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28 Aug 14:35

The once and future goddess

by Mark Liberman

Geeta Pandey, "An 'English goddess' for India's down-trodden", BBC News 2/15/2011:

The Dalit (formerly untouchable) community is building a temple in Banka village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to worship the Goddess of the English language, which they believe will help them climb up the social and economic ladder.

About two feet tall, the bronze statue of the goddess is modelled after the Statue of Liberty.

"She is the symbol of Dalit renaissance," says Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit writer who came up with the idea of the Goddess of English.

"She holds a pen in her right hand which shows she is literate. She is dressed well and sports a huge hat – it's a symbol of defiance that she is rejecting the old traditional dress code.

"In her left hand, she holds a book which is the constitution of India which gave Dalits equal rights. She stands on top of a computer which means we will use English to rise up the ladder and become free for ever."



Chinki Sinha, "The English Goddess Who Went Away", Open 9/14/2013:

There could have been a black temple here. The entrance might have said ‘Paradise Lost’ after John Milton’s poem about man’s disobedience and ouster from the Garden of Eden. Milton intended the poem to justify the ways of God to men. There was no justification intended here. The temple was meant to celebrate the outcastes, the fallen—Paradise Lost would be a refuge. Within its walls, Dalits would chant ‘ABCD’ and solve mathematical equations. They would denounce other gods and goddesses who perpetuate caste barriers.

The goddess wore a hat, a gown, and had gold hair. She looked like a Statue of Liberty knock-off. Chandra Bhan Prasad, the man who created her, says there were modifications made to give the new goddess her own mythology. The Goddess of English held a keyboard and a pen. She was atop a computer on the screen of which was the chakra of the Buddhist faith. She also held the Constitution of India to cement her bond with the Dalit community because Dr BR Ambedkar, the Dalit scholar and leader, was its founding father.

Why was the temple to be black? Because people would have found it strange. It would provoke reaction and this goddess was all about reactions. Black is seen as evil. The goddess would redefine black, give it sanction, says Bhan. This was Paradise Lost. They would regain it. But nothing happened. The English goddess went as suddenly as she came.

Why? Well,

The goddess came but only just. After the first day, she was stacked away in the office of the headmaster and for a few days, remained there in hiding. The district administration shut the temple down because, it was rumoured, Mayawati, then Chief Minister, had said there could only be one Dalit goddess in the state. Bhan wrote to the administration asking for a reason and was told there was a Supreme Court directive that no temple should be built on public land without permission from the administration.

“We said this was private land, and they still said you can’t build it,” says Bhan. “They kept sending police officials. When we started building the roof, they came and stopped us.”

The goddess was transported to the house of the school owner in a nearby town. There she remains, hidden away till she can be installed once again. The expensive black granite that was bought for construction of the temple lies around unused. Rain pours down, washing away the dirt, and the stones glisten again. A dog seeks shelter in the old office from the rain. This is where the goddess had been moved after the police came to Banka and ordered that construction be stopped.

28 Aug 14:00

New Orleans after Katrina: An Uneven Recovery

by Lisa Wade, PhD

To mourn, commemorate, and celebrate the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  Photographer Ted Jackson returned to the site of some of his most powerful photographs, re-taking them to reveal the progress, or lack of progress, of the past nine years.

You can see them all at nola.com; I’ve pulled out three that speak to the uneven recovery that I see when I visit.

In this first photo, residents struggle to keep their heads above water by balancing on the porch railing of a home in the Lower 9th Ward, what was once a vibrant working class, almost entirely African American neighborhood. Today, the home remains dilapidated, as did one-in-four homes in New Orleans as of 2010.

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In the first photo of this second set, a man delivers fresh water to people stranded in the BW Cooper Housing Development, better known as the Calliope Projects.  Today, the housing development is awaiting demolition, having been mostly empty since 2005.  Some suspect that closing these buildings was an excuse to make it difficult or impossible for some poor, black residents to return.

34

This set of homes is  located in an upper-income part of the city.  The neighborhood, called Lakeview, suffered some of the worst flooding, 8 to 10 feet and more; it has recovered very well.

5 6

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

27 Aug 09:37

"A few years ago, I got a call on my cell phone from a twelve...



"A few years ago, I got a call on my cell phone from a twelve year old child from my village. He was calling me from a bus stop. He’d taken a bus into the city alone, and he was calling me to ask if I could help him find a way to go to school. Both of his parents had died of AIDS, and he had no money for tuition. I told him to stay where he was, and left work immediately to pick him up. At first I was very mad at him. He should not have travelled alone. But then I looked at him and I saw myself. I’d also been desperate to go to school after my father was killed, but we had no money. So even though I was suffering myself, I told him I would try to help him. My salary was not enough, so I tried many things to get the money. After work, I went to the landfill to hunt for recyclables. But after I paid to have them cleaned, there was no money left. Now I’m trying to make bricks. I have a small operation in the village to make bricks, and I sell them in the city. It doesn’t make much money, but it’s enough to pay tuition for the boy and three of his siblings.” 

(Kampala, Uganda)

27 Aug 09:30

"I was seven years old when it happened. It was about 9 pm...



"I was seven years old when it happened. It was about 9 pm at night. We heard the neighbors screaming so we knew that the rebels were in the village. There were many people visiting in my house at the time, so all the men gathered in the main room. We had no guns, only knives. Soon the dog started barking, then we heard footsteps, and then we heard a knock on the door. They started calling for my father to come out. We didn’t answer, so they started shooting into the house. Everyone pushed against the door to try to keep it closed, but they knocked it down. My father saw that he couldn’t run, so he gave himself up. They took him away. Then they gathered all the men and boys, and marched us out of the back of the house. My brother tried to jump and climb up on the roof, but they saw him and shot him. I knew I had to try something different, so I waited until we were rounding a corner, and I jumped into a bush, and I kept crawling until I reached the other side, then I got up and ran. I ran all the way to the neighbor’s house, but they turned me away and locked the door. So I hid all night in the graveyard. The next day I returned to my house. They’d taken everything. They dumped my sick mother onto the floor and took her mattress. I found my father’s body in the barn. They’d cut off his arms and his legs.”

(Kampala, Uganda)

25 Aug 20:34

W.E.B. DuBois on the Indifference of White America

by Lisa Wade, PhD

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W.E.B. DuBois (1934):

The colored people of America are coming to face the fact quite calmly that most white Americans do not like them, and are planning neither for their survival, nor for their definite future if it involves free, self-assertive modern manhood. This does not mean all Americans. A saving few are worried about the Negro problem; a still larger group are not ill-disposed, but they fear prevailing public opinion. The great mass of Americans are, however, merely representatives of average humanity. They muddle along with their own affairs and scarcely can be expected to take seriously the affairs of strangers or people whom they partly fear and partly despise.

For many years it was the theory of most Negro leaders that this attitude was the insensibility of ignorance and inexperience, that white America did not know of or realize the continuing plight of the Negro.  Accordingly, for the last two decades, we have striven by book and periodical, by speech and appeal, by various dramatic methods of agitation, to put the essential facts before the American people.  Today there can be no doubt that Americans know the facts; and yet they remain for the most part indifferent and unmoved.

- From “A Negro Nation Within a Nation.

Borrowed from an essay by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Photo from ibtimes.com.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

24 Aug 17:44

"Ponder this: our government is systematically collecting vast amounts of data and information on US..."

“Ponder this: our government is systematically collecting vast amounts of data and information on US citizens and foreigners around the world and analyzing it for threats. But it is not systematically collecting or analyzing information of US citizens killed by government authorities and actively blocks citizens who try.”

-

How many of these police killings are there?

21 Aug 23:37

lexrhetoricae: mercuryacejones: Latest positive news out of...











lexrhetoricae:

mercuryacejones:

Latest positive news out of Ferguson. Community coming together.

Teachers: Heroes.

22 Aug 15:30

90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor/Palestinian Rights Activist Arrested During Michael Brown Protest

by Virtually Yours

Hedy Epstein is a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, as well as a Palestinian rights activist, and she was arrested on Monday while participating in a protest relating to the murder of Michael Brown:

Epstein, who aided Allied forces in the Nuremberg trials, was placed under arrest in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, “for failing to disperse” during a protest of Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision to call the National Guard into Ferguson. Eight others were also arrested.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90,” Epstein told The Nation during her arrest. “We need to stand up today so that people won’t have to do this when they’re 90.”

Hedy is no stranger when it comes to activism and fighting for social justice:

In 2001 she founded the St. Louis chapter of the Women in Black anti-war group that originated in Israel, and has actively advocated for Palestinian rights since visiting the West Bank in 2003. As the last decade came to a close, Epstein continued her advocacy by traveling with the women’s peace advocacy group CodePink to the Gaza Freedom March.

In 2010, she was interviewed by The LA Times and discussed how she became a supporter of Palestinian rights:

How did you get interested in the Israel/Palestine issue?

I was born in Germany, I’m Jewish — after Hitler came to power, my parents realized very quickly that Germany was not a good place to raise a family. They were willing to go anywhere in the world, but one place they were not willing to go to was Palestine — they were anti-Zionists. As a child I didn’t quite understand this, but if my parents were anti-Zionist, I was anti-Zionist. I came to the U.S. in 1948, around the same time Israel became a state, about which I had mixed feelings. On the one hand it was a place for Holocaust survivors to go to, those who could not or did not want to return to their homes, but on the other, I considered my parents’ ardent anti-Zionism. While I was new in the U.S., Israel and Palestine remained on the back burner of my interests. In 1982, I heard about the massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon — I wanted to know who was responsible for this, what had happened between 1948 and 1982. As I learned more, I became increasingly disturbed by the policies of Israel and its military. Fast forward to 2003 — I was in the West Bank for the first time, and have been there five times since then.

How have people reacted to your decision to be an advocate for Palestinians?

It depends whom you’re talking to or whom you’re talking about. The mainstream, organized Jewish community, both locally and in other places, have called me anti-Semitic, a self-hating Jew. I’m not anti-Israel, but you’re not allowed to criticize Israel or else you’re anti-Semitic, and if you’re Jewish you’re a self-hating Jew. I don’t hate myself. You’re allowed to criticize every other country, including the U.S., but not Israel, why is that?

How do you think Israel will respond to nonviolence/direct action?

I don’t know. I hope they will be nonviolent. When I was in the West Bank, before I went, I was told that the Palestinians are going to hurt me, they are going to do awful things to me. But they were the ones that protected me. In one demonstration, in 2006, near Ramallah, I lost some of my hearing because an Israeli sound bomb went off very close to me. The Palestinians near me were very concerned. I was strip-searched, internally searched at Israel’s David Ben Gurion airport, I was told that “I was a terrorist, I’m a security risk.” An 80-year-old woman is a terrorist? What, do I have a bomb in my vagina?

Do you think there can be peace in Israel in the near future?

In the near future, no. I’m an inveterate optimist, so someday there will be peace, but a lot of things have to change before that happens. If the occupation were to stop overnight, it would make all the difference in the world. Israel is the fourth-largest military entity in the world. They have the newest equipment, and it’s used on the Palestinians. Also, if the U.S. stopped funding Israel, that would be another way of bringing about peace. We have humongous problems in this country, people are unemployed, losing their homes, we could use that money instead of overseas in a destructive way. Let’s use it constructively. I think we should let the people decide what they want instead of telling them what they should do.

If one were to look up the word “integrity” in the dictionary, there ought to be a picture of Hedy right there next to it!

HEDY FOR PRESIDENT OF EVERYTHING 2014

The post 90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor/Palestinian Rights Activist Arrested During Michael Brown Protest appeared first on disinformation.

22 Aug 20:24

Watch London Cops Subdue, Not Kill, a Man Yelling and Swinging a Machete

by Jay Livingston, PhD

Despite the cellphone video of two police officers killing Kajieme Powell, there is some dispute as to what happened (see this account in The Atlantic). Was Powell threatening them; did he hold the knife high; was he only three or four feet away? 

The video is all over the Internet, including the link above. I’m not going to include it here.  The officers get out of the car, immediately draw their guns, and walk towards Powell. Is this the best way to deal with a disturbed or possibly deranged individual – to confront him and then shoot him several times if he does something that might be threatening?

Watch the video, then watch London police confronting a truly deranged and dangerous man in 2011.  In St. Louis, Powell had a steak knife and it’s not clear whether he raised it or swung it at all.  The man in London has a machete and is swinging it about.


Unfortunately, the London video does not show us how the incident got started. By the time the recording begins, at least ten officers were already on the scene. They do not have guns. They have shields and truncheons. The London police tactic used more officers, and the incident took more time. But nobody died.  According to The Economist:

The police in and around Ferguson have shot and killed twice as many people in the past two weeks (Mr Brown plus one other) as the police in Japan, a nation of 127m, have shot and killed in the past six years. Nationwide, America’s police kill roughly one person a day.

The article includes this graphic:

1 (2)

I’m sure that the Powell killing will elicit not just sympathy for the St. Louis police but in some quarters high praise – something to the effect that what they did was a good deed and that the victims got what they deserved. But righteous slaughter is slaughter nevertheless. A life has been taken.<

You would think that other recent videos of righteous slaughter elsewhere in the world would get us to reconsider this response to killing. But instead, these seem only to strengthen tribal Us/Them ways of thinking. If one of Us who kills one of Them, then the killing must have been necessary and even virtuous.

Originally posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

22 Aug 14:00

Tuskegee Syphilis Study Recruitment Letter

by Gwen Sharp, PhD

Flashback Friday.

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is one of the most famous examples of unethical research. The study, funded by the federal government from 1932-1972, looked at the effects of untreated syphilis. In order to do this, a number of Black men in Alabama who had syphilis were misinformed about their illness. They were told they had “bad blood” (which was sometimes a euphemism for syphilis, though not always) and that the government was offering special free treatments for the condition. Here is an example of a letter sent out to the men to recruit them for more examinations:

The “special free treatment” was, in fact, nothing of the sort. The researchers conducted various examinations, including spinal taps, not to treat syphilis but just to see what its effects were. In fact, by the 1950s it was well established that a shot of penicillin would fully cure early-stage syphilis. Not only were the men not offered this life-saving treatment, the researchers conspired to be sure they didn’t find out about it, getting local doctors to agree that if any of the study subjects came in they wouldn’t tell them they had syphilis or that a cure was available.

The abusive nature of this study is obvious (letting men die slow deaths that could have been easily prevented, just for the sake of scientific curiosity) and shows the ways that racism can influence researchers’ evaluations of what is acceptable risk and whose lives matter. The Tuskegee experiment was a major cause for the emergence of human subjects protection requirements and oversight of federally-funded research once the study was exposed in the early 1970s. Some scholars argue that knowledge of the Tuskegee study increased African Americans’ distrust of the medical community, a suspicion that lingers to this day.

In 1997 President Clinton officially apologized for the experiment.

Originally posted in 2009.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

21 Aug 12:31

Welcome to America, where police shoot an unarmed black man six times – and then call him a villain

by Laurie Penny

What is happening in Ferguson is about more than Michael Brown and his family. It’s a shadow play of a national crisis in race relations and class repression.

Murder: a protester outside Buzz Westfall Justice Center where a jury began looking at the circumstances surrounding the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. Photo: Getty
Murder: a protester outside Buzz Westfall Justice Center where a jury began looking at the circumstances surrounding the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. Photo: Getty

“Please repeat, this is America,” I hear Elon James White say. Right now, I’m listening to live radio despatches from reporters choking through tear gas in Ferguson, Missouri. Their voices are muffled by gas masks and there is screaming in the background. For days, there has been a running battle between law enforcement and local protesters after a policeman shot a black teenager called Michael Brown.

At many of the protests, only one side had weapons. Peaceful demonstrations, with people holding up their hands – just as Brown is said to have done – have been met with tear gas and pepper spray. Journalists have been attacked and arrested. Amnesty International has sent observers.

I am struggling to hear the radio report over the industrial roar of an espresso machine and the smooth jazz drifting in through speakers. I am sitting in a hipster café in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The girl at the next table over from me has no idea where Ferguson is, or what is happening there, despite the battle for her country’s soul going on 1,200 miles away in the Midwest. She was unaware, until I brought it up in conversation, that on 9 August, an unarmed African-American teenager had been shot and killed by police. Outside, on a balmy, late-summer morning in a mainly white university town, with no police on the streets, life goes on as normal. Please repeat – this is America.

In Britain, we’ve seen this already. Almost exactly three years before the Ferguson protests broke out, the Metropolitan Police shot and killed an unarmed man, Mark Duggan, in Tottenham, north London. Peaceful demonstrations turned into several days of pandemonium as young people came out to loot shops and fight the police. Thousands of arrests were made and the government was hours away from sending in the army.

The protests in Ferguson are different in many ways from the 2011 English riots but there are also disturbing similarities: in August 2011, the official story was that the civil disorder had nothing to do with “real” politics, nothing to do with racist policing and repression. It was – in the words of the Home Secretary – “pure criminality”. It had nothing to do with class, or austerity, or the racial prejudice baked into both of those axes of oppression. Law enforcement was justified in making mass arrests and using extreme force to bring the situation under control – the only response to civil breakdown, then as now, was to bring in the big guns. And, as with the situation in Ferguson, everything hung on the character of the deceased.

In a fast-moving media situation, with people scared and looking for answers, the tide of public anger can sometimes be turned back if only it can be proved that the victim was armed – or, if he wasn’t armed, then that he looked armed. Or if he didn’t look armed, if he was just a terrified kid with his hands in the air, then he was a criminal thug who deserved to die.

In the weeks after the Tottenham riot, Mark Duggan’s reputation was summarily executed in the British press. Photos of the 29-year-old father with his face set in a thuggish snarl were plastered everywhere. It later emerged that this image had been cropped from a photo of Duggan standing by the grave of his baby daughter. The expression on his face was grief.

This month, Missouri police similarly attempted to retain control of the narrative. First, they claimed that Brown had attacked the officer who shot him. Autopsy reports showing that Brown was shot six times in the front went viral online. The story changed: Brown was portrayed as a bad kid who may have stolen cigars from a shop. Then footage emerged apparently showing him paying for the cigars. By this point, the world was watching the lies fall apart from one moment to the next.

What is happening in Ferguson is about more than Brown and his family. It’s a shadow play of a national crisis in race relations and class repression, as white police officers in battle gear place a largely African-American town under military occupation, using sound weapons and rubber bullets, suffocating the streets with tear gas. Its citizens crouch in lines with their hands up, wearing T-shirts emblazoned “Stop killing us”.

This isn’t just about Ferguson. It isn’t even just about America. It’s about the story of America, the story of capitalism as fair, stable and triumphant, and whether this can be sustained in a world whose certainties are lying in shards at the feet of the rich. The old story of a just superpower no longer holds. If there is no justice in Ferguson, how can there be justice in Fallujah? In Shejaiya?

For white Americans in sleepy university towns, life goes on as normal. The streets are clean and there are still bagels for breakfast. For everyone else, the jig is up. Social media is making all sorts of convenient fictions impossible to sustain. It remains to be seen if the idea of America as a just and mighty world policeman can survive the internet age – and what the consequences will be if it can’t.

Postscript

This will be my last column for the New Statesman, for now. I’ve been awarded a journalism fellowship by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, which prohibits me from doing regular writing elsewhere. It’s a unique opportunity for me to deepen my reading and become better at the work I love but I’ll miss the NS very much – it has been a privilege to work with this editorial team and to correspond with such an engaged and interesting cohort of readers.

I’ll return in June 2015. In the meantime, I absolutely promise not to pick up any bizarre American spelling conventions, as long as you all promise not to let the Tories back in. I hope we have a deal. 

20 Aug 20:51

"I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’ll say it....



"I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’ll say it. I’ve had a really hard time finding work, so I’ve been living with my grandmother. And she’s told me recently that she doesn’t have the money to feed me. So I’ve been eating at my friend’s house. I go over there, and I’m too embarrassed to ask for anything, but his dad always insists. He says: ‘Why aren’t you eating? Please, eat!’ This has really caused my idea of ‘family’ to widen. I’ve learned that your family can be anyone."

(Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

20 Aug 16:01

"There is a stigma in this country around women with jobs. So I...



"There is a stigma in this country around women with jobs. So I want to start an organization that provides girls in the Congo with examples of women around the world who have balanced family and career. Most men in this country think it’s only about money. They think: ‘If I make enough money for us to live, then my wife should take care of the children.’ The common belief is that a woman who works is hurting her children. People don’t realize that children also gain from the knowledge and experiences of their mother."
(Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

19 Aug 21:08

"I’m studying law. My dream is to be a judge one day. Too...



"I’m studying law. My dream is to be a judge one day. Too many people in this country are only in prison because they were too poor to defend themselves. When I’m a judge, I’ll look only at the facts, and not at the person."

(Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

19 Aug 17:32

"We don’t like pictures like this. It is not good to...



"We don’t like pictures like this. It is not good to deduce an entire country to the image of a person reaching out for food. It is not good for people to see us like this, and it is not good for us to see ourselves like this. This gives us no dignity. We don’t want to be shown as a country of people waiting for someone to bring us food. Congo has an incredible amount of farmland. An incredible amount of resources. Yes, we have a lot of problems. But food is not what we are reaching for. We need investment. We need the means to develop ourselves." 

(Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

15 Aug 23:00

"What are your hopes for them?""We left our hopes back in...



"What are your hopes for them?"
"We left our hopes back in Syria."
(Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan)

15 Aug 22:48

"One day I drove into the city to buy goods for my shop. I...



"One day I drove into the city to buy goods for my shop. I repaired antennas and satellite dishes, so I needed some replacement parts. But on the road there was a checkpoint for the Syrian government, and two soldiers came up to my car. They began to argue with each other. ‘Let’s take him,’ said one of them. 
'Let him go,' said the other. And they went back and forth, and back and forth. But finally the first man won the argument, and they took me out of my car, put a blindfold on me, and took me to jail. When I got to the jail, they began beating me with a cord. They asked me if I supported the rebels. I kept saying 'No,' but they kept beating me. They took off all my clothes. They said: 'We are going to whip you 35 times, and if you say 'ouch,' we will start from the beginning. They whipped me and kicked me and broke 3 of my ribs. 
They said: ‘Tell us how many soldiers you’ve killed.’ 
I said: ‘None.’
They said: ‘Tell us how many soldiers!”
I said: ‘None. I haven’t killed anyone.’
But they kept beating me and they ripped off my toenails and I screamed: ‘Eleven! Eleven! I killed eleven soldiers!’ So they put me into prison. But I never killed any soldiers. I never fought anyone. I’m a good person. I have a very sweet heart. You believe me when I tell you this, don’t you?”
(Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan)

15 Aug 12:09

SWATification

SWATification
n. The increase in the use and militarization of police SWAT teams.
SWATify v.
Example Citations:
SWAT team raids in the US have gone up 25-fold since 1980. Time’s recent article about the militarization of the police reports that “the federal government has funneled $4.3 billion of military property to law enforcement agencies since the late 1990s.”
—Mark Frauenfelder, “10 facts about the SWATification of the US,” BoingBoing, August 14, 2014
 

A striking recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union indicates that, as in Bergen County, policing is being militarized nationwide in all sorts of unsettling ways. It is, more precisely, being SWATified (a word that doesn’t yet exist, but certainly should).
—Tom Engelhardt, “Welcome to Kabul, USA,” The Huffington Post, August 14, 2014
 

Earliest Citation:
The shocking images of combat-ready officers battering their way into a private home are routine in America’s cities today thanks to the war on drugs, as well as the war on illegal immigration. All across the country, the SWATification of policing has led to a proliferation of special units trained to rely on aggressive tactics, barging into homes and swooping down on citizens with impunity
—Bonnie Bucqueroux, “When cops become combat troops,” Salon.com, May 2, 2000

Notes:
Thanks to Mark Worden for suggesting this timely word. The acronym SWAT — Special Weapons and Tactics — has been around since the late 1960s. The earliest use comes from a 1968 Time Magazine article:

Two hundred marksmen have been assigned to a squad named S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics), designed to pick off snipers and to eliminate, presumably, the need for indiscriminate police gunfire, which took innocent victims in Newark and Detroit last year.
—“Police: The Thin Blue Line,” Time, July 19, 1968

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14 Aug 14:00

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown Attacks Portrayals of Black Men Killed by Police

by Lisa Wade, PhD

This has been a hard week.  Another young, unarmed black man was killed by police. The Root added Michael Brown’s face to a slideshow of such incidents, started after a black man named Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold by officers less than one month ago.  This week’s guilty verdict in the trial of the man who shot Renisha McBride left me feeling numb.  Nothing good could come of it, but at least I didn’t feel worse.

The shooting of Michael Brown, however, is still undergoing trial by media and the verdict is swayed by the choices made by producers and directors as to how to portray him. When Marc Duggan was killed by police earlier this year, they often featured pictures in which he looked menacing, including ones that had been cropped in ways that enhanced that impression.

Left: Photo of Duggan frequently used by media; right: uncropped photo in which he holds a plaque commemorating his deceased daughter.

antonio_gramsci_by_ludilozezanje-d5eqwsv

As the media coverage of Brown’s death heated up, the image that first circulated of Brown was this:

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Reports state that this was his current Facebook profile picture, with the implication that media actors just picked the first or most prominent picture they saw.  Or, even, that somehow it’s Brown’s fault that this is the image they used.

Using the image above, though, is not neutrality.  At best, it’s laziness; they simply decided not to make a conscious, careful choice.  It’s their job to pick a photograph and I don’t know exactly what the guidelines are but “pick the first one you see” or “whatever his Facebook profile pic was on the day he died” is probably not among them.

There are consequential choices to be made.  As an example, here are two photos that have circulated since criticism of his portrayal began — the top more obviously sympathetic and the bottom more neutral:

2 3

Commenting on this phenomenon, Twitter user @CJ_musick_lawya released two photos of himself, hashtagged with #iftheygunnedmedown, and asked readers which photo they thought media actors would choose.

Top: Wearing a cap and gown with former President Clinton; bottom: in sunglasses posing with a bottle and a microphone.

1

The juxtaposition brilliantly revealed how easy it is to demonize a person, especially if they are a member of a social group stereotyped as violence-prone, and how important representation is.  It caught on and the imagery was repeated to powerful effect. A summary at The Root featured examples like these:

2 3 4

The New York Times reports that the hashtag has been used more than 168,000 times as of  August 12th.  I want to believe that conversations like these will educate and put pressure on those with the power to represent black men and all marginalized peoples to make more responsible and thoughtful decisions.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

12 Aug 18:56

"If you speak gently, you’ll find good people wherever you...



"If you speak gently, you’ll find good people wherever you go. If you find a bad person, just move on to the next person." (Petra, Jordan)

11 Aug 17:15

"I was going to one of my first exams, and suddenly there was a...



"I was going to one of my first exams, and suddenly there was a bombing. In downtown Damascus! I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t think this was possible. Windows were broken everywhere, and there were people on the ground, and the sounds of ambulances. Then over the next few weeks, everything changed. The taxis in the streets were replaced by tanks. You no longer knew who was your friend and who was your enemy. Suddenly you could be killed, and nobody would ask why. Before war, you have rights. People will ask why you were killed. When war comes, nobody asks why you were killed anymore." (Erbil, Iraq)

11 Aug 14:00

Can Lawmakers Only Make Laws that Corporations Allow?

by Jay Livingston, PhD

We refer to Senators and Congressional representatives as “lawmakers.” We democratically elect these people so that they can write and enact laws. But every so often the curtain parts, and we get a glimpse of who’s writing the laws, though these are usually laws that don’t make headlines. There was that time during the Bush years when corporate lobbyists were sitting right next to elected representatives – mostly Republican – at a committee hearing, telling them what to say.  The GOP defenders got all huffy at those who had pointed out who was really running the legislation show.

Last week’s New York Times has an article (here) about efforts to close loopholes in corporate tax laws.  Three-quarters of the way through the story, we get this paragraph (emphasis added):

Elaine C. Kamarck, the co-chairwoman of a bipartisan coalition of businesses and organizations that support a tax overhaul, says the only way a tax bill will pass is to use any savings derived from closing corporate loopholes solely to lower the overall corporate tax rate. The companies that have joined the coalition, which include Boeing, AT&T, Verizon, Walmart and Walt Disney, have agreed to put every loophole on the table, she said, because they believe “a low enough basic tax rate is worth giving up exemptions.”

The message is clear: our elected representatives can change the law only if a handful of corporations agree. Ms. Kamarck tells us that these corporations have selflessly allowed their tax dodges to be put “on the table.” Presumably, had they not been so magnanimous,  these corporations would not allow Congress to change the law.  She also implies that if the tradeoff – fewer exemptions but lower rates — doesn’t benefit the corporations, they’ll take their loopholes off the table and stop our elected representatives from changing the law.

Nice. I think that educators are so valuable to society that their income should not be taxed. But that table Ms. Kamarck mentions – the one where you tell Congress which tax rules you’ll accept – I can’t get anywhere near it.  So I pay my taxes. In fact, last year, I paid more in taxes than did Verizon and Boeing combined.  They, and several other huge corporations, paid zero.

I am, of course, naive to think that it was really Congress that wrote the laws that allow these corporations to pay nothing, and not the corporations themselves. How else?

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

10 Aug 23:08

"We just want to be together and not be afraid." (Erbil, Iraq)



"We just want to be together and not be afraid." (Erbil, Iraq)

10 Aug 22:13

"She always dreams about the bombs." (Erbil, Iraq)



"She always dreams about the bombs." (Erbil, Iraq)

09 Aug 21:35

“My parents were captured when I was sixteen. They both died in...



“My parents were captured when I was sixteen. They both died in prison.”
“What do you remember about the day they were taken?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do this. Can we stop?” 
(Shaqlawa, Iraq)

08 Aug 19:58

I normally go into my conversations with a set of proven...



I normally go into my conversations with a set of proven questions to ask, that I find will elicit a wide variety of anecdotes from people’s lives: happiest moment, saddest moment, things like that. But with people fleeing war, it is absolutely impossible to discuss anything beyond the present moment. Their circumstances are so overpowering, there is absolutely zero room in their minds for any other thoughts. The conversation immediately stalls, because any topic of conversation beyond their present despair seems grossly inappropriate. You realize that without physical security, no other layers of the human experience can exist. “All day they do is cry for home,” she told me. (Dohuk, Iraq)

08 Aug 18:21

The Ultimate Machine

by Greg Ross

Marvin Minsky invented this machine at Bell Labs in 1952:

Arthur C. Clarke wrote, “It sits on Claude Shannon’s desk driving people mad.”

08 Aug 17:00

Bloodswept Lands: Poppies Pour out of the Tower of London

by Steph
[ By Steph in Art & Installation & Sound. ]

Tower of London Poppies 1

Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red is the appropriately dramatic name for this incredible installation of red ceramic poppies pouring from an upper window into the dry moat around the Tower of London. A striking visual representation of loss, the work will ultimately consist of 888,246 blooms, each representing a British or Colonial military fatality.

Tower of London Poppies 2

Seen from a distance, the installation could be perceived as either a profusion of vitality in the form of out-of-control flowers, or a macabre river of blood.

Tower of London Poppies 3

Tower of London Poppies 4

Commemorating the centennial of Britain’s involvement in World War I, the installation continues to evolve as members of the public show their support by purchasing individual poppies.

Tower of London Poppies 5

Proceeds from the sale of each poppy will be shared among six service charities, including several that support the mental health and physical needs of veterans in the UK.

Tower of London Poppies 6

Tower of London Poppies 8

The flowers are being placed one at a time by volunteers, the process not set to be complete until November 11th. Progress on the installation can be tracked using the #TowerPoppies hashtag on Twitter.


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08 Aug 16:33

"I would give my soul if I could fix her brain." (Dohuk, Iraq)



"I would give my soul if I could fix her brain." (Dohuk, Iraq)

07 Aug 23:24

“They are taking control of the water supply. They are breaking...



“They are taking control of the water supply. They are breaking dams, and flooding crops, and destroying the food supply of an entire country. They are forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes. It seems that there is a hand behind all of this. They are very calculating. They are making their moves very carefully to destroy the human soul. They want to rob an entire people of food and water and homes, as if to wipe them from the pages of history. And when they take the homes from these people, the children have no place to play. The children have no place to be young. No physical space, and no emotional space. They have no place to be a child, so their only frame of reference is war and fighting. And when that’s all they know, how can they grow up to be doctors and teachers? All they can possibly know is the desire for revenge and hatred for their enemies. I wish people would understand that Iraq is filled with intelligent, civilized people. This was the cradle of civilization in the Ancient World. Even the Garden of Eden was here. These aren’t dust covered, nameless refugees being forced from their homes. The refugee camps are filled with architects, and musicians, and teachers.”