Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Conversation with Writer, Actor, and Producer Kevin Willmott About "Chi-Raq," "Destination Planet Negro," and "C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America"

This week's episode special 100th episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show features film scholar, actor, writer, and professor Kevin Willmott.

Professor Willmott is a co-writer and producer of Spike Lee's film Chi-Raq as well as the recent film Destination Planet Negro. In addition to many other projects, Kevin also wrote and directed the amazing "documentary"/counterfactual film C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America.

In this week's installment of the podcast, Professor Willmott and Chauncey talk about how Donald Trump is a character in a satirical film, Hollywood's recent "obsession" with movies about slavery and the "black experience," the reception of the movie Chi-Raq, and the importance of talking honestly and critically about the color line and black history in America.

Kevin and Chauncey also have a moment of shared life experience as they reflect on what it was like to grow up with an older father and what having learned elders taught them about appreciating life and history.

During this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey talks about Donald Trump's genius speech at the RNC convention, what it has in common with Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, and offers his thanks to the listeners to the podcast for helping it get to the 100th show.

Chauncey also offers up some thoughts on the four new movies that he saw while trying to escape Chicago's heat wave, talks about the horrible new Ghostbusters movie, and calls out the Republican sex freak hypocrites in Cleveland who hate on gay people and Muslims but apparently are watching all sorts of porn which features them.

This episode with Kevin Willmott 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.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Republican Convention in Cleveland was a Shared Psychotic Disorder

The 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland has ended. Donald Trump is officially the Republican presidential nominee. The post mortem for the 2016 Republican National Convention can now begin.
There was political infighting. Melania Trump’s speech stole from Michelle Obama’s convention speech in 2008. Police and security guards appeared to outnumber the protesters. Gun fetishists paraded outside the venue. The “Alt-Right” wallowed in misogyny, sexual paraphilias, and conspiracy theories. The featured speakers included an avocado baroness. Lucifer was invoked. Violent threats were made against Hillary Clinton. Attendees were told that Barack Obama hates America and wants to destroy it from within. Apparently, illegal immigrants and Muslim terrorists are conspiring to kill white people. The Black Lives Matter movement is leading an armed rebellion against the police and “the (white) silent majority.” America is doomed. Only Donald Trump and the Republican Party can save it.
There are multiple audiences for a political convention. How these audiences process the event is one of the keys to electoral victory. Thus the question: What message did the 2016 Republican National Convention communicate to the American people?
For the most part, right-wing ideologues, Tea Party members, and Fox News viewers were validated and comforted. There were many millions of people watching at home who were likely left confused and befuddled. And there were also many other viewers who most certainly felt personally attacked and insulted by the type of white identity politics—with its dog whistle and overt bigotry—on display during the four days of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
To my eyes, it was a disgusting spectacle which undermined the claim that American democracy is somehow “exceptional.” In all, the 2016 Republican National Convention was a coronation for a proto fascist, an event which could have taken place in a banana republic or the alternate reality of the movie Idiocracy as opposed to the “greatest democracy” on Earth.
How did we get here?
Richard Hofstadter’s important work on “the paranoid style” is often cited in discussions of the Republican Party in the Age of Obama. Hofstadter also contributed powerful insights which can be used to make sense of the extreme polarization, zealotry, and revanchism that has taken hold over today’s Republican Party.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Genius Speech: Donald Trump goes Full Emperor Palpatine at the Republican National Convention

I will be posting the 100th episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show later tonight or tomorrow. I almost always keep the show's schedule of airing late Wednesday/early Thursday. It was delayed because 1) I wanted to include some thoughts on Trump's speech at the convention and 2) it was so damn hot here in Chicago and I record my segments without the air conditioning on, thus a "heat delay" was in effect. Is that a first? A podcast delayed because of ungodly heat? The Chauncey DeVega Show is unique in so many ways.

Some quick thoughts on the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

1. It was an alternate reality and an example of a shared psychotic disorder. Folks who are outside of the cult and "madness of the many" that is today's Republican Party and Right-wing news media are incapable of sharing the delusion. It all seems crazy to us...because it is. I have a new piece over at Salon that develops these claims in more detail.

2. You can dislike a thing, even hate it, but you should also be able to admire it too:

Donald Trump is a proto fascist racist political wrestling performance artist. On those grounds his speech on Thursday was epic, just an amazing piece of work. I would give Trump's speech, and how he delivered it, a solid "A." Too many liberals, progressives, centrists, and others are dismissing its power because they fundamentally disagree with Trump's politics. This is piss poor lazy thinking folks. Hillary Clinton should be very concerned right now about her chances of victory in November.

3. Despite what folks who are paid the big bucks to write the "hot takes" are suggesting--see people's exhibit number one: David Brooks at The New York Times--Donald Trump is not Batman, a billionaire who promises to bring order to the streets. Trump is more like Superman in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns or Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The North Miami Police Shot Charles Kinsey Because He is a Black Man

While the ghouls at the Republican National convention in Cleveland howl and panic about a non-existent "war on police" and how "blue lives matter", a unarmed black man who lying on the ground with his hands up was video recorded being shot by police in North Miami, Florida.

Charles Kinsey is a counselor and therapist who was helping an autistic person in his care. When Kinsey asked the police officer who shot him why he did such a thing, the thug cop replied, "I don't know." The answer is simple. Kinsey is a black man.

The black body arouses violence from White society and those who have internalized the racist norms and values of Whiteness. This is the historic intersection of race and power in America and the West. Some types of bodies are subjected to arbitrary violence and control; other types of bodies are free from such assaults. Once these relationships are made clear, the violence by America's police against non-whites, the poor, the working class, the mentally ill, the homeless, and other marginalized groups is no longer some type of "accident" or "aberration". Instead, they are the intentional outcomes of a social and political system.

There is a script for explaining police thuggery and violence against black people.

White racial paranoia will justify the shooting of Charles Kinsey. The black body is always a threat and a danger. This is an existential and ontological truth for the White gaze.

[If you have never read philosopher Judith Butler's essential essay on white racial paranoia and police violence against the black body, you can do so at this link.]

A harmless toy truck that is clearly visible to the police--and that was not in the hands of Mr. Kinsey--will be magically transformed into a deadly weapon. Who knows maybe the toy was in fact a Transformer and was going to shape shift into a Constructicon that would form the giant robot Devastator?

Charles Kinsey did not have his feet raised off of the ground. Because all black people are taught copeira from birth, Kinsey still represented a lethal threat to the police.

And of course, the police officer who shot a black man on the ground with his hands in the air, pleading for mercy, and telling them he was unarmed will claim that "he was in reasonable fear of his life."

Once again, day-to-day life for black people in the United States is a type of horror story. We are traumatized because of it. We are suffering from PTSD because of it. Few hear or care about our pain.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summoning Lucifer and God at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland

The 2016 Republican National Convention is pathetic. It is an example of a political party in disarray and (hopefully) in its death throws. This makes the Republican Party and its base of reactionary, scared, and racist white voters even more dangerous. Schadenfreude can be enjoyable; it can also blind a person to the perils before them.

Yes, how can a sane and reasonable person not laugh as the Republican Party's National Convention's featured speakers include a underwear model, mixed martial arts sports promoter, Rudy Giuliani as Morton Downey Jr. combined with Gollum from Lord of the Rings, washed up 1980s sitcom TV stars, and an avocado baroness.

And how can a person with any capacity for critical thinking not be disgusted by how the so-called "liberal media's"is legitimating this spectacle (sorry, Donald Trump Jr. did not give an "amazing" speech; Melania Trump's plagiarizing is nothing compared to the authoritarian, racist, and violent values being channeled by the Republican Party).

But even by these standards, I was given pause by how God and Lucifer have been summoned by the speakers and attendees at the Republican coronation of Donald Trump to describe Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. These are the rantings of apocalyptic Christian fundamentalists who have more in common with ISIS than they do with the cosmopolitan and secular values embodied by the United States Constitution. These are also violent threats, because if one grants that their political foes are part of a grand struggle between good and evil then they must be vanquished.

And again, the so-called "smart people" who are doing play by play for the so-called "liberal media" laugh, and by doing so, enable and legitimate this madness.

The ascension of the American Il Duce Donald Trump to power over one of the United States' two institutional political parties is not a punchline or a joke. This is serious business that stopped being funny many months ago.

How did this happen? Who is most responsible? Any more general thoughts about the entertainment value provided by the 2016 Republican National Convention?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

All hate is not created equal: Dylann Roof, Micah Johnson and Gavin Long

The Internet and social media are powerful tools for communication. They can help people organize to create positive social change. The Internet and social media can also help amplify the public voices of oppressed and marginalized communities. These same technologies are also a means to both circulate and give credence to lazy thinking, lies, and distorted understandings of empirical reality.
During America’s recent weeks of tumult and pain, when two black men were video recorded being killed by police and a peaceful march in support of Black Lives Matter was attacked by a gunman, leaving five officers dead, social media was aflutter with two repeated narratives.
Both narratives would find resonance in the oft-discussed “national conversation”; both narratives are not true.
Sunday’s attack by Gavin Long that killed three Baton Rouge-area police officers has only made them resonate more loudly.
The first narrative is that “killing someone because of the color of their uniform is the same thing as racism.” This claim reveals a profound misunderstanding of what constitutes racism, as well as its impact on the life chances of people of color in the United States. A police uniform can be removed. A person’s skin color — and the value assigned to it by dominant society —cannot be so easily changed. In all, a belief that racism and the wearing of a uniform have anything in common with one another is the type of lazy thinking which is encouraged by the fiction that America in the Age of Obama is somehow “colorblind” or “post racial.”
The second narrative is that, “Dylann Roof and Micah Johnson did the same thing”. This is not true. Yes, both men committed a horrible act of mass murder. But their motivations as well as the social and political context of their deeds are fundamentally different.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Baton Rouge Police Shootings: Gavin Long, African-Americans, and the Sovereign Citizens Movement

On Sunday, Gavin Long, ambushed police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three and wounding 3 others. He is African-American, a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, and a former United States Marine. The mainstream--and especially Right-wing--corporate news media will focus on his imagined ties to the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a simple story that fits their preexisting narrative frame and ties neatly into white racial paranoiac thinking.

I would suggest that the most important dimension to Gavin Long's attack on the Baton Rouge police is his connection to the sovereign citizens movement, a Right-wing network of individuals and organizations who believe that the United States government is illegitimate. If true, Gavin Long's attack on police is part of a larger pattern of attacks by Right-wing domestic terrorists on police, firefighters, and other representatives of state authority. The vast majority (if not all) of these attacks have been committed by white men.

In August of 2015, The newspaper The Kansas City Star ran a feature on the sovereign citizens movement--which also attracts white supremacists--and how it has expanded to included African-Americans and other people of color. The story is worth reading in its entirety.

Some key excerpts:
The case made headlines last fall in the midst of the Ferguson unrest.
Two men with ties to the New Black Panther Party were charged with acquiring weapons in what was later revealed to be a plot to kill two public officials and blow up a police station. 
The two pleaded guilty in June and will be sentenced Thursday in federal court in St. Louis. And in a lesser-known twist, one of the African-American defendants is an adherent of a movement that has its origins in racist and anti-Semitic beliefs.
Olajuwon Ali Davis is a “Moorish national” — an offshoot of the sovereign citizen movement. 
Experts and authorities say the case illustrates the changing face of the movement, whose members believe the government is corrupt and out of control and has no jurisdiction over them. 
While today’s movement remains largely white and still has some followers with racist leanings, a surge in the number of nonwhite sovereign citizens is underway across the country. And the biggest growth, experts say, is within an African-American branch called Moorish sovereigns, which is disseminating its ideas to a whole new batch of recruits. 
“It’s a new world,” said J.J. MacNab, an author who for two decades has been tracking anti-government extremists. “And Missouri is like ground zero.” 
The common denominator between sovereign citizens and more left-wing black separatists, MacNab said, is the sense of being powerless and having no voice.
“You have a group of right-wing people who feel voiceless,” said MacNab, who also is a fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. “You look at the angst in Ferguson and you hear a lot of the same things. They would not recognize it in each other, but they have a lot of the same complaints, which is that the world is changing and we don’t get a say in it.”
The Kansas City Star continues:
Bob Harris, a former Federal Bureau of Prisons case manager who teaches law enforcement officers how to identify and handle domestic extremists, acknowledged the irony of a movement with white supremacist roots being joined by an African-American group. But today’s sovereigns, he said, aren’t like those of previous decades. 
“They are much more reflective of the demographics of society today,” he said. “You have white people, you have African-Americans, you have Asians, you have Native Americans. The sovereign citizen movement has really become a melting pot.”
And Moorish nationals are increasingly occupying a bigger portion of the pot, experts say. 
“In the last several years, it’s exploded,” said Kory Flowers, a sergeant with the Greensboro, N.C., police department who trains officers and elected officials on sovereign citizen tactics. 
A Kansas City area sovereign citizen told The Star that he’s not at all surprised to hear about African-Americans taking up sovereign ideologies. 
“It just shows that more and more people are fed up with the government,” said Ken Auman, who has filed dozens of motions in lawsuits around the metro area, accusing city and county officials of corruption, harassment and violating his rights. 
Auman said he welcomes African-American sovereign citizens into the fold.
On Sunday, The Kansas City Star continued its excellent reporting on the sovereign citizens movement as it included these details about Gavin Long and  his association with the Washitaw Nation of Mu’urs:
Long declared himself a sovereign citizen in records filed with the Jackson County Recorder of Deeds last year.
“No doubt at all,” said J.J. MacNab, an author who for two decades has been tracking anti-government extremists. “He’s 100 percent sovereign citizen.” 
MacNab said he falls into the Moorish Sovereign category, more specifically the Washitaw Nation of Mu’urs. 
“This group believes that they are indigenous to the continent and therefore above all federal, state, and local laws,” said MacNab, who also is a fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. “These documents show Long’s attempt to separate his flesh and blood ‘indigenous’ self from his legal entity self.”
Sovereign citizens believe the government is corrupt and out of control and has no jurisdiction over them. Federal authorities consider the movement a domestic terror threat and it continues to swell, with violent incidents erupting on a regular basis.
Long filed the document with the Jackson County recorder in May 2015, saying he was with the United Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah Mu’ur Nation, Mid-West Washita Tribes. 
The document included a “live claim birth” record in which he changed his name to Cosmo Ausar Setepenra.
A story about a "scary", "evil", "crazy" black man who attacked police is far more compelling--and lucrative--to the mainstream corporate news media than a story about how Right-wing domestic terrorists who are now influencing people on both sides of the color line. The second narrative requires nuance and critical thinking; the first narrative is a bludgeon that titillates the White Gaze and satisfies centuries-old white fears about black revenge and negro uprisings.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Conversation with Writer Jared Yates Sexton About Life and Professional Wrestling Part Two

This week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show features writer Jared Yates Sexton.  This is the second installment of a two-part conversation. The first episode can be listened to here.

In this week's installment of the podcast, Jared and Chauncey talk about their shared love of professional wrestling, do some fantasy booking for the WWE, explore how the basics of good fiction writing can be applied to improve the WWE's current story lines, and have some fun reminiscing about the glory days of the (then) WWF and WCW back in the 1980s and 1990s.

During this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey shares his experience marching with Black Lives Matter in Chicago and has the good fortune to interview a white woman who started out saying "All Lives Matter" and was then persuaded to join the protest. Unfortunately, this positive interaction was balanced out by how Chauncey encountered a drunk, racist, and very loud Donald Trump supporter at a local bar several days later.

Chauncey also offers some thoughts on the Nice, France terror attacks and the dangers of radical religion and gives an update on what he learned from the doctor about his magical and amazing blood.

This second episode with Jared Yates Sexton can be downloaded from Libysn and also listened to here.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at StitcherThe Chauncey DeVega Show can now be found on Spotify as well.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Democracy Now" Tells the Truth About Alton Sterling and How the Baton Rouge Police are Harassing Witnesses and Truth-tellers to Cover Up Their Crimes

As rapper and actor Ice-T famously said some years ago, the police are the biggest gang out here in these streets. Police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana are acting to script.

This is not at all surprising. One of my repeated criticisms of how police thuggery and brutality against black and brown people is discussed by the corporate news media is 1) the assumption that America's police act in good will and 2) how there is little follow-up regarding the retaliation that witnesses and other truth-tellers often suffer from the police.

We have fancy academic and technical language such as the "carceral society" and "custodial citizenship" to describe how America's police are part of a vast system of social control against people of color, the poor, the working classes, the homeless, the mentally ill, and other marginalized groups. But perhaps we should just start calling America's cops "the gestapo". Such language is an apt description for how they treat many millions of the country's citizens.

The police take an oath to "serve and protect" the public. What are we to do when the police have abdicated such basic responsibilities and fail to either "serve" or "protect" people of color and others they have marked as second class citizens?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My Experience Marching With Black Lives Matter in Chicago

Democracy is messy.
Several months ago, I personally experienced the worst of democracy at Donald Trump’s “no-show” rally in Chicago, when the raw passion, racism, bigotry, and violence he encourages among his supporters almost caused a riot at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion.
On Saturday, I experienced some of the best aspects of democracy as I marched in the streets of downtown Chicago with members of Black Lives Matter and their allies who were protesting police brutality against people of color.
Unlike the faux populism channeled by the proto-fascist Donald Trump, the march was inclusive: it included black, white, brown, straight, gay, old, young, poor, and working class people. There were lifelong and trained activists in the group, but the march also swept up casual observers who joined when asked, “Do black lives matter to you?”
The marchers chanted the names of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile while demanding that America’s police stop violating the human rights of black and brown people. They blocked major intersections, tried to outmaneuver the police, and conducted sit-ins and teach-ins to maintain their morale and to educate those bystanders who were willing to listen.
When citizens exercise their rights of free speech and assembly in such a manner they are confronting State power. This is a crucible that reveals fundamental questions about the nature of American society and politics.
There were black children and families marching together at an event which could have easily descended into violence and chaos if the Chicago police decided to unleash their clubs, tear gas, or use other more extreme measures.
Should children be involved in political protests? This is an old question that harkens back to the debates almost six decades ago between the noted political philosopher Hannah Arendt and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.