October 2, 2013

Now we have the real reason for the decline in newspaper revenue

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:25

If you guessed “the internet” — particularly the internet sites that ate the classified ad business alive — you’re apparently wrong. The real culprit is … an amazingly old-fashioned racist and sexist stereotype:

For years, we’ve talked about the ridiculousness with which many old school journalists want to blame the internet (or, more specifically Google or Craigslist) for the troubles some in the industry have had lately. It is a ridiculous claim. Basically, newspapers have survived for years on a massive inefficiency in information. What newspapers did marginally well was bring together a local community of interest, take their attention, and then sell that attention. What many folks in the news business still can’t come to terms with is the fact that there are tons of other communities of attention out there now, so they can’t slide by on inefficiencies like they did in the past.

Either way, it’s always nice to see some in the industry recognize that blaming the internet is a mistake. However, Chris Powell, the managing editor for the Journal Inquirer in Connecticut’s choice of a different culprit doesn’t seem much more on target. Powell, who it appears, actually does have a journalism job (I can’t fathom how or why) published an opinion piece (found via Mark Hamilton and Mathew Ingram) that puts the blame squarely on… single mothers. Okay, not just any single mothers:

    Indeed, newspapers still can sell themselves to traditional households — two-parent families involved with their children, schools, churches, sports, civic groups, and such. But newspapers cannot sell themselves to households headed by single women who have several children by different fathers, survive on welfare stipends, can hardly speak or read English, move every few months to cheat their landlords, barely know what town they’re living in, and couldn’t afford a newspaper subscription even if they could read. And such households constitute a rising share of the population.

September 22, 2013

The lasting influence of the Frankfurt School

Filed under: History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:00

Lee Stranahan talks about the Frankfurt School’s continuing importance in modern liberal thought:

For a decade, the Southern Poverty Law Center and others on the left have been trying to hide and distract from one of the main origins of both radical academia and media hostility towards capitalism: the ideology of cultural Marxism and Critical Theory that arose from the Frankfurt School.

The SPLC and others dismiss the facts about the German think-tank and its subsequent influence in America as a conspiracy theory. Understanding these attacks is an object lesson in how the left creates self-sustaining mythology by demonizing the people who dare expose their ideology while misdirecting their own followers as to the real story behind liberal ideas.

Organizations on the institutional left such as the Southern Poverty Law Center didn’t just appear out of nowhere or in an ideological vacuum. The SPLC in particular has a specific role of designating organizations as ‘hate groups’, often smearing mainstream conservatism by falsely tying it to tiny, violent and racist organizations.

The SLPC’s designation of what does and doesn’t constitute a hate group has clear foundations in the world of academic political correctness and censoring of speech it considers ‘racist, sexist and homophobic’; all terms that it defines in leftist terms and very selectively. For example, in the wake of last year’s shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council, the SLPC went out of their way to double down on it’s claim that the FRC is a ‘hate group.’

Even political correctness, however, didn’t just suddenly pop up out of thin air; it has its basis in a group of academic Marxist philosophers that came together in Germany between World War I and World War II called the Frankfurt School. Their cultural Marxist approach would go on to have a profound influence in the United States after many in the Frankfurt school fled Germany and came to America in the 1930s.

August 27, 2013

Martin Luther King and the American Dream

Filed under: History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:21

Brendan O’Neill on MLK’s most famous speech:

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, made on the Mall in Washington, DC on 28 August 1963. Re-reading the speech 50 years on, the most striking thing about it is how much faith it puts in the American Dream. Where today it is positively hip to be disdainful of all things American, to look upon America as a land of shopping addicts and fat rednecks, King and his listeners were passionately devoted to the idea of America and an American project. Using tellingly capitalistic lingo, King said of those gathered that “we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” King said that his dream, of racial equality, was “deeply rooted in the American Dream”.

Not for King the fashionable disgust for America’s obsession with consumerism and wealth. On the contrary, he said blacks were sick of living on “the lonely island of poverty” and longed to wade in America’s “vast ocean of material prosperity”. Not for King any sneering at America’s promise of wealth and opportunity to its citizens — “now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children”, he said. Not for King any mocking of the founding fathers of America, who have in recent years been judged by radical Leftists to have been racist and evil (in the words of The Nation magazine just last month, Thomas Jefferson was a “slave-owning rapist”). Instead, King extolled the “magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence” and talked about all men’s “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

In the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of King’s speech, there’s been a great deal of debate about what has changed, especially for America’s blacks. But perhaps the most sweeping, dramatic change has been in attitudes towards the very idea of America. Today, cheap anti-Americanism is the glue that holds so-called liberals and radicals together. Tapping one’s toe to the Green Day song “American Idiot” while laughing knowingly at the fallacy of the American Dream is what passes for being edgy these days. Both within and without America, many Leftish activists and serious thinkers view America as dumb, fat, polluting, reckless and unwittingly hilarious, founded by narcissists and drunks, a “greedy and overweening power”, as the New Statesman said in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

August 14, 2013

QotD: Our Postmodern Angst

Filed under: History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

Much has been written about Rachel Jeantel, routinely described as the prosecution’s “star witness” in the George Zimmerman trial, almost as if she were some sort of new-generation civil-rights icon. Jeantel has been variously praised by liberals for her street smarts, and lamented by conservatives as emblematic of the tragic detours of the Great Society. Both agree that in some sense she is a victim of the social forces that for decades now have been forging an underclass.

Perhaps — but from her testimony and her post-trial interviews for hire, we learned that Ms. Jeantel was confident and savvy about using electronic media while at the same time apparently illiterate, given that she could not read “cursive.” Yet whose fault is it that she preferred to post obscenities rather than scroll over to a book? Jeantel’s worldview appears anti-liberal to the core. She admitted that her original testimony under oath was not fully accurate: Trayvon Martin, we now learn, wanted to “whoop ass” and so threw the first blow against Zimmerman. Yet Jeantel did not say that at the trial; she was quite willing to see the defendant convicted on false testimony.

Jeantel was unapologetic about her use of “retarded” as a putdown, her preposterous homophobic accusations that George Zimmerman could have been some sort of crazed gay rapist, and her casual use of slurs like “bitch,” “nigga,” and “crazy ass cracker.” True, Jeantel is impoverished and no doubt “underserved” by a host of government agencies entrusted with providing support to the less well off. Yet by both past American and present global standards, she is not victimized in the sense of suffering hunger, unaddressed health problems, or lack of access to technology.

In today’s topsy-turvy world, we are to emphasize the untruth that Ms. Jeantel is poor in the Dickensian sense, while ignoring the truth that her matter-of-fact worldview is by contemporary liberal benchmarks homophobic, racist, and misogynistic — and entirely contrary to the race-blind meritocracy that a much poorer, much more heroic generation of civil-rights leaders once sacrificed for.

From 1619 to 1865, African-Americans in a large region of North America were enslaved. For the century following the Civil War, they were deprived in the South of civil rights that were supposed to be accorded citizens of the United States, and elsewhere were often subjected to insidious racism. In the last half-century, a vast private effort has sought to change the American psyche while a vast public one has used government resources to attempt to redress racist legacies. These are elemental issues of good and evil that are at the heart of the human experience and must continue to be addressed — but not in the manner of our era of psychodramatic trivialization.

Victor Davis Hanson, “Our Postmodern Angst”, National Review, 2013-08-13

July 31, 2013

Even police chiefs can get racially profiled

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:17

An absolutely fascinating story in the New York Daily News. (It’s from several years back, but brought to my attention today by Radley Balko):

At least one cop has been disciplined for ordering the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed black officer out of his auto while the three-star chief was off-duty and parked in Queens, the Daily News has learned.

“How you can not know or recognize a chief in a department SUV with ID around his neck, I don’t know,” a police source said.

Chief Douglas Zeigler, 60, head of the Community Affairs Bureau, was in his NYPD-issued vehicle near a fire hydrant when two plainclothes cops approached on May 2, sources said.

One officer walked up on each side of the SUV at 57th Ave. and Xenia St. in Corona about 7 p.m. and told the driver to roll down the heavily tinted windows, sources said.

What happened next is in dispute.

July 24, 2013

In spite of all the overheated rhetoric, there’s good news about race and crime in the US

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:58

Radley Balko looks behind the scripted talking points to get at the actual data they’re ignoring:

Civil rights leaders and progressive activists have cited Zimmerman’s acquittal and the proliferation of robust self-defense laws as evidence of a “war on black men” — or, similarly, that it’s now “open season on black men.” Meanwhile, Zimmerman supporters and many on the political right have used the case to bring up old discussions of black-on-black murders in places like Chicago, and to argue that violence in black America is spiraling out of control. Both positions are cynical, and both tend to pit black and white America against one another.

But both are also wrong on the facts.

First, about the alleged “war on black men.” The argument here is that laws like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” are encouraging white vigilantism, and moving white people to shoot and kill black people at the slightest provocation. But there just isn’t any data to support the contention. Black homicides have been falling since the mid-1990s (as have all homicides). Moreover, according to a 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, more than 90 percent of black murder victims are killed by other black people. And if we look at interracial murder, there are about twice as many black-on-white murders as the other way around, and that ratio has held steady for decades.

However, it also isn’t true that black America is growing increasingly violent. Again, black homicides, like all homicides, are in a steep, 20-year decline. In fact, the rates at which blacks both commit and are victims of homicide have shown sharper declines than those of whites. It’s true that Chicago has had an unusually violent last few years, but this is an anomaly among big American cities. The 2012 murder rate in Washington, D.C., for example, hit a 50-year low. Violent crime in New York and Los Angeles is also falling to levels we haven’t seen in decades.


To get to the more sensational conclusion, the article considers interracial homicide as a percentage of total homicides. And indeed, measured that way the “rate” of interracial murder has gone up. But it’s an odd way to measure. The vast, vast majority of murders are intraracial. And, as noted, those murders have been dropping considerably. The interracial murder rate has been dropping, too. According to the Scripps Howard review, the raw number of black-on-white and white-on-black murders combined was about the same in 2010 as it was in the early 1980s. But the United States population has grown considerably in that time, from 227 million in 1980, to 315 million today. So if you measure it the way all other crime is measured, the interracial murder rate has dropped, not increased.

July 23, 2013

San Francisco TV station tries using DMCA to hide embarrassing clip

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

At Wired, David Kravets reports on San Francisco’s KTVU and their attempt to hide the newscast where they “identified” the pilot and crew of Asiana flight 214:

While many of the videos of the segment were still live on Google-owned YouTube, the reason why the Fox affiliate has been demanding their removal doesn’t concern copyright.

“The accidental mistake we made was insensitive and offensive. By now, most people have seen it. At this point, continuing to show the video is also insensitive and offensive, especially to the many in our Asian community who were offended. Consistent with our apology, we are carrying through on our responsibility to minimize the thoughtless repetition of the video by others,” the station’s general manager and vice president, Tom Raponi, told Mediabistro today.

More than 180 were injured and three were killed July 6 when the Boeing 777 slammed on the tarmac.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, owners of websites where the content is user-generated are obligated to remove copyrighted material at the rights holder’s request, or face the same potential penalties as the uploader. A successful copyright lawsuit carries damages as high as $150,000 per violation.

July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman trial

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:21

I haven’t written anything about the Zimmerman trial in Florida, and (I just checked) haven’t linked to anything about it either. I don’t watch TV, so I managed to avoid the round-the-clock coverage on US networks, too. As a result, I’m less surprised at the jury’s decision than a lot of people seem to be. For my fellow (in this case) low-information readers, Doug Mataconis wraps up the trial:

… I really don’t see the kind of instant trial analysis that was occurring on each of the cable networks covering the case to be of any value. Indeed, I think that kind of analysis tends to cloud the way that viewers see the case because, unlike the jurors, they are being exposed not just to what unfolds when the camera shows witness testimony but also what they analysts, both pro-defense and pro-prosecution, are telling them. The feeling was reinforced as I watched this case being discussed on social media over the past three weeks and it became apparent to me that many people had already made up their minds about Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence and were viewing the case accordingly. Rulings that Judge Debra Nelson, the presiding Judge, made that were in favor of one side or the others were viewed as being part of some conspiracy. Even when she denied the Defense’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal at the end of the State’s case, something that happens in pretty much every criminal case given that Judges are loathe to take a case out of a jury’s hands unless there’s simply no evidence to support guilt, it was seen by Zimmerman supporters as a sign that he was the victim of a judicial set-up.

Now, while I didn’t watch all of the trial, I have watched portions of it, and read about day-to-day events elsewhere to form some basic impressions. Based on that, I’ve got to say that I don’t find this outcome surprising. From the beginning, my general impression was that the prosecution’s case was weak, especially for 2nd Degree Murder, which I never thought was an appropriate charge to begin with since they never seemed to be able to prove the intent element of that crime. Indeed, several of the witnesses that the State called, from police investigators to at least two of the neighbors that acted in response to signs of a struggle outside their homes that fateful night, seemed to be more helpful to Zimmerman’s self-defense claim than they were to establishing the elements of either the primary charge of 2nd Degree Murder or the lesser included offense of Manslaughter. Additionally, the prosecutors chose to put into evidence several statements that Zimmerman had voluntarily given to the Sanford Police Department about the incident that night, including a video he participated in the day after the incident in which he walked through his version of what happened the night before with investigating detectives. While there were some minor inconsistencies between several of these statements, none of those inconsistencies seemed extreme enough to doubt his credibility and all of them were consistent with the basic outline of his story that Martin attacked him first, they ended up on the ground with Martin punching him, and that he only ended up shooting Martin when he thought his life was in jeopardy. Additionally, several of the State’s witnesses just seemed to hurt their case — including their so-called “star” witness Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Martin moments before his encounter with Zimmerman, and Medical Examiner Shiping Bao, whose testimony came across very badly compared to the expert that the Defense had hired, Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a nationally recognized pathologist.

In the end, as always, it was the state’s burden to prove that George Zimmerman was guilty of the charges against him beyond a reasonable doubt. By the time the case came to an end, there seemed to be a general consensus among observers that they had not done so, most certainly not with regard to 2nd Degree Murder and that the odds of getting a Manslaughter conviction seemed to slip away as well. Although I had assumed for a long time that Zimmerman would have to take the stand in his defense in order to fully be able to relate the self-defense theory to the jury, that proved to not be necessary are at all thanks largely to the fact that the prosecution had put all of Zimmerman’s previous statements to law enforcement into evidence. So, it was no surprise when he told the Judge shortly before the defense rested that he would not be testifying. There really wasn’t any need for him to do so and, in terms of the risks of cross-examination, the risks were far too great. Instead, his attorneys put on a defense that poked holes in the remaining parts of the state’s case. Additionally, while both sides put on strong closing statements, defense attorney Mark O’Mara’s was a tutorial in the touchstone of criminal defense attorneys, reasonable doubt, and it was obviously enough to convince the jury. Adding all of that together, we had a case where the state simply failed to meet its burden notwithstanding being represented by a trio of attorneys who were quite skilled, and quite passionate in presentation of the case the were given.

Update: An actual Florida lawyer asks for the media to do a few simple things:

3. HLN, get rid of Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell. They are not legal commentators helping the public understand our important, essential, and treasured criminal justice system. Neither are many of their guests who should never be asked back. There are 95,000 lawyers in Florida, there is no reason a lawyer from another state who doesn’t know Florida law needs to be on daily telling everyone “I don’t practice in Florida, I don’t know Florida law” just because they can yell. Their daily display of drama may be what you believe to be the “First Amendment,” but it is also pathetic, and making people dumber and angrier.

4. CNN needs to send Sonny Hostin and Gloria Allred packing. First of all Piers Morgan, this is a criminal trial in Florida. Why is the only guest you continue to have on is someone from California that doesn’t practice criminal law and is known for representing, at press conferences, women victims? What could she possibly have to offer about this case?

And CNN, especially Anderson Cooper, get rid of Sonny Hostin. This woman was a prosecution shill from the beginning of this trial, struggling to say anything positive about the defense. Last night, after the verdict, she said “justice took the day off.” She wasn’t there to provide commentary, she was shilling for the state. She should have disclosed from the beginning that she desperately wanted a conviction, that way it would have been easier to listen to her biased commentary. She’s terrible and should never be asked to appear in the media again when there is an important trial.

5. The media, especially TV, needs to start vetting their guests. I know these are lawyers with agents, but they’ve never been in a criminal courtroom, or at least not since they spent a year as a prosecutor in 1978. Can you not find lawyers that actually know what they are talking about? Piers Morgan is asking Gloria Allred what she would do in opening in the Zimmerman case? I have a better question, Gloria, when is the last time you gave an opening statement, in any case?

July 13, 2013

TV station pranked

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

TV station KTVU actually reported that the flight crew on board crash-landed Asiana flight 214 were:

TV station pranked

Deadspin has more, including the video clip:

Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU purportedly learned the names of the flight crew of Asiana flight 214, which crashed last Saturday at San Francisco International Airport, killing two. These — “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow” — are not their names. The newscaster’s credulous reading puts it over the top.

H/T to Doug Mataconis for the link.

Update: Dave Owens offered the following explanation on one of my mailing lists:

What’s even more awful is that an intern at the NTSB gave them the names.

I imagine he’s a former intern now.

NTSB has apologized.

Update, 15 July: Asiana Airlines has lawyered up over the incident.

Asiana is suing KTVU-TV to ‘strongly respond to its racially discriminatory report’, Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said.

She said the airline will likely file suit in U.S. courts. KTVU-TV did not immediately reply to emails sent by The Associated Press seeking comment.

The station was quick to correct the gaffe after an ad break following the humiliating broadcast, clarifying the names were clearly wrong and blaming the NTSB for the incorrect information.

Update, 29 July: Korean newscasters get a bit of revenge:

It looks like a Korean news agency is having some fun at KTVU’s expense. After the landing gear failure of the Southwest flight at LGA they showed this graphic with American pilot names “Captain Kent Parker Wright”, “Co-Captain Wyatt Wooden Workman”.

They even went as far as making up fake names for people to interview. Flight instructor “Heywood U. Flye-Moore” and skeptical passenger “Macy Lawyers”.

H/T to Tabatha Southey for the link.

May 26, 2013

The war on drugs is “a holocaust in slow motion”

Filed under: Health, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:33

To my surprise, the creator of the TV series The Wire has come out against legalization of marijuana:

David Simon surged into the American mainstream with a bleak vision of the devastation wrought by drugs on his home town of Baltimore — The Wire, hailed by many as the greatest television drama of all time. But what keeps him there is his apocalyptic and unrelenting heresy over the failed “war on drugs”, the multibillion-dollar worldwide crusade launched by President Richard Nixon in 1971.

When Simon brought that heresy to London last week — to take part in a debate hosted by the Observer — he was inevitably asked about what reformers celebrate as recent “successes” — votes in Colorado and Washington to legalise marijuana.

“I’m against it,” Simon told his stunned audience at the Royal Institution on Thursday night. “The last thing I want to do is rationalise the easiest, the most benign end of this. The whole concept needs to be changed, the debate reframed.

“I want the thing to fall as one complete edifice. If they manage to let a few white middle-class people off the hook, that’s very dangerous. If they can find a way for white kids in middle-class suburbia to get high without them going to jail,” he continued, “and getting them to think that what they do is a million miles away from black kids taking crack, that is what politicians would do.”

If marijuana were exempted from the war on drugs, he insisted, “it’d be another 10 or 40 years of assigning people of colour to this dystopia.”

[. . .]

Simon took no prisoners. In his vision, the war on — and the curse of — drugs are inseparable from what he called, in his book, The Death of Working Class America, the de-industrialisation and ravaging of cities that were once the engine-rooms and, in Baltimore’s case, the seaboard of an industrial superpower.

The war is about the disposal of what Simon called, in his most unforgiving but cogent term, “excess Americans”: once a labour force, but no longer of use to capitalism. He went so far as to call the war on drugs “a holocaust in slow motion”.

Simon said he “begins with the assumption that drugs are bad”, but also that the war on drugs has “always proceeded along racial lines”, since the banning of opium.

It is waged “not against dangerous substances but against the poor, the excess Americans,” he said, and with striking and subversive originality, posited the crisis in stark economic terms: “We do not need 10-12% of our population; they’ve been abandoned. They don’t have barbed wire around them, but they might as well.”

May 3, 2013

Has society’s immune system fallen victim to a variant of the Hygiene Hypothesis?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:43

An interesting take from Jonah Goldberg:

Is the American body politic suffering from an autoimmune disease?

The “hygiene hypothesis” is the scientific theory that the rise in asthma and other autoimmune maladies stems from the fact that babies are born into environments that are too clean. Our immune systems need to be properly educated by being exposed early to germs, dirt, whatever. When you consider that for most of human evolutionary history, we were born under shady trees or, if we were lucky, in caves or huts, you can understand how unnatural Lysol-soaked hospitals and microbially baby-proofed homes are. The point is that growing up in a sanitary environment might cause our immune systems to freak out about things that under normal circumstances we’d just shrug off.

Hence, goes the theory, the explosion in asthma rates in the industrialized world, the rise in peanut and wheat allergies and, quite possibly, the spike in autism rates. There’s also a puzzling explosion in autoimmune diseases. That’s where the body attacks healthy organs or tissues as if they were deadly invaders.

Which brings me to my point. If you think of bigotry as a germ or some other infectious disease vector, we live in an amazingly sanitized society. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, of course. And we can all debate how prevalent it is later.

My point is that the institutions — the organs of the body politic — that are the most obsessed with eradicating bigotry (as liberals define it) tend to be the places that have to worry about it the least. The Democratic party is consumed with institutionalized angst about prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry in America. But the odds are that relatively few of these people (particularly those under the age of 50) have been exposed to much real racism or intolerance.

May 2, 2013

ESR on the true meaning of moral panics

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:03

Eric S. Raymond on the difference between the claimed meaning and the actual, underlying reason for various moral panic incidents:

In my experience, moral panics are almost never about what they claim to be about. I am just (barely) old enough to remember the tail end of the period (around 1965) when conservative panic about drugs and rock music was actually rooted in a not very-thinly-veiled fear of the corrupting influence of non-whites on pure American children. In retrospect it’s easy to understand as a reaction against the gradual breakdown of both legally enforced and de-facto racial segregation in the U.S.

But moral panics are by no means a monopoly of cultural conservatives. These days the most virulent and bogus examples are as likely to arrive from the self-described “left” as the “right”. When they do, they’re just as likely to be about something other than the ostensible subject.

In Lies, Damn Lies, and Rape Statistics a college newspaper does a little digging through U.S. crime statistics and finds that the trendy “anti-rape” movement is exaggerating the rape risk of college women by two full orders of magnitude — as it concludes, “the ‘one in four’ chant should be abandoned and replaced with the more appropriate, albeit less catchy, 1 in 400.”

What can explain such gross distortion? I’ve looked into this issue myself and discovered a lot of flim-flam. Still, even the the best-case figures I arrived at apparently overestimated the actual risk on campuses by a factor of 50. (Barbarian zones — like, say, inner-city Detroit — might be a different story.)

If the rape panic runs parallel to the the now nearly forgotten drugs-and-rock panics of the 1950s and 1960s (and many others like them, before and after) we should expect it to actually be be rooted in an attempt to assert control of or cultural dominance over some threatening Other. And there is indeed evidence that points in that direction.

February 28, 2013

The headline really does say it all

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:51

Jon, my former virtual landlord, sent me a link to this article in the Toronto Star. I’m just gobsmacked:

Black police officer faces charges for not investigating racial taunts against himself
A black York Regional Police officer faces misconduct charges for his handling of a farm party turned ugly, when he was allegedly subjected to repeated racial taunts and told, “I would love to see that guy hanging from a tree.”

A black York Region officer faces Police Act charges for not investigating racial taunts thrown at him when he was called to a bush party.

Const. Dameian Muirhead, 33, is charged with three counts of misconduct for his handling of a farm party turned ugly, where he was allegedly subjected to repeated racial slurs and told, “I would love to see that guy hanging from a tree.”

Muirhead, an eight-year veteran, was charged with insubordination and discreditable conduct over the way he allegedly investigated the party on the Victoria Day long weekend in May 2011. A partygoer lodged the complaint, saying he was rudely treated — but Muirhead also faces a neglect of duty charge for failing to properly investigate the racial remarks.

A police disciplinary hearing which began Tuesday was told that Muirhead and other officers were sent to the party after a woman was seriously injured when run over by an off-road vehicle.

February 25, 2013

Western media suddenly notices problems in South Africa

Filed under: Africa, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:33

In the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill shows how the western media has managed to ignore horrific things in South Africa, but suddenly the murder of a pretty white woman has them all utterly rivetted to what’s happening in that country:

Last year, 34 black striking miners were gunned down by South African police at the Lonmin mine in Marikana. Some were shot in the back as they attempted to flee. Some were killed as they surrendered. Others were killed 300 metres from where the main massacre took place, suggesting they had been chased — that is, hunted down — by the armed servants of the ANC. Yet there was no outrage in the Western liberal press. There were no fuming leaders; very few angry columns. Amnesty International, guardian of the modern liberal conscience, issued a weak, almost uninterested statement about this act of mass murder, and then went back to throwing money and staff at the campaign to have Pussy Riot — prettier and way more fashionable than those dead miners — freed from jail in Russia.

This month, a pretty white woman, Reeva Steenkamp, was killed by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, in a gated community in South Africa. And this time, right-thinking observers went crazy. The shock and outrage have been palpable. Feminists have popularised the Twitter hashtag #hernamewasReevaSteenkamp, to draw attention to the scourge of domestic violence in South Africa. Column after column tells us that the Steenkamp killing shows that the New South Africa is sick, that it’s a fear-ruled, crime-ridden, corrupt nation. This tragic shooting and the fractured court case and debate it has given rise to have cast a “lurid light” on South Africa, commentators tell us, calling into question its image as a “Rainbow Nation”. Where the massacre of 34 black workers elicited a collective shrug of the shoulder among observers over here, the killing of Steenkamp has got them tearing their hair out, demanding answers, wondering what the hell went wrong with the country they once admired (the New South Africa) and its ruling party that they once cheered (the ANC).

All of which raises a very awkward question: why is the shooting of a white woman in a domestic setting more shocking to liberal commentators than the massacre of 34 black miners at a public strike and demonstration? This isn’t a complaint about how the media elevates celebrity news over all other forms of news. I can understand why there is so much media and public interest in the Pistorius/Steenkamp case: it isn’t every day a global sports star shoots his famous, beautiful girlfriend in questionable circumstances. But what is striking is the fact that it took this incident — and not, say, the ANC’s massacre of 34 miners — to open Western liberals’ eyes to the profound problems, the moral and political decay, in modern-day South Africa.

January 29, 2013

NYC’s petty bureaucrats and the evolution of modern jazz

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:09

From the latest issue of Reason, Chris Kjorness outlines some of the pitfalls New York City thoughtfully put in the way of some of the greatest performers of Jazz:

For more than two decades musicians, comedians, and anyone else employed by a Gotham nightclub would be fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed by police in exchange for a license to work. The card had to be renewed every two years, and it could be revoked at the whim of the police. The story of the cabaret card illustrates how small men with a little bit of power can inhibit creative expression, stifle artistic growth, and humiliate individual citizens, all in the name of the “public good.”

The cabaret card had its origins in the roaring ’20s. Prohibition made outlaws out of ordinary Americans, and the allure of booze, jazz, and debauchery brought the upper and lower classes together in clandestine after-hours spots. It was the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and white New Yorkers frequently made the trip uptown, looking for adventure and an escape from the tight moral constraints of downtown society.

[. . .]

More than just a barrier to work, the cabaret card for beboppers was an impediment to self-expression and artistic fulfillment. While originating in nightclubs, bebop represented something much more than bar music. The color line had not been broken in American symphony orchestras, so for a young black musician at a prestigious music conservatory — Miles Davis at Julliard, for example — sharing a cramped stage in a 52nd Street nightclub with someone like Charlie Parker was the highest realization of artistic ambition. But before he could do so, a musician would have to be judged not just by lauded masters and discerning aficionados but by the police.

Cops distrusted beboppers for three main reasons: The new breed of jazzmen were anti-establishment, they were confrontational in matters of race, and they had a fondness for heroin. The police had an unlikely ally in their crusade against the upstarts: older establishment jazz musicians who had their own reasons to dislike the beboppers.

In a 1951 Ebony article, Cab Calloway, a king of the 1930s jazz world, decried the widespread drug use in the current jazz scene. Though Calloway didn’t single anyone out by name, the magazine illustrated his essay with photos of bebop musicians, and the publication coincided with an upswing in police enforcement. One musician snared in this crackdown was Charlie Parker.

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