Monday, April 23, 2018

The Weekend in White Supremacy

Another weekend in white supremacy.

So that's all going terribly. 

The Right Wing on Campus

They're coming for your student government.
"The American right, aided alas by far too many allegedly centrist writers, keep attacking left-wing academics for what the right wing is actually doing. Right-wing provocateurs and their violent supporters are what's threatening free expression on campus—not safe spaces or trigger warnings. Christian schools make students worship the flag and believe in hyper-specific theological dogma (it's often not enough to worship Jesus; you have to worship the right kind of Jesus), enforcing groupthink to a degree impossible at secular universities. Now, Turning Point wants to take over your student government as well, to make sure that only the right groups get funding."

Friday, April 20, 2018

Asperger and Nazi Collaboration

At long last, Herwig Czech's study of Hans Asperger's complicity in Nazi eugenic programs was published. My understanding is that he has been talking about his findings for some years, but only allowing select authors to view his documents. There's also a new book by Edith Sheffer, who wrote this op-ed. The book comes out in May. The news, thanks to Czech, is not a surprise, but of course it's generated significant news coverage.

I'm recommending folks read this stunning conversation between Steve Silberman and Max Sparrow. Sparrow writes, "It is deeply subversive to live proudly despite being living embodiments of our culture’s long standing ethical failings."

And then read this twitter thread by Ari Ne'eman for an overview of what this finding doesn't mean for diagnostic shifts.

More to come as I carefully read the article and Sheffer's book.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Ship Who Sang: AT in SF

I wrote about John Scalzi's assisted tech series, Lock In and Head On. It's an interesting series from a disability culture series in many ways, but especially because there's so little sci-fi really focused on assistive tech as a major plot issue. There's lots of assistive tech around sci-fi, but not as a central point. I wrote about an old favorite from when I was a kid:
While many works of science fiction explore the transhumanist potential of separating the mind from the body, I struggle to think of many that engage such premises through the lens of assistive technology. Anne McCaffery, one of the most famous speculative fiction authors of the 20th century, did so in her Ship Who Sang series. In McCaffery's universe, physically disabled babies are euthanized unless their minds are sufficiently exceptional. The brains of those lucky few are implanted into life-supporting shells to become organic computers, and some of them get to become spaceships and roam the universe. Those novels were published in the 1960s. I read them in the 1980s, as a teenager, and thought them marvelous. Today, I shudder. I'm not alone. In an essay titled "The Future Imperfect," Sarah Einstein explains why that universe feels so grim to contemporary readers: "In McCaffrey's world, disability is so depersonalizing that the very promising are rewarded with slavery and disembodiment; those who don't pass the test for these rewards are put to death." The problem is that McCaffery—like me as a teenage reader—didn't really understand that The Ship Who Sang isn't a tale of liberation; it's a horror story.
Got any others? The VISOR in Star Trek: The Next Generation had its plot moments (and was inconsistently written). Others?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#AbolishICE: Man with Down Syndrome Threatened with Deportation

I am so angry. There are so many outrages. But this one ... ICE is magnifying the vulnerability of this Latinx disabled man. Meanwhile, based on the reporting, it feels like things were going pretty well for him with a strong support structure and a job locally.

"Just following orders" is not, and never has been, a moral statement. When this era ends, we're going to have to abolish ICE. It needs to become a consensus position. And the people who did this are going to need to find other lines of work.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Real" Autism

Read Sarah Kurchak on "real" autism
Where I saw the first irrefutable proof of myself, though, so many others saw a referendum.
“But you’re not really autistic,” an acquaintance posited a few weeks later, when I was still testing out how and if to introduce this new explanation for everything into casual conversation. “You can have conversations. You’re out at a bar. I have a friend who’s autistic. Like, real autistic. You can tell. And he could never do this.” He took my wandering eyes and distracted response as signs of concession, not as a testament to my at least somewhat obvious autism, and moved on. I soon got used to this type of exchange. I’m still hoping that I’ll eventually get better at handling it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

#TimesUp at UCLA

In 2008, a history professor at UCLA forcibly kissed a graduate student, the start of years of harassment. In 2018, he was fired. Is #TimesUp finally in academia? My latest at Pacific Standard.
""I'm so thrilled I can't even tell you. There's 10 years of weight lifted off of me." These are the first words that Kristen Hillaire Glasgow says to me over the phone as she reacts to the news that the professor who sexually harassed her and other students for years at the University of California–Los Angeles is being forced from his job at the university. Today, she's feeling satisfied about how UCLA has handled her case and reassured by its procedures for addressing sexual harassment. She wasn’t always so happy. Her first experience with UCLA's Title IX office was a disaster, she says, an experience that's all too typical of the erratic ways in which American colleges and universities adjudicate sexual misconduct. Universities can, and must, do better. More recently, UCLA has changed its procedures in order to support people like victims, proving that it's possible to hold predators accountable."

Friday, April 13, 2018

Break up Sinclair

Boycotts are fine, but we need trust busting in the 21st century.
Boycotts are fine, but threats to democracy like the one posed by Sinclair require more than collective consumer action. What we need, instead, is to elect politicians who will implement regulations intended to break up media and other corporate monopolies. As we head toward the 2018 elections in this new age of inequality, it's time for good, old-fashioned trust-busting.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Deaf President Now at 30 Years

I wrote about one of the great Civil Rights acts in US History, the "Deaf President Now" protests at Gallaudet University. Read more
"Deaf President Now is an American story. It's not my story, or only the Deaf community's story, or Gallaudet's story, but an American Civil Rights story. It needs to be told in every school." - Birgitta Bourne-Firl

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Why So Much Credulity About Vikings?

In the last year or two we've had numerous "oooh Vikings!" news stories hit national and international media, all of which have eroded when looked at closely by experts. There was the Viking women warrior (DNA PROVES VIKING WARRIOR WAS A WOMAN!) which turned out to be, yes, a woman, but unclear evidence of being a warrior one way or another.  No relevant historians were consulted.

We had the VIKING SILK SAYS ALLAH! which then turned out not to say Allah according to actual textile experts who were not consulted.

Now we have VIKINGS USED CRYSTALS TO NAVIGATE! See above - they didn't seem to read the sources.

We want the Vikings to be so much more than the evidence permits. The evidence is wonderful. Let them just be that.

More to come, I think, as I flesh this out over the next week.

Monday, April 9, 2018

No real progress on racism and ableism in school discipline

There's a new report out from the GAO showing that for 2013-14 (the most recent data), black and disabled kids are penalized heavily and disproportionately in schools, nationwide. Boys and poor kids also disproportionately disciplined.

Read the full report here. I'll be digging in later today to see the more complicated data when they combine factors (race + poverty, poverty + disability, etc.).

Friday, April 6, 2018

Christian Universities: The Actual Ideological Bubbles

Last year I wrote about Ozark College and its mandatory god, guns, and flag worship sessions for Freshmen, arguing:
This course is pure indoctrination. In fact, schools such as the College of the Ozarks explicitly demand homogeneity and fealty to religious and nationalistic ideologies. They punish divergence, and they aren't alone. There's a whole class of schools, some wealthy and influential, that demand obedience and conformity. And we are in a national moment when far too many influential voices are characterizing liberal arts institutions as hotbeds of politically correct intolerance. It's true that many schools do push students to think about diversity, but the "Patriotic Education Fitness Class" ought to give us a little perspective.
Here's another example of the ways that these religious schools aspire create precisely the kind of rigid ideological sameness that they accuse liberal schools of seeking. A Christian group (focused on the specific words of Christ as written in the Gospels) wants to pray on Liberty's campus, invites Falwell to pray with them, and is rebuffed and threatened with arrest.

Imagine that news cycle played out about Oberlin threatening to arrest people who were coming to pray. Just go ahead, imagine all the takes sprawled across legacy media.

These colleges can do what they like. But if the big fancy "PC run amok" people cared about young minds being exposed to diverse viewpoints, they'd turn their attentions to Liberty and its like.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Nicola Griffith - Ableism and Book Reviews

The brilliant author Nicola Griffith has written a new book, So Lucky. As the reviews roll in, she's been talking online and now blogging about the ways that ableism intersect with sexism in the response. She writes:
In How to Suppress Women’s Writing Joanna Russ lays out eleven methods to belittle the work of women (and, I would argue, of members of other oppressed groups). Labelling fiction as ‘autobiographical’ could be assigned to either Denial of Agency or Pollution of Agency. From a male-identified author (for example, Karl Ove Knausgaard), autobiographical fiction is Art. From a female-identified author, it is merely a transcription of real life with no creativity involved: Oh, she wrote it, but it’s not really art because it’s the story of her life. She just, y’know, transcribed what was actually happening.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Bad Disability Journalism: Filicide Stories

Here are two stories recently on murder and attempted murder of disabled children. They follow the same pattern I discussed here in which the murderer is praised as a kind caregiver who inexplicably murdered their children/attempted to murder. No disabled people are quoted. We learn little or nothing about the victim of violence, their story erased. The event is treated as isolated, rather than as part of a pattern (it happens about once a week).

  • ABC News says "overwhelmed" mom tried to behead son.
  • WaPo says "doting grandmother" who spent years caring for kids murdered her granddaughter. Worse, what we learn about a surviving child in the second paragraph is that he has incontinence. I should not know anything about this teenager's bathroom support needs unless I am in the position of needing to assist him. 
Reporters reporting on violence against people with disabilities should reach out to leaders in the disability community with expertise on violence. This is journalism 101. More broadly, tell victims' stories.

Crime reporting is a highly specific beat. A crime reporter is going to cover violence in lots of different communities. I believe, though, that they generally do better in other communities where they see patterns and talk to local members of those communities. For disability, each murder is treated as a one-off tragedy in which the killer's "hardship" narrative takes prominence over the victim's story.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Love Ain't Enough

Roxane Gay wrote about the new "Roseanne" for the New York Times with typical brilliance, including this paragraph:
As I watched the first two episodes of the “Roseanne” reboot, I thought again about accountability. I laughed, yes, and enjoyed seeing the Conner family back on my screen. My first reaction was that the show was excellent. But I could not set aside what I know of Roseanne Barr and how toxic and dangerous her current public persona is. I could not overlook how the Conner family came together to support Mark as he was bullied at school for his gender presentation, after voting for a president who actively works against the transgender community. They voted for a president who doesn’t think the black life of their granddaughter matters. They act as if love can protect the most vulnerable members of their family from the repercussions of their political choices. It cannot.
I think about this a lot in the context of people in my extended family and friend network who, in particular, care about my son. They know him. They love him. They recognize that he has a discrete set of needs and that meeting those needs requires complex systems aligned just right (to be clear: my son's needs and vulnerabilities are not as intense as the fictional characters in the sitcom or the real people from those communities; pretty intense though). 

But they voted for Trump, who has vowed to strip away the systems that support my son's needs. 

Their love is not enough. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Rape and History Departments

I'm writing a piece right now on sexual harassment and history departments (and Title IX offices). This piece from Catherine Clinton came through my feed. Ample warnings for descriptions of rape and harassment. A sample:
Finding myself on the job market several years later in 1987 in New Orleans, out of nowhere, apropos of nothing, a rival male scholar (also on the job market) suggested, while standing in a circle of male historians at the book exhibit, that I should just go with him up to his hotel room and “get it over with,” as it was inevitable that “he would have his way with me.” I was dumbfounded, and upbraided him, but what alarmed me most was none of the other men called him on this behavior. When I phoned a male mentor who knew this character, he tried to smooth over the incident, remarking my rival might have been joking, or might have been drunk (at eleven o’clock in the morning!), and suggested I ignore him. But later that day I was told by a “friend” that this historian had told a luncheon table full of the most eminent southern historians of the Civil War that I was unable to secure a job because I had a reputation for sleeping with married historians, and departments were afraid to hire me. Setting aside that such trash talk was totally false, I was aghast. But again, I felt there was nothing I could do to derail such sexist slander.
The question is ... has anything changed?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Guns and Fox

I went on Fox Business and got yelled at a bunch, as expected. It was an interesting experience to be shouted at about demonizing "objects" by folks who treat those objects as if they were the golden calf. I'm not sure the conversation in such a format is useful. I'm also such a visual person that it's hard to fake eye contact when I'm actually in a tiny room in Minneapolis staring at a camera lens (and a clock ticking to the right of the lens).

I wrote this, in February, on guns:
I am not saying that we should criminalize all private ownership of firearms. The burden of such mass criminalization would mostly fall on non-white and poor people anyway. But we must dethrone firearms as a specially protected class of objects in our most important political documents. They should be treated like all other tools: assessed, regulated, studied, insured, and subject to legal remedy when we need to hold both owners and manufacturers responsible for their use. In fact, these moves to keep better track of firearms and hold appropriate parties liable ought to be a nice incremental consensus position. It isn't, thanks to the Second Amendment.
No one read it much, but I needed to put the thoughts down. Essay writing is iterative and often prospective

Then Justice Stephens wrote a call to repeal the amendment for the New York Times and suddenly I got invites onto Tucker Carlson and this show "Kennedy," which I hadn't seen.  I hadn't done this type of "people shouting at me" TV, so I thought I'd try it. A couple dozen more reps and I think I'd get pretty good at it, but I'm not sure that will happen.

You can watch the video here. I'd embed it but their video player's code is buggy.

P.S. John Paul Stephens was appointed by a Republican and identified as a moderate Republican. If he's not a Republican today, it's worth asking why. But laughing and mocking me also works.

Domestic Terrorism - Enough Lone Wolves make a Pack

My latest for Pacific Standard. And there are hundreds more incidents.

One good response has been to point out that instead of calling these men terrorists, we should disregard "terrorist" as a category. This is wholly correct, but I don't know how to effect the cultural changes to make that possible. Expanding the category seems more feasible.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Non Apologies Aren't Apologies

I wrote for Pacific Standard on not accepting apologies as apologies just because the famous guy says the word "apology." In the case of Sherman Alexie, he used his apology to smear

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Atlantic Hires Right-Wing Racist Sexist Columnist

I know that it's a complicated moment to hire right-wing writers. The right-wing itself has become so radicalized, regressive, and violent, that no writer emerges to prominence without promoting terrible things. I don't have a solution other than to change our culture, change our politics, change our discourse, change.

But how do we do that without drawing a line of some sorts? Without saying that if you advocate for horrible, violent, bigoted, positions, you're not welcome?

This can't be just glossed over. I don't know what else to say.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Stopping Gun Violence - Lydia Brown writes for The Task Force

This is very good. Starts with demilitarization, which is word I'd like to hear more often from progressive policy types. And of particular interest to this crowd:
3. Do not insert mental illness or disability into gun violence policy-making. 
Linking mental health to gun violence is a myth that must be put to rest, and we are committed to countering the shaming of people with mental health issues from all sides in the gun debate.
As an intersectional progressive organization, the National LGBTQ Task Force is a strong supporter of disability rights (including the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities and mental illness, or who identify as mad), and believes that advocacy around mental health should be led by and for people with lived experience as consumers and patients.
Policies that single out people with mental illnesses or psychosocial disabilities, such as tying mental health reform advocacy to gun violence prevention advocacy, stigmatize people with mental illnesses/ psychosocial disabilities as violent, and are not effective. That stigma directly causes many harms including increased stereotyping, medical discrimination, heightened risk of police violence, and lower likelihood that people who would like to access supports, services, or treatments will seek them out. Even mention of mental health reform in the context of gun control and gun violence prevention is stigmatizing and harmful. Measures such as law enforcement registries of people with mental illness or who have been institutionalized, increased police access to mental health treatment records, imposition of a psychological or psychiatric evaluation in the gun purchasing process, or increased funding for assisted outpatient treatment (a form of coercive treatment) will not curb gun violence but will add to pervasive stigma, and will establish dangerous precedents on the legal rights of people with disabilities.
As such, we advocate strongly against any use of mental health as a criteria or category related to gun ownership or gun violence prevention. We recommend that when discussions of mental health arise, they are referred and moved to other forums unrelated to gun violence prevention because the use of mental health within this context will generally imply the outdated and mistaken notion that mental illness and psychiatric disabilities lead to violence, and by extension harm people with disabilities.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ohio Down Syndrome Law - Working as Intended

I am continuing to follow these laws. PA is next.

No one explains how they will actually solve the problem they are allegedly intended to solve. The rhetoric is: "Down syndrome is good, abortions after pretnatal testing are bad, so we'll make them illegal!" And too much of even the left-wing DS community applauds wildly, ignoring the way that Down syndrome is being used to undermine reproductive justice without, again, helping anyone with Down syndrome.

I often think that getting overturned by courts is exactly the desired result. The goal is to divide people. The goal is to get people who are nominally pro-choice to agree conceptually to exceptions.

Meanwhile, we're not actually having the tough conversations around the future of human procreation in the age of CRISPR.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stephen Hawking - Bad Obituaries

I wrote for NBC about the death of Stephen Hawking, arguing:
A life like Hawking’s might easily fall into one of two ableist (discrimination or stigma based on prejudice and misconceptions about disability) tropes: The “supercrip” and the body/mind split. In the former, his accomplishments might suggest he “overcame” his disability. In the latter, his disability vanishes from the story as we emphasize the beauty of his mind.
Not only would either be untrue to Hawking’s own words about disability, it sends the wrong message to others. We need to see the scientist as a whole person with a complicated life story. He was a genius, he worked incredibly hard, he had access to great health care and social support, he had plenty of privilege and received help from countless people behind the scenes.
My editor, widely, advised me to cut a bunch on bad journalism as it becomes seriously naval-gazing for a general readership. But here's on my blog I can kvetch and overthink stuff all I want. So here are two cut paragraphs:
In 1988, a lush profile of the scientist in Time opened with, “Hawking is confined to a wheelchair, a virtual prisoner in his own body, but his intellect carries him to the far reaches of the universe.” Thirty years later, nothing has changed. . The New York Times, USA Today, Ars Technica, The Telegraph, and Science all described Hawking as “confined” to his chair. CNN used the much-loathed phrase, “wheelchair-bound.” For the Los Angeles Times, Hawking was “was chained to a wheelchair... but whose mind soared [beyond] the boundaries of the universe.” The Guardian called him a “Delphic oracle” whose “physical impairment seemed compensated by almost supernatural gifts, which allowed his mind to roam the universe freely.” Obituary writing is a tricky art, but these cliched structures reveal a desire to split the disabled body from the brilliant mind, rather than seek an integral whole person.

Then there were the cartoons. An image of him walking away from his chair into the cosmos went viral. Another cartoon showed him standing at the Pearly Gates, chair nowhere in sight. Hawking, of course, was an atheist. Obituary writing is a tricky art, but these cliched tropes reveal a desire to split the disabled body from the brilliant mind, rather than seek an integral whole person.
Obituaries for famous people are often written long in advance. I wonder how long ago these obituaries were drafted. I hope that when the next famous disabled people die, obituary writers do a little more editing.

There's a better way:
Here's two great pieces to read on Hawking:
Here's some coverage of the bad coverage.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Your own personal inclusion rider

Today news is going around Twitter about a 30 person white male "applied history" conference at Stanford. Here it is, in all its pasty glory.
It's likely most of these august chaps didn't bother to ask about diversity before taking the gig. I can't speak for what the organizers were thinking, though perhaps we'll found out. The one speaker who responded to queries on Twitter, so far, is being smug about it.

My response is this: If you are, like me, a white dude academic and/or writer, diversity needs to be part of your INITIAL response to invitations to speak.

I'm not perfect. The answers aren't always simple (sometimes I'm a lone speaker, then I try to make sure the overall series isn't all white dudes). No single event can incorporate every type of diversity in the cosmos.

But we, the white dudes, can do the work of diversifying events in which we participate. We have to.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Note on Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, an amazing man, died yesterday.

I plan to spend much of the day being surly about the word "despite," as in, "despite his disability." Watch the tropes ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

ICE Targets Local Prof

ICE is trying to deport a local professor at Augsburg, destroying yet another family.

Someday, we're going to have a new government and we will need to have a reckoning. I can't really imagine what it looks like, but at least a very public process where we find out exactly who decided to destroy all these lives. At least.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Higher Ed and the NYT Op-Ed Page

I wrote for Salon: Higher Ed's got 99 problems ...

It started as a jokey, surly, listicle, then expanded into a pretty serious exercise and naming and providing a link to a broader discussion of issues that matter.

Over at Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley put together a good list of all the NYT pieces on the "intolerant left" over the last few months. They just keep re-writing the same essay. And Jamelle Bouie, also at Slate, wrote a good piece on the real threats on campus. It's like my listicle, but serious and important. And then at Vox, Matthew Ygelsias shows that college campuses are far more supportive of free speech than elsewhere.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Autistic Child Hit by Van Driver

This is my family's school district. I'll be watching closely.
The mother of the student told KSTP she did not want her family's identity revealed publicly, and said her son told her it was the van driver's aide who assaulted him.

"My son has autism, and he can act out at times," she said. "And he told me the van driver's aide warned him to stop doing what he was doing or he would be hit. And my son said she then elbowed him in the chin and backhanded him across his cheek."
The mother said the district was informed of the incident. But she decided to file a complaint with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office Wednesday when the same van driver's aide showed up to take her son to school.
There's video monitoring on these vans but ... it was turned off.

I am angry. I am also afraid for my son. I worry about the abusers all the time and don't know what I can do to help, other than to keep writing (on a macro level) and keep alert (on a local level). 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

#CultOfCompliance - The Stun Belt

This was new, and ghastly, to me:
Judges are not allowed to shock defendants in their courtrooms just because they won’t answer questions, the court said, or because they fail to follow the court’s rules of decorum.
“While the trial court’s frustration with an obstreperous defendant is understandable, the judge’s disproportionate response is not. We do not believe that trial judges can use stun belts to enforce decorum,” Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez said of Gallagher’s actions in the court’s opinion. “A stun belt is a device meant to ensure physical safety; it is not an operant conditioning collar meant to punish a defendant until he obeys a judge’s whim. This Court cannot sit idly by and say nothing when a judge turns a court of law into a Skinner Box, electrocuting a defendant until he provides the judge with behavior he likes.”
The stun belt works in some ways like a shock collar used to train dogs. Activated by a button on a remote control, the stun belt delivers an eight-second, 50,000-volt shock to the person wearing it, which immobilizes him so that bailiffs can swiftly neutralize any security threats. When activated, the stun belt can cause the person to seize, suffer heart irregularities, urinate or defecate and suffer possibly crippling anxiety as a result of fear of the shocks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Suspensions and Minnesota Schools

Yesterday, I wrote about a series of incidents in which disabled children, mostly non-white, whose stories of arrest and abuse in Florida schools have become national news. These stories pair with policies from DC that increase the criminalization in our schools, drive parents to private schools, where they have to surrender their rights. I made it clear it was a national issue, but focused on Florida because lawmakers were pushing more guns into schools and adding more mental health services. The latter are great, in theory, but doing so in the context of mass violence continues the false association of violence with mental illness. It's a tough read, I found (as did some readers), but I tried to make some connections visible around the #CultOfCompliance.

Late in the afternoon, then, I came across a similar story from Minnesota.
Students of color and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from Minnesota schools than their white peers or students without disabilities, a new study reveals.
The statewide analysis, released Friday by the state's Department of Human Rights, showed that students of color accounted for 66 percent of all school suspensions and expulsions in the 2015-16 school year, even though they make up only 31 percent of Minnesota's student population.
Disabled students were involved in 43 percent of all suspensions and expulsions, but make up only 14 percent of the student population.
"For some schools, this information was somewhat surprising; they hadn't examined this before," Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said. "I'm hoping, by us raising the awareness, it does stay front and center for people in Minnesota. I think there are a lot of folks in the state who want kids to succeed. Hopefully we'll see the disparities drop."
If this is a surprise to schools, they haven't been paying attention to both state and national trends. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sherman Alexie and Daniel Handler

Yesterday, NPR broke the Sherman Alexie story. It's been an odd one, even in this moment of "me too," because the allegations went public and then viral long before the story, followed by an Alexie statement that generated more news, and then finally the women's voices were heard. NPR did a great job.

I did a few days' reporting on the story after my Daniel Handler article went live, as people reached out to me. This meant that as the story emerged, but before NPR's story was published, I watched Alexie's statement land and generate news with some tiny inside knowledge. As a result, I had a few thoughts on the journalism issues of taking Alexie's statement as a simple apology.

It wasn't. It said: 1) He did bad things. 2) But not the worst things. 3) And then he smeared the source, a woman with whom he had an affair. That's not an apology and reporting it as such reinforces rape culture.

I wrote a short thread on the issue here:

Ideally, one would take such a statement and describe it more or less as I did, factually, rather than embracing Alexie's "apology" frame.

In my Daniel Handler story, I referenced a series of anonymous comments accusing Alexie. I received a little pushback on that, but felt confident in the appropriateness of citing it. I brought it up because of this twitter thread from Allie Jane Bruce, one of the women who talked about Handler.
Bruce writes, "What you will hear, if you listen, is two cis men who speak the language of liberalism, progressivism, and feminism *perfectly* and are capitalizing on it. Using it to promote themselves and their books."

We have a lot of work to do unraveling patriarchy (more on that in a forthcoming piece). Each field is going to have to reckon with how it promoted abusers to celebrity status and consider how to undo celebrity culture. One of my new mantras: community, not celebrity.

The work continues.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Academy Awards and Film Disability

Million Dollar Baby was heavily criticized by disability groups for promoting the view that being paralyzed was worse than being dead. This, of course, was also the case for the less-critically-successful Me Before You. You can see an archive of such responses here.

For Shape of Watersee Sara Nović at CNN. She writes:
Critics have been quick to declare the film a positive representation of disability -- Elisa is employed, independent and a sexual being, a rarity for a group of people often portrayed in movies and books as childlike and asexual. Then again, the only one who finds her sexually desirable is a semi-human sea creature.

Also problematic is Hawkins' American Sign Language, her only mode of communication in the film, which is abysmal -- halting, stilted and not at all like someone who'd been signing since she was a child.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Handler Cancelled - Now Fight the "Free Speech" Framing

Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, has cancelled his plans to speak at Wesleyan for commencement, and will be replaced by Anita Hill. This is the correct outcome. If somehow you missed it, I wrote about Snicket and the allegations of sexual harassment last week.

Now the usual "free speech" folks are going to claim this is about intolerance for controversial speakers. We need to resist that framing. It's about not putting a sexual harasser on stage with a woman who has spent her career fighting sexual harassment and giving them both honors. Fight the category error.

More to come on this. In the meantime, I really think Handler should just cancel his public events for awhile, do some work, and then come out with an affirmative statement about how he's going to change his conduct, and then he should change his conduct.

Meanwhile, the silence from male authors on social media has been very, well, silent. Around this and far too many other abusers in their industry. Folks notice.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Disability Day of Mourning 2018

The folks at DDoM are aware of 143 disabled people killed by their parents or other caregivers in 2017 (if I counted correctly). 117 since the last Day of Mourning. 11 disabled people are known to have been killed in a similar fashion so far in 2018.
I wrote about the Disability Day of Mourning last year for Pacific Standard, after collaborating in a white paper for the Ruderman Family Foundation on media coverage of these types of murders. I wrote:
Small, marginalized communities are used to grief. They’re also used to being blamed for the violence perpetrated against them. A disabled person is killed by a caregiver — usually a family member — at least every week. While individual stories sometimes splash sensationally across page and screen, there’s a sense among activists that the broader context remains unknown or ignored. Worse, too, often those sensationalized stories perpetuate the idea that it’s better to be dead than disabled, rewarding the killers with sympathetic profiles and understanding.
Mourn the dead. Fight for the living. 

SF Disability Rights Advocates Sues Uber

In San Francisco, Disability Rights Advocates is suing Uber. Report from SF Examiner:

Although Uber has a wheelchair-accessible service, called Uber WAV, in the Bay Area, Disability Rights Advocates wrote in the complaint that the service is “a sham.”
The group conducted a test of the service and found that in Alameda County, not a single wheelchair-accessible Uber was available during a total of 120 tests, according to the complaint.
In more than 60 tests the group conducted in San Francisco, a wheelchair-accessible Uber was completely unavailable almost five times out of six. In the rare instance where a WAV was available, the average wait time was about five times longer than the wait for an UberX at the same location.
I wrote for Newsweek on both these types of lawsuits and the broader frame. Regulation is good. Regulation protects rights. Business models that make models by dodging regulations will inevitably harm disabled folks. I wrote:
From Uber to AirBNB to TaskRabbit, the gig economy presents itself as the hyper-flexible way to work, to get things done, and to find the professional services you need. Through promoting “sharing,” using other people’s property like cars and apartments or services like driving, repair skills, these companies have created broadly profitable industries that successfully dodge decades of red tape and other bureaucratic roadblocks.
Over the last three decades and more, access to public space and public infrastructure has been a major goal – and victory – for the disability rights movement. Thanks to numerous state and federal laws, all government services – from trains and buses to court documents and DMVs – must be made accessible. Private businesses, at least once they get to a certain size, have to provide access to their product. A restaurant needs accessible seating. A hotel needs accessible entrances and rooms. Taxis need put some WAVs on the road.
More to come on this suit and the disability issues related to the "gig economy."

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"I treat everyone the same."

I've been thinking about the way that "treating everyone the same" functions to magnify privilege and reinforce extant power dynamics, rather than promoting equality.

Two examples from divergent worlds. First, Daniel Handler's statement on Gwenda Bond's blog. At one point he writes, "As someone who’s been a struggling author, I take seriously the responsibilities of my visibility, and have always thought that treating all of my colleagues the same was the best way to dispel the unease that can come from a competitive or self-conscious environment." But of course, people aren't the same, and making dirty jokes at female authors you have just met in professional spaces has a different impact than in more intimate settings.

Then there's Quinn Norton, recently fired from the New York Times (within hours) when it emerged that she's a pal of Nazis and uses homophobic and racist slurs frequently. She compared Nazis to Meat Eaters (saying the latter are worse) in her tweets, and you can see my tweets on the vice-signaling going on by giving her a column.

But I'm struck by the safety she feels in treating everyone the same. She writes:
I was called a Nazi because of my friendship with the infamous neo-Nazi known on the internet as weev—his given name is Andrew Auernheimer; he helps run the anti-Semitic website The Daily Stormer. In my pacifism, I can’t reject a friendship, even when a friend has taken such a horrifying path. I am not the judge of who is capable of improving as a person. This philosophy also requires me to confront him about his terrible beliefs and their terrible consequences. I have been doing this since before his brief time as a cause célèbre in 2012—I believe it’d be hypocritical for me to turn away from this obligation. weev is just one of many terrible people I’ve cared for in my life. I don’t support what my terrible friend believes or does. But I strongly advocate for people with a good sense of themselves and their values to engage with their terrible friends, coworkers, and relatives, to lovingly confront them for as long as it takes, and it would be wrong to not do so myself. I had what I now see as the advantage of coming from a family of terrible people. This taught me that not everyone worthy of love is worthy of emulation. It also taught me that being given terrible ideas is not a destiny, and that intervention can change lives.
This is deeply ignorant of, for example, the way that weev is also trying to radicalize her. This is not how de-radicalization works. Moreover, there are people who are harmed by the Daily Stormer, which weev runs (the killer in Parkland had Nazi sympathies, for example. I'd be shocked if his web trail doesn't include Stormfront).

But it's the flip side of Handler's  treat everyone equally rudely and crudely approach. Treat everyone nicely, no matter what harms they do. Treat everyone the same, no matter what harms you do. Only a person who recklessly avoids understanding how human societies work could live by such a code.

And I doubt, if you dig deep enough, that they really do treat everyone the same. Norton finds being friends with Nazis interesting and she would like to tell you about it.

Treating everyone the same is something only a person absolutely convinced of their own safety can do.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Against Incremental Consensus on Firearms

I like incrementalism, but the NRA has made it impossible. Even the massacre of children, churchgoers, country music fans, and teenagers, hasn't helped. So let's change the context. I wrote against the Second Amendment for Pacific Standard:
When I say "repeal the Second Amendment," I am not saying that we should criminalize all private ownership of firearms. The burden of such mass criminalization would mostly fall on non-white and poor people anyway. But we must dethrone firearms as a specially protected class of objects in our most important political documents. They should be treated like all other tools: assessed, regulated, studied, insured, and subject to legal remedy when we need to hold both owners and manufacturers responsible for their use. In fact, these moves to keep better track of firearms and hold appropriate parties liable ought to be a nice incremental consensus position. It isn't, thanks to the Second Amendment.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Minneapolis and Marjory Stoneman Douglas

My friend Karen Cooper writes about the local history of the Stoneman Douglas family. Marjory, after whom the school in Florida is named, was born here. Cooper is a brilliant scholar of the history of the Cities. She knows more about the area than anyone else I've ever met, especially the history of Minnehaha Falls. I'm glad she told these stories.
Ten years on, Frank was in Miami, while Lilias as still at home. Frank had switched careers again, back to his first love: the press. He was the first editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald. Kate and Forrest Rundell moved to Florida with Marjory’s grandmother Althea.
Lillian Trefethen’s struggles with mental illness were well-documented elsewhere. She died in 1912. In 1914, the week of Marjory’s 24th birthday, Frank and Lilias married. Before long, Marjory and Frank were reunited when she moved to is worth emphasizing one other small Minnesota connection. Marjory only lived in Minnesota for her first 6 years, yet her earliest memory was listening to her father read “The Song of Hiawatha.”

Friday, February 23, 2018

Drunk History Covers Disability Rights!

Check this out, if you missed it - Drunk History covers the longest sit in of a federal building in U.S. History, with disabled actors playing disabled characters (imagine!). It's pretty great. More to come on how this happened soon.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lemony Snicket and #MeToo

A lot here on my latest article. More to come on Wesleyan, in particular, as I watch how this moves.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ableist Job Ads

I've written a lot about ableism in job ads. Here's one from last year. I've never seen this before - I see it as a compromise move. For a disability services associate director at Texas Christian University:
Physical Requirements (With or Without Accommodations):

Visual acuity to read information from computer screens, forms and other printed materials and information.
Able to speak (enunciate) clearly in conversation and general communication.
Hearing ability for verbal communication/conversation/responses via telephone, telephone systems, and face-to-face interactions.
Manual dexterity for typing, writing, standing and reaching, flexibility, body movement for bending, crouching, walking, kneeling and prolonged sitting.
Lifting and moving objects and equipment up to 10 lbs.
I dunno. I like them saying accommodations, but they still could say communicate instead of speak, and the manual dexterity isn't really necessary. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mental Illness and Guns

In case you missed it, the correlation between mental illness and violence towards others is not in evidence.
The belief that the mentally ill are more likely to take part in a mass shooting appears to be a misleading. There were 198,760 homicides committed by a firearm in the United States between 1999 and 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistic. Despite the high number, the APA report from 2016 says that fewer than 1 percent of firearm homicides are committed by a person diagnosed with a mental illness.
99% of of homicides on the other hand ....

Monday, February 19, 2018

Gerber and Jobs for Disabled Folk

Last week I wrote a column for Pacific Standard on the Gerber Baby. He has Down syndrome. Yay! Now what?

I wrote:
I contacted Gerber to find out more about their commitment to disability rights. Initially, Business Insider reported on parents who complained that Gerber Life, the baby food company's sister affiliate, was refusing to provide life insurance to kids with Down syndrome. A spokesperson at Gerber's parent company, Nestlé, contacted me to say that, in fact, the company does insure some children with Down syndrome. Gerber and Nestlé did not respond to questions about how often children with Down syndrome are rejected for life insurance as opposed to children without the genetic condition. I also asked about the company's rates of employing adults with disabilities. The spokesperson wouldn't tell me much about Gerber specifically, but emailed to say that Nestlé employs 2,696 people with disabilities around the world. They would not tell me how many of these people have Down syndrome, or how many receive full wages rather than sub-minimum wages. Nestlé employs around 328,000 people, so the reported number is less than 1 percent. The spokespeople also didn't respond when I asked for more information about plans to capitalize on the current publicity and take concrete steps for inclusion and accessibility within their company.
If a company is going to slap a cute picture of a child with Down syndrome on a bottle, it's fair to ask them how they plan to use the publicity and resulting profits to build a more inclusive company. If Down syndrome organizations and celebrities are going to tout this advertisement as a significant first step toward more widespread acceptance, it's fair to ask them what second step they envision. Advertising is just as important as any other form of representation. Wherever they are images of people, there should be images of all kinds of people from across the beautiful diversity of the human species. If Gerber's brand identity requires a different phenotype of baby every year, I'm glad Down syndrome is in the mix. But what's next? When is coasting on a feel-good wave of publicity about a conventionally cute child not enough? I don't want a revolutionary new corporate move; when it comes to disability and inclusion, I want a revolution.
I have been going back and forth with Nestle's spokesperson over the past week and have made no progress. I am assuming that the number of employees with Down syndrome employed by Gerber is zero. I am assuming that the number of employees with Down syndrome employed by Nestle is also zero. I am assuming that while Gerber Life sometimes grants insurance policies to kids with Down syndrome, they mostly don't, or at least at rates VASTLY below their approvals for kids without Down syndrome.

I get why Gerber wants to reap the rewards of feel-good inspirational publicity, but it's far past time for the formal Down syndrome and broader intellectual disability community to hold their corporations accountable.

When corporations like Gerber do these stunts, I want the NDSS, The Arc, Special Olympics, and whoever else has clout to say - great! What's your jobs plan? What's your equal services plan?

Because otherwise these publicity stunts are empty.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Christopher Hardaway and the Cult of Compliance

Don't miss this story about policing and disability from Chattanooga. It's a perfectly awful example of the #cultofcompliance. Hardaway, the victim here, is black, disabled, and homeless. 

First encounter:
Weeks before, Hardaway said his wheelchair had died nearby, leaving him stranded on the sidewalk for eight hours, with no one offering help. He eventually fell asleep and was awakened when an officer shined a light on him, asking why he was sitting in the cold, blocking the sidewalk with urine soaking his lap.
Frustrated no passing police cruisers had stopped to help during his ordeal, Hardaway refused to move. He was charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication and obstruction of the roadway. Hardaway is seen insisting he hadn't been drinking on the footage from the officer's body camera.
In the second encounter, he was just sitting charging his chair, when an officer told him to move. From the story:
"This is the second time I've been harassed by y'all for nothing," Hardaway said to McFarland. "The last time, my chair wouldn't get off that curb and y'all locked me up instead of helping me get to a charger."
Hardaway is charged with aggravated assault — a Class C felony that carries three to 15 years in prison — because of what happened next.
"All I'm asking is, are you going to take me to jail? That's all I really want to know," Hardaway said, "because I'm not getting harassed or put out [when] I need to charge my chair."
"Not from this [property]," McFarland said.
Hardaway said he was ready to go to jail.
"Would you like another charge?" Hardaway then asked, reaching into his waistband, "because I'm disclosing this knife."
Hardaway pulled out a 4-inch blade. McFarland stepped back and pulled out a gun.
"Drop it!" McFarland screamed.
"I'm not even doing anything," Hardaway said, dropping the knife. "I'm disclosing this to you!"
McFarland saw it differently: "I gave you every chance to leave," he said, "and you want to pull a knife on me!"
The officer called into his mic for backup then told Hardaway, "You're welcome for saving your life, because I didn't shoot your —— right here."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Colorado State: The President Takes a Stand

The President of Colorado State University shows how to respond when Nazis want a platform.
The TWP goes by various names online, but let me keep this simple: a Nazi is a Nazi is a Nazi. And the members of the Traditionalist Worker Party are unapologetic Nazis who advocate murdering all those who don’t align with their worldview.
More of this please, higher ed admin.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Gerber Baby? Meh. Show me real change

More on the cuteness porn front:
If a company is going to slap a cute picture of a child with Down syndrome on a bottle, it's fair to ask them how they plan to use the publicity and resulting profits to build a more inclusive company. If Down syndrome organizations and celebrities are going to tout this advertisement as a significant first step toward more widespread acceptance, it's fair to ask them what second step they envision. Advertising is just as important as any other form of representation. Wherever they are images of people, there should be images of all kinds of people from across the beautiful diversity of the human species. If Gerber's brand identity requires a different phenotype of baby every year, I'm glad Down syndrome is in the mix. But what's next? When is coasting on a feel-good wave of publicity about a conventionally cute child not enough? I don't want a revolutionary new corporate move; when it comes to disability and inclusion, I want a revolution.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Going Public: Journalists and Academics

The great Anne Helen Peterson, who made the leap from academia to journalism, has a great piece on bridging that divide in her weekly newsletter.

On talking to journalists
My advice to the group of academics, then, was two-fold. First: recognize that both sides need to be more flexible. Understand that journalists have to have somewhat reductive headlines, and that they operate on deadlines. But also assert, at the beginning, that you are unwilling to provide a soundbite — and want, above all else, to insert nuance, instead of a flat argument, and if they can't deal with that (even if it's just three sentences of complication, instead of one declarative sentence) then you will not do the interview. It's not that academics should request quote approval, it's more that they should be able to reach an agreement with the journalist about the sort of argument to which they're affixing their good name.
And then, of course, write!


Friday, February 9, 2018

Policing Disability and Different is Bad

"Concerned citizens" called police on a cute white autistic child with messy hair, concerned he was being abused by his parents. Police figured it out quickly, thankfully, and other forms of bias didn't intervene to make the situation more dangerous (i.e. had the child not been white).

Don't do this.

Then there's this:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Down syndrome and Anti-Choice Propaganda

New in Pacific Standard:
Since the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution was signed in 1983, granting equal legal rights to fetuses and pregnant women, it has functioned as a total ban on legal abortion. Next May, Ireland will hold a referendum over whether to repeal the amendment, and current polling suggests that pro-repeal will carry the day. The Irish people will also vote on whether to endorse a new law legalizing abortion within the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy, which Parliament would then pass following a successful referendum. Just getting a vote officially set has taken years of work by numerous campaigners, organizations, and politicians. Now, as the date for the vote looms on the calendar, the anti-abortion movement in Ireland has fixated on a new symbol for its campaign against reproductive rights: cute kids with Down syndrome.
Over the past few weeks, two anti-repeal groups have launched new campaigns and produced posters featuring images of children with Down syndrome. The ads play on a combination of legitimately disturbing data about abortion rates following a prenatal diagnosis and the relatively positive feelings that voters hold about people with Down syndrome themselves. What's disingenuous is the way the campaigns suggest that the current total ban on abortion is all that's keeping Ireland from eradicating Down syndrome. That's not true on the facts, but the campaigns demonstrate the perceived iconographic power of using disabled children as symbols for anti-choice political campaigns. Meanwhile, the whole conversation about Down syndrome in both Ireland and the United States too often gets stuck on prenatal issues, a fixation that does little to change the status quo for anyone living with disabilities, now or in the future.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Bad Disability Journalism: Police Fearmongering

This is a story about policing and autism that quotes police and people who coordinate "outreach" for an autism-related NGO. Harvey is not identified as autistic. The total number people quoted in this piece on autism and policing who identify as autistic is ... zero.

This is far too common and defies basic 101-level journalistic practice. Journalists do write "about" others, which makes the industry fraught when it comes to representation. That's a big meta issue. But the very very very very basic first step is what when writing about someone, quote them directly, reach out to that community directly.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Public Humanities in the Age of Trump

Today at the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto I will be giving a talk on Public Humanities in the Age of Trump. Details here.

It's been an intense period lately around right-wing attacks on academic freedom, not the least because I've encountered the worst sets of attacks of my career. They were exhausting, if never actually professionally or personally threatening (a factor of my privilege). Moreover, they have only firmed my resolve that "sustained activity based on scholarly expertise aimed at least in part at extramural audiences" is important.

I include my bolded definition here because we need to make our ideas about publicly facing scholarship much broader. It's not just writing essays, but "sustained activity." That includes community art and theater, teaching in prisons, and, yes, activism and protest. And then we need to count it for tenure, promotion, hiring, and grants.

Poster below. I love it. See you in Toronto.

Image description: The event details (see link above for accessible version)
plus Botticelli's Venus with Trump's face grafted onto it

Friday, February 2, 2018

Happy Superbowl Weekend: Watching The NFL is Unethical

The best thing about the superbowl, as someone who drives by downtown every day, is that traffic is very low. The worst thing is that the NFL is totally unethical and watching it is a bad moral decision.

We all make bad moral decisions sometimes. I'm driving to work, for example. But it's worth saying what it is. I wrote for Pacific Standard:
Honestly, though, there were reasons to ditch the NFL long before they botched the response to Kaepernick's protest of police brutality and racism. As journalist David Dennis Jr. wrote last September, the NFL's tolerance for misogyny and domestic violence isn't new; Dennis even apologized for having waited so long to boycott the league. Then, of course, there's chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). It's not news that football is bad for your brain if you play it, and more recently the NFL has worked hard to minimize big hits, especially on unaware players, and to treat concussions more seriously. It likely won't matter. There are still so many concussions. The degenerative brain disease is most likely caused by the low-grade constant impacts that come with just playing the game correctly, especially for linemen and others who make contact with the opposing side each play. A study released in July looked at the brains of 111 NFL players; all but one had CTE. There's no ethical way to watch a game where people are damaging their brains even when playing as safely as possible. Yes, NFL players get paid, but only because we've got a market for bloodsports. Moreover, their example promotes the sport among college students and teenagers who are encouraged to damage their brains for free.
Life is full of unethical actions. You can't own a cell phone or eat Asian shrimp without being implicated in slave labor. Meat is murder. Flying vegetables from California to other states contributes to global warming. We all make our choices about where we draw our ethical lines, but we shouldn't fool ourselves: Watching the NFL is an unethical activity.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Surveillance Capitalism and Big Pharma

This is the latest frontier of the Internet of Things. It's pretty bad. Please read and share.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Turning Points and Right-wing Harassment

When Turning Points USA launched its Professors Watchlist, I raised the alarm. A lot of folks did. But others mocked, saying that it was just some website and not worth fussing about. I wrote for The Establishment about it, saying that it was a sign of worse attacks to come.

Those attacks have, indeed, come. Read Maximillian Alvarez in The Baffler on Turning Points and their culture of harassment and threats:
It’s high time that we start being honest with ourselves about what TPUSA really is. Far from being a samizdat preserve of heroic dissent in the face of “political correctness,” the group is the organizational equivalent of a bait and switch. While some colleges and universities are wising up to the group’s game, most have largely continued to treat TPUSA in accordance with the warped story it tells about itself: that it is, at base, a nonprofit organization celebrating the sturdy American civic verities of small-government conservatism and laissez-faire economics.
Within the bounds of this narrative, there’s really just one way to rationalize the regular stream of confrontations between TPUSA and its many opponents that, wherever possible, result in tireless campaigns to silence, expel, or fire the latter. TPUSA would have a credulous media believe—and an opportunistic conservative political class reiterate—that such campaigns are, at worst, an unfortunate byproduct of the group’s righteous efforts to carry out its stated mission; that they are a defense of last resort spearheaded by an organization that only wants to ensure that colleges and universities remain open to “ideological diversity.” But the evidence gives a much clearer picture: silencing, expelling, or firing opponents is the mission—and has always been.
I'm trying to figure out what my next formal piece on academic freedom is. The attacks just keep coming.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Reason never Defeats Hate

Steve Bannon is coming to University of Chicago to perform "reasoned debate." John Warner writes:
Zingales says, “Hate cannot be defeated by hate, but only by reason.”
Huh? Perhaps hate cannot defeat hate, but does this mean our only alternative is “reason?”
I’m trying to think of a single instance in recorded history where hate was defeated by reason and I’m coming up short. Did the reason of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation end the Civil War?
Did Martin Luther King Jr. reason the cattle prod out of Selma sheriff Jim Clark’s hands?
The faith Zingales puts in the power of “reasoned debate” is essentially magical, an all-powerful remedy for whatever ails you.
That's a good point. 
I believe in this case, the University of Chicago’s commitment to the free exchange of ideas is more symbolic and performative than substantive. Inviting Steve Bannon is an attention-grabbing symbol that says, “Hey, open-minded people over here!” but it’s an inch-deep commitment to the values they claim to hold dear. Meanwhile, they've got some academic messy academic freedom issues where they seem less reverent of full and free reasoned debate.
As a second example, Bannon’s invite also led to the ultimate resignation of Samantha Eyler-Driscoll as a member of the University of Chicago Stigler Center publication ProMarket. After her objections to the Bannon invitation were overruled by the board and her request to be personally recused from promoting the event was not fully respected, she was informed by human resources that as staff, unlike Zingales and Bannon, she was not “protected under the University’s stated principles of freedom of expression…and perceived insubordination could be grounds for termination of my employment.”

In her resignation from the board, Eyler-Driscoll observes, “My situation is only the latest example of the ubiquitous reality in this country whereby the de jure notion of an absolute right to freedom of expression conceals a de facto reality in which the right to free expression of the powerful is enforced at the expense of that of their subordinates.”
This is a point I'm interested in -  staff don't have academic freedom, even when they operate in intellectual capacities.

Watching carefully.

- An academic staffer.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Murder and Disability

Two pieces:

- Murder in Australia, with the killer treated sympathetically because the victims were disabled children.

- A Jewish disabled person writes about Aktion T4, when the Nazis killed disabled people before they got around to killing others. This struck me especially hard:
A reading of Hoche and Binding’s “Permitting the Destruction of Unworthy Life” shows the similarity between what they said and what exponents of practical ethics, such as Peter Singer, say about the disabled today. As recently as 2015, Singer, talking with the radio host Aaron Klein on his show, said, “I don’t want my health insurance premiums to be higher so that infants who can experience zero quality of life can have expensive treatments.”

Friday, January 26, 2018

On The Shape of Water

Two good pieces criticizing The Shape of Water from disability perspectives.

From Kim Sauder:
Her character—like all of the characters in the film—is one-dimensional. She is a mishmash of disability stereotypes. She is a social outsider who is largely perceived to be “other”. She clearly longs for more inclusion but is unable to get it. She experiences only simplistic emotions that seem more appropriate to a toddler than they do to a grown woman who has not one but two gratuitous masturbation scenes (so you can throw in creepy sexualization of innocence as well).
The lack of emotional range for the character is really down to the performance given by Sally Hawkins. I have seen many people applaud the silence of her performance but silence isn’t a performance, it is a narrative choice. A performance would be everything that the character does outside of that silence. Which in this case is predominantly very simplistic facial expressions and a very little amount of sign language. What that amounts to is that Elisa’s character has less to do with her character or the performance given by Hawkins than it does with the storytelling around it.
Silence is a narrative choice.

Sauder continues:
The Shape of Water could so easily be a different kind of horror film about the dangers of social denial of the sexuality of disabled people and how that makes them easy targets for abusers. Instead, it does exactly that story but ignores the inherent dangers of becoming infatuated with the first man who pays you any attention because the world has spent decades telling you that you are undesirable. It takes what should be a cautionary tale and turns it into a bittersweet romance. In so doing it absolves the bigoted world that rejected Elisa and ends on the message that if the world doesn’t work for you, even if it’s clearly the result of discrimination that the best option is to leave.

At its core, The Shape of Water asks us to consider what a freak is. Is a monster a god? Is a disabled woman a freak? An outsider? Can she be loved or understood by her own kind, or are the monsters the only ones who can truly understand her?
Unfortunately, the answer to this movie was that no, she cannot be loved by her own kind, and yes, she is an outsider. A monster. A freak. She belongs under the water with her beloved Aquatic Monster. We don’t know this for certain, that she lives—in fact all signs point to the idea that she is dying or dead at the movie’s end. But if I accept that she is dead, then the film ends as all disabled films do: in ultimate, inevitable tragedy. So I choose to imagine the slightly less angering of two evils.