August 2020


  1. 4 in 10 Black sexual minority men have faced police discrimination, survey analysis finds
  2. Fake News Pandemic has skyrocketed: Latin America under a Fakecracy
  3. There are many leaders of today’s protest movement – just like the civil rights movement
  4. What 9/11 Taught Me about COVID-19

4 in 10 Black sexual minority men have faced police discrimination, survey analysis finds


Some 43% of Black men who identify as gay, bisexual or other sexual minority say they experienced discrimination from police and other law enforcement officers in the past year, according to a survey of more than 1,000 Black sexual minority men from across the U.S. analyzed in new research published in Social Science & Medicine. The researchers also found an association between law enforcement and police discrimination and survey participants being less willing to take medication highly effective at preventing HIV contraction.

“Black sexual minority men are largely invisible in the research and discourse on the effects of policing and incarceration in the U.S.,” says Devin English, assistant professor of public health at Rutgers University and lead author on the paper. “Often the story we read or research we produce implicitly or explicitly focuses on heteronormative experiences. We conducted this study to fill that gap.”

The authors analyzed survey responses from 1,172 Black sexual minority men, most of whom identified as gay, were single and had some college education. About 86% had never been incarcerated and 98% hadn’t been arrested within the three months prior to the survey, conducted online starting in 2017. The authors note “the demographics of our participants were not entirely representative of Black LGBT communities generally and experienced lower rates of incarceration and arrests than Black [sexual minority men] in past studies.”

Responses were culled from the Understanding New Infections Through Targeted Epidemiology study — UNITE — out of Hunter College. Researchers in 2017 started recruiting 8,000 sexually active HIV-negative men who have sex with men from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico for research on factors that lead to HIV infection. Researchers particularly recruited Black, Latino and multiracial participants through targeted advertisements on social media and sexual networking sites.


Police discrimination, life-saving medication

Past analyses from other researchers haven’t identified a link between incarceration and sexual minority men being aware of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a daily medication that can reduce the risk of getting HIV by 99% for people who don’t use intravenous drugs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The current paper is the first “to show a negative association between police and law enforcement discrimination” and willingness to use PreP, the authors write.

The authors offer that “a likely explanation may be that incarceration and police discrimination lead to a conscious, and potentially adaptive, avoidance of institutions that have a history of discriminating against Black [sexual minority men].” Other research suggests Black men who have sex with men have high levels of distrust of medical institutions, with many feeling stigmatized by health care providers because of their race and sexual orientation.

Consider the experience of going to a public health clinic, English says. One of the first things a patient may see when entering the clinic is a security guard, who may resemble a law enforcement officer.

“This research shines a light on how we are structuring our clinics,” English says. “Are we considering how having metal detectors or security guards resembles other experiences that Black sexual minority men have had, like experiences of oppression from police?”


Describing law enforcement and police discrimination

English and other researchers previously developed a framework for describing racial discrimination called the Police and Law Enforcement Scale, based on interviews with 90 Black men in Atlanta, Columbus and Valdosta, Georgia who said they had experienced law enforcement or police discrimination. One interviewee recalled a traffic stop that went like this:

“‘Hey why’d you pull me over?’ ‘[The officer said], you got a broken taillight.’ ‘[I said], I don’t got a broken taillight.’ Pow… ‘[The officer said], you do now. Come on get out the car.’”


The Police and Law Enforcement Scale captures perceived discrimination based on several questions, including: In the past five years, how often have police or law enforcement accused you of having or selling drugs? Pulled you over for no reason while you were driving? Been verbally abusive to you? Been physically abusive to you? Treated you unfairly because of how you dress? Participants in the UNITE study were asked those and similar questions.

“Many crime statistics are based on the perspective of police officers,” English says. “We rely solely on police officers to report their own behavior, to report when they stop and frisk someone, to report when they’re pulling someone over. It’s really important we ask community members about their experiences, too.”

The authors also found participants who said they had encountered law enforcement or police discrimination were more likely to experience psychological distress as a result. Other research has drawn similar conclusions on how encounters with the criminal justice and law enforcement systems are linked to stress in Black communities.

“A vast theoretical and empirical literature documents the deleterious impact of mass incarceration on the health not just of those incarcerated, but also their families and, in the case of neighborhoods characterized by high rates of incarceration, entire communities,” write the authors of a January 2020 paper in the American Journal of Public Health that examines police encounters and symptoms of depression in Black men in the U.S. One of the authors of that paper, Lisa Bowleg, is a psychology professor at George Washington University and a co-author of the current paper.


By : Clark Merrefield

Date : July 27, 2020

Source : Journalist's Resource

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Fake News Pandemic has skyrocketed: Latin America under a Fakecracy


The use of fake news in the electoral campaign is the root of misinformation and explains the critical reality that we have in Latin America. The power of fake news acts and achieve that the constituencies do not know what they are voting.

What is the impact of fake news on democratic stability? In what way does fake news undermine confidence in the political system? How are the political actors using fake news to disseminate hate speech and divide our society? Furthermore, the most crucial thing, Why is this reality so critical for Latin American democracies? These questions are answered in the book titled FAKECRACIA, recently edited by a group of political communication researchers in the region.

"Fakecracy" (In Spanish Fakecracia) could be understood as a political system that uses fake news as the most critical political communication tool. For political actors, this is a resource to attack the political opposition; but behind the scenes, it is also a tool to undermine journalists' work and to disseminate hate speech.

The goal of this book is to understand the use of fake news in the political communication arena in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, México, Perú, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Additionally, we are looking to understand the influence of the use of fake news during the 2016 US Presidential Elections on the Latin-American elections between 2017 and 2019.

If you do a zoom in Latin America, all the political campaigns that we studied in the region have had a common factor: the use of fake news. For instance, we can find Nayib Bukele in El Salvador, Bolsonaro in Brazil, or Lopez Obrador in México.

In that way, the "Fakecracy" starts to undermine the weak democracy in the region. The use of fake news undermines democracy because it is used to cover up real Latin American problems like poverty, inequality, insecurity, etc.

However, the negative impacts of fake news go farther. Behind the use of fake news, political actors hide their real intentions: a political agenda that seeks a public conflict against specific population targets.

Behind that political agenda, you can find human rights violations. Fake News in Bolsonaro's Campaign was used to affect LGBTIQ people and human rights defenders. Those images were used to harm the other candidates, but also to set the agenda for LGBT discrimination and Hate Speech.

So, why are these human rights violations so critical? Because they are growing by adopting bots on social media and even coordinating to disseminate these images.

Our book shows different examples to understand how Latin American political actors are using fake news through Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. There are many examples of how political actors are using fake news and stigmatization speech to pass an agenda that seeks to attack human rights defenders, journalists, and non-governmental organizations.

The use of fake news in the electoral campaign is the root of misinformation and explains the critical reality that we have in Latin America. The power of fake news acts and achieve that the constituencies do not know what they are voting. If the political campaign is guided by fake news, we are, as a society, losing the opportunity to compare the political offer based on a programmatic political debate (ideas and not political clientelism).

The use of fake news and the political intention to misinform people build a contract between citizens and political actors, which is not based on the solution of the real problems, but on keeping the social media conversations about "discourses" and not facts or answers to real problems. "I will hate those people (LGBT, Journalists, and Human Rights Defenders) more and more," could be a common phrase of campaigns in Latin-American elections. The promises won't regarding getting a better public policy; the promises are about something untouchable based in the attack against a specific target.

Hate speech based on fake news needs a political actor that works as a Savior, an outsider, and, following the political rhetoric, can defend "us" from the "others." When that has happened, misinformation and ignorance have skyrocketed, making the social division in Latin American countries more profound. When this has happened, misinformation and ignorance have skyrocketed, "haters" win the elections and have the power to do more in-depth the social break in Latin-America.

Moreover, the Savior is the candidate that promotes fake news and misinformation against specific targets.

However, despite the use of social media, fake news and misinformation are overused to attack political opponents, and turn the digital attacks into physical attacks, using legal persecution or promoting social discrimination toward specific groups. These actions could end up as hate crimes, as we can see in different Latin-American countries and the United States.

Another aspect that we review in the book is the fake news dissemination to replace or even attack journalists. There are many cases of "fake-journalists" dedicated to inventing fake news and acting as a focal point of bots (fake users on social media). They make up a story, which is shared on social media, and immediately there's a lot of fake users that try to flood social media with that content, which is based on fake news and hate speech. This industry has a great ally: a weak rule about financing campaigns. "Bot-centers" is a common currency in the region from Mexico to Argentina.

This scenario is a challenge for the region. There's an absence of international and local regulations in Latin American countries about fake news. The use of jurisprudence linked with defamation is the unique door to finding a legal solution when fake news or hate speech affects citizens. From the United Nations, with Verified Initiative and statements from UNESCO, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and other organizations show that misinformation and the dissemination of hate speech could be considered a human rights violation.

Fact-Check initiatives work as a defense mechanism against misinformation and hate speech promotion. The work among journalists, non-government organizations, and media could be a powerful alliance to fight against hate speech promotion. Regarding this, there are good examples in Latin America but insufficient if we see the power that fake news had in the elections of the last two years. More than ever, misinformation acts as the power to more profound social barriers and to put up walls that divide us.



By : Matías Ponce

Date : July 25, 2020

Source : Open Democracy

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There are many leaders of today’s protest movement – just like the civil rights movement


The recent wave of protests against police brutality and systemic racism has inspired numerous comparisons with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Commentators frequently depict the charismatic leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in sharp contrast with the decentralized and seemingly leaderless nature of the current movement.

Despite the efforts of activists and historians to correct this “leaderless” image, the notion persists. Such comparisons reflect the cultural memory – not the actual history – of the struggle for Black equality.


Heroic struggle led by charismatic men

Through collective remembering and forgetting, societies build narratives of the past to create a shared identity – what scholars refer to as cultural memory.

The civil rights movement is remembered as a heroic struggle against injustice led by charismatic men. That is not the whole story.

King’s soaring rhetoric and Malcolm’s unflinching social critiques have supplanted recollection of the significant work performed by legions of local leaders, whose grassroots organizational style more closely resembled the efforts of Black Lives Matter activists and other contemporary social justice groups to build movements full of leaders.

The iconic images of 1950s and 1960s Black protesters marching, kneeling and being arrested while dressed in their “Sunday best” illustrated the respectability politics of the day.

These efforts, designed to cultivate white sympathy for civil rights activists, relied on conformity with patriarchal gender roles that elevated men to positions of visible leadership, confined women to the background and banished LGBTQ individuals to the closet.

Yet the movement could not have happened without the extraordinary leadership of Black women like veteran organizer Ella Baker. Baker’s model of grassroots activism and empowerment for young and marginalized people became the driving force of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, and other nonviolent protest organizations, past and present.

The decentralized structure of the current movement builds on this history of grassroots activism while working to avoid replicating the entrenched sexism and homophobia of an earlier era.


Amplifying voices

SNCC transformed lives by recognizing talent and empowering marginalized people. As Joe Martin, one of the organizers of a student walkout in McComb, Mississippi, recalled, “If you had a good idea it was accepted regardless of what your social status was.”

Endesha Ida Mae Holland, a teenage prostitute, found purpose as a SNCC field secretary, organizing and leading marches in Greenwood, Mississippi. Facing down Police Chief Curtis Lary “made me feel so proud,” she recalled, and “people start looking up into my face, into my eyes” with respect. Holland went on to become an award-winning playwright and distinguished university professor.

Black Lives Matter co-founders Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors also encourage strategies that place marginalized voices at the center.

Elevating “Black trans people, Black queer people, Black immigrants, Black incarcerated people and formerly incarcerated people, Black millennials, Black women, low income Black people, and Black people with disabilities” to leadership roles, they wrote, “allows for leadership to emerge from our intersecting identities, rather than to be organized around one notion of Blackness.”

Black women and teens have played a critical role in organizing, leading and maintaining the momentum of recent protests.

Kimberly Jones captured the nation’s attention with an impassioned takedown of institutional racism and debates over appropriate forms of protest. After repeatedly breaking the social contract to keep wealth and opportunity out of reach for black communities, Jones concludes, white Americans “are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.”

Women have organized family-friendly demonstrations, including the “Black Mamas March” in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a “Black Kids Matter” protest in Hartford, Connecticut.

Six young women, aged 14 to 16, organized a peaceful protest attracting more than 10,000 people in Nashville, Tennessee, while 17-year-old Tiana Day led a march on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.


Full of leaders

The adaptive “low ego/high impact” leadership model, in which leaders serve as coaches helping groups build their own solutions, has become popular among current social justice organizations, but it is not new.

Baker encouraged civil rights organizations to “develop individuals” and provide “an opportunity for them to grow.” She praised SNCC for “working with indigenous people, not working for them.”

“You don’t have to worry about where your leaders are,” former SNCC organizer Robert Moses reflected. “If you go out and work with your people, then the leadership will emerge.”

Campaigns are exhausting and external recognition as a “leader” can take a heavy toll. Spreading leadership around helps to protect any one person from becoming a target for retaliation while advancing a stream of talent to rise as individual energy wanes.

Returning from a citizenship training program in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1963, Fannie Lou Hamer was arrested and severely beaten, leaving her with permanent injuries. Holland’s mother died when their house in Greenwood, Mississippi, was bombed in 1965 in retaliation for her activism.

Civil rights worker Anne Moody recounted how the physical and psychological toll of constant harassment by white supremacists in 1963 forced her to leave a voter registration drive in Canton, Mississippi, saying “I was on the verge of a breakdown” and “would have died from lack of sleep and nervousness” had she stayed “another week.”

In a 2017 interview, Erica Garner, who became a tireless campaigner against police brutality after her father, Eric Garner, died from a New York police officer’s chokehold in 2014, echoed Moody’s comments.

“I’m struggling right now with the stress and everything. … The system beats you down to where you can’t win,” she said. Just three weeks after that interview, Erica Garner died of a heart attack at the age of 27.

Comparisons to the romanticized cultural memory of charismatic leadership in the Civil Rights Movement devalues the hard work of today’s activists – as well as those who worked hard outside of the limelight in the earlier movement. Social change – then and now – derives from a critical mass of local work throughout the nation. Those who cannot find leaders in this movement are not looking hard enough.


By : Sarah Silkey (Professor of History and Social and Economic Justice, Lycoming College)
Date : July 7, 2020
Source : The Conversation

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What 9/11 Taught Me about COVID-19


Organizing, connection, and solidarity are a way out of isolation — especially when we know there’s no going back to “normal.”

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I heard the impact of a plane hitting a building.

I was a second-year graduate student living near downtown Brooklyn, not far from the World Trade Center towers. I watched one of the towers fall from a park near my home. For at least four days after the attacks, I remember being curled up on my couch and in my bed. I spoke to some family and friends on the 11th, but otherwise I didn’t leave my apartment, and I don’t remember talking to anyone.

Mostly I was paralyzed by fear and a desire, but seeming inability, to help in some way. I wanted to do something for those in need. I wanted to speak out. As an aspiring writer/activist (with certain delusions of grandeur), I felt a responsibility to write at least an op-ed to counter the nationalist, often racist warmongering narratives dominating the news media. I wanted to stop my country from launching an unnecessary war that would kill many more thousands of people in a country that bore no responsibility for the attacks.

I tried to write. I stared at the screen. I typed a few halting lines. I soon gave up and lay back on the couch.

I only started to feel better and extract myself from my depression after I began reengaging with friends, family, graduate school cohort members, and others in New York. I attended organizing meetings to oppose going to war in Afghanistan, went to teach-ins with friends, volunteered at Ground Zero, went for a run with a friend. I also got more deeply involved in new graduate school work: by some cosmic luck, in August 2001, I began research related to the U.S. military base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, which soon helped launch the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Once the U.S. military began bombing Afghanistan from Diego Garcia, I felt particularly privileged and inspired to be working on an issue related to war and U.S. foreign policy. I used my anger, sadness, and sense of culpability for the war as a U.S. citizen to expand my research into a dissertation project that sought to expose the secretive history of the base and the expulsion of the indigenous Chagossian people during the base’s construction; to make some contribution to the Chagossians’ struggle to return home; and to analyze and critique the hundreds of U.S. military bases overseas and patterns of U.S. imperialism laid bare by the post-9/11 wars.

After suffering a different kind of trauma in the sudden, unexpected death of my stepfather in April 2002, 18 years ago this week, I further transformed my dissertation project so I could live in Washington, DC, near my family. Changes to my research that initially seemed detrimental ultimately strengthened the breadth and depth of the contributions of my dissertation (and later book).

Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve felt similar moments of paralysis, depression, and personal fear as those I felt after 9/11. Staying at home for around a month, I’ve felt similar moments of wanting to help, wanting to make a difference somehow, wanting to do something — only to feel incapable of doing anything. Again, there have been moments where I’ve retreated to my couch and bed.

Thinking about those four days on my couch and in my bed in 2001 has helped in this moment. Actively, almost compulsively reaching out by phone, zoom, and email to family, friends, and other loved ones has helped. Getting involved in mutual aid efforts, online political organizing, spring holiday rituals, and connecting with others in any and every way possible has helped. Remembering to lower expectations of myself has helped. Remembering to care for myself with running and walking (masked and at safe distances), meditation, and group therapy online has helped.

Writing this — the first thing I’ve ever written about my experience of 9/11 — has helped.

I wish I had, in the days after 9/11, known what I know now. I wish I had picked up the phone to call a friend or started to write in a journal, however haltingly, however fragmentedly, with whatever words came out.

In recent weeks, I suspect almost everyone has figured out mechanisms to cope and care for themselves and others as best they can. Of course, they have done so in radically different socioeconomic, social, and environmental circumstances. Clearly, in 2001 and today, I was and am privileged to have an apartment, a secure paycheck, and the full health of most of my family and loved ones.

Others have more immediate concerns such as having enough to eat. Others can’t “stay at home” because they have no home. Others don’t have the racial privilege I have that greatly minimizes my risk of infection and death. Others live in countries with public health systems that are far more impoverished than the embarrassingly inequitable U.S. system.

My memories of 9/11 will do little to make a difference in this global pandemic beyond the solace they’ve provided me. Still, I hope some of my words might help or resonate with a few others. Millions, probably billions of people worldwide have helped and inspired me recently through countless acts of coronavirus solidarity at local, national, and global levels. Millions have inspired me in their efforts to build community networks, mutual aid groups, and social movements despite the need for physical distancing.

Similarly, I’ve been inspired by the millions who agree that there will be no “going back to normal.” Millions now see that “normal” was the problem (just as the pre-9/11 “normal” sowed the seeds of the 9/11 attacks). Much like after 9/11, after I left my apartment and began working with others to oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I’ve been inspired since the pandemic’s onset by millions who see a historic, urgent opportunity to change what’s normal, to change the world and its structures of inequity, violence, and impending climate disaster.

Now, together, we must ensure that we never go back to the “normal” that brought us 9/11 and the Covid-19 pandemic and that will bring us more global crises if we don’t seize our opportunity to create a new, more just normal.


David Vine is a Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). His new book, The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State (University of California Press) will be released in October.


By : David Vine 

Date : April 29, 2020

Source : Foreign Policy In Focus

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