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#WhoIsBurningBlackChurches and the Mainstream Media Racial Bias

Unlike Yahoo, Google does not run a new service.  They run an aggregator.  It scans 4000 sources and creates listings for news stories based on a number of factors, including the reliability of sources and the popularity of the story. There are no editors at Google News; it is all done using algorithms.  Thus, in some crude way, Google News is the mainstream news (MSM).  Yesterday, I bumped into this internet meme (sic):

Is the MSM ignoring this story?

Is the MSM ignoring this story?

So i went to Google News’ US section for today (July 2) and, in the 30 top stories listed on the page, there is not a single mention of these churches being burned.  Nothing on the investigations, nothing on local protests about this arson, nothing about these churches having been targets before, nothing about the apparent race war which is raging in this country.  Simply nothing.

Why is this map so hard to find?

Why is this map so hard to find?

It would be wrong to say that there has been no coverage about this at all.  The BBC, NY Times and Buzzfeed have run stories on it before #BlackLivesMatter started raising public awareness about these incidents.  But the 24 hour new services on US television (Fox and CNN) had vanished the story.

To combat this silence, the twitter feed #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches was created by #BlackLivesMatter.  The twitter feed is an organizing platform where concerned citizens can post about these fires and read the latest news about this under-reported story.  But really the purpose of this hashtag is not to replace the failed FBI efforts to find the domestic terrorists, it is to shame the media into covering the story.  And it is working.  The BBC reports:

A Google News search about the fires returned more than 1,400 stories, up from just over 300 on Tuesday. Although news of a seventh church fire broke later Tuesday, and could explain the increase, Masri claimed that the Twitter action worked.

So far, however, the 24 hour TV news stations have remained largely silent (CNN has 4 stories, one explaining claiming one fire was from lightning).   If you put “Black Churches Arson” into Fox News’ search, there are no results found.  Salon magazine’s article on the media’s failure to cover  all this arson as an issue of domestic terrorism listed the following set of likely future Fox News stories on the church burnings from #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches:

  1. Apparently all those black churches used the same electrician.
  2. “Affirmative action” is to blame. Somehow.
  3. “Race hustlers” just want to get attention and make white people look bad.
  4. You see this is really a war on Christians!
  5. Do the math: Churches burn down all the time. Why are black race hustlers and liberals making such a big deal about simple math!
  6. What if Black racists want to hurt white firefighters!
  7. This is a scorched earth strategy to start a race war against white people.
  8. This is what happens when the SCOTUS allows gay marriage!
  9. Rap music! Rappers are always talking about “being on fire” and “making it hot up in here.” Let’s lay the blame where it deserves. What about personal responsibility!
  10. What if this was caused by, like, solar flares? How can the sun be racist?
  11. We need to talk about the broken Black family, and how black kids love playing with lighters.
  12. What do the liberals want to do now? Ban lighters.
  13. And really, where are black fathers?!
  14. Barack Obama is to blame.
But as pathetic as this list is, i do want to land on this last point.  Were Obama to hold a press conference, announce a special investigation, and highlight the problem, Fox and others could not avoid the story.  Certainly, there is a giant problem with the structural racism in the MSM.  But also saddening is the failure of the first black president of the US to take on the largely silent race war waging in this country.

Sexually Transmitted Responsibility

Transmission of Responsibility

Transmission of Responsibility

It was a great meeting.  Port was facilitating, and he was afraid of the meta-discussion on the topic of what Acorn thinks its labor is about/for.    He had been afraid that this digression would lead us to a world of complaining and depressed talk.  But it is hard to restrain the hippies, especially when it comes to meta-discussions.

And a funny thing happened on the way to reviewing our labor situation.   People did not think huge changes were needed and many of the suggestions (like doing our clearnesses on time and using existing structures to solve problems) felt genuinely helpful.    The group identified the individuals who felt overworked and overwhelmed.  [This did not include Ira and me, who only know how to function if we are overworked – by things we are excited about doing.]

Then Jayne spoke:

 I agree that the measure of the labor system should be how happy are we?  It sounds like people feel they live interesting, enriching, and productive lives.  Going around, I do catch a common frustration that it is too difficult to pass on a job you’d like to be done with.  I think about this thing Nightshade said three months into my membership: “If you want to get involved in a labor area at Acorn, just sleep with the person who’s already doing it.”  It’s sort of horrifying how often this is kind of true.  Aside from sleeping with them, how can you learn to pass responsibility to new people?

In community responsibility is communicable

In community responsibility is sexually communicable

This brought on a whole raft of jokes about Sexually Transmitted Responsibility and it quickly became clear that Jayne was right.  All manner of lovers had dragged their partners into work areas which needed help.  Many intimates had decided one of the better ways to spend time together was to share the tasks that the community needs to function.

Acorn functions as an Adhocracy (a flexible, adaptable and informal form of organization that is defined by a lack of formal structure. It operates in an opposite fashion to a bureaucracy).  When we need something done, we form a group of volunteers to do it and give them significant power at least of analysis and often of decision making and purse strings.  When your intimate joins one of these temporary groups, you are often enticed to be part as well.

Can we value creativity and flexibility over structure and efficiency?

Can we value creativity and flexibility over structure and efficiency?

Momentarily Viral – Don’t read the Comments

I wrote yesterday about the recent Yahoo Parenting article about the community.  Turns out this piece had over 3 million hits in the first 24 hours.   This generated so much traffic to the Twinoaks.org website that our web host server crashed. Even my blog, which is not mentioned in the article at all, got over 1000 hits in two days.

Does this hype actually go anywhere?

Does this hype actually go anywhere?

And the media contacted us also.  We got three requests from conventional news sources (including my first ever request for an exclusive) and two excited reality show producers.  We have considered working with Reality TV as an income engine for new community start ups and i floated it by the Point A DC folks, who rejected it overwhelmingly. This did not stop there being animated discussion about the possibility at Acorn last night at dinner.  The chances we will be able to work with reality TV are vanishingly small.

There were over 500 comments to the Yahoo article.  There were quite a few positive ones, some from people who had lived in community which worked for them or they appreciated, some from folks who had visited us at some point and felt the need to dispel the false statements which were being made.  But perhaps half the comments on this Yahoo article were negative or critical.  They came in a few flavors:

Communism is Bad:  My favorite of this ilk was “Why hasn’t someone called the National Guard to rid us of these communists?”  Unlike past articles i have read, there were not any direct “Go back to Russia!” suggestions.  Many came from Libertarians who feel a need to attack anything which does not look like their version of free market capitalism. Libertarianism Cartoon There was our personal chapter of the endless Tea Party debates in which all ills are blamed on Obama and each of the two main political parties are attacked for the Democrats being Communists and the Republicans (in the long run) being anarchists.  News flash folks, there are two pro-business parties in the US.  Look at who funds their campaigns. There are also a whole slew of comments contenting that we 1) Don’t pay taxes.  In fact we are the second largest tax payer in the county. 2) Are on Food Stamps and Welfare. In fact none of the membership uses these government assistance programs.

Polyamory is wrong: There was the expected amount of slut shaming and name calling. I should not have been surprised at the frequently expressed concern that pedophiles would have easy access to our kids, when in fact the opposite is the case. polyamory_is_wrongThere were a refreshing number of people who felt like this was an acceptable choice, only not right for them personally.  For many critics this simply feed their notion of moral decay on the commune.  There was a prevalent opinion that this reflected an easy way to have lots of sex partners, when actually the form of polyamory most often practiced in the communities requires lots of discussion, negotiations and process.

Too often too true

Too often too true

This can never work:  Despite the article mentioning that we had been around for nearly 50 years, there were a surprising number of comments predicting our imminent demise or our failure in the long term.  I chalk this up to people not wanting the story to be true, so they lash out against it in ways that don’t make much sense.  Because the article was focused on parenting and not pension, there were many comments about what happens when people reach retirement age.  In fact our pension program is far more robust than the default one in the mainstream.

Applying for Pregnancy !?!?! It is true this is very odd and i totally get why this flips people out.  And when you read why we do it, it will make a whole lot more sense to you.  This linked article also has the bonus section that it includes the only (to my knowledge) exhaustive list of Twin Oaks prohibitions.

Eeww you have Lice!:  Apparently, only the community suffers from lice.  Every couple of years we have a lice outbreak.  We fight some, internally, about the use of chemicals to push it back.  We clean a ton of laundry, some people dramatically shave their heads to avoid having to treat or retreat.  Frankly, they are more psychologically problematic than actually physically problematic, but try telling that to someone who is freaking out.

One way to solve the problem

One way to solve the problem

While i had a good time going thru the comments and correcting people misconceptions and laughing about the haters, i counseled everyone who was actually in the article not to read the comments.    They don’t yet show the thoughtful dialog we would hope to find on the digital pages of the internet.

What the article did not mention is that:

1) Twin Oaks has had a waiting list for more than 7 years now.  So if you are in a rush to find a new place, we are a poor choice.

2) It is far harder for families to become members than individuals.  In the last 10 years there has only been three families accepted (and perhaps a dozen who have tried to come).  The visitor period is longer, the waiting list is tougher and every member of the family must be accepted or none of them can come.

March Against Monsanto 2015 – Richmond

Some media reports have forecasted hundreds of thousands will March against Monsanto corporation on May 23rd in over 400 cities around the world.  We went into Richmond to join the fun.

While this is a charming picture of a poster, it also has Oakers Sabrina, Sunya and Edmund int he background as well as Aster Acorn

A charming picture of a poster, it also has Oakers Sabrina, Sunya & Edmund in the background as well as Aster Acorn

The march began with background information about how it got started 3 years ago. The inspiration was the US congress passing the despicable Monsanto Protection Act, which was basically written by Monsanto to make things better for them. The most horrific parts of the 2013 Monsanto Protection Act are that even if it is found that GMOs have adverse health effects on consumers, companies using them 1) can not be sued, 2) can not be stopped from harvesting them and 3) cannot be blocked from planting more and selling more of them. Little could be more revealing of how sold out our elected leaders are.

MAM marchers in Richmond today

MAM marchers in Richmond today

The perhaps 100 marchers went through the fashionable Carytown portion of Richmond with a substantial police escort.  The response from the many people who saw us was pretty warm, especially the staff at the many restaurants on that trendy street. As for the tactics of the MAM i have strong split feelings (the technically correct definition of ambivalent).  I love the decentralized approach to the organization of these events.  People come, bring signs, and a megaphone.

There is a fairly informal rotation of speakers at most of these, anyone who is inspired can grab a megaphone and address the crowd.  While I did not speak this year, i did in 2013 in Washington DC.

Marchers with signs just before we head out (i am on the far right of this photo).

Marchers with signs just before we head out (i am on the far right of this photo).

This type of decentralize approach is important, because it is at its base populist.  Also it proves that the internet can be a highly effective organizing tool (not requiring strong–read authoritarian–leaders) with global reach and the capacity to facilitate multi-city/multi-country mass actions.

MAM 2015 official poster

March Wide propaganda image – this is one of the benefits of being in the franchise.

The problem with this lovely grass rootsie approach is that these decentralized groups do a third rate job with media.  There was some media at the Richmond event, and there might even be a bit of press coverage.  But overall, this movement is pretending that it is possible reach millions without a media budget, without media handlers and without carefully crafted messages sending. While i appreciated the considerable decentralized effort, i remember working with the experienced media folks at Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Greenpeace US.  They speak at a high level about when a story has to be out by, what images make sense to broadcast, what are the talking points, what is the group demanding. With hundreds of protests around the world, there are but dozens of articles up (mostly in small papers or on local tv stations).  I can’t help but think if one of the better big green groups were to take on this cause, we would have much larger media echo.

Let's get right to that

Let’s get right to that

Rerouting Mind and Nimble Emotions

I spend more time driving these days than i would like to.  While one of the major advantages of living in income sharing communities like Twin Oaks and Acorn is that you need not drive to work  or to where you reside, i appear to have designed my life to miss out on this benefit.

No one is to blame for this other than me.  I love to travel. I often take on tasks that are at great distances away and i am interested in projects which are not happening in central Virginia, where i nominally live.  While i would certainly prefer to travel in the high functioning rail systems like Germany or the Netherlands have, in absence of these i am not willing to give up my mobility to be orthodox.

Some of the worlds better trains, in one of the best served countries in the world, Germany

Some of the worlds better trains, in one of the best served countries, Germany

Because i am driving more, i observe the behavior of GPS systems more, especially when i make mistakes.  When i miss a turn, the GPS starts rerouting the trip, and while it is figuring this out it leaves the old estimated time of arrival up until it has a new one.  i watch to see how much time i have lost because i missed my turn and surprisingly often it is just a couple of minutes different in arrival time estimates.  It turns out quite often mistakes are cheap.

reroute

So i am attempting to train my brain to do what the GPS does, and effortlessly forgive the mistake, figure out the new path and not stress over it. Instead just pay attention to the new directions and you will get there at basically the original time.

gps_hazards

The less error friendly version

Imagine a world where we have learned this type of emotionally nimble behavior which is effortlessly displayed by the GPS.  What if we let go of this (often optional) guilt and shame?  What if (after having learned what might be useful from our mistakes) we moved on without harping on errors or beating ourselves up wishing we had done something different?

I am guessing all kinds of good would come from it.

Barefoot, One Eye and Too Dim

NYC has changed me.

Two years ago, if i had walked out of the Richmond train station and seen three “traveler kids”, i would have headed the other way.  But having spent time doing support work for travelers in Tompkins Square Park has shifted my perception of this fringe group that i had not been connected to before.

Too Dim, Barefoot, and One Eye - or folks who could be them

Too Dim, Barefoot, and One Eye – or folks who could be them

I walked out of the train from Baltimore and saw these three, i had a bit of time to wait and decided that this could be fun.  I got a cheap pizza and approached my new friends.  They were welcoming.  I sat with them where they had found an open wall socket to charge their phones with.

They introduced themselves to me as: Barefoot – who claimed she did not own a pair of shoes.  One Eye – who had a fine line tattoo pattern on the check of side of his face where he had lost an eye to a fight or an accident.  Tex – who said he was from Texas. After i had been there for half an hour and they decided that i was at least interesting and perhaps okay, Tex told me “You should call me ‘Too Dim‘.  My friends call me Too Dim, not Tex.”

The conversation rambled.  They offered me beer and cigarettes.  They played an animated guitar and sang in a raspy voices.  They were generous, friendly and welcoming.  All the traveler kids i have run across have been.

The part about

The part about “angry” is a myth, in my experiences.

They train hopped from Jacksonville FL to Washington DC and discovered what many of us had experienced there.  Washington is tough for outsiders with no friends in the town.  They tried to talk to people, but no one had time for them.  They played guitar and sang, but no one was generous.  They tried lots of different types of places and nothing improved things.  So they left.

traveler and train

Move swiftly between trains before they leave to avoid the yard security. A good train hopper can sense  when a car will start moving, and how long before they have to jump.

They were hoping Richmond is better.  I don’t know, but something makes me think it will be.

At one point Barefoot complimented my shirt.  I asked her if she would wear it.  She said she certainly would, then i offered to give it to her, but she would not take it as a straight gift, she wanted to trade – which is how i got the stylish skull tank top i am donning in the picture below.

it is a bit tight

It is a bit tight.

After an hour or so of hanging out, i decided i need to be moving on.  They were lovely folks, dressed in tattered clothes.  I am thankful my previous prejudices are subsiding and i can connect with a greater array of people.

When i left, with no request on their part, i left a few bucks behind.  One Eye called out after me, “You have restored my faith in humanity”.  And strangely, i felt the same way.

Drone Graffiti

i hate drones.

Part of the reason is that they erode constitutional protections – everything from killing US citizens, to unreasonable searches, to declarations of war without congressional authority.  Part of the reason is they represent a horrifying new lethal technology which can be deployed without the risk of loss of life on the part of the aggressor, thus encouraging their use in all manner of situations, often where no lethal force was needed.  Part of the reason is that progressive or just reasonable political forces in the US have been unable to stop almost any aspect of their use by the government and military, including armed drones being deployed in the US to kill citizens.

clumsy first generation drones with spray cans

clumsy first generation drones with spray cans

There is a new wrinkle in the expanding, but largely ignored drone discussion: drone graffiti.  Wired Magazine reports with some glee the dawn of the age of drone vandalism.  [Why “glee” you ask?  Perhaps because the article title refers to this first know drone tag as “epic”].

Perhaps now that corporation as suffering something will be done to stop drones?

Perhaps now that corporations are suffering something will be done to limit drones?

It was completely forecastable that this would happen, but no one happened to.  On one level this might be because it makes absolutely no real difference in the world, despite Wired’s hype.  There was graffiti before, it does not matter much how it gets there.

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