agreed in this wartime framing that was going to send off millions of poor people to their deaths for a vague, undecided greater good of the quote-unquote "economy," when really it was for the seamless maintenance of Wall Street profits.   On this episode, we explore the origins of the concept of "essential work" and those deemed "essential workers"; how it's been used in the past to discipline labor during wartime; how hero narratives provide an empty, head-patting verbal tip in lieu of worker protection and higher pay; and why so few in our media ask the more urgent question of all: whether or not low wage retail, food, farming, and healthcare workers ever wanted to be heroes in the first place.   Our guest in Ronald Jackson, a worker and organizer with Warehouse Workers For Justice.
2/17/20211 hour, 2 minutes, 41 seconds
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News Brief - Covid in Prisons: No One Cares Until Things Start to Burn

In this public News Brief we discuss how American media's general indifference to the Covid pandemic ravaging prisons and jails makes "riots" inevitable. Our guest, Patrice Daniels, is an activist currently incarcerated in Illinois state prison in Joliet, IL.
2/10/202153 minutes, 31 seconds
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Episode 130: 'Heartland,' 'Middle America,' and US Media’s Vaguely Nostalgic, Racialized Code for White Grievance

“We need a president whose vision was shaped by the American Heartland rather than the ineffective Washington politics,” declares presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. “AOC Kills Jobs Middle America Would Love to Have,” proclaims The Washington Examiner. Amy Klobuchar insists she’s a “voice from the heartland,” while The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin tells us, “[Bernie Sanders] is not going to sell in Middle America. You have to WIN Middle America.” Everywhere we turn in American political discourse, the terms “Heartland” and “Middle America” are thrown around as shorthand for “everyday” men and women somewhere between the Atlantic Ocean to the East, Pacific to the West--homespun people who are supposedly insufficiently represented in media and Beltway circles. Those evoking their status presumably are interjecting these true Americans otherwise overlooked needs into the conversation. But terms like “Heartland” and “Middle America” are not benign or organic terms that emerged from the natural course of sociological explanation, they are deliberate political PR products of the 1960s, emerging in parallel with a shift from explicit racism into coded racism. Their primary function is to express a deference to and centering of whiteness as a post-civil rights political project. On this episode, we explore the origins of the terms “Middle America” and “Heartland,” what they mask and reveal, why they’re still used today and how conversations about “whiteness” as a political ideology would benefit greatly from clarity, rather than relying on code words to vaguely allude to the subject of political “whiteness,” while still trying to obfuscate it. Our guest is Professor Kristin Hoganson of the University of Illinois.
2/3/20211 hour, 18 minutes, 55 seconds
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News Brief: Finance Media's GameStop Meltdown and the Thin Moral Pretexts of Wall Street's Game Rigging

In this News Brief we break down L'Affaire GameStop and what lessons can be gleaned from about psychological gamesmanship of the stock market and finance media's goofy, reverse-engineered moral pretext for being outraged by #GME. With guest Jacob Silverman.
1/28/202133 minutes, 15 seconds
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Episode 129 - Vaccine Apartheid: US Media's Uncritical Adoption of Racist "Intellectual Property" Dogma

“The COVID-19 vaccine is ripe for the blackmarket,” warns an NBC News opinion piece. “Iran-linked hackers recently targeted coronavirus drugmaker Gilead,” reports Reuters. “Hackers ‘try to steal COVID vaccine secrets in intellectual property war,’” blares a Guardian headline. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged and pharmaceutical companies raced to develop a vaccine, Western media routinely asserted without question or criticism the premise that vaccine “intellectual property” is a zero-sum possession that’s been “stolen” by malicious foreign actors, blackmarket criminals, and of course, dreaded “pirates.” With rare exception, the conceit that intellectual property for the COVID-19 vaccine is a finite thing that can be leaked, spied on or stolen — presumably to the detriment of the average American, somehow — is simply taken for granted. Similarly, assumed across corporate media reports is the notion that it is the US government’s job — no, their duty — is to protect sacred American intellectual property. National security experts, weapons contractor-funded think tanks, and national security reporters uniformly decry the sinister and shadowy agents and adversaries out to snatch America’s hard-earned vaccine dominance. Nowhere in all this fear mongering and hand-wringing is there any sense of the much greater injustice at work: that the vaccine is in fact hoarded by the security states of wealthy nations, secured for power and securitized for profit. It is virtually unquestioned that only some countries or companies should be allowed access to the knowledge of finding and developing a vaccine, and no consideration that, maybe, there’s no such thing as too many countries working toward the management and eradication of a deadly virus. From this default capitalist — and as we will show, racist — mindset has emerged what activists have long argued would be inevitable: a global apartheid regime of vaccine access that tracks almost one-to-one with historical currents of colonialism. An extension of an IP regime that has cut off the Global South from other life-saving medicines for decades, exacerbating the devastating effects of epidemics such as malaria and AIDS. In the wake of the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, much of American corporate media decided to audit their own internally racist practices, but for reasons of partisan expediency and capitalist ideology, this sudden concern for historical racism seems to have stopped at the water’s edge, and U.S. media has largely covered the emerging Vaccine Apartheid regime as an inevitable act of god, rather than springing from explicit white supremacist IP fetishization, codified and defended by leaders of both American political parties. Indeed, if one were to place a map of when a country can expect to be fully vaccinated over the next few years on top of a map of economic exploitation, colonial extraction and capitalism-imposed poverty in the Global South, it would be an almost exact match. This emerging Vaccine Apartheid — while potentially complicated by Chinese soft power efforts to vaccinate the Global South — is not only inevitable, but the deliberate result of our 1990s-era, post-Cold War economic order created by the World Trade Organization. On this episode, we trace the colonial origins of American media’s uncritical adoption of “intellectual property above all else,” why the WTO is functioning exactly how it was designed to, and how U.S. corporate anti-racism discourse goes out its way to make sure discussions of white supremacy never examine the manifestly racist effects of the American and European-led capitalist order. Our guest is Heidi Chow, Senior Campaigns and Policy Manager at Global Justice Now.
1/27/20211 hour, 11 minutes, 53 seconds
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Episode 128 - The “Healing” Con: How Warm and Fuzzy Appeals for "Unity" Are Used to Protect Power

"Biden Calls For Hope And Healing In Speech," NPR reports. "Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot calls for return to Sept. 11 unity," writes The Chicago Tribune. Following the 2014 Ferguson protests, a CNN headline read, "Obama: Now is the time for peace, healing." "Filmmaker Ken Burns aims for healing with new documentary about Vietnam War," the San Diego Union-Tribune has told us. Everywhere we turn columnists, celebrities, pundits, and politicians are insisting we have "unity," "come together," promote "peace" and work to "heal the divisions."   On its face these concepts sound fine enough: after all, who doesn’t like peace? Unity sounds great! Who wouldn't want to "heal" our wounds? Wounds are bad! But in the majority of political contexts, these warm and fuzzy buzzwords rush past the messy and difficult work of justice, substantive change, or reparations and get straight to the part where everyone just feels good about themselves.   In a world where 2100 billionaires hoard more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population, where billions live in abject poverty, what do concepts like peace mean? After an administration that has carried out deliberate policies of ethnic cleaning at the U.S border, what does unity entail? In a country that has leveled much of the Middle East, Korea, Vietnam, and overthrown numerous democracies in Latin America, what does healing involve? Without concrete policies of accountability, restitution, restoration and reparation, squishy liberal notions of "unity" and "healing" achieve little more than protecting the status quo.   This isn’t a unique problem: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously reminded white liberals that "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice," a point he made literally hundreds of times in his years of advocacy to a handwringing media insisting everyone just calm down and go home and let the lawyers at the Department of Justice take care of things.   Nevertheless the problem persist decades later: time and again, before there's been any concrete changes, policy proposals, or restitution to victims of injustice, those in power evoke abstract notions of "healing," "unity" and "peace" to shut up activists and act as of it the work is done right before pivoting back to business as usual.   On this week's episode we will examine the origins of the concepts of "unity" as a political PR gambit, detail how concepts of "healing" which can are very useful in grassroots and interpersonal psychological contexts have been cynically appropriated by those in power, and breakdown how media consumers can avoid the shallow allure of "peace" and "unity" rhetoric in the face of routine, everyday racism, violence, exploitation, and injustice.   Our guest is Lara Kiwani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC).
1/20/20211 hour, 5 minutes, 14 seconds
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News Brief: US Media Pathologically Incapable of Criticizing MAGA Mobs Without Evoking Racist Cliches About "Third World"

Following today's mob violence at the U.S. capitol building, we break down how, once again, American media would rather ignore homegrown currents of white supremacist vigilantism and their buddy buddy relationship with law enforcement and focus instead on how an anomalous President Trump makes us like those horrible poor people of the Global South.
1/7/202132 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 127: Democratic Leadership's Predictable Scapegoating of 'Defund the Police'

"Sen. Mark Warner said progressives' calls to 'defund the police' were in part to blame for Democratic losses in the House in a cycle when the party was expected to gain seats," The Hill tells us. "How ’defund the police' sabotaged Democrats on Election Day," Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune writes."'Defund the police’ is killing our party, and we’ve got to stop it," said South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn. In the wake of the Democrats’ disappointing Congressional showing in last month’s elections, centrist Democrats and their media mouthpieces were quick to blame Black Lives Matter and the "defund the police" movement for their subpar results. There’s only one problem: there is no empirical basis for this claim in any of the above comments or reports. No studies, no evidence––not even anecdotally––is provided. Before the printer ink was dry on the ballots, centrist Democrats who lost or underperformed––or made a career out of defending those that do––rushed to blame the so-called "defund the police" movement, highlighting rightwing attack ads featuring the label. After some initial goodwill immediately following the global outpouring of protests after the horrific police murder of George Floyd, mainstream democratic party line has reverted back to it’s old playbook of blaming the Left and Black activists for offending or alienating a nebulous cohort of moderate white voters. As the economy crashed and the world was turned upside down in the Spring of 2020, Democratic leaders had a chance to lobby for robust social welfare programs, guaranteed income, mortgage and rent cancellation and single payer healthcare to get us through this ongoing crisis, whose disastrous implications will extend well beyond the introduction of a vaccine. Instead, however, they lowered expectations, blamed Trump for their own unforced ideological limitations and almost never publicly took credit for the extension of unemployment benefits––the one good thing Democrats actually did achieve, albeit fleeting. The result was a once in a generation opportunity blown, a possible leftwing shock doctrine that was crippled by unmovable austerity ideology. So when the elections came around and the Democrats underperformed, who was to blame? It can’t be party leadership blowing the COVID-19 response and it can’t be the security state-curated centrist tofu candidates who lost or barely won. It has to––once again––be those pesky far left activists. Because Democratic party leadership cannot fail they can only be failed, a scapegoat was needed. On this week’s episode we discuss why "defund the police" and the broader abolitionist movement was that scapegoat, the long history of concern trolling Black activism and perennially blaming movements for justice for right-wing, white backlash from bad faith actors. We also detail how activists are now on the defensive as Democrats, having successfully exploited the broad sentiment of the George Floyd protests for Get Out The Vote fodder, now seek to lower expectations, purge Black Lives Matter of its truly radical elements, and go back to business as usual. Our guest is human rights lawyer and abolitionist Derecka Purnell.
12/16/20201 hour, 26 minutes, 25 seconds
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Episode 126: Obama-Era Media Failures We Shouldn’t Rehash Under Biden (Part II)

This is the second installment of our scoldy, buzzkill, two-part episode on Obama-era media failures we should be on the look out for as the Biden administration takes office. On this episode, we examine five more tropes that, sadly, are already being resurrected. Our guest is Roberto Lovato, author of Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs and Revolution in the Americas.
12/10/20201 hour, 21 minutes, 24 seconds
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News Brief: The ICE and Pentagon-Bloating Vagueness of the "Climate Change is a National Security Issue" Mantra

In light of John Kerry's new "national security" climate role, we follow up on Episode 122 by reading policy papers published by John Kerry's think tank. Hint: they want more money for the Pentagon, ICE, and Border Patrol.
12/8/202025 minutes, 4 seconds
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Ep. 125: Obama-Era Media Failures We Shouldn't Rehash Under Biden (Part I)

President-elect Joe Biden has promised what he calls a return to "decency" and "unity," and American media has broadly characterized his victory over Donald Trump as, in the words of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, "The Third Term of the Obama Presidency." Many of the same holdovers — Samantha Power, Antony Blinken, Michèle Flournoy, Bob McDonald, Jake Sullivan, Susan Rice, Sally Yates, John Kerry and many in the revolving think tank, consulting outfits, marketing firms, undersecretary advisor world are expected to be back into the White House come January 20, 2021. While they have many obvious superficial differences, the Obama and Biden White Houses will more or less borrow from the same playbook: slick, marketing-focused, technocratic, centrist, hawkish maintainers of the neoliberal status quo. As such, many lessons can be learned from the media’s coverage of the Obama White house and what mistakes not to repeat again. From Obama’s prosecution of foreign occupations to directing dirty wars, supporting the destruction of Yemen to running a drone strike regime, pushing austerity dogma to continue the brutal war on drugs, inhumane immigration enforcement to many routine cruel and violent policies — because they lacked the partisan hook and sadistic fervor of Trump — were largely ignored, downplayed, or soft pedaled by U.S. media from 2009 to the beginning of 2017. This is Part I of a two-part episode breaking down these "media mistakes" - major areas where the American press failed to hold the most powerful person in the world to account. We explore how the Obama era may provide a blueprint of what we may expect under the upcoming Biden administration and how activists can get ahead of these failures before they inevitably manifest. Our guest is Peter Hart, National Communications Manager for Food & Water Watch.
12/2/20201 hour, 25 minutes, 59 seconds
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Episode 124: Mental Health During A Pandemic: How US Media Spins Societal Failures Into Personal Self-Help Journeys

A CNN headline from this past summer read: “Mental health during coronavirus: Tips for processing your feelings.” Psychology Today gave us an article on “Coping With Loneliness During a Pandemic,” while the Washington Post presents, “A guide to taking care of yourself during the pandemic.” Everywhere we’ve turned over the past 9 months, American media has been covering the mental health downside of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and economic crash on one of these two settings: Awareness Mode or Self-Help Mode. The first setting — “Awareness Mode” — is merely witnessing mass suffering; that is, reporting on the topic with no prescriptions offered. Second is “Self-Help Mode,” which is, to the extent these articles do put forth prescriptions for wellness and mental health, it is entirely individualistic in nature. Your well-being during this once-in-a-century pandemic is up to you — but don’t fret, here are some “guides,” ”plans,” “hacks,” and “tricks” to help you out. Missing from the vast bulk of coverage is the glaringly obvious third option: actionable, proven, political solutions to mental health crises that operate under the radical assumption that  social problems may require social solutions. Nowhere in any of these articles is the idea that socialized medicine, guaranteed income, free childcare, student debt relief or rent and mortgage cancellations may be the best and most rational “hacks” or “tricks” to actually improve mental health of people at scale. Obviously, a robust social safety net wouldn’t solve all mental health problems — after all, countries with universal healthcare and generous unemployment and childcare benefits still have depression and suicides — but we have decades of data showing basic social welfare clearly improves mental welfare. But because mental health crises are seen as moral failings rather than diseases thrust upon innocent people, we are conditioned to view those suffering from their effects as inevitable, losses simply factored into the moral framework of the world. It basically goes like this: If a giant blood-sucking monster were ravaging the country killing thousands of people and terrorizing millions more, the media would never provide us “hacks” or “plans” or “tricks” to cope with the giant blood-sucking monster. It would ask the obvious question: What are those in power doing to stop the monster from killing and terrorizing in the first place? Unfortunately, such an approach is sacrilege in U.S. media when it comes to mental health. The solution is never to lobby for a specific candidate or policy that would provide immediate relief to the masses because neoliberal hyper-atomization, unlike appeals to social solutions, is not seen as political. It’s simply the objective reporter voice mode of journalism U.S. media has uncritically adopted. But collectivist solutions, marked by the political choice to redistribute resources to the less well-off, is a proven technique to help those suffering mental health issues, doubly so during a pandemic that has cut people off from socialization, radially increased substance abuse, and has left millions unemployed. Our guest is writer Colette Shade.
11/25/20201 hour, 5 minutes, 9 seconds
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News Brief: It's Not a "Fall From Grace", This Has Always Been Who Giuliani Was

In this News Brief, we talk with journalist Ashoka Jegroo about Giuliani's long history of racism, white liberal New Yorkers providing cover for his carceral sociopathy because they liked the results, and the pathetic, inevitable final chapter of the former New York mayor.
11/20/202034 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 123: How Liberal Meta-Demands for "Investigations" and "Studies" Are Used to Silence Activists

"Joe Biden Calls For ‘Immediate, Full And Transparent Investigation’ Into Jacob Blake Shooting," Forbes reports. "Obama Fraud Task Force Takes on the Big Banks," Bloomberg News proclaims. "Democratic lawmakers call for vote on bill to study reparations," announces CNN.   It seems that every time there’s a movement toward righting a historical or current wrong, whether police violence, corporate abuses, or climate. change, policymakers muster the same tepid “solution”: initiate a committee, investigation, commission, study, or, if they want to sound super militaristic and Serious a “task force” to probe the issue. This type of rhetorical filler offers elites the best of both worlds: Creating the appearance of attentiveness and progressiveness without requiring any meaningful, overt ideological commitments.   Tethered to explicit political objectives, calls for investigations or studies can be a useful lobbying tool, but absent this, they are more often than not a political trick, psychological tools to compel activists and those outraged on social media to take a break, because now the professionals are handling it. The effect: the political equivalent of a five-day cooling off period, wait the outrage out and channel activist energy into Get Out the Vote fodder and superficial reform-ese that never truly upsets the existing order.   On this episode, we study the phenomenon of the liberal appeals for bare-minimum interventions in times of political crisis, looking at how vague and open-ended calls for studies, committees, task forces, and commissions are designed to elevate the reputations of spineless politicians while nullifying the social movements that actually seek racial, economic, and climate justice.   Our guest is Briahna Joy Gray, former national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
11/18/20201 hour, 14 minutes, 33 seconds
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News Brief - Review: Netflix's Charles Murray-Themed Hallmark Film 'Hillbilly Elegy'

In this Sight Unseen film review, we recap the ideological currents and industry backers of J.D. Vance's white trash whisperer shtick and how it blames everyone for Appalachian poverty but corporations and Republicans.
11/11/202045 minutes, 19 seconds
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News Brief - Post Election Spin: Trump Blames CIA for Loss, Corporate House Dems Blame BLM

In this post-election News Brief we discuss the various modes of cope and responsibility skirting.
11/7/202024 minutes, 5 seconds
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Episode 122: Climate Chaos (Part II)  - The Militarization of Liberals' Climate Change Response

Pete Buttigieg wants to create  “a Senior Cli­mate Secu­ri­ty role in the Sec­re­tary of Defense’s office respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing cli­mate secu­ri­ty risks.” Elizabeth Warren insists “our military can help lead the fight in combating climate change.” And the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis tells us our primary goal should be to “Confront Climate Risks to America’s National Security and Restore America’s Leadership on the International Stage.” Everywhere we turn in liberal discourse, high-profile Democrats and center-left media are framing climate change as a “national security” risk requiring national security solutions. Politically, it’s a clever enough frame. Like mocking Trump for being too nice to North Korea or latching on to anti-Trump Gold Star families, it’s a cheap and easy way Democrats can drape themselves in the flag while pushing an ostensibly liberal position: We know it’s a real threat because our military takes it seriously and they can be part of the solution - unlike those backwards Republicans we actually care what the generals are saying. The primary problem with this is that the military speaks of climate change the way Davos discusses "inequality"––in square quotes, as a threat to be managed and mitigated, not solved, and certainly not seen as a moral imperative to be addressed with issues of social justice and racism in mind. The Pentagon, by its own admission, views climate chaos as a risk factor among many, and its primary goal is to protect American capital and the U.S.-led global expansionist  and extractivist economic order: two institutions fundamentally in need of overhaul if climate change is going to be reversed. Indeed turning to the US military to help solve climate crisis is like asking the police to solve institutional racism––at best they can suppress protestors and secure property in the event of mass unrest, but the thing that needs overthrowing is the thing they’re charged most with protecting. One this second episode of our two-part series on climate chaos, we’ll explain why the DoD––and the military-industrial-complex more broadly––cannot be a partner in the battle against climate change because their prime objective is protecting its main drivers of mindless growth and war, why demilitarization and global cooperation are key to curbing emissions in time, and why creeping militarism, nationalist economic policy in green “tech” and other forms of liberal jingoism are subtly shifting mainstream liberal climate policy to the Right. Our guest is Lorah Steichen of the National Priorities Project.
10/28/20201 hour, 12 minutes
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Episode 121 - Climate Chaos (Part I): How the Gap Between Liberal Rhetoric & Policy Promotes Denialism

“Climate change is real.” “Three words — science, science, and science.” “From coastal towns to rural farms to urban centers, climate change poses an existential threat.” “Now it is time to put our coalition to work and pass bold climate solutions.” These are just some of the many statements — all of them true — that the U.S. public routinely hears from its Democratic Party leaders, expressing their unbridled commitment to acting on the ever-urgent issue of climate change. But there is a tremendous gulf between Democratic leaders’ claims to believe climate change is an existential threat and their actual actions, which are the actions of people who do not believe climate change must be urgently and robustly tackled. Since climate change has ascended from thoroughly ignored to occasionally acknowledged issue in US political discourse and elections, Democratic leaders have for the most part only been willing to push for small-scale policy solutions — a carbon-capture tax credit here, a fossil-fuel subsidy cut there. These solutions are almost always incremental and market-based, and these same Democrats refuse to embrace what’s actually needed: keep fossil fuels in the ground, and mobilize public resources so that we can make the broad social changes we need to address the climate crisis. The most powerful Democrats, people like Nancy Pelosi, have not only steered clear of more far-reaching policies, but have actively undermined them, as seen most clearly with her opposition to the Green New Deal — often under the guise of debt scolding. When Democratic Party claims about the dire consequences of climate change are not matched by robust and necessary policy proposals, one can only assume one of three realities is true: (1) they do not care about the disastrous inevitably of environmental collapse, (2) they don’t truly believe the science on climate change in general, or (3) they’re simply hopeless and spineless. In any case, the resultant inertia amounts to an insidious form of climate denialism in its own right. On this episode, part one of two tackling climate change, we discuss the net effect of this chasm - what we’re calling “the Climate Rhetoric-Policy Gap” - and how, from a messaging standpoint, it reads false and leads many to believe that climate change may be real in some abstract sense, but mostly not a matter of urgent moral importance. Our guest is Basav Sen, Cli­mate Jus­tice Project Direc­tor at the Insti­tute for Pol­i­cy Stud­ies.
10/21/20201 hour, 11 minutes, 38 seconds
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News Brief - Hollywood and the Pentagon: A Follow Up Conversation with Oliver Stone

In this News Brief follow up to Episode 115 on Hollywood's symbiotic relationship with the Pentagon and CIA, we spoke with director and screenwriter Oliver Stone about his experience making mainstream motion pictures about often taboo subjects like the American imperialism and war crimes.
10/14/202038 minutes
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Episode 120: 30 Under 30 Lists and the Problem with Our Youth-Obsessed 'Success' Narratives

Every year, a series of highly anticipated listicles of "successful" and "influential" people hailed for their accomplishments surface in corporate media. Forbes reveals the most successful 30 people under the age of 30, and Fortune hails the most successful 40 Under 40. Meanwhile, other business outlets like TechCrunch, Fast Company and CNBC seek a taste of the hype with their own spinoffs. Each time one of these lists is published, a flurry of meta-press ensues. CNN, BBC, and The Los Angeles Times run pieces fawning over these high-profile lists, cementing their status as career launchers within the worlds of tech, politics, finance, venture capital, and other pockets of industry prized in capitalist economies. To the extent left types are chosen, it’s almost always due to their ability to mimic capitalist brand-building or channel activist energy into billionaire-backed nonprofits. Thematically similar stories of “success” are just as ubiquitous: headlines such as Business Insider’s "What 31 highly successful people were doing at age 25" or Oprah's "20 Things Everyone Should Master by Age 40" all create a ticking time bomb notion of "achievement" and success operating under a very specific capitalist framework of human worth. But why are these outlets entrusted with determining whose "success" or "influence" matters? How do these concepts punish – or at least – disappear the poor, disabled and people of color who don’t have the institutional resources to “achieve” capitalist success at such a young age? And above all, how does American media’s constant fetishization of "youth" and "accomplishment" create psychological wear and tear for the 99 percent of the population who cannot – or don’t want to – meet this definition of "success" by their 30s or 40s. On this episode, we analyze the ways in which corporate media’s narratives of "success" peddle neoliberalism, undermine labor solidarity, reinforce unrealistic expectations that degrade collective mental health, and overwhelmingly center the interests of the white professional class. We are joined by Edward Ongweso Jr. and Sarah Jaffe.
9/30/20201 hour, 14 minutes, 38 seconds
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Episode 119: How the Right Shaped Pop Country Music

By now, it's largely taken for granted that country music is a racialized signifier, interchangeable with right-wing politics. And it’s not such an unreasonable generalization: the political currents of twanged and drawled patriotic paeans like Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)," and Brooks & Dunn's "Only In America" leave little to the imagination.   But how, exactly, did this come to be? After all, country music, a descendant of the blues, folk, Tejano, and other genres, with connections to labor organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World and social-justice movements, has historically attracted musicians spanning the political spectrum, and didn’t necessarily emerge from such a staunchly right-wing political tradition.   Rather, popular conceptions of country music have long been deliberately shaped by a series of broader ideological projects. Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, conservative politicians and other right-wing forces have exploited the genre to promote illiberalism, racism, revanchist politics, and runaway anti-intellectualism where not giving a shit about the world beyond one’s own cold beer, pickup truck, old lady is not only acceptable, but actively encouraged and flaunted.    On this episode, we examine how the genre of country music has been wielded as a tool of reactionary politicking in the US, from the machinations of Henry Ford in the 1920s to the Nixon administration’s Southern Strategy in the 1960s and ‘70s to the heady Shock and Y’all days of the Bush years, and how a once working-class tradition became a cultural cul de sac of worn-out tropes and middle-class, white grievance politics.     Our guest is writer, editor and artist Alexander Billet. 
9/23/20201 hour, 39 minutes, 37 seconds
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Episode 118: The Snitch Economy: How Rating Apps and Tipping Pit Working People Against Each Other

Waiting tables. Bartending. Hospitality, food delivery, beauty salons, rideshare driving. The service industry, as anyone who has worked in it knows all too well, is notorious for relying on tipping to undercut employee wages and deputize individual customers to determine how much money a worker should be able to take home. Amid increasing recognition of these injustices, a number of campaigns and new laws surfaced, pre-pandemic, to abolish or meaningfully reduce the practice of tipping. But despite the best efforts of these campaigns, tipping remains the industry - and American society - standard. Indeed, the perverse logic of tipping has broadened into an ever-present 'snitch economy' - an ecosystem of tactics like mystery shoppers and Uber and Yelp rating systems designed to police the behavior of workers while outsourcing the costs of said supervision to customers and other workers. In the process, our snitch economy pits those being surveilled against those doing the watching, and the judging. Through a ubiquitous public-facing network of rating and reviewing other people’s labor - and often the behavioral disposition they exhibit while working - people with otherwise very little power are elevated to temporary positions of authority over others, fostering a culture of surveillance rather than one of solidarity. The snitch economy serves the dual purpose of not only giving working people a false sense of power when they’re the ones being served, but also reducing millions of human interactions to opportunities for not only snap judgments, but subjective rewards and retribution. In this episode, we detail how businesses in the service industry, bolstered by friendly media, use tactics like tipping, mystery shoppers, and ubiquitous ratings systems in order to turn us all into petty, mean, busybodies carrying out the agenda of capital with nothing to show for it but a fleeting sense of self-satisfaction. Our guest is writer, editor and agitator Vicky Osterweil.
9/16/20201 hour, 6 minutes, 7 seconds
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Episode 117: The Always 'Lagging' U.S. War Machine

"U.S. military tactics falling behind those of adversaries, Pentagon official warns," The Guardian proclaims. "Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It," reads a report from the RAND Corporation. "U.S. falling behind in new space race, says CIA's former head of science and tech," cautions CBS News. U.S. media consistently characterize the United States – a country with nearly 800 military bases worldwide and an ever-climbing annual defense budget that's already more than a trillion dollars – as the world's eternal underdog. Somehow, the United States military is always "lagging" or "falling behind" perennial enemies Russia, China and evil Muslim terrorists in everything from nuclear weapons, PSYOPs, Internet security and surveillance, Arctic ice cutters, intercontinental ballistic missiles, drones, dominating outer space, and the always reliable and extremely vague "military readiness." The scam goes something like this: A weapons contractor and military-funded think tank publishes a supposedly neutral "report" or a handful "U.S. officials" run to a media outlet insisting the United States is "lagging behind" in a sector that incidentally coincides with said think tank's funders or government entity's interests. Credulous American media mindlessly repeats the claims, everyone acts panicked, treating the warning like a work of good faith, sober and objective analysis. Congress then reacts and uses media coverage to rationalize even more contracts to the very funders of the think tank that raised the warning, further bloating the Pentagon, State Department and CIA budgets. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, all the while portraying the U.S.'s gargantuan defense expenditures as paltry and insufficient. On this episode, we parse the trope of the always “lagging” United States, who pushes and funds it, who benefits from it, and ask why the inverse question – "what if the U.S. is too powerful and dominant over the rest of the world" – is never broached by American media, much less honestly debated. Our guest is FAIR's Jim Naureckas.
9/9/20201 hour, 29 minutes, 46 seconds
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News Brief: Detailing the Connection Between Gentrification and Racist Police Harassment

One point brought up in Episode 116, highlighting the connection between real estate interests and over-policing, solicited a lot of feedback from listeners. In this News Brief, we wanted to expand upon this topic by interviewing an academic source we cited in the episode: assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver Brenden Beck, whose work focuses on the intersection between "urban development" projects and the targeted, sustain harassment of communities of color.
8/11/202029 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 116: The Pro-Gentrification Aspirationalism of HGTV's House-Flipping Shows

The popularity of HGTV house-flipping TV shows can’t be overstated: In the second week of July, HGTV was the fourth highest rated cable network, behind only Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, making it the highest rated entertainment network in the United States. Its most prominent programming: the reliable, risk free formula of home flipping shows. All of these shows—Flip or Flop and its many regional spinoffs, Good Bones, Flipping 101, to name just a few—share a basic formula: house-flippers, usually a family business in the form of a husband and wife team or parent and child with a folksy rapport, buy a neglected house on the cheap—cue zoom-ins on mold, water damage, decaying wood, dust and dead bugs—that’s often in a relatively poor or gentrifying neighborhood. They then turn it into something they describe as "beautiful", to be sold at a much higher price to, most likely, young white people looking for a "funky" home in an "up-and-coming" neighborhood. But at what cost do these glossy, get-rich-quick reality shows entertain us? What ideologies do they promote, and how do they erase the working class black and brown families whose housing was condemned, and communities were systemically neglected, before the camera’s even began rolling? On this episode—our Season 3 finale—we take a look at these shows to understand how and why HGTV became a glorified commercial for house-flipping and gentrification, examining its indifference to housing instability and its dead-eyed cheerleading of “middle-class” bourgeois aspirationalism, no matter the social cost. Our guests are culture writer Ann-Derrick Gaillot and Atlanta-based community organizer Kamau Franklin.
7/29/20201 hour, 24 minutes, 1 second
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Episode 115: Hollywood & Anti-Muslim Racism (Part III) - How the Pentagon & CIA Sponsor American Mythmaking

For over a hundred years, the American film industry has been promoting and glorifying U.S. foreign policy, initially working with the military and Department of Defense, and eventually, the CIA as well. From its origins as a producer of wartime propaganda like 1911’s The Military Air-Scout to its contemporary role as purveyor of high-tech action epics like Iron Man, Hollywood and the American war machine reinforce each other — myth and politics intertwine. In the process, the entertainment industry has reaped handsome rewards. Producers, directors, and other top brass in the entertainment industry are lavished with military equipment for filming, personal tours of government headquarters, and inside information — or at least what government officials want filmmakers to believe is inside information — all under the guise of lending “authenticity” and “realism” to film and, to an extent, television shows as well. But what are the costs of this so-called “authenticity?” How do the U.S. military and intelligence agencies use benign-sounding partnerships like “on-set consulting” and “equipment loaning” arrangements to shape and censor narratives so they make American Empire look, at worst bumbling and good natured, and, at best, heroic and pure hearted? In Parts I and II of this three-part series on Hollywood and anti-Muslim racism, we analyzed over half a dozen films and TV shows, illustrating how state-driven narratives of U.S. nationalism and vilification of an official enemies animate Hollywood’s cultural products, namely those targeting Arabs and Iranians. On this episode, we’ll explore the intersection of U.S. military and intelligence agencies with Hollywood, taking a closer look at how the military state helps shape films and television showing that pro-U.S. messaging used to smear Muslims doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but is often subsidized by the very forces dropping bombs on them. Our guest is Professor Matthew Alford, co-author of National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood.
7/22/20201 hour, 12 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 114: Anti-Muslim Racism in Hollywood (Part II) - Oscar-Bait Imperialism

    Our cultural context for understanding what we see on the news and hear in our politics, is often informed by the films and TV shows we’ve grown up watching. Pop culture is powerful and persuasive, and — for a century now — racist, Orientalist and cartoonish portrayals of Arabs and Muslims have littered our screens, big and small. This is the second episode in our three-part Citations Needed series on anti-Muslim racism in Hollywood. On Part I, we discussed big budget action and adventure films like Delta Force, American Sniper and True Lies, where Muslims get blown away at every turn. But not every movie and TV show is quite so overt in its vilification of the designated enemy. Since the release of these movies, the state curated narrative in film has diversified, broadening to include savvier Oscar-bait productions in which anti-Muslim racism is dressed up in elaborate plot structures and supposedly nuance "debates". Films like Argo, Syriana, and Zero Dark Thirty are lauded for their ostensible complexity, subtlety, and nuance, such as their willingness to suggest that government agencies like the CIA are bloated and bureaucratic. Instead of scenes with a tough action hero bodyslamming or mowing down teeming hordes of Muslim terrorists, these films are part of a smarter genre of jingoistic action film — the prestige thriller — featuring flawed protagonists, some meta comedy, and women CIA agents excelling in a historically male-dominated field of coups and torture. But ultimately, they project the same tired nationalism and ideology reinforcement just in a sleeker, more modern form. On this episode, we’ll examine how anti-Muslim and anti-Arab propaganda is disseminated through the contemporary prestige thriller genre. We're joined by historian, artist and author Maytha Alhassen.
7/15/20201 hour, 31 minutes, 9 seconds
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News Brief: The Harper's Letter and Our Extremely Narrow, Self-Serving Definition of Cancel Culture

A bizarrely vague, cliquish letter demanding everyone be open-minded has no interest in explaining what, precisely, it wants.
7/8/202026 minutes, 7 seconds
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Episode 113: Hollywood & Anti-Muslim Racism (Part 1) - Action and Adventure Schlock

The United States and its close allies Saudi Arabia and Israel have been bombing and occupying large sections of the so-called “Muslim world” for decades – drastically ramping up after the 9/11 attacks and seemingly with no end in sight. The U.S., like all empires, cannot operate a large, complex system premised on violence, meddling and subjugation without a moral pretext. This moral pretext, even before 9/11, was primarily about fighting a war on so-called “Terrorism” or “Islamic extremism” while allegedly promoting “stability,” “freedom” and “democracy.”   Along with American news media’s constant fear-mongering over scary Muslims lurking in the shadows, a major pillar propping up this moral pretext is pop culture – namely the cultural products coming out of Hollywood. Our decades-long "War on Terror" would no doubt be much more difficult to sustain without a constant reminder from TV and film that, despite the fact that the average American is more likely to be killed by a vending machine than a terrorist attack, the threat of Islamic terrorism remains ever-present and existential, marked by an inevitable “clash of civilizations” devoid of context or any notion that the U.S. is a primary driver of violence across the globe.   Over the course of three episodes, we'll be taking a look at how Hollywood’s television and studio film output helps prop up America’s military aggression in the Middle East, engages in both casual and explicit racism, strips conflicts of any historical or imperial context pushes the idea the only Good Muslim is a snitch or CIA agent, and generally leaves its audience angry and ill-informed.    In this episode, we review Hollywood’s long history of anti-Muslim racism in both classic and campy action/adventure films and TV and how it both primed us for – and sustains – the never-ending and self-perpetuating "War on Terror." 
7/8/20201 hour, 7 minutes
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Episode 112: How "Polarization" Discourse Flattens Power Dynamics and Says Nothing

"Polarization Is Dividing American Society, Not Just Politics,” laments The New York Times. “The Constitution Is Threatened by Tribalism,” frets The Atlantic. “American politics has reached peak polarization,” declares Vox. After the past few election cycles, and as uprisings occur throughout the country, we’ve seen endless concern about our alleged zenith of “polarization” and “tribalism.” The Right and the Left, we are told, have grown too radical and today lack the ability to “get things done” and “come together” with a “shared reality.” It’s a superficially appealing narrative — one nostalgic for a non-specified past time of ideal consensus building and Reasonable Centrism. But it’s also a narrative driven by a fantasy that ignores material forces that have shifted the U.S. political establishment further to the right, as the ruling political and economic class has helped sow distrust and paranoia with decades of deadly wars, runaway and rampant inequality, lethal racism and the failed promises of endless economic growth. On this episode, we explore the origins of “polarization” and “partisan tribalism” discourse, profile its biggest pushers, detail who it serves––and who it gets off the hook––and lay out why reductionist and vague “polarization” laments are so beloved by our media and political elite.  Our guest is journalist and writer Osita Nwanevu.
6/24/20201 hour, 14 minutes, 1 second
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Episode 111: How “Small Business” Rhetoric Is Used to Protect Corporate America

“Obama lauds small business owners in his State of the Union,” announced The Washington Post. “I have always said that there is nothing more optimistic – perhaps maybe getting married – than starting a small business,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells us. “John Kerry would raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses,” insisted a reelection ad for George W. Bush. Everywhere we turn we are centering the needs of and reminded of the glowing status of the “small business.” They are the bipartisan holiest of holies in our economy – the scrappy little guy that also props up the moral pillars of capitalism – evidence that with a little elbow grease and knowhow anyone can build a business in their image. Small businesses are one of two major vehicles for COVID-19 relief – a wholly uncontroversial good that both parties, all ideologies, everyone!, can agree are worth protecting and prioritizing. But what do pundits and politicians mean exactly when they say “small business”? How does our romantic vision of “small business” match up with reality, and how is their plight used as a messaging vanguard to strip away environmental and labor regulations, tort protections, taxes and a host of safeguards against corporate greed? The rhetoric forces the evocation of a wholesome image of a Mom-and-Pop candy store in Appleton, Wisconsin, in order to push for laws that will ultimately benefit hedge funds, Dupont and Koch Industries, and a murderers row of polluters and worker abusers. Our guests are Public Citizen's Lisa Gilbert and Street Fight Radio's Bryan Quinby.
6/17/20201 hour, 20 minutes, 48 seconds
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News Brief: The Growing Pushback to Copaganda

In this News Brief we recap the recent mainstream pushback against pro-police pop culture, and discuss how this pushback is raising fundamental questions about the supposed firewall between creators and the political content they produce.
6/10/202034 minutes, 5 seconds
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News Brief: Cops Push “Outside Agitator” Line, Exploit Real Fears of Far Right Violence to Delegitimize Protests

In this News Brief we examine the old––and new––ways police and government officials seek to undermine and divide the George Floyd protests.
6/4/202028 minutes, 58 seconds
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News Brief: 7 Years On, US Media Still Has No Answer for #BLM Other Than Vague Handwringing

In this News Brief we catch up on the patronizing, racist media coverage of protests in Minneapolis.          
5/30/202032 minutes, 56 seconds
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News Brief: Trump, the NFL, and the Upcoming Mother of All 'Culture Wars'

Trump is likely pinning his reelection hopes on "reopening" the NFL––a grand media spectacle that will signal victory over the virus and usher in a new low in Triggering The Libs politics. A cynical corporate media and pro-Trump billionaire NFL owners are happy to go along with it. But will NFL players? Will Democratic Party leaders? What will a "safe reopening" look like and how, more broadly, should the Left and liberals counter the Right's nihilistic "reopen" narrative? On this News Brief, we are joined by The Nation's Dave Zirin to shed some light on the upcoming perfect storm of sports-infused election season PR bullshit.
5/27/202040 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 110: The Shiny-Object Psychology of American Capitalist “Innovation”

“Free markets drive innovation!” It’s a narrative imparted to us ad nauseam. The ultimate catalyst of creation and progress — we’re told by policymakers, business executives, think tanks, and the media outlets that bolster them — in which great strides in healthcare, electronics, media, and other areas are the domain of private enterprise motivated by competition and profit, and unencumbered by state intervention. As the prospect of socialism — or at least the word “socialism” — regains currency in the West, these claims have resurged. Capitalism’s supporters insist that a profit-first system is the reason the world is always improving, lifting people out of poverty while equipping them with iPhones, WiFi, and central air conditioning. Socialism, they contend, hinders innovation because public ownership of the means of production removes the competition and profit that ostensibly incentivize creativity. But why are we expected to believe that concentrating ownership of the means of production in the hands of a few is the key to progress and prosperity for all? How is it that the most important metrics of “innovation” are consumer goods available to some, rather than socialized, need-based programs available to all? And above all, who does this narrative that “innovation” is driven by Anglo-American style Randian capitalism really serve? On this episode, we delve into these questions, looking at how the United States — the world’s foremost champion of capitalism — packages propaganda about its alleged innovation; the reasons capitalism not only fails to drive innovation, but also actively destroys it; and the U.S.’s brutal actions to thwart socialist efforts toward a more equitably and sustainable version of “innovation” at home and aboard. Our guest is Current Affairs associate editor Vanessa A. Bee.
5/20/20201 hour, 2 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 109: Self-Help Culture and the Rise of Corporate Happiness Monitoring

How can one achieve happiness? It’s the eternal question. From Aristotle to Al-Ghazali, Thomas Aquinas to Arthur Schopenhauer. The answer, we’re told, is to look within. These days, we’re told repeatedly by our modern philosophers, Oprah Winfrey, Srikumar Rao, Tony Robbins, Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra and other corporate happiness monitors that prosperity and fulfillment come through deep introspection and mindfulness—just pay for more inspiring books, videos, retreats, seminars, and classes!   These prescriptions, while ostensibly useful in the short term for answering personal questions or alleviating stress, all fall within the genre of self-help. The trouble is, on the whole, they’re not very helpful at all. The self-help industry is predicated on the ever-American and thoroughly capitalist concepts of rugged individualism and personal responsibility, arguing that if you have a problem, it’s invariably up to you, and only you, to fix it. Meanwhile, it imparts the appearance of virtue and legitimacy with hollow, cherry-picked references to Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and psychology.   In recent years, there’s rightfully been a new crop of criticism leveled against the self-help industry, with books offering “anti-self-help” alternatives for improving one’s life, calling for people to relax and stop placing so much pressure on themselves. Still, many of these critiques embrace the same form of individualism as the media they decry, ignoring the reality that the best way to ‘help’ people is to ensure their material needs—like housing, food, and healthcare—are met.    On this episode, we’ll chronicle the development of modern self-help culture, from its 19th-century protestant, capitalist roots to its modern ambassadors; analyze how self-help culture promotes the values of neoliberalism; examine the ways in which modern mainstream critiques of the self-help industry fall short, embracing the same reactionary principles they should be rebuking, and dissect the profound institutional incentives that compel us to prioritize solipsism over solidarity.    Our guest is political economist and author William Davies.
5/6/20201 hour, 4 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 108: How GDP Fetishism Drives Climate Crisis and Inequality

"Economists' forecasts for GDP growth in 2020 vary widely," says The Economist. "Algeria's GDP growth falls to 0.8% in 2019," one Reuters headline reads. "GDP — the broadest measure of economic activity — grew at an annual rate of just 1.9% during the third quarter," NPR warns. Everywhere we turn for economic news, the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, is held up as the key proxy for prosperity and sound fiscal policy.    Since its codification as the new gold standard for measuring prosperity at the Bretton Wood conference in 1944, the GDP has been the most popular metric used by American and British media when measure a nation’s prosperity. The GDP, and its close cousin, the Gross National Product, have not been without its critics for decades, but prying it from its top position as The Most Important Policy Goal has been an impossible task. Despite many labor activists, environmentalists and economists leveling critiques at its myopic, capitalist ideology, the metric has remained central to how the media and lawmakers determine fiscal policy.    But what is the GDP exactly? How did it become the go-to proxy for prosperity in Western media? What are its ideological inputs, and how did post-war notions of colonialism and extractivism helps cement its place in our collective mindset? And what, more importantly, do activists argue we should replace it with? On this episode of Citations Needed we will explore these questions and examine how centralizing Gross Domestic Product––by its very design––obscures climate crisis, labor abuses, racism, drudgery, and a whole host of society's ills.    We welcome economic anthropologist Dr. Jason Hickel back to the show.
4/29/20201 hour, 1 minute, 43 seconds
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Episode 107: Pop Torts and the Ready-Made Virality of ‘Frivolous Lawsuit’ Stories

“Woman Sues TripAdvisor After Falling off Runaway Camel,” reports the Associated Press. “Red Bull Paying Out to Customers Who Thought Energy Drink Would Actually Give Them Wings,” eyerolls Newsweek. “Tennessee man sues Popeyes for running out of chicken sandwiches,” scoffs NBC News. We see “frivolous lawsuit” stories all the time and have for decades. Seemingly absurd cases of get rich quick schemes often with catchy headlines, a caricature of a plaintiff friendly legal system run amok. These stories play into faux-populist tropes of a country full of lazy poor people looking to cash in and a sleazy legal system that leeches off hard-working Americans. But how organic are these “pop torts”––or popular stories of frivolous lawsuits––and more importantly, how true even are they? What organizations are behind cherry-picking and teeing up these shameful tales of greed for uncritical writers, editors and producers? Who’s backing them, and what, perhaps, may be their ulterior motives? Moreover, what are the human stakes to so called “tort reform” and how did it come to be that the vast majority of Americans came to accept the premise that, at some point in the 1980s, we all became amoral lawsuit happy scumbags out to shutdown mom and pop stores and grab a quick buck? We are joined by the Center for Justice & Democracy's Joanna Doroshow.
4/22/20201 hour, 12 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 106: The Sanitization of Sanctions

As COVID-19 continues to endanger the health of people throughout the world, it also magnifies a long-existent global humanitarian crisis: The use of sanctions by the United States and other powers as a weapon of war. In Iran, one of the countries most devastated by the contagion, sanctions have strangulated the supply of medical equipment crucial to testing the population and treating those who are infected, inspiring some members of the political establishment to call for sanctions to be eased. While these pleas are necessary, they’re woefully inadequate and long overdue. Sanctions aren’t just a problem when there’s a pandemic. Iran had been subjected to U.S. and UN-imposed sanctions long before the appearance of the contagion—as had Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, and far too many other countries deemed Official Enemies of the United States and its allies, resulting in economic destabilization, vulnerability to U.S. militarism, starvation, illness, and mass deaths.    Amid these life-or-death stakes, media and think tanks’ responses to sanctions range from mere handwringing to outright bloodlust. Rather than decisively condemning sanctions as ruthless acts of economic warfare, American media largely perpetuates the narrative that sanctions are a necessity, and often a force for good, in the effort to punish and “change the behavior” of some perceived “rogue” government. Meanwhile, little criticism is offered outside of tepid suggestions that those sanctions should be tweaked.    On today’s show, we’ll examine how the U.S. levies sanctions to undermine countries opposed to U.S. hegemony, how sanctions are laundered as benign in the media, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the preexisting, decades-long barbarism of U.S. foreign policy.    We are joined by guests Keyvan Shafiei and Hoda Katebi.
4/15/20201 hour, 30 minutes, 19 seconds
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News Brief: Widespread Indifference to Covid-19 in Prisons

In this extended News Brief, we discuss how the rapid increase of Covid-19 in prisons and jails is being met with indifference by lawmakers and US corporate media.
4/8/202059 minutes, 51 seconds
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News Brief: Top 10 Worst Covid Crisis Takes (So Far)

After over 100 episodes, scores of News Briefs, and almost three years of content production, Citations Needed has finally done it: reduced itself to a listicle. On this News Brief, we examine the top ten worst COVID-19 takes to date (not including the celebrity 'Imagine' video). Proceed with caution.
3/29/202042 minutes, 53 seconds
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News Brief: As a Social Democracy Response Fails, Likelihood of Martial Response to Covid19 Rises

In this News Brief, we detail recent reports the National Guard and US military may be used in a law enforcement capacity and what this says about the failures of the liberal state. With unemployment potentially reaching 30 percent and an urgent, robust social democratic response from the federal government unlikely, a debate about safeguarding against martial order––especially from an administration with a well documented inclination towards abuse of power–-is urgently needed.
3/23/202027 minutes, 15 seconds
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Episode 105: Pandemic, Pelosi, and the People We Consider Human

The COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the globe, leaving immeasurable human suffering in its wake. Who is left behind, struggling to survive on the frontlines of precarity, is – as with all things – determined primarily by wealth, privilege, and access to resources and political capital.   This fact has been starkly on display in recent days, as Congressional Democrats began debating their response to the crisis: corporations, wealthy investors and industry were prioritized, formal wage workers were given crumbs, and the undocumented and informal economy workers – such as domestic caregivers; undocumented workers; sex workers; and freelance, contract, and off-the-books workers – were ignored completely.  On this week's episode, we analyze a 48-hour time period of coverage in The New York Times and The Washington Post when the discussion of who was going to be prioritized and aided – and who wasn't – cemented in popular discourse with little logic or meaningful debate.   We are joined by Fahd Ahmed, Executive Director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM).
3/18/202039 minutes, 24 seconds
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Episode 104: The Pete Peterson Austerity Empire and the “How Will You Pay For It?” Lie

“According to the Bipartisan Policy Center," "a recent study by the Concord Coalition disagrees," "One review of your budget by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says." We’ve seen these seemingly benign Official Sounding sources hundreds of times—from presidential debates to 60 Minutes to countless articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times. But what the average person can’t reasonably know is that these organizations—Bipartisan Policy Center, the Concord Coalition, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and PR projects like “The Can Kicks Back” and “America Speaks”—are all veiled front groups for a single, far-right billionaire whose entire life mission was to privatize social security, medicare and other entitlement programs under the auspices of fighting a so-called “deficit timebomb.” For decades, a web of Pete Peterson-backed front groups—often funded in concert with other like minded billionaires—has used the faux neutrality of think tanks, institutes, and academia to launder "anti-deficit" messaging for American pundits, reporters, and politicians, entirely capturing the narrative around deficits and their alleged pending destruction of society as we know it. This week, we explore the origins of Pete Peterson’s austerity propaganda machine, his web of influence, how he helped co-opt both conservative and liberal knowledge production, and how he and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to undermine what little liberal government the United States has left. We are joined by David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect.
3/11/20201 hour, 14 minutes, 49 seconds
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Episode 103: The Glib Left-Punching of “Purity Politics” Discourse

"Obama Warns Against ‘Purity Tests’ In Democratic Primary," Spectrum News reports. "Spare Me the Purity Racket," Maureen Dowd opines in The New York Times. "'Purity Tests' Divide Democrats," US News & World Report announces. "Political purity tests are for losers," bellows The Hill.   We hear it all the time: progressives, leftists, radicals — and even liberals — are told they must not engage in the siren song of "purity politics." Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, we are told. We must be pragmatic, realistic, we must lay down our ideological arms and stop pining for Nirvana when so much is on the line in November.    Evoking purity politics functions — more often than not — as a catch-all defense against any and all criticism of establishment Democrats. In 2016, Hillary Clinton partisans used it against Bernie Sanders supporters; in 2020, Bloomberg’s flacks use it against Sanders again, and even Sanders partisans use it against leftist skeptics of electoralism. Put simply, purity politics is a Get Out Of Jail Free card, a perennial lesser of two evils narrative of an inherent impossibility of anything other than incremental change. At their core, charges of purity politics are ahistoric and anti-intellectual, pathologizing alternative theories of change that don’t require political compromise as youthful vanity. Indeed, how to balance compromise and ideals has been, for centuries, the central question of the Left, everyone from French revolutionaries to Russian socialists, Black American radicals and Indigenous struggles in North America to Third World liberation movements around the globe have struggled to answer: when do we compromise and when do we not?   But "purity politics" ignores this essential and rich question altogether, brushing aside morally fraught debates about political strategy and reducing anything short of the path of least resistance to unserious solipsism and juvenile stubbornness.  
   On this episode, we discuss how demands that people drop "purity politics" only go in one direction; how moral urgency has historically been pathologized as youthful narcissism; and how our jaded, broken media elites routinely conflate preemptive defeatism with political savvy.   Our guest is attorney and writer Malaika Jabali.  
3/4/20201 hour, 34 seconds
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Episode 102: The Conservative Sanctimony of Journalistic Impartiality

One of the most prized professional norms for journalists, particularly the United States, is the preservation of neutrality in reporting. While the concept of “objectivity” has fallen out of fashion among mainstream reportage in recent years, related concepts that convey a similar idea such as “impartiality” and “neutrality” have come to replace it. In their mission statements and codes of ethics, corporate and government owned outlets routinely proclaim the importance of impartiality and balance, in the sanctified pursuit of fair, unbiased reporting.    In theory, this can be a healthy idea. Distinguishing between so-called opinion or editorial versus neutral, down-the-middle reporting –“objectivity” or “impartiality” can give the reader a sense that a series of facts are being reported rather than some guy’s opinion.   The fundamental problem is when this vaguely aspirational genre morphs into an unchecked ideology––an ideology that requires one to think we live in a world where said facts are curated and created outside of long-existing power structures; that those who produce, on an institutional scale, knowledge products via think tanks and academic institutions are without bias. That journalistic institutions, funded by large corporations and billionaires themselves, don’t decide which neutral facts are important and which aren’t.   “Objectivity” that doesn’t calibrate power asymmetries or attempt to account for its own institutional ideology isn’t a mode of reporting, it’s conservative conditioning that––if not in intent, in effect––does little more than advance prevailing ruling class ideology. Indeed, anyone who’s ever studied marketing or PR or propaganda will tell you the most effective messaging is that which appears unbiased and impartial.    On today’s show, we’ll examine how objectivity came to be a defining principle of Western journalism and how U.S. media’s understanding of impartiality provides an urbane veneer for racism, homophobia, anti-poor policies and other reactionary currents.   We are joined this week by journalist Lewis Raven Wallace, author of The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity.
2/26/20201 hour, 16 minutes, 43 seconds
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Episode 101: The False Universality of “Common Sense”

“145 CEOs Call On Senate To Pass 'Common-sense, Bipartisan' Gun Laws,” NPR states. “Local Democrat pushes back on NY bail reform law: It's about 'common sense,' not politics,” a Fox News headline reads. “The Only Thing More Dangerous Than Trump’s Appeal to Common Sense Is His Dismissal of It,” The Nation warns. Everywhere we turn we are told by pundits and politicians that "common sense" demands we support their preferred policy prescription.   It's a common appeal: a political issue—whether health-insurance, immigration, foreign policy, or gun violence—reaches a real or perceived extreme, and, in reaction, media pundits and political figures claim the most appropriate response must be ostensibly neutral, reasonable "common sense" reforms.   But these claims are insidious. While "common sense" may appear to be a constructive guiding principle, there is no meaningful definition of the concept and when it is evoked, it's almost always an appeal to status quo ideology. What’s sensible to a member of the Tea Party isn’t the same as what’s sensible to an activist seeking to end police violence. So, whose “common sense” is really being promoted when we hear these calls to action? On this week's episode, we explore how appeals to “common sense” present politics as a matter of rationality rather than of morality; how these demands reinforce centrist and right-wing ideologies and how the Left can work to build an alternative common sense.   We are joined by cultural anthropologist Dr. Kate Crehan, Professor Emerita at College of Staten Island and the CUNY Graduate Center.  
2/19/20201 hour, 4 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 100: Willie Hortonism 2020 - Media Attacks on Prison Reform

Since the rise of Black Lives Matter and a broader cultural awakening in the United States of just how wildly out of whack, cruel and hyper-punitive our criminal legal system is, modest reforms began to emerge across the United States. The lowest hanging fruit for reforms was to get rid of or radically reduce pretrial cash bail: a system that simply exists to punish the poor for being poor. 20 percent of people in the United States currently incarcerated––76 percent of those in local jails––have not been found guilty of any crime, they are simply awaiting their trial and cannot pay their bail because they cannot afford it. One 2015 study found that people in jail had a net median income of less than $5,000 a year, and are overwhelmingly Black and Latino. Put simply: bail exists not to protect the public, it exists to punish the poor for being poor. In response to this jarring injustice, some states began instituting modest reforms, reserving bail for so-called “violent crimes,” but requiring judges to consider people’s income when setting bail for other offenses. A number of cities across the country began to see reductions in the number of people in jail pretrial. Unsurprisingly, reform has been met with swift and vicious reaction from pro-carceral forces. Police unions, sleazy politicians, rightwing think tanks, and conservative and liberal media alike prey on propagandized public fears to attack reforms as ushering in a new dystopian era of Escape from New York lawlessness. To do this, among other disingenuous tricks of emotional blackmail, they’ve reanimated one of the oldest in the book, Willie Hortonism: seeking out anecdotal cases of a formerly jailed person who goes on to commit a crime, demagoguing this one example often using racist tropes, and exploiting the media feedback loop to pushback and curtail movements for reform. On this episode, we're joined by Color Of Change's Clarise McCants and Brooklyn Defender Service's Scott Hechinger to highlight various tropes the media use to push back against prison reform and how to fight back against their playbook of fear and racism.
2/5/20201 hour, 19 minutes, 46 seconds
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Episode 99: The Cruel, Voyeuristic Quackery of Rehab TV Shows

Over the last 20 years, the topics of substance use and treatment have become the stuff of televised entertainment: heart-wrenching stories of desperation and redemption, of suffering and survival. Shows like A&E’s Intervention and VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which depict people with substance use disorders and their experiences navigating recovery in rehab, have gone a long way to shape our common narratives about what addiction is and how it should be addressed.    The central conceit of these shows is that anyone struggling with addiction must follow the same road to recovery: stay at a for-profit treatment facility for approximately one to three months, requiring, among other things, complete abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol, no matter how excruciating or dangerous. While these methods are effective for some, they’re profoundly harmful for others.    In promoting this one-size-fits-all approach to treatment—which can be accompanied by punitive and often humiliating experiences—these shows reinforce techniques and philosophies that are not only scientifically debunked, but also have the potential to endanger people’s lives. Meanwhile, they serve as an advertising platform for these for-profit rehab centers themselves, many of which have been shown to be prohibitively expensive, ineffective, and, in some cases, deadly.    On this episode, we examine the pseudoscience, myths, and fundamentally quasi-christian self-help ideology promulgated by this genre of television; the ways in which these shows exploit addiction for the sake of story; and the relationship between rehab television and the multibillion-dollar for-profit treatment industry.  Our guest is journalist and author Maia Szalavitz.
1/29/20201 hour, 4 minutes, 53 seconds
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Episode 98: The Refined Sociopathy of The Economist

From its inception as agriculture trade paper in 1843 to the present day, The Economist has provided a gateway into the mind of the banking class. Something of an anomaly in the publishing industry, The Economist is not quite a magazine, not quite a newspaper; aspirational in its branding but bleakly limited in political ambitions; brazenly transparent in its capitalist ideology, yet inscrutable in its favorably spinning for American and British imperialism and racism. It is publication owned by the wealthy for the wealthy and advertises itself as such. Its only moral pretense: a long history of championing what it calls “liberalism, ”a notoriously slippery term that, in The Economist’s world, views freedom to profit and exploit labor as interchangeable with the freedom of religion, press and speech. As such, examining The Economist’s history, its connection to British and American banking interests and intelligence services, can tell us a great deal about the narrow focus of Western, and specifically British notions of “liberalism.” The promotion of capital flows over justice, enlightened imperialism over self-determination, abhors overt racism while promoting more subtle forms of race science and colonialism, all along easing the conscience of wealthy white readers that want to feign concern about human suffering but who have everything to gain by doing absolutely nothing about it. On this episode, we are joined by Alexander Zevin, author of Liberalism at Large: The World According to The Economist.
1/22/20201 hour, 26 minutes, 32 seconds
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Episode 97: Porch Pirate Panic and the Paranoid Racism of Snitch Apps

Everywhere we turn, local media — TV, digital, radio — is constantly telling us about the scourge of crime lurking around every corner. This, of course, is not new. It’s been the basis of the local news business model since the 1970s. But what is new is the rise of surveillance and snitch apps like Amazon’s Ring doorbell systems and geo-local social media like Nextdoor. They are funded by real estate and other gentrifying interests working hand in glove with police to provide a grossly distorted, inflated and hyped-up vision of crime. One of the major factors fueling this misconception is the feedback loop where media — both traditional and social — provide the ideological content for the forces of gentrification. Police focus their “law enforcement” in low income areas, local news reports on scourges of crime based on police sources, then both pressure and reinforce over-policing of communities of color, namely those getting in the way of real estate interests' designs––All animated by an increase in police-backed surveillance tech like Amazon’s Ring. On this episode we will break down these pro-carceral interests, how they create a self-reinforcing cycle of racist paranoia and how local “crime” reporting plays a role in creating this wildly distorted perception of “crime.” We are joined by two guests: Sarah Lustbader, senior legal counsel at The Justice Collaborative, and Steven Renderos, co-director of MediaJustice.
1/15/20201 hour, 24 minutes, 37 seconds
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Episode 96: The Christian Cinema-GOP Persecution Complex

The last two decades have seen the release of a number of explicitly Christian movies which tell stories of believers navigating the trials and tribulations - both literal and figurative - of a perceived non-Christian world. In this universe, followers of Christ are constantly under siege by secularists, swarthy Muslims, gay and trans agenda-pushers, feminists and a hostile, out-of control federal government. While the media usually lumps these movies into a generalized “faith” category they are best viewed not as earnest meditations on religion and “faith,” but a political project on behalf of the Republican party, with a distinct protestant flavor. Today, we are going to focus on the biggest and most influential players in the “Christian cinema” space: production company and distributor PureFlix and Affirm, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Worldwide. Pureflix and Affirm embody the core ideological tropes of the U.S. conservative base: a promotion of US militarism, anti-Muslim racism, pro-capitalist messaging, hostility to LGBTQ populations, anti-Semitic Zionism and a runaway contempt for women. On this episode, we’ll discuss how the Christian cinema industry is not just low-budget schlocky propaganda that’s fun to dunk on (though it certainly is), but something more deliberate, sinister, and corrosive––a state-subsidized, far-right messaging machine for American reactionaries and imperial interests. We are joined by author, artist and filmmaker Frank Schaeffer.
12/11/20191 hour, 22 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 95: The Hollow Vanity of Libertarian "Choice" Rhetoric

“'Right-to-work' means freedom and choice,” a Boston Globe op-ed explains. “As housing costs rise, some people are choosing to live on the road instead,” a Fox Business headline states. “If your insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have another, better choice,” reads Joe Biden’s campaign platform. We’re told repeatedly that “freedom of choice” is essential to a robust economy and human happiness. Economists, executives, politicians, and pundits insist that, the same way consumers shop for TVs, workers can choose their healthcare plan, parents can choose their kids' school, and gig-economy workers can choose their own schedules and benefits. While this language is superficially appealing, it’s also profoundly deceitful. The notion of “choice” as a gateway to freedom and a sign of societal success isn’t a neutral call for people to exercise some abstract civic power; it’s free-market capitalist ideology manufactured by libertarian and neoliberal think tanks and their mercenary economists and media messaging nodes. Its purpose: to convince people that they have a choice while obscuring the economic factors that ensure they really don’t: People can’t “choose” to keep their employer-provided insurance if they’re fired from their jobs or “choose” to enroll their kids in private school if they can’t afford the tuition. In this episode, we examine the rise of “choice” rhetoric, how it cravenly appeals to our vanity, and how US media has uncritically adopted the framing--helping the right erode social services while atomizing us all into independent, self-interested collections of “choices.” We are joined by Jessica Stites, executive editor of In These Times.
12/4/20191 hour, 14 seconds
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Episode 94: The Goofy Pseudoscience Copaganda of TV Forensics

Since the early 2000s, a spate of forensics-focused TV shows and films have emerged on the pop culture scene. Years after Law & Order premiered in the '90s, shows like CSI, NCIS, and The Mentalist followed, trumpeting the scientific merit of analyzing blood-spatter patterns, reading facial and bodily cues, and using the latest fingerprint-matching technology to catch the bad guy. Yet what these procedurals neglect to acknowledge is that many of these popular forensic techniques are deeply unscientific and entirely political. Spatter pattern-matching, firearms analysis, hair analysis, fingerprint and bite mark analysis — they’re all mostly bullshit with little scientific merit. Despite this, forensics have helped contribute to the wrongful convictions of thousands of people: a storytelling aid, prosecutorial smoke and mirrors, a courtroom PR tool to lend scientific verisimilitude to what is very often just circumstantial, hunch-based police work. On this episode, we break down how popular culture depictions of forensics helps mislead viewers — and by extension jurors — into thinking forensics are science that proves guilt rather than what they really are: slick marketing collateral to help prosecutors convict someone they already think is guilty for other, nonscientific reasons. We are joined by Aviva Shen, Senior Editor at Slate.
11/27/20191 hour, 3 minutes, 36 seconds
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News Brief: A Conversation With Indigenous Media Resistance on Mauna Kea

In Ep. 90, "How Western Media's False Binary Between 'Science' & Indigenous Rights Erases Native People," we explored the ways capital-S "Science" has been wielded by those in power to erase Native people and culture around the world. Our discussion of the Thirty Meter Telescope "controversy" at Mauna Kea in Hawai'i drew much online debate but instead of talking about the activists there, we thought we'd talk to them––specifically those running the Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu movement media team, Nā Leo Kākoʻo, who are working 24/7 to push back against colonialist narratives and hacky, racist local reporting. We are joined by Mikey Inouye, a filmmaker and co-chair of the Honolulu branch of Democratic Socialists of America, and Ilima Long, media coordinator for Nā Leo Kāko‘o and member of Huli, a non-violent, direct action organization that is one of the leaders on Mauna Kea.
11/20/201937 minutes, 42 seconds
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News Brief: Bolivia Coup Coverage and the Limits of 'Agency' Discourse

In this News Brief, we discuss the battle over whether or not to call what happened in Bolivia a "coup," and the problem with the always popular, slippery evocation of "agency."
11/15/201924 minutes, 10 seconds
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Episode 93: 100 Years of U.S. Media Fueling Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

"A preponderance of foreign elements destroys the most precious thing [a nation] possesses - its own soul,” wrote the politically-influential Immigration Restriction League in early 1919. "The great hotbeds of radicalism lie in the various colonies of alien workmen," declared The New York Times on January 5, 1921. Warning of the "menace" posed by "millions of intending immigrants of the poorest and most refractory sort," The Saturday Evening Post insisted days later that "the character of those who have been coming to us from overseas has unmistakably deteriorated." While anti-Chinese and anti-Asian laws had been on the books for decades, the passing of the Immigration Act in October 1918––and later the Immigration Act of 1924–the United States ushered in a new era of racist, anti-left, anti-immigrant sentiment. By the early 1950s, new laws upheld a racist ranking system for “desirable” ethnic groups, making it easier for the U.S. to deport people suspected of being Communists, anarchists and other radicals. All of which happened in parallel with the rise of major media tropes of immigration reporting; tropes that––with varying degrees of subtlety––still exist today. On this episode - recorded live at Cornell University's Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca, New York on October 25, 2019 - we highlight a number of these tropes, including the media's rampant association of immigrants with criminality and terrorism, deserving refugees vs. undeserving migrants; frequent references to immigrants as invading hordes or vermin infestations; appeals to allegedly race-neutral “law and order” sentiment; and today's right-wing open border panic. We are joined by Cornell professor Shannon Gleeson.
11/13/20191 hour, 18 seconds
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Episode 92: The Responsibility-Erasing Catch-all of ‘Automation’

"As technology shifts more layoffs loom at tech companies," Reuters tells us. "PepsiCo is laying off corporate employees as the company commits to millions of dollars in severance pay, restructuring, and 'relentlessly automating'," notes Business Insider. "Apple’s dismissal of 200 self-driving car employees points to a shift in its AI strategy," CNBC declares. For decades, mass layoffs, factory closures, and industry shifts––from the auto industry to journalism to banking––have often been presented by American media, not as the moral choices of greedy CEOs private equity and hedge fund managers looking to extract wealth for them and their shareholders, but instead the unavoidable result of nebulous, ill-defined––but entirely inevitable–– “automation.” After all: C-level decision makers, billionaire media owners, hedge funds, and private equity firms had no choice. No one is to blame, it’s simply the way it is. The logical, albeit cruel, end result of specific policy choices, all decided by powerful moral agents over the past 30 years, is presented as a force of nature, something outside our control, unstoppable and immutable. On this episode, we examine how capital has, for centuries, blamed layoffs and cost cutting on inscrutable developments in technology and efficiency models out of their control, what this pat excuse hides, why it's sometimes true and sometimes not, and and why the media shouldn’t take claims of CEOs’ hands being forced by “market changes” at face value. We are joined by Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and writer and researcher Peter Frase.
10/30/20191 hour, 7 minutes, 6 seconds
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Episode 91: It's Time to Retire the Term "Middle Class"

“Building a wall won't save America's crumbling middle class,” Elizabeth Warren tells us. “Sanders healthcare will raise taxes on the middle class,” a CNN headline reads. “There’ war on the middle class,” a Boston Globe editorial laments.     The term “middle class” is used so much by pundits and politicians, it could easily be the Free Space in any political rhetoric Bingo card. After all, who’s opposed to strengthening, widening, and protecting the “middle class”? Like “democracy,” “freedom,” and “human rights”, “middle class” is an unimpeachable, unassailable label that evokes warm feelings and a sense of collective morality.   But the term itself, always slippery and changing based on context, has evolved from a vague aspiration marked by safety, a nice home, and a white picket fence into something more sinister, racially-coded, and deliberately obscuring. The middle class isn’t about concrete, material positive rights of good housing and economic security––it’s a capitalist carrot hovering over our heads telling us such things are possible if we Only Work Harder. More than anything, it's a way for politicians to gesture towards populism without the messiness of mentioning––much less centering––the poor and poverty.   This week we are joined by Jane McAlevey, a union organizer, scholar and Senior Policy Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center.
10/23/201954 minutes, 50 seconds
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Episode 90: How Western Media's False Binary Between "Science" and Indigenous Rights is Used to Erase Native People

“Science and religion fight over Hawaii's highest point,” one CNN headline puts it. “Desecrating sacred land or finding new frontiers?” BBC asks. "Science, Interrupted: Mauna Kea Observatories ‘caught in the middle,’” Pacific Business News writes.   When tensions arise between native communities and the so-called “pursuit of science,” more often than not Western media presents this point of conflict as a symmetrical and simplistic case of “science vs. superstition.” Science is framed as a morally and politically neutral quest for truth––an objective and innovative good that will unequivocally benefit humanity. But Western “science”––despite its rank-and-file advocates' often best intentions–– has historically been used as the public relations vanguard of colonialism and white supremacy. A Trojan Horse presented as ideologically neutral, followed by an outpouring of exploitation, industry and the erasure of native peoples––both culturally and physically.   While everyone can agree scientific research and progress are good things, the institution of “science” as such––from North America to Australia to Africa to Palestine-–has a long history of serving on the front lines of white, capitalist expansionism. This week we are going to discuss this history, how anti-colonial scientists are pushing back against these forces, and how we can expand human knowledge and understanding without weaponizing the enterprise to serve the interest of power.   We're joined on this episode by Nick Estes, Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico.  
10/16/20191 hour, 5 minutes, 55 seconds
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Episode 89: How Charges of 'Appeasement' Equate Diplomacy with Treason

“Israel says EU's response on Iran recalls Nazi appeasement,” reported Reuters. “The Biden Plan for Appeasement,” spat a recent editorial in The New York Sun. An editorial in The Washington Examiner pleaded, “President Trump, stop the appeasement of North Korea." New York Magazine tells us, “U.S. Scraps Military Exercise to Appease North Korea,” and The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg has denounced both Obama and Trump's respective "appeasements". This past June, Fox News ran an article, “Rep. Tim Ryan calls Trump’s historic visit to the DMZ an 'appeasement tour.'” The ‘appeasement’ charge is shorthand for the weak-kneed naivety of pursuing peace with an implacable, existential, irredeemable, expansionist, and unequivocally evil enemy. Crying ‘Munich!’ works to obscure rational thought and stigmatizes diplomacy––using the horrors of gas chambers and jackboots marching into Paris to equate the deescalation of a conflict with conspiring with the enemy. We're joined today by Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Media.
10/9/201943 minutes, 48 seconds
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Episode 88: The Mythical Bygone Glory Days of "Free Speech"

We are often warned by conservatives, liberals and even some on the Left that we live in a time where “free speech” is under threat from far-left forces. “Political correctness” and “snowflakes” have shut down free inquiry, specifically on college campuses, and led to a crisis threatening the very foundation of our democracy. But the origins of the label “free speech” — as it’s currently practiced — paint a much messier picture. Rather than appealing to the Vietnam-era Berkeley protest glory days, what one sees when examining the history of the concept is a temporary tactic used by the Left in the mid-to-late 1960s that has, since that late 1980s, become a far-right wedge designed to open up space for racism, eugenics, genocide denial, trans and homophobia and anti-feminist backlash. Defense of the right to keep open this space as an appeal to a universal value hides a well-funded, coordinated far-right attempt to maintain a conservative, largely male and cishet version of political correctness. On this episode, we discuss where the contemporary concept of “free speech” comes from, what its uses and misuses have been and how a rose-tinted time of pristine, perfectly free" speech never really existed. We are joined by journalist and author P.E. Moskowitz and Chair of Princeton University's Department of Anthropology Carolyn Rouse.
9/25/201956 minutes, 53 seconds
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News Brief: Jon Schwarz on Samantha Power's Whitewashing Memoir

Friend of the show and writer at The Intercept Jon Schwarz joins us to review Samantha Power's self-serving, ahistorical memoir.
9/23/201932 minutes, 40 seconds
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Episode 87: Nate Silver and the Crisis of Pundit Brain

Nate Silver tell us Joe Biden’s inconsistent political beliefs are, in fact, a benefit. They’re “his calling card” and evidence he “reads the room pretty well”. Venality, we are told, is “a normal and often successful [mode] for a politician.” Insurgent progressive groups like Justice Democrats shouldn’t call Biden out of touch with the base because, Silver tell us, “only 26 of the 79 candidates it endorsed last year won their primaries, and only 7 of those went on to win the general election.” On Twitter and his in columns, high-status pundit Nate Silver, has made a career reporting on the polls and insisting he’s just a dispassionate, non-ideological conduit of Cold Hard Facts, just channeling the holy word of data. Empirical journalism, he calls it. But this schtick, however, is very ideological - a reactionary worldview that prioritizes describing the world, rather than changing it. For Silver - and data-fetishists like him - politics is a sport to be gamed, rather than a mechanism for improving people’s lives. We are joined by Current Affairs editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson.
9/18/201958 minutes, 51 seconds
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Episode 86: Incitement Against the Homeless (Part II) - The Exterminationist Rhetoric of Fox News

Anti-poor shaming at Fox News is nothing new. But in recent years, with the rise of Trump and his more explicit brand of white nationalism, their tone on homelessness has grown more aggressive, exterminationist, and urgent. Tales of feces and liberal decay––peppered with immigrants, LGBTQ, and racist subtext––have contributed to a larger US media war on the houseless.   In Part II of our two part episode on media incitement against the homeless, we discuss the ramped up panic at Fox News surrounding the indigent and its parallels with nazi rhetoric.   We are joined by Madeline Peltz, researcher and writer at Media Matters.
9/11/201946 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 85: Incitement Against the Homeless (Part I) - The Infestation Rhetoric of Local News

“As homeless people turn off visitors, San Francisco tourism senses threat” notes Travelers Weekly. “Seattle Is Dying: Drugs And Homelessness In Seattle,” laments KOMO Seattle. “Austin veteran fights off alleged homeless attacker after offering to help him,” exclaims ABC-affiliate KVUE. As housing costs skyrocket and inequality grows, homelessness is reaching crisis levels in large metropolitan areas. In response, the media––namely local news stations––routinely treat the homeless like an invading species, a vermin to be, at best, contained, and at worst eradicated.  The result has been a slew of stories pathologizing those experiencing homelessness as uniquely dangerous. Panhandlers are viewed as con men out to screw over the working man, chased down by vigilantes with the help of outraged local news “standing up” to the poor. The housing status of those who commit crimes is only mentioned when they’re homeless––never for the housed––and every transgression committed by the homeless is viewed by our media as evidence that the homeless population in general is out to attack us all. But this narrative flies in the face of the evidence, and tracks––like most “crime coverage”––with the needs of real estate interests who set the tone for local media coverage, and who have every reason to highlight and oversell the threat of homeless to pressure lawmakers and police to displace “eye sores” for the yuppie clientele they’re attempting to sell and ultimately serve.  On this first of our two-part episode, we are joined by Steve Potter, an Austin-based artist and homeless activist. 
9/4/201954 minutes
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Episode 84: How Claims of “Sowing Discord” Are Used to Silence Criticism of Power

Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking to Twitter to criticize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, we are told, “plays into the hands of Trump.” Russians are using Black Lives Matter and anti-fracking activists to “sow discord,” insists CNN. We must “be united” rather than “divided.”   Everywhere we turn we are told by high-status pundits that we shouldn’t air our criticisms of power at this particular moment with any reasonable degree of severity lest our mutual enemies exploit these divisions to empower themselves.    We are told again and again that progressives criticizing party leaders is helping Trump. That fighting Trump’s racism is merely “playing into his hands,” that we shouldn’t attack other democrats in the primary too harshly lest it “give us four more years of Trump.”   But there’s a major problem with this: There’s no evidence that intra-party fighting loses elections or assists the "other side." In many ways, it may actually help engage voters and make them feel heard, rather than viewed as box-checkers for the already anointed.   We are joined by Maximillian Alvarez of the podcast Working People.
7/24/20191 hour, 7 minutes
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Episode 83: The Unchecked Conservative Ideology of US Media's 'Fact-Check' Verticals

"Three Pinocchios!" rates The Washington Post. "Pants On Fire!" declares PolitiFact. “True, but misleading,” assess The New York Times. In a media environment overwhelmed with information, misinformation, disinformation and so-called “fake news,” a cottage industry has emerged to “fact-check” the content coming across our screens. Prestige, corporate media outlets tell us if a viral meme, a politician’s statement or a pundit's controversial claims is indeed “factually correct.” But who fact-checks the fact-checkers? And what do mainstream media’s particular hyper-literal, decontextualized approach to “facts” and “truth” say about how the press views its role as ideological gate keeper? We are joined by writer Andrew Hart.
7/17/201948 minutes, 30 seconds
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Episode 82: 'Western Civilization' and White Supremacy: The Right-Wing Co-option of Antiquity

The term "Western civilization" has long been a staple of the American Right, but with the recent resurgence of white nationalism, it is having something of a comeback. Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly are hosting a two-week Mediterranean "cruise thru history" to "explore the roots of Western civilization." The Intellectual Dark Web's Jordan Peterson tells us “The West is Right,” while The Daily Caller and Fox News are busy “celebrating the West." Neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach hails “Youth for Western Civilization." Both the traditional and so-called alt-right ground their worldviews in a fictional moral arc of "The West” that bares little resemblance to reality.   Learning from the past and applying those lessons to the present is a good thing. But in pop political discourse, the Classics have been misused and abused to promote an origin story that never was - a white Greco-Roman world birthing our noble, so-called “Judeo-Christian” American empire to gloss over a history of exploitation, imperialism, slavery and conquest.   On this episode, we’ll explore the right-wing obsession with the ancient world, it’s influence on neoconservative empire-building and alt-right white nationalism alike, and how our common cultural understanding of the ancient world has been perpetually white-washed to promote a clash of civilizations narrative and racist pseudo-science.   We are joined by Dr. Sarah E. Bond, Associate Professor at the University of Iowa, and Dr. Cord Whitaker, Associate Professor at Wellesley College.
7/10/201959 minutes, 13 seconds
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Episode 81: How US Media Pits Labor and Climate Activists Against One Other

"A growing, and likely irreparable, rift between elite progressive environmentalists," Forbes tells us. "Environmentalists need to reconnect with blue-collar America," The Hill explains. "Labor anger over Green New Deal greets 2020 contenders in California," Politico reports. "AOC's Green New Deal could have Dems facing blue-collar backlash at polls, some say," a Fox News headline reads. One of the few times corporate media cares what "American labor" has to say is when they’re using them as wedge against other elements of the Left, namely environmentalists and activists calling for urgent solutions to climate change. The narrative they’re reinforcing: a broadly assumed––but largely baseless––premise that climate change is a boutique issue for wealthy liberals that real working people don’t care about. For a media that still largely views the working class as a white-man-with-a-hard-hat caricature, this fits into a nice binary that undermines both efforts to take on fossil fuel companies and improve the lives of workers. But who does the false dichotomy serve? How does the media highlight and misconstrue real points of tension to undermine both groups, and what can activists do to resolve good faith differences without playing into power-serving “hardhats vs. hippies” cliches? And what do we mean when we say “labor”? How do workers drowning in the South Pacific or displaced in South Sudan factor into our notion of what’s at stake in the "labor vs. environmentalist" debate about climate change? We are joined on this episode by writer and editor Michelle Chen.
7/3/201942 minutes, 10 seconds
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Episode 80: Animal Rights as Media and Pop Culture Punchline

In countless pop culture and media depictions, animal rights advocates and vegetarians in general, are viewed as effete weirdos, dirty hippies and humorless busybodies. Pop culture staples from "South Park" to "How I Met Your Mother" to "Six Feet Under" have used animal rights and those concerned for animal welfare as a go-to, faux populist target. Content-wise, mocking vegans is the lowest hanging fruit. They’re difficult and self-righteous, a ready-made punching bag. Additionally, the press––including leading left-of-center media MSNBC, The Nation, and Jacobin––ignore the issue entirely. But what if the subject is worth a second look? And, what if our general cultural dislike of vegans is based not on objective experience but a cheap stereotype that allows for in-group signaling, permitting us, above all, to not ask or answer uncomfortable questions about where animals fit on the left. We are joined by author and professor Dr. Lori Gruen and decolonial theorist Aph Ko.
6/19/201954 minutes, 7 seconds
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Episode 79: How 'Neutral' 'Experts' Took Over Trump's Iran Policy

“Satellite Images Raise Questions About Iran Threat, Experts Say,” worries The Daily Beast. “Iran And Trading Partners Will Find Ways To Skirt Sanctions, Analysts Say,” frets NPR. “Iran uses proxies to punch above its weight in the Middle East, experts say,” declares NBC News. “Fuel from Iran is financing Yemen rebels’ war, U.N. experts say,” writes the Associated Press. Experts say. Analysts say. Officials say. We hear these qualifiers constantly in the media and when it comes to reporting on Iran, experts, analysts, scholars and Fellows are consistently tapped to weigh in on the latest nefarious thing the "Islamic Republic” is up to now. But who are these so-called experts? What’s their track record like and what are their tangential, non-Iranian, related regional political goals? And what does a recent partnership between the Trump State Department and Foundation for Defense of Democracies that targets peace activists on social media tell us about the broader problem of so-called neutral experts? On today’s episode, we’ll dig into some of the resumes of the media’s favorite experticians and breakdown how a revolving door of deeply ideological partisans use US media to pawn themselves off as apolitical scholars. We are joined today by journalist and editor Arash Karami.
6/12/201956 minutes, 2 seconds
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Episode 78: The Militarization of U.S. Media's Drug Coverage

Since the beginning of the so-called War on Drugs, authorities in the United States have viewed drugs not as a public health issue but one of crime, vice and violence, requiring the funding and mobilization not of medical officials but police, DEA agents and a sprawling network of paramilitary actors. In response, corporate media and its culture of parasitic, “ride-along” coverage has evolved in parallel taking this same line, reflecting the state’s approach rather than influencing or challenging it. “Drug stories,” with rare exception, fall under the “crime” reporting rubric rather than being seen as stories to be covered by reporters familiar with the actual science of drugs and addiction - skirting empiricism for police stenography and cartoon narratives replete with good guys and bad guys. The result: a feedback loop of a police and federal government determined to keep the War on Drugs in their domain, shaping a media narrative that manufactures and manipulates the public’s and lawmakers’ perception of drugs and drug-related crime. But what if there’s another way? Increasingly, public health advocates and journalists have been pushing back, trying to demilitarize not just the public approach to drugs but how they’re covered in the media. On this episode, we explore how we got to this point––where drugs are viewed as an enemy force to be combated with violence and prisons––and highlight ways people are trying to fundamentally rewire the way we talk about the problems of drugs and addiction. With guest Zachary Siegel, Journalism Fellow at Northeastern University’s Health in Justice Action Lab.
6/5/201952 minutes, 25 seconds
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Episode 77: Frugality Fables and the Poor-Shaming Grift of Financial Advice Journalism

“How this millennial saved $1 million by age 30,” The Washington Post writes. “A Millennial Saved $100,000 With This Simple Habit,” CNBC insists. “How to save for retirement when you're living paycheck to paycheck,” CNN confides in us. Everywhere in American media we are told if only we engaged in simple, no-nonsense discipline we can retire at 35.   But what is the political objective of this popular mode of journalism? More than just generating clicks to sell investment instruments to the credulous, this genre has a distinct ideological purpose: to obscure generational poverty, largely brought on by the legacy of racism and Jim Crow, and make being poor the result of a series of moral failings rather than a deliberate political regime decided on by powerful actors.   This week, we explore the “personal finance” media industry and the corollary, so-called FIRE movement—and how their poor shaming, libertarian ethos has increasingly seeped into our mainstream click-happy online press.   Our guest is writer and editor Miles Howard.
5/29/20191 hour, 1 minute, 32 seconds
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Episode 76: The Anti-War Rebranding of Rhodes and Power and the Moral Hazard of Faux Mea Culpas

In the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, two of the Obama administration's most consistently hawkish advisors, former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power have rebranded themselves as anti-war voices in a world turned upside down by Trump’s radical foreign policy and what we’ve been told is an global environment of rising "authoritarianism." With a perfunctory “we could have done more” gesture towards accountability for their role in an administration that turned Libya into a broken state and assisted the destruction of Yemen before they move on to positioning themselves as truth-tellers on behalf of a kinder, gentler machine gun hand in the run up to a potential Warren, Sanders or Harris administration, Rhodes and Power have tested the limits of liberal amnesia. On this episode, we take a closer look at their rebranding and what it says about the so-called “foreign policy” debate in the 2020 democratic primary and what actual accountability looks like beyond empty tweets and self-serving “I was trying to change things from the inside” revisionism. Our guest is Dr. Shireen Al-Adeimi of Michigan State University.
5/22/201956 minutes, 50 seconds
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News Brief: The #Bronx120 and Preet Bharara's Woke Rebranding

In this unlocked News Brief we discuss New York media's racist, factually incorrect coverage of the #Bronx120 and how Preet Bharara went from careerist "gang raid" general locking up poor black teenagers to woke MSNBC platitude machine.
5/9/201911 minutes, 7 seconds
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Episode 75: The Trouble with 'Florida Man'

“Naked Florida man revealed on video sneaking into restaurant and munching on ramen.” “Florida man broke into jewelry store, cut himself on glass and bled all over everything, police say.” “Florida man arrested at Olive Garden after eating spaghetti with his hands.” We’ve seen this supposedly hilarious stories for years on our social media feeds and wacky listicle. Florida-themed crime stories, we are told, are uniquely bizarre and worthy of derision. But what are we really mocking when we mock “Florida Man”? On this total buzzkill episode, we dissect the anti-poor, mental health-shaming subtext that animates the Florida Man meme and how it too often serves as little more than a socially acceptable way to mock the marginalized and indigent. We are joined by Florida organizer Michelle Bruder.
5/1/201951 minutes, 49 seconds
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Episode 74: Liberal Gandhi Fetishism and the Problem with Pop Notions of 'Violence'

"The United States believes any Palestinian government must renounce violence,” a U.S. official told Ha'aretz. When it comes to nonviolence, writes Barbara Reynolds in The Washington Post, “Black Lives Matter seems intent on rejecting the proven methods." "Violence Is Never the Answer," New York Times columnist Charles Blow insists. We are told endlessly that violence is inherently and unequivocally bad, something - when it comes to advocating for social justice or against military occupation and fascism - that’s always to be avoided, condemned and renounced. It must be rejected, our press and politicians declare, in favor of non-violence, so-called "peaceful protests" and the democratic process. But in popular discourse, discussions of violence aren’t really about violence; rather, they’re about sanctioned versus unsanctioned violence. The routine violence of poverty, racist policing, militarism is never called "violence"–––it's just the way things are, a law of nature, the price of "stability". But unsanctioned violence, namely that carried out by activists, non or sub-state actors, and those generally distant from the halls of power, causes outrage without any coherent criteria for this indignation. On this episode, we discuss how what is and isn't deemed "violence" by our media is largely a function of proximity to power and whether those actions challenge or serve the interests of the status quo. We are joined by journalist and author Natasha Lennard.
4/24/20191 hour, 13 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 73: Western Media’s Narrow, Colonial Definition of "Corruption"

"The scale of corruption in Africa is daunting," warns The Economist. "Corruption a Cause of Poverty in the Developing World," DW tells us. "Why corruption is holding Africa back," CNN laments. Everywhere we turn in elite media and halls of power, we are told the global South is poor, in part or in whole, due to rampant "corruption."   But a closer look at the data – and any effort to put notions of corruption in their proper historical context - reveals our limited, racialized definition of corruption is the geopolitical equivalent of complaining about “black on black” crime. True in a limited, technical sense but, in practice, often functions as a victim-blaming red herring meant to avoid uncomfortable discussions of white supremacy, deliberate economic dispossession and a far greater global regime of corruption leveled by the super-wealthy.   This episode examines the extraction of trillions annually from the global South in illicit transfers of money through the exploitation of tax shelters, so-called "hot money", interests on exploitative IMF loans, trade misinvoicing and a host of other routine and totally unscrutinized financial schemes.   We are joined today by anthropologist and author Jason Hickel.  
4/17/201953 minutes, 53 seconds
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Episode 72: John Stossel: Libertarian Billionaires' Inside Man

Though now a fixture of the fringe right-wing, libertarian pundit John Stossel was a longtime staple of mainstream, Serious Person media. With hour-long specials and a weekly segment on the ABC program 20/20, Stossel built his brand as muckraking Truth-Teller against Big Government and out of control "political correctness", along with an empire of high school “educational” videos, distributed by libertarian billionaire-funded front groups to tens of thousands of American classrooms. In his peak libertarian phase on 20/20, the ABC News program was frequently a Top 20 show, with an average of 13 million viewers an episode. Through his “Give Me A Break” segments and other high-profile special reports, Stossel – without challenge or balance – spread endless well-worn libertarian scare stories on topics ranging from teachers’ unions to the EPA to anti-tobacco regulators to minimum wage to Black civil rights activists, nut-picking the most fringe elements while building stories on anecdotal, fraudulent data and a black hole of libertarian sourcing. On this episode, we trace today’s neoliberal, far-right toxic media back to Stossel’s brand of mainstream-laundered, libertarian “contrarianism.” We are joined by Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
4/10/20191 hour, 1 minute, 44 seconds
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Episode 71: Laundering Imperial Violence Through Anodyne Foreign Policy-Speak (Part II)

Kinetic strikes. Limited military coercion. Robust sanctions. No fly zones. Military muscle. Modernization. All options are on the table. So much of how we discuss U.S. militarism and imperialism is laundered through seemingly anodyne phrases, rhetorical thingamajigs that vaguely gesture towards an idea without conjuring the unseemly images of what’s really being called for. In Part II of our two-part episode on “foreign policy-speak," we examine five more ubiquitous euphemisms and discuss what’s really being said (and what’s always left out) when the media uses banal phrases meant to mask military violence. Our guest is FAIR's Janine Jackson.
4/3/201953 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 70: Laundering Imperial Violence Through Anodyne Foreign Policy-Speak (Part I)

Barack Obama unleashes "kinetic strikes” on Libya, Hillary Clinton lobbies for "limited military coercion" in Syria, Congress passes “robust sanctions” on Iran, and Trump gives “US generals more room to run” as he “ramps up” “pressure” on ISIS. The Center for American Progress calls for a “no fly zone” to “protect civilians.” It’s important the US “engage” in the Middle East as it “reasserts itself” on “the world stage,” and backs up “diplomacy” with “military muscle.” While Russia "expands" its naval and nuclear capacity the US merely “modernizes” its fleet or stockpile. “All options are on the table” when discussing Venezuela and Iran.   So much of how we discuss US militarism and imperialism is laundered through seemingly anodyne phrases, rhetorical thingamajigs that vaguely gesture towards an idea without drawing up unseemly images of what’s really being called for. In this two-part episode, we examine what’s being said, what’s being left out when we use “foreign policy-speak,” and how writers can avoid these lazy euphemisms, and instead make a concerted effort to objectively describe the policy being advocated for rather than relying on well-worn thought-terminating cliches that are designed to do all of our thinking for us.   Our guest is FAIR's Janine Jackson.  
3/20/201956 minutes, 30 seconds
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Episode 69: The Rise of the Inexplicable Republican Best Friend

It’s a trope that dates back more than a decade, but the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has seen a recent resurgence in the liberal’s “Inexplicable Republican Best Friend,” a specific genre of concern trolling where a long-time Republican operative, politician or pundit offers supposedly well-intentioned “advice” to Democrats about how they can win elections, which always relies on avoiding veering “too far left.” These takes––frequently featured as earnest appeals in liberal and centrist outlets––are ostensibly framed as straight-talk advice that should be accepted as objectively in the Democrats’ best interest, and never presented as an ideological argument that would otherwise make sense coming from a right-winger. “Republican hates socialism” isn’t that newsworthy, whereas “GOP operative identifies Democrats’ best interests" somehow is.  As with most ideological scams, it only travels in one direction: leftward. One seldom hears liberals or leftists give “advice” to Republicans about they ought to do to win. But somehow the inverse isn’t true. Anti-choice, climate change denying, racist, rape apologist, warmongering, overpaid mercenary GOP “strategists” are treated like objective, neutral voices simply looking out for the best interests of the people and institutions they’ve spent their entire careers trying to destroy. We are joined by Huffington Post senior reporter Ashley Feinberg.
3/13/201937 minutes, 46 seconds
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Episode 68 - A New Gun Control Debate: Dismantling Our Racist 'Lock 'Em Up' Approach

An uptick in mass shootings over the past decade - one that is well documented and indisputable - has provided the cultural and media context for a corollary effort by big city mayors and certain states to push for harsher, more severe gun laws. This response to these national tragedies is understandable: curb gun possession at all costs. But what if, in this rush to respond to the carnage, states and cities, backed by billionaire funding from the likes of Mike Bloomberg, are simply helping feed mass incarceration by turning to the all-familiar carceral approach to public safety issues? This week, we explore the centering of white, establishment, moneyed interests in the media's gun control debate, a debate that more often than not focuses disproportionately on enacting longer, more severe prison sentences that uniformly criminalize Black and Latino youth, rather than directing resources to non-carceral solutions like targeting gun manufactures and anti-poverty programs. We are joined by Dan Denvir, host of Jacobin’s The Dig podcast, and Sharone Mitchell, Jr., Deputy Director of the Illinois Justice Project.
3/6/20191 hour, 1 minute, 48 seconds
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News Brief: Let's Relitigate the Sh*t Out of 2016 -- with Thomas Frank

In this public News Brief we review the media coverage of Sanders and Clinton in 2016 and how this past is being written and rewritten to set the narrative for 2020. (1000 apologies for the edited swear word, iTunes doesn't allow you to say bad words in show titles).
2/28/201938 minutes, 42 seconds
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Episode 67: The Gate-Keeping, Power-Serving Tautology of “Electability”

“How to Choose the Most Electable Democrat in 2020,” advises Politico. “Amy Klobuchar's best argument for 2020: Electability,” CNN reports. “Is Electability The Only Thing That Democratic Voters Want?” WGBH, the Boston NPR affiliate, wonders. These articles, all from a one-week stretch this February, speak to a prevailing compulsion in our politics, boosted by our media. Time and again we hear about the primacy of “electability,” a nebulous but self-evidently important criteria, when selecting a candidate. But what does “electability” mean exactly? How can someone have, in effect, been elected in our minds before an actual election takes place? This week, we will drill down the origins of the term "electability": how it’s a concept embraced by brain-dead, horse-race-obsessed pundits, why it has inherently racist and sexist implications, and how it’s designed to draw voters away from candidates they actually agree with to ones more in line with the agenda of the corporate wing of the Democratic party party. Our guest is Anoa Changa, host of the podcast The Way With Anoa.
2/27/201955 minutes, 51 seconds
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Episode 66: Whataboutism - The Media's Favorite Rhetorical Shield Against Criticism of US Policy

Since the beginning of what’s generally called ‘RussiaGate’ three years ago, pundits, media outlets, even comedians have all become insta-experts on supposed Russian propaganda techniques. The most cunning of these tricks, we are told, is that of “whataboutism” – a devious Soviet tactic of deflecting criticism by pointing out the accusers’ hypocrisy and inconsistencies. The tu quoque - or, “you, also” - fallacy, but with a unique Slavic flavor of nihilism, used by Trump and leftists alike in an effort to change the subject and focus on the faults of the United States rather than the crimes of Official State Enemies.  But what if "whataboutism" isn’t describing a propaganda technique, but in fact is one itself: a zombie phrase that’s seeped into everyday liberal discourse that – while perhaps useful in the abstract - has manifestly turned any appeal to moral consistency into a cunning Russian psyop. From its origins in the Cold War as a means of deflecting and apologizing for Jim Crow to its braindead contemporary usage as a way of not engaging any criticism of the United States as the supposed arbiter of human rights, the term "whataboutism" has become a term that - 100 percent of the time - is simply used to defend and legitimizing American empire’s moral narratives. We are joined by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept.
2/20/201959 minutes, 34 seconds
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Episode 65: How Empire Uses ‘Feminist’ Branding to Sell War and Occupation

Since the dawn of the American Empire, thin moral pretexts in our politics and press have been used to justify our wars and conquest. The invasion of Cuba and Philippines in 1898 was declared to be a fight for freedom from Spanish oppression. Vietnam was about stopping Communist tyranny. T he pioneer myth of Manifest Destiny and “westward expansion” was built about “taming” and “civilizing’ the land from violent savages. But one current that flows through all of these imperial incursions has been the idea that the United States – as well as its allies the Great Britain and Israel – are out to protect women. Today's endless occupations in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are, in large part, justified in perpetuity because the United States is a self-declared, unique protector of modernity and women’s rights. All the same, the Pentagon is increasingly promoted, in press releases and media puffy pieces, as a place where women can exercise their agency: the ultimate apex of meritocracy and a vanguard of equality. But what if this approach misses the point of equality altogether? What if this is simply a craven branding exercise, putting a liberal face on what is a fundamentally oppressive system of violence? On this episode, we explore various ways women’s rights and empowerment has been used to sell colonial objectives and how one can differentiate between actual progress and the superficial language of inclusion used cynically in service of mechanized violence. Our guests are University of Delaware professor Dr. Kara Ellerby and University of Bristol senior lecturer Dr. Sumita Mukherjee.
2/6/20191 hour, 22 minutes, 8 seconds
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Episode 64: Mike Rowe’s Koch-Backed Working Man Affectation

In recent years, television personality Mike Rowe has amassed a wildly popular following due to alleged working-class straight talk about topics ranging from the affordability of college to reasserting a culture of pride in craftsmanship and labor. From his 5.2 million Facebook followers to his cable programs, his everyman schtick, on its surface, can be very appealing: after all, who doesn’t love a hard day’s work and loathe detached, ivory tower eggheads? But hiding under his superficially appealing blue-collar façade is dangerous ideology, one funded by the Koch Brothers and other far-right, anti-labor corporate interests and specifically tailored to pick off a certain constituency of Home Depot Democrats while pushing political impotence, anti-union narratives and anti-intellectualism. Through a clever combination of working class affectation and folksy charm – often exploiting real fears about a decline in industrialization – Rowe has cultivated an image that claims to be pro-worker, but primarily exists to line the pockets of their boss. Our guest is Street Fight Radio's Bryan Quinby.
1/30/20191 hour, 8 minutes, 1 second
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Episode 63: Gambling and Neoliberal Rot - How Our Most Regressive Tax Flies Under the Radar

As more and more states turn to casinos and lotteries to ‘fill the gap” in 'falling' state budgets, the predatory and regressive nature of gambling as an alternative to increasing taxes on the rich avoids nearly any media scrutiny among centrists and liberals. Even the Left has mostly ignored the issue––ceding criticism of our most regressive tax to the Christian Right, who largely oppose gambling for all the wrong reasons. In this episode, we explore how lotteries and casinos have come to represent the last throes of the false neoliberal promise of "jobs” and “growth.” Throughout much of the United States, specifically the Rust Belt and Midwest, casinos and prisons are increasingly the only growth industries, entrenching the shift from an industrial economy to one that exclusively preys on the poor and desperate in a never-ending race to the bottom. Beyond the glitz and easy “tax revenue” lies a massive transfer of wealth from the poor, black and elderly to the super wealthy - achieved, slowly over decades, with zero sustained criticism from the media. We are joined by two guests: John Balzarini, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminal Justice at Delaware State University, and Les Bernal, National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling.
1/23/20191 hour, 7 minutes, 21 seconds
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Episode 62: Sanitizing Our Settler-Colonial Past With ‘Nation of Immigrants’ Narratives

“The United States is a nation of immigrants.” It’s a phrase we hear constantly – often said with the best of intentions and, in today’s increasingly cruel environment, meant as a strong rebuke of Donald Trump and his white nationalist administration. The metaphor of the “melting pot” serves a similar purpose: the United States is strong and noble because we are a place that takes people in from across the globe, an inclusive, welcoming, compassionate in-gathering of humanity - e pluribus unum - "out of many, one." It’s a romantic idea – and often evoked as a counter to xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric. But how historically accurate are these phrases and the national narratives they entrench? And what if, instead of combating white nationalism, they subtly promote it? On this episode, we dissect the notion that the United States is simply a rainbow collection of disparate groups coming together and breakdown how, in many ways, this absolves us of our past and present as a violent, white-settler colony. Our guest is historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.
1/16/201949 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 61: What The Hell Is Wrong With MSNBC, Part II -- A Rebuttal

In Ep. 34: 'What The Hell Is Wrong With MSNBC', we discussed with our anonymous MSNBC informant, well, what the hell was wrong with MSNBC? Why do they routinely focused on inane horserace and RussiaGate fear-mongering over objectively important topics like climate change, the destruction of Yemen, and worker strikes? One listener, former MSNBC host and current MSNBC contributor, Touré thought our episode was lacking in significant context and, in many ways, unfair. So we invited him on to discuss his issue with our critique and explore the broader, evergreen media criticism problem of trying to distinguish between a need for ratings and the more subtle influence of ideology and partisan cheerleading.
1/9/201957 minutes
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Episode 60: Kitten Rescues, Lip-Syncing & Christmas Traffic Stops - Your Guide to Clickbait Copaganda

The media – local and national, print and TV – love puff pieces designed to make the police look good and generally improve their overall brand with the public. More often than not, these human interest stories are typically fed to local news by the police themselves. This type of pseudo-journalism is most transparent in its most overly saccharin iteration, something we like to call clickbait copaganda. Stories involving noble patrolmen rescuing cats from car engines, helping little Jimmy find his stolen bike, raising money for charity, coaching Little League, white cops hugging black kids or handing out Christmas presents all do well on social media and help burnish the police’s image in the age of Black Lives Matter.  On this week's episode, we examine the increasingly viral nature of pro-police agitprop, dissect how organic these stories actually are, and identify the five main types of clickbait copaganda. Our guest is journalist Ashoka Jegroo.
12/12/201848 minutes, 44 seconds
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Episode 59: National Pastimes: Mindless Militarism in American Sports

F-22 flyovers, 160-foot flags draped across the playing field, full color guards, camouflage uniforms, The Star-Spangled Banner, God Bless America, Support The Troops Nights, special perks for vets. What is the origin of the runaway military worship so ingrained in our sports? How did our professional baseball and football leagues become so infused to our military state and what can fans of these sports do to deconstruct and pushback against the forces of jingoism and military fetishizing? We are joined by Professor Robert Elias.
12/5/201857 minutes, 29 seconds
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Episode 58: The Neoliberal Optimism Industry

We're told the world is getting better all the time. In January, The New York Times' Nick Kristof explained "Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History." The same month, Harvard professor and Bill Gates' favorite optimist Steven Pinker lamented (in a special edition of Time magazine guest edited by - who else? - Bill Gates) the “bad habits of media... bring out the worst in human cognition”. By focusing so much on negative things, the theory goes, we are tricked into thinking things are getting worse when, in reality, it's actually the opposite. For the TEDtalk set, that the world is awesome and still improving is self-evidently true - just look at the data. But how true is this popular axiom? How accurate is the portrayal that the world is improving we so often seen in sexy, hockey stick graphs of upward growth and rapidly declining poverty? And how, exactly, are the powers that be "measuring" improvements in society? On this episode, we take a look at the ideological project of telling us everything's going swimmingly, how those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, and how The Neoliberal Optimism Industry is, at its core, an anti-intellectual enterprise designed to lull us into complacency and political impotence. Our guest is Dr. Jason Hickel.
11/28/20181 hour, 24 seconds
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News Brief: Consumer Society and the Curation of Culture

Focus groups have long-been derided by the left, right, and center for watering down culture and reducing creative and political endeavors to dull, show-of-hand reductionism. But what if focus groups – which first arose from socialist experiments in 1920s Vienna – are not inherently bad? What if they've simply been exploited by the capitalist class and could, potentially, have much to offer a left-wing, democratic vision of the world? We are joined by author and professor Liza Featherstone to discuss the problems and potential of the much-maligned, but often scapegoated, focus group.
11/21/201840 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 57: A Matter of Survival - Trivializing Trans Rights as a Boutique “Identity” Issue

In the wake of the 2016 election, many conservatives, liberals, and - unfortunately - even some on the left pointed to Democrats' reliance on so-called "identity politics" to explain Donald Trump's upset victory over Hillary Clinton. One of the most popular manifestations of this sentiment was the controversy surrounding bathrooms and transgender rights. The general theory was that some unspecified cohort of voters, outraged by the oppressive nature of trans politics, responded by voting for a reactionary bigot they otherwise wouldn’t have supported. “Identity politics” – and its close cousin “political correctness” – had gone too far, we heard, and Trump's election was the blowback. Commentaries in corporate media pushed this narrative, while missing the essential point: The alleged “identity issues” of trans people are not a matter of self-esteem or feeling good about themselves or about some academic notion of "being recognized." In many concrete ways, they’re quite literally a matter of life and death. Yet conveying this notion to the broader, cis public has been almost impossible as media narratives surrounding trans issues – when they’re not outright hostile or glib – have disproportionately focused on surface-level improvements among the wealthy and within spaces that even help advance U.S. militarism. How do we breakthrough the corrosive narratives of either contempt on the one hand, or imperialist inclusion on the other? And how can we elevate narratives that affect the vast majority of trans people, like housing, police terror, legal status, healthcare and basic human dignity, while pushing back against liberal and left holdouts who dismiss trans issues as simply another “distraction.” We are joined on today's episode by Dean Spade, associate professor at Seattle University School of Law.
11/14/201854 minutes, 42 seconds
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Episode 56: How The Media Learned to Worry About War Without Ever Opposing It

“Bush didn’t send enough Troops.” “Trump needs authorization from Congress before launching a war.” “Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories are not helpful.” We hear these liberal objections to war and occupation all the time. On the surface, they sound opposed to injustice—and maybe sometimes are—but what if, more often than not, they nitpick process, protocol, and procedure without ever offering substantive, existential critiques of American war-making and military destruction. Their function, primarily, is to give the appearance of dissent where none really exists. In spycraft, the term “limited hangout” is defined as a “public relations or propaganda technique that involves the release of previously hidden information in order to prevent a greater exposure of more important details.” Just the same, this limited opposition to war, or pseudo-opposition, serves as a way of superficially opposing war or imperialism or military occupation without the mess of actually taking a stand against it. From the invasion of Iraq to the Israeli occupation of Palestine to the boundary-less and boundless perma-war on terror, this pseudo-opposition has taken many forms over the years. In this episode, we discuss the sophisticated nature of this technique, how one can differentiate between good faith nuance and concern-trolling, and how discrediting pseudo-opposition can open space for real conversations about the true consequences of empire. We are joined by Nora Barrows-Friedman, associate editor at The Electronic Intifada.
11/7/20181 hour, 13 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 55: Jake Tapper and the Art of Faux-Adversarialism

Jake Tapper’s career trajectory is an object lesson in how to succeed in corporate media. The formula generally goes like this: go after the fringes of the left and the right––but mostly the left. Never offend any traditional centers of power. Mug. Constantly mug for the camera. Hitch your brand to “The Troops” And-always, always––attack from the neoconservative right.   As previously discussed in our John McCain News Brief, the issue with John McCain was less so about the man himself but what he represented: posturing National Security state jingoism at the heart of America’s civic religion; a phony notion of self-importance that animates US militarism. Just the same, this week’s episode is less about Tapper and more about what he represents: the dead center of American corporate media; hollow, faux-adversarialism marked by military worship; less interested in original reporting than serving as a bouncer for Club Acceptable Opinion.   We are joined on this week's episode by journalist Natasha Lennard.
10/31/20181 hour, 3 minutes, 22 seconds
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Episode 54: Local 'Crime' Reporting as Police Stenography

"The suspect fled on foot, police said. Call this number if you have any information." "The incident took place at the 1200 block of Grove." "Police say." "Police sources are telling us." "Suspect is thought to be armed and dangerous." We’ve all heard this type of Official Copspeak before. The local press dutifully informs us about "suspects" and "gang members" and "burglars." They're infiltrating our neighborhoods, rampaging through our streets, climbing in our windows. The police, of course, are just doing their part to keep us safe. Local media and community-based message boards they pander to read like police blotters. "Dial 1-800-985-TIPS for your friendly neighborhood detective!" But what if publishing police department press releases isn't really journalism, but rather free public relations for an already extremely powerful, routinely violent, often corrupt and deeply conflicted institution? What if the genre of so-called “crime’ reporting is inherently reactionary and the whole enterprise of how we think about “crime” needs to be deconstructed and reconsidered? On this week’s episode, we discuss why local "crime" reporting widely suffers from racist tabloidism and what overworked and under-resourced journalists can do to gather information from sources that don't wear badges. We are joined by Chicago-based activists Sharlyn Grace and Malcolm London.
10/17/20181 hour, 2 minutes, 30 seconds
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Episode 53: The Increasingly Dull Edge of 'Hypocrisy' Takedowns

Trump says he opposed the war in Iraq, but in fact said he supported it in an obscure interview in 2004. McCain was for the tax cuts before he was against them. Republicans say they’re Christians, yet support a philandering liar. Hypocrisy takedowns – which reached peak popularity during the heyday of The Daily Show – have been the bread and butter of liberal discourse for years. Gawker founder Nick Denton famously said that “Hypocrisy was the only modern sin”––doctrine-driven ideologies had been replaced by the nihilistic ersatz ideology of not contradicting oneself. Consistency, even in the service of nothing and in defense of power, was the highest moral achievement. But as outright lying and contradiction were not only ignored but embraced by Trumpism, this worldview began to lose any remaining purchase. And as the emptiness of this approach grew more stark, a new generation of politically engaged people sought out traditional ideologies based on first principles, on the left this broadly manifested as a resurgence of socialism, which offered an alternative to the self-contained cult of self-satisfaction. On today's episode, we discuss the limits of hypocrisy-as-critique, when it can still be useful and why never contradicting oneself is often evidence more of cowardice than principle. Our guest is Roqayah Chamseddine.
10/10/201850 minutes, 8 seconds
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Episode 52: Attacks on Affirmative Action and the Commodification of Diversity

"Diversity" is a simultaneously important and buzzword-y term beloved by the media, corporations, real estate agents and elite universities. It’s something to strive for and take pride in, a symbol of inclusion and tolerance. While diversity is a noble feature – and something all large systems should strive for – it originally was not supposed to be an ends in-and-of-itself. Diversity, in this vein, has morphed under capitalism into a PR industry, supplanting notions of equity, decolonization and desegregation for something much more sanitized. The term is now often used as a catch-all for making white people feel better about the schools they go to, businesses they run, neighborhoods they gentrify. It largely exists, in its current iteration, to ameliorate whiteness rather than confront it, allowing for the commodification of the idea while giving existing power structures a glossy patina of liberal race-awareness. We are joined this week by journalist and author Jeff Chang, Vice President of Narrative, Arts, and Culture at Race Forward.
10/3/20181 hour, 9 minutes, 29 seconds
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Episode 51: How 'The West Wing' Poisoned the Liberal Mind

Post-Cold War liberal chauvinism knew no better ideological conduit than the hit NBC series The West Wing. Foreign policy was imperial, staffers were self-satisfied, and Serious Democrats fended off radical leftists and made the Tough Choices needed to run a benevolent superpower.    The West Wing, created and primarily written by Aaron Sorkin, heavily influenced the politics of dozens of high-status Obama-era liberals. By their own admission, we know it had among its superfans Obama staffers Sam Graham-Felsen and Eric Lesser, Vox founders Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, The New Statesman’s Helen Lewis, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell (who produced and wrote for the show), Democratic party hacks Meredith Shiner and Micah Lasher, and many more. Indeed, it’s fair to say anyone under 40 who came up through the ranks of liberal public relations and politics during the Obama years was either directly impacted by The West Wing or, indirectly, by those under its comforting, Starbucks-color-palette worldview.    On this week's episode, we discuss how this Sorkinized worldview both informed and reflected prevailing thought in the Democratic Party, promoted smugness as the highest virtue, and––more generally––how ideology is spread through seemingly benign cultural products like schlocky television dramas.    We are joined by Toronto-based writer and co-host of the Michael and Us podcast Luke Savage.  
9/26/201857 minutes, 27 seconds
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Episode 50: Anti-Imperialism and MSNBC-Approved Socialism

With recent primary election wins by candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, James Thompson, Julia Salazar and others, the terms “socialist” and “democratic socialist” are everywhere. Media outlets across the political spectrum - from The Washington Post andBusiness Insider to NPR and MSNBC to Jacobin - have rushed to publish explainer articles, demystifying the tenets of socialism and its variations for a mass American audience. But one thing missing from the bulk of these explainers – many of them written by high-profile Democratic Socialists themselves - is a robust account of foreign policy and the role America’s massive imperial footprint would play in any future Democratic Socialist America. Instead, descriptions of socialism stick primarily to domestic issues. Similarly, the wave of recent democratic socialist explainers are quick to distance their brand of Democratic Party-friendly socialism with the scary brand in the Global South, namely that of Venezuela. Highlighting instead the virtues of white-majority countries like Sweden and Denmark, many socialist whisperers dismiss out of hand the Bolivarian Revolution with the dreaded “authoritarian” label. In this episode, we discuss the pros and cons of this approach and how to know the difference between good faith critiques of socialist systems in the global south and quick and cheap fetishizing of Scandinavian countries – none of which have had to grapple with the complexities of colonialism. We are joined by two guests: Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and Shireen Al-Adeimi, assistant professor of education at Michigan State University.
9/19/20181 hour, 12 minutes, 11 seconds
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Episode 49: Shifting Media Representations of Abortion (Part II)

In the mid-1990s there was a rhetorical and cultural shift on the issue of abortion, namely the result of anti-abortion activists successfully introducing the term "partial birth abortion" into both the media and cultural lexicon. Major Democrats conceded the language, along with the moral high ground, to the extremist right-wing. They hammered home the message that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare" - signaling that abortion was something to be ashamed of, a barely tolerable abomination. Eventually, avoiding the issue – largely seen as legally settled – became the preferred tactic of liberal Democrats. But what resulted was a long-term sacrificing of the moral framework surrounding reproductive rights and justice, leading to the place we are now: dozens of state laws effectively preventing access to abortion in large sections of the country and Roe v. Wade under real threat for the first time in 50 years. This week, we speak with Cait Vaughan of Maine Family Planning.
9/12/201846 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 48: Shifting Media Representations of Abortion (Part I)

From the shame-inducing “safe, legal and rare” framing of the 1990s to normalizing efforts like the #ShoutYourAbortion campaign and an uptick in abortion plot lines in mainstream television, dialogue surrounding abortion has shifted in recent years from one of apologism and soft-pedaling to a more frank, straightforward approach. These efforts, largely animated by Republican attacks on reproductive health since the Tea Party wave of 2010, seek to take back the moral high ground on an issue Democratic Party leaders abdicated 25 years ago. In this two-part episode, we explore the history of how popular culture and the news have framed the issue of abortion, from the “othering” of those who have abortions to treating the issue like a shameful, seedy affair to an over-reliance in film and TV on twist endings to avoid addressing the issue head-on. We are joined this week by Dr. Gretchen Sisson, a sociologist and researcher at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.
9/5/201848 minutes, 58 seconds
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News Brief: Don't Let the Media Erase McCain's Far Right Legacy

There must be an account for the thousands of dead Arabs and Asians McCain helped create. On this News Brief we attempt to do that.
8/26/201818 minutes, 32 seconds
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Episode 47: American Magnanimity - Spinning Crimes Against Humanity as Benevolence

Since there's been America, there have been American war crimes, and since there have been American war crimes, there's been a parallel cottage industry of hacks, shills and propagandists willing to not only apologize for, deny and downplay these crimes, but actually spin them as benevolent charity. While Karl Rove mastered the art of taking a politician's weakness and projecting it onto one’s opponent, the American political and media class has mastered the art of taking the most blatant crimes and injustices and spinning them as something actually good for the subject being oppressed, cleansed or killed. From family separation to slavery to cutting people off welfare to endless war abroad, step into the Citations Needed Hall of Funhouse Mirrors to see how the most egregious offenses to human decency get turned into evidence of innate American humanitarianism. We are joined by friend of the show, The Intercept's Jon Schwarz.
8/8/201849 minutes, 22 seconds
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Episode 46: The Not-So-Benevolent Billionaire, Part II - Bill Gates in Africa

Russia, as we all know, has sinister “oligarchs” whereas in the United States, we are told, we have “philanthropists,” “job creators,” and “titans of industry” who earn their wealth through hard work, moxie, and guile. Aside from a few cartoonishly evil billionaires – like the Walton family, Peter Thiel, and the Koch brothers – the average American has a warm and fuzzy feeling about the super wealthy. The most notable of these Benevolent Billionaires is Bill Gates, whose foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, operates the largest overseas “nonprofit” regime in the world, worth over 40 billion dollars–– twice that of the next biggest foundation. The Gates Foundation receives almost uniformly softball coverage from the media, many of whom receive funding from Gates through various investment and donor arrangements, both from his personal coffers and the foundation that bears his name. In Part II of this two-part episode, we ask how the media is - or isn't - holding Gates accountable for his deeply ideological, often opaque efforts in sub-Saharan Africa. We are joined by Mariam Mayet, executive director of the African Centre for Biodiversity.
8/1/201854 minutes, 56 seconds
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Episode 45: The Not-So-Benevolent Billionaire: Bill Gates and Western Media

Russia, as we all know, has sinister “oligarchs” whereas in the United States, we are told, we have “philanthropists,” “job creators,” and “titans of industry” who earn their wealth through hard work, moxie, and guile. Aside from a few cartoonishly evil billionaires – like the Walton family, Peter Thiel, and the Koch brothers – the average American has a warm and fuzzy feeling about the super wealthy.  The most notable of these Benevolent Billionaires is Bill Gates, whose foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, operates the largest overseas “nonprofit” regime in the world, worth over 40 billion dollars–– twice that of the next biggest foundation. The Gates Foundation receives almost uniformly softball coverage from the media, many of whom receive funding from Gates through various investment and donor arrangements, both from his personal coffers and the foundation that bears his name. In this two-part episode we ask how much this network of patronage effects Western media’s overwhelmingly positive and uncritical coverage of Gates. How can one can be critical of this type of massive outsized influence without devolving into paranoia? What is the nature of the capitalist ideology that informs Gates’ so-called philanthropy? And how do his programs often harm those they allegedly aim to help? We are joined this week by Dr. Linsey J. McGoey, associate professor of sociology at the University of Essex and author of the book, “No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy.”
7/25/20181 hour, 9 minutes, 24 seconds
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Episode 44: RussiaGate, Year 3 - Using the Nonstop Specter of Russia to Tarnish Black Activists

For over two years, the U.S. government has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election - interference broadly considered to be in favor of candidate Donald Trump. As a result, a bizarre flip has occurred with the Right and Left: Polls show liberals now trust the FBI and CIA, while many right-wingers – though by no means all – suddenly act concerned about the so-called “deep state.” Liberals have been turned into even more extreme hawks, not just on the issue of Russia, but anything that shores up support for American intelligence agencies broadly seen, fair or not, as a check on the unhinged Trump administration.    Given that so much of RussiaGate coverage is about the alleged manipulation of Black activists, anti-fracking protesters, the Green Party –and even Bernie Sanders supporters - to attack Hillary Clinton and her campaign, the consequence has been the media, time and again, framing Leftist dissent as de facto Russian propaganda.    Today we ask: how does the fever pitch of Russia coverage, in the aggregate, harm Black activists and movements? What are the historical antecedents for these red-baiting attacks? And how can Left solidarity work to dull the effects of these efforts to marginalize and delegitimize voices for justice?   In Part II of this two-part RussiaGate episode, we are joined by Anoa Changa, host of The Way with Anoa podcast.
7/18/201851 minutes, 32 seconds
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Episode 43: RussiaGate Year 3 -- How Liberals' Martial Posture Harms the Left

For over two years, the U.S. government has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election - interference broadly considered to be in favor of candidate Donald Trump. As a result, a bizarre flip has occurred with the Right and Left: Polls show liberals now trust the FBI and CIA, while many right-wingers – though by no means all – suddenly act concerned about the so-called “deep state.” Liberals have been turned into even more extreme hawks, not just on the issue of Russia, but anything that shores up support for American intelligence agencies broadly seen, fair or not, as a check on the unhinged Trump administration.    Given that so much of RussiaGate coverage is about the alleged manipulation of Black activists, anti-fracking protesters, the Green Party –and even Bernie Sanders supporters - to attack Hillary Clinton and her campaign, the consequence has been the media, time and again, framing Leftist dissent as de facto Russian propaganda.    Today we ask: what is the collateral damage of RussiaGate on left-wing activists and media? Who does Red Scare 2.0 benefit, and how can we be honest about "foreign influence" without losing our minds over it?    In Part I of this two-part episode, we are joined by Jacobin's Branko Marcetic.
7/11/201849 minutes, 10 seconds
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Episode 42: 'Populism' - The Media’s Favorite Catch-All Smear for the Left

With the rise of Trump, Sanders, Corbyn and Brexit, hundreds of pundits, reporters, and talking heads have been warning about the problems of "populism" and its alleged attack on democracy over the past three years.   “Populism and immigration pose major threat to global democracy,” the Gates Foundation insists. “The Dangerous Rise of Populism - Global Attacks on Human Rights Values,“ wrote Human Rights Watch in 2017. “Trump's Rise Proves How Dangerous Populism Is for Democracy” NBC says. “Populism is still a threat to Europe,” The European University Institute tells us.   But what exactly is populism? How is a term that allegedly applies to Hugo Chávez and Bernie Sanders also casually used to describe fascists and far-right forces?   Under the thin, ideology-flattening definition of populism, the term is more often than not used as a euphemism for demagogic cults of personality and fascism and as the ultimate horseshoe theory reduction to lump together movements for equity and justice on the Left with those of revanchism, nationalism and explicit racism on the Right. We are joined on this episode by writer and historian Thomas Frank.  
6/27/20181 hour, 14 seconds
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Episode 41: The Moral Poverty of Capitalist Healthcare Framing

Healthcare marketplaces,” “private insurers competing for your business” “insurance subsidies,” For years, Democrats bet big on framing the healthcare debate using technocratic, capitalist terms––they weren’t going to radically change the system of healthcare, simply accent the existing private insurance-based model making things “smarter,” “easier,” more “tech-driven.” As the Affordable Care Act faces continued right-wing attacks and liberal-leaning activists increasingly look to single-payer, efforts to radically shift the healthcare system require--before they can really go anywhere--a radical shift in how we talk about healthcare.  On this episode, we ask: How can activists rewire the public’s brains when it comes to the topic of healthcare? How can the rhetorical tics of the past be retired, and how can the conversation about healthcare shift from a technical problem to a moral imperative?  We are joined by researcher and writer Natalie Shure.
6/20/201858 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 40: The Civility Fetish

They’re not lies, they’re “falsehoods”; it’s not racism, it’s “racially charged comments”; it’s not torture, it’s “enhanced interrogation.” For years, U.S. media has prioritized, above all else, norms and civility. Mean words or questioning motives are signs of declining civility and the subject of much lament from our media class. However, op-eds explicitly advocating war, invasion, sanctions, sabotage, bombing and occupation or cutting vital programs and lifelines for the poor are just the cost of doing business. What’s rhetorically out of bounds - and what isn’t - is far more a product of power than any objective sense of "civility" or “decency.” Where did these so-called norms come from, who do they benefit, and why is their maintenance–-even in the face of overt white nationalism––still the highest priority for many liberals and centrists in U.S. media? We discuss this, and more, with The Huffington Post's Ashley Feinberg.
6/13/201853 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 39: From Cradle to Courtroom: How The Media Stacks the Deck Against “Defendants”

The United States, far and away, has the largest prison population in the world. It also has one of the greatest disparities in their prison population of ethnic minorities in the world. How does a country that prides itself on being a “beacon of freedom” and whose leaders travel the world scolding other countries on “human rights” find itself to be the largest carceral state of the 21st century?  What are the cultural forces that reinforce racist attitudes, deference to the police and prosecutors, and a belief that 7 million people – or, the equivalent population of Washington DC, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, and Rhode Island – all belong in cages or on parole or prohibition. For this show – recorded live in Brooklyn, NY on May 25, 2018 – we will follow a hypothetical "defendant," the median being an African-American in their early 20's, from birth to the time they sit in front of a judge and, at each point, examine how the media stacks the deck against them. We cover this in five parts, each representing different moments in this chain of events - Birth, Childhood, Adolescence, the Arrest and the Plea – and show how the media conspires to make a not guilty verdict all but impossible.  We are joined by Rachel Foran and Naila Siddiqui of Court Watch NYC. 
6/6/20181 hour, 18 minutes, 41 seconds
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Episode 38: The Media's Bogus Generation Obsession

“Baby Boomers are bloating the social safety net!” “GenXers are changing the nature of work!” “Millennials are killing the housing market!". The media endlessly feeds us stories about how one generation or another is engaging in some collective act of moral failing that, either explicitly or by implication, harms another generation. It’s a widely-mocked cliché at this point, namely the near-constant analyses detailing what Millennials have “killed” or “ruined” lately - everything from Applebee's to diamonds to top sheets to beer to napkins. The first rule of drama––and by implication, the media––is to create tension. But what if tensions that actually exist in our society, like white supremacy and class conflict, are too unpleasant and dicey to touch––upsetting advertisers and media owners who benefit from these systems? To replace these real tensions in society, the media repeatedly relies on dubious and entirely safe points of conflict, like those between two arbitrary generations. It’s not the rich or racism that’s holding me back--it’s old people running up entitlement spending or lazy youth who don’t want to work! In this episode we talk about why this media trope isn’t just hacky and cliche, but also subtly racist and reactionary. We are joined by Adam Conover, host of Adam Ruins Everything on truTV.
5/23/201844 minutes, 13 seconds
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Episode 37: Black Lives Matter, Dreamers, and the Problem of 'The Perfect Victim'

"A pillar of the community"." A straight-A student who dreamed of becoming a doctor". "A loving father"."Here through no fault of their own". "She was hysterical and out of control." "He was no angel." The press, both local and national, humanizes some victims of state or corporate violence, while demonizing others. Despite good intentions and seemingly without noticing, the media all too often create tiered systems of moral worth by trying to find “the perfect victim.” The media’s search for the perfect victim, and its corollary desire to smear those with less than perfect pasts, makes humanity conditional, further entrenching negative stereotypes and destructive narratives about entire communities. In this episode, we dissect the real time auditing of those who die or are deported and how we can expand our moral vocabulary to protect all vulnerable people and populations. We are joined by both Joel Sati and Charlene Carruthers.
5/16/20181 hour, 9 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 36: Maplewashing — Looking Behind Canada’s Progressive Veneer

For decades, Canada has been a go-to point of reference for American progressives as a country the United States can and should strive to be. And while there are many parts about Canadian society that are measurably preferable, leftists in Canada find their country's glossy, socialist paradise image to be overblown and often a barrier to meaningful change.  This episode examines this tension, the reality versus perception, what we can learn from each other, and the common and existential thread we share of white settler-colonialism.  With guests Eriel Tchekwie Deranger of Indigenous Climate Action and writer Luke Savage.
5/9/20181 hour, 10 minutes, 41 seconds
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Episode 35: The Total Blackout of the Korean Left

When Americans read about the Korean "conflict" in the Western press, the articles are populated almost entirely with Serious Western Talking Heads, weapons contractor-funded think tank "fellows," and former and current U.S. military brass. Who's never consulted, much less heeded, are peace and left activists from the Korean peninsula.  The notion that perma-hostility from the U.S. and arming the South to the teeth is in Korea's best interest -- and is assumed to be popular -- is simply taken for granted by U.S. media. But is this a reflection of the sentiments of most Koreans? What are the forces that oppose nonstop U.S. military occupation and endless war? How come we rarely, if ever, hear from them? And who does this wide spread erasure benefit?  Our guest today is Christine Ahn of Women Cross DMZ.
4/25/20181 hour, 2 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 34: What the Hell is Wrong with MSNBC?

MSNBC is by far the most influential mainstream media outlet on the American Left. It sets the tone and defines the boundary for what is acceptable discourse among American liberals. But major issues the Left is generally thought to care about - imperial war, worker strikes, Palestine, climate change - are almost entirely absent from coverage, as the network increasingly looks like a 24-hour Trump-Russia infomercial.   What is the point of having a liberal cable news network when it ignores so many major issues on the Left and pushes a narrative that, in the aggregate, does little beyond selling more weapons systems and inflaming US-Russia proxy wars in Syria and Ukraine? How did MSNBC get this way? What are the corporate forces making it so terrible, and is there hope for a more thoughtful, politically relevant network?    We are joined, anonymously, by a former MSNBC employee.   Transcript:
4/18/201854 minutes, 43 seconds
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Episode 33: Liberals' Obsession with the Phantom Reasonable Republican

The unlikely rise of Trump in the past three years has created a chasm in the Republican party: those who embrace the President’s wild, unorthodox, nativist style and those who––with much posturing and self congratulation––reject his brand of conservatism. The latter group, generally called “NeverTrump” Republicans, occupies a special, protected status in Serious Centrist media––despite representing only 5% of the population. Major outlets like The Washington Post, The Atlantic and the New York Times employ roughly 20 #NeverTrump conservatives between them; there is no greater affirmative action policy in U.S. media than for anti-Trump conservatives. So long as they reject Trump, #NeverTrump pundits can get away with the most odious points of view – anti-Arab racism, climate change denial, literally suggesting women be hanged en masse for having abortions. What accounts for this? Where does the institutional obsession with finding a Reasonable Republican come from and why is there such a widespread denial that Donald Trump does, in fact, actually and accurately represent the GOP as it exists today? We are joined by Slate's Osita Nwanevu.
4/11/201844 minutes, 51 seconds
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Episode 32: Attack of the PC College Kids!

We’ve heard this scare story a million times: A theater group at Wesleyan won’t perform The Vagina Monologues because it’s offensive to trans women! Oberlin is banning classes featuring white authorsI Rich, sheltered college students, increasingly indoctrinated by radical Marxist professors, are asking for safe spaces! But how much merit is there to the popular trope that college kids are hypersensitive and coddled? Is there really a free speech crisis America’s campuses? What are the origins of this evergreen complaint? Who does the constant harping on the threat of “political correctness” and anti-free speech undergrads actually hurt? And more importantly, whom does it benefit? Today's guest is David Palumbo-Liu, professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University.
3/28/20181 hour, 6 minutes, 2 seconds
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Episode 31: Fake ISIS Plots and the Selling of Forever War

We’ve seen the headlines hundreds of times: “ISIS plot foiled”, “ISIS in Brooklyn", “Woman Stopped At Airport on way to join ISIS”. These stories strike fear into the hearts of Americans everywhere, especially in the build up to the war effort against ISIS in Summer 2014.   The terror group was everywhere, recruiting our teenagers and attempting to strike in every major city––seemingly all at once. But what do these headlines mean exact? What is an “ISIS plot”? What is the gap between the image the media provides versus the reality of what’s occurring?   On this week’s episode we dive into the 17 year-long phenomenon of the US media assisting the government’s war on terror by parroting dubious claims of al Qaeda and ISIS plots when the vast majority of the time––no al Qaeda or ISIS are involved.   With guest Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
3/21/20181 hour, 17 minutes, 58 seconds
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Episode 30: Liberal Media’s Myopic Military Worship

Fighting against the far right forces of the Republican Party and their auxiliary white supremacist media makes attempts to appropriate notions of nationalism into a liberal mold a compelling short cut for Democrats looking for easy clapbacks and viral RT’s. The temptation to promote a kinder, gentler, "woke" patriotism is understandable.   But what is the collateral damage of this approach? From the justifiably horrified response to mass shootings to the jingoistic worship of all things military, what is the long-term downside of lifting up #VetsForGunControl and retired military brass as a counter to the vulgarity of Trumpism? Can the Left – including liberals – embrace a more holistic and anti-imperialist moral grammar that avoids short cuts and rejects the idea of nationalism altogether?     We are joined by Maggie Martin, co-director of About Face.
3/14/20181 hour, 1 minute, 57 seconds
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Episode 29: The Asymptotic ‘Two State Solution’ (Part II)

The idea that there exists an ongoing effort to achieve a “two-state solution” in Israel and Palestine - often referred to as The Middle East Peace Process™ - is uniformly taken for granted by American media. This "two-state solution" is always at different stages of viability, yet never quite works out. Presidents fail to achieve it; Palestinian violence makes it "more difficult"; Israeli settlements are "unhelpful" to it. But how honest is this effort? How are nonstop obituaries for a phantom "process" helping to maintain the status quo, or worse? How much does this infinitely regressive effort deliberately mask an ongoing and active policy of ethnic cleansing by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza? In Part II of this two-part episode, we discuss this "two-state" racket with Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace.
3/7/201849 minutes, 23 seconds
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Episode 28: The Asymptotic 'Two State Solution' (Part I)

The idea that there exists an ongoing effort to achieve a “two-state solution” in Israel and Palestine - often referred to as The Middle East Peace Process™ - is uniformly taken for granted by American media. This "two-state solution" is always at different stages of viability, yet never quite works out. Presidents fail to achieve it; Palestinian violence makes it "more difficult"; Israeli settlements are "unhelpful" to it.  But how honest is this effort? How are nonstop obituaries for a phantom "process" helping to maintain the status quo, or worse? How much does this infinitely regressive effort deliberately mask an ongoing and active policy of ethnic cleansing by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza?  In Part I of this two-part episode, we discuss this "two-state" racket with Professor Noura Erakat.
2/28/20181 hour, 13 minutes, 41 seconds
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News Brief: How to Respond to Knee-Jerk Bigotry on Live TV

Citations Needed is off this week, but we do have a fascinating interview with Hoda Katebi on her now-infamous WGN television segment. In this News Brief, we explore what it means to "sound American," the politics of women's clothing, and why everyone with even a single drop of Iranian blood is expected to be an expert on nuclear energy and international affairs. 
2/21/201826 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 27: How the Media Mainstreamed Racist Pseudoscience

If one were to approach New York Times-reading liberals circa 1990 and tell them about a crime-fighting policy that arbitrarily harassed black and Latino youths who had committed no crime and threw the book at low-level nonviolent offenses, they would be rightfully outraged at the idea. But, if one were to couch this exact policy in pseudoscience promoted by mercenary sociologists and glowingly written up in The Atlantic, these same liberals would not only accept it, they'd be its primary advocates.    This is that story. This is the story of how the racist pseudoscience of Broken Windows and Stop-and-Frisk that started on the rightwing fringes  slowly seeped into the centrist and liberal media and how two new racist pseudosciences, predictive policing and high profile "gang raids", are – again, with the help of liberals - taking their place.    We are joined this week by Josmar Trujillo.
2/14/20181 hour, 46 seconds
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Episode 26: The 'Welfare' Dog-Whistle

The term "welfare" is thrown around so casually in political speeches and media coverage we hardly notice it anymore. CNN reports that “GOP will tackle Medicare, Medicaid, welfare in 2018," while The Washington Post insists that “Trump recently called on Congress to move to cut welfare spending after the tax bill.” CBS News tells viewers that “Washington eyes welfare reform." But what do these outlets and the Republican Party actually mean when they talk about "welfare"? What programs are they referring to? The exact definition of "welfare" – which supposedly ended over 20 years ago – remains unclear.  While the word "welfare" and the welfare state has a positive connotation in Europe, in the United States it's more often than not a malleable propaganda term meant to dog whistle programs for African-Americans and Latinos while signaling to whites that their checks and corporate handouts will remain untouched. In this episode, we dig into the racist history of anti-welfare crusades, the political purpose of pathologizing poverty, and the meaninglessness of phrases like "welfare reform," with guest Sarah Jaffe.
2/7/201852 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 25: The Banality of CIA-Curated Definitions of ‘Democracy’

Few words elicit such warm feelings as the term "Democracy." Wars are supposedly fought for it, foreign policies are built around it, protecting and advancing it is considered the United States' highest moral order. Democracy's alleged opposite - broadly called "authoritarianism," "autocracy" or "tyranny” - is cast as the ultimate evil. The stifling, oppressive boot of the state that curtails liberties and must be fought at all costs. This is the world in which we operate and the one where the United States and its satellite media and NGO allies fight to preserve and defend democracy. So how is "democracy" defined and how are those definitions used to justify American exceptionalism? Where do positive and negative rights come into play, and how do societal choices like illiteracy, poverty, and hunger factor into our notions of freedom? On today's episode, we discuss the limits of democracy rankings, the oft-cited "Polity IV" metric devised by the CIA-funded Center for Systemic Peace, and more with guest George Ciccariello-Maher.
1/31/201853 minutes, 47 seconds
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Episode 24: Highlighting Alternative Media - The Moral Limits of Dunking on Thomas Friedman

Here at Citations Needed we enjoy nothing more than ragging on corporate media - indeed, it’s our primary job. But can constant snark and negativity breed cynicism? Recent feedback from some of our listeners has us wondering if the act of media criticism need also make room for some media complimenting, lest we succumb to the forces of defeatism. In this episode, rather than critiquing the myriad problems with the corporate press, we decided to highlight two smaller media organizations fighting back against tremendous forces - in this case, environmental destruction of native lands and the carceral state – by building alternate systems of communication, news-gathering, storytelling, and organizing. With guests Jade Begay of Indigenous Rising Media and Jay Donahue of Critical Resistance and The Abolitionist newspaper.
1/24/201858 minutes, 25 seconds
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News Brief: Why the Media Should Stop Calling it a "Government Shutdown"

It's not a "government shutdown", it's a liberal government shutdown––or, more precisely, a backdoor rightwing coup. Our words should reflect that. Relevant article: It’s Not a Government Shutdown. It’s a Right-Wing Coup…right-wing-coup/
1/24/201812 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 23: The Media's Grim Addiction to Perseverance Porn

We’ve all seen these feel good segments on the local news. The adorable and resourceful seven-year-old in California who's been recycling cans since he was three and now has $10,000 saved up for college. The Oklahoma community that chipped in to buy a car for a beloved Walmart greeter so she wouldn't have to walk to work in the bitter cold anymore. The “inspiring teen” who returned to his fast food job soon after being injured in a car accident. No doubt, these are all heartwarming tales of perseverance in the face of adversity, a testament to the can-do spirit of average citizens––but they're also something else: ideological agitprop meant to obscure and decontextualize the harsh realities of poverty, the exorbitant cost of higher education and healthcare, and the profound absence of basic social services in the United States.  What are the origins of this ethos? Whom does it benefit and, perhaps most important of all, how does the media consistently work to reinforce this "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mythology? We are joined by Tony Valdés of the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center.
1/17/201850 minutes, 47 seconds
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Episode 19: Lotteryism Part I -- How a Compliant Press Fuels the Spectacle of 'Winning'

"Lotteryism" is the use of the media by large corporations to obscure solidarity in favor of morality tales of “making it”. It’s the atomization of parties of mutual interest by lording over them the promise of something greater than what they could achieve if they simply banded together. Lotteryism is an ideology and a PR operation. Lotteryism, above all, renders us politically impotent. Lotteryism is a scam practiced by large corporations in various iterations to extract resources from local governments in hopes they can “win” their money, "jobs", or presence in their city. Cities compete in a race-to-the-bottom to offer billionaire team owners the best tax breaks and enticing perks. Bill Gates uses it to pit state education departments against one another for funding. Corporations like Mercedes-Benz and Amazon use it to get massive tax breaks and sweetheart deals in cities that want their headquarters. Walmart uses it against local governments to skirt minimum wage requirements and crush unions. The media––namely local media––mindlessly go along with these spectacles without any context or critical analysis. How is the Lotteryism scam practiced? Who does it benefit? And, most importantly, how can we fight it? With guest Anne Orchier, an organizer with NOlympics LA. (And stay tuned for Part II, next week, when we'll be joined by Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation.)
12/13/201754 minutes, 36 seconds
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Episode 18: Fake News Panic and the Silencing of Dissident Media

In this episode, we dive into the Fake News hole with Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, New York Times best selling author, and activist Chris Hedges. Since Hillary Clinton's surprise 2016 loss to Donald Trump, there have been thousands of articles, columns, and op-eds lamenting the rise of so-called “fake news” and its pernicious effect on our democracy. The definition of what exactly "fake news" is has never quite been made clear - yet this hasn’t stopped major corporate media outlets and even the U.S. Congress from rushing to curb this uniquely pernicious and dangerous threat. The primary response to this alleged crisis - the creation of a tiered, fact-checking system for social media that effectively bifurcates “real news” and “fake news” - has many in alternative, leftist, and libertarian media claiming the anti-Fake News algorithms made by Twitter, Facebook, and Google have reduced their web traffic and readership. While it’s difficult to gauge the specifics of these individual reports, it does seem clear at this point that dissident media has taken a hit from efforts to stop co-called “fake news.” So what are the origins of this panic and whom does it benefit? How can one protect against obvious bullshit without bestowing the power to arbitrate truth unto a handful of U.S. national security state-aligned corporations and tech giants?  
12/6/20171 hour, 15 minutes, 29 seconds
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Episode 17: Whitewashing America's Role in Yemen

Over 15,000 civilians dead and almost a million reported cases of cholera. 17 million people unsure of where their next meal will come from, including 7 million on the brink of starvation. Nearly 3 million people internally displaced. Hunger, disease, and bombs. That's what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have wrought on Yemen. After almost three years of wanton destruction by U.S.-supported Saudi bombing campaigns and, most recently, a total land, air and sea blockade, the vast majority of Americans still haven’t heard much about the dire circumstances facing the people of Yemen. They've heard even less about how the United States is enabling, facilitating, authorizing, aiding and abetting this slaughter. By and large, the media has almost entirely ignored the decimation of Yemen and its civilian population. When it is touched upon, America's central role in the conflict is often omitted, as is––even more inexplicably––Saudi Arabia's. The violence is routinely referred to as a regional "proxy war" between Gulf monarchies and Iran or Sunnis and Shias, rather than a U.S.-backed massacre. On this episode, Adam and Nima, joined by Dr. Sheila Carapico and Dr. Greg Shupak, look back at the media’s coverage of this tragedy, why it let Obama off the hook for it, how the typical “cycle of violence” framing is used to obscure U.S. responsibility, and what can be done to lay blame where it belongs moving forward. With guests Dr. Sheila Carapico and Dr. Greg Shupak.
11/29/20171 hour, 9 minutes, 17 seconds
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News Brief: #J20 Trial Update and the Political Definitions of 'Violence'

In this News Brief Nima and Adam catch up with the latest from the #J20 trial, how the media shaped coverage early in favor of the state, and the racist roots of criminalizing protest. With guest Sam Adler-Bell. “It’s a Police State Mentality” — J20 and the Racist Origins of Criminalizing Protest | Sam Adler-Bell | November 13, 2017 | Mask Magazine
11/22/201735 minutes, 9 seconds
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Episode 16: Editorial Boards––Protectors of Establishment Ideology

Editorial boards are the establishment voice from above, handing out decrees of moral and political import behind an anonymous byline. Major papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have an Official Position and it's important that Important People hear the Official Important Position. But of what use is this 19th century artifact? Whose interest does it serve and why does it even still exist?  On today's show we attempt to answer these questions and more with guests Janine Jackson and Jim Naureckas of
11/15/20171 hour, 12 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 15: The Real Estate Page As Colonial Dispatch

Real Estate sections are mostly breezy, fun profiles of the super rich buying up houses and remodeling the ones they already own. Harmless escapist fun? Maybe. But how we write about real estate reveals casually racist and colonial attitudes that are rarely, if ever, examined.   In this episode we talk about why the way we talk about the real estate industry matters and how the white civilizing mission never went away. With guest Aaron Cantú.
11/8/201749 minutes, 58 seconds
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Episode 14: The Iran Deal Protection Racket

We are told time and again from Republicans and nominal liberals alike that Iran desperately wants to acquire nuclear weapons, was "racing toward the bomb" before the implementation of the multilateral Iran Deal - officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and was merely months away from holding the world hostage with a nuclear arsenal before being stopped by diplomacy, aided by "crippling sanctions." The core axioms of this narrative are never really challenged, even by those viewed as progressive on foreign policy.   But how correct are these assumptions? Why does the media keep saying Iran has a "nuclear weapons program" when it doesn't? Will the nonstop back and forth over Iran's "nuclear ambitions" ever cease? Using both Nima and Adam's own analyses, we attempt to answer these questions and more as we take a deep dive into the Iran Deal protection racket.
11/1/201753 minutes, 29 seconds
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Episode 13: The Always Stumbling US Empire

"Stumbling", "sliding", "drawn into" war––the media frequently assumes the US is bumbling its way around the world. The idea that the United States operates in “good faith” is taken for granted for most of the American press while war is always portrayed as something that happens to the US, not something it seeks out. On this episode, Adam and Nima explore the media's commitment to the narrative of "United States as reluctant warrior," whose leadership and decision-making always has the "best intentions." We also examine the new Ken Burns and Lynn Novick PBS series on Vietnam which traffics in many of these tropes. With guest Professor Hannah Gurman.
10/25/20171 hour, 4 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 12: The New Atheists, Celebrity Crusaders For Empire

Since the mid-2000’s, a specific breed of liberalism has emerged broadly called “New Atheism”. While the movement is hardly a monolith, it has at its core features of liberal chauvinism, anti-"political correctness", “science”, secularism, and a general deference to U.S. foreign policy consensus. It’s biggest champions, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Maajid Nawaz, Bill Maher and the late Christopher Hitchens were and are major features in mainstream discourse–from television shows on HBO to major podcasts to writings featured everywhere from The New York Times to The Guardian to The Daily Beast. For years, however, leftists of all stripes--anti-imperialists, socialists, progressives--have expressed concern over this brand of liberal chauvinism, its outsized place in the media and its ability to turn the U.S., and white Americans in particular, into The Real Victims; its ability to offend the religious while championing boilerplate National Security consensus and imperial wars abroad. It seemed vaguely provocative but who was it really offending? And, more importantly, who was it serving? We discuss with guest Luke Savage.
10/11/20171 hour, 14 minutes, 11 seconds
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Episode 11: The Deficits Racket Part II -- Racist Media as Barrier to Govt Spending

If broad government programs are so popular why don’t we just vote them into existence? One of the primary barriers to democratic socialism--or spending in general--is racist media coverage and racist attitudes about how government programs are administered. In this episode we explore how media-fueled racism and means-tested nickel-and-diming makes radical change that much more difficult. With guests Sean McElwee and Noel Cazenave.
10/4/20171 hour, 5 minutes, 5 seconds
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Episode 11: The Deficits Racket Part I -- Single Payer Propaganda War

The idea that we’re “running out of money” and have to “tighten our belts" is a common trope in US media; the premise that the US government is like a household that must balance its books, largely taken for granted by liberal and right-wing outlets alike. But is this premise correct? Is it true that the United States is over-budget and ready to explode with insolvency? Where does this conventional wisdom come from and whom does it benefit?  On this and next week's show we seek to answer some of the questions. In Part I: Single Payer Propaganda War, we examine the primary talking points against Single Payer and other big government programs and how to combat them with guest Stephanie Kelton. 
9/27/20171 hour, 3 minutes, 52 seconds
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Episode 10: Ableism and the Ethics of Calling Trump “Crazy”

“Insane”, “crazy”, “totally fucking nuts”–Trump’s mental capacity is the subject of much speculation, joke-making, and earnest concern. But how should the subject be approached by the media? On this week’s show we explore the ethics of diagnosing mental health from afar, the conflation of mental health issues with moral turpitude, the negative effects of the media’s nonstop stigmatizing of “insanity” and how to balance all of the above in the face of the unique threat of Trump. With guests s.e. smith and Dr. Dean Burnett.
9/20/201756 minutes, 31 seconds
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Episode 09: Liberal Media Throws #J20 Activists Under the Bus

The #Resistance warms up to rightwing ghouls David Frum and Evan McMullin while ignoring anti-Trump protesters facing 80 years in federal prison. With guest Sam Menefee-Libey.
9/13/20171 hour, 7 minutes, 27 seconds
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Episode 08: The Human Rights Concern Troll Industrial Complex

We discuss the cynical use of "human rights" to advance US interests with guest Glenn Greenwald.  The conceit that the U.S. has been a dedicated and earnest promoter of “freedom”, “democracy,” and “human rights” throughout the world — even if, at times, a “flawed” one — is a defining narrative, largely taken for granted by major media. But how accurate is this assumption? What do we mean when we talk about human rights? What abuses are highlighted and which aren’t? Where do labor rights fit into the broader discussion of human rights? On this episode of Citations Needed, we attempt to parse some of these complex questions and how they fit into a broader discussions of soft power and war.
9/6/20171 hour, 15 minutes, 15 seconds
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News Brief: Harvey, Climate Change and Snitch Reporters

On this news brief we discuss the media's fear of covering Harvey in the context of race, class, and the manifest threat of climate change. With guest Katherine Krueger of Splinter News. 
9/3/201719 minutes, 56 seconds
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Episode 07: BDS & the Moral Narratives of Colonization

In Episode 7 we explore how the media discusses the issue of BDS and the broader topic of Palestinian liberation with guest Steven Salaita.
8/23/20171 hour, 11 minutes, 31 seconds
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News Brief: Nazis, the ACLU & the Moral Limits of 'Free Speech'

We discuss the virtue of defending lofty free speech ideals in the Trump era with our guest George Ciccariello.
8/15/201726 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 06: The Media’s Default Setting of White Supremacy

In Episode 06 we explore how the media both consciously and subconsciously works to smear black victims, protect the police, and works overtime to ameliorate the sensibilities of white media consumers with our guest Dr. Jared A. Ball.  The white supremacist regime at work in the media can be broken down into three main narrative devices: 1) The use of language to downplay state violence and assert false parity 2) The uncritical dissemination of exaggerated or made up threats to police to turn the aggressor into the victim 3) The posthumous smearing of black victims to rationalize their killing after the fact. In this episode we examine the mechanisms of these narrative devices, how they influence public perception, and why they create the media environment that makes more Mike Browns all but certain. Show notes:
8/9/20171 hour, 11 minutes, 23 seconds
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News Brief: Media Helps Trump Stoke Tensions with North Korea

Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson recap today's North Korea escalation. 
8/9/201726 minutes, 27 seconds
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Episode 05: Purging Socialists of Color From History

On Episode 5, we explore the history of the media erasing socialists of color from the history books and present day discourse––a tactic that serves to both commodity and water-down black radicalism and pawn off leftwing politics as a uniquely white or middle class enterprise. Our guests: Robert Greene II and Roqayah Chamseddine. Show notes:
8/2/20171 hour, 1 minute, 56 seconds
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Episode 04: The Root of All Evil

On Episode 04 we talk about a recent New York Times article — and the broader media habit of painting the US as benevolent democracy-seeker and Iran and other Official Enemies as cynical imperialists. In this episode we dissect the true history of what caused chaos in Iraq, who’s to blame and what the real motives were behind the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations designs for the country. All this in the context of a battle for control over remaining ISIS territory in Syria and Washington, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv’s desire to stop the dreaded “Shia crescent”. Show notes:
7/26/201751 minutes
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Episode 03: The Rise of Superpredator 2.0

Episode 03: The Rise of Superpredator 2.  Episode 3 is about the media narrative surrounding the rise of so-called “gang raids” that have exploded over the past three years. These high-stakes, headline-grabbing spectacles target, almost exclusively, black and brown people and are carried out by hundreds of local, state, and federal officials with little scrutiny from the media.  Our guest: Josmar Trujillo, a Harlem-based organizer, writer, trainer, and agitator. See show notes here:
7/21/201738 minutes, 37 seconds
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Episode 02 : The North Korea Memory Hole

In the second episode of Citations Needed, Nima and Adam breakdown the history and present "crisis" on the Korean peninsula.
7/19/201759 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 01 : The Charter School Scam

The first episode of Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson's podcast, Citations Needed, tackles the media hype surrounding the privatization of education. Show notes can be found here: 2010 tax form for Participant Foundation used to fund Waiting for Superman (note: four donors-- Waltons, Eli Broad, Donald Fisher, Dave Einhorn):…06_990PF.pdf Gates $2 million contribution to film…C-OPP1019819.aspx Guest Jennifer Berkshire’s blog: Guest Jennifer berkshire’s articles: Books mentioned by Berkshire: The One Percent Solution…ing/dp/1501703064 New Orleans graduation rate stats article from 2014 by Adam…na-memory-hole/ Harlem Children Zone original board: Further reading:…ticle-1.3272954…ad-black-students…-charter-schools/…harter-schools…-it-s-managed/…arter-schools/…public-education…chool-teacher/
7/12/201756 minutes, 17 seconds