Cecily McMillan didn’t get off easy. Her case is a threat to the future of protest

On Monday, Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was sentenced to three months in jail and five years of probation, after she faced down a maximum sentence of seven years in prison for her conviction of assaulting a police officer. Her supporters, unsurprisingly, feel the sentencing is excessive – especially given her testimony that the officer in question first grabbed her breast – but it’s also clearer than ever that McMillan’s conviction will have a chilling effect on the future of serious activism.

A potential seven-year sentence, part of which likely would have been served on Riker’s Island (with its notoriously dismal record on prisoner rights), serves as a message to would-be protesters: don’t attempt to resist, or this could be you. It doesn’t particularly matter that McMillan will now “only” be in Riker’s for another 60 days (with time served). That prosecutors floated the idea of a seven-year term is enough to permanently terrify dissidents into avoiding confrontation with police – even if those “confrontations” come in the form of exercising your First Amendment rights.

Read more at The Guardian

The Oscars: frat boys, class war, and Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong'o: I mean, is she even real?

Lupita Nyong’o: I mean, is she even real?

I stayed up last night to hate tweet the Oscars, an annual tradition that always, always turns out to be a big mistake.

Sadly, this year there were no grand train wreck moments, but rather a series of little annoyances. Professionally likeable person Ellen DeGeneres made some mean and transphobic joke about Liza Minnelli, and then waged an unending bit about how hilarious it would be to order pizza for mega-wealthy Hollywood celebrities like they’re regular shlubbs who eat that kind of garbage off paper plates. She even passed around Pharrell’s hat to collect cash for the pizza because they’re all super rich, and you’re not, and ISN’T THIS FUN?

*claws out eyes*

Gravity won a shitload of awards, including the brilliant Alfonso Cuarón for best director (Cuarón is the first Latino to ever win the category). The film also cleaned up in the technical awards categories at a time when visual effects artists were protesting the Oscars for the second year in a row to bring attention to the outsourcing and sweatshopping of visual effects.

Matthew McConaughey again demonstrated what a fucking nightmare he must be to live with during his eight millionth unbearably smug acceptance speech. Despite what he claimed during his tribute to himself, there is no God because his costar Jared Leto also won an Oscar and devoted his time to shouting out his band, his mom, and dreamers dreaming dreams everywhere.

Leto and McConaughey have gotten a ton of blowback for being two cis white dudes profiting off the legacies of AIDS and the transgender community, so Leto also threw in a mention of the fact that a lot of people have died from AIDS:

“To all the dreamers out there in the world watching this tonight, we are here … team Matthew, I love you, this is for 36 million people who have lost their life to AIDS,” he said.

Sorry about AIDS and your struggles and ongoing persecutions, but look! Matthew and I won Oscars!

And again, no mention of the transgender community.

Some redeeming moments: Twelve Years a Slave won the top prize for Best Picture and real-life Disney princess Lupita Nyong’o won for best supporting actress, and delivered an incredibly moving acceptance speech.

It was immediately clear that, unlike Leto, Nyong’o knows she owes an enormous debt to the woman she portrayed in Twelve Years a Slave, a slave named Patsey:

Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own.

Steve McQueen, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life. [Tears, applause.] I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful and so am I.

Nyong’o concluded: “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.”

This is very powerful word choice. Notice Nyong’o doesn’t recycle the tired cliché of, “work hard and your dreams can come true!” spouted by countless previous Oscar winners, who are usually white cis people. By saying to children their dreams are valid, Nyong’o wasn’t whitewashing the obstacles facing unprivileged children, particularly children of color. In a really subtle way, she recognizes the hurdles, the injustices, the systemic corruption, poverty, and institutional racism facing millions of little children, yet she wants them to know they are human, and yes, their dreams are legitimate despite the ugly realities of the world.

It was a masterful tribute, each word hand-selected with the utmost care by a brilliant, thoughtful woman who obviously connected with her source material in a really profound way. Basically, she was the maestro to Jared Leto’s drunk frat boy, stumbling around in his boxers, waving around a piece of liquorice to the tune of Dave Matthews’ Ants Marching.

“I Give Up”: Battle Cry of the Privileged

Allison Kilkenny 13 Replies

We Give Up
We Give Up

You guys.

Yesterday, February 23, 2014, was the greatest day ever. It was the greatest day of all time because both Piers Morgan and Alec Baldwin, the Lords of white male privilege, took a major step back from public life.

Kind of.

CNN announced it plans to end Morgan’s prime-time show, and Alec Baldwin penned a column for New York Magazine hilariously titled “I Give Up.”

And while Morgan and Baldwin are taking a hiatus from their prominent pedestals for different reasons, the paths that led them to this moment are remarkably similar.

Morgan supposedly lost his prime-time spot because the ratings for his show suck, but he never had a consistently large audience, so pinning the blame on low audience numbers is an incomplete picture of what happened.  The New York TimesDavid Carr has a weird nationalistic take on what he thinks went down, blaming the show’s cancellation on Morgan’s infatuation with soccer and gun regulation. And while I don’t doubt Morgan received tons of backlash for his stance on gun control, the show wasn’t cancelled in the midst of his post-Sandy Hook rants, but rather after his run in with organized activists on Twitter following his abysmal interview with transgender activist Janet Mock.

Without question, Morgan prefers to hang on the cross and blame the cancellation on his heroic stance on gun regulation.

“Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarizing, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it,” he said.

But does anyone really hold Morgan’s Britishness against him? I certainly don’t care if he’s British, or loves soccer. My problem with Morgan is that he’s an egotistical hack, who was embroiled in the phone hacking at the Daily Mirror (Morgan was recently questioned by police regarding his involvement in the scandal), and who misgendered Janet Mock and then went to war with activists.

Right-wing zealots going after television personalities is nothing new, but the reason Morgan didn’t receive the same amount of love as, say, a Melissa Harris-Perry, is because he’s a highly unlikeable, hyper-sensitive creep who oozes privilege. Like Martin Bashir, Morgan didn’t have a base to run to his defense because, frankly, no one likes him very much. Have you ever met a diehard Piers Morgan fan? If you have, I bet you lasted two minutes talking to them because they were probably a giant weirdo.

And again, this has nothing to do with the fact that Morgan and Bashir are British, but rather that they’re hacky, uninspiring, and boring. I’d rather watch Olympic Curling than hear how Bashir thinks Sarah Palin is dumb or witness Morgan exercise his male privilege for the trillionth time. Fart. No thanks.

Morgan says he wants to step back and focus on “fewer appearances to greater effect — big, major interviews that would be events in themselves.” Similarly, Alec Baldwin announced to the world (ironically using a major public platform in New York Magazine) that he’s giving up because activists have been mean to him following a report on his verbally abusive behavior towards his daughter, and a run in with a reporter in which Baldwin called him a “toxic little queen.” Baldwin later called a photographer a “cocksucking fag.”

And even though we all love Baldwin because he was very good on that show where Tina Fey and her writing staff wrote all his funny lines, it quickly became clear that Alec Baldwin is a giant fucking asshole, the very worst example of a limousine liberal.

Baldwin demonstrated how much he’s grown and matured by dropping the derogatory term “tranny” in the midst of his explanation:

I met with Nick and others from two LGBT organizations. We talked for a while about the torment of the LGBT life many of them have lived while growing up in traditional Hawaiian families. Macho fathers. Religious mothers. We talked a lot about words and their power, especially in the lives of young people.

One young man, an F-to-M tranny, said, “Are you here to get dry-cleaned, like Brett Ratner?” Meaning I could do some mea culpa, write them a six-figure check, go to a dinner, sob at the table, give a heartfelt speech, beg for forgiveness. I thought to myself: Beg for forgiveness for something I didn’t do?

I mean, has there ever been a more beautiful demonstration of privilege than this column?

Baldwin is supposed to be apologizing here, but can’t resist throwing in that he didn’t even do anything, you guys! He’s a victim, akin to Matthew Shepard. He’s getting dry-cleaned by the pink mafia!

I said, “No. I don’t want to get dry-cleaned. I don’t want to be decontaminated by you, Karen Silkwood–wise, scrubbed down. I want to learn about what is hurtful speech in your community. I want to participate in some programs about that. Or underwrite one. And then, like you, I just want to be left alone.”

In other words: I want to sit with some queer activists for fifteen minutes and then go back to my mansion so everyone will STFU.

Baldwin’s main grievance appears to be that technology permits individuals to capture his terrible behavior. He writes, “I haven’t changed, but public life has,” “Everyone has a camera in their pocket,” and “You’re out there in a world where if you do make a mistake, it echoes in a digital canyon forever.”

I remember the good ol’ days when you could call a cocksucking fag a cocksucking fag in the privacy of your own home, right fellas?

Now, here’s the thing: I believe everyone has the right to take a mental vacation. I’ve seen some of my friends (primarily women journos and activists) be relentlessly hounded by anonymous internet trolls, bullied and threatened with rape, until they left their online lives just to preserve their sanity. But let’s be very clear that what Morgan and Baldwin are describing is entirely separate from the noble existences of persecuted activists. Men like Morgan and Baldwin are accustomed to holding all the power, which is why they’re mystified and peeved by the public backlash they’ve received for, in most cases, being privileged little dicks.

Morgan never really understood the backlash he got for the Janet Mock interview. When Stephen Colbert, a comedian (and no stranger to trans-misogynistic jokes himself), did a better job of interviewing Mock, Morgan’s first response was to take to Twitter and accuse Mock of “whining” and to call Colbert an “enabler,” which is a funny way to say superior interviewer.

But Morgan, like Baldwin, never really wanted to learn from his mistakes. He wanted the bad ol’ Twitter people to leave him alone, to rant without consequence to his not-very-large audience, and to never be held accountable. Because he’s a white dude, and that’s what he expects.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Morgan and Baldwin are announcing a reduction in their public appearances around the same time. Twitter and the rise of alternative media have allowed the audience to talk back to media figures who previously never heard feedback from the unwashed serfs. And white dudes, historically the most privileged and most unchallenged in our society, are really unhappy about the turn in events.

Put another way: they give up.

This is a luxury only afforded to the privileged, who can supplement their previous jobs with new offers or savings. It’s not so easy for an activist, blogger, or non-televised journalist to make the same decision, even if they’re receiving much more serious, scary threats than the ones directed at Morgan. I have an acquaintance who had her home address publicly published by a harasser, which resulted in her and her entire family being rushed from their home by police. That woman still blogs publicly because she has to in order to pay her bills. She can’t give up.

It’s a cruel twist of fate that those among us who are most victimized and abused, the transgender activists Morgan mocks, and the LGBTQ individuals Baldwin considers his punchlines, cannot use the emergency exit as easily as their abusers.

The Poster Boy For Unending War

Allison Kilkenny 14 Replies

Abeer Kassem Hamza Janadi

Abeer Kassem Hamza Janabi

U.S. Army Pfc. Steven Dale Green was found hanging in his cell at the federal maximum security prison in Tucson last week. The name may mean nothing to you, but his crimes probably ring a bell:  He’s the guy who raped and killed a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in 2006 after shooting and killing her parents and younger sister. Then he and some other soldiers from a nearby U.S. Army checkpoint set the girl’s corpse on fire.

For a long time, several soldiers attempted to cover up this horrific crime by blaming the act on “insurgents.” Finally, the truth came out and Americans reacted will collective shock. Even though the United States had been systematically invading and occupying multiple Muslim countries for years, and committing all kinds of destructive acts, the Green incident was considered particularly heinous, and he ultimately received five life sentences in prison.

However, even though Steven Green’s name was plastered across headlines, he didn’t commit these crimes alone. He explained in disturbing detail during his testimony at the federal trial in Kentucky that he and fellow soldiers specifically targeted the Iraqi girl, Abeer Kassem Hamza Janabi who they “watched from the checkpoint as she performed household chores.” Sitting around day after day, Green said he and his buddies abused alcohol and drugs and came up with a plan to rape the girl.

Steven Dale Green

Steven Dale Green

Green said he was brought along to the girl’s home on March 12 because he had expressed a desire to kill Iraqis. A group of five soldiers entered the home while a sixth stood guard at the checkpoint. Then two soldiers took the girl into a room and raped her while Green held the teenager’s father, Kassem Hamza Raheem, and her mother, Fakhriya Taha Muhasen, and her 6-year-old sister, Hadeel Kassem Hamza, at gunpoint in another room.

While the soldiers were raping Abeer, Green executed all three family members. Then he raped Abeer and when he was finished, shot her in the head. The LA Times reports the soldiers then fled, but not before burning the girl’s body.

Understandably, this crime has been frequently cited as one of the worst crimes committed during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The comment section on any article about Green is traditionally full of individuals breathlessly accusing him of being a monster, or evil, but always somehow exceptional to other “normal soldiers.”

But what’s clear from Green’s own testimony is that he’s actually not exceptional. If anything, he’s the poster boy for unending war, the inevitable end game of a military stocked with the poor and marginalized, sent abroad to maintain an occupation that (at the time) had no end date, and told to eradicate strange “others” who detest America for miscellaneous reasons.

“There’s not a word that would describe how much I hated these people,” Green said of Iraqis. “I wasn’t thinking these people were humans.”

Those words sound horrible to you and me—the rantings of a true sociopath. Except, this is typical military brainwashing in which the enemy is always dehumanized. This is the only way military brass can get otherwise untrained individuals to overcome their natural fear and empathy in order to mow down hordes of poor brown people (including women and children). You’re much less likely to pull the trigger if you identify targets not as the enemy, but as human beings with thoughts and emotions.

In a December 2010 interview from prison with the AP, Green blamed his behavior, in part, on the deaths of two fellow soldiers killed by insurgents near the checkpoint. Those deaths “messed me up real bad,” he said.

What Green described was likely Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a very typical byproduct of extended exposure to extreme violence. In fact, Dr. Pablo Steward, a psychiatrist at the University of California-San Francisco, told jurors during the trial that Green exhibited clear signs of PTSD and acute stress disorder. But instead of seriously treating an obviously disturbed young man, he testified that Lt. Col Karen Marrs gave Green a sleep medication and sent him back into combat.

“Her work with Pfc. Green…does not meet the acceptable standard of care,” he said.

He added that Green and other soldiers with similar symptoms seemed to have been left in combat to satisfy the need for battlefield troops.

“She’s trying to please her command and at the same time treat her patients,” Stewart said. “I can see that’s an almost impossible job.”

Jurors also heard from Ruben Gur, director of neuropsychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who reviewed a 2008 MRI and found Green had brain damage. People with such injuries have “major difficulties” restraining their impulses, he said.

“They won’t have the brakes and they’ll be easily aroused into action,” said Gur.

Here too Green was not an anomaly. After all, one in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed with PTSD, and veterans account for 20 percent of U.S. suicides.

“I wasn’t thinking about more than 10 minutes into the future at any given time,” Green said of his time in the military. “I didn’t care.”

His crimes didn’t come to light until he was already given a honorable discharge from the military “due to an antisocial personality disorder.” But to be fair, it is rather antisocial to rape and kill a 14-year-old and her entire family.

By all accounts, Green was a bottom rung fuck up who dropped out of high school in 2002 (he later earned his high school equivalency in 2003). Days after a January 2005 arrest for alcohol possession, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, which worked out great because he was granted a moral character waiver for prior alcohol and other drug related offenses that might have otherwise disqualified him. At this time, the military wasn’t exactly picky about who they shipped overseas to kill Iraqis because, weirdly, most Americans didn’t want to go fight in violent occupations (in the U.S. only around one percent of the population fights all our wars). Remember, this is when recruiters were so desperate to meet quotas that they were signing up Neo-Nazis and gang members, and Green happened to walk into the recruiting station at the very moment that the Army was increasing by nearly half the rate at which it granted “moral waivers” to potential recruits.

So here we have Steven Green: born in Camp Nowhere, Texas, a lad squeaking by with a GED, who abused drugs and alcohol. Where can such a man find a home in the world? Why, the place with all the guns and bombs, of course!

Maybe if Steven Green had been born somewhere else, to a different family, his life would have turned out differently. According to a 2007 AP analysis, “nearly three-fourths of [U.S. troops] killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average.”

All future wars will be fought by Steven Greens because only the Steven Greens of the world are desperate enough to join the military. That’s not to say all troops rape and kill 14-year-old girls, but taking Green’s pre-military situation into account, in addition to his likely PTSD, it’s clear the horrific crime committed against Abeer and her family isn’t an anomaly. If anything, it’s the direct result of unending war fought by soldiers trained to become unfeeling machines of destruction.

When a guy like Green dies (or commits suicide, as it looks like he did), a common reaction is to shrug and say, “Oh well. Good. He deserved it,” and I get that reaction. I really do. But casting aside men like Green and labelling them monsters does us all a disservice, and it puts future Abeers at risk. We should’t consider Green extraordinary because he wasn’t. He was just a poor kid from Texas who fucked up his life and then joined the military where he became traumatized and psychotic, and unleashed every ounce of pain inside him on total innocents. That’s bigger than the story of Steven Green. That’s the story of war.

“Sky Raper”: Drones are tools of the patriarchy

Allison Kilkenny 9 Replies

Journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald posted a disturbing report at their new site The Intercept about the NSA’s secret role in the U.S. assassination program. It’s a fascinating read, and I recommend you read it in its entirety, but I wanted to explore a very specific passage in the report—an interview with a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA.

The former drone operator explains that remotely piloted Reaper and Predator vehicles are often given cute little nicknames. For example, those used in Afghanistan were called “Lightning” and “Sky Raider.”

Badass!

But then the source candidly reveals there’s a subset of nicknames. The “Sky Raider” was also referred to as “Sky Raper” because “it killed a lot of people.”

Badas—Wait, whaaaat.

When operators were assigned to “Sky Raper,” he adds, it meant that “somebody was going to die. It was always set to the most high-priority missions.”

So here we have a bunch of joystick jockeys not only responsible for killing nameless, faceless brown people thousands of miles away, but as if that wasn’t enough of a violation, they decided to sprinkle a dash of rape culture onto their acts of horrific violence.

Sky Raper. The name reminds me of how my hipster journalist friends refer to drones as “sky death robots,” or similarly creepy euphemisms — names that would never actually be used officially by military brass because they’re too close to the truth. That’s why the military comes up with polite, sterile terms like collateral damage and kinetic military action in order to insert a wedge between civilians and the terrible consequences of war.

But here is the truth: Sky Raper.

The comment is extremely revealing because it lays bare the true nature of patriarchy, and the roles of the military and rape culture within patriarchy. These three mechanisms  of oppression work in tandem, each reliant on the other. The military cannot exist without rape culture and patriarchy, just as rape culture relies on the military and patriarchy to export violence all across the globe, and the patriarchy requires the military and rape culture to bolster its very existence.

The military figuratively and actually rapes on a regular basis, whether we’re talking about soldiers invading autonomous regions in order to aid the U.S. government’s plundering of natural resources, or soldiers literally raping indigenous peoples. Then there’s the epidemic of rape within the military, a crime that grew so unmanageable that President Obama signed a 2013 bill that would ostensibly crack down on sexual assaults in the military.

The act of rape is about power and violence—two favorite hobbies of the military, and the patriarchy that relies on the military to invade and conquer in order to acquire even more power in order to fuel future acts of violence.

Sky Raper. It’s sort of beautifully succinct in a really fucked up way.

Occupy Sandy one year later and the failed state, advice on coping with depression

Allison Kilkenny Leave a Reply

Listen to the new episode of Citizen Radio and subscribe to the free podcast.

Allison and Jamie discuss Occupy Sandy one year later and the failed state, NSA’s three hops strategy, the unseen consequences of poverty, and advice on coping with depression.

Pick up Jamie’s new CD: “What Alive People Do“!

Citizen Radio is a member-supported show. Visit wearecitizenradio.com to sign up and support media that won’t lead you to war!

 

Bearded white dudes on the internets, NSA chief: government must stop media

Allison Kilkenny Leave a Reply

Listen to the new episode of Citizen Radio and subscribe to the free podcast.

Allison and Jamie discuss bearded white dudes on the internets, how to be a good ally, the NSA chief saying government must stop media, and a very important Congressional hearing on drone strikes.

Pick up Jamie’s new CD: “What Alive People Do“!

Citizen Radio is a member-supported show. Visit wearecitizenradio.com to sign up and support media that won’t lead you to war!

 

Bear assassins, victim-blaming, your terrible family

Allison Kilkenny Leave a Reply

Listen to the new episode of Citizen Radio and subscribe to the free podcast.

Allison and Jamie discuss bear assassins, victim-blaming of womentrans individuals, and poor black people, police brutality, McDonald’s low wages, and read some Maniac Mail about a terrible family.

Pick up Jamie’s new CD: “What Alive People Do“!

Citizen Radio is a member-supported show. Visit wearecitizenradio.com to sign up and support media that won’t lead you to war!