227 episodes

Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Citations Needed Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson

    • News
    • 4.9 • 3.4K Ratings

Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

    Ep. 167: The Attractive Anti-Politics of 'Gerontocracy' Discourse

    Ep. 167: The Attractive Anti-Politics of 'Gerontocracy' Discourse

    "Why Are We Still Governed by Baby Boomers and the Remarkably Old?," inquires The New York Times. "Why Do Such Elderly People Run America?," The Atlantic wonders. "Gerontocracy Is Hurting Democracy," insists New York Magazine’s Intelligencer. "Too old to run again? Biden faces questions about his age as crises mount," The Guardian reports.
     

    Though these headlines are framed as exploratory questions, news media seem to have their minds made up: the problem with Washington is that it’s chock full of geezers. In recent years, we’ve often heard that U.S. policymaking, helmed at the federal level by seventy- and eighty-somethings like Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi, and at the state level by the similarly aged Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley and Pat Leahy, is simply growing too old and out of touch with the electorate.
     

    There’s some credence to this, of course. It’s certainly true that those occupying the most powerful positions in U.S. government, on the whole, don’t legislate to the needs of the public – whether on healthcare, policing, education – the list goes on and on. But is that really because of legislators' age? Why does age have to be the focus in this analysis, rather than policy positions and, relatedly, class interests, which exist independent of age? Who does it serve to reduce the causes of U.S. austerity politics and violence to pat, Pepsi marketing-style "generation gap" discourse? On this episode show, we detail how "generations" analysis is ineffectual and, more often than not, misses the mark. We'll discuss how fears of a "gerontocracy" can – if not in intent, in effect – malign old age itself, stigmatize the elderly and, above all, distract from what could be a substantive critical analysis of real, more profound vectors of oppression such as class, racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ currents.
     

    Our guest in Winslow Erik Wright.

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Episode 166: The Convenient Conventional Wisdom of "Education as Great Equalizer" Appeals

    Episode 166: The Convenient Conventional Wisdom of "Education as Great Equalizer" Appeals

    "Education... is a great equalizer of conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery," stated school reformer Horace Mann in 1848. "Math is the great equalizer," preached Jaime Escalante, Edward James Olmos’ character, in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver. "The best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education," announced Barack Obama during his 2010 State of the Union address.
     

    This message is everywhere, pervading political speeches, Oscar-bait films, think-tank papers, and everything in between. The key to economic upward mobility—we’re endlessly told, is education—a societal building block that is, or at least should be, accessible to every child, no matter their race, gender, or income level. It's a seductive, seemingly unassailable conceit, suggesting that we live in a meritocracy where second chances and generational wealth-building are possible, even probable, with a few simple tools.
     

    But is there any truth to this idea? There’s a growing body of evidence showing that education level does not, in fact, necessarily translate to higher wages. Which raises the questions: Why has the idea that education is the ultimate anti-poverty tool persisted? Whose interests are served in its continuation? And who, in turn, pays the price?
     

    On this episode, the Season Six premiere of Citations Needed, we detail and debunk the widespread conventional wisdom that education is the rising tide that lifts all boats, looking at the ways it reinforces themes of individualism and personal responsibility; obscures systemic issues like racism and worker exploitation in the labor market; and ultimately keeps people entrenched in, rather than liberating them from, poverty and low-wage work.
     

    Our guest is Lake Forest professor Cristina Viviana Groeger.

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Ep. 165 - Labor Union Depictions in Hollywood (Part II): The Rare Pro-Worker Narrative

    Ep. 165 - Labor Union Depictions in Hollywood (Part II): The Rare Pro-Worker Narrative

    A white collar worker wrestles with whether to accept a promotion or help his co-workers organize. Salt miners stand up to the company that’s taken over their town. A factory worker exposes her employer’s union-busting tactics.
    Stories like these represent something we don’t often see in Hollywood: Unions and labor organizers as the good guys. Not as egomaniacs or zealots, thugs or grifters—but as heroes willing to risk their health, homes, and livelihoods for the greater good.
    This is in contrast to the anti-union depictions in pop culture we explored in Episode 164, part one of a two-part series on depictions of labor in film and television. We discussed Hollywood’s emphasis on corruption in labor organizing, focusing on depictions of bloated bureaucracy, organized crime, and autocratic union bosses in On the Waterfront (1954), Blue Collar (1978), and The Irishman (2019), among others.
    On this episode we address the inverse of that, looking at the rare but nontrivial examples that pop film has celebrated the accomplishments of labor movements, centered beleaguered workers with everything to lose, positioned abusive employers as the villains, and embraced themes of worker courage and heroism. While very often not perfect, these examples show that compelling, award-winning narratives can be crafted out of tales of collective action and collective bargaining.
    Our guest is Angela Allan.

    • 1 hr 9 min
    Ep 164: Labor Union Depictions in Hollywood (Part I): From Demonized to Ignored or Mafia Plot Cliche

    Ep 164: Labor Union Depictions in Hollywood (Part I): From Demonized to Ignored or Mafia Plot Cliche

    Chances are you’ve seen this storyline play out on either a big or small screen: An FBI agent investigates a prominent labor leader. Or maybe a union boss orders a hit on a recalcitrant member of the rank-and-file. Or perhaps a union president skims money off a pension fund to make an illegal loan.
     

    Plotlines like these derive from one of Hollywood’s longstanding and most favored tropes: the corrupt, mobbed up union, and more specifically, the corrupt union boss. It lends itself to countless stories: The rise and fall of a Mafia-backed labor head, the rebellion of rank-and-file workers against their tyrannical leadership, the precarious union on the verge of implosion. Accordingly, over and over again, we’ve seen stories of labor unions entangled with extortion, bribery, blackmail, theft and murder. But, even if union bosses can make compelling characters, why is it that they must all be corrupt mafiosi? Why is it that heroism in pop culture is overwhelmingly the domain of police, attorneys and doctors and hardly ever people fighting for labor rights and the collective power of their co-workers and communities? Why, instead of highlighting the courage of labor organizers and the life-changing protections won, must Hollywood repeatedly emphasize only unions’ historical ties to organized crime and a seamy underbelly of corruption, murder and intrigue?
     

    On this show, part one of a two-part episode on labor depictions in Hollywood, we explore organized labor and unions in film and television, how these pop depictions inform broader public sentiment about unions. And next week, we’ll discuss some of the more positive portrayals of labor and unionism in film and television.
     

    Our guest is writer and organizer Ken Margolies.

    • 1 hr 2 min
    News Brief: Biden's Dictator Tour and the Tedium of Our "Human Rights Concerns" Theater

    News Brief: Biden's Dictator Tour and the Tedium of Our "Human Rights Concerns" Theater

    In this public News Brief, we detail the strange quadrennial tradition of acting like the US is "abandoning its principles" by reaffirming decades-long alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    • 29 min
    Live Interview: How Our Simplistic 'Inflation' Discourse Fuels the War on Workers - with Josh Mason

    Live Interview: How Our Simplistic 'Inflation' Discourse Fuels the War on Workers - with Josh Mason

    In this Live Interview from 7/8/22, we break down US media's inflation discourse that places the blame for rising food and gas prices squarely on the shoulders of greedy Burger King cashiers living high on the government hog. With J.W. Mason, Associate Professor of Economics at John Jay College, City University of New York and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

    • 37 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
3.4K Ratings

3.4K Ratings

HeyNomad ,

Essential listening

This podcast is important, if any podcast can be. Nima and Adam are sharp, likable, and principled critics of mainstream (primarily US) culture, especially political and journalistic culture. Casual in tone, their analyses and interviews are nonetheless incredibly accessible, rigorous, clear-eyed, and timely. They come from an unapologetically left perspective but I think almost anyone could get something valuable out of this podcast.

charbeargrr ,

Great

Always an interesting episode and I always come away informed. Like the work so much I even support these guys on patreon.

rainbow-ctenophore ,

Cheer and Solace

This pod is a source of judicious political commentary. If a steady diet of lurid headlines and dishonest media framing is driving you towards delirium or despair, chill your feverish brain in the cool waters of Citations Needed.

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