Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day: Make it Stop!

Happy Columbus Day, everybody. This has become a No Spoon tradition - a post reflecting on Columbus. Another year, another day off off for me and many other Americans thanks to one of the most offensive holidays in America. (This year, we see even more places fighting back - Seattle joined Minneapolis and other places that no longer celebrates Columbus Day, as they instead opted for Indigenous People's Day).

We shouldn't celebrate a man who outright massacred an indigenous population. What makes matters worse is that children generally get a whitewashed (yes, ironic term) history of Columbus, where he is some hero who discovered a land (he obviously didn't), and are taught nothing about the horrific acts he committed.

So, maybe you think we shouldn't be teaching young kids about genocide. Ok, but at the very least, we shouldn't be teaching them to lionize a terrible person. 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 5 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?). Five, watch this awesome short video from the excellent John Oliver on Columbus Day.

Columbus - The Hidden History from Nonchalant Filmmakers on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Guide to MEDIA ACTIVISM by Guest Writer Sayeed Khan

It’s clear that mainstream news media is consistently biased in certain matters relating to foreign policy. Coverage of the recent attacks in Gaza are yet another example of info that is one sided or simply wrong. The growth of social media has given people a chance to present alternative news and influence public opinion. Public opinion influences public policy, and the views of the masses should never be underestimated.

In addition to social media, there is another way to have a direct impact on mainstream news. “Media Activism” is how I refer to the aggressive monitoring of all forms of media through online comments, radio call ins, and letters to the editor.

Media Activism is a democratic way to monitor--and even influence--news media and the opinions of those who read or view it. This is something that everyone can participate in, and there are no excuses not to.  Instead of simply complaining about biased news media, why not do something about it?  If there were thousands of comments in support of Palestinians, for example, this would influence other readers, as well as producers of news content.

The current focus is on mainstream news media sources which have an online presence. TV Networks such as CNN and ABC News and newspapers such as Chicago Tribune and New York Times all have online comments after each article. The following explains how commenting on these articles can make a big difference.

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

This is what Bill Maher thinks of causality, apparently.
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, 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...