Category Archives: war

Retrolicious: Mad Men 6.1: “Doorways”

Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and Andrea Plaid

***TRIGGER WARNING: Rape***

Don Draper has a sad about being called an "Organization Man."

Don Draper has a sad about being an “Organization Man.”

Mad Men‘s season premiere got Tami and me–and guest ‘tabler Renee Martin–thinking about how much Mad Men is about aging: yes, about how we physically and emotionally age–and how different decades of life meant different things in, well, different decades–but also how institutions, like Sterling Cooper Draper Price, get on as the founders get on in age, and US society itself gets on with mediating changes, like the counterculture of hippies and wars with people of color. Conversation and spoilers after the jump.

Continue reading

Controlling Portions, Controlling Pregnancies: Race And Class Panic In New York City Public Health Campaigns

Poster for New York City’s “Real Cost of Teen Pregnancy” campaign. Via NYC.gov

By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta

This month, New York City launched a new campaign called “The True Cost of Teen Pregnancy.” The 4,000 bus and subway posters, which reportedly took two years of planning and cost the city $400,000, feature wailing toddlers and babies (mostly of color) next to captions such as Honestly, Mom, chances are he won’t stay with you… and I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.

Yes, teen pregnancy is experienced disproportionately by girls of color and girls living in poverty. Yet data shows that national teen pregnancy rates across ethnicities are dropping not rising, including in New York City. So why this public health campaign? And why now?

Continue reading

Meanwhile, On TumblR: More Scot Nakagawa Love And HBO Def Poet Mark Gonzales

By Andrea Plaid

Considering how you all responded to the excerpt last week, you’re still digging our past Crush Of The Week Scot Nakagawa, especially what he said about voting and the maintenance of white privilege, which just happened to coincide with the R’s and National Black Programming Consortium’s buzzy efforts around the documentary about the 2008 vote in Ghana, An African Election:

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s, back when that La Choy commercial was considered about as offensive as selling water softener as an “ancient Chinese secret.” That was a much more naive time for whites. That naivete was rooted in the unquestioned dominance of whiteness. In fact, so dominant were whites that American was synonymous with Caucasian.

But the racial equity movements of my childhood would soon shatter that naivete, pulling whites into a struggle to maintain their cultural dominance that made the contours and vulnerabilities of whiteness visible to whites, perhaps for the first time. Until then, being the assumed racial and cultural norm of America was fundamental to white identity and to the ethos of American exceptionalism.

But when white cultural advantage was challenged, white folk mobilized. KKK membership grew, White Citizens Councils formed, and the Republican Party stepped in to provide a political vehicle for white backlash that is still in effect today.

And now, as the racial demographics of the U.S. and the world turn to the increasing numerical advantage of non-whites, the backlash movement that peaked in the 1990s is resurgent. Membership in racist Patriot groups and vigilante border patrols is on the rise, and Tea Parties and groups like True the Vote are wreaking havoc on our political process. And they’re not nearly done yet. The global scale of white conservative ambitions can be measured by the body count in what increasingly appears to be a permanent war against the so-called Muslim world, the popular support for which is founded in Islamophobia.

It is in this context that the current voter suppression efforts we are seeing around the country should be understood. Overcoming these efforts in this election cycle is only one among many battles. Unless we see that battle as connected to the battles for immigration rights, religious freedom, racial equity and gender equity, reproductive and sexual freedom, and the battle to curtail the ambitions driving the expansion of American empire, we are missing the dynamics of the larger war and may soon find much more than voting rights among its casualties.”

Continue reading

Fashion As Resistance: The Case Of Mali

by Guest Contributor Eren, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post discussing the attempt among Muslim leaders in Russia to prove that Russian Muslim women are modern and fashionable, unlike Muslims elsewhere. Soon after, fashion made headlines again, this time in the case of Mali, with Yahoo! News reporting on Dakar Fashion Week 2012.

Design by Alphadi. Image via Mirage A Trois.

The event, which takes place in Senegal, has been attracting designers from all over Africa for the past ten years. The event has been reported to attempt to bring Africa forward in the fashion world, and to counter Western fashion houses stealing African aesthetics and motifs.

Nonetheless, the Yahoo! News article focuses on Malian designers and the fact that fashion seems to be too colorful and perhaps too showy for the Islamists. Mali, a country that is rarely featured in the fashion section of the news, went through a coup d’état earlier this year, and now the northern region is under the control of Ansar Dine, a group commonly identify in the Western media as Islamist rebels, who have also recently attacked Timbuktu.

The article suggests that fashion is too “cool” for these Islamists, as they have taken the conservative approach in endorsing hijab and banning trousers for women. To some degree, the article portrays angry Islamists getting back at fashion designers and perhaps even women. Nonetheless, the issue may be a bit more complex than Yahoo! News analysis. The issue with fashion may be not its colors and uncovered arms, but what it represents. In an interview, designer Sidahmed Seidnaly, aka Alphadi and also known as the Magician of the Desert, expresses his discomfort with the situation in Mali and the push for Shari’ah law in the northern region. Similarly, designer Mariah Bocoum made her five-piece collection to represent the struggle of Malian people and as a way to resist the restrictions now imposed in Mali’s north.

Designs by Mariah Bocoum. Via Tumblr.

Fashion in this setting has become a symbol of resistance, and it is a powerful one because fashion these days is quite mobile. It travels from east to west and from north to south and it is easily picked up by the media, as previous MMW posts have shown. In addition, this fashion is mainly guided towards a female market, and as scholars like Nira Yuval-Davis and Jasbir Puarhave theorized, in nationalist struggles women’s bodies are the first ones to be controlled, secluded and excluded. In situations of conflict, women become a source of either pride or defamation as they also become symbols of the nation.

Thus, the current situation in Mali is perhaps following the path that many nationalist struggles follow in terms of gender (more in Gender and Nation): women become symbols, and the resistance that fashion brings along may be threatening for an Islamist movement that just gained power. Although perhaps ironic, because fashion in the Western world and in other places like Latin America may just do the opposite, Mali’s designers seem to bring a new proposal for countering the situation.
Unlike the Russian and the Chechen cases, where fashion is being adopted by religious institutions and governments (who then engage in the fashion world in order to put forward an image of the “appropriate” ways for Muslim women to dress), the situation in Mali is following a different route. Fashion as resistance is something what we do not get to see very often, but perhaps it will be a successful way to engage the international community with the situation in Mali, especially the Western world, which can be oblivious to other types of resistance, but seems to respond well to the runways.

Excerpt: The Independent On The Spin Control Behind Robert Bales

“Apparently deranged”, “probably deranged”, journalists announced, a soldier who “might have suffered some kind of breakdown” (The Guardian), a “rogue US soldier” (Financial Times) whose “rampage” (The New York Times) was “doubtless [sic] perpetrated in an act of madness” (Le Figaro). Really? Are we supposed to believe this stuff? Surely, if he was entirely deranged, our staff sergeant would have killed 16 of his fellow Americans. He would have slaughtered his mates and then set fire to their bodies. But, no, he didn’t kill Americans. He chose to kill Afghans. There was a choice involved. So why did he kill Afghans? We learned yesterday that the soldier had recently seen one of his mates with his legs blown off. But so what?

The Afghan narrative has been curiously lobotomised – censored, even – by those who have been trying to explain this appalling massacre in Kandahar. They remembered the Koran burnings – when American troops in Bagram chucked Korans on a bonfire – and the deaths of six Nato soldiers, two of them Americans, which followed. But blow me down if they didn’t forget – and this applies to every single report on the latest killings – a remarkable and highly significant statement from the US army’s top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, exactly 22 days ago. Indeed, it was so unusual a statement that I clipped the report of Allen’s words from my morning paper and placed it inside my briefcase for future reference.

Allen told his men that “now is not the time for revenge for the deaths of two US soldiers killed in Thursday’s riots”. They should, he said, “resist whatever urge they might have to strike back” after an Afghan soldier killed the two Americans. “There will be moments like this when you’re searching for the meaning of this loss,” Allen continued. “There will be moments like this, when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back. Now is not the time for revenge, now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are.”

Now this was an extraordinary plea to come from the US commander in Afghanistan.
- From “Madness is not the reason for this massacre,” by Robert Fisk

‘They Feel Like We Have An Agenda’: Religion And The Invisible Children Campaign

By Arturo R. García

As the debate continues regarding Invisible Children’s campaign calling for the capture and arrest of Joseph Kony, the matter of faith has been making its way to the forefront, on both sides.

Religion, of course, has been at the center of Kony’s mission with his terrorist group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, as detailed by sources including U.S. military reports and by J. Carter Johnson in Christianity Today six years ago:

Kony, 41, envisions an Acholiland ruled by a warped interpretation of the Ten Commandments. He uses passages from the Pentateuch to justify mutilation and murder. He promotes a demonic spirituality crafted from an eclectic mix of Christianity, Islam, and African witchcraft.

Any resemblance to these religions is superficial: While the army observes rituals such as praying the rosary and bowing toward Mecca, there is no prescribed theology in the conventional sense. Kony’s beliefs are a haphazard mix from the Bible and the Qur’an, tailored around his wishful thinking, personal desires, and practical needs of the moment. Jesus is the Son of God. But instead of saving the world from sin through his sacrificial love on the Cross, he is a source of power employed for killing those who oppose Kony. The Holy Spirit is not the Divine Comforter, but one who directs Kony’s tactical military decisions.

Despite dabbling in the Bible and the Qur’an, Kony’s real spiritual obsession is witchcraft. He burns toy military vehicles and figurines to predict the course of battles from their burn patterns. He uses reptiles in magic rituals to sicken those who anger him or to detect traitors in his midst. He claims to receive military direction from spirits of dead men from different countries, including Americans. He teaches that an impending apocalypse will usher in “The Silent World,” where only primitive weapons, such as machetes and clubs, will bring victory.

But while Kony’s self-aggrandizing beliefs have been on record, if not the public eye, for years–earning him a dubious endorsement from Rush Limbaugh, as it turns out–the religious leanings of some of Invisible Children’s chosen allies started coming to light last week.

Continue reading

#StopKony: Activism Or Exploitation?

Courtesy The (U.K.) Independent

By Arturo R. García

The online campaign against Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony gained serious momentum online Wednesday. But so have questions regarding the organization behind hashtags like #StopKony.

The group, Invisible Children, has said it released its latest video (TRIGGER WARNING for one scene) to help spur action leading to Kony’s arrest “and set a precedent for international justice.” Between YouTube and Vimeo, the 30-minute short film has been seen more than 21 million times since being released Tuesday. In addition, blogger Scott Ross noted (emphasis his) that the campaign, “took up six of the top ten trending topics on Twitter, and ‘Kony’ and ‘#KONY2012′ accounted for 3-4% of all tweets.”

The video, narrated by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, was released days after the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a report saying Kony’s paramilitary group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), had engaged in 52 new attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing at least 35 people, abducting 104 others and leaving more than 17,000 residents displaced from their homes.
Continue reading

Red Tails Does The Media Rounds: Are George Lucas’ Fans Listening?

By Arturo R. García

I won’t lie – I was skeptical when I first heard George Lucas was appearing on The Daily Show to promote his new Tuskegee Airmen story Red Tails. On the surface, it represented a missed opportunity: the film centers around four black characters, with a cast that includes Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ne-Yo – why weren’t any of them getting some face-time with Jon Stewart?

Lucas’ appearance ended up being a pleasant surprise. But, both he and Stewart left one important question hanging.
Continue reading