Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Building a Balanced Media for #Gaza


I ran into an old friend on the train the other day.  He asked how I was and I responded, "completely distraught, aren't you?"  He wasn't.  We proceeded to have a riveting conversation about all of the crimes against humanity around the world and why Gaza in particular was so alarming to people.

It's "mowing the grass," he said.  They do this every other year or so, everyone gets hot and bothered, then things quiet down, everyone forgets, and then the grass needs to be cut again in another two years.  

I tried my best to convince him that it was different this time.  People who typically shrug their shoulders, are speaking out.  People who typically say, "I could never boycott Starbucks," are giving up their coffees.  Reporters are being taken out of Gaza by networks then being put back in because of public pressure. It's different!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Erasing the Past - Redux

A few years back, I wrote about the phenomenon of politically-driven historical amnesia, on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Well, we're at that date again, and I'm currently in Pakistan, in the middle of some tense political times for this country (and have witnessed plenty of amnesia in this country about its previous sins). While not quite as engineered as the situation in China re: Tiananmen (I mean...what is?), its interesting to see how this idea travels. In the U.S., it definitely occurs as well. Everybody does it. Via the powers of blog flashback, here are some more detailed thoughts on the matter.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bill Maher Still Doesn't Understand Causality

So...yeah...apparently Bill Maher has made zero progress in terms of his understanding of causality over the past few years. I'm not asking him to be a social scientist or anything, but damn. Even after Glenn Greenwald schooled him a year or so ago on his Islamophobia, the guy still doesn't learn. He apparently equated actions by extremists with all of Islam again this past week when discussing the horrible situation with the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. More importantly, he still doesn't get that if religion and other factors, like politics and institutions vary together pretty closely in certain countries, than religion probably isn't the causal channel. Not recognizing that leads to potential xenophobia, and more importantly, policies that don't solve the issue. Yet plenty of so-called liberals defend Maher on this stuff. This has nothing to do with political ideology, people...it is a basic understanding of causality. Argh. Its sad that I can literally re-post something I wrote 3 years ago about Maher and this topic and have it be 100% relevant, but this is what happens when comedians pretending to be political journalists don't critically evaluate their positions on contentious topics, and instead just double down on their own ideology (in this case, religion is simply stupid to Maher, and Islam is hands down the most reprehensible one around). Read more...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbus Day: A Terrible American Holiday

Happy Columbus Day, everybody. This has become a No Spoon tradition - a post reflecting on Columbus. Yet another year and another day off for me because of arguably the worst holiday in America. It feels wrong to celebrate somebody who massacred an indigenous population. It feels worse because kids are generally taught that Columbus was some sort of hero, and learn pretty much nothing about the atrocities he committed. Should we be teaching young kids about genocide? Well...at the very least, we shouldn't be teaching them to lionize somebody who did horrible things. Just keep in mind what Columbus actually did. We've known about the specifics, in pretty specific and graphic detail, for quite some time now, thanks to La Casas.

Anyway, I wanted to refer you to 3 4 things (see, I update this post every year!) on Columbus Day. One is a previous year's post about it from me. Two, check out this video from the National History Day documentary competition. It's relatively short (10 minutes). Three, it's high time to rethink Columbus Day. Four, check out this good read on Columbus, La Casas, and many things we simply have wrong about Columbus (for instance, did you know that Columbus was, in some way, the father of the trans-Atlantic slave trade?).

Columbus - The Hidden History from Nonchalant Filmmakers on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Podcast Episode 8: Reflections on the post 9-11 Decade

Note: this podcast originally appeared on No Spoon on October 14, 2011.

Photographer:  MANDEL NGAN Copyright/Source: AFP/Getty Images

On this two-part episode of There is No Spoon we discuss the post 9-11 decade. We cover the cultural and political shifts that we've witnessed in America since the day of the attacks. In particular, we address the leadership gaps, the PATRIOT act and the civil liberties that Americans have "traded" (knowingly or unknowingly) over the past 10 years.
Shahid Buttar, the Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee offers an overview of just how far we've wandered from the ideals of a free American democracy, and we talk about whether we can find a way back on track so that we can reclaim some of our constitutional rights.

Joining the discussion are No Spoon team members: Will Ley,  Reggie Miller, Fouad Pervez and Jen Palacio.
Listen to Part 1: Listen to Part 2: Download part 1: Download this episode (right click and save)
Download part 2:Download this episode (right click and save)
More about the Bill of Rights Defense Committee:
Ten years ago on September 11, 2001, the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack in the nation’s history. In the panic of the weeks that followed, the American government began changing its counterterrorism policies in ways that undermined constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, culminating in the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act on October 26, 2001. Within two weeks of that law’s passage, on November 10, 2001, organizers in Massachusetts founded the Bill of Rights Defense Committee to fight against that dangerous law and others that followed.
To mark the tenth anniversary of these pivotal events in American history and the history of our organization itself, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee is running a series of articles looking back on the last ten years.