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.
Episode 150: How Economic Jargon and Cliches Make Cruel, Anti-Poor Policies Sound Sterile and Science-y (Part I)
“Supply and demand.” “It’s just Econ 101.” “Most economists agree...” “There’s always trade offs.”   Over and over, media and policymakers spew the same tired recitations meant to convey the seemingly natural, immutable laws of economics. "The economy," we’re told, is thriving when business owners and job creators are making record profits, and failing when investments in social programs have simply grown too high — and that’s the way it is and will, and should, always be. These terms, phrases and sentiments are part of a lexicon of economic euphemisms, cliches, and other forms of business-school speak designed to blur class lines and convince us that our economic system — entirely a result of policy choices largely designed to further enrich the wealthy at any the expense of the broader welfare — is a function of cold, hard science, with rules and principles no more pliable than those of physics or chemistry.   But why should we be expected to just accept that a news report that “the economy” is on the upswing means the average worker is doing any better, when all evidence is to the contrary? Why should our media’s economic so-called “experts” come from a pool of elite economics departments beholden to corporate donors and right-wing think tanks? And why must “the economy” be defined in terms of whether the Dow is up or down, instead of whether people have food, housing, healthcare, and job security?   On this episode, part one of a two-part series, we examine the first five of our ten most popular clichés, jargon, and rhetorical thingamajigs that economists, economic reporters, and pundits use to sanitize, obscure, and provide a thin gloss of Science-ism to what is little more than power-flattering, cruel, racist, austerity ideology.   Our guest is writer Hadas Thier.  
Dec 1
1 hr 17 min
Episode 149: How Fatness Became a Cheap Joke and Proxy for Moral Deficiency in Pop Culture
A character played by an actor in a fat suit shovels food in his face, unable to restrain himself in a fit of rage. Another falls, too lazy and out-of-shape to get up without the aid of others. And yet another loses weight and avenges the anti-fat bullying she faced growing up, finally earning respect as a thin person. We see all of these tropes ad nauseam in film, television, literature, and other forms of arts and pop culture. They’re a manifestation of a deep cultural hostility toward fat people - one that perpetuates a centuries-long stigma that both reduces them to their size and their eating habits, with little curiosity about any other facets of their lives, and equates their bodies with the sins of sloth, greed, and gluttony. The results: degradation, dehumanization, and a constant, unrelenting message that fatness is a moral failure. Whether in 19th Century sideshows and cartoons presenting fat people as the object of humiliation and scorn, sitcoms and movies of the 1990s using fat suits for a cheap laugh, or new dramedies that continue to miss the mark, the characterization of fat people as sin incarnate has hardly changed, thanks to a virulent and complex nexus of racism, classism, and misogyny. On this episode, we explore how mass media perpetuate anti-fatness in Western, and especially American, culture, examining the ways in which imperial conquest and capitalist development laid the foundation for hostility toward fat people; how even supposedly enlightened liberals use the thin patina of public health to mask routine anti-fat bullying; and the methods Hollywood and other sources of cultural products use to present fat characters as punchlines and nuisances who can only be kooky best friends or degenerate villains. Our guest is Professor Amy Erdman Farrell, author of Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture.
Nov 24
1 hr 17 min
Ep 148: The GOP’s ‘Rightwing Populism’ Rebrand (Part II) - Messaging Wars in 'White America'
“The elites are out to get you and your hard-earned pay.” “We’re spending too much on protecting foreign nations and not enough defending our own borders against immigrant invaders.” “China is taking your job and will soon take over your phone.” We are consistently fed this type of “rightwing populism” –– sticking up for the working man against an array of villains: coastal elites, liberal media and foreign boogeymen - but replete with seamy audience flattery, xenophobic and anti-Semitic dogwhistles and confusing, ever-shifting definitions of what exactly constitutes “the elite” and “the media.” With the rise and eventual presidency of Donald Trump there’s been no shortage of pontificating and reporting about the appeal of “rightwing populism” but one aspect worth dissecting is the way in which wealthy Republican-funded media deliberately seeks to win over confused and sometimes lefty media consumers with a clever mix of faux class warfare, vague appeals to post-partisanship and piggybacking off legitimate discontent with the Democratic party to sow nihilism and suppress voter turnout. From Jacksonian "Producerism" to Trump’s fake anti-imperialism to the shameless grifts of today’s billionaire-backed hucksters like JD Vance, the right has long tried to soap box about the beleaguered working man and rail against the mysterious - often urban, black, brown or Jewish - authors of his pain and suffering. In this episode, Part Two of our two-part episode on right-wing populism, we dissect three more tropes of "right-wing populism," detailing the ways the Republican messaging apparatuses seek to rebrand their stale platform every 10 years with a new, tweaked version of warmed over John Bircherism. Our guest is Poor People's Campaign co-chair Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis.
Nov 10
1 hr 20 min
Episode 147 - The GOP's 'Rightwing Populism'  Rebrand: How Billionaire-Backed Charlatans Pick Off Disillusioned Lefties (Part I)
“It’s not about right vs left, but the people vs the elites,” “Wall Street and the media are leaching off hard working Americans like you and me who play by the rules.” “Our elite have sold us out to China.” American media consumers are routinely fed, a particular, and often confusing brand of so-called “rightwing populism” –– nominally taking on “elites”, “the media,” and “bankers” and standing up for the every man but with a suspicious mix of xenophobia, self-help audience flattery, anti-Semitic dogwhistles and a semantics cup-and-ball game about how exactly, the speaker defines “elite” or “the media”. With the rise and eventual presidency of Donald Trump there’s been no shortage of pontificating and reporting about the appeal of “rightwing populism” but one aspect worth dissecting is the way in which wealthy Republican-funded media deliberately seeks to win over confused and sometimes lefty media consumers with a clever mix of faux class warfare, vague appeals to post-partisanship and piggybacking off legitimate discontent with the Democratic party to sow nihilism and suppress voter turnout. From President Andrew Jackson and Alabama governor George Wallace to today’s billionaire-backed charlatans like Tucker Carlson, Saagar Enjeti, JD Vance and Josh Hawley, there is a longstanding effort to take the working man and insist the author of his suffering isn’t a class of people marked by a concentration of wealth and power, but a deliberately ill-defined “elite” of snot-nosed, overeducated liberals, immigrants, Jews, secularists, women and academics out to undermine their culture and way of life. On this first part of a two-part episode, we focus on the many ways that “rightwing populism” operates to confuse and distract, to pick off independents, liberals and even leftists, exploiting real failures of the Democratic Party and use fake class war to muddy the waters of real class war. Our guest is Daniel Martinez HoSang.
Nov 3
1 hr 11 min
News Brief - Reconciliation Bill Negotiations: A Media Autopsy
In this News Brief, we recapped how, in the face of a once in a generation opportunity to relieve poverty and address curb climate change, US media largely gave us personality, Horse Race coverage, and defensive snark–– aiding conservatives efforts to winnow down the bill to a fraction of its original size.
Nov 1
27 min
Episode 146: Bill Gates, Bono and the Limits of World Bank and IMF-Approved Celebrity 'Activism'
"Feed the world." "We are the world." "Be a light to the world." Every few years, it seems, a new celebrity benefit appears. Chock full of A-listers and inspirational tag lines, it promises to tackle any number of the world’s large-scale problems, whether poverty, climate change, or disease prevention and eradication. From Live Aid in the 1980s to Bono’s ONE Campaign of the early 2000s to the latest Global Citizen concerts, televised celebrity charity events, and their many associated NGOs, have enjoyed glowing media attention and a reputation as generally benign, even beloved, pieces of pop culture history. But behind the claims to end the world’s ills lies a cynical network of funding and influence from predatory financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, multinationals like Coca-Cola and Cargill, soft-power organs like USAID, and private “philanthropic” arms like the Gates Foundation. This arrangement reached its high point at the turn of the 21st century and continues today, largely in response to outrage from anti-Pharma and anti-poverty activists from the global south and anti-globalization protesters in the 1990s. This Bono-Bill Gates-World Bank model has gained virtually unchallenged media coverage as the new face of slick, NGO "activism," in opposition to the unwieldy, anarchist-y and genuinely grassroots nature of the opposition it faced on America’s television screens each time there was a G7 or WTO meeting. While this celebrity-NGO complex purports to reduce suffering in the Global South - almost always a monolithic and mysterious place called "Africa," to be more specific - suffering on a grand scale never meaningfully decreases. Rather, it adheres to a vague “We Must Do Something” form of liberal politics, identifying no perpetrators of or reasons for the world’s ills other than an abstract sense of corruption or "inaction." Meanwhile, powerful Western interests, intellectual property regimes and corporate money - the primary drivers of global poverty - are not only ignored, but held up as the solution to the very problems they perpetuate. On this episode, we study the advent of the celebrity benefit and the attendant Bono-Bill Gates-Global Citizen model of "activism," examining the dangers inherent in this approach and asking why the media aren't more skeptical of these high-profile PR events that loudly announce, with bleeding hearts the existence of billions of victims but are, mysteriously, unable to name a single victimizer. Our guests are economic anthropologist Jason Hickel and Health Action International's Jaume Vidal.
Oct 27
1 hr 43 min
News Brief - Colin Powell: Stumbling Empire Personified
In this News Brief, we recap the recap of Powell's life, from the handwringing over his Iraq War UN speech to the erasure of his role in covering up My Lai massacre to training rightwing death squads in Central America and the central importance of "Good Intentions" when venerating our beloved, bipartisan war-makers.
Oct 20
26 min
Live Interview: How 'The Kaepernick Effect' Revealed Reactionary Forces in Youth Sports. with Dave Zirin
In this recording of a Live Interview for Patrons from 9/22, we speak with The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin about his new book, The Kaepernick Effect, and how a series of protests in youth sports, namely among black youth, set off firestorms and backlash in dozens of small towns throughout the country. And what the "leave politics out of sports" ethos says about the evergreen importance of racial disciplining in sports media. 
Oct 6
58 min
Episode 145: How Real Estate-Curated 'Mom & Pop Landlord' Sob Stories Are Used to Gut Tenant Protections
“The eviction moratorium is killing small landlords” CNBC cautions. "Some small landlords struggle under eviction moratoriums,” declares The Washington Post. “Economic Pressures Are Rising On Mom And Pop Rental Owners,” laments NPR. ”[Landlords] can’t hold on much longer,” cries an LA Times headline. Throughout the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen a spate of media coverage highlighting the plight of the small or so-called “mom-and-pop landlord” struggling to make ends meet. The story usually goes something like this: A modest, down-on-their-luck owner of two or three properties — say, a elderly grandmother or hardworking medical professional — hopes to keep them long enough to hand them down to their kids, but fears financial ruin in the face of radical tenant-protection laws. But this doesn’t reflect the reality of rental housing ownership in the United States. Over the last couple decades, corporate entities, from Wall Street firms to an opaque network of LLCs, have increasingly seized ownership of the rental housing stock, intensifying the asymmetry of landlord-tenant power relations and rendering housing ever more precarious for renters. In the meantime, the character of the “mom-and-pop landlord” has been evoked nonstop — much like that of the romantic “small business owner” — in order to sanitize the image of property ownership and gin up opposition to legislation that would protect tenants from eviction moratoria to rent control. On this episode, we explore the overrepresentation of the “mom-and-pop landlord” in media, contrasting it with the actual makeup of rental housing ownership. We’ll also examine how the media-burnished image of the beleaguered, barely-scraping-by landlord puts a human face on policies that further enrich a property-owning class while justifying the forceful removal of renters from their homes. Our guest is Alexander Ferrer of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE).
Sep 29
1 hr 2 min
Episode 144: How the Cold War Shaped First-Person Journalism and Literary Conventions
“Write from experience.” “Show, don’t tell.” Self-knowledge. Self-discipline. Well-known conventions like these, whether delivered in classrooms, writing seminars or simply from one writer to another, often anchor traditional writing advice for literary authors and journalists alike in the United States. While they may seem benign and often useful, they also have a history of political utility. Thanks to a network of underwritten cultural projects and front groups, state organs like the CIA and State Department collaborated with creative-writing programs like the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and publications like the Paris Review to cultivate and reinforce writing tenets like these. The aim: to focus literature and journalism on the individual, feelings, and details, rather than on community, political theory, and large-scale political concepts. This, of course, isn’t to say subversive literature cannot be first person and sensory, or that these modes of writing are per se conservative––but there is a long and well-documented history of conservative, anti-Left institutions pushing them because, on the whole, they veered (or at least were thought to have steered) writers away from the dot-connecting, the structural and the collective. On this episode, we discuss the ways in which first-person journalism, solipsism and creative nonfiction, as taught and prized in the US, reinforce existing power structures, exploring how a Cold War-era history of state- and state-adjacent funding of literary journals, educational programs, and other cultural projects taught writers to center themselves and inconsequential details at the expense of raising urgent political questions and notions of class solidarity. Our guest is author Eric Bennett.
Sep 22
1 hr 8 min
Load more