News continues to break revealing more incidents of U.S. government spying. Based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, we learn that targets of the NSA now include the phone calls, emails, and text messages of the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, and the internal communications system of news broadcaster Al Jazeera. The leaks have also brought to light that the U.S. has been hacking into foreign networks in order to place them under covert control through an effort dubbed “GENIE.” more...
On July 13th, George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman shot Martin during a scuffle—the details of which we will never truly know—and claimed that he had done so only in self-defense. The jury believed him; much of the viewing public did not. In the weeks since the verdict, the nation has been reeling. The shooting itself, the failure of the police department, the vigilantism encouraged by “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws, the racial tensions—all of it brought to light deep seated issues in the US. Clearly, we are not a post-racial society. more...
James Cameron’s Avatar has been making millions of dollars from movie ticket sales worldwide. The movie features humans invading the planet Pandora in the future. Corporate entities in cooperation with military units hope to extract natural resources from territory inhabited by indigenous people called the Na’vi. Although a human named Jake Sully initially agrees to gather intelligence for the military by using an avatar identity, he eventually decides to help the Na’vi mount an attack against the military. Regardless of James Cameron’s intention, the movie’s themes parallel several real-life occurrences such as the extraction of natural resources from the periphery, the forcible removal of indigenous peoples from their land, and the rise of transnational corporations.
Some people praise the movie for its recognition of environmental degradation, its promotion of sustainable practices, and its acknowledgement of the importance of landholding among indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, other people characterize the movie as anti-American and anti-military. Additionally, some critics consider the movie to be racist. Similar to other movies such as Dances with Wolves, the movie involves white males rescuing indigenous peoples.
by Nickie Wild
Russia’s parliament recently moved to ban the American television shows “South Park,” “Family Guy,” and “The Simpsons,” alleging that they sent negative messages to the country’s children. Russian cartoon network 2×2, which airs the programs, had its license up for renewal, and the Kremlin was not intending to grant it. Besides general accusations of moral depravity, the government particularly objected to the “South Park” episode Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, in which a piece of human waste comes alive and sings holiday songs. Officials said that this promoted religious hate speech, which is illegal under Russian law. The government proposed a new channel, which would instead have shows that promoted patriotism and morality to the country’s youth. However, the public reacted strongly against this move with collective action – protests, rallies, and flash mobs sprung up over several weeks of unrest. Some participants merely supported the particular programs, but many others acted out of concern that the government was returning to its authoritarian past. Petitions were signed by tens of thousands.
The government has since decided to renew 2×2’s license, provided that they do not show the offending episode again. Analyzing this incident with an eye towards Gramsci’s concept of hegemony leads the observer to question if the Kremlin was attempting to fight against the encroaching cultural doctrines of the West, or impose its ideology on the country’s children. Many Russian citizens seem to have firmly believed the latter.
Hegemony and the Media
The growing rate of home foreclosures has devastated individuals, families, neighborhoods and communities across the United States. The Washington Post reported that a group of “foreclosees” recently engaged in collective action in response to this crisis. The small group marched into the Baltimore office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in an effort to get some kind of public and official response from “The Man”. These are the real people behind the impersonal news stories peppering papers across the nation. While this may have been only a symbolic confrontation on some levels, it is characteristic of the kind of direct action used by social movements throughout history. The individuals in this article may be seen as actively engaging in the social process of defining the foreclosure crisis as a public issue. Scholars of social movements may argue over whether strain/breakdown or opportunity offer the more appropriate construct for explaining what led to this collective action. Either way, it is clearer now that foreclosures are a kind of external factor that can stimulate protest activity.