Celebrity Activism in Politics and the Public Sphere
Celebrity Activism in Politics and the Public Sphere
I find it very interesting that voter apathy is such a concern despite the fact that citizens are better informed than they ever have been. McKee, quoting Neil Postman brings up that perhaps that too much information regarding politics is a negative trend that could be making voters more cynical, and in turn indifferent. McKee’s claim may in fact have some weight to it. I can’t speak for other citizens, but when I watch political news stories, I often find myself shutting off the TV, shaking my head in frustration. Politicians can certainly be irritating, and at times irritating enough that voters lose interest in being involved. That being said, I’m not so sure that apathy is the correct term to place on non-voters these days. When I think of the word apathy I imagine an uninformed slacker, sitting on their couch all day doing nothing, too lazy to bother with voting. But today that term is farther and farther away from describing non-voters. Many non-voters today are well-informed but have become disenfranchised with the actions of government officials.
This frustration is where the “Occupy” movement and other movements like it (such as the “Billionaires for Bush” campaign) stem from. Some people, particularly younger citizens feel that politicians and CEOs of major corporations have all the power and are calling all the shots for the rest of us. These movements allow citizens to have some sort of say in the government, something that has been diminishing for many in the past several years. In my mind, a lack of political interest is not the problem being faced. The problem is whatever is making people lose interest in politics. Whether it’s the media, corporations, or simply the government itself, changes must be made.
Similar in nature to the controversy surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate, many American voters are calling for Michele Bachmann to take an IQ test to prove her competency as a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2012 US Presidential Election. Calls for Bachman’s IQ test came following her statement that recent hurricanes and earthquakes are “acts of god”. Support for what has been dubbed the “IQer movement” was been building since Bachman’s rambling in August.
“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.
The movement is apparently motivated not only by Bachmann’s recent babbling but also by the hope they could possibly end Bachmann’s campaign for president. One IQer said “as Americans, we feel that it is our duty to try to stop injustice when we see it. If Michele Bachmann having power isn’t an injustice, then I don’t know what is.” Though the movement is seen by some as “radical”, their claims of Bachmann’s incompetence do indeed have merit. The “act of god” quote wasn’t the only rant in which Bachmann said things that you don’t want to hear from someone trying to become the most powerful person in the country. She has also claimed that there are no studies showing that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas, and she has said that the founding fathers worked towards ending slavery, when in fact they were making too much money off of slaves to want to end slavery.
Bachmann has continuously refused any IQ test and is noticeably flustered when the prospect of an IQ test is brought up during interviews. Supporters of Bachmann are also annoyed with the idea of an IQ test largely because most Bachmann supporters don’t know what that is. The Bachmann camp will likely continue to refuse an IQ test and label supporters of the IQer movement as un-American.
Though Bachmann is currently still running for the Republican nomination for President, IQers shouldn’t be overly concerned about Bachmann, as she is consistently receiving little support in the Republican primary polls. Despite her recent campaigning in her home state of Iowa, most Iowa natives (farmers with a high school education) have had the good sense to avoid voting for a person who confused the film star John Wayne with serial murderer John Wayne Gacy, who lived her hometown. It appears for the time being, the IQer movement can rest easy as it doesn’t seem Bachmann will receive any more power. But the movement isn’t satisfied just yet. One prominent IQer said “keeping Bachmann out of the White House is an important goal, but it isn’t the only goal. As long as Michele Bachmann has any sort of power, even if it’s only in a few suburbs in Minnesota, the IQer movement will continue to fight to end the injustice of Michele Bachmann having power.”
With all the talk about the Occupy Oakland movement and the many other Occupy groups popping up in American cities, the people of Oakland are missing a huge story regarding their beloved Raiders. The Oakland Raiders longtime owner Al Davis passed away about 3 weeks ago, which brought great sadness to Raider Nation. But one thing remains in which the fans can take solace in. The mindset of the Oakland Raiders under Al Davis has lived on after his passing. With the recent Raiders trade for Carson Palmer the team has proved their mentality of overpaying washed up players and overall choosing terrible football players for their team is still very much alive. The Raiders sent two first round picks to the Bengals for Palmer, who has been on the Cincinnati bench since the veteran threatened retirement if he was not traded in the offseason. It appears his temper tantrum finally got him his way as he finally parted ways with the Bengals. However, don’t feel too bad for the Bengals as they have rookie quarterback Andy Dalton whose play has propelled the Bengals to a 5-2 record. Additionally they have those two first round picks sent their way by the ghost of Al Davis. The trade was made with the Bengals after starting quarterback Jason Campbell went down for the season with a broken collarbone. Campbell, who led the Raiders to a 3-2 start before going down, was another big signing by the Raiders that did not work out and he most likely won’t be given another chance to start after healing his collar bone as his injury broke the Raiders cardinal rule set in place by Davis:” Just Win Baby”. Despite the popular mantra, the strategy of overpaying for players to win right now instead of planning for the future like a successful football team has not yet panned out for the Raiders, who have still not figured out their problem after decades of disappointment.
The need for a different strategy as a football team has not become evident to Raiders management even after the death of their longtime owner. Apparently Davis had just enough success (three Super Bowls in the late 70’s and early 80’s before Davis was older than your grandfather) to keep the Raiders on the hook with the Davis game plan for fifty years.
Recently, the Raiders showed how serious they were about sticking to Al Davis’s age old Just Win strategy by showing interest in overrated and washed up Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, TJ Houshmandzadeh. Housmandzadeh, formerly teammates with Carson Palmer, has played below average since leaving Cincinnati but is sure to be overvalued by the Raiders and will certainly help the Raiders continue to throw away money in the spirit of tradition.
No one is sure what is causing the recent wave of Al Davis-esque moves, but it is certain to help one of football’s most storied franchises continue to be mediocre at best. This spirit of Al Davis is certain to ensure the losing attitude that has been synonymous with Raiders football for years and years.
Note: Despite his blunders as Raiders owner, Al Davis was one of the most interesting and revolutionary owners the NFL has ever had. He embodied Raider nation and will not be soon forgotten. R.I.P. Al Davis.
I find Waisanen and Suzuki’s analysis of audience in the internet age to be very interesting. Looking towards blog comments and reactions as opposed to older methods of finding public opinion certainly increases the amount of voices that are heard from the audience of certain political events. The comment section of many political blogs can stir up debate between users which seems like a positive effect. However, I am not so sure that the use of blogs by audiences is particularly useful. The audience (of bloggers) of the Colbert White House Correspondents’ Dinner Speech had many diverse opinions about the impact, substance, presentation, and main audience of the Colbert Speech which were quite interesting. The problem with this format of debate is the lack of accountability. In a blog, you can say whatever you want to say without regard to fact, which many people seem to do. The comfort and anonymity of sitting behind a computer screen gives users the power to say whatever they want, which takes away from any real discussion. Though blogs are great for people to state their opinion and talk about events like the Colbert speech, their value as a place to debate is pretty low in my mind. Without the users having any sort of accountability, blog comments sections are used for opinionated claims and trivial arguments rather than actual debate.
On March 2, 1991, Los Angeles resident Rodney King along with two friends headed home after drinking at a friend’s house while watching a basketball game. The California Highway Patrol saw King speeding and attempted to pull him over. However, King did not yield to officers and led them on a high speed chase where King exceeded 100 MPH. Eventually police were able to stop and surround King’s vehicle. All the passengers were ordered out of the vehicle by police and the two passengers of King’s car complied with police and were arrested with no real issue. King, who initially stayed in his car, eventually exited the vehicle in a strange manner and was apparently acting bizarrely after exiting the vehicle and was not complying with police commands. After police thought King was reaching for a weapon, Officer Melanie Singer drew her gun and pointed at King until he finally lied on the ground. But the worst had not yet begun. Four officers approached King to make the arrest, using a “swarm” technique to apprehend him. When the officers tried to grab King, he resisted, throwing two officers off of him and allegedly kicking another in the chest. This is when an officer shot King once with a Taser to subdue him, and when it appeared not to be entirely successful, used the Taser again. King, now on the ground appears to be stirring on the ground after this, but not in any sort of threatening way. However, police felt the need for additional force and struck Rodney King with batons 56 times and kicked him 6 times, even after it appeared an arrest could have easily been made. When King was taken to the hospital, he had a facial fracture, a broken ankle, and tons of cuts and bruises. Nurses at Pacifica Hospital where King was treated claimed that officers were openly joking and bragging about the amount King was beaten.
It must be stated that hearing about the Rodney King beating is one thing, but actually seeing it is entirely another. In my eyes, there is no way around the fact the Rodney King was brutally beaten by police officers well after it was necessary to subdue him. Yes, King committed a very dangerous crime and he should have absolutely been reprimanded and punished to the fullest extent of the law for his actions. In fact, I believe it was even necessary to use some force against him when he initially resisted arrest. However, there is no excuse for beating a man with a nightstick 56 times when he is obviously no longer a threat. What one officer calls a lunge on King’s behalf is clearly seen on video as a stumbling attempt to avoid being continuously struck. Even worse, after King is clearly grounded and severely injured, officers continue to beat him with their batons while King’s only attempt at “resisting arrest” is slowly trying to crawl away from the beating. The beating that King received was not about justice, it was officers on a power trip who saw the opportunity to get away with excessive force.
Though most people would see this as extreme injustice and call for an investigation into the incident, it wouldn’t have been a blip on the radar had it not been for George Holliday. Holliday, who caught the majority of the ordeal on tape attempted to show the evidence of injustice to local police officials, but was essentially ignored. But when Holliday took the evidence to the media the confrontation exploded into a national controversy. Racial tension grew exponentially following the release of the video of Rodney King’s beating. The Los Angeles Police Department took tons of heat from the incident, particularly since they already had a reputation of using excessive force against minorities. The officers who tackled King and subsequently beat him with their batons excessively were charged by the Los Angeles district attorney with the use of excessive force and assault with a deadly weapon. Sergeant Koon, who was the commanding officer, was also charged despite the lack of her direct involvement in the beating. A lengthy trial followed and a verdict wouldn’t be reached until the following year. Because of the heavy media attention the trial was receiving, the trial was moved from Los Angeles County to Simi Valley in Ventura County, a predominantly white area. 10 of the 12 jurors were white which heavily impacted how many Americans, particularly minorities, saw the trial. On April 29th, 1992, the jury acquitted all five officers of assault and acquitted three out of five of the officers of using excessive force. Minorities across America were in an uproar. Many saw the trial as racially biased and a violation of civil rights. On the very same day of the jury’s decision, the infamous Los Angeles Riots began on the streets of Los Angeles and cities across America. Angry with the decision they saw as outrageous, many minorities took to the street to demonstrate their outrage with the seemingly biased court decision. Despite military intervention, the riots plagued the city of Los Angeles for nearly a week. The third day of the rioting, Rodney King appeared on television to beg people to stop the rioting and senseless violence. As King famously stated, “Can we get along?” (time.com) Despite King’s pleas, riots continued for three more days and more than 50 people were killed during the rioting and 4,000 others were injured. Overall the riots cost the city $1 billion in damages and 12,000 people were arrested to cap off the worst riots that L.A. had seen in decades. After the riots, the cases of two officers involved in the King beating were reinstated and with the help of King’s statement against them, both officers were sentenced to 30 months in prison for civil rights violations. Rodney King was also awarded $3.8 million after a civil case with the city.
The question on most people’s minds after the incident is the one that will be discussed. Was this beating racially charged? In my opinion, it most certainly was. Though King was guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and recklessly endangering the lives of Los Angeles citizens, it doesn’t mean he deserved the beating he received. I believe the beating was racially charged and though it is a difficult point to prove definitively, I believe that it is the truth. King is beaten with malice by the officers and when watching the footage, it’s hard to believe that a white man would have gotten the same treatment as King. Officers joking about how many times King was hit leads me to believe that they were beating him for other reasons than just to subdue him.
A black man being savagely beating by four white officers and one Hispanic officer was just another injustice against a minority and a symbol of the oppression that many minorities felt from white America. But what seemed to be an even worse racial injustice was the trial and the way that it was handled. The fact the trial was moved to a predominantly white area with a predominately white jury certainly raised some questions. But after the verdict that essentially let the officers off the hook was the last straw in the minds of not just minorities, but all types of people across America. This was the reason that the rioting began. How these officers, who brutally beat a man far after the force was necessary got off essentially with nothing more than a slap on the wrists is simply baffling. How a jury could see that video and not see something wrong with the way those officers acted leads me to believe that race was a factor in the minds of the jury members.
The beating of Rodney King was one of the most racially dividing issues in recent memory. A black man was savagely and unnecessarily beaten by four white officers and one Hispanic officer long after force was necessary. On top of that was the 10 out of 12 white jurors in a largely white county acquitting the offending officers of just about every charge that was brought against them. In my mind, there is no way around the fact that race tension fueled this controversy. Rodney King deserved to be arrested, and some force was necessary to subdue him. But beating the man while he cowered in fear on the ground was not necessary, and frankly would not have happened if he wasn’t black. This was a case of racial tension getting to a boiling point and exploding into one of the most unjust acts and trials in recent memory. Though there is no definitive proof of the factor of race in this case, the writing is on the wall. Rodney King was beaten with such severity because of the color of his skin, not his actions. How the jury saw what the police did to that man and deemed it appropriate force only further supports the fact that race was the deciding factor in this case.
Kavanagh, Jim. “Rodney King, 20 Years Later – CNN.” Featured Articles from CNN. 03 Mar. 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2011. <http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-03/us/rodney.king.20.years.later_1_laurence-powell-theodore-briseno-king-attorney-milton-grimes?_s=PM:US>.
“The L.A. Riots: 15 Years After Rodney King – TIME.” Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.com. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. <http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/la_riot/0,28757,1614117,00.html>.
“Los Angeles Riots, 1992.” University of Southern California. Web. 29 Sept. 2011. <http://www.usc.edu/libraries/archives/la/la_riot.html>.
“Rodney King Beating: MARCH 19, 1991.” Web. 29 Sept. 2011. <http://prop1.org/legal/prisons/kinga2.htm>.
“Rodney King Beating Video – YouTube.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w-SP7iuM6k>.
“Rodney King.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_King>.
At the time of the 2004 presidential election, I had only heard about some discrepancies with the ballots in a few states but really thought nothing of it. George W. Bush had won the election and that was the end of the issue in my mind. I believed the media (and particularly conservative media) when they said that people who thought the election was rigged were nothing but a bunch of crack pot conspiracy theorists. However, Robert Kennedy Jr. presents a very strong argument that the 2004 presidential election was rigged in George W. Bush’s favor.
The statistics presented in this piece are overwhelmingly point to one conclusion: that the 2004 election was rigged by the Republican Party. However, being the skeptic that I am, I don’t completely buy everything in this article. Kennedy brings up a lot of strong points and uses statistics and experts to back up his argument but that doesn’t definitively make him correct. Of course I believe that this issue should be examined and investigated in order to get the bottom of the numerous flaws that appeared alongside the ballots in many key states in the 2004 election. But I follow the justice system’s “innocent until proven guilty” mantra and I’m not going to start mistrusting the government until a few things are proven. Sure I’m skeptical of the government, and Robert Kennedy’s work adds to that skepticism, but until some hard evidence comes out, George W. Bush still won the 2004 election. Perhaps I’m too trusting of the government and I’m sure plenty of people disagree with my opinion, but I have to give the government and those involved within it the benefit of the doubt until I have proof that my trust is misplaced.