Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Difference Between Criticism, Rage, and Villification: I May Not Like JJ Abrams' 'Star Trek' Movies But I Don't Hate the Man

I happened to discover Emily Asher-Perrin's essay Protecting What You Love: On the Difference Between Criticism, Rage, and Vilification over at Tor.com and thought it could be of interest given our recent conversations about Star Wars, the Hugo awards, and other related topics.

Fans are a passionate group. Self-identified members of "fandom" can be especially passionate.

Social media has only exacerbated those feelings as accessibility often creates a sense of entitlement and a twisted sense of "ownership" between consumers of a particular type of art and/or entertainment and those who make it.

I would also suggest that the entitlement and anger felt by the most rabid of fans can reflect both jealousy and envy in that while they may admire the creators of a given object of popular culture, most will never be able to have that same level of success both because most fans (like most people) lack the talent and also the courage to try to become a creator.

[Retired professional wrestler and Chicago native CM Punk described his relationship with Twitter as millions of entitled people yelling into the open window of his house and then expecting him to listen...as opposed to telling them to go to hell and then closing the windows in their faces. Spot on me thinks.]

New media, technology, and a coarseness to our public discourse has also created an environment where fans are not just critical of a given cultural worker's art. Instead, they translate it into personal invective.

Of course, this has likely always happened as art moves emotions. Thus, the public and spectator transfer those feelings to the art and its creators.

Writing in response to what she views as a decidedly negative moment in which the Hugos are being derailed by entitled angry white men and their allies, and various elements in fan culture are out of control, having forgotten or never learned basic rules of civil discourse and propriety, Asher-Perrin observes:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is The Force Strong With This One? The Second 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Trailer is Finally Here!



The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer has just debuted.

I am still amazed to see a black man as a lead in a Star Wars film. For those folks who did not grow up having to "read yourself" into Star Wars because of the structured absence of black and non-white characters in the Original Trilogy (Lando and random Return of the Jedi Rebel Pilot) being the notable exceptions), the power of such moments may be lost on you.

The new trailer has some great stuff. We see the the physical evidence of the Galactic Civil War with a destroyed Star Destroyer on a desert world named Jakku, the rise of the "new" Empire, Storm Commandos (or are they an honor guard or personal strike unit for the new villain?), Luke's robotic arm, a Sith cult led by Kylo Ren who have found Vader's helmet from the funeral pyre, what seems to be some fratricidal combat between elements of the remaining Galactic Empire, and of course other goodness too--a lightsaber being passed from "mother" to "daughter" perhaps? and yes, Han and Chewie are finally "home".

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now a very real thing.

It is time to revisit the predictions and thoughts about Star Wars: The Force Awakens that I made in this episode of the podcast known as The Chauncey DeVega Show.

Any thoughts or reactions to the new trailer? Excited? Worried? Both?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Are Videos of Black Men Being Killed by America's Police the New Snuff Films?

My dear friend Bill the Lizard, he who is a fellow Star Wars aficionado and occasional conversation partner on The Chauncey DeVega Show, called me yesterday.

He explained that "I had a dream that you were shot by the police like Walter Scott in that horrible video".

Dreams do often portend the future. As is evident by my non-poltergeist act of answering the telephone, it would seem that I am okay.

Bill the Lizard also sent me a picture of "Herbert the Pervert" to confirm my safety. Friends of many years develop their own language with which to communicate with one another. I will leave the origins of our Herbert the Pervert inside joke suitably unstated.

He and I both agreed that viewing killed by cop videos such as those featuring Walter Scott, Eric Harris, and Eric Garner have a negative impact on one's soul and psyche.

But, this conclusion does not explain why the video-recorded images of black Americans being shot, killed, and otherwise abused by the police are captivating to (what would seem to be) so many in the global viewing public.

The corporate news media shows those images of horrific and spectacular violence against the black body because they garner ratings. Ratings equal cash.

But again, why would someone who is not paid or otherwise materially compensated view such a thing?

Writing at Medium, Jade Davis offers the following insight:
Black men being the first to die in horror movies, and being lined up for execution on death row is the norm — but that is for fun, or behind closed doors. These killings of regular black men, however — in public, dying on camera and reproduced on the Internet — speaks to the same kind of forbidden desire that Girls Gone Wild tapped into. The ability to easily capture and distribute video of overly horny co-eds out to have a good time fed the desires of overly horny people who wanted to experience the thrill of barely legal girls submitting to the lens. 
Now, instead of barely legal porn, these actual snuff films, not like those staged versions from the 1970s, are the forbidden jouissance of the moment. The black man’s death is repeated, reproduced, shared, and celebrated in a macabre way specific to the snuff genre. These films and activities have always existed, but in the past people didn’t consume them so publicly, or so proudly outside of public executions and lynchings.
She continues:
It might seem that the difference between these snuff films and Girls Gone Wild is that people paid cash to watch the women perform for them. But that is merely a sign of the times. The Internet eventually won when the audience decided to pay with clicks instead of cash: The places that brought Girls Gone Wild to an end still have age disclaimers for mature content, and can be blocked by enabling parental controls. 
But, when the most explicit imagery of the violence enacted against black bodies can be at the top of The New York Times and the Daily Mail, it says that these are the images that sell in a world where clicks equal cash, and there’s no warning necessary. 
This is content everyone should see! Don’t miss this amazing new footage of a black man dying. Warning, graphic content, but the screen capture really sells the tale. The distribution channel isn’t the same as those videos of gyrating youngsters, but it is distributed and monetized just the same.
It is not for me to say, but I believe that the late great Stuart Hall would likely be in agreement with Davis's analysis. On matters of race, representation, and semiotics I can think of no higher complement to give.

Are the video-recorded killings of black men by police and their allies the next iteration of snuff films?

A type of fantasy wish fulfillment for some of the most deranged and racist in the audience (example: those white people who donated money to Darren Wilson's "defense" fund) while also simultaneously serving as a non-therapeutic exterior projection of the fears and worries that black Americans carry within themselves about police violence and America's history of committing extra-judicial murder against them?

In a society where the lie of "reality television" is believed to be real by the mass public, the carceral society (with all of its anti-black violence) is popularized by shows such as Cops, The First 48, and Lockup, and the Culture of Cruelty extends along the colorline, the killings of unarmed black people by America's police may simply be the dystopian near future vision offered by the 1980's classic movie The Running Man made real.

Technology is a means for the circulation of white supremacist racial ideologies.

Lynching photographs were one of America's most popular forms of mass culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Now, in the 21st and late 20th centuries, digital media circulates images of violence against the black body by America's police to a global super public.

Are you not entertained?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Whiteness of Science-Fiction: Can You Please Help Me Understand the 'Sad Puppy' Hugo Awards Controversy?


We have a smart and diverse readership here at WARN.

Perhaps, some of them could help me understand the "controversy" about this year's Hugo Awards for science fiction and fantasy.

[Here are some helpful readings on the "Sad Puppies" imbroglio.]

The final slate has been announced here.

I respect the awards and their history--both for the good and despite the bad. But, I am not super plugged into the various politicking that goes on around the awards. Nor, am I one of the obsessives in science fiction fandom.

Politics is popular culture; popular culture is politics. Popular culture, broadly defined, is one of the primary spaces where a society's values and norms are reproduced, taught, internalized, and on occasion subverted and challenged.

As such, the "sad puppies" Hugo debacle and their cousin in "GamerGate", can be understood to reflect a type of Right-wing reactionary white male victimology that is unfortunately all too common in post civil rights era neoliberal America.

The election of Barack Obama and the United States' changing demographics (a change that I suggest is much exaggerated in its consequences for a "new" America as Whiteness always expands to include new members and to maintain its dominant position) has driven them to new levels of delusional aggrieved white victimologist madness.

Is the Hugo controversy simply an extension of a broader Right-wing reactionary politics?

And is the Hugo "Sad Puppies" and "GamerGate" mess any different from the American Right-wing's complaints about "multiculturalism", "feminism", and "diversity " during the 1970s and 1980s Culture War(s)?

Do enlighten me if you would.

A Conversation With Claire "The Tenured Radical" Potter About Critical Public Pedagogy in the Digital Age

Professor Claire "Tenured Radical" Potter is the guest on this installment of the podcast known as The Chauncey DeVega Show.

Dr. Potter is a scholar of American Studies, history, and popular culture.

She is a Professor of History at The New School and is the author/editor of several books including War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men and the Politics of Mass Culture and the forthcoming Beyond Pornography: How Feminism Survived the Age of Reagan.

As the "Tenured Radical" she is perhaps best known for her column at The Chronicle of Higher Education and as a scholar at the forefront of public pedagogy and its intersection(s) with digital media and democracy.

Claire has also been a friend of The Chauncey DeVega Show for some time. She has also been a great booster and supporter of Chauncey DeVega's other online work.

Dr. Potter is very sharp, witty, and wise.

This makes for a great conversation on the newest installment of The Chauncey DeVega Show.

In this new episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Claire and Chauncey talk about police brutality and life in New York in the shadow of the Eric Garner case, the perils, joys, and challenges of public pedagogy and intellectual work; and share some fun stories about the naughty, titillating, and scintillating things that can be found in famous folks' personal archives and collections.

Chauncey and Claire also talk about how Times Square was made into Disney World and the relationship between feminism and anti-pornography crusades.

Chauncey DeVega also cuts a not short opening promo about the killing of Walter Scott by the thug cop Michael Slager in South Carolina and does a bit of reading and reflection on the great essay The Police Are America's Terrorists.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show with Dr. Claire Potter can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for chaunceydevega.com

The Chauncey DeVega Show can also be followed on Itunes and listened to via Stitcher on your smart phone or other related technology.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

What Really Killed Eric Harris: How Common is It For Rich People to be Able to Cosplay as Real Cops?

Eric Harris was killed by a rich man who donated equipment to the Tulsa, Oklahoma sheriff's department so that he could enjoy some live action role-playing as a cop.

The Daily Beast offers the following details:
The deputy wasn’t an active member of the sheriff’s Violent Crimes Task Force, which was responsible for the bungled sweep. But Bates has donated thousands in gifts to the office since 2008, the Tulsa World reported. 
He is one of many “wealthy people in the reserve program,” which includes 130 volunteer deputies, Maj. Shannon Clark of the sheriff’s office said
“Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all,” he added. 
Bates’ contributions include vehicles, firearms and stun guns, Clark said. The shooting was recorded via sunglasses cameras worn by police—items that Bates may have purchases himself. 
His previous law enforcement credentials include a stint as a Tulsa police officer from 1964 to 1965. 
Clark said Bates was an “advanced reserve” and his duties included “anything a full-time deputy can do.” 
During this particular encounter, however, Bates would normally be in a support role that includes “keeping notes, doing counter-surveillance, things like that,” Clark told the Tulsa World.
The State has a monopoly on legal murder. And as is typical in a corporate democracy where the public commons is for sale, and Austerity, Neoliberalism, and the Culture of Cruelty, are a conjoined beast, anything and everything can be purchased.

The role of public servant in the guise of a police officer is also for sale to adult cop obsessives who possess immature dreams of wearing a uniform and bullying the public.

Yes, race and the colorline are central to the repeated murders of unarmed black people (and other people of color, the poor, and the mentally ill) by America's police. But, the devaluing of black life exists within a society where basic notions of The Public, as well as Public Responsibility and Ownership, are under assault by The 1 Percent.

As a commenter pointed out at The Daily Beast, what other jobs with life and death responsibilities are up for auction to the highest bidder? Doctors? Air traffic controllers? Firefighters? Generals? Elected officials?

[I think we know the answer for the latter.]

Eric Harris is dead because the Tulsa, Oklahoma sheriff's department, in a desire to get more toys for its officers to play with, sold its professionalism and public reputation to the highest bidder.

If Tulsa's police department are doing to allow live action role-players their chance of getting a cheap thrill--as they are likely physically aroused by wearing a cop's uniform, carrying a gun, and being able to turn on a siren--perhaps they should follow the rules that cons such as Wizard and C2E2 use at their events:
Prop weapons will be allowed providing they are composed of cardboard, foam, wood or other light materials. Prop firearms are allowed only if they cannot be mistaken for real weapons. The barrel of all prop firearms must be covered with brightly-colored caps. Prop bows will be allowed providing all arrows have soft tips. 
Basically, don't be an idiot.
Hopefully, an enterprising journalist will investigate how common it is for rich people to be able to role-play as police officers--the latter with the power of life and death over the public.

If any good comes out of the unnecessary death of Mr. Eric Harris, perhaps it will be a public outing of such irresponsible programs and ensuring that no other people are killed by pay to play incompetent wannabe cops like Bob Bates.

'F**ck Your Breath!' A Slogan For America's Cops

This is a tired and broken record.

As such, let us complicate the narrative a bit.

An unarmed black man named Eric Harris was "accidentally" killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Eric Harris was unarmed.

Eric Harris's death was recorded on video.

As he laying dying, pleading for his life and some assistance, a Tulsa cop told him to "fuck your breath".

There is a technical term for the Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer's "error" in shooting Eric Harris with his pistol instead of a somewhat less than always lethal taser: it is called "slips and capture".

I kid you not.

Interestingly, white men such as James Holmes who hurt and kill dozens of people in mass shootings are somehow captured alive.

But, black men who are unarmed are routinely killed by America's police.

How do we explain this fact?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Colorblind White Racism and the Right-Wing Media's Response to the Killing of Walter Scott


Instead of posting a new episode of the podcast known as The Chauncey DeVega Show, I would to continue our conversation about the killing of Walter Scott.

Next week, I will be posting two new episodes--one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. My conversation with author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nick Chiles about his new book Justice While Black is extremely relevant to the events in the Walter Scott case.

If folks did not have a chance to listen to that episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show when it originally aired, they will find it very illuminating and helpful.

I would like to return to some of the themes discussed in my essay "How Will White Conservatives Defend the Killer Cop Who Shot Walter Scott?". As it has gone around the Internet (now shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook), my question has received several types of answers.

These include the typical, "this is race-baiting and white conservatives will condemn the killing of Walter Scott like anyone else would!" to the more intelligent, and I think spot on, "the Right-wing media will either be silent on the issue or will instead choose to condemn the killing as proof of how 'fair' and 'not racist' the criminal justice system actually is".

The latter point is very insightful: white supremacy in the post civil rights era often works via a superficial condemnation of obvious racism and racially motivated violence against people of color as a means of advancing a type of White Racial Logic which deems racism and white supremacy as things of the past, outliers and aberrations in contemporary America.

Colorblind racism is a feature of post civil rights era America. As such, it has colored the Right-wing media's response to the killing of Michael Scott.

For example, Fox News, the Right-wing's largest and most influential purveyor of disinformation and outright lies, devoted several segments to discussing the murder of Walter Scott by the white thug cop Michael Slager.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Hero and a Sociopath: Three Questions That the Mainstream Media Won't Ask About the Killing of Walter Scott


If you have not yet watched MSNBC's interview with Feidin Santana, the gentleman who recorded the killing of Walter Scott by the thug cop Michael Slager, I encourage you to do so.

A hero is someone who puts themselves at great personal risk, does not have specific training for the task, and is not paid to do so.

Mr. Santana is a hero.

As clearly demonstrated by their centuries-long habit of killing unarmed and/or surrendered black and brown people, America's police are not heroes. Some of them may occasionally act in a brave way; but, not all brave acts are heroic.

The news media has made the murder of Michael Scott into a spectacle. The video of Scott's murder is a 21st century type of lynching photograph and postcard. Every time the video is shown, the mental, physical, and emotional health of Black America is assaulted. This is psychic warfare and terrorism.

Just as the killer cop Darren Wilson casually stood over Michael Brown's dead body in the street, Michael Slager appears to show no panic or upset after he guns down Walter Scott.

Soldiers will often have a breakdown or show other signs of visible emotional distress after they kill another human being in battle.

These police officers are calm, cool, collected, and unmoved.

Some questions.

I wonder, was Slager's calm and detached behavior a reflection of his police training and cultural conditioning regarding the use of force against black people?

Are Slager and other cops who kill in a similar manner sociopathic?

Has Michael Slager killed someone before and successfully covered it up, thus his slaying of Walter Scott is an old habit?

The mainstream corporate media will not ask those important questions. It is time that the American people force this issue, as the colorline is not just about justice for people of color, but a life and death matter for the Common Good.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How Will White Conservatives Defend the Killer Cop Who Shot Walter Scott?

Another unarmed black man has been shot dead by a white police officer.

The video can be watched here. I will not be posting or otherwise sharing it online.

I do not want to contribute to the online necropolis of black bodies shot dead by cop and/or white identified vigilantes.

I am also finding it difficult to convey my exhaustion with once again having to write about how another unarmed black man has been killed by the police. My hand is moved by a commitment to tell the truth; writing is a small act compared to those who actually suffer the slings and arrows of racist white violence by America's police.

As I have written about and discussed many times in these years of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown, white privilege is the ability to twist and distort reality in the service of the bizarre and self-serving world that the White Gaze conjures forth for the psychological, material, and political benefits of its owners.

In the service to those delusions, White Racist Paranoiac Thinking invents a scenario that justifies the killing of black and brown people (and the homeless, poor, mentally ill, and other "disposable" human beings) by the police and their allies.

Eric Garner screamed "I can't breathe" as the police murdered him. White lynch mobs portrayed themselves as honorable men who were doing unpleasant work in defense of white women's and white civilization's honor and security as they burned alive and dismembered the African-American "imps of the inferno", the monster in the form of a man known as "the black beast rapist".

Walter Scott was stopped for a traffic violation. In fear for his life, Walter Scott ran away from a white South Carolina police officer named Michael Slager.

Slager then shot and killed Walter Scott.

Michael Slager then lied as he used the standard script:
The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, had said he feared for his life because the man took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man — Walter L. Scott, 50 — fled. 
The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.
Fortunately, Slager's lies were exposed by a video recording of the event.

He has now been charged with murder.

White racist paranoiacs will invert and twist reality in their defense of Michael Slager.

Scott was somehow threatening Slager.

Scott was trying to grab the weapon of Slager.

"We don't know what happened before the 'incident' occurred!"

"Remember Darren Wilson!" as though the latter was some type of innocent child and victim as he did the work of Ferguson, Missouri's Jim and Jane Crow-like police department.

"Scott was 'wanted for a 'family court warrant'! He is a horrible father, a criminal, why make him a victim when Officer Slager is the real hero!"

I have learned to accept that I, a black man, embody and channel a type of monstrous black masculinity as viewed through the White Gaze.

But even we monsters, the Garners, the child Tamir, the Crawfords, and now Mr. Walter Scott deserve a whee bit of mercy and benefit of the doubt before we are put down by the police.

If hunting man is the greatest of sports, I would hope, that for lack of a better word or turn of phrase, that white cops who choose to kill or otherwise abuse unarmed black people, would be a bit more "sporting" in their ways.

Ultimately, we, the black Frankensteins of the world, need to be a bit more cautious as we go about our business, playing with little white children as they pick flowers by the lake.

I am a man. I am a black man. I am a human being. I am an American citizen. I am not a monster. When will the police accept and respect that fact?

I know it is a question with a clear answer.

Yet, I still channel hope by asking it.