Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.
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.
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.
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.
Live Interview: What Happened to Our Politics After the End of History? with Luke Savage
In this Citations Needed Live Interview with Luke Savage from 3/22, we discuss his upcoming collection of essays, "The Dead Center: Reflections on Liberalism and Democracy After the End of History," the abandoned hopes of the Obama era, the rise of Trumpism and the inability—or unwillingness—of Liberalism to offer a moral and more just vision for the world.
Episode 158: How Notions of 'Blight' and 'Barrenness' Were Created to Erase Indigenous Peoples
"It is safe to say that almost no city needs to tolerate slums," wrote New York City official Robert Moses in 1945. "Our ancestors came across the ocean in sailing ships you wouldn't go across a lake in. When they arrived, there was nothing here," Ross Perot proclaimed in 1996. "We proved we can create a budding garden out of obstinate ground," beamed Israeli president Shimon Peres in 2011.
These quotes recurring themes within the lore of settler-colonial states: Before settlers arrived in the United States, Israel, and other colonized places throughout the world, the land was barren, wild, and blighted, the people backward, untameable, and violent; nothing of societal importance existed. It was only when the monied industrialists and developers moved in, introducing their capital and their vision, that civilization began. This, of course, is false. Indigenous people inhabited North America long before Europeans did. Poor, often Black and Latino, people populate many neighborhoods targeted for gentrification. So how do these people–inhabitants of coveted places who prove inconvenient to capital–become erased from collective memory? And what role do media like newspapers, brochures, travel dispatches, and adventure books play in their erasure?
In a previous Citations Needed episode (Ep. 155: How the American Settler-Colonial Project Shaped Popular Notions of ‘Conservation’), we discussed the erasure of indigeneity, we explored the colonialist and racist foundations of conservationism in the US and elsewhere in the West. On this episode, follow-up to that episode, we explore how images and narratives of barrenness and blight are manufactured to justify the settler-colonial project, from 15th Century colonial subjects of Europe to urban neighborhoods of today.
Our guest is scholar Stephanie Lumsden.
News Brief: The Squishy Liberal Euphemisms Big City Dem Mayors Use to Sell Criminalizing Homelessness
In this News Brief, we examine the convoluted, vague rhetorical labor involved in making purging unhoused populations with cops seem humane and anodyne.
Clear and well explained with passionate, erudite, hosts.
Severely enjoy this podcast! I like their takes and the citations (😆) they use to back it up. A bit disappointed with their take on Palestine, it wasn’t terrible but it could’ve been better. Overall, great podcast and great place to start!
Deconstructing narratives like a boss
There seem to be very few podcasts that deconstruct public and media narratives from a VERY leftist POV. CN does it very well. Entertaining, informative, critical and passionate. Good stuff.