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Creative Commons license.

By now, it is old news that many off-duty police from all over the US participated in the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6. For many Americans, this news came as a shock. However, for those of us who have been paying attention to the relationship between white nationalism and policing, it felt like the culmination of a years-long process which has been unfolding in slow motion, that many have sounded the alarm about.

Last fall, in a reading group I was participating in on the far right, I casually mentioned the extent to which both Portland and Seattle police had been overtly coordinating with and assisting armed paramilitary groups during the Black Lives Matter protests throughout 2020. I was told by one of the people who attended the meeting that this “sounded like a leftist conspiracy theory.” While I was disappointed by this response, I was not particularly surprised by it. Liberal Americans, especially liberal white Americans, love to comfort ourselves with the the idea that the police who commit racist violence are “bad apples.” But I wanted everyone in the group to be on the same page regarding this topic, so I asked Twitter to help me compile a list of resources documenting the phenomenon I was talking about. The picture that emerged from these resources suggests that the issue is, unfortunately, more systemic than many of us would like to believe. (Indeed, Rage Against the Machine were not exaggerating when, nearly 30 years ago, they proclaimed “some of those who work forces are the same that burn crosses.”) …


What a guy who wouldn’t help his kid open a can says about the Culture War

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I met John Roderick exactly once. Almost a decade ago, we were in a photo shoot together because our bands were playing the same local festival and we both wound up on the cover of a now-defunct Seattle arts magazine. I had never heard of his band The Long Winters, and I think that fact surprised Roderick, who seemed very used to people knowing who he is. …


How the handwringing over the terminology misses the point

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Photo by Taymaz Valley (Creative Commons)

One of the most common clichés invoked in conversations about policing in the US is the one about apples: “Not all police are violent. The ones doing the killing are bad apples.” Those who use this cliché intend to simultaneously defend the institution of policing while admitting that the violence committed by officers is, in fact, indefensible. What they seem to forget is the rest of the adage they are invoking—based in the science of how rotting apples work—which is that a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel.

This adage, in its original sense, is actually an apt metaphor for institutional corruption. A popular saying from the opposite side of this struggle is “All Cops Are Bastards,” but for the sake of rhetoric, I want to be generous here. Let’s assume that there are cops who are not bastards, at least not irredeemably so. Which is to say, let’s assume that there are human beings who got into policing for reasons other than the power to use chemical weapons on residential neighborhoods or to kill people with no consequences. Maybe they grew up seeing portrayals of good cops on TV, or maybe they legitimately want to see rapists and murderers held accountable. Because of the violent influence of the organizational culture of policing, especially that of police unions, the system is not set up to help good cops do their work without also requiring them to be complicit in covering for their corrupt comrades. This past week, it was revealed the Louisville Metro Police Department had concealed 748,000 records concerning sexual abuse committed by officers in its ranks. As Musa al-Gharbi outlined in The Atlantic, police departments have methods of severely punishing “good apples” who “prioritize their sworn duties over loyalty to their peers.” This is how, unfortunately, even the best of cops wind up serving a thoroughly rotten system. …


Oregon’s history of radical resistance is directly linked to its racist roots

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photo: Oregon Historical Society

In the first episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country, the three main characters find themselves in a sundown town—a community where Black people could find themselves arrested, or even killed, if they were found to be outside past sundown. The phrase trended on Twitter, where many white people revealed that they were learning of the existence of sundown towns for the first time. It also prompted many Black Twitter users to share their stories of sundown towns, and even make a collaborative map of confirmed or suspected places where it was deemed unsafe, either in the past or present, for Black people to be outside after dark. While many of these towns are concentrated in the American south, there are even more in the northeast and the Rust Belt. …


The erasure of Black labor from conversations about protests leads to a misunderstanding of the history in the making

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BLM graffiti on a Seattle street, June 2020.

Last night I crawled into bed with the erroneous belief that Ben Shapiro’s apparent unawareness that vaginas can get wet would be the most profoundly ignorant thing I would read all day. But the day was not over yet, and alas, there were even worse takes to be had.

I opened the Twitter app and was launched into an in-progress argument between Seattle comedian Brett Hamil and arch-centrist Matt Yglesias. …


Technology enables new mechanisms of social accountability. Are we ready?

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The “many-to-many” paradigm of social media, combined with an instantaneous “new visibility,” have given rise to new mechanisms of communication. They are here whether we want them or not. Illustrations courtesy of the author

A couple of weeks ago, I went online and encountered the kind of news that no one ever wants to read. A prominent Biblical scholar and Oxford professor, Jan Joosten, had been arrested for downloading some 28,000 images and videos documenting the sexual exploitation of children, a charge to which he has confessed. Throughout the rest of the day, many members of a large professional organization of Biblical scholars took to social media to express their disappointment and disgust. The consensus among these individuals was that Joosten should be immediately dismissed from his positions of leadership within that professional organization, and that a definitive stance should be taken against the exploitation of children. It sounds like a simple request, and yet, given that organization’s gentle handling of another member convicted of similar charges in the past, it could not be taken for granted that ties with Joosten would be cut. And so a group of scholars quickly mobilized in order to pressure the organization to take action. A statement came — some considered it too little too late — but at the very least, a stance was taken. …


A former Seattleite comes home to see what activists have done with the place.

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Barricades are set up to prevent cars from entering the area (pedestrians may enter freely)

UPDATE 6/20: A protester was shot and killed this morning in the CHOP. For realtime updates, I recommend following Omari Salisbury on Twitter.

It was almost midnight when we arrived in the Zone. Exhausted from the day’s journey—it’s a 12-hour drive from our apartment in Berkeley to our old Seattle neighborhood—my partner and I took a late night walk around Cal Anderson, the public park adjacent to the East Precinct from which Seattle Police retreated on June 8. …


People keep asking this question, so here’s some context

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UPDATE: As of 6/13, the area formerly known as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) has been renamed “Capitol Hill Organized Protest” (CHOP).

UPDATE 6/12: I changed the title of this article to make it more family-friendly so people are less shy about sharing it with folks who need it the most.

UPDATE 6/16: I wrote a new post about what I witnessed when I visited the CHOP zone. That post is here.

“What the f*ck is happening in Seattle?” an Oakland friend texted me the other day. I laughed, and then sighed, because in order to do justice to this question is to delve into years of back story. …


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48 years ago, Bernie Sanders wrote a spicy take about rape culture, and men can’t stop showing it to me.

Hey, did you know that Bernie Sanders once wrote an essay about a woman having a rape fantasy? If you are blissfully unaware of this fact, then you are lucky, and also you are probably not a woman who has had the audacity to express frustration with Joe Biden being the presumptive Democratic nominee despite his well-documented history of creepiness toward girls and women.

For the uninitiated: in 1972, Bernie Sanders wrote an article called “Man and Woman” for a Vermont-based alternative paper. This article begins with a shocking, attention-grabbing lede:

A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused. …


Bernie Bros are a myth. They’re also the most annoying people on the left. To put the ‘Bro’ to bed, first we must understand its staying power.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns with Bernie Sanders in 2019. Photo by Matt A.J., via Flickr.

What if I told you that Bernie Bros don’t exist?

If you’re like many progressives, (including many friends in my social media feeds), you might agree with this statement wholeheartedly. Some evidence you might cite to corroborate this take:

  • Bernie Sanders supporters are a diverse coalition of men, women, and nonbinary folks from all walks of life who believe that policies like Medicare For All will benefit everyone.
  • Bernie is the most popular candidate among young people of all demographics, who will have to bear the brunt of climate change and the legacy of Trumpism, and whose outrage at inaction on these issues and more is not only justified but crucial. …

About

Emily Pothast

Artist and historian. PhD student researching religion, material culture, media, and politics. Bylines at The Wire Magazine, Art in America + more.

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