January 31, 2015

Racist City Journal blames kids

Recently, drunken sports fans hurled beer and insults at 57 Native students at a hockey rink in Rapid City, South Dakota. That isn't necessarily a pop-culture issue, so I mentioned it only in my tweets. But an article in the Racist Rapid City Journal has elevated the story to a new level.

As another article explains:

Blaming the Victims: Witness Says Pine Ridge Reservation Students Did Not Stand Up for National Anthem

By Levi RickertThe students, who ages range from 8–13 years-old, were subjected to beer being sprayed on them and racial taunts of telling them to go back to the reservation from a corporate suite leased by Eagle Sales of the Black Hills, the Anheuser-Busch distributor for the region.

The Rapid City Journal’s story cited a person who was in the suite as claiming: “the incident was ignited when some members of the school group reportedly did not stand for the National Anthem prior to the start of the Rapid City Rush game.”

Justin Poor Bear, who was one of the parent chaperones who attended the game, denied the claim. He told the Journal: “We all stood up.” The newspaper reported two other officials of the American Horse School at Allen on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, indicated the students stood up for the national anthem.

The students were escorted out of the game by the adult chaperones who feared for the safety of the children, Poor Bear told Native News Online on Thursday.
What this tells us

Along with the image above, Chase Iron Eyes wrote:The Racist City Journal, I mean Rapid City, calls out little Native grade schoolers for allegedly "not standing" for America's Nat'l Anthem, so I guess that means, if they didn't stand, that's justification for adults to racially attack kids with beer, frisbees, & beer cups whileyelling "GO BACK TO THE REZ." How about a story that they haven't arrested the perpetrator(s) even though they know his identity. We have our own Nat'l Anthem & we stand for yours, you stand for ours.More thoughts on this article from Last Real Indians:@RCJournal suggests Native Children could've deserved to be assaulted as they didn't stand for Nat'l Anthem ‪#‎FU‬And educator Debbie Reese:Rapid City Journal headline abt what Native kids did or did not do is irrelevant. Nothing justifies pouring beer on kids.Rob reacts

My snarky take on the subject:

Forget about climate change, poverty, or terrorism...the Racist City Journal has today's top story headlined on its front page!

Did the Native students also say the Pledge of Allegiance? Put their hands over their hearts? And sign a loyalty oath? We don't know the answers to any of these questions!

And if they didn't do these things, then what? I'd love to see the Racist City Journal spin that into a news story.

A news story that's more important than the racist assault on 57 Native kids, that is.

For more on Rapid City racism, see #NativeLivesMatter in Rapid City and Rapid City Board Rejects Sculpture Garden.

January 30, 2015

Review of How I Became a Ghost

How I Became A Ghost (How I Became a Ghost Series)Told in the words of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, HOW I BECAME A GHOST is a tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. From the book's opening line, "Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before," the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac s talking dog, Jumper. The first in a trilogy, HOW I BECAME A GHOST thinly disguises an important and oft-overlooked piece of history.

Editorial Reviews

"The beginning of a trilogy, this tale is valuable for both its recounting of a historical tragedy and its immersive Choctaw perspective." KIRKUS, STARRED REVIEW --Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2013

"...a thrilling caper . . . a recommendation for reluctant readers who like their history tinged with the otherworldly." RECOMMENDED --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Literature

"Tingle, a Choctaw storyteller, relates his tale in the engaging repetitions and rhythms of an oft-told story . . . spare and authentic." --Dean Schneider, THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE

2014 American Indian Youth Literature Award --American Indian Library Association, ALA

2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People --National Council for the Social Studies & Children's Book Council

2014 American Indian Youth Literature Award --American Indian Library Association, ALA

2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People --National Council for the Social Studies & Children's Book Council
Comment:  I read this book because of all the glowing notices it's received. Such as this one from Debbie Reese in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

Tim Tingle's HOW I BECAME A GHOSTAs the title suggests, Isaac is going to become a ghost, but this isn't a scary ghost story. Scary things do happen--this is a story about the forced relocation of a people, but it is more about the humanity of the people on that trail than it is about that forced relocation. How I Became A Ghost is about spirituality and community and perseverance. And laughter. There's some delightful moments in this story! Throughout, this story shines with the warmth that Tingle's storytelling voice brings to his writing. I highly recommend How I Became A Ghost. I have it on good authority that we'll hear more from Isaac. I look forward to it.True, it presents civilized Indians who live in a farming community in a Native nation that has treaty rights with the US. That's something if you're expecting the "half-naked grunting Indian men" of Little House on the Prairie.

But that's not enough to make it a good book. I'll have to go with some of the negative comments I found on Goodreads:I know this book was written for the 9-12 year age group, but I think Tim Tingle vastly underestimates the intelligence of that age group. They're kids, they're not stupid. I had a few problems with this book.

This is definitely a children's book, NOT a young adult book, so more advanced readers may be bored by the simple, minimalistic language.

I gave this 4 stars initially, but then just a little bit of research today revealed that some of the history is likely wrong, and that complicates things. There is a fantasy element anyway, but the shocking smallpox blanket scene seems to be entirely fictional.

Even though I think the kids would enjoy this WAW possibility, I just felt it was so exaggerated and unreal that I couldn't get into it. In this story of the Trail of Tears, Isaac is a Choctaw brave that can see ghosts and talk to them and has visions of when people will die. And he becomes friends with another brave that can turn into a leopard. Together they try to free a girl that has been kidnapped and forced to work for several cruel soldiers. This is a no vote for me.

Love the title, and I really wanted to love the book -- Not many kids' books about Indian relocation have passed my way. But I just couldn't get into this. I started reading it out loud to myself; it sounds almost like oral stories written down. As stories told 'live,' in an intimate group, I think it would be better. On the page, it has a stilted, boring feeling. I am not sure kids will stick with this one. Too bad.
The smallpox-blanket thing is disconcerting, and perhaps enough to disqualify the book as "history." It might be okay if Tingle had used the blanket gambit once--a bit of untold lore that might have been true. But it's a frequent issue on his Trail of Tears. The characters have to sniff out each blanket to determine if it's contaminated or not.

I think Tingle was trying for a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn type of adventure with Choctaw protagonists and magical elements a la Twilight. And if someone without Mark Twain's abilities had rewritten Tom Sawyer for 9-year-olds, it might come out like this.

That's fine, but everyone's talking as if How I Became a Ghost is a great read for adults as well as pre-teens. With all the remarkable books out there, I wouldn't even recommend this to 9-year-olds unless they were deeply interested in Indians. To me, it's a Choctaw "Hardy Boys" starring Ghost Boy and Panther Boy, not a serious book for old(er) readers.

Rob's rating: 5.0 of 10. Great cover, though.

January 29, 2015

Review of Code Talker

Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWIIHe is the only original World War II Navajo code talker still alive—and this is his story . . .

His name wasn’t Chester Nez. That was the English name he was assigned in kindergarten. And in boarding school at Fort Defiance, he was punished for speaking his native language, as the teachers sought to rid him of his culture and traditions. But discrimination didn’t stop Chester from answering the call to defend his country after Pearl Harbor, for the Navajo have always been warriors, and his upbringing on a New Mexico reservation gave him the strength—both physical and mental—to excel as a marine.

During World War II, the Japanese had managed to crack every code the United States used. But when the Marines turned to its Navajo recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken code in modern warfare—and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.

Editorial Reviews

"From Guadalcanal through Bougainville to Peleliu, Nez relates a riveting tale of jungle combat and his personal struggle to adapt to civilian life following the most cataclysmic war in our nation’s history. Gripping in its narrative, Code Talker is history at its best." --Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, U.S. Army (Ret.), co-author of Beyond Band of Brothers

"A fascinating inside look at one of WWII’s most closely guarded secrets…This is an important book, a previously untold piece of our history." --Marcus Brotherton, author of Shifty's War

"You don’t need to be a fan of World War II literature to appreciate this memoir…a fascinating melange of combat in the Pacific theater, the history of the Navajo people and the development of a uniquely American code." --The Associated Press

"A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation." --Kirkus Reviews
Comment:  I just finished reading this for my Breaking the Code screenplay. Some thoughts:

I'd say "riveting" is an overstatement. Unlike some readers, I had no trouble putting the book down.

Code Talker is maybe 1/3 Nez's childhood, 1/2 the war, and 1/6 the rest of his life. So the bit about his "personal struggle to adapt to civilian life" is also an overstatement. That wasn't Nez's big issue. His real challenge, which I wouldn't call a struggle, was leaving the sheltered Navajo life for boarding schools and the big city.

The book is fine on Nez's childhood. Especially if you haven't read biographies of Southwestern Indians in the pre-war years, when contact with the white man was still rare. It's great on the war years, where you get a real sense of what soldiers had to endure in the Pacific. I'd say it rushes through the post-war years...but nobody's necessarily interested in that part of Nez's story, so it's okay.

My main cavaet is that nothing terribly dramatic happens. You want heartwrenching personal conflicts in stories like these. Nez overcoming the cruel boarding-school master! Nez overcoming the racist Marine sergeant! Nez in hand-to-hand combat with a deadly Banzai enemy!

Nothing like that happened. If Nez hadn't been at ground zero during the formation and deployment of the Navajo codetalkers, we might not care about his story. What he witnessed is the interesting part--but witnessing isn't quite as compelling as struggling oneself.

Those points aside, Code Talker tells you everything you'd like to know about the origin of the codetalkers. It's a must-read on that subject. And it's a solid entry in the broader category of Native memoirs.

Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.

January 28, 2015

"Colorblind" = denying racism's existence

When you say you 'don't see race', you’re ignoring racism, not helping to solve it

Race is such an ingrained social construct that even blind people can ‘see’ it. To pretend it doesn’t exist to you erases the experiences of black people

By Zach Stafford
People love to tell me that they often forget that I’m black. They say this with a sort of “a-ha!” look on their faces, as if their dawning ability to see my blackness was a gift to us both.

When I point out that their eyesight had never left them, that my skin has never changed colors, and that they probably did not really forget that I am black, they inevitably get defensive. First, they try to argue that it was a compliment; the smart ones quickly realize that complimenting someone on not being black is actually pretty racist, so they switch gears.

I don’t see race! is usually their next tactic, followed by I am colorblind, though they never give credit to Stephen Colbert. By “colorblind” they don’t actually mean that they can’t see green or red; rather, they are suggesting that they can’t ever be racist, because they don’t register skin color at all.

This ideology is very popular–like a racial utopic version of the Golden Rule–but it’s actually quite racist. “Colorblindness” doesn’t acknowledge the very real ways in which racism has existed and continues to exist, both in individuals and systemically. By professing not to see race, you’re just ignoring racism, not solving it.

Still, the idea of “colorblindness” is incredibly popular, especially with young people who believe racism is a problem for the older generation and will soon die out. According to a 2014 study done in partnership with MTV and David Binder Research, almost three-fourths of millennials believe that we should not see the color of someone’s skin, as though it’s a choice. Nearly 70% believe they have achieved this and are now actually colorblind; and the same percentage shockingly believe that we make society better by not seeing race or ethnicity.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see A Hunger to Deny Racism and The "I Don't See Race" Crock.

January 27, 2015

Phony "patriots" love American Sniper

Don't hate on critics of 'American Sniper'—criticize its flawed hero

By Matt RozsaFor far too many Americans, it is impossible to separate criticism of individuals within certain institution—or even systematic injustices perpetrated by those institutions—from the actual institutions themselves.

This was seen last year in the right-wing backlash against those who protested racial profiling among law enforcement. "If you read the liberal mainstream media," argued Ben Stein, you’d think "that the main problem with race in America was poor innocent black people being set upon and mistreated by the police." In his dismissal of the #BlackLivesMatter protests, Rudy Giuliani claimed that "they are tearing down respect for a criminal justice system that goes back to England in the 11th century." After a crazed cop-hater assassinated two police officers in December, New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch blamed it on those who "incited violence on the street under the guise of protest."

There is an obvious logical response to these attitudes. "You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach," argued Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. "Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards."
And:Of course, the reason we are seeing such reflexive rallying behind American Sniper and Kyle’s character is that there are Americans who wish to turn him into such a symbol. "Treating Kyle as a patriot and ignoring any other possibility," observes Dennis Jett of the New Republic, "allows Americans to ignore the consequences of invading a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, had nothing to do with 9/11, and had no meaningful ties to Al Qaeda." Just as important, the canonization of Chris Kyle allows Americans to duck the morally thorny questions involving Kyle’s possible killing of innocent civilians, his dehumanization of both Muslims in general and Iraqis specifically, and his bloodthirsty attitude toward war itself. Because his supporters don’t wish to see these things (or, even worse, secretly condone them), they gloss over the inconvenient details and insist that drawing attention to them is un-American.

This speaks to an issue even larger than questions about the Iraq War, America’s military presence overseas, or even racism among law enforcement (to refer to the earlier analogy in this article). If America is going to have an intelligent public debate on any political issue, it is essential that its citizens be able to participate without fear of having their motives baselessly attacked. More specifically, if we are to hold our government accountable for its actions, we absolutely must be able to criticize its most powerful institutions—particularly those who use violence, be it the military abroad or the police at home—without being intimidated into silence.

It's not un-American to question Chris Kyle and the military operation he worked for. In fact, it might just be the most patriotic thing you can do.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see American Sniper = Indian Killer.

January 26, 2015

American Sniper = Indian killer

Caution! 'American Sniper' Is a Dangerous Movie

By Mateo RomeroThis is a tense war movie that looks great. But just underneath the film’s sexy veneer is a shockingly racist ideology of hate and death that is advanced by the white male sniper Chris Kyle.

Kyle is the ideological descendant of Custer and the Seventh Cavalry. He belongs to an elite white male cadre of swinging dick meat eaters who will solve the problems of invaded brown people with a bullet. Iraqi and Syrian combatants are called “fuckin’ savages.” Direct statements of racism and death may or may not reflect the realities of the modern U.S. military. But they do give rise to false dichotomies that dehumanize the enemy and make it kinda fun, cool and necessary to kill them.

For the moment, Sniper is the fave mascot of the reactionary right wing of white America. Its visual beauty softens the harsh fact that the movie glorifies death, racism, hatred, religious prejudice, sexism, colonialism and moral corrosion. It presents some great ideas about caring for and protecting the people of your tribe. If you’re a white Christian American, that is. Women, minorities, kids, Muslims need not apply. They’re part of the bullet-to-the-head fix.

Why is this film so important in its depiction of outdated and corrosive white conservative male values? Because it is a time of great change and social movement in the world. The time of white American male rule and hegemony is coming to an end. And American wingnuts don’t like it one bit.
Some of the problems in Kyle's book--from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

"Injun" in Chris Kyle's AMERICAN SNIPERWhen American Sniper opened in theaters last week, I started to see reviews that pointed out Kyle's use of the word savage to describe Iraqis. That word has been used to describe American Indians. I wondered if Kyle made any connections between "savage" and American Indians in his book. The answer? Yes.

In his autobiography, Kyle uses "Injun" in two places. Here's what he said on page 267:Or we would bump out 500 yards, six or eight hundred yards, going deep into Injun territory to look and wait for the bad guys.And here's what he said on page 291:Our missions would last for an overnight or two in Injun country.See? He made connections between "savage" Iraqis and "savage" Indians.
Kyle's attitude = American imperialism

Many people have written about the problems in American Sniper. Here's the main one:

“American Sniper’s” biggest lie: Clint Eastwood has a delusional Fox News problem

The insanities and fantasies at the heart of "American Sniper" explain everything about the state of the 2015 GOP

By Sophia A. McClennen
Let’s start with the delusion. The film draws a direct link between the events of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, forgetting completely that the war in Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. Not one of the attackers that day was in any way connected to Iraq. Thus to connect 9/11 to Iraq is delusional. Not even the Bush administration made that overt a link—at the time they claimed they went to Iraq to keep the Iraqis from using weapons of mass destruction that were never found.

But that’s not the perceptions of many who watch Fox News. As the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland reported back in 2003: “Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions.” In their poll they found that 80 percent of Fox viewers held at least one of three Iraq-related misperceptions, more than any other news consumers, especially those that consume NPR and PBS.

The point is that the 9/11-Iraq link is delusional, but it is also a common link in public perceptions of those on the right who watch Fox News and clearly it is one that makes sense to Eastwood and those that think like him.

The second problem is the culture of violence. While the film tries to show Kyle wrestling at some level with some of his kills, he still very clearly divides the world into categories. As his father puts it in the film, there are wolves (those that want to kill you), sheep and sheep dogs (who have to protect the sheep from the wolves). Not only are there just three categories of life, but these categories are also defined solely by a logic of violence and aggression. In the film, Iraqis are almost all depicted as wolves, even women and children. Kyle’s first two kills are a young boy and his mother. But they posed a threat and thus needed to be killed. As Kyle later explains, he has no remorse over any of his kills, just over the lives he wished he could have protected.

At no point does the film consider the fact that the war was based on false justifications. At no point does it imagine that those in Iraq might have seen the U.S. soldiers as invaders in their homeland. At no point does it imagine that the violence suffered by our own soldiers could have been avoided if we simply hadn’t started the war to begin with. The logic of war is completely unquestioned, making this the most simplistic war film we have seen nominated for an Oscar in decades.

January 25, 2015

Spirit of the Beast in Batman

A posting about a 1991 Batman comics notes its Native subject matter.

2015 31 Days of Comics–First Comic You Ever Bought

By Brian CroninLuckily, as I noted, I had been reading comics for years at this point, so I was not thrown, because otherwise, beginning with part 3 of a three-parter involving Batman teaming up with an 130-year-old Native American Shaman to stop the man’s grandson from killing people as part of a ritual that involved retrieving ancient Native American relics probably wouldn’t be the place to start reading Batman comic books.Comment:  I haven't read this storyline. But based on the page below, it's a mess.

The grandson is wearing a kachina-style mask. That would place him in one of the Pueblo tribes of the Southwest. But they'd consider it sacrilegious to wear a mask for anything but a sacred ceremony.

The grandfather invokes "Manitou" as the grandson tries to kill him with a tomahawk. Both cultural references come from the Eastern Woodlands--the opposite side of the country from the Southwest.

The other Indians are wearing bandanas, which was typical of the traditional Navajo and Apache. These tribes live near the pueblos but aren't Pueblo tribes themselves. And the don't wear bandanas anymore.

For that matter, Indians don't use tomahawks anymore unless they're reenacting their culture in a show. So everything about the story seems flawed. It includes stereotypes from at least three cultures, none of which match.

The three-parter

ComicVine.com gives a synopsis of the whole story:Batman #462--Spirit of the Beast, Part 1: To Live and Die in California

Batman found one of Bruce Wayne's friends dying of an axe wound. He followed a lead to San Francisco. He was on the scene when another was attacked, but he couldn't stop it. Native Americans were taking back artifacts that the white man had taken from them.

Batman #463--Spirit of the Beast, Part 2: Ghost

Batman followed another lead into Death Valley. He stopped the Indians from killing one of their own, an elderly blind man. The old man told Batman what was going on. They went after the rogue Indian preparing for a ritual.

Batman #464--Spirit of the Beast, Part 3: Sacrifice

Batman and the old man stopped the ritual and saved the hostages. Batman left him there to die (he was over 130 years old) and went home (taking the man's dog).
If the tribe lives in Death Valley, all the cultural references are wrong. Death Valley tribes don't have kachinas, don't invoke Manitou, and don't wear bandanas.

The plot is the oldest cliché in the book. Someone did something bad to the Indians, so a shaman or demon or ghost vows revenge and returns to kill people.

I don't know if there was anything supernatural in this three-parter. Typically the "bad" Indians pretend to be spirits but turn out to be thugs.

I gather the grandfather inspired his grandson to kidnap people and perform deadly rituals. Then the grandfather turned against the cause and was thrown out.

The deadly-ritual part is standard fare, even though it's badly stereotypical. No Indians are performing any rites except the benign ones they've performed for centuries.

Having the grandfather turn against his followers is a slight twist, but probably not enough to justify the story. These stories usually pit a "good" Indian against a "bad" one who's the black sheep of the family.

Bottom line: Unless your story offers some incredible take on the tired "revenge from the past" plot, you probably should avoid it. I doubt Batman #462-464 is an exception to this rule.

January 24, 2015

Economist's bogus "sloth" claim

A recent Economist article stirred some controversy by claiming casinos make Indians poor. Specifically, it claimed that tribes with per capita payments from gaming are more likely to be mired in poverty.

People in the know scoffed at this claim, since they've seen with their own eyes how gaming has helped tribes. Now here's a rebuttal to the claim.

Of Stereotypes and Slack Reporting Standards: The Economist’s Claim that Native American Gaming Leads to “Sloth”

By Shawn Fremstad & Erik StegmanAn article in this week’s The Economist is a reminder that we haven’t put the bad old days of racially distorted coverage of poverty beyond us. The article claims “cash from casinos makes Native Americans poorer.” According to the author, a particular problem is that tribes distribute part of the revenues directly to members—typically known as “per capita payments”—which encourages “sloth.” The article is accompanied by a photograph of an American Indian man in front of a slot machine, a grin on his face and his arm pumped in the air.

Given research like Gilens’ and the long history of stereotyping American Indians as lazy, The Economist should have been particularly careful to ensure that it had solid evidence to back up its claim. In lieu of such evidence, The Economist relied on a few anecdotes and a single article by a private attorney published in a student-run law review.

We took a closer look at the law review article that The Economist relied on and were not impressed. It purportedly shows that poverty was more likely to increase in certain Pacific Northwest tribes that distributed part of their gambling revenues to members than in those that did not. But there were only seven tribes (out of a total of 17 that the article focused on) that did not distribute gaming revenues directly to members. The total reported decline in poverty among these seven tribes amounted to only 364 people. The study contained no controls for any of the many factors that affect poverty rates, nor did it take into account size differences in the tribes, differences in the size and structure of the per capita payments, or other relevant factors. In short, the study is absolutely useless in terms of providing meaningful evidence to support The Economist’s claim.

Even worse, The Economist failed to mention the existence of rigorous, peer-reviewed research contradicting the article’s thesis. Unlike the single paper cited in the article, this research uses methodologies designed to isolate the causal effects of per capita payments and generally finds that they have positive effects on poverty and other indicators of children’s well-being. For example, research by William Copeland and Elizabeth Costello, both professors at Duke University, uses longitudinal data that tracks both American Indian and non-American Indian children in western North Carolina. After the introduction of a per capita payment for American Indian families, they documented “an overall improvement in the outcomes of the American Indian children while those of the non-[American] Indian children … remained mostly stable.” Strikingly, educational outcomes for American Indian children “converged to that of the non-[American] Indians,” and the arrest rate of American Indian children fell below that of non-American Indians.
Comment:  No doubt the original article was part of the right-wing agenda to demonize the poor. According to Mitt Romney and the "47%" lie, giving people "handouts" or "freebies" makes them lazy and shiftless.

Note that this doesn't apply to corporations and rich people who get billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies. They're good, hard-working Americans who don't waste their freebies on booze or drugs--or so they tell us.

People have been telling this lie about Indians almost since the beginning. We took their land, destroyed their cultures, gave them "firewater"...and surprise! They weren't as strong and independent as they once were. That's because we took their land and destroyed their cultures, not because they're inherently lazy.

January 23, 2015

Backstrom offends Indians, others

Our meanest antihero yet: How Fox’s “Backstrom” deliberately pushes p.c. buttons

Rainn Wilson stars in this strange comedy about a misanthropic detective whose life is in shambles

By Sonia Saraiya
The cold open of the first episode of “Backstrom” is basically a setup for a racist joke. You could argue that the joke is there in order to be ridiculed—that it’s so ludicrously offensive that it’s being used to make a point instead of to get laughs. You could also argue that it is not racist so much an example of religious discrimination—the joke is at the expense of the protagonist’s doctor, Dev, who is Hindu. Dr. Dev, played by Rizwan Manji, is inquiring after detective Everett Backstrom’s health, because he’s one bad physical away from being reassigned. “If you Hindus are so smart, how come 98 percent of you live at the dump?” Backstrom retorts, clearly taken with his own cleverness. His doctor is unamused, but takes it in stride. Of course he takes it stride—he’s not really given much else of a choice, is he? He’s the bit part next to Rainn Wilson’s first billing; the script demands that he be tolerant of Backstrom’s bitching, because that’s how the audience will learn that Backstrom’s a good guy underneath all that irascibility.

Undeterred, Backstrom—and “Backstrom”—keeps going. “I arrested a white supremacist for killing six Indians,” he emphasizes to the doctor, broadly calling attention to how he’s not a racist. “Not tandoori Indians, like you, but you know, the [wah-wah-wah] Geronimo kind.” And then he finishes with a flourish: “At the press conference, I sang ‘one little, two little, three little Indians…’” Backstrom is only in the doctor’s office for two minutes. He drops another “Hindu,” grabs a prescription to “make a friend,” and in a parting shot, tells his doctor that “Dev is a girl’s name.” And then 90 seconds later, he shows up to his crime scene, griping about his unconventional prescription: “My doctor’s a Hindu. I’m lucky he didn’t make me be friends with a cow.”

It does not abate. Backstrom’s angle changes—sometimes he’s sexist, sometimes he’s slut-shaming, sometimes he’s complaining about Chinese immigrants taking over America. (In one particularly shocking moment, he investigates an illegal gambling outfit, and when he spots a beautiful woman working there, he blusters that the warrant authorizes them to conduct strip-searches.) But this is both Backstrom and “Backstrom”—mean-spirited, offensive and weirdly proud of it.
Comment:  I watched the first episode. The critics and I agree: Backstrom isn't good.

Fox’s Backstrom is the boorish detective you’ll hate to hate

'Backstrom': TV Review

'Backstrom' is one sorry character

A Caustic Detective on the Beat

January 22, 2015

Wyoming Republican uses "Injuns" slur

Wyoming lawmaker uses ‘Injuns’ slur to oppose Medicaid expansion for tribes: report

By David EdwardsA Wyoming newspaper is standing by its reporting that a state lawmaker used a racial slur to describe Native Americans while making a case against expanding Medicaid.

The Rock Springs Rocket-Miner reported on Wednesday that during Tuesday testimony in the Wyoming legislature about expanding the Medicaid program, state Rep. Allan Jaggi (R) was one of the few lawmaker to speak against the idea.

“They (tribal members) are covered under a federal deal,” Jaggi said, according to the paper. “The Injuns are going to be taken care of.”

On Thursday, the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner said that Jaggi had called, and “vehemently denied” using the slur.

“I surely did not say that. I did not say ‘Injuns,’” Jaggi insisted. “That is not in my vocabulary no more than I would call blacks the other word.”

But Rock Springs Rocket-Miner Managing Editor Deb Sutton said that the paper was standing by the quote.

Northern Arapaho Business Council member Richard Brannan told the paper that it felt like “we are still in the 18th century in Wyoming.”

“We are American Indians, not ‘Injuns,’” he pointed out.
Comment:  For more on "Injuns," see Headline: Stop Your "Injuns" and Kincannon: Injuns Are Mad at Me.

January 21, 2015

Natives in the 2015 SOTU

President Obama mentioned Natives in his State of the Union speech Tuesday, saying:I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen--man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody matters.A posting suggests why this is significant:

"Immigrants and Native Americans"Rather that listing black and white, Latino, Asian and Native American--which is what most people do when they are being inclusive--he introduced the pairing of immigrant and Native American. In other words, we're all either an immigrant (by choice or slavery) to this country or Native American.

Some might simply write this off as political correctness. But I think it represents the deep respect President Obama has demonstrated for both the gifts and challenges of this land's First Nations People.

January 20, 2015

Operation Redwing

Speaking of Natives and nuclear bombs, here's another item on the subject:

Operation RedwingOperation Redwing was a United States series of 17 nuclear test detonations from May to July 1956. They were conducted at Bikini and Enewetak atolls. The entire operation followed Project 56 and preceded Project 57. The primary intention was to test new, second-generation thermonuclear devices. Also tested were fission devices intended to be used as primaries for thermonuclear weapons, and small tactical weapons for air defense. Redwing demonstrated the first US airdrop of a deliverable hydrogen bomb--test Cherokee.

All shots were named after various Native American tribes.
Comment:  This is yet another example of using Native terms to denote toughness, violence, or savagery. For more on the subject, see Indians in the Military.

Below:  Redwing Apache.

January 19, 2015

Pixie Lott in a headdress

Pixie Lott branded 'ignorant' for wearing Native American headdress to celebrate her 24th

By Jessica EarnshawPIXIE Lott has found herself in hot water with fans after celebrating her 24th birthday with a cowboys and Indians-themed party in London.

The hitmaker was criticised after posting a snap of her Native American headdress on both her Twitter and Instagram page on Saturday evening.

The blonde beauty captioned the picture, which saw her eye-catching red and striped feathers in her hair: "Tiger Lily is out to play tonight for final BDAY celebrations with @joemowles… Thanks to @emmabrizzie #MAC #cowboys #indians."

However followers were quick to respond. One user wrote: "Disgusting. Ignorance at its best right here", and: "Treating genocide as your birthday theme? Come on.

Another Twitter fan added: "Please delete this, this is offensive," while another sarcastic comment read: "Wowww cuz dressing up as people who have been wipped out is soooo cool.

"Why don't you dress up as the slaves next! Let's have a slave themed party!"(Sic)
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Ellie Goulding in a Headdress and Gerald Butler's Girlfriend in a Headdress.

January 18, 2015

Jimmy P. flops at box office

When the movie Jimmy P. came out in 2013, I discussed the redface casting of Benicio Del Toro as a Blackfeet Indian. Now the movie has made it to Japan, or something, because a recent article raised the issue again.

Jimmy. P: ‘not one actual Native American could be found to play the lead role?’

By Giovanni FazioDel Toro, for his part, put in some work trying to master a proper Blackfoot tribe accent, but the result is more than a little off-putting. His pattern of speech is so painfully laconic and halting that it almost comes off as a caricature, especially since all the other Native Americans cast in the film sound much more contemporary and colloquial. It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t noticed by French director Arnaud Desplechin (“Kings and Queens”)—this is his first attempt at an English-language film. Furthermore, the issues of racial discrimination that are raised tend to lose their bite when apparently not one actual Native American actor could be found to play the lead role. A Freudian slip?Comment:  In the past, Desplechin said they couldn't find any Native actors while Del Toro said it was a money issue. I ripped these positions in Director: Native Actors Lack "Charisma."

Then I could only guess how badly Jimmy. P would do at the box office. Now we know. Box Office Mojo reports that it earned a pathetic $24,329. Not $24 million, $24 thousand.

So much for all the asinine claims that Del Toro is a big star who could earn big bucks for investors. The producers could've cast anyone, even me, and the movie would've earned just as much. Someone could've earned $24K by screening home movies of pets and babies.

The fallacy of the big-name actor strikes again. These actors are worthless from a financial standpoint--at least in movies like this one. There's no financial reason--none--for hiring Del Toro rather than a Native actor for Jimmy P.

The producers hired him because they were "familiar" or "comfortable" with him. In other words, because he was white like them. That's a typical example of discriminating on the basis of race, or racism.

January 17, 2015

Hollywood still white in 2015

Complementing the discussion of Selma's Oscar snub, a 2013 posting confirms that minorities are underrepresented in movies:

USC study: Minorities still under-represented in popular films

A study from USC's Annenberg School looks at 500 films from 2007-2012 and finds characters don't mirror the audiences.

By Rebecca Keegan
With this year's high-profile movies "The Butler," "42" and "12 Years a Slave" prominently featuring black actors, it may seem as though the multiplex is enjoying new levels of diversity. But popular films still under-represent minority characters and directors, and reflect certain biases in their portrayals, according to a study being released Wednesday by USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Researchers evaluated 500 top-grossing movies released at the U.S. box office between 2007 and 2012 and 20,000 speaking characters, finding patterns in the way different races, ethnicities and genders are depicted.

Hispanic women, the study found, are the demographic most likely to be shown nude or in sexy attire; black men are the group least likely to be portrayed in a committed relationship.

In 2012, the researchers found, 76.3% of all speaking characters in these movies were white; according to U.S. Census figures, 63% of the country is white, and according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America, 56% of movie ticket buyers are white.
The industry is super-aware of the problem, even if it hasn't done much about it.

Academy president responds to firestorm over Oscar’s lack of diversity

By Sandy CohenAll 20 of this year’s acting contenders are white and there are no women in the directing or writing categories. After the nominations were announced Thursday morning, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite started trending on Twitter.

The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition issued a statement Friday saying the nominations balloting “obviously reflects a lack of diversity in Oscar voters as well as in films generally.”

Yet Boone Isaacs insisted the academy is “committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion” and that outreach to women and artists of color is a major focus.

“In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members,” Boone Isaacs said. “And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.”
Is the World Really Ready for Diversity in Major Film Franchises?

For more on casting issues, see Diverse TV Shows Get Higher Ratings and Director: Native Actors Lack "Charisma."

January 16, 2015

Another white year at Oscars

People are talking about how the acclaimed movie Selma got only two Oscar nominations. Here are some thoughts on why it happened:

Oscar Voters: 94% White, 76% Men, and an Average of 63 Years Old

The Oscars’ white-guy backlash: Why academy voters retreated to their comfort zone

There's actually some good news in this year's nominations--but the academy has swamped it in white backlash

By Andrew O'HehirI think New York Daily News critic Elizabeth Weitzman was the Twitter winner on Thursday morning: “I, for one, am taking great comfort in the fact that all of this year’s Best Actress nominees are women.” Amid the understandable social media outrage and amazement (#OscarsSoWhite has been the hashtag of the day), we are dragged once again back to the question of whether the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has some moral or social responsibility to respond to larger cultural issues or foster diversity within its industry. It’s a question to which, white hetero cis-male that I am, I do not claim to know the answer. There are prominent voices within Hollywood and the academy, including Denzel Washington, who have argued that a virtual quota system should be instituted to bring academy membership–which is more than 90 percent white and about three-quarters male, with a median age around 63–in line with the general population. (As Washington and others have noted, Latinos are even more poorly represented within the academy than black people.)

Quite obviously, that is not the dominant current of opinion within the academy. You can certainly defend, in the abstract, the idea that movie awards should be entirely about the art and craft of cinema, not about who made the movies. And one can argue, from a film-lover’s point of view, that this year’s Oscar nominations have fewer ludicrous howlers than usual, and a few genuine surprises: Marion Cotillard’s best-actress nomination for the Belgian film “Two Days, One Night”; Wes Anderson’s first directing nomination, for “Grand Budapest Hotel”; the presence of “Ida” and “Leviathan” and “Timbuktu,” three tremendous works of world cinema, in the foreign-language category. But let’s be clear: Those things are not the big story today, and the academy’s interest in film as an art form has always been a secondary concern. The primary mission of the Oscars is to burnish the public image of the American film industry, and on that front the voters have screwed the proverbial pooch.

So here we are facing what feels way too much like the White Backlash Oscars, announced on the morning of Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual birthday. A year after awarding its biggest prize to a confrontational film about the most painful aspects of America’s racial history, Oscar voters appear to have retreated into their collective comfort zone. (This is not meant to impugn the excellence of “12 Years a Slave,” but conservative critics who accused Hollywood of being driven by liberal guilt had a point.) No doubt Ava DuVernay’s potent civil-rights drama “Selma,” the most obvious casualty of this retreat–it garnered a best-picture nomination, but DuVernay and star David Oyelowo were both spurned–was undermined in part by the controversy over its depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson. But I feel like the LBJ issue was used as a mask for issue fatigue, an unexpressed and not-quite-conscious feeling that We gave it to a “black movie” last year, dammit.

This retreat into whiteness and maleness was not an intentional decision, in any ordinary sense of that word. There is no overt racist or misogynist conspiracy within the academy, just a whole lot of cluelessness and insularity. But the effect is likely to be extremely damaging, and as I said earlier it’s also likely to overwhelm the positive nuggets to be found in the nooks and crannies of this year’s nominations. If Oscar voters want to claim that they’re all about cinematic quality and above petty considerations of cultural politics, it might help if they didn’t swoon, year after year, for mediocre inspirational pictures dosed with obvious Oscar sauce.
Hollywood’s political ignorance: What Cosby, “Selma” & Hebdo reveal about white liberal consciousness

The causes celebrities feel comfortable backing--and those they do not--speak volumes. And it's not pretty

By Brittney Cooper
I had tuned in to the Globes among other reasons, because Ava DuVernay’s film “Selma,” a historical drama about the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, was up for four awards including best song, best picture, best director and best actor in a drama. John Legend and rapper Common took home the award for their song “Glory.” Common, ever the spoken word artist, declared in his remarks, “I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand, but was instead given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers slain in the line of duty. … Selma has awakened my humanity. Selma is now.”

Common clearly took a lesson from the book of Kanye West when he refused to say the words that felt as if they were hanging from the tip of his tongue: “Black lives matter.” I was struck by the audacity of inclusion in Common’s remarks and reminded that this is precisely the kind of racial discourse that we don’t need. But it is the kind of racial discourse in which liberal black folks are forced to publicly engage in order that they might not seem antagonistic to white people. Even when we want to say, Black lives matter, we talk about the lives of other people of color, and about white lives, too. We include everybody, because accusations of exclusion often make white folks less willing to listen to our critiques. Of course, all lives matter. But only some lives—black lives—are consistently treated as if they don’t.

Moreover, white people are not held to the same standard of radical inclusivity. As I watched multiple white celebrities don the stage and stand in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack and other innocent bystanders, I marveled at the privilege that they had of being specific. Even though some people of color were casualties of the attacks in Paris, by and large this was an attack on white French satirists whose bread and butter was the routine disrespect of the Muslim community. Attacks on largely white victims received a huge and committed show of solidarity, while the Black Lives Matter Movement that has consumed our news cycle for the last four months was apparently not even worthy of mention.

That this happened on the same night that “Selma,” a film that has come under much fire for its refusal to tell a white savior narrative favoring LBJ, received no awards, perhaps matters, too.

It would be impolitic to say that “Selma” received no awards because of white liberal racism. I don’t particularly believe that. But I do wonder if America is really ready for a world in which black people are entrusted to narrate their own freedom stories and freedom dreams. Can white Americans deal with not being at the center of the black freedom narrative? Why is it the expectation that our history would favor our most ardent villains? Can white people really stand knowing that in the broader black narrative of the civil rights movement, we are not especially enamored of white heroes?
The dubious upside of Selma’s Oscar snub: Hollywood can’t continue to ignore its own race issues

Ava DuVernay, Russell Simmons and Reginald Hudlin weigh in on race and Hollywood

By Erin Keane
Director Ava DuVernay says she knew back in December that she wouldn’t be the first African American woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for “Selma,” which is up for the Best Picture award. In a story published yesterday, Entertainment Weekly reports the director chalked it up to simple Academy math, and it turns out she might be right. The Academy is overwhelmingly white (94 percent) and male (77 percent). While we might want to think of artistic awards as strictly merit-based, race and gender may very well have worked against DuVernay—several Academy voters indicated to EW that DuVernay’s unequivocal response to criticisms of her portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson as reluctant on civil rights “came off as strident and defensive.” In a majority culture that can paint outspoken African American artists with the “angry black woman” brush, and that only just awarded a woman the best director statue in 2009 (Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”), a lack of representation allows one side to dominate the conversation and dismisses what they don’t want to hear.

The conversation would be different if an African American woman helming a Best Picture nominee wasn’t already such a rare occurrence. In a new interview with Variety, venerable hip-hop (and now film and TV with his Def Pictures) producer Russell Simmons criticized Hollywood’s “deafening” lack of racial integration: “The segregation in Hollywood is incredible.” He also blasted well-meaning Hollywood liberals who see themselves as more progressive than they are when it comes to understanding African-American culture and how that cultural blindness can stifle minority talent from rising to the tops of their fields.
Comment:  For more on casting issues, see Diverse TV Shows Get Higher Ratings and Director: Native Actors Lack "Charisma."

January 15, 2015

Navajo survived Nagasaki A-bomb

Joe KieyoomiaJoe Kieyoomia (21 November 1919 – 17 February 1997) was a Navajo soldier in New Mexico's 200th Coast Artillery unit who was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of the Philippines in 1942 during World War II. Kieyoomia was a POW in Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bombing but survived, reportedly having been shielded from the effects of the bomb by the concrete walls of his cell.

The Japanese tried unsuccessfully to have him decode messages in the "Navajo Code" used by the United States Marine Corps, but although Kieyoomia understood Navajo, the messages sounded like nonsense to him because even though the code was based on the Navajo language, it was decipherable only by individuals specifically trained in its usage.

January 14, 2015

Land sale in Parks and Recreation

In this season's debut of Parks and Recreation (airdate: 01/13/15), Wamapoke Indian Ken Hotate makes another appearance:

Parks and Recreation, “2017”/”Ron and Jammy,” (7.1-2)–TV ReviewThere’s a plethora of recurring characters from old episodes in this episode, including Ken Hotate, last seen in “Harvest Festival” (whose son sells Bolo ties on Etsy and is a complete disappointment).2017At the cocktail reception for the Bicentennial Banquet, Leslie hits up local Native American leader Ken Hotate for financial help with her dream of a new national park. Ken hints that the Wamapoke tribe has been thinking of building a second resort. Leslie explains that there'd be no resort--she's looking for a donation of $90 million. Ken points out to Leslie the irony of his people being asked to donate money for a federal land purchase of territory that was taken from them by the federal government in the first place.Comment:  As usual, Jonathan Joss's portrayal of a modern Native leader is good. Indeed, there's nothing to complain about in this brief bit.

January 13, 2015

Hypocrisy of free-speech fundamentalists

Mourning the Parisian Journalists Yet Noticing the Hypocrisy

By Rabbi Michael LernerI had to wonder about the way the massacre in Paris is being depicted and framed by the Western media as a horrendous threat to Western civilization, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I wondered about the over-heated nature of this description. It didn't take me long to understand how problematic that framing really is.

When right-wing "pro-Israel" fanatics frequently sent me death threats, physically attacked my house and painted on the gates statements about me being "a Nazi" or "a self-hating Jew," and called in bomb threats to Tikkun, the magazine I edit, there was no attention given to this by the media, no cries of "our civilization depends on freedom of the press" or demands to hunt down those involved (the FBI and police received our complaints, but never reported back to us about what they were doing to protect us or find the assailants).
And:There is a deeper level in which the discourse seems so misguided. As Tikkun editor-at-large Peter Gabel has pointed out, there is no recognition in the media of the dehumanizing way that so much of the media deals with whoever is the perceived threatening "other" of the day. That media was outraged at the attempt by some North Korean allied group to scare people away from watching a movie ridiculing and then planning to assassinate the current (immoral) ruler of Korea, never wondering how we'd respond if a similar movie had been made ridiculing and planning the assassination of an American president. Similarly, the media has refused to even consider what it would mean to a French Muslim, living among Muslims who are economically marginalized and portrayed as nothing but terrorists, their religious garb banned in public, their religion demeaned, to encounter a humor magazine that ridiculed the one thing that gives them some sense of community and higher purpose, namely Mohammed and the religion he founded.In Solidarity with a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons

By Glenn GreenwaldNor is it the case that threatening violence in response to offensive ideas is the exclusive province of extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam. Terrence McNally’s 1998 play “Corpus Christi,” depicting Jesus as gay, was repeatedly cancelled by theaters due to bomb threats. Larry Flynt was paralyzed by an evangelical white supremacist who objected to Hustler‘s pornographic depiction of inter-racial couples. The Dixie Chicks were deluged with death threats and needed massive security after they publicly criticized George Bush for the Iraq War, which finally forced them to apologize out of fear. Violence spurred by Jewish and Christian fanaticism is legion, from abortion doctors being murdered to gay bars being bombed to a 45-year-old brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza due in part to the religious belief (common in both the U.S. and Israel) that God decreed they shall own all the land. And that’s all independent of the systematic state violence in the west sustained, at least in part, by religious sectarianism.

The New York Times’ David Brooks today claims that anti-Christian bias is so widespread in America–which has never elected a non-Christian president–that “the University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality.” He forgot to mention that the very same university just terminated its tenure contract with Professor Steven Salaita over tweets he posted during the Israeli attack on Gaza that the university judged to be excessively vituperative of Jewish leaders, and that the journalist Chris Hedges was just disinvited to speak at the University of Pennsylvania for the Thought Crime of drawing similarities between Israel and ISIS.

That is a real taboo–a repressed idea–as powerful and absolute as any in the United States, so much so that Brooks won’t even acknowledge its existence. It’s certainly more of a taboo in the U.S. than criticizing Muslims and Islam, criticism which is so frequently heard in mainstream circles–including the U.S. Congress–that one barely notices it any more.

This underscores the key point: there are all sorts of ways ideas and viewpoints are suppressed in the west. When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication of those ideas as well, I’ll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that’s not the case, let’s have equal application of this new principle.
As a Muslim, I’m fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists

The response to the inexcusable murder of Charlie Hebdo’s staff has proved that many liberals are guilty of double standards when it comes to giving offence.

By Mehdi Hasan
In the midst of all the post-Paris grief, hypocrisy and hyperbole abounds. Yes, the attack was an act of unquantifiable evil; an inexcusable and merciless murder of innocents. But was it really a “bid to assassinate” free speech (ITV’s Mark Austin), to “desecrate” our ideas of “free thought” (Stephen Fry)? It was a crime–not an act of war–perpetrated by disaffected young men; radicalised not by drawings of the Prophet in Europe in 2006 or 2011, as it turns out, but by images of US torture in Iraq in 2004.

Please get a grip. None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech. We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn.

Has your publication, for example, run cartoons mocking the Holocaust? No? How about caricatures of the 9/11 victims falling from the twin towers? I didn’t think so (and I am glad it hasn’t). Consider also the “thought experiment” offered by the Oxford philosopher Brian Klug. Imagine, he writes, if a man had joined the “unity rally” in Paris on 11 January “wearing a badge that said ‘Je suis Chérif’”–the first name of one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Suppose, Klug adds, he carried a placard with a cartoon mocking the murdered journalists. “How would the crowd have reacted? . . . Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended?” Do you disagree with Klug’s conclusion that the man “would have been lucky to get away with his life”?

Let’s be clear: I agree there is no justification whatsoever for gunning down journalists or cartoonists. I disagree with your seeming view that the right to offend comes with no corresponding responsibility; and I do not believe that a right to offend automatically translates into a duty to offend.
So many Christian hypocrites

More on the hypocrisy of those who would stand with Charlie:

Vox got no threats for posting Charlie Hebdo cartoons, dozens for covering Islamophobia

By Max Fisher and Amanda TaubThough we do enjoy a readership among Muslims inside and outside of the United States, some of whom have not hesitated to express displeasure or worse at our coverage of stories such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, none has seen the Charlie Hebdo cartoons as worth sending an angry email or even an annoyed tweet, much less a threat of violence.

Our coverage of Islamophobia has brought a very different response. Articles decrying anti-Muslim bigotry and attacks on mosques have been met with dozens of threats on email and social media.

The most common states a desire that jihadist militants will murder the offending writer: a recent email hoped that Muslims will "behead you one day" so that "we will never have to read your trash again." Some directly threaten violence themselves, or imply it with statements such as "May you rot in hell."

Others express a desire to murder all Muslims—one simply read "I agree with maher Kill them all"—also often implying the emailed journalist is themselves Muslim. One pledge to attack Vox writers begins, "Fuck you and any cunt who believes in allah."
Conservatives' Charlie Hebdo Hypocrisy: 5 Freak-Outs Over 'Blasphemous' Depictions of Christianity

Conservatives are crowing about free speech rights of Charlie Hebdo. What about when Christianity is the butt of the joke?

By Amanda Marcotte
Ross Douthat of the New York Times wrote, “If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more.”

Of course, Douthat, realizing his great affection for blasphemy will last only as long as needed to score this political point but wanting to reserve the right to denounce it when Christians are the ones being teased, tried to come up with an elaborate rationalization for why blasphemy is admirable when aimed at Islam but deplorable when the hurt feelings belong to Christians. It all goes to show how thoroughly phony this conservative enthusiasm for robust speech protections and a rowdy public discourse really is, because it will all be abandoned the second their own gods are mocked. Lest there be any doubt about that, here are some of the greatest hits of conservatives demanding censorship of what they believe are blasphemous messages.
And:The double standard—brave if you blaspheme Islam, nasty if you mock Christianity—is breathtaking.

While the whole thing taught me that I’m better off as a writer than a campaigner, the larger lesson was that Christian conservatives are humorless and censorious when faced with mockery of their own faith. It’s surreal now to see the American right pose as if they have always supported those willing to tip sacred cows. In reality, they are swift to try to silence those who would ridicule their religious beliefs, or even, as some of these examples show, simply hold their beliefs up for examination. Luckily, Christian conservatives mostly turn to nonviolent means to silence their critics.

But don’t mistake the current enthusiasm for blasphemy for anything but a politically convenient pose. Next time someone mocks the Christian faith, expect all this support for blasphemers to disappear in a puff of smoke.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Charlie Hebdo's Racist Cartoons.

January 12, 2015

Review of The Cold Dish

The Cold Dish: A Longmire MysteryIntroducing Wyoming’s Sheriff Walt Longmire in this riveting novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Hell Is Empty and As the Crow Flies, the first in the Longmire Mystery Series, the basis for LONGMIRE, the hit A&E original drama series

Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr and Robert B. Parker will love this outstanding first novel, in which New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson introduces Sheriff Walt Longmire of Wyoming’s Absaroka County. Johnson draws on his deep attachment to the American West to produce a literary mystery of stunning authenticity, and full of memorable characters. After twenty-five years as sheriff of Absaroka County, Walt Longmire’s hopes of finishing out his tenure in peace are dashed when Cody Pritchard is found dead near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Two years earlier, Cody has been one of four high school boys given suspended sentences for raping a local Cheyenne girl. Somebody, it would seem, is seeking vengeance, and Longmire might be the only thing standing between the three remaining boys and a Sharps .45-70 rifle.

With lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear, Deputy Victoria Moretti, and a cast of characters both tragic and humorous enough to fill in the vast emptiness of the high plains, Walt Longmire attempts to see that revenge, a dish best served cold, is never served at all.

From Publishers Weekly
A strong sense of place, a credible plot and deft dialogue lift Johnson's good-humored debut novel, the first of a new series, set in Bighorn Mountain country. Walt Longmire, the veteran sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyo., usually has little to do on his patrols. When Cody Pritchard is found shot to death near the Cheyenne reservation, everyone, including Deputy Victoria Moretti, a transplanted Philadelphian, believes he died in an accident. But two years earlier, Cody was one of four high schoolers convicted of raping a young Native American girl. All were given suspended sentences, and when another of the four turns up dead, it appears that someone is out for revenge. As fear mounts, Sheriff Longmire feels tension in the air between the white population and the Native American community, and he's not pleased to think that his lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear, might be directly involved in the murders. While the prose could stand tautening at times simply to up the suspense, Johnson has made an assured start that should appeal to a wide range of mystery fans.

From Bookmarks Magazine
The Cold Dish, a multilayered whodunit mystery, stands out in its genre. Shades of racism, mysticism, and revenge give the novel nuance; dead-on dialogue, good-natured humor, and flesh-and-blood characters, including the foul-mouthed deputy Victorian "Vic" Moretti, give it life. Johnson, who lives in Ucross, Wyoming, knows the Western landscape well, and creates stunning and violent scenes (including a raging blizzard) of the Rocky Mountains. Only The Philadelphia Inquirer faulted the novel’s roughness and comparatively immature prose. The other critics look forward to reading more from Johnson’s powerful voice and reconnecting with his eccentric mélange of characters.
Rob's review

A few comments on the above reviews:

  • Johnson's style is close to the opposite of Parker's--elaborate and ornate rather than stripped down and spare.

  • I'd say there wasn't much "tension in the air between the white population and the Native American community"--not enough to mention it, anyway.

  • Henry Standing Bear was a suspect because he had a green pickup truck just like the killer's. That seems an unlikely and contrived coincidence.

  • Overall, I'd say The Cold Dish was a fine first novel--perhaps deserving of an award for best debut mystery novel. But I wouldn't call it "outstanding."

    I wouldn't compare it to a Tony Hillerman novel, either. In Native terms, Hillerman's novels have a much strong sense of place and culture.

    The Native aspects

    It's clear Johnson is familiar with his Native neighbors in Wyoming. He depicts real Native people, not stereotypical cardboard cutouts.

    But a few gimmicks mar his portrayals:

  • Most of the Native characters, especially Henry Standing Bear, don't use contractions in their speech. That makes them sound slow and serious like stereotypical Indians.

  • One character, Lonnie Little Bird, finishes every utterance with the words "Yes, it is so." I've never heard an Indian talk that way except maybe in old Western movies. It's ridiculous.

  • Standing Bear has a tendency to pop up with at just the right time when Longmire needs him. There's a hint of mysticism there, like Henry knows things that Longmire doesn't.

  • The spirits of the Old Cheyenne have some mystical connection to the murder weapon, and they appear to guide Longmire through blinding snow. It's not clear why they'd appear to him and help him. He hasn't done anything special to earn their attention.

    Again, it feels like a gimmick. "I'll show my readers that Indians aren't the same as other people," Johnson must've thought. "They have supernatural connections that we can't hope to understand."

  • Anyway, I thought the revelation of the killer played a little fast and loose with the clues, so I wasn't totally sold on the ending. The prose was too flowery and not taut enough--for example, 14 lines to describe the old sheriff's face. Rob's rating: 7.0 of 10.

    January 11, 2015

    US open about its evils?

    The Torture Report and the Indian Wars

    By Steve RussellWe are told we should cool our jets about torture because no other country has aired as much dirty laundry as we are wanting hung up for all to see.


    Foreign Policy recently suggested that argument fails with a look at South Africa’s Commission of Truth and Reconciliation (1995-2002); the Netherlands’ report—Dossier Srebrenica (2002)—on the role of the Dutch army in the 1995 genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina; Brazil’s National Truth Commission report (2014); Germany’s two truth commissions in 1992 and 1995; Sweden’s investigation into the treatment of the Roma population (2010); Guatemala’s Commission for Historical Clarification (1997-1999); Bolivia’s National Commission for Investigation for Forced Disappearances (1982-1984); or Ecuador’s Truth Commission to Impede Impunity (2007-2009).

    No, the United States is not out in front of the world in admitting the evil it has done.

    No, a report on ethnic cleansing of American Indians, bounties on R**skin scalps and hides, confiscation of Indian property, and brainwashing Indian children would not be without historical precedent. There are reasons not to do it, but the novelty of the idea is not one.

    January 10, 2015

    White pride is always racist

    5 reasons “white pride” is always racist

    History tells us "whiteness" has always been a construct used to exclude certain groups from equal rights

    By Matthew Rozsa
    1) Whiteness is an artificial sociological construct which has been used throughout history to exclude certain groups of people from the rights guaranteed others and to justify bigoted attitudes.

    As Nell Irvin Painter explains in The History of White People, the notion of “white culture” is a myth. “Our culture was founded in 1789 right about the same moment that Blumenbach was inventing Caucasians—this moment of racialization,” she told Salon in an interview from 2010. “Some people say race is in our national DNA so that we just can’t get away from it. I don’t know if we ever will.”

    2) Throughout American history, many groups considered white today (e.g., Germans, Irish) were viewed as non-white.

    In a similar vein, it’s important to note that the term “white” has not always meant the same thing. Although WASPs have always benefited from that term in this country, virtually every other European nationality has been considered lesser at some point, from Eastern Europeans (like Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians) and Southern Europeans (like Italians, Greeks, and Spaniards) to long-standing victims of Western persecution (like the Irish and the Jews).

    January 09, 2015

    Tucker Carlson's white privilege lie

    The right’s big racism lie: How Tucker Carlson & co. distort “white privilege”

    We all agree that "racism" is immoral--that's not the argument. The problem is how too many redefine the word

    By Brittney Cooper
    For white people, to be called out for white privilege is to have to grapple with the possible notion that you are implicated in systems of white supremacy even if you don’t hate people of color and even when you aren’t trying to be. If white privilege exists, that means white people have to grapple with the fact that the potentially negative impacts of their whiteness under a regime of white supremacy will always exceed the best of their anti-racist intentions.

    Since this is the time of year when people set their intentions for moving forward in the New Year, I think it is important to apply one of those fluffy self-help truths to this moment. I think most people intend to be anti-racist. Just like we intend at the beginning of each year to lose weight, be healthier, save more money and generally be better people. But old habits die hard. If you are anything like me, each December you step on the scale and realize that the results of your unhealthy actions far outweigh your healthy intentions. This is why I have stopped making New Year’s resolutions. I always feel like I’m setting myself up for failure.

    And we collectively set ourselves up for failure when we continue in the old, outmoded belief that racism is solely defined by a conscious, malicious disregard for another group of people based on skin color. In a piece at the New York Times, professor Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard outlined the myriad ways that people of color experience racial disparities because of implicit bias.

    Among the examples of note that he gave about the material impact of implicit (not explicit) bias were that physicians were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization to black heart patients than they were to white heart patients, “even when medical files were statistically identical”; when bargaining for used cars black people were on average offered prices at $700 higher and received smaller concessions than white buyers; when iPods were auctioned on eBay, an ad showing a white hand received 21 more offers than an ad showing a black hand. A 2009 study found that black job applicants with no criminal record were offered jobs at rates as low as white applicants with criminal records. There have been similar results of racial disparity when comparing white and black applicants looking for housing, white and black citizens emailing and hoping to receive replies from Congresspeople, and of course, racial disparities are rife in the criminal justice system. In every area of American life, from business to commerce to education to healthcare to criminal justice, we can see broad evidence of racial disparity. In his classic book, “Racism Without Racists,” Eduardo Bonilla Silva calls this phenomenon, in which racial disparity persists, though little evidence of explicit racial bias is apparent, “colorblind racism.”

    Persistent racial disparity cannot be reduced solely or primarily to the presence of racist intentions. Growing up in the U.S. means we are bombarded with messages from birth that tell us that white people lead, white people are middle class, white people are articulate, white people are safe, white people are powerful, white people are to be trusted. Meanwhile, we receive the exact opposite messages about black and brown people. That one is presumed capable, intelligent and trustworthy simply by virtue of the color of one’s skin is white privilege.
    How to Tell If Something Is RacistOne unfortunate outcome of the Steve Scalise story is the perpetuation of the idea that white supremacy should only be associated with people like David Duke, that it is about hatred and hate crimes, white hoods and swastikas. Those images and events are indeed manifestations of white supremacy, but there are so many more. This is because the essence of white supremacy is not about racial and cultural hatred but about racial and cultural superiority. Hatred is an outcome of white supremacy, to be sure, but one of the second order. Only after one group has been deemed superior does it become possible to hate others for their difference from it. (As this fine documentary put it, "Were Africans enslaved because they were deemed inferior, or were they deemed inferior because they were enslaved?") It is difficult for genuine deniers to see something as racist because they look for only hatred. White supremacy is a dominant ideology that leads us to perceive white people, experiences, and culture as superior, yes, but also as just plain normal or objective. With that definition, here is a rule of thumb for telling if something is racist.

    Does it uphold white supremacy?

    That's it. This rule depends upon the definition of white supremacy given above, one that recognizes it as a consciousness that goes beyond dominant associations with discrimination and hatred. Of course, the rule works for discriminatory and hateful things such as racist jokes and images. But it also explains why even seemingly positive exchanges can be racist as well. Consider, for instance, "microaggressions," those less overt, everyday instances of racism that nevertheless cumulatively add to the oppression of people of color. A microaggression that usually targets Asians and Latinos is the statement "You speak English very well" when it is spoken by a white person. Many people would not regard it as racist, and when I was a child, I even welcomed it as a compliment. But it is racist. The statement upholds white supremacy because the white speaker must be the de facto judge of whether someone's English is any good. "Where are you really from?" is a related microaggression, with the white person again arrogating the role of cultural gatekeeper. Just imagine how odd, how irrational it would seem for a middle-aged Latina to say these things to a young white woman.
    Yes, All White People Are Racists--Now Let's Do Something About It

    The first step to ending racism is acknowledging that most of us harbor "implicit bias," whether we realize it or not.

    By Tim Donovan
    As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as a forgiving people. We've enshrined the assumption of innocence in our legal code; we take pride in giving second chances to those who misstep. And when it comes to questions of bias, we follow a similar script. In American life, no one is presumed racist without cause. People generally become racists in our minds by engaging in actions or deeds we've deemed as such (paging Steve Scalise). But what if that perception is inherently wrong? What if Americans—of all races, but especially white Americans—don't deserve the benefit of our doubt?

    It's an admittedly uncomfortable question, as it puts all of us—me as I write this, you reading it, our friends, our relatives, our colleagues—under a type of scrutiny to which we're unaccustomed. But a growing body of research suggests that this idea holds merit: Implicit racial bias undergirds our culture's relationship with race, even as explicit displays are increasingly uncommon.

    So what is "implicit bias," and how is it different from the more overt bias we typically focus on when discussing racism in this country?

    The most comprehensive study of implicit bias to date comes from "Project Implicit," a nonprofit organization founded by researchers from Harvard, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia in 1998. Project Implicit uses a novel technique to test the hidden biases we hold toward certain demographics, employing a short online test that brings the results of their findings right into your living room. (I highly recommend you take their test here.)

    In the Implicit Bias module on race, for instance, "positive" and "negative" words are paired with computer-generated images of Black African faces and White European faces. The test instructs you to match the categories by quickly pressing a button on the left or right side of your keyboard, so that you're connecting "good" words with black faces and "bad" words with white faces—and vice versa. The test measures how quickly you're able to successfully follow the exam's instructions; if you're better at pairing "good" words with white faces than with black faces, you probably have some measure of implicit bias against black people. (As I did when I took the test.) Other modules explore one's potential gender bias, age bias, religious bias, and so forth.

    The results are as disturbing as they are instructive, and they're buttressed by an increasingly robust body of research. The overwhelming majority of white people who've taken the test exhibit a preference for whiteness; for blacks, respondents are split nearly down the middle, with about half favoring black faces and half favoring white faces.
    Comment:  For more on white privilege, see White Privilege = "Willful Blindness" and Fox News's White Privilege Problem.

    January 08, 2015

    "Heyoka" beer offends Lakota

    Half Acre Changes Name of Heyoka Brew After Complaints by Native Americans

    By Patty Wetli and Mark SchipperHalf Acre has renamed its Heyoka India Pale Ale brew after receiving complaints from members of the Native-American Lakota people.

    The brewery's founder Gabriel Magliaro said the name change for the "hugely popular beer" was motivated by outreach from "dozens" of members of the Lakota community who found use of the word in this context offensive.

    "I’m not sure who exactly got word of it in the community, but it was a pretty effective initial onslaught of reaching out to us in a lot of different ways," Magliaro told DNAinfo. "We were able to have a lot of very positive conversations, and it was actually just as much positive feedback ... [as] there was initial concern or negative comment."

    Magliaro says he was originally drawn to the Lakota word out of "fascination" with "the contrarian aspect" of the spirit it represents.
    Chicago Brewery Renames 'Heyoka' Beer to 'Senita' Following Talks With AIM

    By Simon Moya-Smith"What a heyoka is ... is a healer," a Lakota elder who asked to remain anonymous told ICTMN. The elder requested to be unidentified because heyokas--thunder beings--are, themselves, publicly unidentifiable, he said. They cannot tell people they are heyoka.

    "Nobody is supposed to know who we are. That's why we wear the mask," he said. "[We] see the world with different eyes. [We] don't walk in balance; [Heyokas] walk out of whack because [they are] tasked with seeing the world as it is--out of whack. ... The word translates to 'sacred clown'."

    Walter "Greywolf" Ruiz told The Chicago Tribune that to name a beer 'Heyoka' is highly offensive given the impact of alcoholism in Indian country since Europeans first introduced alcohol to North American indigenous communities.

    "Heyoka is a very, very important figure and very sacred," Ruiz told Josh Noel of the Tribune. "Considering the devastation alcohol has caused for [N]ative people, it was a slap in the face. It was like naming a beer after the pope, or Jesus beer."
    Comment:  Another failed attempt to link Indians who represent wildness and savagery with alcohol.

    If it isn't obvious, being contrary is a mild form of being wild. It's the same sort of counterculture, anti-authority message embodied in Indian-skull t-shirts and hipster headdresses. Be bold and contrary and drink Heyoka India Pale Ale, even though you're not supposed to!

    An extra demerit for the Heyoka container art that shows cacti. Lakota and cacti? No, the Lakota don't live out in the desert, far from civilization, where they practice their contrary cultures and religions.

    January 07, 2015

    Charlie Hebdo's racist cartoons

    In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism

    By Jacob CanfieldWhen faced with a terrorist attack against a satirical newspaper, the appropriate response seems obvious. Don’t let the victims be silenced. Spread their work as far as it can possibly go. Laugh in the face of those savage murderers who don’t understand satire.

    In this case, it is the wrong response.

    Here’s what’s difficult to parse in the face of tragedy: yes, Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper. Its staff is white. Its cartoons often represent a certain, virulently racist brand of French xenophobia. While they generously claim to ‘attack everyone equally,’ the cartoons they publish are intentionally anti-Islam, and frequently sexist and homophobic.
    And:Now, I understand that calling someone a ‘racist asshole’ after their murder is a callous thing to do, and I don’t do it lightly. This isn’t ambiguous, though: the editorial staff of Hebdo consistently aimed to provoke Muslims. They ascribe to the same edgy-white-guy mentality that many American cartoonists do: nothing is sacred, sacred targets are funnier, lighten up, criticism is censorship. And just like American cartoonists, they and their supporters are wrong. White men punching down is not a recipe for good satire, and needs to be called out. People getting upset does not prove that the satire was good. And, this is the hardest part, the murder of the satirists in question does not prove that their satire was good. Their satire was bad, and remains bad. Their satire was racist, and remains racist.Not Just a Joke: Reflections on Free Speech, Violence and Mislabeled Heroism

    By Tim WiseIt strikes me that we should be able to roundly condemn the senseless and barbaric murders of journalists while still managing to have a rational conversation about free speech, in which empty platitudes about heroism need play no part. For instance, I believe it is possible to agree that free speech is an essential value, and that journalists should have the right to say what they want—even to offend others—without then proceeding to act as though every utterance (just because people have a right to it) is therefore worth defending as to its substance, and that free speech protects one from being critiqued for the things one says.

    What I mean is this: I have a right, I suppose, to stand in the middle of Times Square and shout racial slurs or insult peoples’ religions. I could, for instance, stand on a soapbox outside the TKTS booth and say things about the Prophet Mohammed or Jesus or Mary. I could call them all kinds of vile things, and all of it would be protected by the Constitution. And I surely should be able to do that without fear of being murdered for it. This last point in particular is so obvious as to be beyond debate, I would hope. But if I do this, whether in Times Square or in print, it makes me an asshole, and one who deserves to be labeled as such. Not a hero, but an asshole. And I don’t become a hero just because some of the people I happened to insult (and was trying to insult) end up being even bigger assholes than me, and so dangerous and unstable that they decide to hurt me. In that case I am simply the unlucky victim of a bigger and more evil asshole who was unsatisfied with the pen or keyboard as a weapon and decided to use something more deadly. Nothing more and nothing less.

    People seem to confuse the principle of free speech with the idea that one’s speech should be protected from pushback; and while violent pushback is always wrong—always—I am more than a little uncomfortable with the idea that we should make heroes out of those whose job appears to have been insulting people they deemed inferior (whether because of culture or because they were just “silly superstitious” believers who deserve ridicule because Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher say so). I’m especially uncomfortable with the political canonization we’re expected to endorse for these satirists, because historically, satire has always been about barbs aimed at those who are more powerful than oneself (the elite, royalty, the dominant social, economic, political or religious group), rather than being aimed down the ladder at those with less power. In the old days, when the King would bring in the jester or the royal fool to tell jokes and entertain the nobility, the court comic didn’t spend 20 minutes doing “can you believe how bad those peasants smell” jokes; rather, he told jokes at the expense of the nobility. The King and his royal prerogatives were the target of ridicule.

    So whereas it would be legitimate satire for Muslims to satirize their own extremists in countries where Muslims hold power (and this is done by the way, more than most of us realize), in France, satire aimed at Muslims, who are the targets of organized attempts to restrict their rights and even their presence in the country, is not brave; it’s piling on. Likewise, for Jews to satirize Palestinians in Israel would be asshole behavior, while satirizing the nation’s Jewish religious leaders who have such outsized influence on state politics would be the very definition of legitimate satire. In the U.S., where Christians hold the bulk of political and economic power, satirizing the religious right is quite different from satirizing Muslims who are being targeted in regular hate crimes and who are facing communities trying to block them from having mosques in which to worship.
    Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie: A Critical View

    By Sean EliasThe ridiculous display of support for ‘Charlie,’ particularly in the news media, is disconcerting and demonstrates that many people are equally as uninformed and culturally insensitive as those who promoted the anti-Islamist cartoons. Since the attack, most news outlets have ignored the racism and Islam-tarnishing of Charlie Hebdo and are in a rush to glorify the magazine and deify their racist cartoonists. Ignoring the potential of further inflaming ethno-racial tensions and promoting further anti-Muslim bigotry, a number of media giants, such as the Washington Post, have even decided to reprint the blasphemous cartoons of Muhammad in defiance of what they feel is a threat to free speech.

    To state that what occurred is “an attack on free speech” is misguided and plainly ignorant. This is a destructive myth espoused by most Western media outlets in their discussion of this event. See, for example, John Avlon’s The Daily Beast article, “Why We Stand with Charlie Hebdo-And You Should Too,” which naively presents the free speech argument. What Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Islamist cartoons represent is hate images and speech, a defamation of a major world religion and culture, and an obvious attack on Muslims. To cloud this reality is intellectual dishonesty in the wake of reactionary politics.

    Stoking the flames of racial hatred through dehumanizing others and their beliefs is nothing new; yet, today it is claimed that those who de-humanize certain groups are expressing their free speech or righteousness in their actions. One might ask why KKK pamphlets that demean black Americans, white nationalists’ periodicals that vilify Jews, and past campaigns of dehumanization by national groups, like the US’s racist cartoons of Japanese, are viewed as intolerable and unacceptable, yet the demonization of Muslims and Arabs is granted a pass.

    Islam bashing, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab sentiments are on the rise in Europe, and particularly in France, in large part do to the de-humanizing tactics of people like those associated with Charlie Hebdo. The dehumanization and discriminatory practices of Charlie cartoons provide ammunition for the anti-Muslim intolerance endorsed by rising far right groups in Europe, like the British Freedom Party, National Front, English Defense League, Alternative for Germany, Freedom Party in Netherlands, and PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the West), to name a few. Problematically, with the aid of people who incite discrimination against Muslims, like the cartoonists and editorial staff at Charlie Hebdo, Islamophobia is now moving from the fringes to the mainstream of European societies.
    Joe Sacco: On Satire–a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks

    The acclaimed graphic artist and journalist Joe Sacco on the limits of satire–and what it means if Muslims don’t find it funny