Friday, January 30, 2015

A Conversation With Mickey Hess About the Life and Times of the Legendary Wu-Tang Clan Member Known as Ol' Dirty Bastard

For this, the second episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show of 2015, I chatted with Dr. Mickey Hess about the life and times of the legendary hip-hop artist Ol' Dirty Bastard.

Mickey took on the challenge of tracking down Dirty's family, friends, and fellow members of the seminal hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan for his new book The Dirty Version: On Stage, In the Studio, and In the Streets With Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Hess's hip-hop vision quest paid off with a book full of great stories and insights about Ol' Dirty Bastard (aka Russell Jones). In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Mickey separates myth from fact. How did ODB feel about fame? What was it like hanging out with Dirty's dear friend and fellow member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Buddha Monk, at a Houlihan's restaurant? How did Dirty's drug and alcohol use impact his art and life? Did ODB's time in prison lead to his untimely death?

Mickey and I also talk about ODB's unbelievable adventures such as lifting a car off of an injured child, crashing the Grammys, and of course taking a limousine with his family to cash their monthly welfare check.

It is always a great time when you can sit down with a fellow hip-hop aficionado. Dr. Hess was a great conversation partner.

In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, I also comment on the "ghetto nerd" goodness that was last week's WWE Royal Rumble event (with my obligatory thoughts about the Roman Reign's fiasco) and make a prediction for this weekend's Superbowl game between my beloved New England Patriots and the Seahawks.

This episode of the podcast known as The Chauncey Devega Show can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Have You Read Jonathan Chait's Newest Entry in the White Male Victimology Olympics?

Jonathan Chait wrote this laughably unreflective and dim series of sentences in New York magazine:
Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. 
Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old. 
It also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.
His "left" can easily be replaced with "right" or "conservative"...and resonate with more bass and timbre.

Several years ago, a young man wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "straight rights" was supposedly waylaid and beaten upon in the streets of New York.

His effort at resistance via "truth-telling" was met with the most direct and transparent type of political action--a swift punch in the nose and a return to a state of affairs in which life is nasty, brutish, and short...except for the fact that he was not dispatched from this corporeal existence.

Of course, I do not support violence as a means of resolving disagreements over political speech.

Political speech is a call to action, an effort to channel emotion, and a type of claim on the nature of reality that is often both descriptive (how the speaker sees and understands reality) as well as normative (how the world ought to be).

Those claims and assumptions can be explicit or implied.

Monday, January 26, 2015

What Can Philip K. Dick Teach Us About Republicans in the Age of Neoliberalism and Cruelty?

"The Word ‘Android’ is a Metaphor for People Who are Physiologically Human But Psychologically Behaving in a Non-human Way"

Are you good folks in the northeastern United States ready for Snowmageddon? Are you hunkered down? Have you purchased the victuals you will need for the upcoming days of ice and hell, i.e. did you buy enough beer and other liquor to tide you over?

During these times of weather tumult my mom feigns a lack of worry with a flippant "it's all media hype designed to make money..."

Because of my mother's addiction to driving her car everyday and in all environments--however perilous--for mobility is a symbol of her vitality and not being "an old senile lady", I had to give her the obligatory "stay inside and be careful because I am not fixing your car if you wreck it" lecture. 

I will be watching some online weather video camera feeds of Snowmaggeddon 2015 to satisfy my envy of those folks who will have all that snowy goodness to enjoy.

And please, if you are in the crosshairs of this supposed to be epic weather event do be careful, make sure that pets are brought inside, call the cops on those people who neglect their animal friends in such weather, and do try to make sure that our homeless brothers and sisters have supplies.

In keeping with the previous "ghetto nerd" themed post, I would like to share this gem of an interview by Paul M. Samson with the legendary science fiction writer and philosopher Philip K. Dick from 1981.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Semi-Open Sunday Thread: Predicting WWE's Royal Rumble While Bill Belichick Deflates My Balls and U.F.O.'s Attack

As is our habit and tradition, do consider this a semi-open thread to share information and matters of public and private concern that you find interesting and important.

I have not done a "ghetto nerd" related post in some time. I would like to correct that oversight.

[The podcast has touched on that fun theme several times, most notably our conversation with Jason Colavito about ancient aliens and other matters, as well as an upcoming installment with Dr. Adilfu Nama, where will be talking about race, science fiction, comic books, and other related matters.

If you have not listened to my conversation with's Jack Hamilton about hip hop, popular music and the colorline, please do so. I think you will enjoy it.]

Tonight is the WWE's Royal Rumble pay-per-view event, airing from Philadelphia (the crowd should be really hot tonight, Philly is a great wrestling city).

The Rumble is always great fun. This year's card promises lots of excitement and surprises as Daniel Bryan has returned, Randy Orton is rumored to be an entrant, the Rock has been sighted in Philadelphia, and the legendary Sting will advance his feud with HHH before their inevitable match at Wrestlemania.

Of course, the three way match between Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, and John Cena will be epic--if booked correctly.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chris Kyle, American Sniper, and Christian Fascism

The popularity of American Sniper, the new biopic about Chris Kyle's life as one of the most deadly men in the history of the United States military, is disturbing. As I wrote here, American Sniper is war porn propaganda, and a type of public masturbation with Right-wing ejaculate composed of militarism, cruelty, history and current events bereft of context, and embracing worshipfulness towards a sociopathic killer.

The popularity of American Sniper is also an indictment of America's conscience and ethics. 

9-11 caused a type of derangement for the American people en masse. 

The movie American Sniper and the mass public's complicity and support for the vile deeds done in the name of the American people as detailed by the recently released C.I.A. "torture report" are wanton wickedness in stereo. The banality of evil was and is a condition not exclusive to the German-Nazi regime: it is very much at home in the United States.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Conversation With Slate Magazine's Jack Hamilton About the Notorious B.I.G., Hip Hop, and Popular Music's Relationship to the Colorline

I hope that you had a good New Year's and first few weeks of 2015.

The Chauncey DeVega Show continues in 2015 after a several week hiatus. We have some wonderful guests for the new year, the conversations already recorded, and quite a few planned for the future. 


To begin 2015, The Chauncey DeVega Show will feature two shows focusing on hip hop music. 

Our first guest for 2015 is Jack Hamilton. He is a contributing writer at Slate magazine, and also an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia.

I am a member of the hip hop generation. My own work focuses on race, hip hop, and the politics of popular culture. It is always wonderful to chat with a fellow traveler such as Jack Hamilton.

In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Jack and I talk about the life and legacy of the late, great, MC known as The Notorious B.I.G., the current state of hip hop music, the occasion of how many seminal hip hop albums are now 20-years-old, teaching popular music in the classroom, writing about music for Slate, the colorline and black music, and how/if the conversion from analog to digital has changed--in a negative way--publics' relationships with popular music, as well as the complicated role of the white critic in black music.

In this podcast episode, I also share my thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo Paris terror attacks and free speech, and offer some sharing about my recent guest appearance on the RT network. Of course, I couldn't resist talking about Chris Rock's movie Top Five...and my impulse to share a personal "top 5 MCs of all time" list, while looking for the fainting couch, as I am struck dumb by Rosario Dawson's beauty.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is a virtual bar and salon where interesting and smart folks doing interesting and smart things sit down for a conversation. 

It was a joy talking with Dr. Jack Hamilton.

This episode of the podcast known as The Chauncey Devega Show can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Thoughts on the Very Problematic 'American Sniper': Is David Grossman's Theory of 'Killology' and 'Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs' Racist?

I have mentioned and shared Dr. and Lt. Col (ret.) David Grossman's work on the psychology and science of killing several times here on WARN.

His theories about "killology" are fascinating and compelling. Grossman's use of examples and empirical data about war fighting and aggression are--to a semi-layperson with a more than passing interest in military history--very persuasive.

Dr. Grossman is also on the wishlist of future guests for The Chauncey DeVega Show.

Alas, hobbyist level knowledge is not the same as expert knowledge and direct lived experience on and with a given topic or subject.

To point. I was surprised to see David Grossman's work waylaid in a piece on about the mediocre war porn movie American Sniper and the valorization of the lying and psychopathic Chris Kyle.

[I must now add the qualifiers and cautions about Grossman's theories to the two conversations on WARN's podcast series where the guest(s) were guarded about some of his findings, as well as the chats I have had with an active duty Navy SEAL, and a Ukrainian sniper, both of whom saw extensive combat in Iraq, and were similarly less than effusive about the merits and explanatory power of "killology". They also cautioned me to be weary of the difference between "tabbed" and "scrolled" Rangers and the former's claims of military exploits.]

Michael Cummings' and Eric Cummings' criticism(s) of Grossman are centered on his recounting of an anecdote that has now become gospel in many Right-wing circles:

"I Have No More Campaigns to Run...I Know 'Cos I Won Both of 'Em": President Barack Obama is an Uppity Rude Rapscallion Negro Who Does Not Know His Place!

I am having some fun over at the Daily Kos. Liberal racists are such an easy crowd.

Near future plans: there will be a new podcast episode this Thursday. I also have a longer essay to share on Friday.

For the immediate present...

President Barack Obama successfully trolled the White Right in his seventh State of the Union Address before the United States Congress on Tuesday evening.

In my schadenfreude vision and hope, a member of the White Right shot at the cockroaches on the wall of his home with a pellet gun, while yelling at the TV about the evil Black President who "steals the white man's air" in their rage-filled response to Obama's witty quip.

Right-wing bloviators and their racially resentful and overtly bigoted public will howl--and will do so for the next few days--about the "disrespectful" and "rude" Black President (who to their eyes, introduced "petty politics", and "his arrogance", into a "sacred" American ritual).

As is their habit, for white conservatives and their allies, Barack Obama, who in reality is a very centrist Rockefeller Republican neoliberal operating under the guise of a Democrat, is a black rapscallion uppity negro who does not know his place.

And people of conscience and intelligence must never forget that the word "uppity" is an excuse for violence and murder when historically used by whites against African-Americans:
Although rape is often cited as a rationale, statistics now show that only about one-fourth of lynchings from 1880 to 1930 were prompted by an accusation of rape. In fact, most victims of lynching were political activists, labor organizers or black men and women who violated white expectations of black deference, and were deemed "uppity" or "insolent." Though most victims were black men, women were by no means exempt.
The plutocrat oligarchs laugh the whole time at the Vaudeville post-modern politics spectacle.

I know this to be true; I still allow myself, being the wrestling smart mark that I am, to enjoy the whole damned show, all the while I wonder what gems of truth and honesty about the Tea Party GOP and the White Right, more generally, that Obama will share some years from now in his autobiography and chronicle of his years as President of the United States of America.

What were your thoughts about Obama's State of the Union Address? Any insights, reactions, humor, disappointment, or the like to share and reflect upon?

Of course, what did you think of Obama's beautiful smile and damn sharp wink?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Never Forget that Martin Luther King Jr. was Hated by White America

Selma will likely replace the TV miniseries Roots or the documentary Eyes on the Prize in the obligatory Martin Luther King Jr. viewing rotation. 

Selma is a fine movie. It is also a product of the culture industry and racial capitalism.

While Dr. King is praised as American royalty in post civil rights era America, he has been robbed of all of his radicalism, truth-telling, and criticism of white supremacy and white privilege, the latter constituting a deep existential and philosophical rot in the heart of the American political and civic project.

The best way to kill a revolutionary or a radical is to give him or her a monument and a public holiday. James Earl Ray murdered Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. The milquetoast version of his radical politics as processed through the white racial frame and the American myth-making machine have murdered him a second time.

Ultimately, it is far easier to love a dead man. 

We cannot forget that Dr. King was hated by most of White America while he was alive.

Once more and again, racism is not an opinion. 

To wit.

Public opinion polling data from the 1960s highlights the high levels of white animus towards Dr. King, and the basic claims on human rights and citizenship made by African-Americans in the long Black Freedom Struggle and the civil rights movement.

Political scientist Sheldon Appleton offered this analysis and summary of Gallup polling data from King's era in an article published in 1995:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Would J. Edgar Hoover Think of the Movie 'Selma?': Semi-Open Weekend Thread. The FBI and COINTELPRO as Art and Literature Critic of the Black Freedom Struggle

I hope that you are having a restful and nice weekend. The weather is unseasonably warm here in Chicago. I will be taking my afternoon constitutional and feeding the animals who live near the lake some bread and popcorn later in the day.

My main task for this Sunday is to will the New England Patriots to victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The Seahawks will destroy Green Bay: the outcome is a given, one almost pre-ordained.

The question remains, if the Patriots overcome the Colts, will Belichick and Brady have enough tricks in the bag to take down the indomitable Seahawks Greenbay.

Who knows at this point?
the Seahawks.

Tomorrow is Dr. King's birthday and national holiday.

On that day, the American public will celebrate the empty and obligatory popularized version of a man whose work has been reduced to punchlines that all can embrace across the colorline, robbed of its radicalism and truth-telling through the intellectual and political pasteurization necessary for a person to become an American icon, and where the obligatory I Have a Dream Speech is flattened to make mainstream white America happy--King boldly held white America accountable for its sins, advocated reparations and affirmative action, and spoke clearly and directly about white supremacy and white privilege.

If film is like "writing history with lightning", mass culture has taken Brother Dr. King's radicalism, diluted it, and then spat it out through the tip of an eye dropper across American popular memory and consciousness.

Never forget: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an enemy of the state.

King's work and sacrifice are part of the long Black Freedom Struggle. As such, its cultural workers, activists, and leaders were the target of systematic harassment and violence by the United States government under the decades-long Counter Intelligence Program.

While it may seem absurd and comical in its excesses, the FBI and other domestic intelligence organizations operating under COINTELPRO monitored African-American art and literature for "subversive" messages, and also as a barometer for black protect activist and public opinion.

William Maxwell's new book F.B. Eyes: How J.Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature offers insights and details on those practices that (in addition to monitoring King's speeches and letters) included close readings of work by such seminal figures as Claude McKay, Sonya Sanchez, Richard Wright, and others.

[The visual of FBI officials reading Claude McKay's poems and then performing them at home is a beautiful one. The image of Hoover, a gay man who was likely black and passing for white, all the while he harassed African-Americans and the gay community is the worst and most pathetic way possible.]

Maxwell's findings are not surprising. The United States, British, and French used sophisticated propaganda techniques to manipulate publics during World War One. World War 2 saw a refining of the monitoring and control of mass publics through the mass media. The Cold War evolved those practices forward.

In the digital social media era, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, cell phones, email, and other technologies are observed and manipulated by the surveillance society. The difference? The masters of the universe and the security state have incentivized publics to share all of their most private thoughts and beliefs online. COINTELPRO and like operations once hid in the shadows; now, their heirs operate in plain sight with the help of a complicit, eager, and oftentimes indifferent public.

As is our habit and tradition, do you have any discoveries or thoughts to share about issues of public or private concern? Have any of you ever gotten your FBI file? Any activists with stories of FBI or NSA monitoring to share?

A provocative question: Are Hollywood movies like Selma the ultimate example of how the State and culture industry can transform political radicalism into acts of art as commerce that undermine the radical nature of people's resistance movements such as the Black Freedom Struggle and Civil Rights Movement?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bradley Cooper is Excellent in the Movie 'American Sniper'; Chris Kyle is Still a Psychopathic Killer

All "Anti-War" Movies are Actually "Pro-War" Despite Their Intent

I attended a Thursday night viewing of the new movie American Sniper about the life and military exploits of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.

Some quick thoughts.

Kyle is embodied by actor Bradley Cooper. He is Chris Kyle. He is not a cheap pantomime or parlor trick biographical actor: Cooper has earned his 2014 Oscar nomination for best actor.

While I admire Bradley Cooper's performance, American Sniper is a functional film that in many ways is fundamentally dishonest about politics, war, Kyle's life, and the Iraq misadventure that ruined the bodies and souls of thousands of American soldiers, and many millions of innocent Iraqis. 

The movie American Sniper reinforces my thoughts from 2 years ago about Chris Kyle, his book, and feting by Bill O'Reilly and Fox News:
Chris Kyle was feted by Bill O'Reilly last week: his deeds were recounted, and killing admired by the Fox News faithful. There is an odd homoeroticism (or is it homosocial worship?) in this interview, where O'Reilly as an archconservative is channeling a deep fascination with the "how" of death, and a type of hyper-masculinity that is the bleeding heart of Right-wing authoritarianism. Here, O'Reilly reminds the viewer of why straight men enjoy watching the freakishly large penises that dominate much of American pornography. Hero worship, with no small amount of projection, is, and remains, the thing--it is the means for a visceral thrill...
This is not a claim that elite soldiers such as the Navy Seals, the unit which Chris Kyle was a member of, are "crazy," sociopaths, or are especially prone to violence outside of a combat situation. It is however, an acknowledgement that there are bad and dangerous men who are born that way. The training sharpens the edge. 
The son of a Sunday-school teacher and a church deacon, Kyle credits a higher authority for his longest kill. 
From 2,100 yards away from a village just outside of Sadr City in 2008, he spied a man aiming a rocket launcher at an Army convoy and squeezed off one shot from his .338 Lapua Magnum rifle. Dead. From more than a mile away.
“God blew that bullet and hit him,” he said. 
For Kyle, the enemy is a “savage” — there’s no room for gray, only black or white. 
America is a militiarized society. Warfare and martial culture are at the heart of the country's economy and entertainment. Militarism is also central to America's political culture as well. For example, onservatives such as Gingrich, Romney, Bush, Santorum, Perry, and others play the tough guy as chicken hawks who swagger in a phallocentric game and performance which titillates their populist base, even as the irony that all either avoided military service (or exaggerated their responsibilities) remains uncommented upon.
Film theorists have incisively argued that there is no such thing as an "anti-war" movie because all movies about armed conflict are channels for a mediated reality. As such, they distort the horrors of battle, and the basic fact that war-fighting is a life and death matter, one that cannot be accurately communicated by the visual and aural codes or symbols and grammar of film. Consequently, even "anti-war" films like Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, and Full Metal Jacket are actually endorsements of the violence and human ruin they purport to condemn.

The ideology of the film American Sniper is presented through a narrative that lacks a substantive critical engagement with the causal forces that sent Chris Kyle to war--and where his skills as a sniper were refined and honored by the military.

History is flat--the teleology of the Iraq War is presented through the myopic lens of American Exceptionalism and the epistemically closed Right-wing media--in American Sniper. And of course, the Iraqis in the movie are cartoon villains and victims.

For American Sniper, the Iraq War began because of Iraq's (non) involvement with the terrorist attacks on September 11th. The lie of the premise is never engaged or exposed except in fleeting scenes of soldiers, they who are now tired from war, dead, limbs amputated, their eyes weary as they write regretful letters that are read at funerals, or when Kyle's brother hints at how he is a broken man, one who is unable to equal his brother's martial prowess, and sentenced to existential malaise and unavoidable doom by service as an anonymous grunt.

In those scenes "war is hell". However, there is no further move to put that truism in context: the Iraq War(s) is in fact a type of hell, one based on an evil set of lies knowingly sold to the American people by the second Bush Administration.

Ultimately, the movie American Sniper is a hagiography that pretends to be an anti-hagiography. My muddied language is an intentional choice that signals to the clumsy slight of hand of an ideologically duplicitous film-making exercise. 

Chris Kyle is made a hero in a quasi anti-war film by virtue of his confusion and vulnerability, need to reconnect with his family, and the healing he offered to his fellow veterans stateside. The audience is cheated of the moral and human consequences of war in the film's conclusion, where even the best of efforts for broken warriors to heal one another can result in death.

Kyle's murder by a fellow veteran, one more broken than he, is only alluded to by an epilogue. We do not see Kyle's death. Instead, nationalism and the "sacrifice" of America's "selfless" warriors is reified by the tired civil religion routine that is waving American flags, cops and firefighters, and a funeral montage featuring obligatory military regalia and Kyle's brother SEALs.

A "great warrior" laid out in a random killing on a gun range is too much truth about the futility of war for American Sniper--a major Hollywood film that seeks to resuscitate the memory of the Iraq War and its soldiers--to entertain an audience that is comprised of those folks who desire Bradley Cooper the heart throb, and the others who want to see a lethal killer ply his craft on human Arab Iraqi targets in a movie that is a 2 hour plus advertisement for the Navy SEALS and the U.S. military.

Chris Kyle did not need to be a twenty-first century Agamemnon in the movie American Sniper. But the Christian fundamentalist Crusader-sniper who borrowed the insignia of the Marvel comic book anti-hero The Punisher as his own, had no regrets about all of his killing, exaggerated and lied about his exploits, and exhibited signs of psychopathy, is a much more compelling subject for a movie than the person artfully depicted by Bradly Cooper. 

If cinema is a lie, American Sniper is one of the most recent and greatest examples of said reality.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Authoritarianism and Police Brutality Against People of Color

Police are supposed to serve the public. In a democracy, police are controlled and commanded by elected officials who ostensibly serve the public interest.

Recent events in New York City (and elsewhere) undermine those basic norms.

In the aftermath of the killing of two New York police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, by a mentally ill gunman, police union leader Patrick Lynch is leading a veritable police rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio.

New York City’s police have refused to do their jobs by engaging in an coordinated work slowdown and strike.

New York police have publicly booed and heckled Mayor de Blasio—even going so far as to turn their backs to him—as a sign of their anger and disrespect towards him.

In online forums such as Thee Rant, a site frequented by retired and active duty New York police officers, Mayor de Blasio, his family, and administration have been the targets of vicious racial slurs and threats.

New York City’s police and their spokespeople are rebelling against civilian authority for a variety of reasons.

Primarily, Mayor de Blasio’s basic observation that police brutality and racism against non-whites is a problem that must be solved, and when coupled with the nationwide protests against police thuggery in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, threatens an American police culture that views itself as an omnipotent force, one that is above the law.

New York’s police and union leaders such as Patrick Lynch are also mining the cultural mythologies that protect the police in order to create a narrative of police victimhood and vulnerability. While contrary to the empirical data which demonstrates that police work is actually a relatively safe profession (for example, police deaths are near a 50 year low) a tale of police victimhood can be combined with white racial resentment to weaken Mayor De Blasio, a Democrat, for the purpose of gaining leverage in the New York police union’s pay and contract negotiations.

In authoritarian and fascist societies, police and the military exist outside of civilian control.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chauncey DeVega Discusses the Paris Terror Attacks and White Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism on the RT Network

Last night, I was invited to appear on The Big Picture which airs on the RT Network, Free Speech TV, and also online, to discuss the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks and Right-wing terrorism by white Christians.

I said "yes".


The American media has done the public a great disservice by limiting the frame to a discussion of terrorism by people who happen to be Muslim. Of course, politicized Islam is directly connected to the terror attacks in Paris, the United States, and other parts of the world--the wickedness of Boko Haram's rapine and savage acts in Nigeria are tragic low points that also demand more discussion by the American news media.

But, the Paris terror attacks must be understood within a broader context of geopolitics, the limits of toleration, the challenges of multiculturalism, and other related matters. Bogeymen with Korans make for good copy and TV soundbites; bogeymen with Korans are distracting images that keep us from understanding the systemic forces that urge them on.

Islamic terrorists must be eliminated with all due force. The swamp that creates radicalized religion must be drained. Its believers should be reeducated and retrained.

In all, terrorism is terrorism regardless of the ethnic or racial backgrounds of the perpetrators. To point, white Right-wing Christian domestic terrorists are the biggest threat to public safety and security in post 9-11 America. The American people are unlikely to hear that fact stated plainly and directly by the corporate "mainstream" news media.

I had an opportunity to make a small intervention and corrective in that regard on RT network's show The Big Picture. I felt obligated to take it.

There are a few moments where the editing of the guest spot makes me look like The Wizard of Oz or a gigantic negro (extra points for folks who get the reference). Those are small concerns. I think that Mike Papantonio, the guest host, did a good job and I tried my best to communicate clearly and directly.

As always, do share any thoughts, suggestions, insights, or related thoughts on the segment if you are so inclined.

Monday, January 12, 2015

'White' American Terrorism and Charlie Hebdo Christian Hypocrisy

On Friday of last week, I spoke with Ring of Fire TV and Radio about the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper by Islamic terrorists in Paris.

During that interview I stressed several points: first, terrorism is an international problem and not just one of "those people" in the Middle East and elsewhere; second, America has a problem with terrorism by white, Right-wing, Christian conservatives; third; a perverse type of white identity politics endangers public safety because a mature discussion about terrorism by white people (especially white conservatives) will be shouted down by Fox News and its enablers across the media.

The scars of 9-11, and the American derangement that occurred in its aftermath, have combined with Orientalism, a cartoon bogeyman version of the Arab and Muslim "Other", and white supremacy to make all Muslims--however cosmopolitan and "Western" they may be--responsible for the vicious crimes of a few.

In that imaginary, all Muslims are made accountable for violence by Islamic terrorists.

This is part of the same logic which deems that all black Americans are somehow responsible for the crimes of a few people who by virtue of melanin count and the 1 drop rule in the United States are also arbitrarily deemed "black". By contrast, whiteness and white privilege are individualism in extremis. Thus, white killers, terrorists, and other monsters are "lone wolves" who reveal nothing about white people en masse.

When religion and political violence are intertwined, these questions of identity and group responsibility become even more complicated. Faith is a belief in that which cannot be proven by ordinary empirical means. By implication, religion is a type of magical thinking. However, it is made no less powerful a social force--both for "believers" and "non-believers--because of said fact.

Religion also creates a type of kinship network, tribe, and sense of community. Generally, members of a given religious clan are given more latitude and benefit of the doubt in their behavior than those who are outside of it. The religious Other is to be judged differently than those who of the religious in-group. Of course, this is hypocritical.

This hypocrisy is not conjecture; it is a measurable social phenomenon. Public opinion polling data from 2011 details how:
Such is typically not the case for acts of violence perpetrated by other religious groups, and a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey may offer a hint as to why the double-standard exists. 
The PRRI survey showed evidence of contradictions in Americans' attitudes toward religious violence. Most notably, 83 percent of Americans said that self-proclaimed Christians who commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christians, while 48 percent of Americans said that self-proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are not really Muslims. 
Republican respondents (55 percent) were more likely than Democrat respondents (40 percent) to say a self-identified Muslim who commits acts of violence in the name of Islam is really Muslim... 
A September 2014 Pew report found that 50 percent of American adults say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers -- up from 40 percent in 2011, Jones said.
This is validation of the individual level experiences that I (and many of you) have had, where when asked about the ill-deeds committed by someone of their faith, the religiously minded often hee and haw as they say "x person isn't a 'real' Christian or Muslim so their behavior does not reflect the faith". Such deflections are cognitive shortcuts that defy critical engagement, as faith for the faithful is by definition a suspension of critical thinking via an embrace of the mysteries that come with a revelatory experience with their personal God.

The American Taliban--the Christian Dominionists, Sovereign Citizens, Christian Reconstructionists--have much in common with Islamic terrorists. They are both anti-Enlightenment, against free speech, do not believe in the separation of church and state, are hostile to the rights of gays and lesbians, and view women as not being full and equal citizens in the polity.

However, there is one key difference. Islamic terrorists own and embrace the use of violence against the public as a tool of intimidation in the service of advancing a political goal. By contrast, the American Taliban are enabled and protected by the Right-wing media and a broad swath of the white conservative public even as both run away from the twin labels of "Christian" and "terrorist".

"Christian terrorism" is terrorism. "Muslim terrorism" is terrorism. "Jewish terrorism" is terrorism.

Why is that reality so difficult for so many people to accept?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Have You Seen Joe Sacco's Cartoon About the Paris Terror Attacks and the Limits of Satire?

Comic books and graphic novels are much more than "pictures with words".

The universe sends us messages that we can listen to, and if we are lucky, understand and reflect upon in a positive and powerful way.

I am drinking a few beers, doing my best to stay warm here in Chicago Echo Base on Hoth, and watching the BBC documentary Great War Diaries.

Joe Sacco, the gifted and award-winning storyteller, journalist, and cultural critic who just happens to use visual arts as one of his mediums, penned the exceptional and ambitious graphic novel The Great War about the first Battle of the Somme.

His newest "cartoon" explores questions of taste, satire, and censorship in the aftermath of the attacks by Islamic terrorists on the people of France.

Sometimes you have to sit back and let the grown folks talk about a subject; Sacco is teaching in On Satire, holding court from the grown folks table in the proverbial kitchen and/or den of our global collective digital public sphere.

What do you "see" in Joe Sacco's work of pictures and words as literature? Do you agree? Any other great examples of graphic art and literature which you would like to share that are related to the Paris attacks, free speech, or society and politics more generally?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chris Matthews Cuts a Mean Promo on the Paris Terror Attacks and Religious Grievance-Mongering While The American Taliban's Bill Donohue Explains That 'Muslims are Right to be Angry'

Continuing the good conversation about the limits of tolerance in light of the Paris terror attacks on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and the blind spots in the American media to terrorism by the Christian White Right, that we began here.

[Thom Hartmann also echoed my observations. It would be great to appear on his show. Maybe the friends of WARN can email and tweet Thom with that gentle suggestion.]

The American Taliban and political Islam are more alike than they are different. Both expose violence as a legitimate means of resolving political disagreements in lieu of normal politics and civil society, they are pre-modern and anti-Enlightenment, intolerant, and do not believe in the separation of church and state. These facts stand naked before us; America's corporate media--blinded by American exceptionalism and white racism--are terrified of "connecting the dots" on the overlap between the Christian White Right and their ideological brethren among a small sect of Muslims.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, he who is one of the American Taliban, shared his sympathy for the feelings of "offense" that motivated yesterday's terrorist attack in Paris:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Paris Terror Attackers and America's White Right-wing Christian Domestic Terrorists are Brothers in Arms

Muslim terrorists killed at least 12 people in a brazen daylight attack on the offices of the French satirical newspaper the Charlie Hebdo weekly. 

While the American media and public will inevitably default to a childish and simpleminded frame that deems the Paris terror attackers to be "crazy", the reality is that this group appears to be tactically proficient, well-equipped, and effective. 

Moreover--and this too is anathema to the American media and the approved public discourse--"terrorism" can be a very effective tactic: for example, suicide bombing can advance strategic goals; a small group of terrorists can be highly disruptive, cause the enemy to expend a large amount of resources to neutralize them, and undermine the targeted community's sense of security and safety.

Terrorism is a strategy that uses violence and intimidation to achieve a political goal. Terrorism may, but is not limited to, targeting civilian "non-combatants". Terrorism is not exclusive to the Middle East or other parts of the world. It is part of an American tradition of violence from the white racial pogroms and terrorism of the 19th and 20th centuries against African-Americans and other people of color through to the police violence and thuggery of the post civil rights era against black and brown communities as exemplified by the events in Ferguson and choking on video murder of Eric Garner by the NYPD.

In the age of September 11th and a perpetual American war against "terrorism", Islamic terrorists are a convenient bogeyman and monster upon which the West can fixate. Terrorism is a type of zombie politics, one that survives despite the fact that more Americans have been killed by Right-wing domestic terrorists than by Muslim "jihadists" since the events of September 11th. 

Stereotyped Muslims with bombs on their backs, yelling "Allahu Akbar", beheading white people, and calling for an Islamic caliphate are far more compelling images with which to conjure up fear and anxiety (while also serving the political entertainment complex of movies, video games, and ad revenue for corporate news networks) than are like depictions of white Right-wing conservative Christians who have participated in domestic terrorism against their fellow citizens.

Beckoned on by Fox News and the Right-wing hate media, white Right-wing domestic terrorists have either actively committed or planned numerous acts of terrorist violence in the United States.

Some of these include:

1. The bombing of an NAACP office on Tuesday of this week.

2. Planting an improvised explosive device at the Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Spokane, Washington.

3. The attacks by "sovereign citizens" in Louisiana, Arizona, Texas, and elsewhere against government buildings, police, and firefighters.

4. The attacks by Jared and Amanda Miller against police in Las Vegas, and that of Frazier Glenn Miller on a Jewish community center in Kansas.

While the American news media is fixated on the still developing terrorist event(s) in Paris, a cabal of white Right-wingers recently pleaded guilty to planning a horrific series of attacks in Georgia during 2014:
Yesterday, Terry Peace, Brian Cannon and Cory Williamson pleaded not guilty to a charge of domestic terrorism, as well as charges of conspiring to defraud the government. 
Peace, Cannon and Williamson — all members of a militia in Georgia — participated in online chat discussions between Jan. 23 and Feb. 15, 2014, that were monitored by the FBI. 
During the conversations online, they discussed using guerrilla war tactics and planned to launch attacks against a metro Atlanta police station and several government agencies in February 2014. 
The three men attempted to “recruit other individuals to join them and to carry out similar operations in those individuals’ home states.” 
Peace allegedly told other militia members to choose targets including “road blocks, TSA checkpoints, sheriffs/police conducting operations outside the Constitution” as well as to participate in the “removal of government people who support extra-Constitutional activities.” 
In other words, the men plotted to launch large-scale explosive attacks against local government and police that, if successfully carried out, would have been the largest terror attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11.
Of course, the Republican Party and its media refuse to admit the obvious connections between Right-wing ideologies, white masculinity, gun fetishism, bigotry, and political violence. And given the stranglehold of Christian Reconstruction and Dominionism on American movement conservatism, the role of Christian identity politics and white supremacy in domestic terrorism are de facto removed from any critical intervention or corrective.

Ultimately, the Republican Party and its propaganda machine's choice (with the corporate news media en masse enabling the behavior) to ignore, deflect, and shout down any discussion of the dangers posed by Right-wing domestic terrorism is white privilege as an enabler for violence, treason, and murder. In all and again, white privilege hurts and kills white people--even while too many of them continue to desperately hold onto its perceived (and real) psychological and material benefits.

Violence is a type of politics: this is true for both Islamic terrorists and white Christian Right-wing American domestic terrorists. 

Radicalized and politicized religions kills people. Religious extremism, intolerance, a rejection of pluralism, and a denial of the separation between church and state in modern Western democracies killed people in the streets of Paris today. 

Those same values are shared by the American White Right...and they are just as lethal abroad as they are at home.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

'Police are Heroes': The Cultural Mythologies that Enable Police Brutality Against Black and Brown Americans

The deaths of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, gunned down by a mentally unstable man who later committed suicide, have been accompanied by public rituals of mourning. Unfortunately, many public figures are also villifying those who demand accountabilty for police brutality.
In a sign of how debased American cultural values have become (especially on the Right), a plea for human dignity, civil rights and an end to police brutality against people of color can be twisted and warped into some type of provocation to violence against the police. The millions of Americans who want police to act in a professional and responsible manner by not abusing those they are ostensibly “sworn to protect” are not endorsing premeditated violence against police. Rather, those Americans of conscience who are standing up against police brutality believe that the dignity and safety of all people are paramount virtues.
While it may be a challenging truth for some, as I wrote here, the lives of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu are no more valuable or sacred than the lives of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, John Crawford, or any other human being. Human rights are universal. The lives of police are no more valuable or special than those of any other citizen. Failing to embrace this fact leads to a type of creeping fascism or authoritarianism by legitimizing police thuggery and abuse of the public.
While the public rituals that accompany the loss of a police officer are by definition designed to hide and obfuscate complex realities through the use of powerful symbols and rhetoric, the basic truth remains that police as a social institution and group are not victims. Rather, in the United States the police are a protected class of people. They are the day-to-day face of the State—and its power to visit violence upon the American people. Police are enforcers of the law; in many ways they are positioned above and outside it.
The examples of this Orwellian abuse of power are many.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Are You Also Feeling Disoriented by the 'Contradictory Vaudeville of Post-Modern Politics?'

The notion that in the West, a given year ends in December and begins in January, is arbitrary.

Yet, it has a powerful amount of cultural significance; consequently, it impacts our day-to-day lives, mood, and prompts--for many people at least--a moment of critical self-reflection and evaluation of the year that has past.

2014 was the year of ISIS, mysterious and unsolved plane crashes, massacres of children and other innocents, as well as continuing economic tumult.

The United States saw a year of new age lynchings where police thugs ran amok in places like Ferguson and choked people to death on videotape in New York, gun fetishists and right-wing domestic terrorists attacked and killed their fellow citizens, the lie of "post racial" America was further shattered, and slogans such as "hands up don't shoot" and "black lives matter" signaled just anger towards a State which routinely violates the civil rights of non-whites.

These events have created a sense of disorientation and confusion among the (global and) American public. I will confess, that at times, I too have felt this same confused sense of urgency combined with fatalism: it is often easier to surrender to the onslaught of events than it is to grapple with them.

Instantaneous global communications, the false intimacy and immediacy of social media, and a duplicitous and profit seeking corporate news apparatus have combined to create the confusion and helplessness that many in the West and around the world are experiencing.

It is also important to note how those same technologies have been used by truth-tellers, resistance fighters, and those others who have the courage--and often nothing at all left to lose in this life--to resist Power.

While there are brave outliers in the United States, and the West, more generally, cultivated paralysis and disorientation among the public are the norm.

Thus the existential question, "how are you feeling?"

In a new short documentary, Adam Curtis, noted cultural critic and documentarian, suggests that if you, as a member of the mass public are feeling dismayed, confused, "blue", or overwhelmed, then perhaps it is by design.

His conclusion about the nature of post-modern politics is especially powerful:

Friday, January 2, 2015

Sharing Our 2015 New Year's Resolutions: I Promise to be More 'Angry', 'Rageful' and 'Bitter' in the Upcoming Year. What are Your Promises to Yourself Or Others?

I hope that you all had a restful and rejuvenating holiday and New Year's Eve (and day).

I was traveling--thus my delay in responding to posts here on We Are Respectable Negroes (WARN). 

As seen in the above picture, my teddy bear family member enjoyed too much revelry and frolicking as 2014 transitioned into 2015. He is a free spirit. But, I do worry about him: his vices may be his undoing.

My week spent at home in Connecticut was nice. I do apologize if my travels interfered with responding to folks here, and also sending thank you notes to those of you who made nice donations to the humble project called We Are Respectable Negroes and last week.

[I also apologize to a good friend of WARN who invited me to a tour of one of Yale's museums and that I could not follow through on given parental guilt regarding my time.]

Again. Thank you. Again. Thank you all very, very much. 

My thanks are not just for those who were able to make a monetary donation, but to ALL of you who comment, email, send positive energy, share my work with others, and are supportive in whatever way(s) are reasonable and possible.  

When I traveled back to my ancestral Connecticut home, I meditated on the past year as it transitioned into 2015; I realized how blessed I was to have such good and loving friends--cats included--who are my family; I smiled thinking about how the friends of WARN subsidized my trip home and enabled me to slip my mother a nice holiday envelope (monies that were left after covering the expenses and opportunity costs associated with the site); and yes, felt regrets about failing some of the promises I made my mother when I was in high school then, now being close to 40-years-old, wondering if I will ever make due on them all.

[Am I the only person who goes home to their parents and reflects on all that they wanted to do for them, but perhaps wonders if they will ever be able to fully follow through on those honestly made obligations during their childhood?] 

The New Near is a time of promises to ourselves, others, and to the universe in the form of "resolutions". 

Research suggests that these "New Year's resolutions" actually have weight and purchase because of the cultural rituals associated with them. I am a simple man not prone to the magical thinking and superstitions of "religion"...except for those known as the Force and Crom.

In the interest of being a common man, I will reach out to common folks' beliefs, and in doing so share some of my New Year's resolutions.

[Insert snark and obligatory laughter as I am the most common of common men, the child of a janitor and a private duty nurse, and a spiritual cousin to Dusty Rhodes.]

As Tim Wise and I discussed in the most recent edition of The Chauncey DeVega Show, one should be careful about reading the comments written in response to their online work on sites other than their homebases such as WARN and

Breaking that rule, I have made the following New Year's resolutions for 2015.