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Commons Conversations: Color of New Media Working Group Transcription

The “Color of New Media Working Group” met on February 2, 2017 as a part of Commons Conversations: Technology and Public Life in Changing Times, a discussion series hosted by BCNM on the impact of new media on our current political and public climate.

This time, the group met to discuss the vertiginous political climate. Together, they touch on topics including effective methods of protest, free speech in new media such as memes, and how Berkeley is processing the ongoing wave of news.

Below is a transcription of the working group event by Nicolas Chang.

Photo credit: Umberto Salvagnin, “Bubbles.”

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00:00:09 Abigail De Kosnik (ADK): So this is Gail De Kosnik — Abigail De Kosnik. I’m an associate professor in BCNM and in TDPS. I’ll start the conversation and then we’ll go around to identifications. I have two students in my department and one in another department who collaborated with a few other current and former Berkeley graduate students on the anti-Milo digital toolkit that I sent out yesterday with their permission. One of the students was named in a Breitbart article — an alt-right article — that accused Berkeley of being a haven for leftist agitators and painted Berkeley, specifically those people who authored the toolkit, as undermining the political system. One of the authors who is not on this campus anymore but at a different campus, received harassment and threats online because of that article. So there is a risk today, I think, of just going on the record, and I would never ask anybody to force themselves to be on the record for any of this material but of course I do think there’s a pro to putting your name out there on this kind of speech and on this kind of scholarship…  for solidarity and because we have to stand up for what we think. So there’s a benefit for that too. One of the students asked for their name to be removed from the document before I sent it out to you. What are the pros and cons of that? On the one hand, they won’t be doxxed which is one of our great fears for our students — and our students named that fear. What if people get their information, and deliberately try to ruin their financial records, or publish their addresses or something like that? Our department took down all their information from our website, but our communications coordinator emailed them and said, “I just did a quick search for you and I found five different social media accounts with your name on it, so just be careful.” So there are pros and cons. The pro is, I think, that the digital toolkit they made has a good chance of being remembered and that those who leave their names on it will be credited with that labor. Those that removed their names won’t receive that credit.

00:03:00 ADK: And we’re just talking about how to identify yourselves, so feel free to identify yourself, with your name, with a pseudonym, and if you’re using a pseudonym please say that, or just anonymously. And we’ll just start talking, so who wants to go first?

00:03:15 Paige Johnson (PJ): I’ll go first. Hi, my name is Paige Johnson, and I am a member of this working group with Gail…

00:03:25 ADK: I would even say a co-founder…

00:03:27 PJ: A co-founder, with Gail, and I am super excited that we’re trying this thing today.

00:03:38 Anonymous One (A1): ]Hi, I’m going to go anonymous right now, but I’ve been with this working group since it started and I work with Gail a lot.

00:03:52 YR: I’m Yaira and I’ve been working with Gail for a while, but not always with this group. But I’m interested in trying this new form of producing scholarship.

00:04:09 Juliana Friend (JF): My name is Juliana Friend and I’m a student in Anthropology here at Berkeley. I’m a newcomer to this working group, but when I got the message, I thought that this conversation would be a really exciting form of scholarship, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

00:04:30 Malika (M): I’m Malika and I too am very excited about this new approach to producing scholarship and I enjoy and feel energized by this working group and what we have done for the past couple of semesters I’ve been involved.

00:04:47 Kaily (K): My name is Kaily. I’m in the department of Geography. Fairly new to the working group but I’m excited about the conversations.

00:04:54 ADK: Okay! I’m just going to ask everybody to speak up a little because we’ve got two recording devices going, just to make sure we pick up on you. My question to you is, obviously, now that we’re in the apocalypse [laughter] — maybe we shouldn’t say the apocalypse — but Trumplandia, we see the way that this administration is trying to effectuate their agenda at this incredibly rapid clip. It’s affecting large communities in huge swaths at a time. It’s not just a sliver of certain kinds of people that are being affected by executive orders; it’s all the people trying to enter the country, with legal visas or not, who identify as Muslim. It’s really specific and broad at the same time. So those are our communities, and those are the communities that this working group is designed to think about and think about ways of supporting through scholarship. So I just want to ask a really broad question to everybody: when you think about positionalities, identifications of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and religion, what do you make of the time that we are in right now? What are the things that are coming to the forefront for you? What’s really rising? And I know that can be hard to identify the kind of top emotions or thoughts that you are having because there are so many of them, because the rate of release by the administration is so fast — just try to think about the top two things that are coming to mind, thoughts that you are having, emotional trends, lines of questioning? Name two things that come to mind that intersect with all the issues that this group works on.

00:07:03 YR: Well I study Latin American literature, so a little bit of this whole political climate that we’re in dialogues with how Latin American dictatorships were micro- US’ neo-liberal experiments. But i think the current political climate sort of takes me there in relation to authoritative and retrograde discourse in service of corporate interest. And what other similarities could come up along the way moving forward? Maybe another thing might be my own subject-position as a woman of color, and the implications of what it means to just walk down the street in a climate like this — but that’s really specific/personal. Or broadly there are things like — one of topics we had in mind was the Women’s March and something that caught my attention from that event was how out of place I felt, even though part of its platform was inclusivity. It didn’t necessarily feel that way. There was something about it that didn’t resonate with certain realities of minority groups.

00:09:13 ADK: And other women of color have told me that too. “Was that a white woman’s march?” as one of the questions around those events — as amazing, as stupendous as they were. Okay so great, yeah, so anyone else?

00:09:29 PJ: Yeah. I think for me in particular, thinking about the events that are coming after today has really made me think about some of the conversations we’ve had in this room over the last couple of years, particularly around the early scholarship about what it means to be a non-white person on the internet. So, two streams of thought: either the internet is the great equalizer that you can be whoever you want to be, or this aura comes in — you don’t get to erase race or gender in this space. And I think that even though these conversations feel old in a certain way, they feel more prescient than ever, because I can give not only on the ground IRL [in real life], how you know different bodies are openly exposed to violence in different ways on the ground. I think we’re having that conversation a lot more — I should say we, but some have been having that conversation a lot more with the Black Lives Matter movement — where all of a sudden now the optics of it are different, more visual for some people. But I think the ways in which that violence carries over into the digital realm is something that we are going to have to start to grapple with in different ways as well. So that’s one thing that I’m thinking about… I’m just so mad about Sessions. I mean there’s so much to be mad about but like for me that really hits home as someone from Alabama, having to deal with his bullshit for 50 years in the Senate — and now to see him validated on a public stage in this way. Of course he’s been in the Senate majority for forever. Just to see him reach this level. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about optics, the optics of the Women’s March… there are critical conversations to be had around… what types of public gatherings don’t get immediately labeled as violent or as protests or… We’re just having those conversations. But for me the important thing about those events were the ways in which the optics really killed Trump. The way that it affects his ego, the fact that it circles back around. So for Sessions, for me, it’s the optics. The fact that he’s being validated to a position of power that he had not before, in a way he failed to gain before. Like, you are blatantly racist and you make racist policies that we cannot elect you to this type of sort of national leadership position. The fact that he won today just…

00:13:14 ADK: And I think if I’m if I’m recalling right, you’re alluding to the hearings to make Sessions a federal judge that happened years ago and I think Strom Thurmond was on that committee.

00:13:26 PJ: Yeah I think that was ‘87? I think.

00:13:28 ADK: And we’ll double check that, but when Strom Thurmond tells you you’re too racist to be a judge, I feel like you’re too racist to be a judge, [laughter] then, when that happens… Yeah, who else wants to chime in?

00:13:43 M: I think one of the things that I’ve been dealing with is that it feels like a second-hand exhaustion where I know that I haven’t necessarily been in all the places and all the streets but I just feel so exhausted. I feel like turning inward and feel like avoiding it and I think that part of it comes from just trying to make sense of this new white liberal frenzy that’s all about being on the streets and all about waking up and being disappointed with America for the first time. And I guess for me it’s that there has been so much cause and so many things to protest, at least from my positionality. Specifically on the eve of the Women’s March I remember being on Instagram and seeing someone I went to high school with posted a picture of their glittery uterus sign and wrote a caption about how they recognized this is the first time they felt this enraged to march. And I remember feeling like, “Really? Now? 2017, this moment?” A lot of it to me felt like it doesn’t feel surprising. It feels like what else is America gonna do after its first Black president. That this kind of energetic excitement around racism makes it, in my mind, to come after what some would perceive as false victory — or this incomplete victory — in the end of racism. Of course post-racial America would lead itself into this trap… I’ve been thinking a lot about protest, thinking a lot about what it means to have all of these representational exercises that show that we’re fed up and that we’re not gonna take it, but then what does it mean if those don’t actually hold any weight — or hold much weight — like if the Cabinet keeps getting confirmed, if the policies keep getting advanced. Then the courts can say that this ban is unlawful and Trump can say I’m gonna do it anyway and I’m gonna fire the Attorney General who says they want –

00:16:03 ADK: Or individual airports can just chose to defy the court order also

00:16:07 M: Right, right. It’s interesting to watch all of this play out in real time. And I’ve been seeing a lot of thought on Twitter, too. Like clearly online, it’s like, “Obama was lying when he said presidents can’t do what they wanted.” Or maybe he didn’t want to break the law, which is what Trump is doing. Or maybe he was more bound to the Constitution than our current administration is… It’s interesting for me to just watch people try to make sense of Trump and then map Trump’s trajectory onto Obama and what a lot of people perceive as his lack of ambition or this radical, on the other end of the spectrum, agenda. And we are seeing the Constitution being violated and ignored. And how we shouldn’t normalize that or accept that’s the way our government is supposed to run.

00:17:03 PJ: Just picking up on something that was said really quickly: I think we’re going to start to see the efficacy of protest in different ways. For me, one of the things I’ve been noticing is that so often we want to tie protest to policy change. But we know there’s no direct link in that sense. So I think back to when protest reached the space of physical violence against passive peaceful bodies, that sort of did something. Now i’m thinking the protest against Trump just sort of spins out into really insane memes like “fire the attorney.” So I think now it’s going to be, “I’m not interested because I wish none of this was happening.” But I think that watching when things like the protests at the airports happen to see what’s the reactionary play by the administration. I think we’re going to see that escalate to a point where even people on his side are starting to get skittish about it — you know like the firing of the Attorney General. Of course some people are like, “whatevs.” Great, but some people are starting to want to back away a little bit, and I think there’s going to be something interesting there to see how protest affects his ego so intimately. Because now that he has this huge platform to do things, we’re going to see the power of protest playing out in that way.

00:19:09 ADK: In a way that escalates the speed of action from the White House.

00:19:14 PJ: I think so, and I think that escalation of speed is part of…

00:19:18 ADK: Acceleration is the technical term…

00:19:20 PJ: That we’re in this moment of acceleration but that’s a part of what prompts people to get out again. I think that if this happened slowly over four years, people would have been resigned to it. Like, “ugh, of course.”

00:19:41 ADK: The long slow boil…

00:19:43: PJ: We’ll get it in 2018, 2020, but to see this kind of  counterpoint is causing people who initially supported what was happening to take a step back — people who were moderate. Of course, there’s people like the Bannons. But I think we started to see it immediately after the election, that people were like “oh, healthcare. Now I kind of regret my vote.” I think that part, that demographic is going to start to get more liberal.

00:20:31 ADK: I would love that. I admit that I’m a little dubious about that. There is a Tumblr that’s called Trump Regrets, but you know, I wish that were more of that conversation today, or tomorrow.

00:20:49 PJ:  There were a couple things around the time the executive order for the ban came out. There were people who were like “I voted for Trump but now my husband, who works for the military, is stuck.” I think that as it starts to actually affect that demographic more, we’ll see.

00:21:12 ADK: I love that.

00:21:14 K: I just want to comment on that because you mentioned optics, and I think there’s definitely something there about that push-and-pull that has to do with the visuality of protesters, but also this weird hyper-public persona that Trump has, while also being very secretive. Like, he’s all over Twitter, but you can see how surveillance is happening and from a very tight group of powerful people. They see what’s happening and they put out this very big social media ad material on protest and there’s an immediate push back. So it’s like we can see how the optics are working on social media, at least at the governmental power level. There’s a sort of panopticon that’s happening.

00:22:10 ADK: Was I correct in seeing Sean Spicer hold up printouts of tweets that Trump had issues with? I mean is that what the Press Secretary’s role is today? Is it printing out Twitter? I think there are some optics that, if this becomes normalized, we should remember when these things started to happen. And remember how inappropriate and childish a lot of the behavior seems to be, without a regard for appearing more presidential or seeming more mature or above it. There’s this kind of willingness to engage at this very middle school playground level with almost anybody. So the context of the Twitter collapse that Marwick and Boyd talk about, where you can just tweet at a celebrity and they retweet you, or they tweet back at you. And you shouldn’t share that same social space with a person of that status, but suddenly you do. It’s like “Oh, now the President can retweet or fight with almost anyone in the country — anyone in the world — whose tweet he picks up on and has some issue with.” So there’s something about the paradox of the optics where, on the one hand, it’s being very public and really wanting to be out there and way too much, too. Like not just in a way that’s overly accessible and welcoming, but overly engaged and overly immersed. Yeah, there’s something strange, that’s more — to drive this point about other kinds of dictatorship — more like a dictator would be or how a king would behave… I think about regimes like the Ancienne regime in France or something. It seems more like that kind of imperial power, which can be really capricious. A king can be capricious, but a president is not supposed to have those same triggers. Other people haven’t said things yet, does anyone else want to jump in?

00:24:25 JF: I have just an introductory remark on the questions of protest and exclusivity. Something that myself and many others are thinking about is how, as a white woman, I can best be an ally at face to face protests given two things. One, that you don’t want to dominate the space visually or physically. Two, that in particular events with particular aims, the presence of white people might matter a lot to the “optics” and impact of an event, by making it impossible for those in power to claim that opposition is only coming from those with marked subject positions.  So perhaps the decision of how to participate is particular to the context. And then there is the question of history. I think the anti-Milo toolkit addressed this really well. That there is a risk of reinforcing flippant, unqualified praise for free speech. Like when Milo calls himself a free speech fundamentalist, he obscures the history through which free speech has been made accessible for some people and not others. So how does someone from a less marked subject position play a positive role in protests in the moment, in the now, in a way that draws attention to that history rather than further effacing it.

00:26:25 ADK: Yeah and of course you’re talking about today on this campus, as Yiannopoulos is speaking tonight, and we know that you know that the protest is scheduled at 6:15 today, so when you say free speech in the now, you mean a few hours from now.

00:26:46 A1: So this is going back to the idea of the acceleration that is happening, but I just keep thinking about how I feel the acceleration and the moves that the Trump administration is pulling with its backlash to protesters and stuff shows how much of our governmental system is reliant on decorum. And a sense of people following rules that are not actually laws. And that then the fact that Trump and his team are not following those rules feels like mass confusion. I also feel within myself and other people a lack of education in asking “can he do that?” I start thinking to myself, “Can he do that? Is this unlawful?” [indecipherable] safeguarding to prevent someone from doing this or was it just relying on him not doing it, because that would be the sensible thing to do, and the non-racist, not hateful thing to do. But when someone kind of comes up with that and just starts pumping it out. Really really quickly we start to think, well what type of lawful recourse do we have and is there one?

00:28:00 ADK: Just to quickly address that the social drama that just played out with Yates and Trump does seem to be about balance of power and rule of law and the fact that there are parts of the federal government that are partitioned off from the presidency on purpose. The AG [attorney general] is supposed to interpret the law and the president is not supposed to influence the AG’s interpretation of the law. So I think to Paige’s point about the acceleration, one thing that the protests seem to effectuate was Sally Yate’s desire to perform, because she understood the people — that there was a kind of a vote that happened with the airport protests. And so who is going to represent that voice of the people, that will of the people. And the AG decided that she should be it. She decided she should be the actor on the national stage that expresses the will of the people in a dramatic way as that dramatis personae and she expressed it. And then, as you were saying Paige, it did not take but a few hours for the executive branch to respond with a big fat no. Yates is standing up for the rule of law, for the balance of power, and the executive says, “no, that’s not going to happen. I don’t respect that.” Then you know this administration is not going to respect the balance of power. And I think that’s pretty dramatic, as far as Victor Turner’s Social Drama four stage process goes, where first is breech, and then crisis. This is a major crisis, because it does throw, to Anonymous 1’s point, it does throws the whole underpinning of checks and balances into question, as far as people even within the Republican establishment taking sides. I do think that the message is very clear to them. And the message was that if you take sides that will be noted. There won’t be this safe zone of, “Oh, I’m going to respectfully disagree and I’m going to maintain my powerbase.” What it looks like the message was today — we can’t tell exactly how this is going to play out even three hours from now — but today, it looks like the message was, “If you disagree with this administration, you will not hold on to your powerbase. Your power will diminish in some way, large or small.”

00:30:40 Lindsay Ogle (LO): What’s so crazy, too, is that when that happened, when they started circulating some of the footage from Yates’ senate confirmation hearing and then it’s Sessions that’s asking her, “If you get an unconstitutional mandate from the president, are you prepared to be in opposition,” and that’s part of what got her confirmed. It’s just the…

00:31:14 ADK: The irony, the dramatic irony of it all…

00:31:16 LO: Shonda couldn’t write this [laughter]

00:31:21 ADK: Shonda Rhimes? Yeah.

00:31:23 LO: But I also think about Sarah Kendzior. She’s a scholar who did her doctoral work around fascism, but I think it was as an appellate journalist that she really created a robust Twitter feed. And she’s been, since the election started, urban clocking the ways that fascist undertones were there since the beginning from the rhetoric that was around Trump’s campaign. And one of the things that she Tweeted out really early, and repeated a couple of times, is that a lot of time the importance of noting, like you said, all the small things that seem really small but all are out of the norm, to note them, to keep a record of them. As someone who immigrated to this country — I think maybe from Albania. But the big thing will happen people being held up and the press secretary. That, to not let that become the norm in a sense of just letting it pass by. That sort of recordkeeping is going to be more and more important as we move forward.

00:32:50 ADK: Yeah, we got years of this, yeah.

00:33:03 YR: I think that that type of … trying to go back to the way it was, has a little bit to do with strategy. And I think a lot of the optics of protesting, or the knowing or not knowing how to do certain things, has to do with the aspects that are new; with strategizing, or not, within the political context that they’re working in. I think it’s not been something that’s been necessarily thought about, but strategies are important because it is the way to expand who becomes an ally through a process of spreading political initiative to sectors that might not know how to move forward or feel disempowered. And that’s part of a strategy that moves away from just optics of the protest. The political reality is different, so you can’t continue to use the same things that might have already worked.

00:34:54 ADK: Yeah, as Foucault said in the History of Sexuality, as resistance moves and tries to avoid the line of sight of power, and tries to do the unexpected, power also moves. Power can move very quickly and swiftly because it has all the resources. So it can line up right against the new resistance really, really well. And the kinds of things that were surprising to power in the countercultural moment of the 60s marches, people flooding the streets, people marching on Washington, people in big numbers, people of color attracting national media attention, and their words being repeated in a lot of places, all of those things that took power by surprise then, are well accounted for and well understood by power today. So that now protests are permitted and one of the things that Zisek said about George W Bush, or one of the things he quoted from his second RNC convention — there was a huge protest in Central Park and George W Bush was asked about that and his response was, “We are in Iraq today, to protect those people’s right to protest in Central Park.” In other words, power totally captures and coopts the tactic of the street protest. And I do think that the women’s march had some impact because of the fragile ego of the commander in chief, because he likes ratings and doesn’t like to be beaten on the numbers game. So I do think they had an effect, but I also think that they were already domesticated, to use a gender-charged term you know, before they really began, because power really knows that when protests come, they also go. So I think there’s some talk now of permanent protest. And of course, there are battles such as the Supreme Court nominee that will affect our laws for a generation or more. So but I don’t even think that a permanent protest is going to really disrupt the way that power is configured right now, even with social media, and the way that social media is thought of as freer space in which minoritarian people could express themselves and gain some purchase with a public or assemble a new kind of public or community. You know, as we said earlier, the president clearly understands that logic really, really well, and mobilizes what we in this group have called “White Twitter.” He mobilizes White Twitter really effectively and quickly.

00:37:45 M: It’s interesting, in the past I’ve been wary of anarchy, like the trope of the Black Lives Matter march and then a vanguard of white anarchists will come and start breaking windows. But now I’m hopeful… [laughter] Maybe that’s what’s missing, also thinking about the Women’s March from the perspective of white community, [indecipherable] how policing was different than for Black Lives Matter marches. I feel like there’s this idea that protests can be choreographed or they can be riots, and maybe what we need is more riot protests to… and I don’t even know if that would fix something. But in my head I’m greatly considering the possibility. And I’ve also been thinking about the conversations around the Muslim ban and rumors that are circulating, and I’ve been asking Black muslim folks that I’m in community with and a lot of them were like, “They’re [the government] not concerned with us.” They’re not going to go to the Philly mosque and protest or ‘register’ all of them. That’s not a concern for them, thinking about black immigrants in this current discourse around immigration. But still I’ve heard conversations that are grateful that [some] Black immigrants [seem] to have a little longer to figure out their shit because they’re not the ones being targeted right now in this moment. It’s coming, but they have a moment. I guess I’m trying to reckon with utilizing erasure as a tactic. That’s a lot to work through. But working to utilize the blind spots in this administration, or maybe creating some, to recognize that there are some things that this administration doesn’t care about the same way. I think that there are ways that some folks, some ‘issues’ are considered below white people’s attention and how might we make that blind spot politically advantageous

00:40:36 ADK: Yeah. That’s not so visible or common as Moutin says I’ve been thinking about… There’s a collective called the Rack’s Media Collective that writes or have written about seepage. There’s a studies scholar, a critical literary studies scholar, called Lawrence Liang — and some some of this is in the context of media piracy — but just thinking of seepage as something that happens when the moment and the situation is opportune. It takes advantage of the infrastructure not right up front on the face of the building. It’s something that happens in the cracks of the building and it can alter the composition of the material so that enough seepage can bring that building down. So I’ve been thinking about that opportunism and that kind of fast but small action. I feel like some of the most dominant and prominent way civil rights was happening in the 90s was through hip-hop, and I think there is something about that being a sonic register rather than a textual one or a filmic one — although it had a lot of visuality to it — that seemed to escape some of the moves made at the time in the Culture Wars. I mean, rap was fully in the culture wars, but it managed to thrive despite that. It managed to not be shut down in ways more traditional arts were shut down by the total collapse of the NEA. The NEA just completely cut off a lot of resisting art in this country. Like, for example, feminist art. Feminist art was totally cut off at the knees by the cultural wars. It was not because the NEA never funded hip-hop, so it wasn’t affected that way, so I’m [indecipherable] but what can escape and what can remain hidden in plain sight, what are those tactics right now?

00:42:57 LO: I think that in collaboration with that we’ve got to talk about capitalism…

00:43:03 ADK: Absolutely…

00:43:05 LO: Like who’s in power and who is in that inner circle of power. Part of me feels like until we have a full scale internal strike, we’re just nothing. You know, because that’s what they care about. If you cut their money off at the knees, that’s really the only type of opposition that has been tried in the small scale in the US, North America, and was quickly crushed time and time again. But for me that felt like the only type of opposition that there’s no playbook for how power can coopt that yet. I think that we’re talking about protest as a strategy but that gets re-infolded back into power, even if we’re talking about hip-hop. I think about who’s now being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and who’s getting MacArthur grants, and there are ways in which I think we all know that that has also been fully co-opted by capitalism and power. So for me it feels like, the last thing left, and also the thing that’s the most possible here…

00:44:35 ADK: Is a labor movement

00:44:37 LO: Is a labor movement.

00:44:38 ADK: Yeah, is a general strike. I mean in a way neoliberal capital already did the work of collapsing the labor movement in this country over decades. But I have heard the term “general strike” being thrown around. For the first time in my lifetime, I’m hearing calls for that. And I’m also seeing some analysis of this moment as a corporate takeover. The kinds of extraction industries and the deregulated financial industries that depend on their continual exploitation of the American populous, that at this point, those parts of society are done working through middlemen… They’re done trying to get the “right people” elected and they’ve basically effectuated a takeover of power directly and explicitly because they don’t want to deal with the political system anymore. They would rather just reconfigure the political system to be what they need it to be. One of the parts of hopefulness is some of those people making that argument are basically saying that is corporate running scared. We are near the end of the extraction of fossil fuels. I mean we’re not at the total end of that, but as that becomes more scarce as a resource, and as the financial industry is starting to get some blowback from that rampant extraction of value, I do think there is some resistance to that and that in a way the backlash is Trump. Or like Malika was saying, this is the backlash. It’s not that there will be a backlash to Trump; the Trump movement is already the backlash to Occupy and a critique to capital, it’s already a backlash to a social justice movement, and Black Lives Matter and an Obama presidency. It’s already the backlash. So I think there’s a broader need for — of course I think this because I’m an educator — but to Malika’s point, how people don’t understand that these things are all implicated to each other. How a black rights movement is a Muslim rights movement, not just because there are Black Muslims, but because it’s a human rights movement. And that a white women’s march is a movement for all women’s rights. There’s always been an understanding in this country of the relatedness of these movement in this country, and some of that is discourse and not having a common vocabulary. But a lot of it is how capitalism operated, keeping neighborhoods separate, keeping kids segregated in schools and housing, and people literally remaining ignorant of each other’s struggles. And I feel like we are really paying the price for a whole century of different groups striving for equality in this country, but not really learning the major lesson of the unity of the struggle and how they have been divided from each other, mostly by capital, but also by racist capital. Capital by racist capitalism in essence. I think there’s so much more critique to do, more education to do, and yet we don’t have time to put together, to reconfigure undergraduate education so it really teaches people, at 18, the lessons they need to be prepared to fight this. We don’t have time to get people ready. There’s ways we need to act right now and tonight and tomorrow. It feels like the temporalities are just so patient. Temporality is so long, and a Trump temporality is so short — it’s so minute by minute, hour by hour. I just want to try to launch as a final note — and I want people to weigh in if you can — one thing that’s on my mind is the new conservatism in terms of the emboldened nature of bullying and harassment and more or less explicit discrimination, racism, sexism. I’m interested in a really horrified way. I’m horrified by a new vocabulary that’s arising: by “cuck,” the word “muzzie,” the new kind of rebranding of leftist politics that I’m seeing on Breitbart. I definitely try not to go to Breitbart that much, but a whole vocabulary is being created — in essence new means, new slurs that are not the kind of slurs that trigger hate speech laws or hate crime laws, but new ones. New formations of language, insults, ways of demeaning other people and a freeness to say those things. I think I’ve brought this up to some people before that in the week after the election, two stars from Silicon Valley, that show on HBO, were in a bar in West Hollywood, and one of them is Pakistani and I think he is Muslim. A bunch of white guys just went up to him and started to call him “Paki” and started to use that word “cuck,” c-u-c-k, and a bouncer had to come and take them out. And these are famous people who hang out in a bar where tv actors hangout that this happened. This is not the sort of thing where California is exempt from that, or we don’t have to worry about that, because we’re at Berkeley. I definitely don’t think those things. I know how memes travel, I just don’t think that it travels, it spreads fast. And I think that some of the backlash, the Trump backlash, is people feeling silenced, silenced in their racist, sexist language, in their homophobic, transphobic language. They have not been say that as freely as they have wished in the past few years, and I think they’re finding new ways to speak and that is disturbing. And I think some people would say, “who cares, you know people call each other names.” But I think that a lot of work that we’ve done over the past few years is to surface the power of words and the power of discourse. So that is really concerning to me, that people in this room, that people everywhere, that my colleagues everywhere could walk down the street and have incidents happen to them that seem like a different world, that would be a different United States of America.

00:52:15 LO: I think someone brought this up too in a meeting, last semester, during the election, clocking white twitter, someone had made a list of the codewords that people use, and at the time, it was kind of like, “okay okay.” But now, like you said, the meme gains new life in other ways. It’s something to not [indecipherable] be noted, I think there was a way that it was passively noted in that moment– that these are the people — but to think about what does it mean to develop a new hate speech.

00:53:15 M: I’m curious as to all these young folks and people you go to school with, because they invited this man here, if they have had all this racism bubbling under the surface of their lives. How many years have they felt oppressed by their inability to say it? Or if something about this moment empowers them to claim this racism or this conservatism in a public way. Because it is troubling for me to accept that these leaders of the Berkeley Republicans, and I’ve had run-ins with people from Breitbart too, and their cries for free speech are supported by institutions, because they can offer the more fiscal and social privilege than the people that they’re endangering and I’m really interested to know if Twitter, had this… had they always known that they wanted to say these things out loud and couldn’t, or is the affirmation from whatever little frustrations they might be having as white individuals. This growing multicultural world has given them a new textbook for ways for dealing with their frustration, to yell and attack rather than sitting in it and processing in a more healthy way.

00:54:43 K: Yeah and I think how much of that is space for a movement for propaganda…

00:54:51 ADK: Absolutely. Yeah…

00:54:55 K: Yeah, like the Japanese internment, before that happened we had a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment. People posting these flyers saying Japs go home. And we have the same sort of thing, but it’s not flyers, it’s happening online and maybe we’re not tuned into it.

00:55:10 ADK: But it is taking place and maybe that’s convincing people. And to go back to the class argument it does seem like… Although the white vote for Trump was differentiated by class, let’s keep that in mind too. But there is something about the shrinking base of capital that the middle class and lower class can get a hold of in this country that’s driving this need for solidarity that is anti-, that is against any group that is perceived to be trying to take some of that for themselves. There’s a lot about economics that might be the origin rather than a native racism that I feel like either way — if you started as a racist and now you feel free and liberated, or you start as a feeling like my family doesn’t have an economic chance in this world, I’ve got to blame somebody and finding a convenient target– either way it can get to the same place very quickly.

00:56:15 ADK: Oh, do you want to introduce yourself? You can use a pseudonym or say anonymous.

00:56:20 LO: I’m Lindsey Ogle. I will say having seen the entire election cycle in Missouri — and there’s a couple of observations to that I’m thinking about — that there’s a lot of rhetoric about the reason why Trump won. What the left is missing, what’s coming from the right right now is, “your protests are ridiculous, you’re missing the point. That you have ignored middle.” That’s the point that I keep bringing up over and over again. (ADK: Sure.) What’s interesting to me is that when I read these articles, because I’ve been really trying to understand, I’ve been trying to identify the rationale for agreement, for not only electing Trump, but also these policies he’s making. Because in my own mind, and when I have conversations with various liberals, there’s a fine community in the Midwest, but a part of it they cannot dissociate those ideas from racism.

00:57:40 ADK: They’re the same idea.

00:57:41 LO: There cannot be anyway to agree or both. But it’s a huge portion of the population, so your option is to let a huge portion of the population that has this racist undercurrent just never able to voice or whatever, or something else is going on. Unfortunately I have not identified this something else that’s going on, but part of my dissertation work, but I will say to this ignoring of the Middle America and ignoring their needs, or sort of the lower middle class: that you read these articles, they’re not being written by those constituents. They’re being written by the wealthy or the upper or upper -middle class conservatives, and the conversations that I’m having with people are really, they’re seeing it. I find it interesting that that group, and this is just my personal experience, the conversations I’m having with people, they’re the ones that are targeting it, that are pointing to that. Maybe…

00:58:50 ADK: So that group as a construct are being convenient…

00:58:55 LO: I feel like it’s a trope, and it’s not that it’s not true. Obviously there is a lot of shrinking resources that feel alienated and feel like they have not been — they’re the deplorables they have not been recognized. But it’s interesting that that is the group that this community keeps going back to. But they’re not particularly interested in doing the work to help solve, as much as saying, you liberals are not looking at this community.

00:59:28 ADK: When you put it that way, it makes sense. Because if we think about this as the ascendency of corporatism to the White House, then corporatism can definitely not own its own interests in terms of interests that it’s representing and defending. They can’t say we’re here to defend the corporations and the exploitation and system that we have going on. It has to instead say to some reasonable sector of exploited and whose labor is being extracted, it has to say that to those people. It can’t own itself.

01:00:05 LO: Then it just becomes, “I’m sorry.” It just becomes a cycle. The reaction that discourse that comes from the left is the left says, “yeah you’re saying this, but you’re not interested in doing anything,” and the left’s saying “no, you’re not paying attention, you’re just…” and it’s this loop where no one’s actually really addressing the needs of these communities?

01:00:33 ADK: Right. The community just gets ignored either way.

01:00:34 LO: It’s interesting even the way that chop chop radio in the Midwest — that was rough, just listening to the way that people were discussing things leading up to it. They knew that Trump was going to win, for certain that Trump was going to win. So the shock that a lot of us felt…

01:00:59 ADK: They didn’t feel.

01:01:00 LO: They didn’t feel.

01:01:04 PJ: I just want to say that I feel like this is such a big part of this ongoing conversation about “how could this happen?” like the space that we’re in. But the reason that I feel like I never bought for a second — that my family never bought it for a second– the jig goes skyhigh that like black people in the Midwest. As someone who comes from the Global South, what is this vast swaths of untrodden whiteness that is completely devoid of… if you look at demographically and economically, who is continually at the bottom rungs of that in the US? But that’s why, I can never get behind this… “it’s not about race, it’s about economics.” Because like that is alternative facts. [laughter] Because all you have to do is look at this country

01:02:06 ADK: All the black and brown people didn’t just move to the edges…

01:02:09 PJ: Or you just sort of think of this continual read of the transcript of Trump’s speech at the Black History Month breakfast, or brunch or whatever he held. And it’s still this discourse of the blacks in the inner cities. Being head of HUD is going to fix the inner cities…

01:02:30 indistinct affirmations

01:02:43 PJ: And that’s what makes this so infuriating to see this being taken up by the press over and over again, this type of justification, because it just completely erases the actual on the ground reality. Because if you go… yeah that’s final.

01:03:02 ADK: Well thank you everybody so much for participating today, I thought this was really amazing and productive and I just thank everybody. Okay.

 

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