3-29-12 Links Roundup

The stories that Invisible Children create in their media put children at the front and center of them. And, indeed, as Neta Kliger-Vilenchik and Henry Jenkins explain, youth are drawn to this type of storytelling. Watch Kony 2012 from the perspective of a teenager or college student. Here is a father explaining to a small child what’s happening in Africa. If you’re a teen, you see this and realize that you too can explain to others what’s going on. The film is powerful, but it also models how to spread information. The most important thing that the audience gets from the film is that they are encouraged to spread the gospel. And then they are given tools for doing that. Invisible Children makes it very easy to share their videos, republish their messages on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr, and “like” them everywhere. But they go beyond that; they also provide infrastructure to increase others’ attention.

Invisible Children knew that it was targeting culture makers and youth. And Twitter users no less. Indeed, check out the list of “culture makers” that they encouraged youth to target. It’s an interesting mix of liberals (George Clooney, Ellen Degeneres, Bono), conservatives (Rick Warren, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly), geeks (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg), big philanthropy names (Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Warren Buffett), and pop stars (Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber). Plus others. They also recommended contacting political figures. (Interestingly, they start with G.W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice and don’t list Obama at all.) As Lotan points out, these celebrities got pummeled with thousands upon thousands of messages from fans, predominantly young fans. And many of them responded.

The recent study found that participants who had initially viewed a series of magazine ads for alcoholic beverages made more errors indicative of racial bias in a subsequent task than did others who had initially seen ads for non-alcoholic beverages, such as water or coffee.

Test participants were shown a series of ads for either alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. They then completed a computerized task in which pictures of white and black men’s faces were shown for a split second, followed immediately by either a picture of a handgun or a tool. Numerous previous studies using this same task have shown that people often mistakenly identify tools as guns following presentation of a black face, a response pattern attributed to the effects of racial stereotypes. The fast pace of the experiment kept participants from thinking about their responses, which allowed the subconscious mind to control reactions.

In the real world, snap decisions in which one object is mistaken for another can be deadly.

  • The documents were marked “confidential” by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which was formed to support the passage of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. NOM has gone on to campaign against laws recognizing same-sex families in some of the nations biggest fights, including efforts in Massachusetts, Maine and New York.

    According to the internal documents NOM raised $3 million for California’s Prop. 8 campaign and was its “largest single contributor.”

    “It is likely no overstatement to suggest that without NOM’s early leadership, the Prop. 8 campaign would have never gotten off the ground,” read the notes from the 2008-2009 board update.

    It is Not About Race because It Is Never About Race. Race is the past. Black people can vote. One of them is president. Nothing Is About Race anymore. Just ask Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum — and have I mentioned recently what a colossal dick that guy is? — and they’ll tell you that the president “injected” race into the tragedy. It wasn’t there before the president — who is (shhh!) black, you know — put it there. Ask Joe Oliver, this “friend” of the gunman who insists that Zimmerman might have said “fucking goons” and not “fucking coons,” because the latter is an obsolete racial slur and the former is a “term of endearment,” according to Oliver’s daughter. This is enormously believable because, if you’re an armed 28-year old gunslinger in pursuit of what you believe is a dangerous burglar, the first descriptive that would leap to anyone’s mind is a term of endearment used by high-school girls. Yeah, sure. Whatever. As if. And it is enormously believable because This Is Not About Race.

    It Is Never About Race. All those people arguing down through the years that the Civil War was about dueling conceptions of nationhood, or a clash of incompatible economic systems, or the ramifications of the 10th Amendment were all arguing, after all, that It Was Not About Race. Massive Resistance in the South in the 1960′s was about resistance to overweening federal power because It Was Not About Race. The Wallace campaigns, and the politically profitable adoption by modern conservatism of the leftover tropes and trappings of American apartheid was about the embattled white middle-class in the North and not About Race because It Is Never About Race. Ronald Reagan kicked off his campaign talking about states rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi, not far from where they dug three civil rights workers out of a dam, because he wanted to show that a new paradigm had been established in American constitutional history, and it was not About Race because It Is Never About Race. Amadou Diallo was Not About Race. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, which tracks such things, dozens of children are currently serving sentences of life without parole, of whom two-thirds of them are children of color, as a result of laws passed by legislators wanting to look tough on crime, and those statistics are not skewed because of race because It Is Never About Race. George Zimmerman saw a black kid with a hoodie and gave chase with his gun in his hand. But that was not about race, because Joe Oliver and the Sanford police and the oh-so-very fair-minded media are telling us, hell, don’t worry, It Is Never About Race.

    But it’s not like I ever asked to play the piano. If I could have asked for something, it would have been to dance. When I was six or eight I’d stage my own dance performances for hapless cousins — doing god knows what without training or music of any kind. A classmate who lived next door saw me doing a private ballet in my living room one night, and asked me about it the next day. I was so mortified it’s as if she’d seen me with my pants down.

    Somehow my parents never noticed. Each year at Christmas and in June my elementary school held student shows, with skits and songs and dance numbers. From third through fifth grade, I was asked to solo on the piano, or man the xylophone for the group bells number, and after each show my parents would preen with false modesty in the envy and praise of other working-class parents. Such a talented daughter! Such lovely posture! Such great wrist position! Okay, maybe nobody complimented my wrist position, but I thought they ought to have.

    Clearly, these were moments when the sacrificing was Worth It. But in sixth grade the music teacher held an audition for two boys and two girls to dance the Charleston. I tried out. The popular girls had told me I should. In hindsight, they hadn’t meant it; they probably figured it’d be a hoot to watch the nerdy kid with glasses try to dance. But I had no social skills so I thought they had my best interests at heart.

  • Elton

    Re: Piano, Forte

    I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent.  I don’t know what it’s like to be an immigrant, either.  But it seems to me that parents and immigrants have one big thing in common, which is magnified to an extreme when one is both an immigrant and a parent:  The drive to remake social class.

    The cross-section of immigrants who move from say, China to the United States, does not reflect the Chinese population as a whole.  I imagine that China has a great diversity of people, rich and poor, with varying educations and occupations.  However, for myriad socioeconomic and political reasons, most Chinese immigrants to the United States have been extremely poor, uneducated people from Cantonese-speaking regions near the Pearl River delta.  This is where my ancestors are from.

    Who are immigrants?  Immigrants are the kind of people who are in a life situation that drives them to immigrate.  There are wealthy and educated people who immigrate because they can.  But if they have it so good in their home country, why don’t they just stay?  Indeed, the vast majority of people who immigrate do so out of desperation.  They have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of their former countrymen.  But they don’t immigrate just because they have no choice.  They deliberately choose to uproot from their home, the place where generations upon generations of their ancestors may have lived, and they choose to go to another country where they don’t know the language or culture, and have very little in terms of training or skills to offer their new home.  They will undoubtedly face prejudice, and start off in an even lower and more isolated social position than they occupied before.

    Each individual has his or her own personal reasons for immigrating, but they share a common dream.  And “dream” is perhaps the most apt description for this idea, because it really seems delusional and far-fetched when met with stark reality.  The idea is that by immigrating, one can remake the social class of one’s family.  The concept seems well-supported by statistics and anecdotal evidence.  The success of some Asian Americans in business and education is frequently reported in the media.  However, the fallacy of the model minority stereotype has been broken down and explained quite thoroughly by others.

    What I want to point out is the obsession that many immigrant parents have with the notion that one can deliberately change one’s social class.  They typically begin with the assumption that social class is the most important determinant of one’s life value.  Obviously, social class has a big impact on one’s outlook, but in America, where people from wildly contrasting income levels all consider themselves to be “middle class,” and privileged hipsters deliberately alter their dress and appearance to seem more lower class, social class is far more nebulous and disconnected from one’s actual income or lifestyle than in more traditional cultures.

    Still, many immigrant parents push their kids to play the piano.  Not because learning piano gives one a lifelong sense of accomplishment and appreciation of the beauty of music, or that musicians tend to be more intelligent and do better in school, or that playing piano makes picking up a secondary instrument easier, or that joining the school band or orchestra is a fun way to make friends and learn teamwork, etc., but because, as the author mentioned, of a quaint Victorian ideal of the child being trotted out to demonstrate one’s high social class by way of piano recital.

    Thus, we get an awkward situation in the child’s teenage years (if he or she hasn’t quit out of frustration with the fact that most traditional piano lessons don’t actually teach music at all, but simple rote memorization), where the child discovers rock music and suddenly music is a very, very bad thing.  I was one of those kids who took piano lessons, and although I never found them miserable, I was extremely bored until I started experimenting on my own with the kind of music I heard on the radio.  I developed an understanding and appreciation of music and joined the school band, which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  In high school, I decided to play drums in a rock band–this was my fourth or fifth instrument–and combined with the fact that I wasn’t making straight As anymore, this was a huge item of concern for my parents.  That was when I realized that immigrant parents don’t want their kids to become musicians at all, but simply to put off the image of being of a higher social class because they play an instrument.  Big difference.

    I don’t want to be too hard on my parents because I am grateful that they started me on piano lessons in the first place, and they’ve been more tolerant of my love for music ever since they killed the idea of my ever doing it for a living.  But there is a problem with a society that encourages kids to play music, then suddenly discourages them from playing music.  Maybe it’s different if your parents are musicians and actually understand how fun and enjoyable music can be.  But if it’s just for image, just for show, just for class, then that’s a delusion, not a dream.

  • Anonymous

    The link to the Invisible Children article is wrong. It goes to that piano story instead.

    I enjoyed that story immensely, but due to the link confusion, it threw
    me off for a second. While I was reading it, I wondered momentarily if playing the piano was
    some kind of metaphor before I decided there must have been a mistake.  Heh.
     

  • Anonymous

    The link to the Invisible Children article is wrong. It goes to that piano story instead.

    I enjoyed that story immensely, but due to the link confusion, it threw
    me off for a second. While I was reading it, I wondered momentarily if playing the piano was
    some kind of metaphor before I decided there must have been a mistake.  Heh.
     

  • Anonymous

    The link to the Invisible Children article is wrong. It goes to that piano story instead.

    I enjoyed that story immensely, but due to the link confusion, it threw
    me off for a second. While I was reading it, I wondered momentarily if playing the piano was
    some kind of metaphor before I decided there must have been a mistake.  Heh.
     

  • Anonymous

    The link to the Invisible Children article is wrong. It goes to that piano story instead.

    I enjoyed that story immensely, but due to the link confusion, it threw
    me off for a second. While I was reading it, I wondered momentarily if playing the piano was
    some kind of metaphor before I decided there must have been a mistake.  Heh.