Nov
01
2012

Videogame Bigotry and the Illusion of Freedom

How game designers turn prejudice into play

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim's 'Redguard' race--Photo Credit: Skyrim Wiki/Bethesda Softworks/Google Images

The definitive element of a videogame is the player’s agency within the game’s world. Instead of “viewers,” games have “players," and the player makes dozens of choices every minute that directly shape the experience: Will Mario sneak around the turtle monster, or will he jump on it until it dies? That sense of control over the protagonist can give the narrative of a videogame much greater impact than that of any conventional form of storytelling. But with that agency comes an illusion of freedom--which is dangerous. The player is not really “free,” since their actions are limited to the options […]

Nov
01
2012

The Need to Decode GOP's Coded Messages

The ink of racism can't be factchecked away

Mitt Romney filmed in secret at a fundraiser--Photo Credit: Mother Jones/Google Images

Lamenting the state of political writing, George Orwell once observed that “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity”: When there is “a gap between one’s real and declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” In modern politics, of course, limited media time and attention spans make no allowance for florid language, so thinly veiled appeals to racism have become the “ink” of choice. Amid the national elections, the GOP machine has been one very busy cuttlefish indeed. Most infamous is Mitt Romney’s off-the-cuff remark to millionaire […]

Nov
01
2012

One City, Two Languages

How the El Paso Times segregates the news

“Faces and Places,” says a link on the website of the El Paso Times, a venerable daily newspaper on the U.S./Mexico border. Click and you’re transported to photos of the community’s apple-pie-and-motherhood social events. In one picture, a fair-skinned little girl straddles a horse as a Stetson-hatted man guides her on a trail ride. In another, a middle-aged woman holds a fluffy dog who’s poised to jump in a pool—it’s canine swim day at an El Paso recreation center. These photos, and others just as wholesome, grace the paper’s English-language website. But over in another section, called “Fotogalerías,” the images […]

Sep
21
2012

Vijay Prashad on "Muslim Rage," Imara Jones on 47 percent and race

newsweek-rage2

This week on CounterSpin: In the wake of the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and angry demonstrations in several other Muslim countries, corporate media are largely fingering religious differences and the peculiarities of Islam as the reason.

Sep
01
2012

Missing Latino Voices

Excluded from the newsroom, absent from the conversation

Since 1990, the Latino population in the United States has more than doubled to 16 percent, but English-language U.S. news media outlets are simply not keeping up. While people of color and women have always been underrepresented in U.S. media, Latinos consistently stand out—in the coverage as well as inside the newsroom—for their exceptionally paltry numbers relative to their population size. In coverage In Extra!’s recent study of the opinion pages of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal (4/12), Latinos were granted less than half a percent of the op-ed bylines over the two-month study period—writing […]

Sep
01
2012

Latinos in New Media

On the verge of a breakthrough--or breakdown

Blabbeando's Andres Duque--Photo Credit: Blabbeando

For many Latinos, the growth of new media offered hope for both expanded representation and democratization in the truest sense of the word. It was not enough for this growing demographic in the United States to be written about and reported on. Latinos, who defy simplistic labels and check boxes, wanted to represent themselves and their experiences, something they were not getting to do prior to the boom of blogs. This is no small matter among one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States, 52 million and rising (U.S. Census, 5/12). For Latinos, both the formally trained journalists […]

Sep
01
2012

Misrepresenting the Latino Education Crisis

Austerity, immigration are the real civil rights issues

Justin Akers Chacon--Photo Credit: San Diego City College

During recent campaigning, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have appealed to the Latino community by acknowledging the “Latino education crisis.” Romney told the conservative Latino Coalition that the poor track record of schools serving students of color is “the civil rights issue of our era” (New York Times, 5/24/12). He identified teacher unions as the obstacles to reform (Washington Post, 5/23/12): “The teachers’ unions don’t fight for our children.” His prescription included a federal school voucher program and the expansion of non-union charter schools. Obama has also linked educational reform to civil rights themes (New York Times, […]

Sep
01
2012

Arizona Schools Whitewash History

Banning books that promote 'ethnic solidarity'

Rethinking Columbus--Photo Credit: Rethinking Schools

Orwell observed in his dystopian masterpiece 1984 that "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." As America’s demographic landscape continues to undergo a significant shift toward a more multicultural—and multicolored—reality, political forces representing the past are doing their utmost to superimpose that past onto the future by “disappearing” inconvenient facts of history. In January, the school board in Arizona’s Tucson Unified School District shut down that city’s Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies curriculum, with the state’s school superintendent, John Huppenthal, declaring that it violated a recent Arizona state law that prohibits courses placing “ethnic […]