Citations Needed
Citations Needed
Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson
Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.
News Brief: Forced Pregnancies, Gutting the EPA and Growing Frustration Over “Vote Harder” Messaging
In this public News Brief we catch up with the latest far right attacks on the liberal state and Democratic Party leadership's pathological inability––or unwillingness––to meet the moment.
Jun 29
29 min
Ep. 163: The Media-Manufactured Mystique of the US Court System
"John Roberts Passes Test: Politicization of Judicial Appointment is Disheartening," read a 2005 headline from Salisbury, Maryland’s Daily Times. "Ignore the attacks on Neil Gorsuch. He’s an intellectual giant — and a good man," Robert P. George pleaded in The Washington Post in 2017. Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination "is beyond politics," South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn told CBS's Face the Nation in 2022.   We hear the same refrains over and over about the US federal court system in general and the U.S. Supreme Court in particular. They’re independent judiciaries. They abide by the Constitution, the rule of law, the law of the land. They follow legal precedent. They’re bastions of integrity and impartiality. It’s reassuring to think of our courts as measured, fair, upholding democracy, and acting in the public’s interest.   But history shows that these articles of faith are undeserved. The courts are profoundly political, and they wield power that affects every corner of people’s lives, from healthcare to policing, education to climate. So why is it that The Courts are awarded such mystique? What purpose does it serve to paint them as untouchable and unquestionable, existing outside of politics? And how does this framing stack the deck against those seeking long overdue and radical change to our systems? On this episode, we examine how media have helped manufacture the sense of ennobled secrecy of the Supreme Court and broader so-called "justice system," looking at the ways in which the courts’ power runs counter to the will and needs of the public, the creation of campaigns to feign judicial impartiality and apoliticism, and the American exceptionalism that undergirds popular framings of one of the world’s most reactionary institutions.   Our guest is writer Josie Duffy Rice.
Jun 22
1 hr 27 min
Live Interview: "Action News" & the Rise of Anti-Black Local "Crime" Reporting . w/ Layla A. Jones
In this Live Interview from 5/20, we are joined by Layla A. Jones of the Philadelphia Inquirer whose report, "Lights. Camera. Crime," brilliantly documented the White Flight origins of the "action news" genre and how it dehumanized⁠—and thus helped lawmakers gut⁠—black communities throughout the country.
Jun 15
37 min
News Brief: Boudin Recall Coverage and how the NYT Sells 'Tough on Crime' Dogma to Squishy Liberals
In this News Brief, we examine two New York Times articles—one about Chesa Boudin and one about Eric Adams—and how they serve as object lessons in how liberal outlets repackaging 1990s-era Tough on Crime dogma as sophisticated, sanitized, and progressive.
Jun 8
30 min
Episode 162: How the "Data-Driven" Label Sanitizes Cruel Austerity Politics
“Follow The Data” is the name of a Bloomberg Philanthropies podcast that debuted 2016. “How Data Analysis Is Driving Policing,” a 2018 NPR headline read. “Data suggests that schools might be one of the least risky kinds of institutions to reopen,” an opinion piece in The Washington Post told us in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the last 20 or so years, a trend of labeling concepts as “data-driven” emerged. It applied, and continues to apply, to policies affecting everything from education to public health, policing to journalism. Decisions affecting these areas will be more thoughtful, the idea goes, when informed and supported by data. In many ways, this has been a welcome development: The idea that a rigorously scientific collection of information via surveys, observation, and other methods would make policies and media stronger seems unimpeachable. But this isn’t always the case. While gathering “data” is a potentially beneficial process, the process alone isn’t inherently good, and is too often used to obscure important and requisite value-based or moral questions, assert contested ideological priors and traffic in right-wing austerity premises backed by monied interests. When our media tell us a largely unpopular, billionaire-backed idea like school privatization, “targeted” policing, or tax incentive handouts to corporations have merit they’re backed by “the data,” what purpose does this framing serve? Where does the data come from? Who is funding the data gathering? What data are we choosing to care about and, most important of all, what data are we choosing to ignore? On today’s episode, we’ll look at the development of the push to make everything data-driven, examining who defines what counts as “data,” which forces shape its sourcing and collection, and how the fetishization of “data” as something that exists outside and separate from politics is more often than not, less a methodology for determining truth and more a branding exercise for neoliberal ideological production and reproduction. Our guests: Abigail Cartus is an epidemiologist at Brown University. She focuses on perinatal health and overdose prevention in her work at The People, Place & Health Collective, a Brown School of Public Health research laboratory.
Jun 1
1 hr 32 min
News Brief: Rightwing Media's Increasingly Goofy, Hyper-Militarized Non-Solutions to Mass Shootings
In this public News Breif, we discuss the phoned-in, cynical response by Republicans to mass shooting and how they've devolved into a dark, meta self-parody.
May 27
23 min
News Brief: Tucker & Co Try to Lawyer Their Way Out of Trafficking in Great Replacement Rhetoric
After a white nationalist kills 10 in a racist mass shooting in Buffalo, those most responsible for mainstreaming white nationalist talking points try and evade responsibility.
May 18
34 min
Ep. 161: The Real Life Implications of Pop Culture's Fascination with the Dubious Science of “Criminal Profiling”
Criminal Minds. Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer. Inside the Criminal Mind. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Each of these is the title of a series, fictional or otherwise, or documentary that relies on the work of so-called criminal profilers. They’re all premised, more or less, on the same idea: That the ability to venture inside the mind of an individual who’s committed a horrific act of violence–say, serial murder, rape, or kidnapping–is the key to figuring out why that crime happened in the first place. This theory may sound promising at first blush; after all, the highest echelons of law enforcement in the US continue to use criminal profiling tactics to this day. But the reality is that, despite their prevalence in law enforcement both onscreen and off, criminal profiling techniques are largely ineffective, and in many ways, dangerous. Failing to consider institutional factors such as a culture of violence and easy access to weapons, patriarchy, austerity and other social ills that contribute to and reinforce violent crime, criminal profiling focuses almost exclusively on individual experiences and psychological makeup. Meanwhile, it categorizes “criminals” not as people who’ve been shaped by this social conditioning, but as neuro-deviants whose psychological anatomy is just different from yours or mine. On this episode, we examine the history of the practice of criminal profiling in the West; how the FBI and entertainment industry work in tandem to glamorize the profession, despite its harms; what the actual effectiveness of profiling is; and how it serves as yet another form of Hollywood copaganda. Our guests are Thomas MacMillan and Chris Fabricant.
May 11
1 hr 33 min
Ep.160: The 'Last $100 in Your Bank Account' Economy - How Media's Love Affair with Crypto, NFTs and Gambling Prey Upon Working People
"NFTs May Seem Like Frivolous Fads. They Should Be the Future of Music," argues Rolling Stone magazine. "How to Buy Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies: A Guide for New Crypto Investors," advises TIME magazine. "'I had $10 in my bank account': This 36-year-old went from living paycheck to paycheck to making over $109,000 selling NFTs," proclaims CNBC. Over the past couple of years, U.S. media have been breathlessly hyping a new economy of digital "investment opportunities" and asset speculation. From cryptocurrency to NFTs, sports betting to online streaming casinos, business rags and legacy papers alike extol the virtues of a financial climate in which seemingly anyone with an internet connection, a smartphone, and a few bucks stands a chance of striking it rich. It's what we're calling "The Last $100 In Your Bank Account Economy." Somewhere, somebody thinks there's too much idle money sitting in working and Middle Class people's bank accounts that isn't being properly exploited. This, to them, is a crime, and increasingly sleazy verticals are emerging to make sure it doesn't stay there for too long. After all: Don’t you want to make your money work for you? Don’t let it sit there and collect dust. Get in on the action, fortune favors the brave, the next frontier, you can hit a 10 way parlay, don’t be an idle beta, get in on the action!! Since the onset of the pandemic and the evaporation of government aid like unemployment and child tax credits, new gambling markets have exploded, filling the financial voids suffered by working people. Meanwhile, news outlets and sports networks have been at the ready, using the same old aspirational advertising tactics for lotteries, betting, and casinos. And it’s not just about paid ads, the media companies themselves––from Disney to Fox to Comcast are in the sportsbook business, and every outlet from Rolling Stone to the Associated Press are hawking NFTs, creating new frontiers of conflicts of interests. On this episode, we detail the history of media's water-carrying for lotteries and other forms of gambling; how the press primes the public, especially the poor, to accept new forms of gambling and speculation tools like NFTs and cryptocurrency as normal, inevitable, and full of promise; and the ways in which they are cashing in on this cynical, infinitely regressive universe of extracting the last dollar out of your bank account. Our guest is Motherboard's Edward Ongweso, Jr.
May 4
1 hr 23 min
Ep. 159: The Anti-Worker Pseudo-psychology of Corporate Personality Testing
"Is it a higher compliment to be called a) a person of real feeling, or b) a consistently reasonable person?" "Are you more successful at a) following a carefully worked-out plan, or b) dealing with the unexpected and seeing quickly what should have been done?" "Which word in each pair appeals to you more? a) scheduled, or b) unplanned?"   Questions like these are posed to millions of current and prospective workers and students every year. They come from personality tests, whether the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Clifton StrengthsFinder, or other surveys purporting to assess personality traits and job aptitude. Through a series of tens to hundreds of questions, personality inventories claim to identify qualities like dominance, neuroticism, or introversion, synthesize a user profile, and determine that user’s fitness for a given job.   But beneath this ostensibly neutral goal of matching a person with their ideal form of employment lies a much more sinister aim: Identifying and weeding out would-be dissenters, labor organizers, and union sympathizers. Additionally, studies have shown repeatedly that commercial personality tests like the commonly used Myers-Briggs have little to no scientific value. Why, then, does their use continue–with anywhere from 60 to 80% of prospective workers taking a personality test–and given their anti-labor history, what harms do they pose?   On this episode, we examine the history of personality testing used in military, educational, and corporate settings; the relationship between personality assessments, labor law, and the corporate consultancy class; how personality testing threatens the livelihoods of people based on race, disability, and other factors; and media’s role in laundering tests as benign instruments of self-realization.   Our guest is writer Liza Featherstone.
Apr 27
1 hr 3 min
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