Category Archives: propaganda

The last meals of condemned prisoners

Brent Cunningham has a fascinating write up about last meals in Lapham’s Quarterly.   Consider some of the distancing methods articulated during the execution phase:

The last meal as a cultural phenomenon grew even as capital punishment faded from public view, and in less than two centuries the country has gone from grisly public hangings, in which the prisoner was sometimes unintentionally decapitated or left to suffocate, to lethal injection, the most common form of execution in America today, in which death is “administered.” The condemned are often sedated before execution. They are generally not allowed to listen to music, lest it induce an emotional reaction. Last words are sometimes delivered in writing, rather than spoken; if they are spoken, it might be to prison personnel rather than the witnesses. The detachment is so complete that when scholar Robert Johnson, for his 1998 book Death Work, asked an execution-team officer what his job was, the officer replied: “the right leg.”

via Last Meals – Lapham’s Quarterly.

Good observation that the act of eating the food provided by one’s killer is really a kind of communication to justify the act.

What unites these customs is an emphasis on the needs of the living, not just the dead; so too with last meals before an execution. When Susanna Margarethe Brandt sat down to the Hangman’s Meal, she signaled that she was cooperating in her own death—that she forgave those who judged her and was reconciled to her fate. Whether she actually made those concessions or not is beside the point; the officials who rendered and carried out her sentence could fall asleep that night with a clear conscience.

via Last Meals – Lapham’s Quarterly.

Thanks to Longreads for the suggestion.

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Filed under communication, food, memorial, prisons, propaganda, representation

Star Trek and the NSA and paywalls

picard finger

I think it is totally messed up that the NSA spy dude General Keith Alexander built a replica Start Trek: Enterprise bridge.  HEY REAL WORLD SURVEILLANCE WARMONGERS: leave my fiction alone.  Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing explains using a quote from a Foreign Affairs article:*

When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a “whoosh” sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather “captain’s chair” in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

via Replica Enterprise bridge used to sell surveillance to Congress – Boing Boing.

*I couldn’t read the actual article because Foreign Affairs paywall was so dominating.  I guess I’ll have to read it via the school library server.  You know, paywall-mass-media-publication people: most of the nerdy people would read FOREIGN AFFAIRS probably can get a copy through their library.

It is convenient that I can follow the link from the Boing Boing article to the essay in question.  But if I open another tab, log into my school account, finding the article is a matter of a few more links.  So be honest, paywall-media-people, what you are selling is convenience.

Charge me convenience prices.  I just want to read one story.  Let me  drop ten cents (or a quarter!) of hard-earned digital cash for a nice story.  I don’t want to sign up, I want to pay for something the way you used to be able to buy a newspaper and not have to give your vital information.  Please mass media sources, get with the 2000s and make portions of your insightful work available to the public at reasonable prices.

And kick some of that digital cash to support investigative journalism.

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Filed under human rights, media, propaganda, representation, Surveillance

Systematic racism: RIP Trayvon Martin

Like most other thoughtful people I had little to contribute to the public discussion about the killing of Trayvon Martin.  I deleted an initial angry post that included a forceful discussion of systematic racism and some very inflammatory graphics.

I think I should have kept that angry post.

Systematic racism: hierarchy between races is built into our educational system, governmental policy, policing, and amplified in mass media.  Systematic racism means that you might learn prejudice and not think  that you were prejudiced.

Most people could identify a time in the past where their nation embodied systematic racism.  Maybe . . . it’s still bad?  Can we acknowledge that we teach exclusion and sustain privilege in a little cushion of bogus justifications?

The Trayvon Martin case suggests that the forces which amplify ignorance and hatred have been more effective than those of us proposing compassion and critical thinking.

Juror B37 who has given an interview about her reasoning about the case and her justifications are simply terrifying.   Here are a handful of quotes organized and archived by Igor Volsky at Thinkprogress.

1. Martin was responsible for his own death.

JUROR: It was just hard, thinking that somebody lost their life, and there’s nothing else that could be done about it. I mean, it’s what happened. It’s sad. It’s a tragedy this happened, but it happened. And I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into. I think both of them could have walked away. It just didn’t happen.

2. Juror felt just as sorry for Zimmerman.

COOPER: Do you feel sorry for Trayvon Martin?

JUROR: I feel sorry for both of them. I feel sorry for Trayvon, in the situation he was in. And I feel sorry for George because of the situation he got himself in.

3. Zimmerman should continue to serve as a neighborhood watchman because he has learned his lesson about going too far.

COOPER: Is George Zimmerman somebody you would like to have on a neighborhood watch in your community?

JUROR: If he didn’t go too far. I mean, you can always go too far. He just didn’t stop at the limitations that he should have stopped at.

COOPER: So is that a yes or — if he didn’t go too far. Is he somebody prone, you think, to going too far? Is he somebody you would feel comfortable —

JUROR: I think he was frustrated. I think he was frustrated with the whole situation in the neighborhood, with the break-ins and the robberies. And they actually arrested somebody not that long ago. I — I mean, I would feel comfortable having George, but I think he’s learned a good lesson.

COOPER: So you would feel comfortable having him now, because you think he’s learned a lesson from all of this?

JUROR: Exactly. I think he just didn’t know when to stop. He was frustrated, and things just got out of hand.

4. Verdict hinged on “Stand Your Ground” law, even though Zimmerman did not use it in his defense.

COOPER: Because of the two options you had, second degree murder or manslaughter, you felt neither applied?

JUROR: Right. Because of the heat of the moment and the Stand Your Ground. He had a right to defend himself. If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.

5. Zimmerman was only guilty of using poor judgment and was “egged” on to follow Martin by the 9/11 operator.

COOPER: Do you think he’s guilty of something?

JUROR: I think he’s guilty of not using good judgment. When he was in the car and he called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car. But the 911 operator also, when he was talking to him, kind of egged him on.

6. Race played absolutely no factor in Zimmerman’s profiling of Martin.

JUROR: I think just circumstances caused George to think that he might be a robber, or trying to do something bad in the neighborhood because of all that had gone on previously. There were unbelievable, a number of robberies in the neighborhood.

COOPER: So you don’t believe race played a role in this case?

JUROR: I don’t think it did. I think if there was another person, Spanish, white, Asian, if they came in the same situation where Trayvon was, I think George would have reacted the exact same way.

COOPER: Why do you think George Zimmerman found Trayvon Martin suspicious then?

JUROR: Because he was cutting through the back, it was raining. He said he was looking in houses as he was walking down the road. Kind of just not having a purpose to where he was going. He was stopping and starting. But I mean, that’s George’s rendition of it, but I think the situation where Trayvon got into him being late at night, dark at night, raining, and anybody would think anybody walking down the road stopping and turning and looking, if that’s exactly what happened, is suspicious. And George said that he didn’t recognize who he was.

COOPER: Well, was that a common belief on the jury that race was not — that race did not play a role in this?

JUROR: I think all of us thought that race did not play a role. […]

COOPER: It didn’t come up, the question of, did George Zimmerman profile Trayvon Martin because he was African-American?

JUROR: No, I think he just profiled him because he was the neighborhood watch, and he profiled anyone who came in acting strange. I think it was just circumstances happened that he saw Trayvon at the exact time that he thought he was suspicious.

7. Zimmerman’s history of reporting black men to the police and his decision to follow Martin played no role in the verdict.

COOPER: So whether it was George Zimmerman getting out of the vehicle, whether he was right to get out of the vehicle, whether he was a wannabe cop, whether he was overeager, none of that in the final analysis, mattered. What mattered was those seconds before the shot went off, did George Zimmerman fear for his life?

JUROR: Exactly. That’s exactly what happened.

via 7 Mind Blowing Moments From Zimmerman Juror B37’s First Interview | ThinkProgress.

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Filed under communication, disaster, human rights, propaganda, race, representation

Juxtaposition: Nike

Artifact one: Cambodian Nike factory fires 300 striking workers. 

Around 300 workers on strike for better pay at a Nike factory in Cambodia have lost their jobs. A union spokesperson said the fired workers’ dismissal letters cited their involvement in the strike, which seeks a wage hike of $14 a month. Although the vast majority of the factory’s 5,000 workers have taken part in the strike, many have begun returning to work after over three weeks off the job. It’s the 48th strike by Cambodian garment workers this year, more than in the entire years of 2010 or 2011.

via Headlines for June 12, 2013 | Democracy Now!.

Artifact two: Nike Air Foamposite One

Nike’s showing no signs of slowing down with Foam releases, but why should they? The Foamposite One’s received a ton of love at retail for the past year with even the most absurd color schemes ending up selling well. And when this sport royal-game royal-wolf grey colorway hits retail – especially in a hue that’s Orlando-themed – they’re likely to join the ranks of this year’s most wanted footwear.

via Coming Attractions: Nike Air Foamposite One “Sport Royal” | The Smoking Section.

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Filed under colonialism, fashion, human rights, juxtaposition, propaganda, resistance

50 worst charities

The Tampa Bay Tribune has a bone-chilling series of investigative reports on sketchy charities.   Salute to primary researchers Kris Hundley and Kendall Taggart for the year-long project.  A little stomach-churning taste:

Collectively the 50 worst charities raised more than $1.3 billion over the past decade and paid nearly $1 billion of that directly to the companies that raise their donations.

If that money had gone to charity, it would have been enough to build 20,000 Habitat for Humanity homes, buy 7 million wheelchairs or pay for mammograms for nearly 10 million uninsured women.

Instead it funded charities like Youth Development Fund.

The Tennessee charity, which came in at No. 12, has been around for 30 years. Over the past decade it has raised nearly $30 million from donors by promising to educate children about drug abuse, health and fitness.

About 80 percent of what’s donated each year goes directly to solicitation companies.

Most of what’s left pays for one thing: scuba-diving videos starring the charity’s founder and president, Rick Bowen.

Bowen’s charity pays his own for-profit production company about $200,000 a year to make the videos. Then the charity pays to air Rick Bowen Deep-Sea Diving on a local Knoxville station. The program makes no mention of Youth Development Fund.

via America’s 50 worst charities rake in nearly $1 billion for corporate fundraisers Dirty secrets of the worst charities | Tampa Bay Times.

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Filed under capitalism, health, learning, media, propaganda, representation

Not everyone has access to the same technology

Jen Schradie on the digital divide.  Thanks to Cyborgology via the Society Pages.

6. But aren’t people from marginalized communities “leapfrogging” over desktops, laptops and even tablets by using their mobile phones?

As Sociologist Sheila Cotton put it, “Could you type a 10 page paper on your phone?” However smart it might be, newer, smaller, sleeker gadgets, such as the iPad mini, are designed more for consumption, rather than producing and engaging with online content. Certainly, many people are tweeting and posting status updates with their smart phones, but class divisions are stark both domestically and worldwide for smart phone, rather than mobile phone access. And mobile devices are not always “smart.” As I have argued, having online access at a variety of locations (i.e. home and work) and owning a lot of gadgets allows people to control the means of digital production and have the autonomy for high levels of Internet use. One cell phone doesn’t cut it.

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Filed under academics, capitalism, communication, learning, media, propaganda, representation, technology

Flex! University articulation of labor as duty

The Feminist Wire comes through with a nice write up about academic labor.  Here Paul Seltzer, a GW Women’s Studies major, articulates the painful implications of the academic culture which insists on students and faculty suffering in order to retain connection to the school.

Flexible instructors and flexible students, dependent upon the corporate university for a wage and a future, are those whose labors and bodies stretch to satisfy the requirements that would make them valued members of the university’s community, less at-risk to a budget cut here or a rise in tuition there.  Flexibility means that when the corporate university applies such pressures, instructors and students will bend as much as they can so that they will not snap.  Sure, I can teach another class for minimal pay.  Sure, I will work freshman orientation in return for free housing.  Sure, I will go into debt.

I observe in my own academic life that the credibility of the institution is used to help justify these kinds of decisions.

 

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Filed under academics, capitalism, feminism, health, learning, propaganda, representation, resistance