"America's 50 best cities to live in," reveals USA Today. "These rising U.S. cities could become the top places to live and work from home," reports CNBC. "The best U.S. cities to raise a family," lists MarketWatch. Over and over again in American media we hear stories centered around ranking, judging and analyzing the rather vague concept of a city. But who is being discussed when we talk about "cities"? How are "cities" a meaningful unit to understand a given space, especially in a country marked by runaway inequality and segregation? When we’re told Johns Creek, Georgia, is the best city for "young people," or Carmel, Indiana, is the most "livable," whose lives and experiences are the media really talking about? Who is the audience for these reports about the best cities for families, for nightlife, for safety, for education, for happiness? The criteria most U.S. corporate media uses centers a very particular constituent: Your average homeowner or prospective homeowner, usually white, upwardly mobile, namely, those who marketers, investors and real estate agents most want to reach. Cities then, aren't deemed livable for their fair labor practices, but for their business-friendly policies. They're not worth moving to for their abundance of free public space in low-income neighborhoods, but for their charming boutiques and chic restaurants. They don't rank high for their strong rent-control laws, but for their ability to attract tech companies and they capture attention not for their excellent mental-health statistics, but for their "booming economies". On this episode, we parse the ways in which media coverage of cities and urban living — often crafted by white professional-class writers for white professional-class audiences, and funded by faceless parent companies and corporate advertisers — centers the most powerful while ignoring the needs of the working class, the homeless, people with disabilities, and the vast majority of Black and brown residents. Our guest is VOCAL-NY's Jawanza James Williams.
1 hr 10 min
1 hr 18 min
"Beef. It’s what’s for dinner," the baritone voices of actors Robert Mitchum and Sam Elliott told us in the 1990s. "We’re not gonna let Joe Biden and Kamala Harris cut America’s meat!" cried Mike Pence during a speech in Iowa last year. "To meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat," lamented Donald Trump adviser Larry Kudlow on Fox Business. Repeatedly, we’re reminded that red meat is the lifeblood of American culture, a hallmark of masculine power. This association has lingered for well over a century. Starting in the late 1800s, as white settlers expropriated Indigenous land killing Native people and wildlife in pursuit of westward expansion across North America, the development and promotion of cattle ranching — and its product: meat — was purposefully imbued with the symbolism of dominance, aggression, and of course, manliness. There’s an associated animating force behind this messaging as well: the perception of waning masculinity in our settler-colonial society. Whether a reaction to the closure of the American West as a tameable frontier in the late 19th century or to the contemporary Right's imagined threats of "soy boys" and a U.S. military that has supposedly gone soft under liberal command, the need to affirm a cowboy sense of manliness, defined and expressed through violence and domination, continues to take the form of consuming meat. On this episode, we study the origins of the cultural link between meat eating and masculinity in settler-colonial North America; how this has persisted into the present day via right-wing charlatans like Jordan Peterson, Josh Hawley and Tucker Carlson who panic over the decline of masculinity; and the social and political costs of the maintenance and preservation of Western notions of manliness. Our guest is history professor and author Kristin Hoganson.
1 hr 20 min
In this public News Brief, we examine 24 hours of CNN's mindless police stenography undermining modest bail reform in New York.
In this public News Brief, we discuss a recent advice column in the New York Times advocating upwardly mobile professionals dump their fat and depressed friends and how it's part of a much broader trend of pop sociology repackaging cruelty and soft eugenics as "science-driven" self improvement.
"Oligarch". "Hardliner". "Regime". All common terms seen in Anglo-American media when describing politicians and power structures in official villain states; yet - mysteriously absent when talking about ourselves or our allies. This Part II of our Citations Needed countdown of the Top 10 "Enemy Epithets," derisive descriptors that are deployed to smear enemies without any symmetrical usage for U.S. officials, policy or imperial partners. Designed to conjure up nasty images of despotism and oppression, often pandering to Orientalized prejudice, these epithets demand people shut off their brains and have the label do the thinking for them. We are joined again by FAIR's Janine Jackson and Jim Naureckas.
1 hr 17 min
"Hand-picked successor", "firebrand", "proxy" — In Anglo-American media, there are certain Enemy Epithets that are reserved only for Official Enemy States of United States and their leaders, which are rarely, if ever, used to refer to the United States itself or its allies, despite these countries featuring many of the same qualities being described. Over two years ago, in a two-part episode entitled "Laundering Imperial Violence Through Anodyne Foreign Policy-Speak" (Episodes 70 and 71), we explored the euphemistic way American media discusses manifestly violent or coercive US policy and military action. Words like “engagement”, “surgical strikes”, “muscular foreign policy”, “crippling sanctions” obscure the damage being unleashed by our military and economic extortion regime. Just as pleasant sounding, sanitized foreign policy speak masks the violence of US empire, highly loaded pejorative labels are used to describe otherwise banal doings of government or are employed selectively to make enemies seem uniquely sinister, while American allies who exhibit similar features are given a far more pleasant descriptor. This and next week, we're going to lay out the Top 10 Enemies Epithets — derisive descriptors that are inconsistently applied to smear enemies without any symmetrical usage stateside, designed to conjure up nasty images of despotism and oppression, often pandering to racialized and Oriental prejudice and, above all, asking people to shut off our brains and have the label do the thinking for them.
1 hr 11 min
In this public News Brief, we take a critical look at a recent wave of sensationalist "organized crime" "shoplifting epidemic" stories in national and Bay Area media and how they fit into a resurgent "Tough on Crime" narrative. We are joined by Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, Director of Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.
"A good, hard working kid." "A 4.0 student." "He's asking for too much money." "They get paid to play a child’s game." "He shows up and does his work and never complains." Despite the fact that the concept of paying college athletes has gained some mainstream support in recent years, much of the ideological scaffolding that exists to justify their lack of fair compensation is still very popular and widespread in sports punditry and writing, AM radio and play-by-play broadcasts. Scrutinizing GPAs and work ethic, talking about how "kids" are "becoming men," racialized claims of lazy or ungrateful players, and wildly different double standards for players and owners for when they attempt to maximize their economic interests all prop up a system that, despite liberal hand-wringing and box checking concern for not paying players at the highest levels, still relies on withholding compensation from college athletes for their labor. The stakes go beyond just sports. This conservative cultural contempt for athletes as a whole mirrors and informs that of other workers as well. Whenever, say, nurses organize for better pay and safer working conditions or, in the era of COVID, teachers unions seek to continue virtual rather than in-person classes for the sake of public health, they’re dismissed as self-interested and domineering. On this episode, we parse the racist, anti-labor characterization of athletes in media, how they are both scary threatening men and tiny children whose should be paid and breakdown how this topic has cultural implications to other labor struggles, by informing and reinforcing anti-union tropes across the board Our guest is Penn State professor Amira Rose Davis, co-host of Burn It All Down.
1 hr 33 min
In this public News Brief, we breakdown the most common anti-Palestinian tropes and why they're based on sophistry, ignorance, racism, or some combination of all three.