Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.
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.
News Brief: It's Not a "Fall From Grace", This Has Always Been Who Giuliani Was
In this News Brief, we talk with journalist Ashoka Jegroo about Giuliani's long history of racism, white liberal New Yorkers providing cover for his carceral sociopathy because they liked the results, and the pathetic, inevitable final chapter of the former New York mayor.
Episode 123: How Liberal Meta-Demands for "Investigations" and "Studies" Are Used to Silence Activists
"Joe Biden Calls For ‘Immediate, Full And Transparent Investigation’ Into Jacob Blake Shooting," Forbes reports. "Obama Fraud Task Force Takes on the Big Banks," Bloomberg News proclaims. "Democratic lawmakers call for vote on bill to study reparations," announces CNN.
It seems that every time there’s a movement toward righting a historical or current wrong, whether police violence, corporate abuses, or climate. change, policymakers muster the same tepid “solution”: initiate a committee, investigation, commission, study, or, if they want to sound super militaristic and Serious a “task force” to probe the issue. This type of rhetorical filler offers elites the best of both worlds: Creating the appearance of attentiveness and progressiveness without requiring any meaningful, overt ideological commitments.
Tethered to explicit political objectives, calls for investigations or studies can be a useful lobbying tool, but absent this, they are more often than not a political trick, psychological tools to compel activists and those outraged on social media to take a break, because now the professionals are handling it. The effect: the political equivalent of a five-day cooling off period, wait the outrage out and channel activist energy into Get Out the Vote fodder and superficial reform-ese that never truly upsets the existing order.
On this episode, we study the phenomenon of the liberal appeals for bare-minimum interventions in times of political crisis, looking at how vague and open-ended calls for studies, committees, task forces, and commissions are designed to elevate the reputations of spineless politicians while nullifying the social movements that actually seek racial, economic, and climate justice.
Our guest is Briahna Joy Gray, former national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
News Brief - Review: Netflix's Charles Murray-Themed Hallmark Film 'Hillbilly Elegy'
In this Sight Unseen film review, we recap the ideological currents and industry backers of J.D. Vance's white trash whisperer shtick and how it blames everyone for Appalachian poverty but corporations and Republicans.
News Brief - Post Election Spin: Trump Blames CIA for Loss, Corporate House Dems Blame BLM
In this post-election News Brief we discuss the various modes of cope and responsibility skirting.
Episode 122: Climate Chaos (Part II) - The Militarization of Liberals' Climate Change Response
Pete Buttigieg wants to create “a Senior Climate Security role in the Secretary of Defense’s office responsible for managing climate security risks.” Elizabeth Warren insists “our military can help lead the fight in combating climate change.” And the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis tells us our primary goal should be to “Confront Climate Risks to America’s National Security and Restore America’s Leadership on the International Stage.” Everywhere we turn in liberal discourse, high-profile Democrats and center-left media are framing climate change as a “national security” risk requiring national security solutions.
Politically, it’s a clever enough frame. Like mocking Trump for being too nice to North Korea or latching on to anti-Trump Gold Star families, it’s a cheap and easy way Democrats can drape themselves in the flag while pushing an ostensibly liberal position: We know it’s a real threat because our military takes it seriously and they can be part of the solution - unlike those backwards Republicans we actually care what the generals are saying.
The primary problem with this is that the military speaks of climate change the way Davos discusses "inequality"––in square quotes, as a threat to be managed and mitigated, not solved, and certainly not seen as a moral imperative to be addressed with issues of social justice and racism in mind. The Pentagon, by its own admission, views climate chaos as a risk factor among many, and its primary goal is to protect American capital and the U.S.-led global expansionist and extractivist economic order: two institutions fundamentally in need of overhaul if climate change is going to be reversed. Indeed turning to the US military to help solve climate crisis is like asking the police to solve institutional racism––at best they can suppress protestors and secure property in the event of mass unrest, but the thing that needs overthrowing is the thing they’re charged most with protecting.
One this second episode of our two-part series on climate chaos, we’ll explain why the DoD––and the military-industrial-complex more broadly––cannot be a partner in the battle against climate change because their prime objective is protecting its main drivers of mindless growth and war, why demilitarization and global cooperation are key to curbing emissions in time, and why creeping militarism, nationalist economic policy in green “tech” and other forms of liberal jingoism are subtly shifting mainstream liberal climate policy to the Right.
Our guest is Lorah Steichen of the National Priorities Project.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Yes, Nostalgia Trap, Struggle Session, and Current Affairs are all solid, but only CN makes the effort to script and edit short but deeply informative shows. You’ll want to take notes as they go through every pertinent detail of the subject. Helps that they never go longer than about 30-45 minutes.
Just skim through the playlist and find an episode that interests you.
Giving Adam the validation he so desperately needs, telling him (and you, the reader of this review) that this is one of my favorite podcasts.
one of the best
There is many great left podcasts out there, but if you’re looking for the show that most poignantly explains the material reality of 21st century US empire, this is it. Very entertaining as well as informative, I learn a ton every time I listen.