Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Episode 143 - PR and Prop 22: How Silicon Valley Uses Hollow "Anti-Racist" Posturing to Sell Its Exploitative Business Model
In June 2020, founders of the ride-request app Lyft announced that they had launched “allyship dialogues“ and were committed to fighting “systemic racism” which they said is “deeply rooted in our society.” The same month, an Uber marketing campaign proudly recommended to “racists” that they should “delete Uber,” as they were unwelcome customers. At the same time, the food delivery service app DoorDash announced a series of initiatives to “support Black-owned restaurants.”
Everywhere we turned, as popular uprisings against police violence and white supremacy filled the streets, Silicon Valley gig app companies that rely on and profit from the labor of predominantly Black and brown workers, insisted they too were committed to fighting racial injustice.
But something curious was unfolding at the same time these multi-billion dollar companies paid lip service and made token donations to bail funds and civil rights groups: they were simultaneously pumping tens of millions more on pushing support for Proposition 22 –– a ballot initiative in California — that would exempt app-based transportation and delivery companies from a state law that required them to classify drivers as employees, permitting those companies to not provide essential benefits like healthcare, paid time off, and unemployment insurance.
With 78% of ride-hail app drivers in San Francisco being people of color and 55% of Uber drivers in California identifying as such, the law would overwhelmingly impact nonwhite, disproportionately immigrant communities.
Knowing this, and compelled by the broader corporate efforts to exploit the George Floyd uprisings as a branding opportunity, companies like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft and other app-based employers rushed to present the diminishment of worker protections not as manifestly anti-Black and anti-brown anti-labor laws, but actually empowering to drivers of colors.
Spending millions on advertising, a patchwork of large donations to community groups planting op-eds in Black and Hispanic press, and focus-grouped language about employee “freedom,” “independence,” “being your own boss,” “flexibility” and general rise-and-grind framing, Super PACs alongside Bay Area and LA-based marketing firms aggressively targeted minority communities to back Prop 22, despite all independent analysis and labor organizations insisting it would be bad for workers of color.
On this Season 5 Premiere of Citations Needed, we detail how this plan played out –– and ultimately won, how corporations buy off organizations and adapt nonprofit speak to harm communities of color, and how the idea of “third worker categories” –– like the ones pushed by Uber and Lyft are suspiciously similar to Jim Crow-era efforts to strip black and immigrant workers of the rights white workers were winning under the then-New Deal.
Our guest is Veena Dubal, Professor of Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Ep 142: The Summer of Anti-BLM Backlash and How Concepts of "Crime" Were Shaped By the Propertied Class
"Concerns rising inside White House over surge in violent crime," CNN tells us. "America's Crime Surge: Why Violence Is Rising, And Solutions To Fix It," proclaims NPR. "Officials worry the rise in violent crime portends a bloody summer," reports The Washington Post.
Over and over this summer we have heard – and will no doubt continue to hear – the scourge of rising crime is the most urgent issue on voters' minds. Setting aside the way media coverage itself shape public opinion, the rising murder rates in urban areas is indeed very real and its victims disproportionately Black and Latino.
In response, like clockwork, Democrats and Democratic Party-aligned media have allied with conservatives and right-wing media are rehashing the same tired responses: more police, longer sentences, and tougher laws. But this time, they assure us it will be different: it won’t be racist and overly punitive. Instead, in addition to the return of 1990s Tough On Crime formula. we will get enough nebulous reforms and anti-bias training that it will somehow be enlightened and consistent with the demands of Black Lives Matter.
But everything we know about the past 50 years tells us this will not be true. Indeed, if more policing and prisons solved crime, the United States would be the safest country on Earth, but, of course, it is not. According to The American Journal of Medicine, compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States' gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher despite imprisoning people at rates 5-10 times what other rich nations do.
So why do lawmakers and the media always reach for the same so-called "solutions" when it comes to crime? What are the assumptions that inform how we respond to an increase in homicides and other violent crime? How can the wealthiest nation in the world throw billions of dollars, more police, longer sentences, and tougher prosecutors at our high murder rates only to continue to wildly outpacing the rest of the so-called developed world on this, the most urgent of metrics?
On this episode, we explore the origins of "crime," what crimes we consider noteworthy and which are ignored, how property rights and white supremacy informed the crime we center in our media, how the crimes of poverty, environmental destruction, wage theft, and discrimination are relegated to the arena of tort, with its gentle fines and drawn out lawsuits – while petty theft and drug use results in long prison sentences. We’ll study how these bifurcations inform both media accounts of crime and how we respond with more police, and longer sentences the second we are faced with so-called crime waves.
Our guests are Civil Rights Corps' Alec Karakatsanis and sociologist Tamara K. Nopper.
Thorough and Relevant History and Analysis
The team clearly puts a lot of effort and skill into each episode. The result is that each episode helps you draw connections between the US / corporate media, past and present, and the everyday lives of workers. This show has truly broadened both my self-awareness and my political awareness!
Insightful cutting analysis and critique
one of my favorites
the podcast strikes the right balance for being captivating and entertaining, not insufferable like many podcasts that attempt to focus on similar subjects.