Daily Archives: December 4, 2019

In Russia, an Updated Law With New Restrictions on Freedom of Speech – The New York Times

Posted: December 4, 2019 at 9:46 am

MOSCOW For years, nonprofit organizations in Russia have contended with a law branding them as foreign agents if they took money from abroad, presenting fines and bureaucratic hurdles that sometimes pushed those groups to shut down.

Now, individuals who publish anything online and get paid from foreign sources will face the same legal obstacles.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday signed into law several legal amendments that will require individuals to register as foreign agents if they publish printed, audio, audiovisual, or other reports and materials and receive money from foreign governments, foreign organizations, or even simply from foreign citizens.

Russian lawmakers passed the amendments to Russias legal code in recent weeks despite opposition from activists, public figures, and international critics, who argued that the new restrictions will further stifle free speech. Russians generally dont face outright censorship online, but they increasingly fear legal consequences for posting anti-government messages.

The law would represent a disproportionate interference in the freedom of expression and media freedom, Harlem Dsir, the representative on freedom of the media for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in a statement last month. It may have a considerable chilling effect on journalists, as well as on bloggers, experts, or other individuals publishing information, particularly online.

The lawmakers said they were responding to foreign agent laws in other countries, pointing to the case of Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist deported from the United States in October after being convicted of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government.

Like many of Russias laws restricting freedom of expression, the new amendments appear likely to be applied selectively in order to serve as a deterrent. A lawmaker who helped draft the law, Vasily Piskarev, said he expected the amendments to apply to a small circle of individuals.

But in theory, any Russian who is paid by foreign news organizations, or simply posts on social media while receiving money from abroad, could be forced to register under the new law. Compliance would require stating publicly that one is a foreign agent and filing financial reports with the government.

Foreign organizations like the MacArthur Foundation have shuttered their offices in Russia in recent years in response to the foreign agent law. Some Russian organizations that get foreign funding, like the human rights group Memorial, have faced hefty fines for noncompliance for instance, for failing to spell out their foreign agent status in an Instagram account.

The new amendments targeting individuals could apply to someone who posts on Facebook and receives income from a rental apartment in Minsk, a Memorial lawyer, Marina Agaltsova, said in a column about the law. It creates, she went on, limitless possibilities for interpretation.

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FAITH IN ACTION COLUMN: Whos free speech protecting these days? – Wicked Local Cambridge

Posted: at 9:46 am

Free speech is one of the cornerstones of American democracy. However, what are the boundaries of free speech? In the current political milieu, the protection of free speech appears to have an amorphous and wide expanse when it comes to sexist, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic and xenophobic rants on many social media platforms and college campuses.

The recent Knight Foundation survey polled high schoolers view on the First Amendment; it found that Boys and white students are less inclined than girls and students of color to agree with the statement: The First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees. Whos protected by free speech calls into question what the First Amendment to the Constitution means when it states, Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.

On Nov. 20, Cambridge Community Television held a panel discussion tackling the question titled Civil Discussion in an Uncivilized World: Are there limits to the First Amendment? Ceasar L. McDowell, professor of the practice of civic design at MIT, and Jim Braude of WGBHs Greater Boston and Boston Public Radio were the panelists.

Susan Fleischmann, executive director of CCTV, who was once a First Amendment absolutist, wanted a discussion on the topic because, under the present administration, hate speech appears to protect the offenders.

For over 30 years, CCTV has proudly served as a First Amendment forum from our community, and I have defended speech that has been personally very challenging. However, the needle has dramatically moved, stated Fleischmann.

Both McDowell and Braude agreed that today, no one would dispute that there has been a steady decline in public civil discourse. People who traffic in hate speech appear to have boundless ways of disseminating their vitriol. When challenged, they push back at their opponents contesting First Amendment protection of free speech.

McDowell shared with the audience that he struggles with where are the limits of what we can say to each other, particularly with technology. Many, like McDowell, feel that social media (sites like Facebook and Twitter) are not doing enough to counter hate and violent speech. McDowell acknowledges that people have the right to express their views and need venues to do so, but he wants to know what it means to give voice in public spaces. In other words, is ones right to free speech limited by where you are, what you say, and how you say it?

For example, McDowell shared a recent incident he experienced on a crowded train from Harvard Square to Kendall Square. Two white guys on the Red Line were deliberately talking loud, spewing sexist and xenophobic epithets. McDowell wondered if the guys had a right to speak like that on a train where people didnt choose to be in that space for that sort of speech. The incident highlighted for McDowell the need for civil conversations in public spaces that uphold a sense of responsibility to each other and the greater society. However, in todays divisive climate, We are a right space society, McDowell told the audience (meaning protected by the First Amendment), and not a responsibility space society.

Braude advised that before you query how people use their speech in the public sphere, you have to ask, How does everyone get the right to speak?" In other words, how does society democratize voices in the public sphere to create a level playing field, where no voice is drowned out by louder ones due to social capital, political influence, money or bullying.

Social media, on the one hand, have democratized voices, especially marginalized voices in society due to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and political affiliations to name a few. On the other hand, social media has created a neo-tribalism where people connect only with those of similar views. The adverse outcomes have been the dissemination of hateful language, deliberate misinformation and a deepening disconnection from one another and society all protected by anonymity.

Both panelists are proponents of anti-anonymity on social media. Its a controversial and censored stance because opponents contest anti-anonymity limits free speech, whereas proponents argue it enforces a greater responsibility to own your words.

The lack of a civic education contributes in part to the breakdown of our body politic. McDowell suggested an antidote to the microaggressions we see on social media are micro-inclusions where institutions and community spaces, like CCTV, have people come together and talk about their rights and duties of citizenship.

In thanking the panelists and audience, Fleischmann stated: I think this conversation illustrated the dangers of backing down from a principled support of free speech, as well as the need for us to all take responsibility, not only for ourselves as speakers, but as witnesses who cannot sit idly by.

I agree with Fleischmann.

As someone who intersects multiple identities and is the target of various forms of anonymous hate speech, its exhausting to bear the weight of a bigots tongue solely.

Cambridge resident Rev. Irene Monroe is a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Monroe also does a weekly Monday segment called All Revd Up on WGBH, a Boston member station of National Public Radio.

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California Reporting Project Named the Recipient of FAC’s Free Speech & Open Government Award – YubaNet

Posted: at 9:46 am

December 2, 2019 The First Amendment Coalition is pleased to announce the California Reporting Project is the recipient of the 2019 Free Speech & Open Government Award, given in recognition of the projects groundbreaking statewide campaign to bring to light records of police misconduct.

The project, an unprecedented collaboration of competing newsrooms, started as a cooperative effort between the Bay Area News Group/Southern California News Group, Capital Public Radio, Investigative Studios (of UC Berkeleys Investigative Reporting Project), KPCC/LAist, KQED and the Los Angeles Times to submit requests for records under Californias new police transparency law, Senate Bill 1421, and to share results. The initiative quickly grew, and now includes more than 40 newsrooms that have produced more than 125 original stories, detailing police use-of-force and instances of misconduct.

Representatives of the project will be recognized on Thursday at a ceremony at the California Press Foundations Annual Winter Meeting in San Francisco. The award comes with a $1,000 prize.

For the project, journalists submitted hundreds of California Public Records Act requests and have obtained files from approximately 2,000 cases of police misconduct and serious use of force. And the work is ongoing, with the cooperating newsrooms continuing to produce essential accountability journalism.

The California Reporting Project represents a truly groundbreaking approach to journalism and transparency in the public interest, said FAC Executive Director David Snyder. Unafraid to knock down the walls that traditionally separate competing journalists, this group did an immense public service to California and to all members of the public, who gained so much from the creative and aggressive approach the Project embodies.

Read more about the California Reporting Project and the resulting news coverageSB 1421, the new police transparency law, faced numerous obstacles. It was the subject of opposition, first in the California Legislature and then in the courts, where police labor unions and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sought to weaken it.*

FAC received numerous nominations this year for work that advanced the publics right to know about police misconduct records. While the California Reporting Project was the clear choice for FACs 2019 award, the Award Committee felt compelled to also recognize several worthy nominees for their steadfast efforts on SB 1421 and related matters.

Specifically, the committee recognizes tireless and creative work of attorney Tenaya Rodewald, special counsel at the Sheppard Mullin law firm. Ms. Rodewald served as lead counsel in statewide litigation to enforce SB 1421. Representing FAC and several media coalitions, Ms. Rodewald was the principal author of many of the key legal arguments that vindicated the publics right to know.

The committee also recognizes students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, who under the leadership of Bay Area News Group investigative reporter Thomas Peele worked through numerous police misconduct cases as part of the California Reporting Project.


Finally, the committee recognizes state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who authored the measure that undid decades of secrecy over records related to use-of-force, official dishonesty affecting officers work, and records of sustained findings of certain kinds of sexual misconduct.

*The First Amendment Coalition has been and continues to be involved in the legal fight in support of SB 1421, including by joining California Reporting Project partner KQED in a lawsuit against Attorney General Xavier Becerras office over its refusal to release SB 1421 records. However, FAC is not a participant in the journalistic accomplishments for which this award is being given.

The First Amendment Coalition is a nonprofit organization based in San Rafael, Calif., that fights for free speech, government transparency and the publics right to know. Join our fight today andbecome a member (its free).

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SDSU touts ‘free speech’ credentials…and new ‘bias’ reporting tool – Campus Reform

Posted: at 9:46 am

San Diego State University launched a new bias reporting system, but packaged it as part of a larger community communication effort, including a website dedicated to "free speech."

In addition to being launched alongside a tool that encourages the reporting of "incidents of bias," the "free speech" website focuses in large part on reserving the rights of the university to restrict the "time, place, and manner" of speech. The site for the university's new "inclusive reporting system" encourages students to report "instances that promote our campus commitment, as well as those that fall short."

Packaged alongside the reporting system was the launch of the university's "free speech" website, including a statement about the school's commitment "to providing both the space and the conditions that encourage open and free exchange."

"Negative incident examples" cited by the university include things like "proselytizing on campus," and posting fliers that "contain messages of bias." Students are asked to report these incidents via a web portal. From there, the incidents will be reviewed by a board with members from various departments, including the University Police and the Division of Diversity and Innovation. This board will then decide whether or not "further review and action" needs to be taken in regard to each report.

[RELATED: Ky. bill would make every zone a 'free speech zone']

In addition to asking about the race of the individual filing the report, the incident report form also prompts the user to select their gender, offering 12 options, including not only "transgender," but also "genderqueer," "agender," "two spirit," and "gender fluid."

Packaged alongside the reporting system was the launch of the university's "free speech" website, including a statement about the school's commitment "to providing both the space and the conditions that encourage open and free exchange."

"Both resources were developed and launched collaboratively with SDSU divisions and departments after a community call namely from students and faculty to provide clear and easily accessible information, policies and resources related to free expression and campus activities," the university stated in a dual announcement.

A section of the website labeled "learn," tells students that "The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. The amendment guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government."

Immediately after synthesizing its version of the First Amendment, the university goes on to detail its right to maintain "reasonable regulations" surrounding free speech on campus.

All organizations, whether recognized student groups or not, are required to submit an application for a permit before tabling anywhere on campus. Applications from recognized student groups must be submitted two weeks before the desired date of tabling. The policy also requires that permission to table be given by the university 48 hours in advance of the scheduled tabling.

[RELATED: University promised to get rid of free speech area policy SIXTEEN years ago, so why is it still on the books?]

The university uses atriage system for permit applications. Different types of events fit into different "tiers." "Simple tabling" efforts by student groups are classified within the first tier, and as such are subject to the time constraints previously noted. The policy is unclear about the classification for "simple tabling" for off-campus groups but is clear that the first is reserved for affiliated groups. Permits for second-tier events must be applied for a full month before the desired date. Other tiers have even longer wait periods, as much as four months in some cases.

The same policy notes that "SDSU reserves the right to deny permitting to any organization that is not affiliated with the University.

The new website also features a free speechFAQ section, which again directs students to the policy that details these regulations, characterizing them as reasonable "time, place, and manner" restrictions.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan

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Letter to the Editor: Created Equal VP responds to free speech at Georgia State – The Signal

Posted: at 9:46 am

Georgia State is a safe place for free speech so long as you hold positions popular with campus administration. This was the message sent by Georgia State prior to, during and after the recent visit of Created Equal, the pro-life organization of which I am vice president.

As documented by The Signal, days before we arrived for pro-life outreach to students, the university issued a campus-wide email suggesting our opinions would be offensive, hurtful, mean-spirited and hateful.

This presented a wildly inaccurate picture of our team poisoning the well by bracing students for a false stereotype. Indeed, as video evidence shows, we are often on the receiving end of hate-fueled verbal and physical attacks.

The frustration of our speech escalated during the event to outright protest when Senior Director of Psychological and Health Services Dr. Jill Lee-Barber held and handed out No Hate at State signs next to our display.

Lee-Barber insisted this was not related to our display, but her colleague proved this false. Holding one of the No Hate at State signs, Dr. Mikyta Daugherty, associate director of Clinical Services, stationed herself squarely in front of our display, obscuring the image of an aborted fetus and refusing to move. She denied her role as an administrative official.

All of this was captured on video.

Afterward, we called on Georgia State to apologize for the interference with our free speech. In response, a Georgia State spokesperson said that the aforementioned email referring to hateful speech was a standard email sent every fall as a general notice about possible upcoming events.

But this is specious. The email was issued more than two months into the semester just prior to our event, and begins with In the next week Clearly, this was sent in relation to our event.

Further, Georgia State claimed that the content of the campus-wide email is standard language posted on the Dean of Students website. But this is demonstrably false. An investigation of the site reveals no such reference to hateful or mean-spirited speech.

Georgia State is weaving a web of falsehoods to obscure their frustration of our speech. And no comment has been made by administrators regarding Daugherty or Lee-Barbers actions.

Tragically, our experience is not unique. Afterward, a member of Georgia States faculty and staff, insisting on anonymity for reasons which are evident, wrote us the following: I work at GSU and I am truly scared for my job if I speak up on campus. Free speech for faculty and staff does not exist at public universities if you are pro-life or dont agree with the liberal and leftist narrative. I cannot afford to lose my job and so choose to stay silent.

This suppression of speech from individuals with pro-life views is an affront to higher education.

Georgia State needs more than policies which feign obeisance to the First Amendment. The administration needs not only to apologize to Created Equal but to take decisive action to assure that frustration of speech from individuals with unpopular opinions will not be permitted on the campus.

Seth Drayer

Vice President, Created Equal

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Republicans Push To Call Adam Schiff To Testify In This Week’s Hearings – Free Speech TV

Posted: at 9:46 am

The Randi Rhodes Show delivers smart, forward, free-thinking, entertaining, liberal news and opinion that challenge the status quo and amplifies free speech. For ten years in a row, Randi was the number one progressive talk radio show host in America. After more than two decades of working for corporate radio, Randi decided to strike out on her own.

This move allows Randi to deliver her message with no strings attached. Randi is a spot-on broad-minded journalist and broadcaster who knows the difference between a demagogue and a statesman. Dedicated to social justice, Randi puts her reputation on the line for the truth. Committed to the journalistic standards that corporate media often ignores, The Randi Rhodes Show takes enormous pride in bringing the power of knowledge to her viewers.

Randi says things that make the establishment uncomfortable. She has been hunted and punished by both the liberal establishment and the right-wing lunatics. The press has referred to her as abusive, hectoring, cocksure, a Goddess, an insatiable mind, the only proven model for how liberal talk might compete nationally, and a barroom preacher.

Knowledge is Power. So Get Some.

Watch The Randi Rhodes Show( freespeech.org/show/the-randi-rhodes-show) every weekday at 3 pm ET on Free Speech TV & catch up with clips from the program down below!

Adam Schiff Randi Rhodes The Randi Rhodes Show Trump Impeachment

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YouTube CEO on censoring content: ‘Balance responsibility with freedom of speech’ – Yahoo Celebrity

Posted: at 9:46 am

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki met with60 Minutesreporter Lesley Stahl to discuss the sites attempt at policing controversial content while maintaining an open platform. Social media sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have come under scrutiny for allowing misinformation to be promoted on their platforms.

YouTube attempts to guard against videos that promote hate and violence, but the site also polices political ads that are blatant lies. Politicians are always accusing their opponents of lying, said Wojcicki. That said, it's not OK to have technically manipulated content that would be misleading.

YouTube has made major efforts to try and curb controversial content, including 10,000 employees who sole purpose is to locate and flag misinformation, according to Wojcicki. But the process can be daunting because more than 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

To make matters worse, hate groups are constantly adjusting their content and using hidden imagery or codewords so it is harder to detect. For every area we work with experts, and we know all the hand signals, the messaging, the flags, the songs, and so, there's quite a lot of context that goes into every single video to be able to understand what are they really trying to say with this video, said Wojcicki.

While some people are glad that YouTube is trying to curb harmful content, others like Fox News contributor Dan Bongino do not like the policing. While this episode aired, he tweeted, Make absolutely NO MISTAKE, the 60 Minutes piece on YouTube tonight is nothing more than a push by liberal activists to silence conservatives through corporate pressure. Liberals, and their media pals, DESPISE free speech.

YouTube maintains, however, that it is working diligently to maintain an open platform for everyone. You can go too far and that can become censorship, said Wojcicki, And so we have been working really hard to figure out what's the right way to balance responsibility with freedom of speech.

60 Minutesairs Sundays at 7 p.m. onCBS.

Watch as Michael Moore admits that President Donald Trump was right about rigged political system:

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Hollywood Has a New Profit Model: Its Own Scandals – OZY

Posted: at 9:45 am

For the November launch of The Morning Show, Apple hosted a lavish premiere at New York Citys Lincoln Center complete with klieg lights, celebrity guests and black-carpet (the new red?) appearances by the shows stars, including Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

The event announced Apples foray into original TV through its Apple TV+ service. But the tech giant is far from alone in betting on projects that deal directly, if in fictionalized form, with the sexual misconduct scandals that have rocked the media industry in the past few years.

Morning Show stars Aniston and Witherspoon, for example, also helped develop the series through their respective production companies, Echo Films and Hello Sunshine. Likewise, Charlize Theron has a producer credit on Bombshell (which she also stars in), a Lionsgate film dramatizing the downfall of Fox News founder Roger Ailes at the hands of female staffers and on-air talent who exposed years of sexual abuse accusations against him.

These kinds of news stories are kind of pre-sold because everyone already knows the basic narrative structure of whats going to happen.

Robert Thompson, Syracuse University

Hollywood has long reflected the zeitgeist, from films like the Watergate-era All the Presidents Men to The Big Short, which follows the 2008 financial crash. But The Morning Show is part of a new wave of projects, ones that reflect how the media industry is turning its own recent wrongs into profits, even as the events they focus on are playing out in ongoing investigations, litigation and press coverage. Backed by some of Hollywoods most powerful women, theyre also part of the #MeToo movement, supercharged by the misconduct they portray.

Annapurna Pictures and Plan B Entertainment have snapped up film rights to She Said. The book by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey recounts how they investigated and broke the story of movie mogul Harvey Weinsteins long history of alleged sexual misconduct.

They want to use the platform they have to put a stop to this as much as possible, says Karie Bible, box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, about the prominent part women are playing in bringing these stories to the screen.

These projects are equally fueled by the demands of peak content and time-tested dramatic elements, including high-profile figures in peril, sex scandals and revenge. For producers and studios, the hope is that it all adds up to a ready-made audience.

Thesekinds of news stories adapted for film and TV are kind of pre-sold becauseeveryone already knows the basic narrative structure of whats going tohappen, says Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse Universitys NewhouseSchool of Public Communications.

Thats true even for a fictional series like The Morning Show, which parallels the removal of Matt Lauer from the Today show after sexual harassment allegations against the co-host surfaced in 2017. Everyone knows its the Matt Lauer story, so you dont have to show salacious clips to sell it, says Thompson.

These dramas invariably involve figures familiar to the public. The reason these stories are getting so much focus is not because theyre about the media business itself, but about well-known people, says Henry McGee, a former HBO executive who lectures on business administration at Harvard Business School.

If thats not enough to lure audiences, key roles are attracting A-list Hollywood talent. Along with Aniston and Witherspoon, The Morning Show boasts Steve Carell, while Bombshell features a trio of stars: Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie.

Three great roles for three top-caliber actresses, says Bible. That doesnt happen every day.

Whether the star-studded cast and societal relevance will translate into big box office for Bombshell is hard to predict, say experts. At the end of the day, a movie has to bring you in and entertain you even while youre receiving a message, says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. It still has to be [a] good movie.

Bombshell opens only months after The Loudest Voice, the Showtime limited series starring Russell Crowe and Naomi Watts that ran this summer and also dealt with the Ailes scandal. Meanwhile, the Clint Eastwood-directed Richard Jewell also questions ethics in the media industry, suggesting that an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter offered sex in return for tips. The newspaper has pushed back, disputing the movies depiction.

For its part, The Morning Show has drawn mixed critical response (a 62 percent fresh rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes) but appears to have intrigued potential viewers.

Leading up to its Nov. 1 premiere, it was among the 10 most-searched TV titles, according to MiDiA Research, which tracks audience metrics across 410 shows. With the subscription-based Apple TV+ just launching, though, it will take more time to judge whether interest in The Morning Show leads to more Apple TV+ sign-ups.

That said, this age of peak content means steady demand for material that aspires to capture the cultural moment. Think of series like HBOs Succession, which portrays the owners of a media and hospitality empire at war among themselves, or Netflixs Black Mirror, which explores the unintended consequences of technology.

Combine that trend with the #MeToo era, and I suspect were going to see a lot more of these stories, says the Newhouse Schools Thompson.

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‘Cancel Culture’ wins Macquarie Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year – Happy Mag

Posted: at 9:45 am

Macquarie Dictionary has announced cancel culture as its Word Of The Year,beating out the likes of thicc and robodebt to take the 2019 title.

Macquarie Dictionarys selection criteria for Word of the Year is based on which word best reflects the year that passed, and one wouldnt be amiss for feeling like cancel culture may reflect the last few.

Cancel culture is defined in the Macquarie Dictionary as a:

call for or bring about the withdrawl of support from [for] a public figure, such as cancellation of an acting role, a ban on playing an artists music, removal from social media, etc., usually in response to an accusation of a socially unacceptable action or comment by the figure.

The zeitgeist has been riddled with cancel culture and call-out culture for a few years now. From the heights of the #metoo controversies which oversaw the toppling of multiple celebrity empires to comedians getting railed for the social media faux pas of their past, no one in the spotlight is safe from the ire of the twitter populace.

Theres no doubt that the outcomes of holding powerful people accountable for their actions have completely changed the trajectory of social dynamics. With the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey being exposed as sex offenders and a few Aussie music darlings outed as complete douche-canoes, the movement has had an overwhelmingly positive effect.

However, many critics of it (former President Barack Obama and comedian Sarah Silverman to name a few) say that its gone too far.

It sure holds a controversial place in pop culture history. Having publicly exhumed the social hierarchy of man with power does what he wants many people in the crosshairs of cancel culture have also, albeit arguably, copped a rather unfair social ribbing. However one feels the good outweighs the unfair, and any overcorrection will inevitably subside as the pendulum swings back to the middle. As it always does with everything.

If you disagree with MacquariesWord of the Yearand demand it be canceled for being problematic, your voice can be heard on twitter. Or alternatively, vote for the Peoples Choice Word of the Yearright here.

I wanted thicc to win anyway.

Macquarie Dictionary also gave honourable mentions to eco-anxiety and Ngangkari, the former self-explanatory and the latter being an Indigenous language word meaning practitioner of bush medicine.

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This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook: Review – Resilience

Posted: at 9:45 am

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is many things at once: a hopeful mass movement; a commuters nightmare; a source of inspiration; an apocalyptic kick up the arse. Within the UK climate movement, it has become a Rorschach test. For some, its shock doctrine ethos flirts with eco-fascism. For others, the actions have become their lifes calling.This Is Not A Drillhas been written to clarify, inform, inspire and equip the people who are undecided yet interested in moving deeper into the climate action zeitgeist XR has ingeniously catalysed.

The book is loud and proud. Its hot pink cover is impossible to ignore, and pages of the text are dedicated to vivid woodcut imagery and all-caps messages. The book contains a wealth of essays, anecdotes, and advice. All are short and generally unfussy: no footnotes here. They are written by people from a variety of backgrounds, united through their concern over climate breakdown. An Indian farmer and a Californian firefighter offer their perspectives; individuals working in academia, climate science, politics and other fields weigh in too. These include Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives; psychotherapist Susie Orbach; Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an indigenous rights campaigner from the Mbororo community in Chad; and visionary economist Kate Raworth, among many others.

Notably, XR is working to develop a deeper understanding of climate justice and the causes of climate breakdown. The Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva writes a powerful foreword stating explicitly that ecocide and genocide are one indivisible process, pointing to colonialisms ravaging motive by quoting US President Andrew Jacksons 1833 call for a superior race to triumph over native people in America. She and other contributors make it clear that colonialism and capitalism comprise a pincer movement that is destroying life as we know it. This lays important foundations for conversations about what an ecologically healthy and socially just future needs to consign to history.

These big global overviews of climate breakdown and its impact on different communities are salutary reads for any reader. The more practical pieces that explore the logistics of effective direct action are excellent too. One, Cultural Roadblocks, shares the story behind how XR sourced a boat for activism purposes, and it conveys the mix of determination, absurdity, effort and camaraderie that collective action can involve. From branding textiles, to befriending journalists, to cooking on-site meals that wont give everyone food poisoning, the best of these chapters share the qualities of being informal, smart, and motivating.

There is unexplored tension in the text. Horizontal self-organising is recommended throughout, yet the encouraged action, reiterated through a number of chapters, remains bafflingly prescriptive: disrupt transport in capital cities. Blocking bridges is a tactic, but is it the only option? According toThis Is Not A Drill,it would seem so. The roots to this strategy can be found in the chapter written by XR co-founder Roger Hallam, where he states that disrupting cities is the only option: Thats just the way it is. Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi, effective civil rights leaders whose work Hallam cites elsewhere, might have disagreed with this dogma; the Salt Marches in India and the Selma to Montgomery marches in the US, for example, were pivotal to their respective causes.

Its worth noting that Hallam has form in presenting opinion as fact. When interviewed on the Politics Theory Otherpodcast, he was challenged on the claim that most prison officers are black, which appeared in the (now-deleted) XR prison handbook. Hallam doubled down on the claim, saying, Thats just an empirical fact. I mean, Ive been to prison several times and thats the fact of the matter. Given that, in reality, over 94 per cent of all UK prison officers are white, it seems wise to take Hallams other empirical facts with a pinch of salt, city roadblocks as a means to liberation for all being one of them.

Most contributors wisely avoid this queasy romanticising of peculiarly XR views, though it does crop up in some pieces. One contributor states that it is impossible to overstate the significance of where we are now, and brags about the Easter Rebellion costing the city of London tens of millions of pounds. Another self-styled Rebel offers a misty-eyed account of hands [being] held together with love and superglue and an emotional police officer serenading arrestees with Leonard CohensHallelujah.Meanwhile, the legal team chapter opening comes across as an unconvincing disclaimer for past errors around police relations (Extinction Rebellion is clear that the police continue to be structurally racist)

During the October Rebellion in London. By Garry Knight, under a Public Domain dedication

XRs other hallmark, a kind ofDads Army-ish tendency to dismiss other approaches because Theres a war on, you know!, emerges in these essays too. Mulishness is an essential trait when you are delivering a message that many would rather not hear, but the assertion that Extinction Rebellion thinks beyond politics (unlike everyone who isnt in XR) is the kind of sanctimony that most people would cross the street to avoid. This kind of messaging suggests that XR is still processing criticisms that their model is alienating to many.

This Is Not A Drilllooks and feels well-calibrated towards an audience with disposable time, income and privilege. Its not a bad strategy for a pressure group, but risky for a beyond-politics mass movement. People living low- or no-wage existences, with more immediate survival concerns, do not seem to figure in XRs plans, except perhaps as recipients of XRs heroism. Black and brown climate activists repeatedly marginalised by XR will not find olive branches here. Instead, another XR cofounder, Gail Bradbrook, says, All the children are our children. The pink cover ofThis Is Not A Drillwill be a status symbol to some and a red flag to others.

This Is Not A Drillis at its best when presenting overwhelming information in a clear, digestible way that moves readers towards re-assessing their personal and political (yes, political!) choices. Not everyone who reads it will block a road, but plenty will take valuable action of some form, feel more empowered to make individual changes without apology and know more about the seismic policies we must demand at a national level. The book is an encouraging and timely primer for those looking to join XR, but it also mythologises XR as the last word on survival in the age of climate breakdown. In reality, it is one of many essential groups, part of a much wider ecosystem of action. Starting points for people eager to act beyond voting, recycling and A-to-B marches include Go Fossil Free, Reclaim the Power, and the UK Student Climate Network, to name just a few. These groups empower people to intervene in business as usual using a wide variety of effective tactics.

The final section begins with an exhortation: TIME TO STOP READING. And a diagram of how to block a road. Its a clever editorial decision, but it is also a missed opportunity. A movement directory, much as it might pain some XR folk, could connect people with others who are already deep into the thinking and doing the work of climate justice. XR presents itself as the only show on the road. Issues of crediting others aside, this assumption breeds the saviour complex that currently limits XRs appeal.

A revolution is happening, yes. But it needs to meaningfully communicate with people who dont need to be saviours, and dont care to be saved people who care because they want to survive.

Teaser photo credit: Extinction Rebellion at Oxford Circus. By Mark Ramsay, under a CC BY 2.0 license

Excerpt from:

This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook: Review - Resilience

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