In the News: Reading & Resisting


Created by Abigail Clauhs. More info (and swag to benefit the ACLU) available here.

We imagine that many of our readers are doing a lot of fighting right now. Fighting to catch up and to keep up, fighting to stay sane while fighting what seems insane, and more. We have also been working hard to figure out what to do and how to do it. Which has meant, of course, a lot of reading. But before we get to the articles and the religion news, we want to foreground some of the resources and guides that are helping us collect our thoughts and get to work. 


Five Calls

5 Calls does the research for each issue, determining out which representatives are most influential for which topic, collecting phone numbers for those offices and writing scripts that clearly articulate a progressive position. You just have to call.

Ten Ways to Take on Trump: What We Can Do from Congress to the Streets  from The New Republic

If you’re in New York City, you can add the Take Action Calendar to your google calendar. It’s an event calendar of NYC protests, political actions, protests, demonstrations, workshops, organizing trainings, and planning meetings.

Jews For Racial and Economic Justice will also lead you to important work being done in NYC.

For 25 years, Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) has pursued racial and economic justice in New York City by advancing systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in people’s everyday lives. We are inspired by Jewish tradition to fight for a sustainable world with an equitable distribution of economic and cultural resources and political power.

Outside of the NYC area, Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda is indispensable.

And also please have a look at the #MuslimBan Resource Guide published by the Ajam Media Collective. 

This guide is the result of a collaboration between various individuals and organizations in an effort to provide the most reliable and up-to-date information on President Trump’s executive order. All information will be made available in Arabic, Persian, Somali, Urdu, and Western Armenian, thanks to the generosity of volunteers.

We’d also suggest checking out Showing Up for Racial Justice to see what’s happening in your area.

SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills and political analysis to act for change.

We have, like many others, also been thinking a lot about protest. Who is in the streets, why, and what are they doing once they’re there? Who was already there? Who’s being left out? Who should lead? Who can lead? As the resistance, in name and practice, takes shape, questions of tactics, efficacy, alienation, marginalization, inclusion, solidarity, symbolism, violence, non-violence, and more are vitally and urgently in play. We’ll be publishing work on those subjects in the months to come, for sure, but for now, here is some writing specifically about protest which we are finding it useful to think with:

You can find plenty of memes and articles about punching Nazis online right now we’re going to go ahead and consider the question answered and move on to this excellent piece by Natasha Lennard for The Nation: “Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer Got Punched — You Can Thank the Black Bloc” because it’s got a lot more going on than the title allows.

To talk with any romance for the black bloc risks falling into the worst tropes of bombastic revolutionary writing. We don’t don black masks and become instant revolutionary subjects. We don’t necessarily achieve more with property damage than a larger, more subdued rally achieves. In every case, the standard of achievement depends on the aims of the action, and all of us are far from creating the rupture we want to see in the world. One broken window, or a hundred, is not victory. But nor is over half a million people rallying on the National Mall. Both gain potency only if they are perceived as a threat by those in and around power. And neither action will appear threatening unless followed up again and again with unrelenting force, in a multitude of directions. You don’t have to choose between pink hat and black mask; each of us can wear both. You don’t have to fight neo-Nazis in the street, but you should support those who do.

And Nathan Schneider has further reasons “Why we should listen to anarchists in the age of Trump” for America Magazine

Despite the caricatures of black-bloc-style chaos, the bulk of anarchist tradition has sought for people to be better organized in their everyday lives—while they work, where they live, how they manage disagreements. This type of power emanates from below, and it is shared. Anarchists aspire to a kind of world in which the Donald Trumps among us can shout all they want but nobody has the need for flocking to them. Real, daily democracy does not leave much room for quite so much greatness.

Ijeomo Oluo asks these questions very powerfully in her essay “When You Brag That The Women’s Marches Were Nonviolent” for The Establishment

When you say that your protests were nonviolent, I wonder, how do you define violence?

Is it a brick?

Is it a rock?

Is it a baton?

Is it pepper spray?

Is it a firehose?

Is it a police dog?

Or is it poisoned water?

Is it a school suspension?

Is it mass incarceration?

Is it grinding poverty?

Is it that “random” airport security check?

Is it yet another traffic stop?

Is it the toy gun in that kid’s hand?

Is it that stop and frisk?

Or is it the thought that you could march a million white women down the street without fear — and high five the same cops who wouldn’t hesitate to pepper spray black and brown faces begging for nothing less than their lives — and then call it progress?

And Jeremy Bendik-Keymer shares his thoughts on The Aesthetics of Protest in Hyperallergic. 

Aesthetics means attention to how things appear. The aesthetics of protest, then, should be about how sense becomes sense between people, pointing away from what we currently do and toward conversation. Or, as I like to put it: consideration, of people and of social reality. I wager that until protests take this democratic direction seriously, they will remain aesthetically blocked.

More generally, here is some of the writing we have found the most helpful to think with in the last couple of months.

Zadie SmithOn Optimism and Despair” in the New York Review of Books

As my dear, soon-departing president well understood, in this world there is only incremental progress. Only the willfully blind can ignore that the history of human existence is simultaneously the history of pain: of brutality, murder, mass extinction, every form of venality and cyclical horror. No land is free of it; no people are without their bloodstain; no tribe entirely innocent. But there is still this redeeming matter of incremental progress. It might look small to those with apocalyptic perspectives, but to she who not so long ago could not vote, or drink from the same water fountain as her fellow citizens, or marry the person she chose, or live in a certain neighborhood, such incremental change feels enormous.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie arguing that “Now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about” in The New Yorker.

Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just. Now is the time to speak up and to wear as a badge of honor the opprobrium of bigots. Now is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism; it allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility. Hazy visions of “healing” and “not becoming the hate we hate” sound dangerously like appeasement. The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity.

Mark Greif on What Thoreau can teach us about resisting Trump at Literary Hub

CL: And he’s 200 years old this year so the moral is: Read Thoreau, and feel free to be a crank in the age of Trump.

MG: Be a crank, indeed. You know, Trump in a way he suddenly presents us with the spectacle of a million things that one really is against, one should be against, almost too easily, a mockery of what it is to separate right from wrong or good from bad, and because of that I do think there’s an additional challenge of not letting the Trump moment engross all of your attention nor to assume that the rest of your life is all good and right.

Jedediah Purdy‘s “What I Had Lost Was a Country” in n+1

The American political calendar creates a hiatus between elections and their consequences. The nearly two months from early November until January 20 is a sort of penitentiary, in the old sense: a time of confinement in which to consider what we have done, or, depending on your standpoint, what has befallen us. That season, now closing, has been especially bewildering this year. This is mostly because of the catastrophe of November 8, but it is also because I allowed myself a certain kind of magical thinking in the summer and fall. Although I would have said that I knew better, I halfway accepted the assurance that what in fact happened in the presidential election was impossible because it was unimaginable. Now that it has happened, I, at least, am often shaken by the question: What else is possible? Not just theoretically possible, but maybe on its way to happening, that I have not really imagined? What else have I failed to understand about this place?

No Racial Barrier Left to Break (Except All of Them)” by Khalil Gibran Muhammad for The New York Times.

In post-assimilation America, people of color must continue to pursue leadership roles as the demographics of the nation inexorably change. But they must also reject their personal achievement as the core measure of progress and instead use history as a tool to measure systemic change. To proceed otherwise is to perpetuate the “fantasy of self-deception” that Dr. King rejected.

The future is no longer about “firsts.” It is instead about the content of the character of the institutions our new leaders will help us rebuild.

Trump and the Present Crisis” by Nikhil Pal Singh for Verso‘s Blog

In the coming period, we are likely to need to strengthen natural bases of support in liberal civic institutions, including progressive churches, and to strengthen and scale up labour and community organizing networks at the municipal level to defend increasingly vulnerable populations. Every effort should be made to coordinate this work towards the development of national-popular political organizations on the left, both within and outside of the Democratic Party. We should not pay too much attention to tactical noise about finding common ground with Trump on particular issues (if only to exploit internal contradictions and to split some of them off from each other). The longer range vision needs to be about how do we plan to derail Trump’s project, and where do we want to go.

This Was The Year America Finally Saw The South” by Jesmyn Ward for Buzzfeed

As black person after black person died without cause across the United States of America, as they were buried without justice, suddenly the South wasn’t so far away. It had been hidden for so long, disavowed in the public sphere, only recognized by those it harmed, but this year the steady stream of deaths created activists who insisted that all Americans acknowledge that which most spent decades denying.

And here is some valuable writing about religion and Trump:

And by Trump, maybe we really mean Steve Bannon? “Why Steve Bannon wants to destroy secularism” by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins for The Guardian

His traditionalism is predicated on a rather speculative historical argument. He argues that a form of “enlightened capitalism” defined western political economies from the second world war until roughly the downfall of the Soviet Union. This type of capitalism was predicated on the Judeo-Christian tradition, which, for reasons Bannon does not explain, was adequately able to represent the culture and economic interests of the working classes.

And Bannon has back up: Dahlia Lithwick wrote about “True Lies: There was one moment in Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing that revealed why so many are so terrified of him.” for Slate

In what seemed to be the only moment gobsmacking enough to bring the Senate chamber to almost complete silence, in the late afternoon Sessions had this terse exchange with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Whitehouse suggested that lists were already circulating suggesting there might be purges or demotions of certain career appointees in the Justice Department. Whitehouse wondered whether Sessions would have a problem with career lawyers “with secular beliefs,” having in the past criticized department attorneys for being secular. Sessions replied that he has used that language about secular attorneys to differentiate between people who recognize objective “truth” and those who take positions “in which truth is not sufficiently respected.”

Whitehouse replied, with a leading, and perhaps slightly conclusory question: “And a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious, correct?” At which point Sessions responded, “Well, I’m not sure.” For a few seconds the Senate chamber seemed to go completely silent.

Meanwhile, there’s the story of “How Trump’s Inauguration Preachers Bring ‘Hebrew Roots’ to the White House” by Sam Kestenbaum for The Forward

Donald Trump has enlisted a diverse lineup of six clergy to pray him into office at his upcoming inauguration ceremony. Three draw on Jewish ritual objects and ideas in their practices, like Torah and prayer shawls — but only one clergy member is a Jewish rabbi. The other two, praying alongside Rabbi Marvin Hier, are known for their “prosperity gospel,” teaching that financial blessing and physical well-being are the will of God. They also affirm the “Hebrew roots” of the New Testament. One cleric, Wayne T. Jackson, keeps a private Torah, and many of the congregants at his church wear prayer shawls; another, Paula White, fasts on Yom Kippur and has such a proclivity for Jewish rituals that she once participated in a ceremony where two helpers unfurled a Torah and wrapped her inside.

While we’re on the subject of Judaism. Don’t miss Omri Boehm‘s “Liberal Zionism in the Age of Trump” by Omri Boehm for The New York Times’ The Stone 

The alliance that’s beginning to form between Zionist leadership and politicians with anti-Semitic tendencies has the power to transform Jewish-American consciousness for years to come. In the last few decades, many of America’s Jewish communities have grown accustomed to living in a political contradiction. On one hand, a large majority of these communities could rightly take pride in a powerful liberal tradition, stretching back to such models as Louis Brandeis — a defender of social justice and the first Jew to become a Supreme Court justice — or Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched in Selma alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On the other hand, the same communities have often identified themselves with Zionism, a political agenda rooted in the denial of liberal politics.

While Stanley Hauerwas  warns “Christians, don’t be fooled: Trump has deep religious convictions” for The Washington Post.

Christians must call his profound and mistaken faith what it is: idolatry. Christianity in America is declining if not dying, which makes it difficult to call Trump to task. Trump has taken advantage of Christian Americans who have long lived as if God and country are joined at the hip. I do not doubt Trump thinks of himself as a Christian, but America is his church.

Alas, not funny: “How Jokes Won the Election: How do you fight an enemy who’s just kidding?” by Emily Nussbaum for The New Yorker.

Since November 9th, we’ve heard a lot of talk about unreality, and how what’s normal bends when you’re in a state of incipient autocracy. There’s been a lot written about gaslighting (lies that make you feel crazy) and the rise of fake news (hoaxes that displace facts), and much analysis of Trump as a reality star (an authentic phony). But what killed me last year were the jokes, because I love jokes—dirty jokes, bad jokes, rude jokes, jokes that cut through bullshit and explode pomposity. Growing up a Jewish kid in the nineteen-seventies, in a house full of Holocaust books, giggling at Mel Brooks’s “The Producers,” I had the impression that jokes, like Woody Guthrie’s guitar, were a machine that killed fascists. Comedy might be cruel or stupid, yet, in aggregate, it was the rebel’s stance. Nazis were humorless. The fact that it was mostly men who got to tell the jokes didn’t bother me. Jokes were a superior way to tell the truth—that meant freedom for everyone.

But by 2016 the wheel had spun hard the other way: now it was the neo-fascist strongman who held the microphone and an army of anonymous dirty-joke dispensers who helped put him in office.

Oh gosh, right, and also this: Jason Horowitz wrote about “Breitbart’s Man in Rome” for The New York Times

He said his time in the public eye had made him extra sensitive to inflicting harm and he lamented the “horrible” Breitbart commenters. Referring to the laptop computer on his dining room table, he noted, with a hint of sarcasm, that his home office — where he keeps a reliquary of bone chips of Dominican saints and framed photographs of Pope Benedict XVI smiling with his mother-in-law, a former United States ambassador to the Holy See — was “pretty nondescript for a subversive, alt-right, world-changing organization.”

Talking about Trump means we absolutely have to talk about Islam and Islamophobia. 

Aziz Ansari has a funny suggestion to end Islamophobia. Here’s why it’s important.” by Hussein Rashid for The Washington Post.

So Ansari’s point is important, because media, both entertainment and news, struggle to tell stories of Muslims outside of the national security lens. The stories they tell tend to generate fear, and they collapse everything Muslims do into that perspective.

Despite what Islamophobes say, Islam is a religion. It has a deep spiritual meaning to those who adhere to it, approximately a quarter of the world’s population. Because of the love and passion Muslims feel for their faith, they have created majestic pieces of art and serve as the cultural contributors whom we all recognize.

Please Keep Your American Flags Off My Hijab” by Joojoo Azad

I understand the good intentions, but my liberation will not come from framing my body with a flag that has flown every time my people have fallen.
And I hope yours will not either.

And Elizabeth Shakman Hurd on “The Myth of the Muslim Country” for the Boston Review is sharp and essential, despite the fact that it is illustrated, we have to note, with the very image Azad so smartly critiqued above.

Misuse of religious labels pervades these debates. In an otherwise sharply critical piece about the new executive order, a New York Times headline utilized the label of “Muslim countries.” The presumption that one can objectively describe the nations subjected to the ban as Muslim is sociologically sloppy, historically misguided, and politically dangerous. It is precisely this slippage, and the actions and policies it engenders, that contribute to creating a world in which it seems natural to talk about religion as if we all know what we mean when we say “Muslim countries.”

The intersection of Islamophobia and city planning is an issue we’ve been interested in for a while and we were glad to see it get some attention in two recent articles.

First, “A smokescreen for bigotry: Disguising anti-Muslim bias with land-use objections” by Petula Dvorak for The Washington Post: 

Turns out the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg has been operating in Spotsylvania County for 28 years. And Shalaby’s family has been there for 31. Until last year, they were viewed as neighbors. They were engineers, car salesmen, moms picking up their kids from soccer games or band practice.

But then Donald Trump began running for president, pledging to ban Muslims from entering the country and establish a registry for Muslim Americans.

It was amid that heated and ugly rhetoric that the center announced its expansion plans — and promptly ran into a wall of opposition. And now, a year later, the Islamic center is still tied up in traffic-pattern objections and subdivision squabbles.

And second: “The Mosque Next Door: City Law vs. Houses of Faith” by Lisa W. Foderaro  for The New York Times

Across the country, more and more towns have used local zoning laws as barriers to new mosques and Islamic schools, underscoring what civil rights advocates say is a growing wave of intolerance that has been amplified by the victory of President-elect Donald J. Trump. In response, the federal government has been increasingly turning to the courts, using a law passed unanimously by Congress in 2000 that prohibits municipalities from discriminating against religions in land-use decisions or treating religious groups differently than secular ones.

And in other acts of exclusion we have the story of “The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi” by Rozina Ali for The New Yorker

The erasure of Islam from Rumi’s poetry started long before Coldplay got involved. Omid Safi, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Duke University, says that it was in the Victorian period that readers in the West began to uncouple mystical poetry from its Islamic roots. Translators and theologians of the time could not reconcile their ideas about a “desert religion,” with its unusual moral and legal codes, and the work of poets like Rumi and Hafez. The explanation they settled on, Safi told me, was “that these people are mystical not because of Islam but in spite of it.” This was a time when Muslims were singled out for legal discrimination—a law from 1790 curtailed the number of Muslims who could come into the United States, and a century later the U.S. Supreme Court described the “intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians.” In 1898, in the introduction to his translation of the “Masnavi,” Sir James Redhouse wrote, “The Masnavi addresses those who leave the world, try to know and be with God, efface their selves and devote themselves to spiritual contemplation.” For those in the West, Rumi and Islam were separated.

Let’s end this section with some notes on inclusion, shall we?

First, do have a look at the #BlackIslamSyllabus curated by Kayla Renée Wheeler:

This project is curated by Kayla Renée Wheeler and was inspired by Prof. Najeeba Syeed-Miller, #BlackInMSA, and Muslim ARC.  The goal of this project is to provide teachers, professors, researchers, journalists, and people interested in learning more about Islam with resources on Black Muslims to promote a more inclusive approach to the study of Islam. 

And then check out the new web series, “The Secret Life of Muslims“:

Fifteen years after 9/11, American Muslims still face an uphill battle in the national imagination. The current political climate spurred on by constant fear mongering during this election cycle, as well as the saturation of negative stereotypes that flood the news and media continue to make Muslims the target of suspicion and hostility. 

Building on its work in The Secret Life of Scientists, Seftel Productions’ new series, The Secret Life of Muslims, uses humor and empathy to subvert stereotypes and reveal the truth about American Muslims: fascinating careers, unexpected talents, and inspiring accomplishments, providing a counter-narrative to the rampant Islamophobia prevalent in the media. 

Needless to say, good journalism is essential right now, and it’s getting harder to do. Here are a few pieces of and about reporting that we wanted to highlight:

Eyes need a break? Check out these two excellent podcast conversations.

Ezra Klein interviewing Ta-Nehisi Coates on his podcast, The Ezra Klein Show

And, look, religion did not come up in our conversations [with Obama]. But I think religion undergirds a lot of this. This sort of idea that, “At the end of the day, it all works out.” Or maybe, to put it less condescendingly, that, “We’re on the right side of history, and the arc of the moral universe bends to justice.” That’s just something I don’t share. The sense of destiny that “it will,” I just don’t share it. There’s ample evidence it might not. That’s where I come down.

Then get ready to read again, because Coates’ “My President Was Black” really is essential. (Then again, there is an audio version if you really aren’t up to more reading just yet.)

Obama was born into a country where laws barring his very conception—let alone his ascendancy to the presidency—had long stood in force. A black president would always be a contradiction for a government that, throughout most of its history, had oppressed black people. The attempt to resolve this contradiction through Obama—a black man with deep roots in the white world—was remarkable. The price it exacted, incredible. The world it gave way to, unthinkable.

Also worth a listen is Evan Ratliff interviewing our friend Jeff Sharlet for Longform (which, by the way, is a superb podcast and you should totally check out the whole back catalogue).

“I like the stories with difficult people. I like the stories about people who are dismissed as monsters. I hate the term ‘monster.’ ‘Monster’ is a safe term for us, right? Trump’s a monster. Great, we don’t need to wrestle with, ‘Uh oh, he’s not a monster. He’s in this human family with us.’ I’m not normalizing him. I’m acknowledging the fact. Now, what’s wrong with us? If Trump is human, what’s wrong with you?”

Sharlet also wrote a piece about “Dealing with Bullies in the Schoolyard” for Tablet recently that is all too relevant.

There’s a popular assumption that anti-Semitism runs along class lines. You might be thinking that their parents aren’t “educated.” I don’t put much stock in that. One boy is the son of a doctor. The other’s parents work for—I won’t say. It’d be too transparent. They are, though, unquestionably “educated” people.

Did they really teach their children such things? Should I ask? Will that make it worse? I think of what my father taught me—fight—and what my daughter did today: speak truth to the power that is two older boys who are being bullies. But I think, too, of two elementary-school boys, children who likely have even less understanding of how awful what they’d said was than Esther did. Esther, which, as I mentioned, is not her real name. I rarely use it when I write publicly, because she is still becoming who she will be. Just as those boys are.

Tired of podcasts? So is David A. Banks in “Podcast Out” for The New Inquiry.

Outsourcing self-validation to the illusion of scientific authority is an abdication. While seemingly definitive answers rooted in positivist thinking can be comforting, they suffocate one’s own ability to make meaning in the world. Under positivism, only the scientist can tell us, for example, that we feel heartbreak in our whole body. No one needs to be stuck in an fMRI to find this out, and yet that is precisely what NPR podcasts do. They stoke existential anxiety by feigning surprise that science told you that just this time you were actually right.

So maybe some YouTube videos, then? We had the pleasure of attending a symposium on Religious Literacy and Journalism at the Harvard Divinity School back in December. We had the pleasure of listening to the likes of Diane Moore, Stephen Prothero, Jeff Sharlet, Angela Zito, Laurie Goodstein, Michelle Boorstein, Diane WinstonEddie S. Glaude Jr. and many others in conversation with one another. The event was live streamed and recorded and now you can watch them all online here.

Back in the world of text, then, we also appreciated these two interviews with Kelly J. Baker. One in Muck Rack and the other over at Sacred Matters.

What’s the most common misperception about your beat?

That higher education or religion is easy to comprehend & report on. Both beats are complicated and deserve complicated, nuanced stories.

And Richard Seymour writes about Trolling and “Schadenfreude with Bite” for the London Review of Books.

This capacity – this desire – to play both troll and witch-hunter is part of the affective basis for Trumpism. And Trump is the grandest troll of all: a huge, pachydermic stirrer, as cheerfully and swaggeringly amoral as Berlusconi. Like most trolls, he understands his target, constantly zeroing in on liberals’ bad conscience. During the presidential debates with Hillary Clinton, he defended his deportation policy by pointing out – as no other Republican candidate would – that Obama had deported more people than any other president, more than 2.5 million people. Saying things that are not usually said openly is part of the transgressive thrill of Trumpism. This is what the critique of ‘post-truth politics’ misses. Even when he lies egregiously, Trump’s fans think he is demonstrating an important truth in exposing media fakery. The alt-right, meanwhile, sees in Trumpism the basis for a new insurgent white nationalism, one that will victimise the exploitable – anyone who is not a conservative, white, affluent male – with detached delight. They are preparing for power, but their expression says: ‘Why so serious?’

Which should absolutely be read alongside”Apocalypse Whatever: The making of a racist, sexist religion of nihilism on 4Chan” by Tara Isabella Burton for Real Life Magazine.

If I’ve learned anything as a historian of religion, it’s that belief is flexible. The actual propositional content of doctrines has little to do with how religion works socially. Far more than the content of faith as such, what makes religion religion are the images and rhetoric loaded with atavistic and esoteric archetypes (chaos; order; Kek; frogs; a “God Emperor,” to use a common 4chan appellation for Donald Trump) that tend to propagate virally, independent of a centralized source, because they tie into the cultural zeitgeist or answer some cultural need. They allow for a collective affirmation of identity that puts self-creation in dialogue with metaphysical questions about the universe. Religion often functions in this sense as a kind of dictionary: a compendium of symbols and their meaning that also allows for shared communal discourse: a “language” of stories we tell one another about our selves and our world.

As for where all of that shitposting got us: Adam Wren had the unenviable task of explaining “What I Learned Binge-Watching Steve Bannon’s Documentaries” for Politico Magazine. 

If I learned one thing during this all-out assault on the senses, it was that the arc of the moral universe may be long, but it bends toward the guillotine. Western Civilization as we know it is under attack by forces that are demonic or foreign—the difference between those is blurry—and people in far-distant power centers are looking to screw you. What’s worse, Christianity and freedom are on the wane. In his documentaries, the president-elect’s man is a kind of political John the Baptist, explaining to you how bad and corrupt and Godless our country really is, and preparing the way for potential saviors to take the country back. The Big Banks, the Establishment, Hollywood, the Left, the Right—to all of them, Bannon insists, “the forgotten man” is a potential mark in a long con that threatens to topple the “Judeo-Christian West,” as he put it in a colloquy with the Vatican in 2014, according to a recording unearthed by Buzzfeed. Even Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus and Kimye are in on the plot. More on that later.

Which makes us just want to watch these films:

Frederick Wiseman‘s new documentary series “In Jackson Heights

Frederick Wiseman’s latest documentary IN JACKSON HEIGHTS shines a light on one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse communities in America, and the world. Immersive and enthralling, revealing issues of assimilation, integration, immigration, and religious and cultural differences, the film proves Jackson Heights to be, in the truest sense, a microcosm of the American melting pot.

And “I Am Not Your Negro” Raoul Peck‘s new documentary about and written by James Baldwin (beautifully reviewed by A.O. Scott in The New York Times.)


Lastly, no matter how bad it gets, there will be GIFs. Lots and lots of ever-glorious GIFs. And there is no more glorious GIF maker than Scorpion Dagger, who gives us this month’s piece of animated magic:

See you next month.


-Kali Handelman, Editor, The Revealer


You can find previous “In the News” round-ups here.

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