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“Police Blinded Me in One Eye. I Can Still See Why My Country’s on Fire.”

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Linda Tirado writes in The New Republic:

I have been weeping since Friday night, because that is the night I was shot in the face. I have, since then, begun to piece together what happened to me: It wasn’t a rubber bullet, it was a foam bullet. I was standing near Minneapolis’s Third Police Precinct. I will not regain sight in my left eye. I will need more surgeries. But I have not been crying for my lost vision; rather, it feels as though my body is reacting to what is happening to my country.

This has been coming for years; anyone with wisdom has felt it in their bones. You cannot elevate to leadership the most base elements of humanity, the most amoral and reckless and cruel, and think that things will go well for the nation. Back in 2016, a week or so before the presidential election, I wrote a piece about how Donald Trump’s campaign speeches were openly fascist, how they spiked fear in those parts of my soul that remember being raised as a nativist. Back then, you couldn’t say Trumpism was a form of fascism—it was considered a bit hysterical.

That remained true in mainstream consensus throughout 2017 and 2018. Sometime last year, more people started to realize that the norms were shattering, and they weren’t reassembling by way of any magnetic properties of self-healing constitutionalism. It was after we put migrant kids in camps and after the president started encouraging people to batter the press and after impeachment, but before the current stage of authoritarian collapse, which has us gassing clergy and desecrating churches for photo ops. Fascism is always a slow slide into routinized mayhem, noticeable to most people only in retrospect.

Since I was shot, I have been worldwide front-page news: China is using my bloodied face as propaganda, for instance. Hundreds, if not thousands, of interview requests have flooded in. All anyone wants to talk about is freedom of the press, if I am angry, what I will do next. I think that I am angry—but no more than I was this time last week, when I was watching America burn for the pleasure of our vainglorious leader. I lost an eye; George Floyd lost his life. What right do I have to rage on my own behalf?

I rage instead on behalf of my country, for the hundreds of millions of people who were appalled when Trump administration officials tried to change the words of Emma Lazarus into a brief for white resentment. I rage for the irony of the line “yearning to breathe free,” because we would not have our cities ablaze had our leadership cared an instant for the freedom or breath of those it considers its opposition, which is to say the citizenry.

If we must talk about press freedom, we must also talk about the First Amendment’s absolute guarantee of freedom of peaceable assembly—and the fact that it is the police, not some mythic rogue formation of antifa saboteurs, who are escalating conflicts. We know this because journalists keep documenting it, and because any person in a demonstration can become a momentary journalist if they have a cell phone and a data connection. We have seen the violent thugs in their stormtrooper uniforms joyfully unleashing violence, spitting on citizens during a pandemic, running civilians over with their SUVs, saying fuck your rights—and worse, fuck your life.

I have lost half of my vision, but I lack no clarity: There can be no peace without justice, and no justice without full-throated, damningly righteous anger. I am asked over and over again why are people burning and looting, and I wonder what anyone thinks they would do if they spent their whole lives being told they were lesser than and not equal, and then one day they woke up to a police state.

We saw this six years ago in Ferguson, Missouri, where I was embedded for weeks in the protest zone, sleeping in a tent with a group of youths who called themselves Lost Voices. It’s important to remember that the designated protest zone was about five blocks of a street called Florissant—and that people lived in cul-de-sacs off that street. That meant they had to drive through the tear gas and chaos to take their children home safely. Once police gassed the children, mothers broke down the glass door of the McDonald’s trying to get milk for their babies’ eyes. Employees were throwing milk to them, rushing to the back cooler to get more because tear gas is self-evidently bad for children. None of this got mentioned in the next day’s reporting from the mainstream press, which simply recited that the McDonald’s was looted.

A few days after that, I was taking photos on the highway where protesters were blocking traffic. Media were behind concrete barriers, clearly working as press rather than participants. An officer dressed all in black with plastic shin guards and elbow pads, dangling zip ties from his belt, pepper-sprayed me point-blank in the face. I have a picture of him somewhere, three feet away from me, shot when my camera was staring down the muzzle of his chemical weapon, and the hatred and glee twisting his face still gives me nightmares.

I am thinking about him a lot in recent days, as I watch footage of TV crews being arrested on live air and police spraying what they call “less lethal” rounds into crowds indiscriminately. I am thinking about him as I scroll Twitter, where brave men hide behind burner accounts to tell me “play stupid games win stupid prizes”—alt-right shorthand for calling me a traitor, to either the country or my race. In their discursive world, good white ladies are not supposed to scream that Black lives matter or point out the bigotry inherent in a system of law enforcement that started with slave patrols. White women, to those kinds of men, are not supposed to do much of anything except be quiescent until it is time to have babies or furnish a sexual pretext for some good old-fashioned racism. We are certainly not supposed to refuse to learn our lesson, even after we have been punished by having an eye put out.

Perhaps my best and worst quality is my defiance: I am . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 June 2020 at 3:48 pm

Mark Zuckerberg spoke with civil rights leaders about Trump’s posts. It didn’t go well.

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Mark Zuckerberg is a problem, and apparently a problem that will not go away and is not open to change. Cat Zakrzewski writes in the Washington Post:

Top Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, spoke with civil rights leaders last night as the company confronts a wave of backlash over its decision not to moderate President Trump’s controversial posts.

But the roughly hour-long call, intended to show the company takes concerns from the black community seriously, only further inflamed tensions.

Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund president Sherrilyn Ifil and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights chief executive Vanita Gupta immediately blasted Zuckerberg in a statement following the call.

Robinson told me the meeting was “disappointing.”

What was clear coming out of that meeting is Mark has no real understanding of the history or current impact of voter suppression, racism or discrimination. He lives in a bubble, and he defended every decision that he’s made,” Robinson said in a phone interview.

The attendees discussed Facebook’s decision not to label or remove several of Trump’s posts last week, including one that appeared to incite violence against demonstrators that said “when the looting starts the shooting starts.” By contrast, the posts drew a warning from Twitter for violating its platform’s rules about “glorifying violence.”

“Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook,” the civil rights leaders said in the joint statement. The meeting also covered Trump’s post that made misleading claims about mail-in voting, which Twitter labeled but Facebook did not.

Facebook’s poor track record on civil rights issues could come under greater scrutiny as controversy mounts.

The Trump posts are the latest flashpoint in years-long tensions between Facebook and civil rights activists, especially since Russian actors leveraged Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram to broadcast posts aimed at suppressing the black vote in the 2016 election.

The activists say Facebook’s hands-off approach to Trump’s rhetoric underscores that it’s promises to support and work with the black community are empty.

“This is just another reminder that companies will say black lives matter, and then do a whole bunch of things to make it clear that they could care less about black lives,” Robinson said. “Those are two very powerful statements that Facebook is making – making it harder for us to vote and making us more unsafe from a hostile, violence-inciting president.”

Robinson said that Zuckerberg was trying to make the case that it wasn’t inciting necessarily violence, as much as it was promoting the law.

Zuckerberg, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg spoke on the call, Robinson told me. Joel Kaplan, an executive who has become a lightning rod of criticism both internally and externally for promoting conservative positions in Facebook’s leadership, was also on the call but did not speak, Robinson said.

Just days before, Zuckerberg had a phone call with Trump about the decision not to moderate his posts.

The president had been mounting an aggressive campaign to pressure social media companies not to label or otherwise moderate his posts in the wake of Twitter’s unprecedented decision to label a pair of his tweets that made false claims about mail-in voting. The president signed an executive order last week that would prompt federal regulators to review the scope of Section 230, a legal provision that shields tech companies from lawsuits for the posts and photos on their services.

“It’s clear that the president and potential regulation from the president is in Facebook’s head,” Robinson said.

Twitter, meanwhile, is doubling down on its stand. The company restricted a tweet from Rep. Matt Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), which the company said violated its policies on glorification of violence, according to The Verge. “Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?” the tweet read, before it was hidden from Gaetz’s profile and likes, retweets, and replies were disabled.

Facebook responded by thanking the civil rights leaders for their time.

“We’re grateful that leaders in the civil rights community took the time to share candid, honest feedback with Mark and Sheryl. It is an important moment to listen, and we look forward to continuing these conversations,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement.

Employees expressed disappointment with the leadership’s handling of the call on Twitter.

Brandon Dail, an engineer at Facebook, called the meeting “another half-measure”:

Hundreds of employees yesterday staged a “virtual walkout” in protest of the company’s handling of the Trump posts. Employees at Facebook and Instagram refused to work on Monday in solidarity with protests across the country over the death of George Floyd. They openly expressed their anger with Facebook’s decision not to moderate Trump’s post, largely taking to rival social network Twitter.

The civil rights leaders shared solidarity with the employees’ efforts. 

“I want the employees to know that we see them, and we appreciate them, and we appreciate their speaking up and standing up and pushing back,” Robinson told me in an interview. “That is part of how every bit of change has happened in this country, when people on the inside and people on the outside speak up. And I hope that they accept nothing less than real change — not platitudes, not empathy, but actual real change.”

Zuckerberg is expected to field questions from Facebook employees today. The company moved up its all-hands meeting that was originally scheduled for Thursday as internal backlash against Zuckerberg’s decision mounts.

The walkout marked a rare display of employee rebellion at the social network.

Facebook’s highly in-demand engineers, developers and employees are uniquely positioned to drive policy changes at the company. But until now, they rarely exercised that power as frequently as their peers at other tech companies, such as Google.

But Zuckerberg’s decision could be a turning point. Employees largely did not speak out — and certainly not in as coordinated or large numbers — when the company was embroiled in other high-profile controversies, such as the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal or the fallout from Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Many employees changed their profile pictures and shared messages of dissent on rival social network Twitter with the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #TakeAction. From Katie Zhu, who says on LinkedIn that she is a product manager for Instagram: . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the column:

Zuckerberg may face an uphill battle in addressing employee concerns.

Zuckerberg already had a chance to try to convince them his decision not to moderate Trump’s tweets was justified in an employee during a meeting on Friday.

The chief executive said Facebook would re-examine its policies around politicians discussing the use of state force on the service, Casey Newton reports for The Verge. That process could take weeks.

Zuckerberg also told employees he was unhappy with Trump’s remarks on the platform. “My first reaction … was just disgust,” he said, according to audio that Casey obtained of the meeting. “This is not how I think we want our leaders to show up during this time. This is a moment that calls for unity and calmness and empathy for people who are struggling.”

Facebook attempted to strike a supportive tone in its statement on the employee activism. The company also said it did not require employees who skipped work to use their paid time off to do so.

“We recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community,” Stone, the Facebook spokesman, told me. “We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership. As we face additional difficult decisions around content ahead, we’ll continue seeking their honest feedback.”

Business partners and advertisers could be the next to challenge Facebook’s policies.

Talkspace, a company that provides therapy online, yesterday said it would pull out of talks for a six-figure deal with Facebook following the company’s decision. The deal was a content partnership, that would also involve Facebook leveraging the mental health app to provide therapy to certain audiences, such as students, CNBC reported.

Though such a deal is a drop in the bucket for a company with the scope and scale of Facebook, it is notable to see a start-up chief executive speak out against a company that many rely on as a key distribution channel. From Talkspace chief executive Oren Frank:

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2020 at 9:21 am

Is it Game Over for the US?

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It may be. Members of the press are now being attacked and arrested by the government (via law enforcement, including state police). Read this and see if you recognize the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 June 2020 at 12:35 pm

Useful checklist for critical thinking

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2020 at 9:46 am

Even Sean Hannity has blood on his hands

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 April 2020 at 12:40 pm

Putin’s Long War Against American Science

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William J. Broad writes in the NY Times:

On Feb. 3, soon after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a global health emergency, an obscure Twitter account in Moscow began retweeting an American blog. It said the pathogen was a germ weapon designed to incapacitate and kill. The headline called the evidence “irrefutable” even though top scientists had already debunked that claim and declared the novel virus to be natural.

As the pandemic has swept the globe, it has been accompanied by a dangerous surge of false information — an “infodemic,” according to the World Health Organization. Analysts say that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.

The House, the Senate and the nation’s intelligence agencies have typically focused on election meddling in their examinations of Mr. Putin’s long campaign. But the repercussions are wider. An investigation by The New York Times — involving scores of interviews as well as a review of scholarly papers, news reports, and Russian documents, tweets and TV shows — found that Mr. Putin has spread misinformation on issues of personal health for more than a decade.

His agents have repeatedly planted and spread the idea that viral epidemics — including flu outbreaks, Ebola and now the coronavirus — were sown by American scientists. The disinformers have also sought to undermine faith in the safety of vaccines, a triumph of public health that Mr. Putin himself promotes at home.

Moscow’s aim, experts say, is to portray American officials as downplaying the health alarms and thus posing serious threats to public safety.

“It’s all about seeding lack of trust in government institutions,” Peter Pomerantsev, author of “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible,” a 2014 book on Kremlin disinformation, said in an interview.

The Russian president has waged his long campaign by means of open media, secretive trolls and shadowy blogs that regularly cast American health officials as patronizing frauds. Of late, new stealth and sophistication have made his handiwork harder to see, track and fight.

Even so, the State Department recently accused Russia of using thousands of social media accounts to spread coronavirus misinformation — including a conspiracy theory that the United States engineered the deadly pandemic.

The Kremlin’s audience for open disinformation is surprisingly large. The YouTube videos of RT, Russia’s global television network, average one million views per day, “the highest among news outlets,” according to a U.S. intelligence report.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 April 2020 at 10:36 am

Why don’t they just walk out?

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Jay Rosen writes at Press Think:

Last week Maggie Haberman of the New York Times observed about Donald Trump’s daily briefings, “As long as he’s fighting with reporters, he can attempt to shift focus from where the government has lagged in its response.” 

Which raises the question, “why stick around for that?” As Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept put it

So why are the reporters, and the networks they work for, allowing him to do it? Being his punchbags on live TV *every single day*? Playing their role in his TV production? Why not ditch these ‘briefings’ and focus on the failed response? Relentlessly, forensically, passionately?

On social media people ask me this question a lot. Why don’t they just walk out?  There is no simple answer to that. I have no elegant explanation. What I have instead is a list of factors that might help you understand why the walk out doesn’t happen. But I want to be clear: I think it should happen. Here’s the way I have put it when people ask me what I would do: 

If I ran a newsroom I would not broadcast Trump’s Covid-19 briefings live. I would not send reporters so he can waste their time and use them as his hate objects. I would instruct them to watch it on CSPAN, and report any news that emerges. If he makes a factual claim it has to be verified or no go.

A few months ago this would have been an unthinkable stance for journalists who report on politics. But that is changing. Ron Fournier is a former White House reporter and Washington bureau chief for the AP. You cannot get more establishment than that:

So why do newsrooms keep sending their people to the briefings? Here is my list of factors, which, again, is a long way from an explanation. I’m not defending these propositions. But I am proposing that the answer to the question is some combination of items 1-13 here. 

1. What the president says is news. This was a wrong turn taken long ago in American journalism. It’s a kind of bug in the code for how to report on national politics. As a writer for the New York Times said in 1976, “Journalism has long been caught up in the particular tautology that runs, news is what the President says, so what the President says is news.” This never made a lot of sense. For one thing, it effectively hands over editorial control to the president. Another: what the president does is news, what the president says may or may not be. Third: journalists are always working with limited time or limited space. They cannot treat everything the president says as news. Nonetheless, the tautology remains. Trump has weaponized it. And if you think this way — what the president says is news — you’re going to want to be there when he says it. 

2. There is enormous prestige in being the president’s official interlocutor because it means you are effectively part of the presidency. This is not something journalists think to mention, but to me it is major. There is glamour in being at the White House every working day. It means you’re important. If you’re not in the actual room where history happens, you’re pretty damn close. That’s seductive. One occasion on which you can feel this is an official prime time press conference in the East Room of the White HouseQuitting that is hard if you want to feel important— and close to power. 

3. It’s part of our franchise, a thing we are able to do that others are not. This is a prestige factor, as well, but more for the executive suite. Having a seat in the briefing room means your brand has made it to the big time. You are now part of the national press. And if you have been big time forever, like CBS News, that’s not something you relinquish. It’s one of the advantages of media incumbency. 

4. We fought for this space in the White House, it’s valuable, we protect it, and we’re not going to give it up. This is how the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) thinks. Its agenda can be summed up in one word: access to the president and his aides. It’s not only about the briefing room, but work spaces in the White House and the ability to ask questions of the president’s communicatons staff, and perhaps develop valuable relationships. 

5. The American press tends to be a “herd of independent minds.” Meaning: it often moves as a pack, but each individual believes in his or her autonomous decision-making. Which means it . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s interesting.

He notes in concluding:

One last note: The New York Times does not send anyone to the coronavirus briefings. They walked out. 

Written by LeisureGuy

14 April 2020 at 10:21 am

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