“For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarcerations on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today — perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system — in prison, on probation, or on parole — than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America — more than six million — than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.”—Adam Gopnik. 2012. “The Caging of America” in The New Yorker. January 30, pp. 72-77.
“In her ‘Americas Program’ column on September 3, 2009, entitled ‘Drug War Doublespeak,” Laura Carlsen insisted: ‘Drug-war doublespeak pervades and defines the Mexico-United States relationship today. The discourse aims not to win the war on drugs, but to assure funding and public support for the military model of combating illegal drug trafficking, despite the losses and overwhelming evidence that current strategies are not working.’”—Robert Joe Stout. 2012. “Does the United States and Mexico Really Want the Drug War to Succeed?” in Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine, January 2012, p. 38.
“People call many of the victims ‘malandros,’ bad guys, riffraff, human garbage. Sometimes they use the phrase ‘limpieza social,’ social cleansing, to describe these killings. The truth is the fewer than five percent of homicides in Mexico will ever be investigated or solved. But what is increasignly clear is that if this is a war, it is being waged, at least in part, by powerful forces of the Mexican government against poor and marginalized sectors of the Mexican people.”—Molly Molloy. 2011. “Introduction” in El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin. New York: Nation Books, p. 19.
“In the realm of the ‘serious’ traditional institutional news media in the US, increasingly, speculation masquerades as fact, gossip and tripe stand in for analysis, and the titillating and inane trump the sober and sane. The ongoing corporate media feeding frenzy at the trough of the factually groundless and absurd has only intensified over the past decade, whether promulgating faux fears — from killer bee attacks to various flu viruses — or pushing nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and the Orwellian, nebulously defined yet unending War on Terror. Fear and innuendo rule the headlines of the day while television programs are dominated by opinion journalism, empty technological displays, and elaborate computer graphics (perhaps casting the shadow in Plato’s cave). In short, for establishment ‘news’ as we have known it in the last quarter of the twentieth century, it really is the ‘end of times,’ and no amount of ‘reform’ attenuating the current commercially dominated system from the top down will likely resuscitate it, at least in journalistic terms.”—Mickey Duff. 2011. “Moving Beyond Media Reform for Censored in 2012,” in Censored 2012: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2010-2011. New York: Seven Stories Press, p. 11-12.
“Since 9/11, the Bush administration’s response to terrorism has primarily been formulated within the framework of war. The administration argues that the ‘war on terror’ is not merely a metaphorical war but a real war waged on many fronts. Yet these are nevertheless metaphorical underpinnings to the ‘war on terror.’ The characterization of 9/11 as an act of war (rather than, as others have argued, a criminal act) and the response to terrorism as a ‘war on terror’ (rather than an investigation into terrorist crimes) is a discursive achievement. This achievement has naturalized one characterization of 9/11 and America’s response to terrorism as the dominant way to talk about the issue. Moreover, it has laid the groundwork for launching the very real military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.”—Adam Hodges. 2011. The “War on Terror” Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 23.
“Nelson Mandela’s sage observation, that ‘there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul as than the way in which it treats its children,’ invites concern over our own society’s soul as big business ruthlessly squeezes childhood into forms and practices designed to yield profit. From the self-interested perspectives of corporations, children are little more than opportunities to exploit or costs to avoid — opportunities as markets for fast food, psychotropic drugs, or standardized tests, for example; costs as reasons for regulatory restrictions on manipulative marketing, industrial chemicals, or child labour. And as corporations become dominant (if not the dominant) forces in children’s and parents’ lives, that morally myopic perspective and the practices it inspires defines more and more what we, as a society, think and do about childhood. Our societal aspirations to manifest the values of childhood — caring for, nurturing, protecting, supporting, and enabling children — end up getting pushed aside by strategies devised to maximize the economic value of children.”—Joel Bakal. Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children (Toronto: Penguin Group Canada, 2011), p. 163.
“When it comes to the way money shapes American justice, nothing competes with the impact of the privatized prison lobby. Imprisoning criminals, once exclusively a government responsibility, has — like most government functions — been privatized. All over the United States, more and more prisons are managed not by government agencies but by for-profit private corporations such as Geo Group and Corrections Corporations of America. (In 2008, private prisons housed 7.5 percent of all inmate nationwide.) Those same companies accrue substantial revenues by providing contracting services to government-run prisons. They quite naturally view prisoners as their basic stock in trade and earn a profit for each prisoner they incarcerate. Like all private companies, the prison industry has an insatiable appetite for more business, and thus it agitates in favour of greater demand for its services — demand created through longer prison sentences, fewer opportunities for parole, and constant increases in the number of transgressions deemed prison-worthy. In other words, the private prison industry profits from precisely the draconian approach to penal policies implemented over the past decades… Simply put, incarceration is now big business in the United States.”—Glenn Greenwald. With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2011), pp. 254-255.
“For many, particularly in the United States, 9/11 was a moment when the world turned; for others, particularly outside the United States, it was a climactic summation of a longer history of American imperialism in general and its meddling in the Middle East in particular. Either way, it is not surprising that many commentators should have emphasized the temporality of the military violence that followed the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that bright September morning: the ‘war on terror’ that became ‘the long war.’ For the RETORT collective, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq marked ‘the elevation — into a state of permanent war — of a long and consistent pattern of military expansionism in the service of empire’ (RETORT 2005, 80). Keen wrote of ‘endless war,’ Duffield (2007) of ‘unending war’ and Filkins (2008) of the ‘forever war.’ The sense of permanence endures, and yet Engelhardt (2010, 2-3) ruefully notes that it remains difficult for Americans to understand ‘that Washington is a war capital, that the United States is a war state, that it garrisons much of the planet, and that the norm for us is to be at war somewhere at any moment.’”—Derek Gregory. “The everywhere war” in The Geographical Journal, Vol. 177, No. 3, September 2011, p. 238.
“If the figure of the Muslim is today being used to represent the most potent threat to national security, the racialization of the categories ‘Muslim’ and ‘immigrant’ means that all people of color who ‘look’ like ‘Muslims’ (that is, who are Black and Brown), are being constituted as part of this danger, regardless of their legal status. Racialization renders the distinction between immigrant all but meaningless in the eyes of nationals, who in the post 9/11 era imagine themselves to be ‘terrorized,’ perceiving the threat to their survival as emanating equally from both. Although many Muslim immigrants and refugees have been detained in Canada for ostensibly posing threats to national security, almost none have been charged with anything more than (minor) immigration violations. The twenty-one terrorist suspects who were rounded up with much media fanfare In Ontario in September 2003 were later released. It was subsequently reported that ‘the Ministry has not produced any evidence against any of the 21 showing they were a security threat.’ While such practices have netted few terrorists, they have had serious consequences for those detained, as well as for all Muslims who fear increased surveillance and targeting by law enforcement officials. Such measures have greatly increased the suspicions directed by nationals against all immigrants, fortifying the limits of the nation and sending a chill among many Muslim communities, which now fear for the legal status and the physical safety of their members. The media has contributed in no small measure to the growing erosion of their citizenship status. The distance between ‘immigrants’ and ‘real’ Canadians thus vastly increased since 9/11, with unforeseeable consequences for the future.”—Sunera Thobani. Exalted Subjects: Studies in the Making of Race and Nation in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), p. 246-247.
“Something kind of magical happened around the time that that guy burned himself in Tunisia, and it suddenly sparked that regime change in Egypt. There was something about the way it was generated by Facebook and Twitter and a few key people, very creative people who did something on some web site and called for people to go out in the street and then expecting 500 or 5,000 and all of a sudden they got 50,000. Strategically it suddenly became possible to get a huge number of people who are angry about something, or who are deeply concerned about something, it’s possible to get them out and to get them to strut their stuff. So that was the inspirational moment that we talked about a lot in our brainstorms here.”—Kalle Lasn in “Adbusters’ Kalle Lasn Talks About OccupyWallStreet,”The Tyee, Oct. 7, 2011.
“At the risk of drastically over-simplifying the problem, there are two primary impediments to any project that seeks to manufacture dissent. First, while social movements are dependent upon the circulation of what we might call counter-information — information critical of the status quo — the very structure, institutional interests, and routines of mainstream, corporate media effectively act as blockades to dissenting opinion. Giant, horizontally and vertically integrated media corporations have little reason to give sustained coverage to voices critical of the conditions in which such entities thrive. This is not to say that the media are completely blind to excesses of capitalism, abuses of power by the powerful, routine acts of injustice perpetrated by dominant institutions, and so on. We are all too often exposed to images of horrific oil and chemical spills, sordid tales of corporate fraud and political scandal, for example. However, these sad stories are often individualized, lacking in history and context, and abbreviated into easily digestible sound bite explanations — a drunken oil tanker captain here, a few bad apples there. On systemic issues, the media are, not surprisingly, asleep. For example, media corporations have no interest in challenging the spread of neoliberal economic dogma in any serious way because they benefit from decreased deregulation, reduced corporate taxation, weakened organized labour, and so on. Indeed, in this race to the bottom they have been more like cheerleaders than watchdogs. On the growth of corporate power and simultaneous erosion of democratic processes and institutions, the media have little to say. They also have no interest in presenting a sustained challenge to the environmental damage wrought by consumer capitalism given their commercial function in attracting audiences to sell to advertisers.”—Scott Uzelman, “Hard at Work in the Bamboo Garden: Media Activists and Social Movements,” in Autonomous Media: Activating Resistance and Dissent, Andrea Langlois & Frederick Dubois ed. (Montreal: Cumulus Press, 2005), p. 19.
“The rest of the population ought to be deprived of any form of organization, because organization just causes trouble. They ought to be sitting alone in front of the TV and having drilled into their heads the message, which says, the only value in life is to have more commodities or live like that rich middle class family you’re watching and to have nice values like harmony and Americanism.”—Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2nd ed, 2002), p. 27.
“The Civil Rights movement is now taken for granted and retrospectively backed by most of the political mainstream. Obama and his hagiographers use it a great deal in explaining the intellectual and political formation of the president. The struggle against segregation in Alabama and Mississippi is now deployed as a pleasing specter from the past, a ghostly presence ritually recalled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year. Claiming King’s mantle is all part of a day’s work for Democrats, black and white and every other stripe, helping to create the impression that all good, thinking people once supported the struggle for black rights and desegregation. This was never the case. At virtually every level of the republic, the political culture of slavery continued to permeate most of its institutions. At its 1964 convention, to take but one instance, the Democratic Party refused to seat the pro-Civil Rights representatives from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, preferring instead to back the segregationists representing the lynch mobs. Hardly surprising that many young black activists in those days imbibed the slogan ‘Never trust a white liberal’ at an early age. Denied entry to the universe of mainstream politics and a great deal else, African Americans decided to fight back. It was civil disobedience that won them civil rights.”—Tariq Ali, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad (London: Verso, 2010), p. 17.
“What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination — employment, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service — are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”—Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010), p. 2.