critical/ analytical

Bundy is only on tv to make political dissent look foolish

Militant conservatives like Cliven Bundy are tolerated by our government because they are white conservatives that the government know are too dumb and too few to be a real political threat.

They don’t have the numbers, ability to organize, or the facts to support their demands. Unlike people of color, gays, disable, transgender, women, the poor and other groups that are for equality & social change that threaten the current political structure.

When liberal groups like Occupy Wall Street organize & bring up issues about economic justice they are labeled as criminals for occupying a space. They’re attacked by police, and the violence is blamed on the peaceful protesters.

Militant white conservatives groups often protest with arms and every one thinks this okay because of our 2nd amendment rights.

But where were those rights when the Black Panthers were armed in the streets? Why was CONTELPRO necessary for Black Panthers, but not for modern white militant groups? Why did Hover call the Black Panthers the greatest threat to internal security? We don’t live in a post-racial world now. We definitely didn’t in the 60’s.

People are not scared of white men with guns because it’s folksy and Americana. But black men with guns are threatening and dangerous.

The government loves these white conservative militant groups because they know most media will show these people as stupid insane dissenters. That media depiction of dissent as foolish and insane is a tool to prevent political dissent. The media teaches people that if you disagree with the government you are a fool. That’s why the news focused on naked hippie girls at OWS and instead of the fact that we were providing food and health care services to over 5,000 people a day for free. Dissent does not seem crazy when you talk about the real issues.

But our media teaches us that we need to fight the desire to fight for our heart and our every belief. They teach us that we can’t undermind the greed and power which the system depends. Dissent isn’t insane or foolish, but believing that is.


Charlotte Turner Smith’s The Swallow & Love and Folly.

Charlotte Turner Smith wrote her poem The Swallow in 1797. The main theme of the poem is about the beauty and mystery of nature. The narrator describes the unknown migration path of a Swallow as an escape to exotic places. The narrator uses events, diction, imagery, and symbols to express the theme.

The main event in The Swallow is the narrator looking at the swallow on a spring day. The narrator listens to the bird, “let my ear your music catch,” and wonders where the bird came from? The narrator is curious of where the bird has traveled and is jealous of the bird’s freedom to fly away. The narrator thinks “I wish I did his power possess, That I might learn, fleet bird, from thee, What our vain systems only guess, And know from what wide Wilderness You came across the sea.” Another line that suggest that the narrator desire for agency to escape is the imagery of “I saw her dash with rapid wings.” The words dash and rapid imply speed and control in the bird’s movement. “In Afric” and “in Asia” symbolizes exotic places that the bird could have visited and places the narrator wants to escape to. In the view of the narrator the possibilities of where the bird could fly are endless and mysterious. “I would enquire how journeying long, The vast and pathless ocean o’er.” The narrator thinks about what she would communicate with the bird if they could communicate. Birds travel to warm locations when the winter comes. The narrator fined this beautiful as well. “Thus lost to life, what favouring dream Bids you to happier hour awake; And tells, that dancing in the beam.” These lines suggest that the birds have a happy and free life because they don’t experience the cold harsh winters that the narrator does. The idea that birds don’t experience cold winters symbolizes that the birds are untouched by pain and suffering. The beam is a symbol of light, warmth and happiness. The last stanza of the poem is a comment on the limits on science in understanding nature. “Alas! How little can be known, Her sacred veil where nature draws; let baffled Science humbly own, Her mysteries understood alone, By Him who gives her laws.” The narrator is expressing the mysteries of nature can’t by explain by nature because the freedom and innocence of the bird was given to the bird by God. He is a reference to God and describing science as humble shows that science is limited in its explanations.

The focus on a Swallow symbolizes the narrator’s and Smith’s desire for freedom and happiness. Smith suffered from depression her entire adult life and desired happiness. The migrating bird that only experiences happiness could be a symbol for Smith’s personal desire for happiness in her own life. Charlotte Smith was a feminist that rejected the idea of domestic felicity. The freedom of the bird and it’s happiness dependent on its freedom could be a symbol of Smith’s rejection of the idea the women should gain happiness from staying in the home. Smith wanted to have the happiness and freedom she identified in the bird.

Charlotte Smith wrote the poem Love and Folly about the foolishness and suffering that is part of falling in love. She used allusion to roman mythology to express the theme of the foolishness of love. There are many references to cupid in the poem with the lines of “ill thrown, yet resistless darts,” “thoughtless child,” and “mischievous malignant boy.” These character description make cupid a careless match maker that doesn’t know or care what he is doing to people. “Hapless mortals can’t withstand them,” (Cupid’s arrows). The narrator believes that everyone will be affected by cupid. The narrator believes that Cupid wasn’t always so careless, “once less cruel and perverse.” The narrator believes that love will turn to suffering, “Loud and more loud the quarrels grow…For Folly’s rage is prompt to rise.” Cupid is matching up carelessly and love turns into hate. A suffering Venus, goddess of love, prays to the God of the gods, Jove, to kill Cupid. “The wild with anguish Venus pray’d, For vengeance on the idiot’s head, And begg’d of cloud-compelling Jove, His swiftest lightening, to destroy, The mischievous malignant boy That blinded love.” Venus believed that Cupid had destroyed love by forcing it on people and making love blind. Jove denied Venus’s request and Cupid continues to strike people with his arrows and make them fall in love. Jove said, “For Love, tho blind, will reign around The world.” The foolishness of love will remain and lovers will quarrel. Another theme of the poem, which is related to Smith’s life, is that people get trapped in harmful relationships. Smith was in an abusive marriage. Cupid traps people in love matches by careless shooting his love darts and these relationships start of good, but then become toxic. This idea could be a personal reflection of Smith’s own ideas about love and marriage. Smith could identify with Venus and her prayer for the freeing of victims of Cupid and the death of foolish and harmful relationships.

Charlotte Turner Smith

Charlotte Turner Smith wrote romantic poetry, gothic fiction and political novels. She was born on May 4th, 1749 and died on October 28th, 1806. Smith had three books of poetry published in the late 1700s and early 1800s. She also wrote novels and children books. She had liberal political beliefs and supported the French Revolution. Charlotte Smith suffered from depression and anxiety due to her life circumstances. She married Benjamin Smith, who was unreliable finically and acted violently towards her. Her family sold her to him at the age of 15. He was the son of slave owning West India merchant. Due to the physical violence, she legally separated from her husband in 1787. She wrote to gain respect and financial security. Smith referred to her writing as slavery because she felt like she needed to work to survive. She lost her first 3 children and only had one surviving child. The death of her children before their birth was a source of melancholy that her poems are known for. Mary Wollstonecraft criticized Smith for copying other’s work, which was popular during the romantic era. She claimed that Smith imitated neoclassical art in order to be successful.
Smith’s depression caused her desire for privacy and solitude. She believed solitude was a state worth cultivating. She claimed that some of her poems were never meant to be published because they were products of her melancholy personal moments. Her personal poems were about memories, meditative states, dreams, sexuality and madness. She believed that poems were results of the body’s lived experiences. Smith used imagery of the heart to examine sensibility and sympathy in the human experience. She was heartbroken and lonely throughout her life, but was aware of others’ suffering. She believed that the poet could only rely on poetry and nature.

Smith, like Wordsworth, was known for her style of hybrid poems. She combined lyrical ballads and elegiac sonnets. . She created a new form of poetry. Smith would write an elegiac sonnet and conclude with a lyrical ballad. She used 14 lines with a single sentiment knowing that readers that read well would understand. She mixed rhyme schemes and structures.
Charlotte Smith was politically radical and supported the French Revolution. Smith believed in the revolution for potential for social transformation and freeing the culture from the bondage of tradition and prejudices. She believed women play an important role in forming a democracy because women are disenfranchised, along with the lower class. She believed the French Revolution came out of anger at the crimes of France against its own people and saw the British Monarchy committing the same crimes. Smith was against the institutional hierarchy of privilege and power. She desired major political and social reform.
Charlotte Smith was a feminist and was influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the rights of woman. Smith believed that she was creating a space for women’s political opinions by writing. She published her work to raise public awareness for issues she believed in and promote revolutionary politics. Her writing addressed issues of liberty, justice, and national identity. She wrote about the connection of public and private space and it’s relation to the suffering of woman. Smith believed woman’s suffering came from external factors opposed to internal factors. Her feminist writings focused on the idea of domestic felicity. She disagreed with the idea that woman should find bliss in taking care of the home because a woman’s bliss is destroyed by economic and political violence, and physical violence committed against woman by husbands. Her experiences with sexual violence caused her depression and influenced her writing.
Smith was a humanist. She conceptualized human nature over cultural limitations of nationalism. Smith believed that the power of human sentiment could be more powerful that governments and religion, and could transcend past boarders. But, she also acknowledged the duel nature of exile and liberty in being a citizen of the world. Over time, she became very pessimistic about the state of political justice in Britain. She idealized nature and dreamed of alternative, utopian, multicultural communities. Smith criticized the creation patriarchal hierarchies and slave economies in the New World because it was a failure to escape oppression.

Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here criticism

Lily Allen’s music video for her 2013 single Hard out Here has been received by audiences with mix reactions. The lyrics of the song are about Lily Allen’s reaction to the double standards and sexualization of women in the music industry. The imagery of the video that accompanies the song is hyper-sexual and contradicts some of the lyrics of the song. The juxtaposition of the semiotics of the audio and visuals are intended to structure of the text as a satirical work. The juxtaposition has caused audience members to have dominant, negotiative, and oppositional readings of the music video.

In the music video, meaning is constructed by the combination of images and sound. Hard Out Here constructs codes of femininity, sexuality, and blackness. The semantics of racial and gender representations in the music video are important because of representativeness heuristics. Representativeness heuristic means that “judged entities are compared against a sampling of related ones and that likely hood transference of traits is made from the sample to the individual case” (Su-lin 385). Overall, the lyrics of the song give the connotation that it’s more difficult to be a woman than a man in society because women are seen as inferior and a woman’s value is determined by how well she fits into a stereotype. The lyric “it’s hard out here for a bitch” signifies that it’s difficult for women in society. The word bitch that is usually used as an insult is reclaimed as a word of empowerment in this song. “Rebellious speech is equivalent to a ‘risk taken in response to being put at risk, a repetition in language that forces change’. In order to expose and deconstruct its potential power, hateful language (media representation) has to be repeated and re-contextualized” (Stehle 230). The lyrics code femininity as being thin, beautiful, and sexual available. The lyrics “Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you? Have you thought about your butt? Who’s gonna tear it in two?” code female sexual identity as being passive and submissive to a dominant actor that desires to use the female as a sex object. The lyrics “you should probably lose some weight ’cause we can’t see your bones. You should probably fix your face or you’ll end up on your own” codes femininity as being thin and physically beautiful. That lyric also means romantic partnership only happens to physical attractive people because attractive level is how our society determines an individual’s value. The lyric “I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking bout my chains” is coded as a rejection of materialism by the artist. Lily Allen associates a woman’s intelligence with her sexual activity with the lyric, “don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain.” That lyric means that smart woman don’t dance sexually. The following lyric is “if I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut.” This creates confusion because meaning is socially produced and understood in terms of oppositional relationships. The dichotomy of female sexuality is structured as a woman can only be a virgin or a slut. The sexual nature of those lyrics implies pluralism and fluid sexuality identity. It’s the idea that there isn’t one fixed idea of femininity. The visual meaning is more straight forward than the audio meaning.

The opening scene in the video is coded as Lily Allen being too fat after having two children to be a pop star. She is getting liposuction in order to be desirable. This codes femininity with thinness, even after childbirth. The dancing by Lily Allen and her mostly black dancers signifies sexual desires. The image of Lily Allen dancing with the black women is coded with racially structured sexuality. Allen doesn’t dance with skill or enthusiasm as her black dancers. This codes black women as more sexual than white women. She is also in the center of the girls and they are next to her or behind her. This signifies the racial power structure between women. Black women are coded as inferior to white women. The women’s clothing is a signifier of power positions as well. The black women are showing more skin and are more vulnerable than Lily Allen. The white man is the suit is a music executive. It is signified by his clothing and his agency in how the women behave. The music executive showing the girls how to twerk and be sexy is coded as men are active and dominant, while women are passive and lack agency. The product placement of the camera and cigarettes is associated with the women’s sexuality, which makes the products sexy and commodifies the women’s sexualities. The excessive sexually dancing codes femininity as women always being available for sex. The pouring of the champagne on the women’s bodies signifies male ejaculation. A woman licking the champagne bottle signifies oral sex. Both of those signifiers are intertextuality because both are used in pornography. The women are coded as sexual objects that eager to be used for sex. Throwing money at the black dancers while they dance is intertextuality because it is a reference hip hop culture and rap music videos. The visual of Lily Allen dancing in front of the sign “Lily Allen has a baggy pussy” is a the references from Robin Thicke’s music video Blurred lines, where he had a sign that said, “Robin Thicke has a big dick.” Her reference to this in her video is a parody of Thicke’s video. In fact, Lily Allen intended for the entire song and music video to be a parody and satirical video on the music industry. One of the lyrics is “if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood.”

Hard Out Here can be seen as parody and can reject the values that are being parodied or it can reinforce the values by being misunderstood as a serious text. When an artist works “with parody, excess, deformation, the text obscures political intention and leaves room for ambiguity” (Stehle 233). The parody factor changes the semiotics of the text. If the viewer notices tone and style of parody, the gender and racial performance can be interrupted as satirical and sarcastic; this calls for a rejection of heteronormativity. The view would conclude that the music video rejects stereotypical gender and racial binaries. If the parody is not interrupted it reinforces stereotypes. It is difficult for women to parody gender performance and female sexuality and have it received as satirical because women are too closely identified with their bodies. “In feminist art, the location of risk and pain is often the female body. Performance artists take risk by using artistic forms like parody, excess, reversal, and exaggeration to force change in representation of female bodies. The reception of such language and imagery simultaneously created platforms for social and political backlash” (Stehle 23). The images of the music video are challenging to watch by the design of Lily Allen, which has caused mixed reaction by feminists and other viewers.

There dominant, negotiative, and oppositional reading of the music video. The majority of the readings were oppositional, but there were a few dominant and negotiative readings. The audience sample were all female Brooklyn College students between the ages 19 and 37. The races of the women sampled were white, black, and bi-racial. All the audience members that gave a dominant reading were white women. Most of those women identified themselves as feminist. One woman said, “I love this. It’s so funny. I love that she calls out how ridiculous pop culture is. When asked about the racial aspect of the video, she replied, “She is making fun of the sexism in the media. The amount of twerking uses comedy to show the exploitation of black women in hip hop.” Another woman commented on how she loves that Lily Allen made a video as commentary on society. She said, “I like when female artists place attention to the double standards and unrealistic expectations of women. I like that she decided to say something about how the industry is all about money and sex, and that it should change. It reminds me of Pink’s Stupid Girls video. Young girls shouldn’t be obsessed with being super thin and trying to get a boyfriend.” These women got dominant reading because they viewed the music video as a comment on Sexism in the music industry. In the music industry, “the descriptions of women as sex objects, prostitutes, and mentally inferior people who have to strip their clothes off and dance naked in order to earn the commercial recognition of big business” is the norm (Khan 265). Another women said, “The video was funny and that I got that it was satirical.” When asked if some people might not get that it’s a parody, she said, “I think because things like Jon Stewart and the Onion are so popular that everyone will get it.” The same girl when asked about the use of race in the video claimed, “the video can’t be seen as racist because Lily Allen is pointing out that using black women as sexual objects, like Miley does, is a racist common trend in the industry. Black women should be happy that she is making a statement about it.” Other women had mix feelings about the video.

All the negotiative responses were based on liking the some feminist meaning, but debating success of the parody and race representation. All the audience members were self-identifying feminists. The majority of women were white and one woman was bi-racial. The women liked the Lily Allen was rejecting the stereotypical ideas of femininity, but thought that the twerking black women were problematic. One white feminist said, “It’s great that she rejects the idea that a women’s value comes from what her body looks like and what she does with her body. That part of the video was parodied well, but all the dancing black women didn’t work. It seems racists that she casted all black women.” A problem will satire is depending on the values of the viewer the intention of sarcasm becomes irrelevant and can reinforce harmful beliefs or offend viewers. “A rebellious statement in response to injury can be turned into a new form of injurious speech. This does not diminish the political relevance of rebellious speech. It helps to uncover the politics of language and imagery and reveals the power of hegemonic discourse” (Stehle 244). Another white woman commented, “If she casted white men as her dancers and objectified them the way women are, it would have worked as a parody. But, using black women is being like the same system you are demonizing.” The issue with artists imitating ideas that they oppose in order to expose them is that in order “to draw attention to their respective agendas, they still in different ways fall victim to these very mechanisms” (Stehle 244).The bi-racial feminist, “I see what she was trying to do, but it doesn’t work. I like that she makes fun of the commercialism and sexism in the industry with the product placement and the music executive showing the girls how to be sexy. But, feminist texts that don’t include black feminism are still offensive. I’m sure she had good intentions. She is white and privileged, so she probably doesn’t know that she is being racist.” Another white woman said, “I don’t know how I feel about it. I like that she used themes of objectification and sexualization. They are difficult to satire because women defined by their bodies and you can’t ignore race because it’s so physical too.” Other women were very offended by the video and didn’t see any of the feminist ideas that Allen intended to communicate.

The majority oppositional readings were from black and bi-racial women. Two white women had oppositional readings. A few women identified themselves as feminists, but some didn’t. The majority of the oppositional readings were based on Lily Allen’s cultural appropriation of hip hop culture to appeal to wider audience. Lily Allen does not want a black identity, but wants to be associated with the positive characteristics of blackness to sell her music without taking on the difficulties of the black community. Whites that sell and or consume hip hop culture “position themselves as cool or hip by its association with African Americans, presenting themselves as confident, progressive whites smoothly moving through a cultural milieu of blackness” (Rodriquez 646). One black woman said, “I couldn’t finish watching it. It’s too racist. It’s disgusting that women use other women as props in videos, just like men. But, then you have to cast all black women who do nothing but twerk. It’s disgusting.” The black dancers are coded as sexual objects available for consumption. “Black women’s bodies were available to both white and black men without black women’s consent” (Reid-Brinkley 245). Historically, black women within American society have been sexualized in an excessive manner because sexualization and rape of black women during slavery. “The performance of the good women served as a means of gaining respectability under the surveillance of the white gaze in the hopes of gaining some protection from abuse” (Reid-Brinkley 245). . The idea is that women need to be sexually available to be safe from sexual and physical violence. The history of that sexualization of black women sets the framework for black femininity in modern music videos. Another black woman said, “Images this like worry me. I don’t want people to think all black people are like this. I know a lot of white people probably already do cause these images are very where. It’s really offensive that this woman thinks it’s cool to treat women like whores.” A black feminist claimed, “Shit like this is a serious problem. The purpose of putting black women in this is to make it sexier. The girls don’t do anything, but act slutty. If you are going to put black women in videos do it for a reason and discuss issue facing the community. No one is going to care about a black woman’s problem if they think she is just a sex crazed person.” Racial criticism of texts comes from the fear “that black women’s reality is overshadowed by the spectacle of black women’s representation in popular culture” (Reid-Brinkley 238). Lily Allen’s response to racial criticism was that she didn’t think about race at all during casting, but only thought about the dancers skills. When I told this black feminist about Lily Allen’s response, she said, “I don’t believe that at all she knew what she was doing when she casted them. Color blindness theory is bullshit. She just doesn’t want to come off as racist.” Color blindness is the idea that in our post-racial world that race is now irrelevant. “Color blindness ideology is the assertion of essential sameness between racial and ethnic groups despite unequal social locations and distinctive histories” (Rodriquez 645). Another black feminist stated, “It’s clear that its racist, but it so common for white people to steal our culture to become successful. White people have this idea that they are welcome in hip hop culture and refuse to see that hip hop is about racial issues. They see it as a style they can use to be cool. They don’t care about problems in the black community.” When white artists use “racially coded styles and products and reduce these symbols to commodities or experiences that whites and racial minorities can purchase and share,” which turn the text into a “meaning less imitation of blackness” (Rodriquez 649). One white woman believed that it was hypocritical of Allen to make fun of hip hop culture, while see used it to get a larger audience. She said, “I’m a fan of Lily Allen’s last album and I was shocked that she did this. It is really racist to use black women like that and then make fun of their careers as dancers. I’m sure they have been in many other videos with rappers that do the things she is making fun of.” One of the lyrics in the song is “I won’t be bragging about my cars or talking about my chains.” The woman continues, “How can she use twerking that is popular in hip hop and then attack them for being materialistic without being a hypocrite?” A white queer feminist agreed with the all the racist claims, but also had an issue with some of the lyrics that she believes to be sexist and transphobic. She said, “the line ‘forget your balls and grow a pair of tits’ can be offensive to transgendered people because it relates gender and sexual identity with genitals, not personal identification .Its sexist because the line ‘I don’t have to shake my ass for you cause I got a brain,’ suggests that women can’t be smart and sexy at the same time. I have a problem with people telling other people who they are or how to be. Why can’t be define themselves? We don’t need to categorize everything.”

Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here music video has had many different interpretations of meaning. It has led to interesting commentary on issues of race, sexuality, and gender within the media industry and the cultural at large. It also opens a discussion on the use of parody in a modern Meta, but polarized culture. The music video is a good example of how meanings are social constructed and can be subject based on the identity, values, beliefs, and personal experiences of the audience members.

Black People Vs Niggas

The stand up comedian, Chris Rock, has a routine called “Black people Versus Nigga.” He makes fun of the stereotypical uneducated lower class black man, “niggas”, from the educated middle class black man perspective. Chris Rock, being a comedian, intended for the routine to funny. Most audience members found it funny, while some find it offensive.

The majority of the audience had a dominant reading because they thought it was funny. Most of the people I interviewed thought the routine was funny because they believe that the comments are true. The main points of Chris Rock’s jokes were that “niggas” are criminals, dependent on welfare, and value being ignorant. All of the people I interviewed live in Brooklyn and Bronx, and between the ages 19 to 37. I interviewed white, black, and bi-racial people to see how race effects interpretation. The majority that liked this clip liked it because they can relate to it. People said that they have people that are like subject of the jokes in their apartment buildings and neighborhoods. One white male interviewee said, “ its funny because I know these guys. They hang out on the corner all day. They are lazy. I don’t understand why they don’t get a job?” In Chris Rock’s routine, he makes a distinction between black people and “niggas” based on education and class. Many white interviewees defended their comments, such as “they are all lazy” and “they are all drug dealers”, by saying that they have black friends that don’t act like that and they were referring to the bad blacks. Most black interviewees that liked the routine agreed that there is a division in the black community between good black people and bad black people, referred to as “niggas”. All black people interviewed that enjoyed the jokes identified with Chris Rock and separated themselves completely from the identity as a “nigga”. One black male interviewee said, “I like it because I’m sick of other people making look bad.” Another black male interviewee said, “I hate niggas. If I can get a job and go to school, so can they. They are just lazy.” The majority of the comments coming from interviewees that had a dominant readings stem from the idea of personal responsibility and the Protestant work ethic. The Protestant work ethic promotes the idea that an individual’s success is determined by how hard they work and if they fail it’s their own fault. Personal responsibility arguments allow contempt for “niggas”, without addressing the class coding of that racial identity and the inequality facing the entire black community.

Only two interviewees found the comedy routine offensive and had oppositional readings. Both interviewees were black and in their 30s. Both were offended that a black man would make comments that they would hear coming from a racist white person. The black female interviewee stated, “This is the kind of rhetoric you would hear on fox. It’s disappointing when people forget where they came from and demonize their own community.” She responded on the fact that she believes that there isn’t solidarity within the black community because of the division of class. In her experience, educated middle class blacks resent lower income blacks for feeding into stereotypes and lower income blacks look at educated middle class as sell outs that gave up their ethnicity. She believes that those conflicts in the black community prevent people from organizing and fighting for social and economic equality. The black male that had an oppositional reading was offended by the comedy routine because he believes that most white people don’t make a difference between black people and niggas and will take this routine as more support for their racist ideas. He used racial profiling and Stop and Frisk, as an example of how race issues doesn’t account for class and personal accomplishments. He said, “When cops stop a man on the street, they don’t care if you have a job and take care of your kids. All they see is a black man walking in the Bronx, so he must be selling drugs.” He continued to talk about how the high-end retail store Barneys uses racial profiling in their stores to prevent shoplifting. It shows that even after you become an economic success society will still see as a criminal because you are black. He said, “The kid had paid for the belt and the cops still questioned him because he was black. He didn’t even commit a crime and he was harassed. How is that not racist?”

The ideas presented in Chris Rock’s routine of Black People Versus Niggas reflect racial issues in our modern multicultural society. Currently, American culture implies that we live in a multicultural society, where people of all races, religions, gender and ethnicities live together without conflict. This ideology promotes the myth of color blindness, or the idea that race is irrelevant in our equal society. The belief that we live in a post-racial world comes from the success of the civil rights movements of the 1960’s and the election of the U.S.’s first black president in 2008. This ideology ignores the current racial inequalities in our society and the systemic racism in the institutions that people are supposed to rely on for socioeconomic mobility. In the comedy routine and the culture at large, dividing the black community into good and bad blacks, and coding goodness and badness with work ethnic and personal responsibility ignores the impact of privilege and opportunity associated with class standing. America has historically always believed in personal responsibility and the American Dream of being a self-made success. The American Dream is an ideology that is built off of the Protestant work ethic that if you work hard you will be a success because God will reward you for your work and if you fail or struggle, you are not working hard enough. These ideas, which are still prominent in our modern society, exploded through out American culture in a time period when blacks were considered property and not equal citizens. Our institutions that call for personal responsibility were not structured nor radically restructured to promote equality, which in return makes socioeconomic mobility difficulty for minorities in contemporary America.

fiat 500 abarth commercial

Semiology is the study of signs and sign processes. Semiotics is made up of signifiers and meanings that are signified. Meaning is socially produced and understood in terms of oppositional relationships. A sign stands for ideas and concepts. A code is a collection of rules that tells people what something is or isn’t. Denotation refers to literal explicit meanings of words, sounds, and images. Connotation refers to cultural meaning that is marked onto words, sounds, and images. The commercial for the Fiat 500 Abarth in, which an Italian woman seduces a man and then turns into an Italian car, signifies concepts about gender and sexuality.

In the Fiat 500 Abarth commercial, a man stares at a woman longingly. He looks at her butt and legs first and then her face. The man looking at a woman signifies that men have the active gaze and women are the passive object of the gaze. The sexual gaze between a man and a woman signifies the man and woman as heterosexuals. The fact that he looks at parts of her body before he sees her face symbolizes he values her body over her identity. A person’s face symbolizes identity. It is how we recognize people we know in a crowd. The man is dressed in a dress shirt, a tie and dress pants, which signifies that he is middle class and has white collar job. The woman is wearing heals and a dress that is short and the front has a deep v cut. The dress shows off her legs and breast. Her outfit signifies that she is a desirable middle class woman. Her reaction to catching him objectify her is a series of actions with sexual connotations that make up a code of how to be a sexy woman. First, she reacts by being upset that he is looking at her in a sexual way and she yells at him in Italian and then slaps him. She reacts this way because of the myth about women’s sexuality. The myth is that women are sexual objects to be desired and do not have their own sexual desires or enjoy sex. After the initial response, the woman begins to seduce the man. Her actions of whispering in his ear, and touching his chest and face signifies that she wants him sexually. She speaks to him in Italian, while being a few inches away from his face. The physical closeness of their bodies signifies their sexual desire for each other. The man pretends to understand what she is saying when she doesn’t by nodding his head. His reaction is marked with the idea that a man doesn’t need to have verbal communication to have sexual relations with a woman. The woman’s body language is enough of a signifier of consent for sexual activity. The woman dips her finger in the man’s coffee and drips cream off her finger onto her breasts. The cream has a metaphoric relationship with ejaculation, which signifies the climax of ecstasy during sexual intercourse. The woman is doing this action to show the man that she can please him. The creaming falling on her breasts happens to cause more attention to her breasts. The cream is a form of intertextuality because cream is used in pornographic films and photography. Her larger breasts signify that she is desirable. Then, she touches his lips and he closes his eyes and tries to kiss her. He opens his eyes after failing to kiss her and realizes that she turned into a car. The woman touching his lips and getting closer to his face signifies that she was going to kiss him. All of the actions performed by the woman create a code on how to be a sexy woman and make men desire you. The code for being a sexy woman is to be thin with a large butt and breasts, wear clothing that shows off your body, be very physical with men, and be available to satisfy men’s sexual desires. The syntagm chain in the commercial, events that form a narrative, are all the ways she is touching him. The entire interaction between the man and woman was a narrative about giving the man what he wants, which is to be seduced by a beautiful woman. The commercial ends with the woman being a car that the man desires. The commercial is transferring the sexual desire for the woman to the car in the hopes that it will make you want to buy the car. The tagline for the car is “You’ll never forget the first time you see one.” This tagline is sexual as well because it is trying to associate the feeling of being sexually aroused for the first time with seeing the car for the first time. The car is Italian and the woman is speaking Italian and the music foreign too. The idea that it is foreign or exotic makes it more exciting and sexy.

The messages communicated in this commercial can be criticizes from the feminist perspective. The commercial defines being a woman as being a sexual object available for men’s pleasure. It defines men as sexual people that have their own desires and women as people who only desire to please men. The woman is only active when her action is approved by a man; otherwise she needs to be passive. It teaches women and young girls that their value comes from bodies and physical appearance. It teaches men and young boys to desires sex and only value woman for their bodies. The language barer between the man and the woman paired with the body language of the woman may bring up the issue of sexual consent and grey rape. Grey rape refers to acquaintance assaults, which occurring on dates, when alcohol is involved, or when someone has consented to some sexual acts, but not others. The man does not understand Italian and, as an American audience, most viewers don’t know what she is saying either. Her body language is implies that she would consent to a sexual act because she is very physical with him. But, feminist argue that sexual consent is giving is a combination of verbal cues and body language. A woman saying she wants to have sex, verbally flirting, or being physical to any degree isn’t enough on its own to prove consent. The lack of verbally communication between prospective sexual partners are often arguments that support innocence of the victimizers in cases of grey rape because the most common defense for rape is that it wasn’t rape, it was a miscommunication.

NBC’s lack of faith in Freaks and Geeks

The television series, Freaks and Geeks, was a show about unpopular kids’ experiences in a blue collar suburban high school. The series focused on the school’s outcast and displayed teenage gender identity as a fluid identity and less hetero-normative than other idealized teen shows.  The non-normative aspects of Freaks and Geeks caused issues in all stages of production and ultimately lead to its cancelation.

            Freaks and Geeks aired on NBC in 1999, after being rejected by FOX, ABC, and CBS.  It was produced by Apatow productions and Dream Works and Dream works is the Copyright holder.  The show was created by Paul Fieg. He wanted to the show to display what high school is like for average teenagers in America because he felt other shows about teens and high school lacked realism.  The intended audience was for teens currently experiencing high school and adults that still remember the pains and embarrassment of being young and not fitting in.  The aim of an average blue collar family audience does not fit into the ideal educated affluent audience that advertisers and network executives are targeting.

Paul Fieg and Judd Apatow had the desire to show the realities of teenage experiences and use realistic non-normative characters to drive the plot. The goal of realism lead to the casting of average looking actors for the main characters of the freaks and geeks. The three main geek males were short, thin, and non-muscular. The male freaks body types ranged for tall and thin to short and overweight. The female freaks were average weight, masculine clothing, and very little make up. The clothing of the characters was not trendy, nor was it styled or fitted for the actor, which is the opposite of most teen dramas. The creator, Fieg, believes that the non-normative and non-Hollywood depiction of the characters was one reason the show was cancelled. He said, “The problem with TV now is that you have to make friends immediately which is why the network wants actors to be beautiful… You become infatuated with them, and you’ll watch week after week because they’re beautiful and they’re your surrogate boyfriend/ girlfriend.” After the pilot was aired and other episodes were ordered by NBC, Judd Apatow told the cast not to start dieting or working out because they are part of Hollywood. He wanted the show to keeps its realism. The network found the realism to be a problem.

NBC gained Garth Ancier as an executive and program director, whom formerly worked for the WB and responsible for the success of Dawson Creek. Ancier didn’t like Freaks and Geeks. He said, “Television served not to reflect reality, but to offer ways in which we might escape it.” The characters were unattractive and unhappy. The network wanted the episodes to have happy endings for the characters. The non-normative structure of the show explains the network’s treatment of the show.  It first aired on Saturdays at 8pm. Then it was moved to Mondays to run against TV’s most popular show that year Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Schedule airs of the program were often delayed to air other programs. The instability of the scheduling made it more difficult for viewers to follow it and couldn’t build an audience. It quickly became NBC’s lowest-rated show with 6 million viewers between 1999 to 2000. NBC’s most popular show of that time period was Friends. Freaks and Geeks was cancelled mid-season in March 2000. 12 out of 18 episodes aired and there was still 3 more episodes being edited when Fieg and Apatow received the news of cancelation. The lack of promotion by network and interest by advertisers also influenced the lack of success of the show.

NBC promoted Freaks and Geeks with short promos that didn’t explain anything about the show or grab viewers’ attention. NBC’s promos for the show used the tagline “what high school was like for the rest of us,” while using the heterosexual coupling of the characters Kim and Daniel. They tried to use sex to draw an in the audience without explaining what the show was. The press was labeling the show as the anti-Dawson. Freaks and Geeks’s plot, characters, and themes focusing on non-conformity, alienation, awkwardness, and anti-establishment didn’t attracted advertisers.  It was a network television show and not niche program on cable. It had to appeal to a mass audience to attract advertisers. Advertisers wanted popular shows that featured beautiful actors, hyper feminine and hyper masculine, having great heterosexual sex. Freaks and Geeks features heterosexual relationships and homo-social friendships, but didn’t glorify sex like popular programs. The discourse about sex on the show focused on the confusion of desiring sexual activity and having anxiety about it. The feminine geeky male characters question if girls will ever like them and compare themselves to other teenaged boys.  They are constantly being teased for not being masculine enough because they are still going through puberty and don’t fit into the stereotype of a man. These characters have story lines of being turned down for dates, having body issues, and being confused by porn and their sex education class.  It was the only show at the time that showed teenaged sexual as awkward, confusing, and uncomfortable. The two main female characters are not stereotypically feminine. They are strong girls that speak their mind and don’t wear make-up or dresses. Those ideas about sex and gender alienated advertisers because they use sex and stereotypical gender roles to sell products, which is more difficult to do when a program is challenging those norms.

Freaks and Geeks has become a cult favorite on Netflix and has been syndicated on IFC. There is a niche audience outside of network television that is attracted to realism and non-heteronormative programing that challenges gender norms and rejects binary restrictions. 

Rape myth

One myth about sex crimes is that a woman is more likely to be raped by stranger than someone she knows. This myth is supported by the false idea that crimes are committed by one type of people, criminals. When in reality there is no group of people that are criminals because every community has crime regardless of class, race, gender, and sexuality. The same is true with rape. According to the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report 2009 data, “Every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.” This fact with the  help  of the media, political policies and  cultural  norms would have  citizens believe that  these attacks are being committed by  strangers on the street corner late at  night and  could have been  avoided, if the  woman  was  safe in her home or  not  dressed sexy.

            One reason the general public believes in the rape myth is because of the idea of the justice and economics.  Our “social perceptions are often tainted by personal need…to view the world as just place in which you get what you deserve” (Hammond 244). This thinking puts blame on the victim and not the attacker. The women must have done something to instigate the assault; otherwise the stranger wouldn’t have attacked her. If  the women that  are assaulted are seen as an innocent  victims,  others would have  to come to terms with the  idea that  they  are vulnerable too. The belief that victims are only assaulted by strangers gives individuals a sense of control. They can be safe, if they avoid being alone with strangers. The fact that victims are innocent, but vulnerable to things out of their control disproves the idea that the world is just and functions economically.  Individuals need to believe in the rape myth because “a myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world” (Ryan 774).

            Another reason individuals believe in the stranger rape myth is because of educational, legal, medical institution support the myth.  Children are taught to not talk to strangers and be afraid of them. At a young age strangers are already seen as a threat. When doctors, cops and lawyers discuss sexual assaults “they will rarely label it as ‘rape’ if it does not approximate the stranger rape stereotype” (Anderson 226).  In court, a rape case has a higher probability of conviction if it follows the stereotypes of the rape myth. 

            “Rape expresses the essence of patriarchal relationships” (Martinez 152).  According to feminist perspectives, men benefit from rape myths. “Rape myths…serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women” (Ryan 774). The myth that rape is committed by strangers against women of low moral character benefits the patriarchal and religious structures in our society. “Those who hold more conservative sexual attitudes tend to view women as subservient to men and to be more accepting of rape myths” (Hammond 243). Rape myths that blame victims and ignore the majority of rapists continue to keep women in a lower position and inferior to men. These ideas about women’s inferiority and support of rape myths were present in the 2012 U.S. Senate elections. Republican Representative of Missouri, Todd Akin, believes that if pregnancy is a result of a rape that woman wasn’t really raped. Todd Akin told reporters, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down” (Moore 1). President Obama responded to the comment by  taking a feminist stance by  calling Akin’s comment “an  example of why  politicians  should not make health care decisions for women” (Moore 1). The idea of questioning what is or isn’t legitimate rape reinforces the real rape script that shapes the rape myth. “The real rape script involves a sudden and physically violent attack on an unsuspecting woman, usually by a stranger. The woman is alone at the time of the attack” (Ryan 776). Any other sexual assault that does not fit into that script isn’t seen as legitimate rape and that victim’s   experience is silenced and trivialized.  Men tend to believe in rape myths more than women because of man’s lack of identification with victims. Women are more likely to be raped or know other women who have been raped, which allows them to empathize with victims. Men have apathy because men are not sexualized or associated with their bodies the way women are. “Not only do men agree with rape myths more than women, they also empathize less with the victims than women, blame the victims and hold less tolerant attitudes towards victims” (Anderson 228). The inability for males to identify with rape victims can influence how policies regarding sexual crimes are formed in government agencies, and how sexual crimes are discussed in the media in our patriarchal society.  “The fear of rape keeps women off the streets at night. Keeps women at home” (Martinez 1530.  The fear of stranger rape is used as tool for voluntary consent and conformity to the patriarchy by women passive and out of the public sphere.

            Some feminist critics blame the media for supporting rape myths and rape culture. “The media shapes public opinion about sexual violence and its perpetrators” (O’Hara 248).  Film and television programs express the idea that “sex defines masculinity, heterosexual men objectify women and heterosexual men are sexually preoccupied” (Ryan 779). These gender norms define men as individuals that use women as sexual objects and women as submissive sexual objects. These ideas of gender are most present in pornography. “Pornography is correlated with sexual coercion and…Rape myth acceptance” (Ryan 779). Hardcore pornography uses plots of rape fantasies of submissive women happily waiting to be raped and men performing aggressive and violent sexual acts with force and coercion. Media images influence how public discourse of rape and sexual assault are shaped in our society.  “Misleading representations of sexual violence may cause the public, police, and members of the court to revert to these understandings when establishing definitions of rape” (O’Hara 257). The majority of the news coverage of rape and other sex crimes tend to focus on the criminal and the shocking nature of the crime in order to get more viewers. When the victim is mentioned, the media “does not address the harm done to the victim” (O’Hara 252).  The victim is disregarded in most news coverage, or at least depersonalized. The victim becomes just an object that this monstrous thing attacked, making it seem like a random senseless act. The media use the monstrous rapist motif to sell their stories. This reinforces the idea that rapists are “sick emotional disturbed men” (O’Hara 250). The news media helps silence the threat of rape because it “regularly described (rapists) as “beasts” or “perverts” and distanced from “ordinary” men” (O’Hara 248). The news media only  focuses on  the  most  sensational  cases  to attract  the  most  viewers and  make high advertisement revenue.  “When rape is sensationalized by the press, the perpetrator is transformed into an ‘other’,” which makes women more vulnerable to more common forms of rape (O’Hara 251). The sensationalism  stranger,  gang rapes,  and serial rapists news coverage cause  the  public’s knowledge and  interests in  more common types of rape committed by  people the  victim knows.   “The  news media gives disproportionate  coverage to certain types of rape, which  can  cause the  public to have an overly narrow understanding of rape that excludes the  most  common type of rape, acquaintance rape” ( O’Hara 250). 

            Believing in the rape myth puts more women at risk of rape and sexual assault because it ignores the reality of sex crimes and the majority of sex criminals.  Women  are focused on  avoiding  stranger rape to  the  point that  they  ignore their vulnerability of  being assaulted by  someone  they know. “Fear of rape is assessed as fear of real rape (stranger rape), not fear of acquaintance rape” (Ryan 777). Acquaintance rape is often interrupted as only a miscommunication issue and not real rape. On college campuses, “many administrators and officials think sexual assault is less a violent crime than it is a misunderstanding about consent between two students. That fuzzy area, often referred to as gray rape” (Jones 3).  The situation is describe by victims and victimizers as the  male  receiving  mixed signals and  going too far,  while the women negotiates what  she  is willing to do sexually to avoid force.  This is interrupted as compromise based on gender roles. “Men believe in  a yes/ no form of consent,  whereas women may  see consent as negotiated through an ongoing  process that  involves  a series  of gates, in  which they  are willing to  do some  things but not  others” (Ryan 777). There is common belief that these strangers committing rape are “obviously different from other men” (Ryan 779). This implies that  you  couldn’t  be  raped  by  a friend or  family member because they  are  not seen as abnormal or threatening.  The rapist is usually described as a “brutish male aggressor…sex crazed, deviant sociopath…who had no previous acquaintance with the victim” (O’Hara 151). Acquaintance rapist may be able to gain access of “potential victims because he does not resemble the myth” (Ryan 779).

 “The rape of a woman is a violent and alarming common crime often committed by men the victims know and trust” (Hammond 243). The majority of rapes are committing against women, but men are also victims. According to the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report 2009 data, “1 out of 6 women and 1 out of 33 men have been raped or experience attempted rape.” The report also states that only 31 percent of rapists were strangers and 2 out of 3 victims knew the rapist. 23 percent of attackers were previously intimate with the victim, 3 percent were relatives and 36 percent were friends or acquaintances. The myth of being attacked by a stranger walking alone at night can be disproven because only 43 percent of all rapes (not only outdoors) happen between 6pm and midnight. Another study found that “43 percent of rapes happen in the victim’s home” (Anderson 228). A study focusing on college rape found that when American college women were asked to describe their experiences they  “described a date/ acquaintance rape more frequently than rape perpetrated by a stranger” (Anderson 227). The reality of rape is actually the opposite of the myth of the dangerous violent stranger. Some believe that if the victim didn’t struggle enough, it was not legitimate rape. That simple isn’t true either.  In fact, “84 percent of rapes involved a man known to the female victim and involve little aggression, no weapon, and little injury to the victim” (Anderson 226).

One government policy, which deals with the reality of sexual crimes, is the federal Violence against Women act of Title IX, the federal gender equality law. The Title IX law makes colleges and  universities  “adopt and  publish grievance  procedures and  develop  education and  training programs to help students and employees to  recognize and  respond  to sexual harassment and  violence” (Jones 2). In 2011, the Obama administration expanded this to include the requirement of colleges to “respond if a sexual assault is reported, even if law enforcement officials decline to pursue charges” (Jones 2). The  law  is a step in  the  right  direction of  recognizing  that  women can be rape by  professors and classmates, but  the lack  of  enforcement is a new problem.  The lack of enforcement shows that society still does not take non-stranger sex crimes seriously.  “Few students found responsible for sexual assaults face punishment at their universities, and the cases are seldom turned over for criminal prosecution” (Jones 2). 

The destruction of the stranger rape myth makes men and women accountable for their violent actions, sexual relationships and sex crimes. It starts to address real issues of date rape, sexual assault on college campuses and incest rapes. The true nature of sexual crimes should open debate on the social meaning of consent, masculinity and femininity, socioeconomic inequalities, and hyper sexualized American culture, instead of blaming victims and defending victimizers. Honest dialogue about rape is the first step of to dismantle the rape myth. Kristen Lombardi, a journalist for Center of Public Integrity, writes a series on sexual assaults on college campuses.  Lombardi believes that education and awareness about sexual assault with help destroy rape myths and make attackers accountable for their actions.  “The level of awareness (about sexual assault on college campuses) has been raised   immensely… a lot of schools review policies, knowing that the OCR (U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights) is serious about these kinds of issues” (Jones 4).

One  way  of looking  at rape as a social  problem is to  place it  into  the macro  content of social  norms associated  with sex and gender.  Sexual  assault  is  only  one injustice within  a patriarchal  society,  where inequality, domination, subordination, and exploitation (based on gender) are common” and  “inequality among men and women have social  causes and consequences” ( Martinez 149).  Sexual crimes committed by men will continue to happen as long as men are socialized to believe that “violence (is) a masculine characteristic” (Martinez 149).  Binary gender constructions mean that women are what men are not.  If its masculine to commit violence, then it means being feminine includes  being a  victim  of  violence.  Rape  and sexual  assault  are  separated from  other  forms of assault, but  they  do  fit  into the history of  violence  against  women.  “The use of stereotypes hinders the discussions about real causes of sexual violence. If the perpetrator is a devious monster, rape becomes a random act of violence rather than a society problem” (O’Hara 256).  Rape and sexual assault needs to be viewed as a crime that is committed by all different types of people and that all members of society are vulnerable.  Sexual crimes can’t only be seen as random uncommon occurrences, but a real problem that is social constructed. 

Its bathing suit season. You know what that means girls….

its time to start working out obsessively and starving ourselves to fit in our bikinis! There will be lots of tears, anxiety, and depression to achieve the goal of looking like the illusions we see on tv and in magazines. But, it will be all worth it when we hook up with the cute boy at the beach who is concentrating so hard on getting laid that he can’t even remember our name. After all we are girls and all we think about is being beautiful to get a man because our biological clocks are ticking. Women are nothing but sex toys and incubators so our bodies need to be perfect and if it isn’t you won’t be accepted.
Or at least that is what I have learned from experience and observations.

Im constantly reminded of my gender and sexuality every time I walk by a man on the street and my negative image about my body increases when I see a cover of a magazine. Some days I love my body and other days I hate it. Today is one of the days that I hate my body because today I tried on my old bathing suit that fits okay and I went shopping for a new one.
At the store, I pick out several different bathing suits different sizes. Tops are always easy for me to find because Im only an Acup so small top is fine. My breast are one of the few things I like about my body. But, my ass is a different story. Finding bottoms of a bikini is impossible and one pieces fit awkward because my body is so disproportional. So I went home empty handed and feeling like crap because they don’t sell bikini bottoms in 2XL.

But, the worst part was the dressing rooms. Every single women in their was complain about their bodies, including myself. They were calling themselves fat, complaining about body hair, skin tone, cellulite and breasts (too large & too small), every one was pissed off and one girl cried her eyes out when she ripped her shorts. Trying on clothing is always stress full but looking at my thighs in the bikini from last year that Im in right now makes me feel disgusting. The only time Im comfortable with my body is when Im completely nude.

Besides my large ass, small uneven breast and thunder thighs I have peach fuzz all over my body, thick eye brows, chubby arms and stomach, wide hips, long eye lashes, chapped lips, tiny hands, tons of beauty marks, off center nipples, acne, greasy hair, pale skin, large amount of scars, big brown eyes, dirty finger nails, cream colored crooked teeth, soft skin, sweaty feet, and I don’t wear make.

Do I measure up to our cultures beauty standards? No, of course not! No one ever does. I look like an actually person and Im slowly learning to embrace that.

Neo-Nazis in Greenpoint

Neo-Nazis in Greenpoint

Walking down the street in Brooklyn, you’ll see many types of self-expression. Multi-ethnic neighborhoods are decorated with different national flags, gay pride flags, statues of saints and now swastikas.

A local photographer released a series of photographs featuring Neo-Nazis. The photographer, Adam Krause took the photographs in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. A few were taken in their home with Nazi flags as the backdrop. The local community was shocked and outrage. Krause censored his art by removing the photographs from his website after receiving international backlash. Krause should have stood by his art and kept his photographs online, despite social repercussions. His photographs and the people in them are protected by the first amendment. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Just the word Nazi makes the majority of people’s blood boil, which is more than understandable. But, we must remember freedom of expression is essential for a free society and that every citizen has that right.  The majority of responses from the local community are that the photographs are offensive. They create feelings of hate, anger and fear. Many want the Neo-Nazis out of the neighborhood. People are not recognizing the hypocrisy of hating a group of people for hating a group of people. The demand for removal of these photographs and the Neo-Nazis themselves seems hypocritical. New Yorkers boast about being more liberal and open-minded than the rest of the country. But, we feel a collective need to censor a photographer and monitor a small group of people based on their belief systems. New York is considered the cultural Mecca of the world and has a high population of the so-called intellectual creative class. Regardless of that reputation, we jumped to anger and fear instead of having a discussion on hatred and freedom of speech in America. The sad fact of freedom of speech allows people to express hatred, as long as it is done in nonviolent and legal ways. Believing in freedom of speech means we must defend the rights of people we disagree with, or in some cases people that hate us. The Supreme Court case, National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, ruled that states can’t infringe on first amendment rights andallowed Nazis to have a rally in Skokie, Illinois. A Jewish lawyer, Burton Joseph, who worked for the American Civil Liberties Union, represented the Nazis. Burton Joseph believes in freedom of speech so strongly that he fought for people who hated him. He is a noble example of standing by your principles no matter what.

The Fact that the majority of the locals were shocked and surprised that there are Neo-Nazis in their neighborhood means that they are a very small minority and are not an organized threat. People should take comfort in that. There have been a few sightings of swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti in the area. The NYPD should patrol the Greenpoint area for vandalism, violence and other illegal activities. It’s the NYPD’s job to ensure the security of New Yorkers, while allowing all citizens to use their rights to express themselves in accordance with the law.

The Neo-Nazis should continue to express themselves within their rights. The shaved heads and swastika flags are rational ways to express their identity. They need to stop the graffiti and never resort to violence and hate crimes. Once they cross that line, there isn’t any way to justify it in the eyes of the law. 

The freedom to express ourselves in a country with many diverse belief system means that people are going to be offended. There is no way around that. All the opposition can do is express their own beliefs and hope that social norms gravitate towards their views. The opposition in Greenpoint should create educational programs in schools and religious institutions condemning hate speech and promoting diversity. There are over 8 million people in New York City. A handful of non-organized Nazis should not be seen as a threat to New York’s ability to accept diverse cultures.