The Difference between Charlie Hebdo and the American Freedom Defense Initiative

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

In response to the “cartoon contest” in Garland, Texas, that provoked an attack by two “Muslim extremists,” the news media has not been able to avoid making parallels to the much more devastating attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Most of those commentators have felt uneasy enough with the comparison that they have made some effort to try to distinguish the two events. But in the end, the failure to emphasize the distinctions stands as a testament to the media’s inability to distinguish between superficiality and balance in its coverage of events.

I could, of course, be much more cynical and assert that the media’s failure to distinguish much more clearly and decisively between the two events simply demonstrates how much profits define coverage: that is, the coverage of the attack in Garland, Texas, was more newsworthy to the extent that it might have paralleled the…

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Same-Sex Marriage, Urban Discontent, and American Values: A Postscript from the Lunatic Fringe

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

In a post to this blog from several days ago, I linked same-sex marriage and the civil unrest in Baltimore. I knew that it was a stretch, but I was attempting to say that our society and our media are all too willing to look at the surfaces of issues and not at the underlying complexities that will require much more extended public attention and civic determination to resolve. Indeed, I knew that connecting the two issues in any way—even so broadly–was such a stretch that I pointedly framed my discussion of the civil unrest in Baltimore as a digression.

Well, apparently Texas congressman Bill Flores felt no such reservations. This past week, Flores was a guest on Washington Watch, a radio program hosted by Tony Perkins, the President of the Family Research Council. The ostensible topic for discussion was the rally outside the Supreme Court protesting the arguments…

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The Current Either-Or Choice in “Solutions” to Poverty

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Aaron Barlow’s post highlights a major difference between how Progressives and those on the Far Right have sought to address endemic poverty. Progressives have been accused, sometimes with much justification, of being willing to waste millions on wrong-headed “solutions” to poverty. On the other hand, the Far Right has essentially ignored solutions and has turned poverty into another source of corporate profits. One can argue that some Progressive solutions ironically and tragically made some problems worse. On the other hand, one would be very hard-pressed to argue that any Far Right alternatives to anti-poverty programs have made anything better–except for how they have improved corporate profits and shareholder dividends.

There is no “culture of poverty,” no cultural transformation that is the magic bullet that will eradicate poverty. But there are very clearly defined broader political and cultural attitudes constructed around notions of poverty that have made it much more difficult…

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Same-Sex Marriage, Urban Discontent, and American Values

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case related to laws banning gay marriage in about two-thirds of the 13 states who still do not allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

These are maps showing the states that had and had not legalized gay marriage late in 2009 and early in 2015:

Same-Sex Marriage by the Map 2009

Same-sex marriage laws

I am very certain that the Supreme Court decision matters a great deal to gay and lesbian couples in those states whose laws are under review in this case. But, in terms of national policy, it now seems very clearly more a matter of not whether but when gay and lesbian couples will be able to marry anywhere in the United States.

Most of the news media has, however, been treating this case as if it were pivotal to whether gay marriage will be legally accepted across the United States, and that is…

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President Obama’s Bucket List and Anger Translator

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

This is a transcript of President Obama’s remarks at last night’s White House Correspondents Dinner.


Good evening, everybody.

Welcome to the White House Correspondents’ dinner. A night when Washington celebrates itself. Somebody’s got to do it. And welcome to the fourth quarter of my presidency. It’s true — that’s Michelle cheering.

The fact is I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages — they’re like magic. You should try one. Oh, you have.

I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left. After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me “Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?”  And I said, “Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.”

Take executive action on immigration. Bucket.

New climate regulations. Bucket. It’s the right thing to do.

My new attitude is paying off. Look at my Cuba policy. The Castro brothers…

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Cecily Strong’s Best Jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

As culled by The Hill and the Washington Post:


– On her ambiguous ethnicity: “I’m sort of a mashup of all the people in Hillary Clinton’s announcement video.”

– “Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m gonna go easy on you people. I’m gonna go easy on you people because my brain is smaller.”

– “Last year’s host Joe McHale proves that speaking at this dinner is an amazing opportunity that can take you from starring in a show on NBC all the way to starring in the same show on Yahoo.”

– “Since I’m only a comedian, I’m not going to tell you politicians how to do politics or whatever. That’s not my job. That’d be like you guys telling me what to do with my body. Can you even imagine?”

– “I love Hobby Lobby. I went there this morning and bought this cute little…

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Making Safe Schools a Priority

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Item 1 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

To direct school staff on how to respond to a visitor who is carrying a visible firearm, a school district in Michigan has distributed the following flow chart:

Flow Chart for Responding to School Visitor w a Gun

I would like to be able to say that one cannot help but feel certain that the school staff now feel very adequately prepared to meet all eventualities, that those parents whose children are enrolled at the school are now very confident that all the measures that might be taken to insure the safety of their children have been taken, and that, if the flow chart has been posted for easy reference around the school, the school children themselves must feel very secure simply by having the opportunity to gaze upon it.

I would like to be able to say all or even any of that, but the idea that…

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Narratives Told and Ignored

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Item 2 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

In 2013, 17 states and the District of Columbia, gun-related deaths exceeded traffic-related deaths:

  1. Alaska: 144 gun deaths, 66 motor vehicle deaths
  2. Arizona: 941 gun deaths, 863 motor vehicle deaths
  3. Colorado: 619 gun deaths, 514 motor vehicle deaths
  4. District of Columbia: 71 gun deaths, 30 motor vehicle deaths
  5. Indiana: 857 gun deaths, 840 motor vehicle deaths
  6. Louisiana: 886 gun deaths, 767 motor vehicle deaths
  7. Maryland: 578 gun deaths, 531 motor vehicle deaths
  8. Michigan: 1,190 gun deaths, 1,063 motor vehicle deaths
  9. Missouri: 880 gun deaths, 781 motor vehicle deaths
  10. Nevada: 395 gun deaths, 281 motor vehicle deaths
  11. Ohio: 1,289 gun deaths, 1,144 motor vehicle deaths
  12. Oregon: 462 gun deaths, 363 motor vehicle deaths
  13. Pennsylvania: 1,451 gun deaths, 1,340 motor vehicle deaths
  14. Tennessee: 1,030 gun deaths, 1,027 motor vehicle deaths
  15. Utah: 339 gun deaths, 234 motor vehicle deaths
  16. Virginia: 864…

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Emblematic Narratives Are Hard to Find

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Item 3 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

Yesterday, the U.S. Capitol was locked down because a gunshot was fired immediately outside its walls. Initial reports indicated only that the gunman had been “neutralized” by a “self-inflicted fatal gunshot.”

Putting aside the very odd language that authorities used to summarize what had occurred, once it was clear that this shooting was “only a suicide,” the story received very little further attention.

But if you consider the statistics that I presented in the second in this series of four posts, perhaps this story should have received much more attention—since almost two-thirds of the gun-related deaths that occur each year are suicides, and here was someone tragically illustrating that reality almost literally on the steps of the Capitol.

By the way, if one adds in the murder victims in murder-suicides, the number of gun-related deaths related to suicides…

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Why a Holster Is Not Simply an Accessory

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Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Item 4 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

Some truisms, even about guns, turn out to be true.

In January 2013, a security guard in Trinidad and Tobago accidentally shot off his penis with an illegal gun.

The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported that the 33-year-old man was carrying a .38 caliber handgun in his pocket when it went off, shooting him in the groin.

Police responding to a report of a gunshot coming from a parked car in the town of Rio Claro found the guard slumped over the wheel and bleeding from his groin. The man had a .38 caliber gun and had four rounds of ammunition in his pocket.

The guard was then transported to San Fernando General Hospital where he remained under police supervision. At the hospital police discovered the guard did not have an ownership license. Adding insult to already unpleasant injury…

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