Currently viewing the tag: "media critiques"

799px-Bushmaster_M17S_rightFor their Facebook page, The Guardian chose an interesting pull-quote from a piece on school shootings and gun control:

Schools now practice lockdown drills to prepare students for what to do if a shooter does enter the building. These drills entail getting all students out of the hallways, turning off the lights, locking doors, and having students sit silently on the floor and away from the windows. These drills are practiced multiple times a year, so these issues are constantly on students’ and teachers’ minds.

Silly me was damn sure this was a Lenore Skenazy-esque plea for sanity in a time of unprecedented safety, happiness, and prosperity for our nation and for our young people. Sadly, author (and teacher, that’s going to come up a lot) Ashley Lauren Samsa is not about that. She desperately wants President Obama to do something about the gun violence in America, particularly in our schools. Samsa supports a ban on automatic weapons and background checks for every firearms purchase. That’s fine, in that her opinion is not an uncommon one — it’s even the majority one for the latter measure — and more importantly, it is her prerogative to argue whatever she wishes. But read how she begins her plea for fewer guns, and tell me if it strikes you as odd:

As a teacher, I expected to return to my classroom after the holidays refreshed and ready for the second half of the year. That’s happened to a certain extent, but I can’t ignore the ongoing violence in America’s schools. On 14 January, a 12-year-old boy in New Mexico came to school with a sawed-off, 20-gauge shotgun and opened fire, wounding two students before a teacher was able to persuade him to put the gun down. On 17 January, two high school students were injured at a charter school in Philadelphia when another teen opened fire. On 20 January, a student sitting in the parking lot of Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania was injured by an unknown gunman. On 21 January, ateaching assistant was killed by a gunman at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Yesterday, the University of Oklahoma was shut downbecause a member of the faculty reported hearing what he thought were three gunshots, though, fortunately, police are now saying what he heard was more likely machinery backfiring.

All this horror in the the first weeks of January alone.

Not one of these events has prompted the national uproar America saw after the Sandy Hook shooting on 14 December 2012. While the damage done at these schools was far less than that done at Sandy Hook – where 20 children and six staff members were killed – the lack of attention paid to these events is indicative of a larger issue: Americans are becoming numb to gun violence.

For teachers, however, these tragedies are all too real. With so many of these shootings – many of them the worst the nation has seen – taking place at schools and universities, we educators can’t help but feel afraid.

Four injuries in side a school, one outside by an unknown actor who potentially had no connection to the school. One death. And best of all, one case of “machinery backfiring.” The juxtaposition between that anticlimactic incident and the sentence beginning with “All this horror…” is inadvertently hilarious, which is not the tone Samsa intended. And she goes on, even more bizarrely, to suggest a numbness towards school and gun violence has occurred since Sandy Hook. Why? Because five injuries, one death, and one case of loud noises had not provoked the same reaction as twenty slaughtered six-year-olds? Hell, I turned on the TV a few days ago and CNN was broadcasting a press conference about the shooting by the 12-year-old with the shotgun.

Did they do a press conference about the 70-odd people killed by car bombs in Iraq during the same time? I didn’t see one. U.S. policy is greatly to blame for the disastrous state of that country and that’s a lot more deaths. How do we decide what should provoke our horror and our hand-wringing? How about car accidents? We’re clearly willing to do accept that level of risk, based on the convenience of automobiles. Or the risk that comes with owning a home or a bathtub? Why are guns so — pardon the pun — politically loaded? And just once, I would like the onus to be on the person suggesting a ban or restriction or law to be to prove it will go just as they say it will. Do they want a potentially dangerous, Jerry Brown California-style round-up of now-illicit guns? What will the punishment be for those who don’t obey the laws? Do liberals, who profess to be (and to be far, the good ones really are) against the prison-industrial complex, realize that demanding the outlawing of something will lead to more outlaws, then more prisoners? By all means, write about and advocate for a new law, but stop pretending that human beings will simply follow it, end of story. Human nature and all of history disproves that notion.

So no, we don’t react to every newspaper blurb like we did to the second worst school shooting in US history. Because as hysterical as we are about violence, we’re not as hysterical as Ms. Samsa as she pushes for gun control legislation and implies that one death is two injuries, is a loud, scary noise ,as long there was some tenuous — occasionally entirely psychological — connection to guns.

Ramos displays an injury sustained during his confrontation with Thomas

Ramos displays an injury sustained during his confrontation with Thomas

Yesterday afternoon, Jay Cicinelli and Manuel Ramos, the former Fullerton, California Police Officers who beat Kelly Thomas to death in 2011 were found not guilty of charges ranging from excessive force to second degree murder.

Afterwards, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckus said he wouldn’t pursue charges against a third officer, Joseph Wolfe, who was to be charged separately with involuntary manslaughter. Yesterday and today, members of the Fullerton community continued to express outrage and bafflement over the officers going free.

(The FBI is looking the verdict, however. And Thomas’ family says they will continue fighting for their son, including filing a civil action.)

In spite of the excruciating half hour of surveillance footage that includes Thomas screaming out apologies and cries for his father, in spite of Ramos saying “Now see these fists? They getting ready to fuck you up”, the officers are not criminally culpable.

It’s difficult to respond to the case and the verdict without being “overly” emotional. I know several male journalists who acknowledge shedding tears when they watched the video in which Thomas can be heard struggling to breath and crying for his dad. Cicinelli and Ramos’ defense attorney did what he was supposed to do, namely raise enough doubt in the minds of jurors. And part of that defense was to argue that Cicnelli and Ramos were doing what they were trained to do. Maybe they were. Undoubtedly that’s worse than them being rogue brutes. If police cannot be trusted or trained to deescalate a confrontation with a man who appeared to be homeless, who was known to the police and the community as schizophrenic, and who seemed unable to obey commands, then it’s hard not to wonder what purpose they serve beyond a mentally ill transient-removal service.

Cicinelli, also, has already announced that he wants his job with the Fullerton PD back. The sheer volume of bad press that might result could save Fullerton’s citizens from being under Cisnelli’s lawful authority again, but you never know.

Thomas during his five days on life support after the beating

Thomas during his five days on life support after the beating

Here are some notable responses to the verdict:

A surprisingly insightful Gawker comment says Joe Public messed it up:

LtCmndHipster

Who the fuck do we blame here? Ourselves. We had a video and a body. We had a DA willing to bring charges against the perpetrators. What we didn’t have was a jury pool willing to convict these two men of murder simply because they were police officers. If the american public can be this apathetic, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Yesterday 8:15pm

Anthony Gregory, writing at the Independent Institute’s Beacon Blog, puts the Thomas killing into the context of the state’s violent nature:

It is the nature of the state that acts that would be considered criminal if conducted by private individuals are legal if done by the government. Government is a monopoly on legal violence, after all. In today’s America, this reality is no clearer than with the burgeoning police state, whose agents routinely commit violent acts that would condemn most of us to a cell for decades.

The Atlantic‘s Andrew Cohen seems more shocked than anything else:

I followed this case but never wrote about it because I assumed—wrongly it turns out—that Orange County jurors would convict. But I should have known better. The results of these cases often don’t turn upon the strength of the facts or upon the evidence introduced at trial. They often turn instead upon what a group of people, a group of jurors, think is right and wrong. Jurors obviously believe they made the right choice. But because of the existence of that video, and what it shows us with our own eyes, the rest of us are more free than usual to criticize that choice. And I choose to do so. What has happened here— both on that night in July 2011 and again today—is wrong. Painfully, manifestly, cruelly wrong. It is a travesty upon justice.

OC Register Columnist David Whiting correctly notes that bringing the officers to trial was a significant thing for Fullerton and for the rest of the country, but that’s a sign of serious accountability issues, not a reason to celebrate. The rest of the awful piece tries too hard to be optimistic and let’s all move on-y. Whiting says “the rule of law” won out, and nobody broke any windows in anger:

We saw Fullerton police persevere through the cries of “murderers” from some protesters. And we didn’t riot after the not guilty verdicts.

Getting kudos for honoring the rule of law may seem silly. But it’s significant considering what’s happened in many American cities – including Anaheim – after some officer-involved controversies.

More tellingly, Whiting adds to the win column that “we witnessed our district attorney risk his political career by prosecuting those officers.” Did the DA risk his career by daring to prosecute police officers? And if so, isn’t that troubling and worth exploring in more detail than a sentence?

Finally, cartoonist Bob Aul sums it up in the OC Weekly:

potI could have written a serious response to Miller, but she didn’t deserve one. All that needs to be said is, if you write a column like Miller did, you either know nothing about the criminal justice system — literally nothing — or you just don’t give a shit how many people suffer as long as your desires for society are prioritized,  I am not sure which is worse. All I know is, Miller should never be taken seriously as an advocate for small government ever again.

Obama.

Obama’s America.

Can you believe what’s happening in Obama’s America? He thinks Americans aren’t adults, can’t even pick their own light bulbs in fact. And DC is no better, it’s dangerous and it takes months and months for a good, upstanding citizen to get a legal firearm to protect herself against crime.

Obama and the rest of the Democrats think you and I are children. It’s disgusting.

It’s almost as disgusting as the fact that recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over went on sale last week in Colorado. Adults will be able to consume pot. Marijuana. Mary Jane. “Weed.”

Marijuana is a child, not a choice. Wait, no. Marijuana is something adults can now use to “to get stoned for kicks” in Colorado. And Washington state soon. My God.

And 21 other states allow “supposedly ‘medical'” pot, with DC to follow. DC that is already so crime-ridden will now let sick people make a healthcare choice for themselves. A wicked, wicked healthcare choice.

Pot, you see, is like heroin or cocaine. Not like alcohol. Which is why less than zero people have ever overdosed on weed. I know that 25,000 people die from alcohol overdoses in a given year, but that’s different. The difference is that I like alcohol. And guns. And light bulbs. And that’s what’s important. Things I like.

What isn’t important is that 750,000 people are arrested in a given year for marijuana — 87 percent for simple possession. Nor is it important that black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. I’m totally against a dependent society, but prison doesn’t count. I mean, prison beats welfare! Prison is a great motivational tool. And I am worried about violent crime and people’s ability to protect themselves, but not enough to suggest that police stop going after nonviolent drug users. That would be raising the white flag and embracing the far left and Hollywood (and 38 percent of the US) and their propaganda that to use marijuana is not to doom society. Marijuana ruins lives. It’s that simple.

And fiscal conservatism is nice, but not when we’re talking about fighting a plant.

Sure, life in prison for selling marijuana is a lot (especially for a white guy) but that’s the price I am willing to pay for a free society. I am also willing to sacrifice the Fourth Amendment, because that’s for terrorists.

The point is, it doesn’t matter if prohibition works, the important thing is not to learn anything or try anything new from decades of bad policy. Just keep on arresting people so they stop consuming and selling a substance. Giving up is for liberals and dependent societies!

Obamaaaaaaa!

Arguably part of that mighty stream of anti-libertarian pieces coming out of Salon, Alternet, and other left-leaning publications these last few months, Tyler Lopez’s “Libertarian  and gay rights: the party failed to take a stand” article (published at Slate) is a bullshit generalization that leads, inadvertently, to larger questions of the definition of rights and oppression. But it falls wildly short of an honest critique of libertarianism.

Reason’s Brian Doherty has already addressed the piece’s simplicity, noting that the official Libertarian Party was anachronistically gay-friendly at its inception, including their nomination of the gay John Hospers as their first presidential candidate.

In the barely-post-Stonewall era, with homosexuality newly not an official mental illness, the Libertarian Party platform started out advocating for a repeal of all laws that restricted consensual, adult sexual activities. A few years later, as I noted in an October PolicyMic piece, and Doherty also notes, Ralph Reico wrote a long essay that said “the Libertarian Party was born believing in gay rights.” He later noted that the stance for libertarians candidates in 1976 was as follows on gay marriage:

  • Repeal of legislation prohibiting unions between members of the same sex, and the extension to such unions of all legal rights and privileges presently enjoyed by partners in heterosexual marriages.

Not too shady for the ’70s, no? Apparently no.

With that bold beginning, why then, according to Lopez, has the Libertarian Party “failed” on what is arguably the biggest civil rights fight of modern times?  His piece trolls all good libertarians by using a photo of 2008 Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, but it doesn’t actually mention him. Which is strange, because the ill-advised selection of would-be President Barr, the author of, if eventual disavow-er of, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), would be a way for Lopez to score points (or, to put it more nicely, to cement his thesis). Lopez, though, begins with the very tenuous critique that the official LP website doesn’t have a whole tab devoted to Gay and Lesbian issues. Never mind that acceptance of gay people is a tenet of the platform, now and forever, the party dropped the ball by not giving the gays a tab.

Lopez goes on to scorn the lack of press releases the party has put out about LGBT, then sarcastically scorns them for trying to portray Democrats as being bad for gays. Well, they’re trying to get voters, just like any party. And is it illegitimate for the LP circa-2010 to have been pragmatically going after Obama for not repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or  DOMA? What’s so sinful about them trying to win gay supporters? Isn’t that a good thing?

Having admitted that yes, maybe, a little bit,  the early 70s LP was more pro-gay than was in fashion at the time, Lopez is as plodding as possible in his praise:

Libertarians like to tout the fact that the party supported marriage equality in 1971, when it was founded. Sort of.  In fact, two years after Stonewall, the party’s platform called for the abolishment of “victimless crimes,” which lumped homosexuality with prostitution, polygamy, recreational drugs, abortion, and gambling. While certainly not a ringing endorsement of the LGBTQ community, the mere acknowledgement of gay people’s existence was an important step forward for an American political party. It’s also true that in the 1990s, the Libertarian Party (having no elected representatives) did join a small handful of Democrats in opposing DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, despite overwhelming public support for both measures. This might seem like a case of talk being cheap, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Plenty of Libertarian candidates take strong positions on gay rights.

Note the subtle implication that to include gay issues with “vices” was to equate them with immorality in the libertarian world. Never mind that many libertarians do not see any of those other “moral failings” as objectively wrong either (some do, but would never presume to do anything but bother you about it). And never mind that 42 percent of people thought gay sex should be illegal in 1977 (dipping much lower into the conservative 1980s). Definitely never mind that gays have been a part of the libertarian movement since forever and particularly at the dawn of the official party.

Nope, Lopez cannot damn with enough faint praise, because, you see, the LP “never left the 1990s.” They care only for the the right to be free from state oppression, not the right to be free from individual discrimination. Lopez also notes that libertarians — some libertarians — would prefer that marriage become a private contract, thereby removing the should government endorse this question all together. This is true for some small government folks, but not all. But even conservatives including Tucker Carlson and Glenn Beck have come around on the minarchist compromise that, namely, if someone is receiving the government perks of marriage, there is no legitimate reason to bar homosexuals from that privilege.

Lopez goes on, into questions of employment discrimination, and he ends on a dishonest note:

Rather than boldly argue for equal rights for everyone, Libertarians have merely argued for the dismantling of everyone’s rights—the right to legal marriage, the right against workplace discrimination, and so on. That’s not liberty; it’s giving the green light to entrenched systemic discrimination. Libertarians could have led on this issue. Instead, they’ve fallen unforgivably far behind.

Again, Lopez could have written, “for a party with a long, impressive history of being accepting towards gays, the choice of Bob Barr in 2008, was regressive and bizarrely socially conservative.” He could have admitted that there was nothing wrong with needling Barack Obama’s spending 16 years pretending to be unsure about gay marriage for political reasons. And Lopez certainly could have used a column inch or two to give props to Gov. Gary Johnson, the 2012 LP presidential candidate who came out for gay marriage while still trying to run as a Republican. But Lopez does none of this.

It’s fine that he believes in a world of positive liberties, where employers cannot discriminate, and where rights are more than just equal protection under the law. But the difference between positive liberties (the right to, say, healthcare, education, anything that requires the labor, time, or money of someone else) and negatives ones (freedom from government restriction on speech, trade, etc.) should be clear even to someone who believes in positive rights, as modern liberals do. You may agree that we, as a society, should all get together and pool our money and give everyone medical care, but you must admit that that mandates a great deal more planning than the First Amendment’s “Congress shall make no law…”

To muddy these warring definitions of rights like is dishonest, because it masks the general definition of a libertarian. Lopez might as well have written “libertarians could have lead the way on gay rights if they became liberals.” He may be disappointed that libertarianism isn’t something else than what it is, but there’s no reason to not give the Party props for solving the first part of his equation — that gays should have the same rights and freedoms as heterosexuals — long before the majority of the political world did. Libertarians didn’t “fall behind” on gay rights, they went down a different path.

roadzThe headline: “Why I fled libertarianism — and became a liberal”.

The subhead: “I was a Ron Paul delegate back in 2008 — now I’m a Democrat. Here’s my personal tale of disgust and self-discovery”.

Edwin Lyngar was a Ron Paul delegate in 2008. Once he got to the GOP convention,  he was baffled by the number of Birthers, Truthers, MoonTruthers and Chemtrailers who apparently made up his fellow Paulbots. (Lyngar also casually equates interest in gold, the Fed, and the JFK assassination with such conspiracy theories. He is not alone in this attitude — the highly-touted conspiracy theory  poll from last spring was similarly sloppy. An enthusiasm for monetary policy is dry, so why not spice it up by implying that to believe in the gold standard is to be sure that the president is from Kenya?)

Lyngar had no libertarian moment of aha!, thanks to a Hayek book, or a Ron Paul speech. He doesn’t really explain why he cared enough to be a delegate for Paul in 2008. He was just vaguely born libertarian, in that he comes from a small town in Nevada where, he writes, “we burned our own garbage and fired guns in the back yard.” He even admits that libertarians are pro-pot, mostly pro-gay, and mostly anti-war, so they have their bright spots still. But also, when he left his small town, his eyes were opened:

I learned that libertarians are made for lots of reasons, like reading the bad fiction of Ayn Rand or perhaps the passable writing of Robert Heinlein. In my experience, most seemed to be poor, white and undereducated. They were contortionists, justifying the excesses of the capitalist elite, despite being victims if libertarian politics succeed.

If you think that selfishness and cruelty are fantastic personal traits, you might be a libertarian. In the movement no one will ever call you an asshole, but rather, say you believe in radical individualism.

Heinlein is only “passable”? Buddy, you read the wrong Heinlein. And if you’re in the libertarian movement, someone will call you an asshole at some point. Or they will call you a statist. Though there are generally agreed upon tenets in libertarianism, there is also tedious in-fighting and minute-to-vital points of disagreement on issues, interpretations, and conclusions. We are not your cheap Dagney Taggart or Randy Weaver jokes, as much as you try to cram us into that convenient mold. We are diverse, and by God, we will shoot ourselves in the foot whenever possible. (Lyngar does acknowledge this incompetence later in the piece, so at least he’s not one of those “dear God, the libertarians have taken over!” folks.)

Lyngar is mostly done with specifics after his live from the GOP Convention ’08 beginning. He changed slowly after his realization that libertarianism indeed attracts weirdos. Soon he was crying for unspecified, but positive reasons when Obama was elected president. And then the financial crisis:

Libertarians were (rightly) furious when our government bailed out the banks, but they fought hardest against help for ordinary Americans. They hated unemployment insurance and reduced school lunches. I used to say similar things, but in such a catastrophic recession isn’t the government supposed to help? Isn’t that the lesson of the Great Depression?

I’m going to give our friend the benefit of the doubt and say, sure, okay, you met three libertarians who were most passionately opposed to school lunches. That was their number one issue, closely followed by the horrors of unemployment insurance. But there are a lot of libertarians who would prefer to tackle the bigger issues first: war, prisons, police, the drug war, financial ruin for the country, occupational licensing, zoning laws, lack of school choice, the death penalty, transportation, whatever you like. And you would know that if you spoke to more than three libertarians — that no, most of them wouldn’t start with cutting the lunches for shoeless Appalachian children program. They’d probably start with trimming the military, the Department of Homeland Security, or that sentimental favorite, the Drug Enforcement Administration.

(And no, that is not the lesson of the Great Depression. That is not even close to being the lesson of the Great Depression. Suggesting that means you paid no attention to economics even while you were a libertarian, dude.)

Lyngar goes on to marry a Canadian liberal, then be disgusted by the racist Birthers in the Tea Party movement. He lurches towards nuance by implying that libertarians who work with the Tea Party are not necessarily the same thing as those religious freaks, etc. But then he notes that at last he has learned to “care about children — even poor ones.” Thereby separating himself from monstrous libertarians, he writes:

I love the National Park system. The best parts of the America I love are our communities. My libertarian friends might call me a fucking commie (they have) or a pussy, but extreme selfishness is just so isolating and cruel. Libertarianism is unnatural, and the size of the federal government is almost irrelevant. The real question is: what does society need and how do we pay for it?

To paraphrase the best French guy ever, Frederic Bastiat, man, liberals really seem to think that if you’re not for government funded, or government-run institutions, you must be against them entirely. Parks are awesome. Some parks also have a long history of hilariously-arrogant mismanagement by government. And it’s cool that you love communities. That means literally nothing in general, and nothing specific to libertarianism. Most of us do not wish to live alone, Unibomber-style. But we’re very keen on anyone’s right to do the best they can at achieving that sort of lifestyle.

The best part of the piece — the part that elevates it to an artful act of trolling — might be the very end. Old Ed says of libertarians: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” That quote, and its accompanying viewpoint, is common in libertarianism. It sounds arrogant, but it’s the evangelizing of a fringe belief that is forever trying to gain converts. How else do you change minds except by convincing someone they are mistaken? And it is no different than liberals who shake their heads at all those folks who “vote against their own interests” — meaning, not for Democrats. To them, libertarians, if they’re not cold, rich, Randian cutouts, they are stupidly opposed to the communitarian pleasures of the left that could benefit them so much.

We’re all snobs when we’re in our own Google Groups, bars, or political rallies. There’s nothing wrong with reveling in “yes, totally! That!” for an evening. But the folks at Salon have the ideological privilege of not ever needing to convert libertarians to their viewpoints. Liberals often treat every conservative victory (one which with libertarians may or may not agree) as an assurance that the barbarians are at the gates. Mentions cuts, and there is nothing between that and Somalia. Liberals refuse to believe that their view of the proper role of government has been a dominant one for decades. They suffer from being The Man denial.

So then, what is the the point of this piece? Optimistically, we could say it could help prove to Salon readers that all libertarians aren’t monsters. Why, there’s always the hope that they will change their evil ways! But it’s more banal than that. This intensely shallow piece is solely an exercise in back-patting. It’s one man’s courageous story of being saved from the darkness of everything Not Liberal, without even the drama of a road to Damascus moment. It’s just that the election of Obama, and the worst of the Tea Party eventually took him on a self-satisfied journey away from conspiratorial meanies to the safe ” bosom of conventional liberalism.” He finally “developed [his] own values.” But a vague sense that libertarianism by nature is cold, cruel, and crazy is not an analysis of an ideology.

Some libertarians choose to interpret the recent cascade of anti-libertarian pieces on Alternet, Salon, and NSFWCorp the last few months as proof that the philosophy is getting somewhere — it can no longer be ignored by the mainstream. But Lyndar’s piece confirms lazy liberal dominance, because why try? Why fight libertarian beliefs, when you can simply revel in having beaten their imaged end-game, as Alternet did recently, — Libertopia apparently outlaws feeding or clothing the homeless! — or simply rejoice in having banished its evil from your own mind, as Lyndar does here.

espn-native-american-expert-rick-reilly-washington-redskinsJust call him Rick Reilly, Indian whisperer.

As much as I hate the PC crowd, there are lines. Lines that white 11-time sportswriters of the year from ESPN probably shouldn’t cross. It’s not that I’m against anyone opining on any subject. But if you’re going to write about why the Redskins shouldn’t change their name it’s probably best if your star witness isn’t your part American Indian father-in-law.

I guess this is where I’m supposed to fall in line and do what every other American sports writer is doing. I’m supposed to swear I won’t ever write the words “Washington Redskins” anymore because it’s racist and offensive and a slap in the face to all Native Americans who ever lived. Maybe it is.

I just don’t quite know how to tell my father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian. He owns a steak restaurant on the reservation near Browning, Mont. He has a hard time seeing the slap-in-the-face part.

Reilly, whose wife’s father speaks for all Native Americans, doesn’t care, so you’re off the hook, America.

Who cares if the dictionary defines Redskin as dated and offensive, who cares if the team was named by one of the most notorious racists in the history of professional sports. Who cares if Reilly himself was one of the first sportswriters to come out against professional sports teams who caricatured Native Americans, before he was against it.

Who cares that the Oneida Indian Nation is actively protesting the name?

Of course Reilly has the right to express his opinion on the matter. This is America, (and his opinion isn’t any stupider than that of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder). But as Americans who possess brains, we have the right to berate the hell out of Reilly for doing so. And we Americans have spoken. Our response? Reilly is an idiot. Chris Greenberg from Huffington Post, Bobby Big Wheel of Kissing Suzy Kolber, Dave Zirin of The Nation, and Tim Marchman of Deadspin are just a few of the many sportswriters piling on Reilly for his over-generalized, anecdotal defense of the name “Redskins.”

As much as it pains me to agree with The Nation or Huffington Post, they’re right. Once one of the most respected sportswriters in the country, Rick Reilly’s fall from grace since leaving Sports Illustrated is well documented. But his weak defense of “Redskins” is so monstrously out of touch and misbegotten that it’s more likely that it will have the opposite effect as intended and will drive people over to the other side of the debate. Really, Reilly couldn’t have penned a better article for those arguing for a name change. A middle-aged white man, using anecdotal evidence derived from relatives and some high-school employees, yeah, that’s going to change a lot of people’s minds.

Reilly takes the few Native Americans that he spoke to across the country and uses that as proof they don’t care about the name. Hell they’re even proud of it.

“I’ve talked to our students, our parents and our community about this and nobody finds any offense at all in it,” says Tim Ames, the superintendent of Wellpinit schools. “‘Redskins’ is not an insult to our kids. ‘Wagon burners’ is an insult. ‘Prairie n—–s’ is an insult. Those are very upsetting to our kids. But ‘Redskins’ is an honorable name we wear with pride. … In fact, I’d like to see somebody come up here and try to change it.” […]

“We have two great tribes here,” says Kingston assistant school superintendent Ron Whipkey, “the Chicasaw and the Choctaw. And not one member of those tribes has ever come to me or our school with a complaint. It is a prideful thing to them.” […]

“It’s a name that honors the people,” says Kingston English teacher Brett Hayes, who is Choctaw. “The word ‘Oklahoma’ itself is Choctaw for ‘red people.’ The students here don’t want it changed. To them, it seems like it’s just people who have no connection with the Native American culture, people out there trying to draw attention to themselves. […]

“My kids are really afraid we’re going to lose the Redskin name. They say to me, ‘They’re not going to take it from us, are they, Dad?'”

Nice try, Reilly, but what you’ve forgotten to mention in your strawman argument is that no one is trying to scrub the moniker “Redskins” from all America’s sports teams — just the one that has no affiliation with Native Americans.

Reilly is unmoved even by his fellow ESPN employees are jumping on the hate wagon.

Edmundo Macedo, vice president of ESPN’s Stats & Information group, told ESPN ombudsman Robert Lipsyte that the term Redskins is abhorrent. “We would not accept anything similar as a team nickname if it were associated with any other ethnicity or any other race,” Macedo said.

Oh, yes, we would.

In fact, ESPN and many other media companies cover the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves without a single searing search of their social conscience.

Doesn’t matter. The 81-year-old Washington Redskins name is falling, and everybody better get out of the way. For the majority of Native Americans who don’t care, we’ll care for them. For the Native Americans who haven’t asked for help, we’re glad to give it to them.

Trust us. We know what’s best. We’ll take this away for your own good, and put up barriers that protect you from ever being harmed again.

Kind of like a reservation.

A lesser property than Reilly would have been fired on the spot for that last line. But Reilly is still gainfully employed (for now).

As far as the other teams mentioned by Reilly are concerned, Indians is not considered a slur, neither is Braves. Notre Dame Fighting Irish could be construed as an insult but as Joe Flood at Buzzfeed notes, “the key difference between Notre Dame and the Washington Redskins: Notre Dame is a Catholic, largely Irish institution. ‘Fighting Irish’ is their term to use.” Just like “Redskins” is okay for Native American high schools that want to use it.

It’s safe to think that Reilly wouldn’t have been so bold in talking about a larger, more powerful minority group. If he had been talking about African-Americans would he have had the gumption to write “plantation?”  No, because Jesse Jackson would have been on him before he finished typing the sentence. And therein lies the crux of the problem. Since Native Americans only make up 0.6% of the population of the United States, they don’t have the power to make their voices heard over the NFL noise machine.

Would Reilly be okay with a sports team from Cape Town being named after an ethnic slur for black people? How about a team from Berlin being named the “kikes?” Would Reilly substitute “reservation” for concentration camp? Of course not. That would be unbelievably racist and insensitive to the genocide that took place in the 1930s and ’40s. But in Reilly’s world the two are different. Native Americans were murdered and forced out of their lands back in the 1700 and 1800s and Reilly, like most Americans, develops convenient amnesia about that genocide. Moreover, the city where the proclamations and laws permitting genocide against Native Americans originated decided to “honor” them by naming its sports team after them. If I were Native American, I’d be as upset about being associated with Washington D.C. as I was the name “Redskins.”

  • Gold-PanningA new tragedy on 9/11: this unspeakably horrible CBS New York piece on — dun dun dun — unregulated dinner parties. Reason jumped on this for good reason (my mom said it looked like a Reason TV parody of something). It’s a staggeringly pathetic imitation of something I think is supposed to be called journalism.
  • Seriously, just look at it. But at least feast your eyes on the fact that ever single commenter things that these “reporters” are morons.
  • Volokh Conspiracy post on tacky 9/11 memorializing (with muffins) notes such things might be well-meaning and “[t]hat is why we send thank you notes even for ugly wedding gifts.”
  • My most recent VICE piece was about — among other things, since there is always an exciting bullet point list! — the EPA sending armed teams to test the water on Alaskan mining claims
  • I threw together a little review of Jesse Walker’s new United States of Paranoia for The Libertarian Standard
  • I’ve started compiling a Youtube list of videos in which I am somewhere (if not technically seen). So far it’s mostly just Old Crow Medicine Show and La Plebe. I don’t think I will add weird protests or Sarah Palin at CPAC 2012, because who would want to look back fondly on those?
  • I’m still obsessing over the Cold War, particularly movies about nuclear war. I plan to do a post on that sometime soon. In the meantime I was interested to read this short blog post on Soviet movies about nukes and about the conflict with America. It sounds like there just aren’t that many, and they’re not usually the On the Beach kind of grimness. If anyone has any recommendations for nuclear war movies, send ’em my way, please. Same with novels.
  • It’s not just the Bloomberg piece my brother tears apart below, there has been a plague of complete nonsense pieces on libertarians lately. These include AlterNet on the corporate astroturf (is that still a thing?) nature of this philosophy (the 19th century — not a thing! Nor are this country’s founding documents! Weeeee!) and Salon on “11 question to see if libertarians are hypocrites.” (The latter managed to notice that there are degrees of libertarian and no, it’s not just a word for Ayn Rand lover all the time, but it’s still awful.)
  • Horrible things with the word “libertarian” in the title also includes this Cato Unbound piece headlined “The Libertarian Case for National Military Service”, The author gives it his all, and this is a debate format, but it’s still nauseating as a concept. Not to mention, I don’t think the author is a libertarian. Not that supporting the draft isn’t antithetical to libertarianism (though it is), but I actually don’t think the author is a libertarian. I mean, he’s French.
  • Noah Rothman at Mediaite trashes John Stewart and Stephen Colbert for having stopped trying. He notes that Colbert did a staggeringly disingenuous piece about the  right-wing outrage over the Obama puts feet on desk “controversy” (yeah, I missed that), including a short Red Eye clip that suggests Greg Gutfeld and Andy Levy’s horror over the photo was genuine instead of snarky. Lame, lame, Colbert.
  • Antiwar.com: The X-Files as a purely pre-911 phenomenon.
  • (Right now I’m trying to watch what Jesse Walker and io9 commenters and other credible people say is the best X-Files episode ever, Josie Chung’s From Outer Space. I keep rewinding — as we used to call it — and missing stuff. I’ve seen it, but it’s been a while.)
  • Finally!(?) the final word on what killed old Alexander Supertramp (Christopher McCandless).
  • I will forever defend McCandless, Holden Caulfield, and moshpits, even if they are all varying degrees of stupid. It’s the principle of the thing, people.
  • Actually, I think I like marriage better now, Buzzfeed.
  • Awesome.
  • Interesting — especially since they killed of the transgender teen on Degrassi, those bastards.

And finally, let’s have at today’s video:

Let me pass on this ear-worm to y’all for a spell.

Last week CNN´s Crimes of the Century — a show that has so far covered cases like the Unibomber, the DC sniper, and Andrea Yates — decided to tackle the 1993 Waco standoff between federal law enforcement and the Branch Davidian sect. And the end result, inexplicably produced by Ridley Scott, is one of the worst, most dishonest tellings of those still-controversial events that I have seen in a long time. By 2013, the usual thesis on Waco — even coming from lefties — is that it was a major law enforcement fuck-up, if not a purposeful federal holocaust. CNN has decided that the way to approach this tragic event with the right amount of sadness is to have a lot of tearful federal agents reminiscing about how they wanted to rescue those kids. And that’s all.

Here are the individuals CNN interviewed:

  • Davy Aguilera, ATF
  • Randy Parsons, FBI
  • Byron Sage, FBI
  • Jim Cavanaugh, FBI
  • The then-Editor in Chief of the Waco Herald-Tribune, the paper that called Koresh ¨The Sinful Messiah¨
  • Brian Levin from something called ¨The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism¨
  • Errol Southerns, author of Homegrown Violent Extremism
  • Clive Doyle, a Davidian who still believes, who doesn´t come off well, and whose 18-year-old daughter was ¨married¨ to Koresh. Doyle did not rescue her, or — apparently — attempt to.

Not included:

  • A single credible person to challenge the pro-fed narrative.

Here is a short list of nuance-building facts that CNN failed to mention in their hour:

  • That the government used the baseless accusation of meth manufacturing to get access to Bradley Fighting vehicles and other military tech for the raid. (Thanks, Reagan.)
  • The 911 call the Branch Davidians made shortly after the shoot-out with the ATF began. Koresh called 911 about an hour into the siege as well.
  • An explanation, or a pressing question about why the ATF did not stop the February 28 raid, even after learning that the Davidians knew they were coming. Aguilera says he’s sure that the raid would have succeeded if they had had the element of surprise, and then the narrator brushes past that with a hand-waving, drama-building piece of nonsense, “the impetus to act had already reached critical mass.”
  • The feds’ refusal to release the footage that David Koresh and others shot inside the building to the media, out of fears that it would build sympathy for the sect.
  • The Feds cutting Koresh’s access to the media, and them being barred from Mt. Carmel and kept more than two miles away. (“In over thirty years, twenty-seven of which have been with Time-Life, I have covered wars and riots — you name it. I have never been restrained as I was in Waco, and I will say needlessly and senselessly.”– said Shelly Katz, a photographer.)
  • The feds use of incendiaries, and their denial of that fact for six years. 
  • The fact that the feds bulldozed the site after only a week of examination. 
  • Any evidence of the dangers of six hours of exposure to CS gas on children.

The biggest lingering questions — who started the fire on April 19, and who shot first in the February 28 raid — are addressed in a pro-fed fashion. Allegations that the shoot-out began after agents shot the Davidians’ dogs are not mentioned. The disappearance of the front door is not mentioned. (A lot of this comes from Waco: The Rules of Engagement, but I wrote a whole damn thesis largely about the event as well, meaning I have read multiple books and media reports.) The nod to the controversy of who shot first being as such is a recording of a phone call where Koresh says the feds did it. Dead, delusional Davis Koresh gets to say it, but nobody else alive or with credibility gets to say it. We also get the Editor in Chief of the Waco Herald-Tribune saying ¨the only person who will ever know who shot first is the person who shot first” which is a little better.

The feds seem moved, some tear up, giving them the opportunity to express regret for how things went down. Aguilera says the ATF agents had candy in their pockets for the kids. Sage says he arrived after a 45 minute shoot-out and over the phone, Koresh’s second in command screamed that the feds had no right to be there. Again, the 911 calls from various Davidians are not mentioned.

The shoot-out lasted around two hours. Doyle simply says he doesn’t deny that Davidians shot back when fired upon. The footage of ATF agents screaming at and attacking a KWTX-TV cameraman is included without any enlightening narration.

The narrator moves on with ¨what started as a carefully-planned raid…¨ (That seems like it’s pushing it a bit, considering.)

The next section is devoted to a compilation of Koresh lying and putting off the time when he will come out and surrender. This is true, as far as I know. Two different religious professors wrote a book called Why Waco? which suggests that approaching Koresh from a religious perspective, as opposed to that of a conman and criminal, might have lead to a different outcome. None of this is to defend Koresh, who was a creep, a cult-leader, and a child rapist.  But since the stakes for resolving the situation were as high as they were, it’s indefensible that the feds only slightly pursued this avenue of negotiation, giving up all too soon out of impatience and a conviction that Koresh’s mad opinions weren’t sincere.

For the next 51 days, the feds grow more annoyed.  They harass the Davidians with the sounds of rabbit slaughter and ¨These Boots Were Made for Walking.¨ They cut the power and water, then point to the horrible situation the children are living in. Finally, they get impatient and shiny new Attorney General Janet Reno okays the use of CS gas in the infamous FBI assault.

The disturbing aesthetic of the tanks smashing the walls, the voice of Byron Sage over the bullhorn saying ¨submit to the proper authorities¨ is not acknowledged by the narration as anything troubling. Aguilera says he did not know about the FBI’s gas plan.

Sage now says “I don’t think we — the FBI, the ATF — ever had any control over how this was going to end.  I I think the only control we truly had was when it was going to end.”

Levin, from ¨the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism¨ says “Koresh had his playbook already decided in advance, that he would destroy his followers rather than give up to the evil armies of the federal government.” Sage says, ¨We banked on the fact that parents would “move heaven and earth to get them to a position of safety. We were wrong.” Soundtrack is is a dramatic heartbeat. There is footage of the burning Mt. Carmel. Parsons said he thought “thank God those mothers  will bring their children out now.¨ And they didn’t.

Waco: The Rules of Engagement (watch it!) delves into questions of whether any feds fired on the Davidians who were fleeing. I am not comfortable saying anything definitive on that, but the FLIR footage with the bursts look much more like gunfire than the supposed sunlight. And it’s worth looking into that allegation, or at least mentioning its existence.

Ricks talks about the feds starting the fire rumor, or FBI shooting people. Sage says we didn’t do everything right, but “we didn’t set the fires, we did not murder anybody.” A news report from April 19 has Wolf Blitzer saying “all indications are that the fire was set from within, presumably by some of David Koresh’s followers.” (This kind of immediate trust in the feds´ spin was not unique to CNN. CBS was also very bad. Weekly news magazines were bad and went full-on apocalyptic cult. Newspapers like The New York Times were best.)

Sage says seven of the nine Davidian escapees had accelerants  on their clothing. Doyle doesn’t know who set it, if Davidians did “is it our fault for being bent on dying, or is it the FBI’s fault for taunting David?” Doyle might be an awful person, or an awful interview, or just was badly edited here. (Maybe all three.)

Parsons says Steve Shneider, Koresh´s number two, shot Koresh, them himself. Ricks: “The children themselves were mostly executed. They were either beaten to death, stabbed to death, or shot. David Koresh was never going to walk out of that place on our terms. It was doomed, from day one, that that place — which went by the name Ranch Apocalypse — was destined to end up in flames.”

A 1995 episode of Frontline quotes the county medical examiner, Dr. Nizam Peerwani, as saying, ¨Altogether, there were 20 people who died as a result of gunshot wounds that particular day. Some 27 additional bodies were buried deep within the bunker. These were co-mingled bodies and all of these were women and children. They were huddled together, some of them. They were covered with blankets. Some of them had face masks. And most of them had died as a result of smoke inhalation or suffocation, but there were at least three kids who had been shot to death and one was stabbed to death.¨

The covering of faces suggests a desire to have the children survive — albeit without the parents going outside and surrendering — and there is no mention there (or anywhere else I have seen) of children having been ¨beaten to death.¨

Things wrap up quickly in the episode. Various feds talk about the kids they wish they had rescued. Nothing about the trial of the surviving Davidians is worth commenting upon, but it is important to mention that the Waco paper was a Pulitzer finalist for their reporting.

But the takeaway of all this, besides sad feds is, says the narrator:

“In the aftermath of the tragedy, not another Waco became a rallying crime for the ATF. The agency improved intelligence gathering and reporting methods. And changed policy on who makes on the ground incident decisions. The FBI made changes as well — forming a crisis response group to ensure complete communication between its negotiators and tactical response teams.”

Then there’s that infuriating Janet Reno footage where she says she is taking responsibility. (Rhetorical responsibility and that is all.)

McVeigh is mentioned twice — first that he was in the crowds watching the stand-off, and was inspired to murder 168 people in Oklahoma City because of what he saw. At the end, the narration mentions that there are three monuments at the remains of Mt. Carmel today — one for the victims of the OKC bombing (nice gesture, but sort of annoying at the same time), one for the 76 Davidians, and, says the narrator ¨The third — the smallest stone of all — remembers the four ATF agents who perished on February 28, 1993.”

Davy Aguilera tears up and mentions each ATF agent by name. (Note: the hideous TV movie made about Koresh before the raid, whose screenwriter has entirely disowned it, was dedicated to those agents.) He says “…they were heroes. When I hear taps, or when I hear a bagpipes, I just break down. I’ll take this to my grave.”

We cut to footage of dejected ATF agents leaving the raid. Their hands are up, some are backing away. The final shot is of a petite female agent looking back at the camera.

In short — which this post wasn’t — this was an inexcusably light treatment of a horrible, controversial event in recent history. According to CNN’s narrative, the only thing that matters about Waco is how it affected law enforcement. From their sadness over the dead children, to the lessons learned in tactics, what matters is how they felt about the event.

The failure of the media at Waco — something I wrote a score of pages on for my thesis — was not entirely its own fault, in that they were simply not allowed to see and judge for themselves. But that’s not an excuse for their trusting, lapdog responses. In general, the press’ pathological inability to admit that they don’t know what happened often kills any chance at honest reporting — at Waco and at other big news events. They just can’t admit when they don’t know, and they rarely acknowledge that police and government officials — particularly ones who were one half of an event, and were rigidly controlling access to the other half — are not divorced, ivory-tower experts on the issue, but people with  bias and spin like anyone else.