Posted on October 06, 2017 in Countdown

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Las Vegas, and the Politics of Politicization

There is a natural tendency to discuss national security after a major terrorist attack, and to discuss racism and policing practices after controversial police shootings, and so on. But oddly enough, we’re not allowed to talk about guns after major gun violence, because that’s somehow “politicizing” a tragedy. Well, conversations around what kind of weapons we want spread across our society are inherently political, and events like the tragedy that just unfolded in Las Vegas are a reminder that we urgently need to have them. Of course, even after children were massacred in Sandy Hook, no major gun control measure was passed, as the NRA continued to falsely claim that advocates of sensible gun control were trying to take Americans’ guns away. In light of the worst incident of gun violence in modern American history, the GOP put on hold a bill that would eliminate regulations on gun silencers and there seems to be movement on outlawing the sale of devices that convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons. Of course, we shouldn't dismiss the mental health aspect of this either. But whatever becomes of all this, it’s crucial to remember this isn’t about "sensitivity," this is about an ongoing national crisis that requires a meaningful conversation that leads to serious action.


Russian Roulette with the Iran Deal

No no, this has nothing to do with Russia. But the Trump administration appears to be toying with the idea of killing the Iran deal, as Trump plans to decertify Iranian compliance with it. Of course, everyone, from the State Department to the IAEA, confirms Iran is actually in compliance with its obligations under the Iran nuclear deal, which prevents it from developing nuclear weapons. So why on earth is Trump planning to claim they’re not in compliance? We have a guess: This seems to be one of those cases where Trump has pandered so much to his base about the deal being terrible that it’ll look bad if he admits it’s good. But it’s also so good it would be foolish to just abandon it and relieve Iran from its obligations, setting us back on a path of confrontation with Tehran. So, like any responsible adult who oversees keeping the country safe, Trump appears to want to make good on the meaningless red-meat campaign pandering he engaged in earlier, and dumping the burden onto Congress to decide whether the deal lives or dies. That, of course, is a ‘win-win’ for the President (he gets credit for being “tough on Iran” without the full blame for the deal’s death of Congress lets it die). But if you zoom out a little and look at the whole thing from a distance, we’re really talking about showing the world that we don’t keep our word on the deals we make and, worse yet, we’re risking waging another war, all to score petty political points at home. Let’s hope there is enough rationality left in Washington to save a successful deal that makes us all safer.


Fakebook: Too Big to Fail

The Trump-Russia-Election-Fake News-Social Media saga continues to spin madly on. It seems there has been a slow trickle of revelations all year, like a hapless invader during a Russian winter. Recently Representative Adam Schiff stated that he wants to disclose a “representative sample” of Russia-linked Facebook and other social media ads at some later time. Unfortunately, his Senate colleagues Richard Burr and Mark Warner disagree that the American people deserve to know the details of such an elaborate prank, and want to let social media companies decide what they disclose to us. If you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to see the deeds, here’s a spoiler alert: the ads weren’t designed to help Hillary Clinton and yes, they did pose as real Americans. The ads, weaponized to sway Americans during the 2016 presidential election by, unsurprisingly, stoking the divisions that candidate Trump himself exploited, posed as Muslim organizations and Arab American comedian Dean Obeidallah for the left, AND organized anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rallies for the right.  This has us wondering what is worse: 1) a foreign power acting to alter the outcome of our elections or 2) a campaign so bigoted that a foreign power knew exactly what to tap into to sow divisions or 3) leading social media providers, like Facebook and Twitter, allowing a foreign power to do this and still not understanding how dangerous it was. Yeah, it’s all really bad.


Uncritical Critics offer Critiques

This week, we saw a global collection of outlets misled their readers in lock-step: Huff Post, the TelegraphSalon, The Intercept, and just about everyone else ran headlines about the US voting against a UN resolution condemning the death penalty for LGBT people. The UN resolution, “The question of the death penalty”, as one could guess, seeks to end the use of the death penalty. The resolution does add condemnation of the outrageous punishments regarding “persons with mental or intellectual disabilities, persons below 18 years of age… pregnant women…” and people accused of “apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations.” Every headline above focused on only one of those categories, likely angling for clicks from readers ready to blindly rage over the Trump Administration’s every move. Now, if you read us, you know we’re not shy about expressing outrage over the actions of the orange president. But we like reserving the outrage for when it’s actually warranted. You’ll notice most articles failed to note that in 2014 the Obama Administration abstained from a similar UN resolution with the same title. The U.S. continues to use the death penalty and will oppose international efforts that challenge it. The Obama and Trump Administrations both pushed back at the UN. There is so much real stuff that should outrage us, we don’t need to make stuff up.


Decode Hate

Wouldn’t be nice if someone exposed the network fomenting anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry in the US, including their deceptive tactics, funding, and so on? Wouldn’t be nice if this could be done as a well-made video series for easy public consumption on social media? Dream no more, ‘Decode Hate’ is a new project doing just that, and you can check out this introductory video by our Executive Director Maya Berry and follow the project on Twitter. We’ve posted our part serious/part funny first installment on Facebook and Twitter too, exposing ACT for America, which is potentially the largest anti-Muslim organization in the US, and its truth-bending leader Brigitte Gabriel, who blusters about the imaginary Muslim takeover of America. Check the project out, and stay tuned for more on this bigotry network, and how we can fight back against it, together.