Tag Archives: violence

The Great Alt-Right Pile-On of Tommy Curry

a water tower at texas A&M university painted with the words "welcome to aggieland"

Philosophy professor Tommy Curry’s work (and part of the reason Texas A&M hired him) asks, in part, whether violence is politically necessary for dismantling white supremacy — an exploration of “violent resistance in the context of American racism ‘not as a call to arms, but as an open-ended political question.'” A frequent guest on a friend’s radio show, it was only a matter of time before the right-wing internet outrage machine found him. The repercussions are still reverberating through his professional and family lives, and shaking the foundations of academic freedom at A&M. Steve Kolowich walks through the story for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“You and your entire family of low-IQ, affirmative-action herpes-infected african monkeys might need to be put to death.”

There were dozens like that. The professor forwarded them to the campus police department. Mr. Curry says a detective told him some of the messages appeared to have been sent from within the county.

Police officers made a point to drive past his apartment building often for several weeks. But Mr. Curry worried about whether his 6-year-old was safe at her elementary school. Driving her home at the end of the day, he would circle the block a few times to make sure they had not been followed.

Nobody came to his door, knocked him down, disarmed him, fired a bullet between his legs, or made him beg for his life. The mob that came for Mr. Curry reflected his own time. It was digital and diffuse, everywhere and nowhere.

The goal, however, was the same as ever: fear. And it worked.

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The Elements of Bureaucratic Style

Colin Dickey | Longreads | April 2017 | 12 minutes | 3000 words

On Monday night, Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, sent an internal email to his staff regarding the incident on Flight 3411 in which members of Chicago Aviation Security forcibly removed a customer who refused to give up his seat when asked. In the note, Munoz offered an explanation of events and a defense of both his employees and law enforcement. The email ended up on Twitter where its contents were roundly excoriated.

Munoz’s email is, in its own way, a work of art; a triumph of the willingness to pass the buck. It misstates objective facts and shifts responsibility onto the passenger, David Dao, who ended up bloody and dazed after the encounter.

As you will read, the situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers was politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Officers to help.

What struck me as I read the email is how a careful and consistent use of syntax, grammar, and diction is marshaled to make a series of points both subtle and unsubtle. On Twitter, I referred to it as a “master class in the use of the passive voice to avoid responsibility,” and followed with a few tweets that highlighted its use of language to shift the blame on to the victim.

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“Modern Life Is Not Violent Enough,” Said Nobody — But They Thought It

football field

GQ published an excerpt from Chuck Klosterman’s book But What If We’re Wrong? last May — and while it’s nominally about football, violence, and why the sport isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s also a prescient analysis of current U.S. politics.

There’s an embedded assumption within all arguments regarding the doomed nature of football. The assumption is that the game is even more violent and damaging than it superficially appears, and that as more people realize this (and/or refuse to deny the medical evidence verifying that damage), the game’s fan support will disappear. The mistake made by those advocating this position is their certitude that this perspective is self-evident. It’s not. These advocates remind me of an apocryphal quote attributed to film critic Pauline Kael after the 1972 presidential election: “How could Nixon have won? I don’t know one person who voted for him.” Now, Kael never actually said this. But that erroneous quote survives as the best shorthand example for why smart people tend to be wrong as often as their not-so-smart peers—they work from the flawed premise that their worldview is standard. The contemporary stance on football’s risk feels unilateral, because nobody goes around saying, “Modern life is not violent enough.” Yet this sentiment quietly exists. And what those who believe it say instead is, “I love football. It’s the last bastion of hope for toughness in America.” It’s not difficult to imagine a future where the semantic distance between those statements is nonexistent. And if that happens, football will change from a popular leisure pastime to an unpopular political necessity.

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A Country Verging on Collapse: A Reading List on Venezuela

A manufacturing entrepreneur is jailed over toilet paper in his factory’s restrooms. An American attorney and figure in a once-thriving expat community in Caracas is killed in a violent robbery. There are so many stories of people trying to live amid Venezuela’s instability and chaos. Here are five.

1. “Venezuela Is Falling Apart.” (Moises Naim and Francisco Toro, The Atlantic, May 2016)

“What our country is going through is monstrously unique: It’s nothing less than the collapse of a large, wealthy, seemingly modern, seemingly democratic nation just a few hours’ flight from the United States.” The day-to-day stories of Venezuelans reveal the collapse of the country on all fronts.

2. “Emptying the Tower of David, the World’s Tallest Ghetto.” (Boris Munoz, Vocativ, December 2014)

Boris Munoz reflects on the future of Venezuela as seen through the Tower of David, the infamous 28-story slum in Caracas that has long reflected the country’s hopes and failures. Read more…

Talking to Alice Driver About Violence Against Women in Juárez

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico was once known as the global murder capital. It’s no longer the world’s most dangerous city, but violence still haunts the town just over the border from El Paso, Texas. Alice Driver, a filmmaker, writer and photographer whose work focuses on human rights, feminism, and activism, has written extensively about Juárez.  Her searing 2015 book More or Less Dead: Feminicide, Haunting, and the Ethics of Representation in Mexico deals specifically with the disappearance and murder of women in Juárez. The work, which grew out of her dissertation, blends theory with stories and interviews to explore not just the violence against women in Juárez, but also how that violence has been represented in media and culture. As Driver writes:

“To talk about feminicide is to talk about violence against women in all its manifestations, and in Juárez one of the most visible of those is disappearance. When women are murdered, their bodies don’t always appear. Often they disappear, and so the violence becomes unregistered, unrecorded, and seemingly invisible. This book is about the ways in which those bodies, whether identified or nameless, have been represented in literature, film, and art.”

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Lidia Yuknavitch on Mythologies We Adopt to Make Sense of Violence

Lidia Yuknavitch, author of the acclaimed new novel The Small Backs of Children, has a haunting essay up at Guernica about “Laume,” a mythological water spirit and guardian of all children that her Lithuanian grandmother introduced her to when she was young, and about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of violence and tragedy:

I had a recurring dream for twenty years that I would have three sons.

I did not have three sons, and I’m fifty-two, so it’s not looking likely. What I did have was a daughter, who died, and one son, sun of my life. But I did have three husbands.

Maybe dreams don’t mean a goddamned thing.

Or maybe they mean everything.

They say you marry a man who is like your father. My father, the artist-turned-architect, molested and abused us. He was big. Angry. Loud-fisted. Marked us forever—three little women, making for their lives.

My first husband was gentle as a swan. A painter with long fingers and eyelashes. You can see what I was shooting for. I almost self-immolated next to his passivity.

My second husband, another painter, used harsh lashing strokes on the canvas. He was big and loud, but made softer by alcohol and art. Except when he wasn’t. The gun of him. Sig Sauer.

My third husband, father of my son, is big and loud and a filmmaker. But there is the gentleness of a cellist in his hands and eyes.

So sometimes I wonder if my dream was meant to show me not three sons, but three husbands. Take my second husband, for instance—the one who pressed the gun of him to me—he was a lot like a child. I wonder if Laume came and took my baby daughter, who died right before I met him, and replaced her with a man-child. This is kind of how we get through our lives: we tell ourselves stories so that what’s happening becomes something we can live with. Necessary fictions.

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How Does a Magazine Go About Calculating the Financial Cost of Gun Violence?

To begin to get a grasp on the economic toll, Mother Jones turned to Ted Miller at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, an independent nonprofit that studies public health, education, and safety issues. Miller has been one of the few researchers to delve deeply into guns, going back to the late 1980s when he began analyzing societal costs from violence, injury, and substance abuse, as well as the savings from prevention. Most of his 30-plus years of research has been funded by government grants and contracts; his work on guns in recent years has either been tucked into broader projects or done on the side. “I never take positions on legislation,” he notes. “Instead, I provide numbers to inform decision making.”

Miller’s approach looks at two categories of costs. The first is direct: Every time a bullet hits somebody, expenses can include emergency services, police investigations, and long-term medical and mental-health care, as well as court and prison costs. About 87 percent of these costs fall on taxpayers. The second category consists of indirect costs: Factors here include lost income, losses to employers, and impact on quality of life, which Miller bases on amounts that juries award for pain and suffering to victims of wrongful injury and death.

Mark Follman, James West, Julia Lurie, and Jaeah Lee writing in Mother Jones about the magazine’s six-month-long investigation into the financial costs of gun violence in America.

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Guns in America: A Comprehensive Look

We’re pleased to bring College Longreads back for the academic year. Even if you had a productive summer, you still didn’t do as much as the 2014 News21 team. The Carnegie-Knight News21 is an investigative multimedia reporting project based out of Arizona State but staffed by student journalists from some sixteen universities. This year’s project, Gun Wars, resulted in dozens of stories, videos, interactive graphics and more about gun rights and regulations in the United States. The slick presentation is supported by deep, solid reporting, the kind that’s time consuming (interviews) and sometimes just plain tedious (comparing suicide-by-gun data, state by state). News21 presents its findings with empathy but without judgment, a rarity in a media culture where reporting is often presented through the lens of a particular point of view. So read, watch, and explore this lush journalism experience.

Gun Wars

Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellows | News21.com

Cincinnati Through the Eyes of 14-Year-Olds

What is it like to be 14 years old and living in three of Cincinnati’s roughest neighborhoods? Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Krista Ramsey and photographer Cara Owsley talked to 14 teens to get their perspectives. Here is Jalen Owensby, who has routinely experienced violence in her family:

“My uncle came and picked up my cousin and me at school and took us to the hospital,” the eighth-grader says, remembering back to 2006. “I saw my brother in the room. I went over to hug him, and he didn’t hug me back. And I realized he wasn’t there any more.”

Her 20-year-old brother, Rodney Owensby Turnbow died a day after being shot by an acquaintance. His death came seven years after a cousin, Roger Owensby, died after a struggle with Cincinnati police officers – a death that led up to the 2001 riots. Last summer, another cousin, Justin Owensby, was found shot to death in Westwood.

“To me, it’s a curse, because a lot of my family members are getting killed back to back to back,” she says. “If I got shot and killed, it would be hard on my parents. I’m the only kid in the house and my dad already lost one. I plan on moving to Atlanta. I don’t want to live in Cincinnati because I don’t want to be an innocent female who gets killed.”

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons