Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.
News Brief: US Media Pathologically Incapable of Criticizing MAGA Mobs Without Evoking Racist Cliches About "Third World"
Following today's mob violence at the U.S. capitol building, we break down how, once again, American media would rather ignore homegrown currents of white supremacist vigilantism and their buddy buddy relationship with law enforcement and focus instead on how an anomalous President Trump makes us like those horrible poor people of the Global South.
Episode 127: Democratic Leadership's Predictable Scapegoating of 'Defund the Police'
"Sen. Mark Warner said progressives' calls to 'defund the police' were in part to blame for Democratic losses in the House in a cycle when the party was expected to gain seats," The Hill tells us. "How ’defund the police' sabotaged Democrats on Election Day," Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune writes."'Defund the police’ is killing our party, and we’ve got to stop it," said South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn. In the wake of the Democrats’ disappointing Congressional showing in last month’s elections, centrist Democrats and their media mouthpieces were quick to blame Black Lives Matter and the "defund the police" movement for their subpar results.
There’s only one problem: there is no empirical basis for this claim in any of the above comments or reports. No studies, no evidence––not even anecdotally––is provided. Before the printer ink was dry on the ballots, centrist Democrats who lost or underperformed––or made a career out of defending those that do––rushed to blame the so-called "defund the police" movement, highlighting rightwing attack ads featuring the label. After some initial goodwill immediately following the global outpouring of protests after the horrific police murder of George Floyd, mainstream democratic party line has reverted back to it’s old playbook of blaming the Left and Black activists for offending or alienating a nebulous cohort of moderate white voters.
As the economy crashed and the world was turned upside down in the Spring of 2020, Democratic leaders had a chance to lobby for robust social welfare programs, guaranteed income, mortgage and rent cancellation and single payer healthcare to get us through this ongoing crisis, whose disastrous implications will extend well beyond the introduction of a vaccine. Instead, however, they lowered expectations, blamed Trump for their own unforced ideological limitations and almost never publicly took credit for the extension of unemployment benefits––the one good thing Democrats actually did achieve, albeit fleeting.
The result was a once in a generation opportunity blown, a possible leftwing shock doctrine that was crippled by unmovable austerity ideology. So when the elections came around and the Democrats underperformed, who was to blame? It can’t be party leadership blowing the COVID-19 response and it can’t be the security state-curated centrist tofu candidates who lost or barely won. It has to––once again––be those pesky far left activists. Because Democratic party leadership cannot fail they can only be failed, a scapegoat was needed.
On this week’s episode we discuss why "defund the police" and the broader abolitionist movement was that scapegoat, the long history of concern trolling Black activism and perennially blaming movements for justice for right-wing, white backlash from bad faith actors. We also detail how activists are now on the defensive as Democrats, having successfully exploited the broad sentiment of the George Floyd protests for Get Out The Vote fodder, now seek to lower expectations, purge Black Lives Matter of its truly radical elements, and go back to business as usual.
Our guest is human rights lawyer and abolitionist Derecka Purnell.
Episode 126: Obama-Era Media Failures We Shouldn’t Rehash Under Biden (Part II)
This is the second installment of our scoldy, buzzkill, two-part episode on Obama-era media failures we should be on the look out for as the Biden administration takes office. On this episode, we examine five more tropes that, sadly, are already being resurrected.
Our guest is Roberto Lovato, author of Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs and Revolution in the Americas.
News Brief: The ICE and Pentagon-Bloating Vagueness of the "Climate Change is a National Security Issue" Mantra
In light of John Kerry's new "national security" climate role, we follow up on Episode 122 by reading policy papers published by John Kerry's think tank. Hint: they want more money for the Pentagon, ICE, and Border Patrol.
Ep. 125: Obama-Era Media Failures We Shouldn't Rehash Under Biden (Part I)
President-elect Joe Biden has promised what he calls a return to "decency" and "unity," and American media has broadly characterized his victory over Donald Trump as, in the words of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, "The Third Term of the Obama Presidency." Many of the same holdovers — Samantha Power, Antony Blinken, Michèle Flournoy, Bob McDonald, Jake Sullivan, Susan Rice, Sally Yates, John Kerry and many in the revolving think tank, consulting outfits, marketing firms, undersecretary advisor world are expected to be back into the White House come January 20, 2021.
While they have many obvious superficial differences, the Obama and Biden White Houses will more or less borrow from the same playbook: slick, marketing-focused, technocratic, centrist, hawkish maintainers of the neoliberal status quo. As such, many lessons can be learned from the media’s coverage of the Obama White house and what mistakes not to repeat again.
From Obama’s prosecution of foreign occupations to directing dirty wars, supporting the destruction of Yemen to running a drone strike regime, pushing austerity dogma to continue the brutal war on drugs, inhumane immigration enforcement to many routine cruel and violent policies — because they lacked the partisan hook and sadistic fervor of Trump — were largely ignored, downplayed, or soft pedaled by U.S. media from 2009 to the beginning of 2017.
This is Part I of a two-part episode breaking down these "media mistakes" - major areas where the American press failed to hold the most powerful person in the world to account. We explore how the Obama era may provide a blueprint of what we may expect under the upcoming Biden administration and how activists can get ahead of these failures before they inevitably manifest.
Our guest is Peter Hart, National Communications Manager for Food & Water Watch.
Episode 124: Mental Health During A Pandemic: How US Media Spins Societal Failures Into Personal Self-Help Journeys
A CNN headline from this past summer read: “Mental health during coronavirus: Tips for processing your feelings.” Psychology Today gave us an article on “Coping With Loneliness During a Pandemic,” while the Washington Post presents, “A guide to taking care of yourself during the pandemic.” Everywhere we’ve turned over the past 9 months, American media has been covering the mental health downside of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and economic crash on one of these two settings: Awareness Mode or Self-Help Mode.
The first setting — “Awareness Mode” — is merely witnessing mass suffering; that is, reporting on the topic with no prescriptions offered. Second is “Self-Help Mode,” which is, to the extent these articles do put forth prescriptions for wellness and mental health, it is entirely individualistic in nature. Your well-being during this once-in-a-century pandemic is up to you — but don’t fret, here are some “guides,” ”plans,” “hacks,” and “tricks” to help you out.
Missing from the vast bulk of coverage is the glaringly obvious third option: actionable, proven, political solutions to mental health crises that operate under the radical assumption that social problems may require social solutions. Nowhere in any of these articles is the idea that socialized medicine, guaranteed income, free childcare, student debt relief or rent and mortgage cancellations may be the best and most rational “hacks” or “tricks” to actually improve mental health of people at scale.
Obviously, a robust social safety net wouldn’t solve all mental health problems — after all, countries with universal healthcare and generous unemployment and childcare benefits still have depression and suicides — but we have decades of data showing basic social welfare clearly improves mental welfare. But because mental health crises are seen as moral failings rather than diseases thrust upon innocent people, we are conditioned to view those suffering from their effects as inevitable, losses simply factored into the moral framework of the world.
It basically goes like this: If a giant blood-sucking monster were ravaging the country killing thousands of people and terrorizing millions more, the media would never provide us “hacks” or “plans” or “tricks” to cope with the giant blood-sucking monster. It would ask the obvious question: What are those in power doing to stop the monster from killing and terrorizing in the first place?
Unfortunately, such an approach is sacrilege in U.S. media when it comes to mental health. The solution is never to lobby for a specific candidate or policy that would provide immediate relief to the masses because neoliberal hyper-atomization, unlike appeals to social solutions, is not seen as political. It’s simply the objective reporter voice mode of journalism U.S. media has uncritically adopted. But collectivist solutions, marked by the political choice to redistribute resources to the less well-off, is a proven technique to help those suffering mental health issues, doubly so during a pandemic that has cut people off from socialization, radially increased substance abuse, and has left millions unemployed.
Our guest is writer Colette Shade.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Listening to this show is like putting on the They Live glasses and watching the news. (that’s good)
Cannot overstate how high quality every aspect of this podcast is. From guests, reading recommendations, topics, editing, and so much more. Highly recommend and support them on Patreon!
This podcast is easily my favorite! It’s ruined all other podcasts for me because it’s so well produced. Nima and Adam are honest, funny, and informative, and even if you aren’t left leaning this podcast has really good criticisms of rhetorical trends in media. Lots of “fun” episodes, heavy hitting takes on what’s being left out of mainstream political discourse, and a supportive community behind them too. Hats off to the CN team!