Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Citations Needed, Episode 09: Liberal Media Throws #J20 Activists Under the Bus

The Hashtag Resistance warms up to rightwing ghouls David Frum and Evan McMullin while ignoring anti-Trump protesters facing 80 years in federal prison.

In the wake of Trump’s unexpected win, the “Resistance” to Trump displayed by many in liberal media has been a toxic combination of gratuitous smears of left activists and ignoring their existence altogether. As over 200 people — including several journalists — face decades in prison for being in the proximity of window-breaking the day of Trump’s inauguration, the silence from those nominally charged with opposing Trump is deafening.

If you can donate to the #J20 legal defense fund, do it here.

The Guest

Sam Menefee-Libey is a longtime grassroots organizer and trainer with experience working on a broad spectrum of economic and social justice issues, including anti-oppression, education and environmental justice. Sam is currently a member of the Dead City Legal Posse, working on behalf of #J20 arrestees.


Citations Needed is available on iTunes, Soundcloud and LibSyn (here’s the RSS feed). You can also check us out on Twitter and Facebook.


Want More?

For further reading, show notes, a periodic newsletter, and more exclusive content, please visit our Patreon page and sign up to support the show!


Citations Needed is a media criticism podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, political commentators and media analysts working to call bullshit on (usually corporate) media’s ubiquitous reliance on and regurgitation of false and destructive narratives, tropes and stereotypes.

Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Our theme song is ‘Nonphenomenal Lineage’ by Grandaddy.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Citations Needed, Episode 08: The Human Rights Concern Troll Industrial Complex

Samantha Power

The concept of human rights has served as the underlying moral foundation of the United States’s role in the world since the end of World War II.

The conceit that the U.S. has been a dedicated and earnest promoter of “freedom”, “democracy,” and “human rights” throughout the world — even if, at times, a “flawed” one — is a defining narrative, largely taken for granted by major media. But how accurate is this assumption? What do we mean when we talk about “human rights”? What abuses are highlighted and which aren’t? Where do labor rights fit into the broader discussion of human rights?

On this episode of Citations Needed, along with our guest Glenn Greenwald, we attempt to parse some of these complex questions and how they fit into a broader discussions of soft power and war.

The Guest

Glenn Greenwald is a co-founding editor of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place to Hide, is about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to co-founding The Intercept, Glenn’s column was featured at The Guardian and Salon. Along with Laura Poitras, Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. The NSA reporting he led for The Guardian was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service.


Citations Needed is available on iTunes, Soundcloud and LibSyn (here’s the RSS feed). You can also check us out on Twitter and Facebook.


Want More?

For further reading, show notes, a periodic newsletter, and more exclusive content, please visit our Patreon page and sign up to support the show!


Citations Needed is a media criticism podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, political commentators and media analysts working to call bullshit on (usually corporate) media’s ubiquitous reliance on and regurgitation of false and destructive narratives, tropes and stereotypes.

Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Our theme song is ‘Nonphenomenal Lineage’ by Grandaddy.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Citations Needed, News Brief: Harvey, Climate Change and Snitch Reporters

On this Citations Needed News Brief, we discuss the media's fear of covering Harvey in the context of race, class, and the manifest threat of climate change.

We are joined by Katherine Krueger of Splinter News to talk about journalist narcs and the criminalization of survival.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Alan Dershowitz Invented a Scary Quote to Fear-Monger About Iran

Alan Dershowitz is a liar.

This is not news, of course. His shoddy scholarship and penchant for plagiarism is well-documented. His relentless and tedious self-promotion, let alone his obsession with celebrity - others', as well as his own - is crude, shameless, and pathetic. His virulent Islamophobia has led him to advocate on behalf of torture and in favor of the Muslim ban. He's defended Trump adviser and white nationalist Steve Bannon and Trump himself on the issue of obstruction of justice. In his unwavering crusade to defend Israeli apartheid and advocate for a military assault on Iran, Dershowitz will sink to whatever depths he can suck breath long enough to reach.

His anti-Iran propaganda not only routinely consists of a catalog of lazy tropes, but, in order to justify his alarmist proselytizing, he also just makes shit up. This goes quite beyond the common political and media practice of deliberately misreading or mistranslating things Iranian leaders say; indeed, Dershowitz's bottomless mendacity includes the manufacturing of supposedly sinister sounding quotes by Iranian politicians.

Earlier this year, in a commentary first published by the hawkish, neoconservative Gatestone Institute - and syndicated in right-wing outlets like Fox News and the Jerusalem Post - he did just that.

In the article, The Dersh used the hyped-up threat of North Korean nukes to fear-monger about Iran and argue that Congress empower the sociopathic, know-nothing commander-in-chief of the United States to launch a first-strike against Iran if it crosses certain "red lines." He also insists that "Congress should now enact legislation declaring that Iran's reaffirmation that it will never 'develop or acquire nuclear weapons' is an integral part of the agreement and represents the policy of the United States," despite the fact that Iran already regards that commitment as long-standing state policy, fundamental to the 2015 accord, and merely a reiteration of its obligation as an original signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Nevertheless, to make his flimsy case, Dershowitz relies on psychoanalyzing Iranian leaders and determining that - presumably because they're Muslim, are unsupportive of Israeli colonization and occupation in Palestine, and he doesn't like them - they aren't trustworthy and don't regard international agreements they've negotiated, signed, endorsed, and complied with as "legally binding."

Iran is "in the process of upgrading" its missile capability, Dershowitz claims, "and making them capable of delivering a nuclear payload to our shores." This is literally untrue. He also declares that Iran's "fundamentalist religious leaders would be willing to sacrifice millions of Iranians to destroy the 'Big Satan' (United States) or the 'Little Satan' (Israel)," adding for good measure that "[t]here is nothing more dangerous than a "suicide regime" armed with nuclear weapons."

This is a neocon canard about Iranian leadership - the 'martyr-state myth' - which holds that the "mad mullahs" of Tehran are both genocidal and suicidal, so eager to bring about Armageddon and so blindingly hostile to the United States and Israel that they will instigate a nuclear apocalypse, guaranteeing the deaths of millions and ensuring the complete annihilation of all Iranians, in order to reach their maniacal goals and reap the heavenly rewards. This concept is totally asinine, born of Orientalist bigotry, yet has held sway over the weak minds of Iran hawks for at least a decade, either as a genuine belief or merely a cynical rhetorical device.

To drive his point home, however, Dershowitz relies on his favorite anecdote about former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died this past January. Here's what he writes:
The late "moderate" leader Hashemi Rafsanjani once told an American journalist that if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, they "would kill as many as five million Jews," and that if Israel retaliated, they would kill fifteen million Iranians, which would be "a small sacrifice from among the billion Muslims in the world." He concluded that "it is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."
Dershowitz has referenced this story numerous times before to argue that Iran and its "suicidal leaders" pose an "existential and immediate" threat to Israel. It surfaces in both Preemption, his 2006 book dedicated to justifying war crimes, which The Guardian aptly described as "dangerous, muddled nonsense," and his 2015 book, The Case Against the Iran Deal, an extended and recycled whine against successful diplomacy.

Dershowitz, a cable news fixture, trotted out the same claim during a CNN debate about Iran on February 25, 2015, insisting that Rafsanjani "said if Iran gets nuclear weapons and bombs Israel, it will kill 3 million to 5 million Jews. Israel will retaliate to kill 10 million to 20 million Muslims, and the tradeoff would be worth it because it would destroy Israel and it would leave Islam untouched."

An excerpt for Dershowitz's The Case Against the Iran Deal
He also referenced the same tale in a March 23, 2010, commentary in the Wall Street Journal in which he predictably likens Iran to Nazi Germany and President Barack Obama to Neville "Appeasement" Chamberlain.

Dershowitz's lies flow from the very beginning of the op-ed. "There are several ways in which Iran could use nuclear weapons. The first is by dropping an atomic bomb on Israel, as its leaders have repeatedly threatened to do." In fact, Iran has literally never threatened to do anything remotely like this, especially because - again - they've always maintained that their internationally safeguarded, civilian nuclear program is for peaceful, energy-producing purposes only. Even if one doubts Iranian intentions, claiming they've made nuclear threats when they've done precisely the opposite for decades is pathetically dishonest.

Then, to provide a seemingly credible example of the maniacal nature of Iranian officials, it's time for the Rafsanjani anecdote again. This time around, Dershowitz wrote:
Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran, boasted in 2004 that an Iranian attack would kill as many as five million Jews. Mr. Rafsanjani estimated that even if Israel retaliated with its own nuclear bombs, Iran would probably lose about 15 million people, which he said would be a small "sacrifice" of the billion Muslims in the world.
It's a damning story, no doubt, showcasing a callous leader with genocidal thoughts and little regard for human life.

But here's the thing: it's not actually true.

There is no record of a Rafsanjani statement of this kind. Not in 2004, not ever.

However, there is a 2001 Rafsanjani speech that has been routinely misread and manipulated by pro-Israel, Iran hawks to make Iranian policy sound causally genocidal.

On December 14, 2001, former president Rafsanjani delivered the traditional Friday sermon at Tehran University. It was the last Friday of Ramadan and the celebration of Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Iran, an official day of solidarity with Palestinians.

During the speech, Rafsanjani described Israel as an "outgrowth of colonialism and a multi-purpose colonial base," supported by both "the Americans and Britain," along with the United Nations and some "Islamic and Arab governments." Because "the survival of Israel depends on the interests of imperialists and colonialists," he said, "they have arranged it in a way that the balance of power favors Israel."

Speaking directly to the longstanding policy of ensuring Israel's overwhelming military superiority in the Middle East - what is known in U.S. foreign policy as Israel's "qualitative military edge" - Rafsanjani explained:
From a numerical point of view, it [Israel] cannot have as many troops as Muslims and Arabs do. So they [the United States and Great Britain] have improved the quality of what they have. Classical weaponry has its own limitations. They have limited use. They have a limited range as well. They have supplied vast quantities of weapons of mass destruction and unconventional weapons to Israel. They have permitted it to have them and they have shut their eyes to what is going on. They have nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles and suchlike.
If one day … Of course, that is very important. If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.
No comparative calculations of millions dead. No mention of a billion Muslims. No mention of an Iranian nuclear weapon. No mention of Israeli retaliation to an Iranian nuclear attack.

When read in context, Rafsanjani's point is clear. Far from issuing a threat against Israel, he articulates the motivations behind ongoing Western support for Israeli aggression and for guaranteeing Israel's sole possession of a nuclear arsenal in the region. It is a hypothetical posed to explain U.S and British efforts to maintain a gross power imbalance in the Middle East in service of their own interests. Beyond this, at no point does Rafsanjani suggest Iran will produce or obtain non-conventional weapons, let alone threaten to actually use them.

In fact, Rafsanjani is on record stating the very opposite. When he was president, Rafsanjani forcefully and repeatedly denied that the Iranian government had any interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction. "We're not after nuclear bombs and we won't go after biological and chemical weapons," he said on March 23, 1997. In 2004, the very year Dershowitz claims Rafsanjani "boasted" about obliterating millions of human lives, Rafsanjani declared, "I absolutely offer the world the assurance that Tehran is not after nuclear arms."

So where did Dershowitz get all that "15 million vs. 5 million" crap? His bad information can be traced directly to a 2004 column by Suzanne Fields in the right-wing The Washington Times. Fields refers obliquely to the Rafsanjani speech cited above, but omits almost all of the actual words, in favor of creative paraphrasing that extrapolates creepy mathematical rhetoric to embellish, exaggerate and exploit the Iranian leader's point.

Here is Fields' version of this tall tale. See if you can spot the similarities to Dershowitz's own subsequent accounts:
In 2001 Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, speculated that in a nuclear exchange with Israel his country might lose 15 million people, which would amount to a small “sacrifice” from among the billion Muslims worldwide in exchange for the lives of 5 million Israeli Jews. He seemed pleased with his formulation.
Dershowitz apparently took Fields' word as gospel and ignored the primary source reporting on Rafsanjani's speech. In his his writing, Dershowitz turned Fields' propagandistic editorializing and complete misreading of Rafsanjani's quote into the quote itself.

Not only does Dershowitz conflate Fields' 2004 column with Rafsanjani's 2001 speech, he somehow imagines that Rafsanjani "boasted" directly to Fields, the "American journalist" he references, instead of addressing an assembled audience at Tehran University. Indeed, the word "sacrifice" never appears in the Rafsanjani speech, let alone in reference to what either Iran or "the Islamic world" would endure in order to annihilate Israel. That appears to be a flourish of Fields' invention, yet another attempt to link the concept of "martyrdom" with state policy, one picked up and repeated with relish by Dershowitz.

Alan Dershowitz is not merely a sloppy or biased researcher, cherry-picking and manipulating information to serve his ideological goals. He is not merely a serial plagiarist; he is a fabricator of evidence in a never-ending case for war against those who, by either their anti-imperial doctrine or mere inconvenient existence, dare challenge American and Israeli policy.

By virtue of his notoriety and self-promotion, however, Dershowitz still enjoys nearly limitless access to cable news platforms, where he continues to spout his nonsense. His editorials and books are still published without even the most cursory oversight of fact-checking by his editors and publishers.

Alan Dershowitz is a full-scale propagandist, for whom facts are irrelevant and lies remain the currency of his celebrity.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Citations Needed, Episode 07: BDS & The Moral Narratives of Colonization

In Episode 7 of Citations Needed, we explore how the media discusses the issue of BDS and the broader topic of Palestinian liberation.

What are the stakes? Who are the smear artists? What are the similarities with past apartheid boycotts? We discusses these topics and more using a pro-apartheid 1989 Christian Science Monitor op-ed as our guide.

The Guest

Steven Salaita previously held the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut. Author of six previous books, he is a regular columnist for Electronic Intifada and a member of the Organizing Committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).


Citations Needed is a media criticism podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, political commentators and media analysts working to call bullshit on (usually corporate) media’s ubiquitous reliance on and regurgitation of false and destructive narratives, tropes and stereotypes.

Citations Needed is produced by Josh Kross and Florence Barrau-Adams. Our theme song is ‘Nonphenomenal Lineage’ by Grandaddy.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Citations Needed, News Brief: Charlottesville, The ACLU, and the Moral Limits of 'Free Speech'

In a new Citations Needed News Brief, Adam and I discuss Charlottesville, the ACLU, and the moral limits of 'free speech' with George Ciccariello-Maher, Associate Professor of Politics and Global Studies at Drexel University.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Citations Needed, Episode 06: The Media’s Default Setting of White Supremacy

(Artwork pictured by @/yesitsalex___)

On Episode 6 of Citations Needed, Adam and I explore how the media both consciously and subconsciously works to smear black victims, protect the police, and works overtime to ameliorate the sensibilities of white media consumers.

The white supremacist regime at work in the media can be broken down into three main narrative devices:
  1. The use of language to downplay state violence and assert false parity
  2. The uncritical dissemination of exaggerated or made up threats to police to turn the aggressor into the victim
  3. The posthumous smearing of black victims to rationalize their killing after the fact.
In this episode, we examine the mechanisms of these genres, how they influence public perception and why they create the media environment that makes more Mike Browns all but certain.

The Guest

Dr. Jared A Ball is a professor of Media, Communications, and Africana Studies at Morgan State University in Maryland. Dr. Ball is a prolific writer, speaker, and multimedia producer at His commentary can be read everywhere from the Washington Post to The Nation, the Grio to the Root, and beyond. A forthcoming book from Third World Press entitled, Not Our President: New Directions from the Pushed Out, the Others, and the Clear Majority in Trump’s Stolen America, will featured his essay “Agent Orange: Donald Trump as Political Chemical Warfare.”

Here's the episode:

Show Notes for this episode can be found here.


Citations Needed is a media criticism podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, political commentators and media analysts working to call bullshit on (usually corporate) media’s ubiquitous reliance on and regurgitation of false and destructive narratives, tropes and stereotypes.

Citations Needed is produced by Josh Kross and Florence Barrau-Adams. Our theme song is ‘Nonphenomenal Lineage’ by Grandaddy.


Friday, August 4, 2017

The Return of the Media's Zombie Narrative About Iran's Nuclear Program

Democracy may die in darkness, but the Washington Post continues to murder truth when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program.

In an August 2, 2017 article about a recent bill, passed nearly unanimously in Congress and begrudgingly signed into law, that pointlessly imposes more sanctions on Russia and two other countries that don't toe the American line, the Washington Post described the measure, in part, as punishment "against North Korea and Iran for those countries' nuclear weapons programs."

(Screenshot via @thekarami)

Not only does this description misunderstand the contents of the bill itself, which actually targets totally legal conventional (read: non-nuclear) weapons and research programs, but it brazenly states as implicit fact that Iran has a "nuclear weapons program."

Similarly, a Washington Post analysis on the merits of pursuing regime change (in wholesale violation of international law or the will of the target's population, which are never mentioned), published just three days earlier on July 31, repeated a number of common tropes about Iran. Not least among these talking points, offered uncritically by two associate professors of political science, is that "[r]egime change in Tehran is thus the surest route to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program."

Leaving aside the imperial audacity of such a statement, that the Washington Post would publish this sentence is shocking. Why?

Because Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.

In fact, it never has.

This is neither controversial nor a matter of nuance. It is plain and simple fact. Yet this point continues to be ignored in the service of the undying political and media narrative in this country that Iran is a malevolent, if not genocidal, monster that threatens peace and stability around the world and whose every nefarious move (which is every move, of course) must be opposed and resisted by the noble United States, simultaneously the world's policeman and Good Samaritan.

The Facts

Since the signing of the multilateral nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers in July 2015, the IAEA has routinely confirmed the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. This assessment has been repeatedly affirmed by the United States government.

But this is nothing new.

International intelligence assessments have consistently affirmed that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, but rather a nuclear energy program with domestic uranium enrichment facilities. All of these facilities are legal and protected under international law; all of Iran's nuclear fissile material is under international safeguards, strictly monitored and routinely inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). No move to divert nuclear material to military or weaponization purposes has ever been detected in the history of the Iranian program.

These facts have been consistently affirmed by U.S., British, Russian, and even Israeli intelligence, as well as the IAEA. In fact, the IAEA itself has said that there is "no concrete proof" Iran's nuclear program "has ever had" a military component.

Despite longstanding Iranian policy that has held, unequivocally, that nuclear weapons are not only strategically and geopolitically obsolete, but also ethically abhorrent and religiously prohibited, hysteria over an imaginary Iranian nuclear weapons program has been exploited for more than than three decades to justify sanctions, threats, assassinations, sabotage, surveillance, and other covert actions against Iran in the hopes of overthrowing the government that came to power after ousting the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979.

Even claims that Iran had a dedicated nuclear weapons program before 2002 or 2003 are dubious at best, and rely on evidence that is most likely completely fabricated. The authenticity of these allegations has been repeatedly questioned by the IAEA, as well as the United States. As former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei noted in his 2011 memoir, Age of Deception, U.S. intelligence officials "did not share the supposed evidence that had led them to confirm the existence of a past Iranian nuclear [weapons] program, other than to refer to the same unverified set of allegations about weaponization studies that had already been discussed with the Agency."

In fact, even the IAEA's "Final Assessment" of Iran's alleged past weapons work, published in December 2015 fell flat. The agency concluded that "a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003," and that "these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities." Moreover, the IAEA reaffirmed - as it has for the past decade - that there were "no credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material" from Iran's nuclear energy program at any point ever to a possible parallel military effort.

After reviewing these findings, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter insisted, "There hasn't been a more meaningless conclusion of such an over-hyped issue since the CIA assessed that Iraq had 'dozens of WMD program-related activities' in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of that country." Ritter even added that the supposed "range of activities relevant" to a nuclear weapon "are far less threatening than the ominous description provided by the IAEA would lead one to believe. In every case, the IAEA was either forced to concede that their information was baseless (allegations concerning the manufacture of "uranium metal," for instance), or else could be explained through 'alternative applications' involving Iranian commercial and military activities unrelated to the Iranian nuclear program."

Professor Dan Joyner, a nonproliferation and international law expert, noted that the IAEA assessment wholly vindicates Iran against allegations that its past activities violated its legal obligations. The IAEA has "now given its opinion that Iran has not violated NPT Article II through any of the alleged PMD activities," Joyner wrote, "because none of the assessed activities can be said to rise to the prohibited level of the manufacture or other acquisition of a nuclear explosive device." Also, because there was never any diversion of nuclear material from peaceful to military uses, the IAEA had effectively "determined that none of these activities constituted a violation of Iran’s safeguards obligations. As Article 1 of Iran's comprehensive safeguards agreement makes explicit, the IAEA's safeguards activities in Iran are implemented 'for the exclusive purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.'"

The Never-Ending Problem

The offending "nuclear weapons program" phrase in the August 2 sanctions was caught immediately by journalist Arash Karami.

This is more than a matter of sloppy writing or editing, however, as it demonstrates the pervasive nature of a nuclear narrative that holds, despite all evidence, that Iran is, was, and always will be pursuing nuclear bombs with which to threaten American interests and dominance.

Indeed, the Washington Post has a troubling history of pushing this line. Back in December 2011, Patrick B. Pexton, then the Post's ombudsman, challenged the paper's routinely irresponsible and alarmist reporting on Iran's nuclear program, writing that the IAEA "does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one," and warned that such misleading characterizations of such an important issue "can also play into the hands of those who are seeking further confrontation with Iran."

Others in similar roles at leading media organizations - from the New York Times, NPR, and The Guardian - have concurred with Pexton's determination.

Nevertheless, the same damaging language has been used repeatedly by these very same outlets since. Rather than fix their reporting and editorial standards to adhere more closely to the truth, papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times have instead permanently eliminated the position of Ombudsman and Public Editor altogether.

As both the U.S. government has again put Iran in its crosshairs, the zombie narratives about Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapons program will continue to be resurrected by the dutiful mainstream media. It remains incumbent on readers to challenge such falsehoods as forcefully as possible before our brains all turn to mush.



August 6, 2017 - The Washington Post has posted a correction to its August 2 article and removed the word "nuclear" from the originally published sentence:

Kudos to Arash Karami for bringing to this to their attention.

Unfortunately, the Post's July 31 article remains uncorrected.

***** ***** *****

Considering political and media propaganda about Iran's nuclear program is continually recycled, I too have reused parts of my own previous writing in this post. I mean, you can only write the same stuff in different ways so many times.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Citations Needed, Episode 05: The Great American Socialist Whitewash

Fred Hampton

On Episode 5 of Citations Needed, Adam and I explore the history of the media erasing socialists of color from the history books and present day discourse––a tactic that serves to both commodity and water-down black radicalism and pawn off leftwing politics as a uniquely white or middle class enterprise.

Our guests this week are Robert Greene II and Roqayah Chamseddine.

Robert Greene II is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of South Carolina. His research covers American intellectual history, the history of the United States South since World War II, and political history since Reconstruction. Mr. Greene has a book chapter coming out as part of the Southern Studies collection Navigating Souths: Transdisciplinary Explorations of a U.S. Region, forthcoming from UGA Press, along with essays published by Scalawag, The Nation, Jacobin, Dissent, and Politico. He has also published the essay, “South Carolina and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement,” in the journal Patterns of Prejudice, and is a blogger and book review editor for the Society of U.S. Intellectual Historians.

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer, published poet, and editor in chief of Wanderings. Magazine. Along with Kumars Salehi, she co-hosts “Delete Your Account,” a weekly podcast covering politics and pop culture. She is a staff writer at Shadowproof, contributing writer at Paste Magazine, and Mondoweiss, and former researcher for Abby Martin’s The Empire Files on TeleSur English.

Here's the episode:

Show Notes for this episode can be found here.


Citations Needed is a media criticism podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, political commentators and media analysts working to call bullshit on (usually corporate) media’s ubiquitous reliance on and regurgitation of false and destructive narratives, tropes and stereotypes.

Citations Needed is produced by Josh Kross and Florence Barrau-Adams. Our theme song is ‘Nonphenomenal Lineage’ by Grandaddy.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Citations Needed, Episode 04: The Root of All Evil

A recent New York Times presents a Manichean worldview wherein the United States’ invasion of Iraq was noble and just, while Iran’s relationship with its neighbor is nefarious and dangerous. The article was written by Baghdad bureau chief Tim Arango (picture above, right).

Episode 4 of Citations Needed, my new media criticism podcast co-hosted by Adam Johnson, is out.

This week, we talk about a recent New York Times article — and the broader media habit of painting the United States as benevolent democracy-seeker, while Iran and other Official Enemies™ are presented only ever as cynical imperialists.

In this episode, Adam and I dissect the true history of what caused chaos in Iraq, who’s to blame and what the real motives were behind the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations’ designs for the country. All this in the context of a battle for control over remaining ISIS territory in Syria; and Washington’s, Riyadh’s, and Tel Aviv’s desire to stop the dreaded “Shia crescent.”

Show Notes for this episode can be found here.


Citations Needed is a media criticism podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, political commentators and media analysts working to call bullshit on (usually corporate) media’s ubiquitous reliance on and regurgitation of false and destructive narratives, tropes and stereotypes.

Citations Needed is produced by Josh Kross and Florence Barrau-Adams. Our theme song is ‘Nonphenomenal Lineage’ by Grandaddy.


Friday, July 21, 2017

MSNBC's Joy Reid Fails History and Geography

MSNBC's Joy Reid

“Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
- James Baldwin

Seemingly apropos of nothing but shameless Red-baiting weirdness, MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted today about two of Donald Trump's three wives hailing from Eastern European countries.

"Donald Trump married one American (his second wife) and two women from what used to be Soviet Yugoslavia: Ivana-Slovakia, Melania-Slovenia," Reid's tweet read.

There is so much wrong with this statement, beyond the sheer creepy xenophobic signaling oozing every word, it's difficult to know where to start.

First, while Yugoslavia during the Cold War was indeed a communist state, it was not Soviet. Following a brief alliance with the Soviet Union following World War II, Yugoslavia under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito was expelled by Stalin from the Soviet-oriented Cominform (Communist Information Bureau) in 1948 and remained independent of Soviet influence. Yugoslavia was the only communist state in Europe not to join the Warsaw Pact.

History 1. Joy Reid 0.

Second, the socialist state of Yugoslavia was a federation of six separate republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia, which included within its borders the two autonomous provinces Kosovo and Vojvodina.

So, while Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, Slovakia was not; rather it was part of Czechoslovakia, along with the Czech socialist republic.

Geography 1. Joy Reid 0.

But that's not all. Ivana Trump was born in the Moravian city of Zlín, which was indeed part of Czechoslovakia at the time, but as part of the Czech republic, not the Slovakian one.

Geography 2. Joy Reid 0.

Unsurprisingly, these simple facts were immediately pointed out to Reid by countless people on Twitter.

In her attempt to correct herself, however, Reid wound up doubling down on her error. "Melania is from Slovenia (which plus Slovakia used to be Yugoslavia)," she tweeted.

Again, no. Slovakia was never a part of Yugoslavia. It was the "-slovakia" part of "Czechoslovakia." See how that works?

History 2. Geography 3. Reid 0.

This is not the first time Reid has flubbed European history in service of anti-Russian posturing. Back in September 2016, Reid sent a series of tweets designed to smear the vile Republican presidential candidate's penchant for lauding Russian leader Vladimir Putin by suggesting that she believed Russia was still a communist state.

Needless to say, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia may certainly be authoritarian, but it is definitely not communist.

MSNBC, the cable news network home to Reid's weekend show AM Joy, has a history of questionable geography skills. Its graphics department has virtually annexed the West Bank to Israel and claimed Jerusalem as its capital. In 2013, a map showing four upcoming stops on a presidential bus tour of New York and Pennsylvania got the locations of all four cities completely, egregiously wrong. The following year, a map shown during primetime's All In with Chris Hayes inexplicably spelled the word "Iraq" incorrectly.

But Reid's recent Soviet snafu isn't a mere typo or simply the result of intellectual laziness. It's ignorance couched in the nativism and nationalism of McCarthyite demonization.

Look, Donald Trump is already a loathsome, shitbag sociopath. Efforts to expose, oppose, castigate, and marginalize him and the threat his administration and supporters present to the entire world are vital. His awful wives, past and present, don't deserve any sympathy. But, with all this in mind, there's no need to use base xenophobia and Cold War-era Red Scare tactics to achieve these goals. And it's even more embarrassing to get basic facts wrong while doing it.

A couple years ago, Joy Reid delivered the inaugural Ida B. Wells lecture at Wake Forest University. Wells, the fearless journalist and fierce civil rights and suffrage activist, once noted, "The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press."

As a journalist with an often daily platform on a major news network, Joy Reid needs to do a much better job at educating - both herself and her audience.


Citations Needed, Episode 03: The Rise of Superpredator 2.0

"The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he's a the victim and make the victim look like he's the criminal... If you aren't careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing."
- Malcolm X, Audubon Ballroom, December 13, 1964

Episode 3 of the new media criticism podcast, Citations Needed, which I host alongside Adam Johnson is here!

The episode, "The Rise of Superpredator 2.0," is about the media narrative surrounding the rise of so-called “gang raids” that have exploded over the past three years. These high-stakes, headline-grabbing spectacles target, almost exclusively, black and brown people and are carried out by hundreds of local, state, and federal officials.

Citations Needed is produced by Josh Kross and Florence Barrau-Adams. Our theme song is ‘Nonphenomenal Lineage’ by Grandaddy.

Emails obtained by Atlantic City Lab’s George Joseph (now at make clear that media perception is, at least, one major criteria for these raids. Joseph wrote in February:
As one ICE officer excitedly wrote, the operation “has more media interest than I can catalogue and the story was picked up worldwide.”
Another internal email by an ICE official insisted, “the operation has more media interest than I can catalogue and the story was picked up worldwide.”

That which the government frames as a media operation should be dissected as such. In addition, local media is literally copy and pasting ICE press releases when “reporting” on their raids, often lifting 4-5 paragraphs word for word from government-issued copy. Beyond this, who is considered a gang member is based on criteria so loose and wide-ranging, it could be applied virtually to anyone living in certain areas. In this way, those caught up and arrested in these raids are treated much like "enemy combatants" in the so-called War on Terror, guilty by association, ancestry, or geography, able to be exonerated only after being destroyed. Nevertheless, the virtue and necessity of the uptick in “gang raids” is widely accepted without much criticism.

One activist and reporter looking at this trend with a skeptical eye is our guest Josmar Trujillo, who has endless insights on the topic. Josmar is a Harlem-based organizer, writer, trainer, and agitator.

Josmar has organized around education, disaster recovery and policing with groups like the Coalition to End Broken Windows and New Yorkers Against Bratton. His writing has been featured in the Village Voice, New York Daily News, amNY, City Limits, Newsday, Crain’s, Truthout, Huffington Post, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), and SchoolBook.

Show Notes for this episode can be found here.


Citations Needed is a media criticism podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, political commentators and media analysts working to call bullshit on (usually corporate) media’s ubiquitous reliance on and regurgitation of false and destructive narratives, tropes and stereotypes.