Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Bigger Question Inspired by Colin Kaepernick: Should Black Americans Ever Stand Up for the Star Spangled Banner?

Colin Kaepernick is now part of a long and honorable tradition in which black athletes use their high visibility to stand up (or in this case sit down) in protest of racial justice and equality. On his much-discussed decision to not stand for the national anthem, Kaepernick explained:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The reactions to this truth-telling have been predictable.

[Slate has a nice roundup here.]

Sports talk radio and Right-wing hate talk radio have an amazingly high level of overlap between their audiences. Thus, the howls of complaint about a black ingrate who is not a real patriot but takes the white man's money were loud and extreme. Those people who understand how the lives of black and brown people are imperiled in America--and have been since before the Founding--are largely in agreement with Colin Kaepernick's act of silent protest.

But, I have been pondering a more basic and fundamental question. Should African-Americans (or any person of conscience) stand or otherwise show respect for The Star Spangled Banner?

Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem, was a rabid and unrepentant slaver who fought to protect that cruel business and his profits from the blood and misery and labor of black human property. The song itself celebrates the deaths of the African-American self-manumitted slaves who fought on the side of the British.

Or, as Christopher Wilson suggests at The Smithsonian Magazine, have black Americans and others taken the song back from its racist origins and, as they have done in some many other areas of American life, somehow forced it to live up to its best and most democratic possibilities?

The Star Spangled Banner is a horrible song--difficult to sing, not very pleasing to the ear, and long overdue to be jettisoned from the American patriotic canon. What song do you think should replace it?

Monday, August 29, 2016

What do Political Scientists Think About Donald Trump's Black "Outreach" Campaign?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is earnestly continuing his flagellation of black America as part of a political outreach campaign. At a Monday political rally in Akron, Ohio, he told an almost entirely white audience how day-to-day life for black Americans is a dystopic, Hobbesian, hellish, Mad Max-like state of existence:
“Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership. Crime at levels nobody has seen,” Trump said, painting a dystopian picture of black life for rally attendees. “You can go to war zones in countries that we’re fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities. They’re run by the Democrats, ” Trump continued.
“Look, it is a disaster the way African-Americans are living,” he said, erroneously suggesting that most black Americans live in inner cities. “We’ll get rid of the crime. You’ll be able to walk down the street without getting shot.”
These comments are deeply problematic. Donald Trump is once again grossly distorting the facts to advance his self-interested political goals. Trump is talking about black Americans to a white audience in fantastical terms that satisfy the most stereotypical and racist presumptions of the white gaze. And he is most certainly is no expert on African-American history or its living present. 
Trump’s comments cannot be salvaged. His recent speech, however, has provided an opportunity to clarify some common misconceptions about African-American politics.
African-Americans possess agency and free will and over the years have made a choice to give their overwhelming support to the Democratic Party. Identification with a particular party is influenced by socialization at home and the broader community, as well as reinforced by cues from trusted elites and media sources. It can be influenced by specific political issues or generation-defining events and usually remains stable throughout a person’s lifetime.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Conversation with Author and Activist Paul Street About Race, Labor, Class, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders

Paul Street is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. This is the first installment of a two part conversation. He is an author, activist, speaker, and policy expert whose work on politics, race, class, labor, neoliberalism, and related topic has been featured by Counterpunch, The New York Times, CNN, Al Jazeera, and the Chicago Tribune among many other outlets.

In this week's episode of the podcast, Paul and Chauncey talk about Donald Trump's ascendance and right-wing authoritarianism, white alienation and working class politics, the corporate news media, the populist moment with Trump and Sanders, as well as Ta-Nehisi Coates and the role of the black intelligentsia in this social and political moment.

During this week's podcast, Chauncey talks about the so-called "alt-right," and telling the truth about its white supremacist, KKK, neo Nazi, white identity politics. Chauncey also explains how Trump's "alt-right" base are in reality political sexual deviant exhibitionists. Of course, in this episode of the podcast, Chauncey shares his thoughts on last week's WWE Summerslam pay-per-view event and Brock Lesnar's demolishing of Randy Orton and the problem of booking a professional wrestling Superman character who does not (yet) have any kryptonite.

This episode with Paul Street can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show
is available on Itunes and at Stitcher.

The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Charles Blow Breaks Donald Trump's Media Metagame on CNN

Donald Trump’s ascendance to power over the Republican Party was made possible by how he outmaneuvered the American corporate news media. As I explained in anearlier Salon piece, Donald Trump, with his background in reality TV and professional wrestling, created a spectacle that rewarded him with at least $3 billion in free media coverage. Trump’s sophisticated meta game also allowed him to exploit a risk-averse news-media establishment that operates according to a clear and predictable set of rules and conventions governing “the boundaries of the approved public discourse.”
These rules and conventions consist of maintaining the appearance of “objectivity” and “fairness,” perpetuating a “both sides do it” framework when discussing Republicans and Democrats, and an obsessive need to present “all sides of an issue.” Clear statements of fact and truth are treated as mere opinions though as Paul Krugman once said, “if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read ‘Views Differ on Shape of Planet.’”
The American corporate news media also prefers to feature generalists who understand these rules as opposed to real experts who will not obey said script. Ultimately, in covering political campaigns and elections, the American corporate news media is more interested in reporting about the “horse race” — because it is an easy story to communicate — than in critically evaluating the specific policy proposals and qualifications of a given candidate.
When confronted by the Donald Trump phenomenon, the American corporate news media was flummoxed by his disregard for facts, inconsistency and willingness to rapidly change his positions on a given issue, overt racism and bigotry of his followers and movement, fascism-fueled hostility and contempt for journalists, and utter disregard for the rules of normal politics. Media elites and other opinion leaders were paralyzed in an act of political rubbernecking while Trump pummeled and mocked them all the way to the literal and metaphorical political bank.
On Monday’s edition of “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” New York Times columnist and author Charles Blow refused to comply with Donald Trump’s political con job and an American corporate news media that has acted irresponsibly in aiding and abetting his presidential campaign. In an exchange with Donald Trump’s minion Bruce Levell, Charles Blow did not allow Trump’s clear pattern, habit and strategy of racism and bigotry to be obfuscated or repackaged.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It Would Take African-Americans 228 Years to Obtain the Same Level of Financial Wealth as Whites

Race is how economic class is lived in America. Consequently, from the nation’s founding to the present, race and class (as well as gender) are a social and political scaffolding on which opportunities and privileges are affixed in the United States.
Racism and classism are so intertwined that it would take hundreds of years for black Americans to have the same levels of wealth as whites. Writing at The Nation, Joshua Holland explains:
If current economic trends continue, the average black household will need 228 years to accumulate as much wealth as their white counterparts hold today. For the average Latino family, it will take 84 years. Absent significant policy interventions, or a seismic change in the American economy, people of color will never close the gap. Those are the key findings of a new study of the racial wealth-gap released this week by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Corporation For Economic Development (CFED) … To put that in perspective, the wealthiest Americans — members of the Forbes 400 list — saw their net worths increase by 736 percent during that period, on average.
These outcomes indicate how institutional and systemic white supremacy creates disparate and unequal economic outcomes for people of color. Such outcomes are also a reminder that racism doesn’t just cause spiritual, psychological and physical harm to its victims, but is part of a broader economic and material system of intergroup power relationships. As sociologist Joe Feagin demonstrates in his books“Racist America,” “Systemic Racism,” “The Many Costs of Racism” and “White Party, White Government,” the country’s history of land theft (from First Nations peoples), labor theft (from African-Americans), and discrimination in hiring and promotion in the labor market (against nonwhites in general), is a type of subsidy that has transferred trillions of dollars to white Americans at the expense of people of color.
The extreme wealth gap that exists between black and white households has an impact across all income levels. As Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro detailed in their landmark book, “Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality,” a white person born into a poor or working-class family has a higher chance of moving up the socioeconomic ladder intergenerationally than a black person born into an upper-class or rich family has of staying there in the same time period. This dynamic occurs because while a “rich” or “upper-class” black family may have more income in the short term, they still do not have the wealth or other assets that a “working-class” or “poor” white family has accrued across generations. Whites who are in the highest income brackets also have substantially more wealth than blacks and Latinos in the same cohort.
The black/white wealth gap is so extreme in the U.S. that whites who do not have a high school degree actually have more wealth than blacks who graduate college.
Here, the tentacles of the near and far past — slavery and Jim and Jane Crow — combine with continuing racial discrimination in the banking, housing and labor markets of the present to maintain the black/white wealth gap.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Donald Trump's Great "Outreach" Plan: Calling Black Americans "Losers" in Order to Win Their Votes

Donald Trump has a great new outreach campaign to win over black voters. Beginning last week, Trump has hit on the great and novel idea that by insulting black folks that he will somehow win our support. As I wrote over at Salon, this is voter mobilization in the form of flagellation. 

To that end, Trump has said the following things about black Americans:
Tonight, I’m asking for the vote of every single African-American citizen in this country who wants to see a better future…What do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump? You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” 
He also told Fox News that African-Americans have “no health care, no education, no anything” and their lives are “a total catastrophe.” 
Of course, the real audience for such untruths and smears are his racist white base and the "decent" Republicans who prefer that their white supremacy be presented in a "polite" and "nice" way.

But, there is a useful question that arises from Donald Trump's "outreach" efforts and my/our response to them. In highlighting how Black America is not a living hell, and all of its citizens' lives are not a "total catastrophe," how do we also not ignore all of the specific challenges and work that remain to be done?

Working the racism beat and addressing the misery index of black and brown America is necessary and important work. How did we get into the conundrum where talking about successes and positive change can be looked at as a threat and risk to the former narrative, and how the black freedom struggle is a work in progress with no end goal in clear sight?

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Conversation with Anti-Racism Activist and Author Tim Wise

Tim Wise is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. He is one of the United States' leading anti-racism scholars and activists. Tim is also the author of numerous books including his most recent, "Under the Affluence."

Tim is a great friend of the show and this is his third appearance.

In this week's episode of the podcast, Tim and Chauncey talk about Donald Trump, the return of David Duke, and why it is racism and not "economic insecurity" that is the real basis of the Trumpthuglicans' devotion to their leader. In this conversation, Chauncey and Tim also play the prediction game and try to puzzle through what will happen once Donald Trump loses in November, ponder the power of so-called "hashtag activism," and talk about working on craft and improving one's ability to community with folks about these critical issues of social justice and equality.

During this week's podcast, Chauncey does some sharing about trying to find life balance, ponders the legacy of his father and how some folks are so quick to forget their friends after they pass away, and offers up a quick review of some new movies including Sausage Party, Pete's Dragon, and Hell or High Water. Chauncey also shares a personal story about why it is so important to reach out to our homeless brothers and sisters.

This episode with Tim Wise can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher. This episode can also be "watched" on Youtube at this link.

The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How Donald Trump Used Lifestyle Marketing to Outsmart the News Media and Take Over the Republican Party

I originally posted the following essay at Salon. I was very surprised by the reactions to it. Many commenters do not believe that Donald Trump has a strategy. Thus, they are dismissive of my efforts to explain his meta game. Apparently, it is easier to talk about how Trump's strategy is apparently failing among the general public, as opposed to trying to analyze exactly how well it worked in getting him this far--and what that may portend for American politics going forward.

What am I getting right about Trump's meta game? Do you think I am seeing something that is not present in my analysis of his strategy and tactics? Or, as occurred with my earlier writings about Donald Trump, is this a case where I am just a bit too far ahead of the story and the so-called smart people will be catching up later?


On Friday Donald Trump was again in full professional wrestling heel mode. Using Twitter, he mocked the news media by saying, “I love watching these poor, pathetic people (pundits) on television working so hard and so seriously to try and figure me out. They can’t!”
He is absolutely correct. As I explained in an earlier Salon essay, the mainstream media do not understand Trump’s meta game and how he has skillfully broken the rules of “normal politics” and the 24/7 cable news cycle. Trump’s incitements to violence against Hillary Clinton; his racist, sexist and bigoted statements and repeated lies about factual matters; and his conspiracy theories about how Barack Obama is a founder of the terrorist organization ISIS are not gaffes or errors.
Politicians can be viewed as purveying a type of product. From the beginning of the television era, concepts and strategies from the fields of marketing, advertising and public relations have heavily influenced American political campaigns and strategy. Trump, the gangster capitalist, Wharton grad and businessperson who makes money from licensing his name and persona, is simply applying these concepts to obtain political power. With varying levels of success, he is using a strategy for his presidential campaign based on “lifestyle marketing.”
Lifestyle marketing involves using emotion to create a sense of community and identity for a product or service. This type of marketing often resonates with a given target audience for a longer period of time than merely focusing on the specifics of a product. As has been done with the ad campaigns for Apple computers and phones as well as Red Bull energy drinks, the product or service is not marketed straightforwardly but rather it’s all about how they connect with consumers’ sense of self and identity.
And lifestyle marketing can leverage how consumers use brands to express their individual sense of self. It may attempt to address groups of people (such as “hipsters” or “preppies”) or those described as “urban,” alternative,” “diverse” or “multicultural” to create brand loyalty and demand. Social media and other online technologies are essential tools for a successful lifestyle marketing campaign because they transform consumers into active advocates for the brand.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Donald Trump's Violent Rhetoric is the Lingua Franca of American Conservatives in the Age of Obama

During a political rally in North Carolina on Tuesday, Donald Trump told his followers that:
“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish — the 2nd Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the 2nd Amendment people —  maybe there is, I don’t know.
But — but I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day…”
Despite efforts by his minions to deflect and spin Trump’s comments to some other meaning, his intent was clear: Hillary Clinton should be targeted for gun violence if she dares to nominate judges who would properly interpret the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The meaning of a given speech act is heavily dependent on context. Donald Trump’s rallies routinely feature misogynist and sexist language where Hillary Clinton is described as a “bitch.” Hillary Clinton has also been threatened with death by Donald Trump’s adviser Roger Stone. At Trump’s political rallies, people have also shouted that Hillary Clinton should be “hung” and put in jail. To deny that Donald Trump’s comments were incitements of violence against Hillary Clinton is to ignore the facts.
As is their habit in covering Donald Trump, the mainstream corporate news media is sounding the alarm of crisis and panic. His comments are “unacceptable,” “unbelievable,” “a new low,” and signs that he is “unfit” to be president because such behavior is “unprecedented” and “horrible.” These feigned moments of shock are misdirected and too narrow.
Donald Trump is speaking to the Republican base. His screeds and factually challenged bloviating are their Esperanto. It resonates among them. Ultimately, Donald Trump’s threats about guns and the 2nd amendment are neither unprecedented nor unusual. Exhortations to violence are routinely made by the American right-wing news entertainment disinformation media.
There are many examples.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Conversation with Futurist Phil Torres

Phil Torres is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show. Phil is an author, contributor at the Future of Life Institute, Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and founder of the X-Risks Institute.

In this week's episode of the podcast, Phil and Chauncey talk about the future, extinction level events, emerging technologies, the Terminator films A.I. scenario, the singularity, and the role of technology in human development. Chauncey and Phil also do some sharing about the puzzle of "expertise," religion and mass psychology, low information voters, and the rise of Donald Trump.
During this week's podcast, Chauncey talks about his recent appearance on The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, Jim Crow-like Black Codes in Baltimore and their thuggish cops, and the new movie Suicide Squad. Chauncey also reads some kind fan emails and has a good time mocking the future predictions of America in 2034 as offered up by white supremacists.

This episode with Phil Torres can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher. The Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well. It can also be "watched" on Youtube at this link.