Monday, October 19, 2009

Screaming Radio

When did the left become so loud?

I have been listening to liberal radio for a long time, and have had a few people I liked a lot, and some not so much.

For a long time my faves were:

  • Stephanie Miller
  • Rachel Maddow
  • Thom Hartman
  • Randi Rhodes
  • Ed Shultz

Things have changed.


Stephanie Miller and her mooks (Jim Ward and Chris Lavoi) are wonderful, great fun and irreverent, and have some perspectives I wouldn't necessarily pick up on. Also, hey, they DON'T SCREAM at callers or at me. They and coffee in the morning get me going.

Rachel Maddow is simply stunning in every way. Intelligent, biting, funny, insightful, and she doesn't back down. She *also* DOESN'T SCREAM.

Thom Hartman has a wealth of knowledge, acknowledges people's points, interviews both right and left people, and seems to respect others. I infer this because he DOESN'T SCREAM either.

The last two?

Ed Shultz: I used to like his approach because I felt he was balanced, would listen to people, would give credit when others had a point even if he didn't agree. I agreed with much of what he had to say.

However, sometime in the last few months he seems to have gone off some personal, internal deep end and now thinks it's acceptable to SCREAM at his callers and belittle them and shout his own opinion over theirs.
Lost me as a listener.

Randi Rhodes: Took me a while to warm up to her. Originally I thought she was overbearing and rude. Then, she either calmed down or I learned to appreciate her - and I still think she's incredibly smart and has a lot of good things to say, and some great insights. When she was in New York with Air America she was pretty aggressive and loud with callers, and belittled them, and I didn't like it then and had stopped listening. After a short time on some Florida network and then on into a new venue, she calmed down and I listened a lot.

However somehow again lately she has begun belittling callers again, and has started REALLY yelling. Often she doesn't seem to get the nuances of what people are trying to say, which surprises me; she used to be better at seeing between the lines and behind the words. Case in point: this morning, talking with a poli-sci professor (so presumably he knows more than she does about his particular area of focus/interest) she yelled at him about why he was wrong about the news. He was trying to make the point that we turn on the TV to look for those people and venues (that we interpret as news) that will reinforce out own perception of the way the world works. She locked onto the fact that people don't understand what "news" is, and totally missed his point. His answer there, had she not yelled at him, might have been 'you're right, but that's not my point... let's say people think they're turning on the news... regardless of whether that's true, that's another subject. They think it's news, and they turn on that which reinforces their already held beliefs.' She would, likely, AGREE with that, but never got there because she SCREAMED over him.

When a person loses enough track of his/her own (un)importance or (lack of) wealth of knowledge about a subject enough to not acknowledge that someone else actually might know more than he or she does, and then SCREAMS over that person... sorry, Lost me as a listener.

Mike Meloy is as obnoxious as Glenn Back.
And Rush is unspeakably... well, words fail me.

That's all I have to say about screaming radio.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Interrogations - Coco Fusco and a call to arms

A Field Guide for Female Interrogators

Coco Fusco

A review, sort of:

Coco Fusco’s A Field Guide was oddly powerful. Short, only 142 pages long, with large type, it took me less than an hour to read. Yet, I wouldn’t call it an easy book. It hits home in a number of ways – asking, in essence, that we confront our understandings of, and admit our biases and stereotypes about, women, war, torture, and fear to name just a few of the things she covers.

I found myself taking notes on almost every page. Not just about my project on the Hercules Teams in NYC but about the importance of thinking about how our accepted cultural norms are embedded so deeply that even those of us who consider ourselves feminists, even those of us who (think we) oppose(d) the War on Terror and all it entails, and even those of us who were horrified and sickened by the (fraction of the total number of) abuses revealed in Iraq, are in many ways complicit with the very actions we (conceptually) abhor.

Fusco starts with her own reactions to the photos of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and follows those reactions through to a rather despairing conclusion: that at least in the military, feminism seems to have devolved into a simple equation: equality = act just like a man. And that includes perpetrating violence in a number of arenas – particularly in interrogation rooms.

In order to understand interrogation techniques so she can hope to understand why women seem to be participating without qualm, Fusco and a group of women academics attend an interrogation school. While she learns a lot, she doesn’t seem to learn quite what she’d hoped to; she was looking for the why, and she got the how. Still, she successfully gives us a sense of the setting, and the possibility for understanding how sexuality and vulnerability come into play in the wielding of power.

Fusco’s continued use of ‘we’ and ‘us’ to refer to women bothered me at first. In essence this phrasing pulls all women into her point of view, and assumes that our perceptions and reactions will be the same as hers – because we are women. Cultural theorists and feminists have spent a great many years taking this notion apart. “Women” is not ‘a group’ defined by any characteristics that cross all the boundaries, and cannot be understood as such. Eventually I realized that Fusco does this on purpose. ‘We’ are indeed who she speaks for – maybe women, maybe Americans, maybe Westerners, maybe the readers of her book. Whoever ‘we’ are, she is part of us.

This is based on the same argument as her exploration of the source of our shock when we find out that women have participated voluntarily in strategic aggression: power plays with fellow soldiers, and harsh and violent interrogation techniques. Her argument is that our shock at finding out that women participated in the abuses in Abu Graib, and that female soldiers in fact (appear to) use their femininity as power, is unfounded because it is based on American society’s belief in a false collective female ethical or moral high ground based on our history as oppressed victims. In other words: we believe women wouldn’t really participate in torture because they / we are somehow not wired that way; they / we are ethically / morally unable to use power in that manner.

I felt the same resistance to her use of the initials US (without the periods, as in U.S.) to refer to the United States). The United States became US became us, became me. Her use of language made me part of the problem.

And yet, that indeed is her entire point. I am complicit. Her book is a call to arms, really, and a challenge. Do ‘we’ sit back and continue to rationalize this War on Terror and the abuses it is perpetrating on hundreds of thousands of people away by ignoring it, by assuming that our protests of its inception were enough, by feeling horrified? Or do we step up?

At least, that’s what I took from it. And my answer is that I step up.