Author Archives: Admin8

2017-When Powerful Predators Pay the Price

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” opened its 2017 season on an interesting note. While the popular Emmy-winning news comedy show has never shied away from delivering scathing political commentary, its first main piece of the year was about how the newly-installed Commander-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump, is a dangerous machine of lies.  It’s a hefty and bold accusation for an entertainment show to make, even when you consider “Last Week Tonight” has affected some actual change (notably in net neutrality). Towards the end of the segment, Oliver pleaded with the media and the viewers to hold Trump and his team accountable for any misinformation they may spread and for the actions they commit. And if enough people push this position, real consequences might come.

Looking back, that segment almost feels like a foretelling of a theme of 2017: holding powerful men accountable for terrible deeds. Over the course of the past eleven months, we have seen many prominent and powerful men in many industries forced to face consequences for reportedly bad behavior — Travis Kalanick stepped down as UBER’s CEO, Harvey Weinstein was ousted from his film production company and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Warner Brothers studio has severed ties with director Brett Ratner, Fox News fired Bill O’Reilly, and just recently NPR’s Vice President of news and editorial director Michael Oreskes was placed on indefinite leave. All of these cases stem from one commonality: all the men ousted had been accused of sexual harassment and/or assault.

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Taylor Swift tries to silence Popfront with cease and desist letter

A few weeks ago, PopFront published a piece about Taylor Swift and her alt-right, white supremacist fans. The piece dove into a history of white supremacy and eugenics and how those ideologies have played a role in the political discourse of this country. It compared the lyrics of Swift’s song “Look What You Made Me Do” and the chants at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville Virginia.

The end of the piece offered the following call to action:

“And while pop musicians are not respected world leaders, they have a huge audience and their music often reflects their values. So, Taylor’s silence is not innocent, it is calculated. And if that is not true, she needs to state her beliefs out loud for the world- no matter what fan base she might lose because in America 2017 silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”

PopFront is far from the first outlet that has noticed the connection between Taylor Swift and the alt-right. Vice, Konbini, and Complex are just a few news outlets that have written about Swift and the alt-right. Swift has very vocal alt-right fans that make public statements about their fandom and assign their ideology to hers on social media. There have been many stories about this connection in the past 18 months and our piece was an attempt to continue the discussion, as well as call on Swift to denounce this hateful group. The rise of the alt-right must be examined critically. It is unsettling to see Americans openly expressing racism. Celebrities are not obligated to voice their political beliefs, but it is not a stretch to assume that Swift would want to issue a statement even if it could be controversial.

We could not have imagined this article would result in Swift’s lawyer sending us a cease and desist letter. Taylor Swift is no doubt loved around the world and has many millions of dollars to show for her success. She is in a position of privilege that most people will never experience. She is also probably aware of the different social movements and issues that rocked America in the past year. And while it is unnecessary to expect all celebrities to be political commentators, many of her peers with similar influence have lent their voices to these affairs. Swift’s silence on the alt-right is especially notable because her white supremacist fans have taken the time to politicize her image. Taylor has historically demonstrated a concerted interest in how she is perceived by the public, so it would be in her interest to make a statement denouncing these groups or at least against racism and bigotry in general.

But instead of publicly making such a statement or publicly addressing her critics for failing to do so, Swift chose to privately employ legal threats and demand PopFront’s criticism disappear.  In a threatening letter, Swift and her lawyer demanded the story be immediately removed. This tactic can set a dangerous precedent because it would mean any public figure could chill any criticism levied at them. At a time when the press is under constant attack from the highest branches of government, this cease and desist letter is far more insidious than Swift and her lawyer may understand. The press should not be bullied by legal action nor frightened into submission from covering any subject it chooses. Swift’s scare tactics may have worked in the past, but PopFront refuses to back down because we believe the First Amendment is more important than preserving a celebrity’s public image.

PopFront has sought the help of the ACLU to address the demands made by Swift and her lawyer. The cease and desist letter, the ACLU response, and the original article that sparked this action are here.

We will not be silenced.

PopFront is a small online publication created in 2013 to discuss critical social, cultural, and political issues. We regularly critique and analyze the media with opinion-based pieces. PopFront fundamentally cares about intellectual integrity, facts, and truth. And most importantly, every PopFront piece serves to elicit discussion and hopefully inspire action. We will continue to provide high-quality critical pieces touching on social and political issues and build a diverse platform for people of all races, sexualities, genders, or neuroclassifications.

In the Fields of the North-En los campos del Norte

Join Author and Photo-Journalist David Bacon on September 12th from 6-7 pm at 2521 Channing Way in Berkeley. He will be talking about his new book “In the fields of the North”. The book highlights the hardest-working and most disenfranchised laborers in America. This is the time to learn more and stand in solidarity with the Latino community. This event is free and open to the public.

Can’t make it on the 12th? Join David on Friday September 15th at 7pm at the Green Arcade in San Francisco (1680 Market Street 94102).

Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation

Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor Swift subtly gets the lower case “kkk” in formation with “Look What You Made me Do”
An anti–Marxist Mixtape review.

A little over a decade after her musical debut, Taylor Swift has made a career out of being portrayed as a good girl unjustly wronged. Her song catalog is stocked with tunes about how innocent she is, and how men seem to wrong her. But the most notable moment of the Taylor-as-an-innocent-victim narrative may have come when Kanye West interrupted her Best Female Video acceptance speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards to drunkenly ramble about how Beyoncé should have won.

Kanye upstaging Taylor in that moment not only gave that narrative merit in a lot of people’s eyes, it also looked like the personification of many a long-standing white fear: a black man taking away a white woman’s power. And Taylor has been playing off that narrative ever since, while America has embraced the notion of white victimhood — despite the reality. Kanye West is still hated for that moment, and the media has documented further fights between Taylor Swift and other pop stars such as Katy Perry, Calvin Harris, and Kim Kardashian. There is no shortage of media details about these “feuds”, whatever their purpose may be.

On the other hand, the idea that Taylor Swift is an icon of white supremacist, nationalists, and other fringe groups, seems to finally be getting mainstream attention. But the dog whistles to white supremacy in the lyrics of her latest single are not the first time that some have connected the (subtle) dots. A white supremacist blogger from neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer was quoted in a Broadly article in May 2016 as saying, “it is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world.” What “facts” the blogger is pointing to are unclear (and likely invented); still, his statement exemplifies how neo-Nazis and white supremacists look to her as their pop icon.

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Entertainingly “Atypical”: The Current State of Autism in Media

 This piece is the first of the ongoing series “Neurowrites” – where disabled writers comment on politics, society, and media.

When I was young and was unaware of my autism diagnosis,I did not have a reference point for autistic people because there was no representation of Autism in the media. I only knew about autism through a Baby-sitters Club book. The book, entitled Kristy and the Secret of Susan, was about one of the titular “baby-sitters” taking on a non-verbal autistic charge and I honestly don’t remember much about it, except that the main character Kristy decides to leave her autistic charge Susan alone after unsuccessfully trying to force her to integrate with other kids. I didn’t much care much for the book at the time despite being a big Baby-sitters Club fan, and I’m sure if I read it now I’d be appalled at how the characters were written and treated. Either way, I didn’t have a reference point as to what autism was because I didn’t really have that much exposure to it in media. I had characters that I liked and related to, but none that felt especially representative of me as an autistic girl.

I think it’s safe to say that the days of autism being a non-entity in pop culture are coming to an end. Since diagnoses have risen in the last twenty years, movies and television have slowly come to recognize and insert autistic people as characters. Various television shows like Girl Meets World, Sesame Street, Parenthood, and Community have featured characters explicitly stated or implied to be on the autism spectrum. The 2016 crime thriller “The Accountant“, starring Ben Affleck as an autistic accountant was a unexpected box office hit and is green-lighted for a sequel. And this August, Netflix premiered a dramedy series about an autistic teenager looking for love called “Atypical”: Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieHh4U-QYwU&feature=youtu.be

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She’s All That: The Original Eliza Doolittle

Pygmalion
By George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Jonathan Moscone
California Shakespeare Theater, Orinda
July 30–August 24

(L to R) Irene Lucio as Eliza Doolittle, L. Peter Callender as Col. Pickering, and Anthony Fusco as Henry Higgins in California Shakespeare Theater's production of Pygmalion, directed by Jonathan Moscone; photo by Kevin Berne.

(L to R) Irene Lucio as Eliza Doolittle, L. Peter Callender as Col. Pickering, and Anthony Fusco as Henry Higgins in California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Pygmalion, directed by Jonathan Moscone; photo by Kevin Berne.

The word Pygmalion does not resonate with most young people, myself included, but about halfway through enjoying the show at Cal Shakes’ eucalyptus-nestled outdoor amphitheater, I realized I was no stranger to the story—indeed, I’d seen its spinoffs many times as a child: in My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman, and She’s All That. Little did I know that while I was starry-eyed for Freddy Prinze, Jr. and Paul Walker (R.I.P.), I was watching a watered-down version of a story rooted in class and feminist criticism. As a socialist, activist and playwright, Shaw was very concerned with class privilege and gender roles. And the show features a powerful female lead, uncommon for the Victorian era in which the play is set. Continue reading

Can Oakland buck the gentrification trend?

A series of civic dialogues have been taking place in Oakland on the subject of development and gentrification. Oakland Reconstructed: The Birth of a District was one such event, billing itself as an attempt to “bring as many un-likeminded people as possible together to have as honest a discussion as participants were willing to engage [in].” PopFront will be covering this and future forums in Oakland as they progress.

As the tech boom creeps north and east, it seems inevitable that Oakland will face the same structural changes that remade San José, the Peninsula and now San Francisco. But is redevelopment inherently harmful? On April 2nd, a town-hall style forum was held in midtown Oakland to tackle this very topic. The group that hosted the event, Top Ten Social Club, titled the evening “Oakland Reconstructed.” The panel featured Jahmese Myres, a local Senior Research Associate at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE); Jeremy Liu, a Bay Area native and Co-Founder of Creative Development Partners (CDP); Orson Aguilar, Executive director at the local Greenling Institute; Alan Dones, an Oakland Native and principal of ADCo, LLC and managing partner and co-founder of SUDA, LLC; and Mike Ghielmetti, a local founder and president of Signature Development Group.

From left to right: Calvin Williams, X, Jahmese Kathleen Myres and X. photo by Dakarai Towle.

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