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.
The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift (Part II)- How Corporate America Offset Liability Onto Its Workers
"How Railroaders Are Killed; Train Crews Grow Careless," read a 1906 syndicated article. "There is a kind of personality who is accident-prone," reported the Kansas City Star in 1944. Amazon's safety programs are "designed to keep its nearly one million warehouse workers worldwide fit and limber," The Seattle Times claimed in 2021.  For well over a century, it’s been standard practice for corporations, and the media more generally– echoing these "information campaigns" – to skirt, defy, or prevent regulations by shifting the burdens of protection and wellness onto relatively powerless workers. Just as corporations have historically shifted blame onto "consumers," as we discussed last week, so too have they shifted blame, and punishment, onto their own workers, at great social cost and much private profit. Of course, workers anywhere must bear some level of personal responsibility in matters of health and safety. But, as regulations have threatened their bottom lines, industries from railroads to retail, bolstered by US media, have seized upon this notion in order to render their workers the ones who bear ultimate responsibility for whether they’re healthy or sick, safe or injured, and in the most extreme cases, whether they live or die. This is the second episode in a two-part series on what we're calling "The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift." Part I discussed how this burden shift harms consumers. On this episode, Part II, we examine this anti-regulatory PR strategy, looking at the past and present of corporate deflection of responsibility, how media enable this subtle – but effective – practice, and discuss how media campaigns and media coverage have let us internalize the pro-corporate effort to off-load responsibility for workplace health and safety from the bosses on to the workers.  This episode was produced in collaboration with Workday Magazine. Our guest is the National Employment Law Project's Anastaia Christman.
Jul 10
56 min
The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift (Part I) - How Corporate America Offset Liability Onto the Public
“Choose the product best suited for baby,” Nestlé urged in a 1970s baby formula ad. “What size is your carbon footprint?” wondered oil giant BP in 2003. “Texting, music listening put distracted pedestrians at risk,” USA Today announced in 2012. These headlines and ad copy all offer a glimpse into a longstanding strategy among corporations: place the burdens of safety, health, and wellbeing on individuals, in order to deflect responsibility and regulation. Whether in the areas of transportation, climate, or nutrition and food safety, individuals, namely “consumers,” are increasingly expected to assume full responsibility for their own wellbeing, and are blamed, shamed, and punished–or worse, made ill or injured–when they can’t live up to these unrealistic expectations. Sure, everyone must bear some level of personal responsibility in matters of health and safety, obviously. But corporations from Chrysler to Nestlé, in concert with a compliant US media, have taken advantage of this truism to place a disproportionate level of obligation onto the people who work in their warehouses and buy their products. At the same time, they’ve been able to fend off even the most minor of structural changes–say, using less plastic or healthier ingredients–with often dangerous, even deadly, consequences. This is Part I of a two-part series on what we’re calling “The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift,” a process in which corporations deflect blame onto the relatively powerless. On this episode, we examine how corporations have shifted the burdens of liability onto “consumers” and other individuals, examining how the auto, fossil-fuel, and food and beverage industries have orchestrated media campaigns to frame the people they harm, whether directly or indirectly, as responsible for their own misfortunes. Our guest is journalist Jessie Singer. This episode was made in partnership with Workday Magazine.
Jul 3
1 hr 3 min
News Brief: Unions, Gaza, and Labor's Checkered Relationship With US Militarism
On this public News Brief, we are joined by author and historian Jeff Schuhrke to discuss labor's response to the ongoing genocide in Gaza, the history of union support for (and opposition to) U.S.-led war and imperialism, and his upcoming book, Blue-Collar Empire: The Untold Story of US Labor's Global Anticommunist Crusade.
Jun 19
44 min
Live Show: Student Organizers Breakdown Media Distortions Over Gaza College Encampments
On this Citations Needed Live Show, recorded virtually on May 23, 2024, Adam and Nima discuss recent coverage of the campus protests over the ongoing genocide in Gaza, from the media's habit of pathologizing Zoomers to Biden's condescending implication they're just a foaming hate mob. We were joined by guests Layla Saliba and Jonathan Ben-Menachem.
Jun 12
50 min
Ep 203: Ideological Shaping of the Possible Part II: How Corporate Think Tanks Function as Influence Laundromats
"Susan Rice examines U.S. foreign policy strategy with The Post's David Ignatius," read the title of a 2016 Washington Post Live conversation. "Key player in war on climate change? The Pentagon," CNN insisted in 2020. "Democrats Need To Learn How To Get Excited About the Center-Left," The Messenger proclaimed in 2023.  These posts were all facilitated, sponsored, or authored by a member of a Democratic-aligned, corporate U.S. think tank. Whether the Center for American Progress, Center for a New American Security, Center for Strategic and International Studies, or any other Washington, DC-based "Center" with a capital C, center-right to center-left think tanks are ubiquitous in major American media and in Democratic policymaking. This might seem unremarkable, even beneficial. Think tanks, after all, purport to be empirical institutions, designed to craft research-based policy proposals. But, given the prevalence of corporate funding in the DC think-tank world, these claims of neutrality contradict the anti-labor and anti-regulation records of major US think tanks, as well as their function as de facto corporate lobbying groups. On this episode, Part II of our two-part series on the relationship between political party officials, media, and the corporate laundering machine, we examine the revolving door between Democratic administrations and corporate and despot-funded think tanks, looking at how those institutions effectively serve as a stomping grounds of business industry influence on everything from climate to labor, healthcare to infrastructure. Our guest is The Intercept's Akela Lacy.
Jun 5
1 hr 9 min
Ep 202: Ideological Shaping of the Possible Part I: Democrats and the Black Box Corporate Consulting Industry
“David Plouffe's advice for 2020,” Axios shared in 2019. “James Carville: 'Stupid wokeness' is a national problem for Democrats,” CNN reported in 2021. “Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary under President Obama, discusses the debt ceiling deal and the latest job numbers,” MSNBC announced in 2023. On a regular basis, news media clue us into the latest prescriptions from so-called Democratic strategists: people who’ve served as advisers, cabinet members, or other high-ranking positions within Democratic presidential administrations, who’ve also gone on to make millions from corporate consultancy and PR. Whether Larry Summers, David Plouffe, or some other cable-news fixture, these figures are consistently trotted out to give a quasi-liberal, professional face to plain old pro-war, anti-Left austerity politics. It’s an obvious conflict of interest. If a presidential alum joins the board or C-suite of Uber or McDonald’s, for example, they shouldn’t be given the authority to weigh in on regulations or labor policy, especially on media platforms that claim to be somewhat left-leaning. If they work for a military contractor-funded “Strategic consultant” firm or, as is sometimes the case, directly for a weapons maker, they shouldn’t be offering talking head opinions on issues of war. But, within US media and politics, there’s a bipartisan, Gentlemen's Agreement not to acknowledge this, let alone condemn it. There’s a taboo against noting this widespread revolving door politics between the private sector, Gulf dictatorships, black box corporate consultancy firms and high institutions of government. Instead, it’s simply accepted that every White House, State Department or Senate job is an audition for a cushy board membership at Amazon, McDonalds, Raytheon, or a shady “consultancy” firm. On today’s episode, we’ll discuss the blurring of lines between Democratic and Republican politics and corporate PR, examining the revolving door between high status government jobs and the consultancy blob, as well as how cable and print news outlets give PR flacks a platform through which to treat horrible policies as just another product to sell. Our guest is the Revolving Door Project's Jeff Hauser, founder and Executive Director of the Revolving Door Project.
May 29
1 hr
Episode 201: The Conservative, Faux-Erudite Rise of Nuance Trolling
“Here's why creating single-payer health care in America is so hard,” explained Harold Pollack in Vox in 2016. “The benefits of climate action…are diffuse and hard to pin down,” shrugged a Foreign Affairs article in 2020. “A nuanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” presented Aliza Pilichowski in The Jerusalem Post in 2023. Each of the above is an example of something that can be called "Nuance Trolling": The insistence that some major beneficial development like single-payer healthcare, ending wars and bombing campaigns, or the mitigation, even cessation, of climate change is impossible because the situation is too nuanced, the plan too lacking in detail, the goal too hard to achieve, the public isn’t behind it or some other bad faith “concern” that makes bold action an impossibility. Nuance Trolls present power-serving defeatism as savvy pragmatism, claiming over and over that no good, meaningful change can happen because no version of it will ever work. Nuance and complexity, of course, are real, legitimate things. Political, social, environmental, and economic dynamics often are complicated. But Nuance Trolls abuse this self-evident truism, using it as a mode of analysis designed to weaken  and water down movements for change that seek actual, material solutions to political problems, and instead promoting inaction to ensure the continuation of the already oppressive status quo.  On this episode, we examine the rise of the Nuance Troll and analyze the media’s selective invocation of “nuance” in order to stifle urgent movements for social justice, reducing poverty, curbing climate chaos and ending occupation and war.  Our guest is Natasha Lennard.
May 15
1 hr 19 min
News Brief: Axios, NYT Help White House Obscure Their Role in Rafah Invasion
In this News Brief, we breakdown the White House's latest attempt to arm and fund Israeli war crimes while looking like helpless. bumbling humanitarians.
May 8
23 min
News Brief: Campus Anti-Genocide Protests and the Weaponization of Squishy, Bad Faith "Safety" Rhetoric
In this public News Brief, we discuss Establishment reaction to pro-Palestinian protests on US campuses, from liberal handwringing to police crackdowns to therapy-speak.          
Apr 27
33 min
Episode 200 - The Rise of the War on Drugs 2.0: This Time It's Different, We Promise
“Sen. Chuck Schumer warns drug dealers are pushing rainbow fentanyl to children,” CBS News cries. “'It's very challenging': Inside the fentanyl fight at the border,” ABC News reports. “The hard-drug decriminalization disaster,” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens laments. In recent years, we’ve been warned about the growing threat of hyperpotent street drugs, particularly opioids. Fentanyl is disguised as Halloween candy to appeal to children. US Border Patrol doesn’t have enough resources to keep up with drug screenings. Efforts to decriminalize drug use and possession are causing chaos and suffering on our streets.  The dangers of drugs like fentanyl are, of course, very real, and concerns about them are certainly legitimate. But too often, media framings don’t reflect genuine concerns. Rather than offering urgent solutions to help those who are truly struggling-like reduced penalties, or stable housing and healthcare–media, alongside policymakers, consistently promote the same old carceral logic of the Nixon-era War on Drugs, turning a true public-health crisis into an opportunity to increase arrests and policing in general. On this episode, we look at the War on Drugs 2.0: This Time It’s Different We Promise, and how, despite lofty liberal rhetoric about how the War on Drugs has been cruel and counterproductive, media and elected officials are doubling down on fear-mongering, stigmatization, and severe prison and punishment.  Our guest is Emily Kaltenbach.
Mar 27
1 hr 1 min
Load more