YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

  • “A Rage to Master”: A Blog on Gifted Children by Dr. Ellen Winner

    by Howard Gardner

    Below, we are reprinting a blog post concerning gifted children that originally appeared on Howard Gardner’s official website for MI Theory, multipleintelligencesoasis.org.
    Consistent with the name and purpose of this website, most of the entries provide support for the notion of several, relatively independent intellectual capacities, called the “multiple intelligences.” That includes reports on gifted children, most of whom have jagged profiles—that is, they may be very strong in one or two intelligences, less strong in others. Having studied gifted children, Ellen Winner has described many of these youngsters as having a “rage to master”—spending many hours each day engaged in, say, playing chess or practicing the violin.
    But, counter to popular lore, there are no necessary patterns across the intelligences. Life is not fair! Some individuals are strong across several intelligences (Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind), while others, less fortunate, struggle in several intelligences. And the reasons for these diverse patterns are also multiple—genetic, cultural, and/or familial.
    Recently, my wife, Dr. Ellen Winner, spent time with a remarkable child who, quite unusually, exhibited a “rage to master” across a wide range of learning opportunities. I’m pleased to post this blog—a contribution to our understanding of human giftedness.
    -Howard Gardner

    A Rage to Master… Everything
    Ellen Winner
    October 2018
    As a developmental psychologist with a particular interest in gifted children, I have observed many unusual children. Most gifted children have one domain in which they excel. Domains in which one most often finds such children are language (speaking in sentences at a very early age), music (playing an instrument), drawing (typically very realistically), mathematics, and chess. These children exhibit what I call a “rage to master,” the domain in which they are strong. They spend hours working at developing their craft, and it is often hard for parents to tear the child away in order to eat, go to school, or go to sleep. These children have an enormous amount of energy which they focus exclusively (or at least primarily) on their domain of strength.
    Recently friends of ours visited with their daughter who was on the cusp of turning six and who showed such a rage to master. But hers was unusual. She did not zero in on any one particular domain. Everything she came in contact with seemed to stimulate a rage to master. Because of her boundless energy for everything, she seemed to have a compulsion to keep busy, and if there were no obvious activities to engage in, she made up games for herself.
    An example…
    When she found some fine markers in our kitchen, she asked for paper and then proceeded to write out the alphabet and numbers up to 20 in very neat handwriting. She did this numerous times, and then used the phone to photograph each image.
    Next, she discovered a puzzle where you have to put wooden shapes into a square box so that they all fit perfectly. She used my phone to time herself and was satisfied when she got her time down in half from her first try. After thus competing against herself, she then insisted that everyone else (six adults) try the puzzle, and she timed us each time, smiling broadly each time another person’s time was longer than hers.
    In terms of attention, she also stood out. She noticed everything that the adults said in conversation even when she seemed to be concentrating on something else. We could tell because every once in a while she would look up from what she was doing and make a relevant comment.
    I was surprised by the acuteness of her memory. At dinner she had asked me for my iPhone code which I gave to her orally. The next morning she picked up my phone and immediately typed in the code. When I told her I was amazed that she remembered, she began to tell me the code for the phone of one of her mother’s friends.
    Her personality was strong, and she liked to be in control. She consumed all of our time and attention. We were like pieces in a human chess set that she manipulated. When she saw me holding my iPhone, she took it from me and began to take photos and videos of everyone in the room, including selfies of herself making funny faces. (I should note that her parents rarely take out their phones in front of her.)  She was however an iPhone expert, and instructed me on how to take a still photo and then to press loop or bounce to make the picture move in funny ways (this was news to me!).  She did allow me to take a few photos if I pointed the camera exactly where she instructed me. She was behaving like a movie director – making it clear she was in charge, and we were working for her.
    Another way in which she “ran the show” was recounted to me by her father. He told me how he tried to keep her amused at a restaurant by showing her his two closed fists and asking her to guess in which hand he held a piece of paper. After one or two trials, she took over and insisted that he be the one to guess in which hand she was holding the paper.
    When she was four, Trump was elected. She asked her parents what a president was. Her father, a policy scholar, listed to her all the things that presidents do and that the government does. When he finished, she said, “Then I want to be president!” That evening over dinner her parents found themselves being bossed around by their daughter. Her mother paused for a moment and then turned to her and asked, “Who set the rules in this house?” Their daughter’s instant reply: “Me because I’m the government.”
    Most gifted children have very jagged profiles—ahead in language, average in math; ahead in drawing, average in music. But this child seems to be high in many different intelligences—verbal (did I mention that she is bilingual and speaks fluently a language unrelated to English?), spatial (that puzzle), mathematics (timing everyone on the puzzle; remembering iPhone codes), bodily-kinesthetic (she climbed to the top of the three story climbing structure at the Boston Children’s Museum), musical (she plays the recorder and recorded herself singing for me on my phone), and interpersonal (she had everyone marching to her orders; she formed a strong relationship with both my husband and me the first night she arrived, and I observed her strong connection not only to her parents but to two adult siblings). About intrapersonal intelligence, I can only say that when she was asked a hard question (how can you test which colors a dog can see?) she thought for a while and then said (reflectively and accurately) that she did not know. In addition to her gifts across the board she showed a powerful motivation to compete and an equally powerful motivation to fill her time with goal oriented activities.
    The point of this sketch: While most gifted children have a rage to master in one area, this child showed a rage to master everything she came into contact with. Of course, it’s not at all clear what she will grow up to become. But perhaps Bill and Hillary looked like this as young children. Perhaps she really will grow up to be president—of something. I suspect she will not be passively taking orders from any boss.

  • Momma I Made It: Social Media Star Demetrius Harmon Talks Mental Health

    by Davey Kim

    Actor/model/poet Demetrius Harmon on how social media and his mom helped save his life.

    YR Media’s Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen get real in their feels about mental health issues with model, actor, and poet Demetrius Harmon (who you might’ve seen glowin’ up on Vine back in the day #RIPVine). His candid conversation with the co-hosts goes into dealing with feelings, how his mom literally saved his life, plus why some communities of color don’t talk about depression or anxiety.

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 7 – Self ISH).

    Nyge: We’ve seen you with Zendaya, with Yara Shahidi, with Khalid on the “Young Dumb & Broke” video, and you have over 900,000 followers on Instagram. Is it safe to say that you’re out there you know, Lil Duval, “living your best life”? Or does real life sometimes get in the way?

    Demetrius: It’s a mixture of both because I struggle with being depressed and anxious. I think I look so happy within those moments because when things are happening, I really take everything in as it is.

    Merk: You once tweeted “the best/worst thing that happened to you was Vine.” What did you mean by that?

    Demetrius: It’s a good platform, but a gift and a curse because people try to dumb down the things you do. That’s a part of why I changed my name [from Meechonmars to Demetrius Harmon] because I wanted to separate myself from that.

    Nyge: When I first found you on Twitter, that was a really rough part of my life. I think three years ago, my anxiety got so bad that I was hospitalized and everybody thought I was crazy. I would watch your videos and was like, “I’m not crazy.” You’ve always been extremely open about your depression and anxiety. Has that always been the case?

    Demetrius: Not really. [Sophomore] year I tweeted something in relation to being suicidal. I never told people in my school what I did, never expected them to find my Twitter. One of my friends brought it up and I was scared because I didn’t really talk about it to people. I didn’t like the idea that [they] had that power to make me feel bad about it. So, I decided I would take control and make it visible. No reason why anyone should be scared to speak about how they feel because when we don’t, that makes it worse.

    Nyge: I can’t speak for other communities of color but as black men we don’t really talk about mental health in our culture. Why do you think that is?

    Demetrius: If we look back at generations, like my grandmother’s generation, they had to deal with Jim Crow laws. Your feelings [got] put on the back burner because you were living in paranoia. Now we’re starting to focus on things that affect us internally, because I don’t think they had the time to do that [before]. My grandma has become more open and she understands why my dad [is] maybe closed off. She kind of raised him to think, “One, you’re a man, you’re not supposed to show these emotions. Two, you’re a black man, you have to be on defense and be strong.”

    Merk: I think [some] of our parents’ generation came from the Vietnam War. There was so much trauma they just didn’t talk about. I feel like that does a disservice to people our age because we recognize the problems and it’s like, “My parents aren’t talking about it. Why should I?” But I have a lot of hope for our generation speaking up.

    Nyge: Yeah, I think something sobering is: right now we’re three people of color having a conversation on a platform about mental health.

    Merk: There was a video that you tweeted back in July [where] you talked about your mom and how she came through when you wanted to take your own life. Were there any specific things she did that made all the difference for you?

    Demetrius: She validated my feelings. My dad is the opposite of me when it comes to emotions. I was a crybaby back in the day and when I would cry, my dad would tell me, “Stop being a little girl.” And my mom would just let me cry. She wouldn’t tell my dad about me being late to school and stuff like that to protect me. One absolute thing I know is that my mom loves me. It’s part of everything I do.

    Merk: What’s great about people like you is that you provide a voice that some other people don’t have within themselves to really share. I struggled with that when I was younger. Seeing people like you vocalizing how you’re feeling and who you are on the inside, it’s really a breath of fresh air.

    Demetrius: Thank you. This is really good to hear.

    Nyge: We usually ask our guests to drop a little bit of knowledge to their younger selves [with us]. In this case, we’re going to drop advice to our future selves. Let’s go…

    Merk: I would say listen to your kids and value what they have to say.

    Nyge: [My advice] would be: believe them when they say how they’re feeling.

    Demetrius: I would say don’t hit your children because it reinforces fear in them. Listen to them about the things they want and don’t get too consumed with work.
    The post Momma I Made It: Social Media Star Demetrius Harmon Talks Mental Health appeared first on YR Media.

  • Jewish Enough to Feel the Difference Under Trump

    by Shawn Wen

    Although the American cycle of mass shootings began to feel predictable long ago, I still haven’t numbed to it. When I got the notification that 11 people had been killed at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, my stomach clenched, the world got hazier, and I felt disconnected from reality: all too familiar reactions by now. But days later, when the sensation refused to subside, I realized something was different. I felt connected to this tragedy as a Jew in a way that I hadn’t felt as a high school student after Parkland or as a concertgoer after Las Vegas.

    I was surprised by this feeling, since I am entirely secular. I could count on two hands the times I’ve been to synagogue, mostly for friends’ bar mitzvahs. My family lights candles on a menorah across the room from our Christmas tree. At Seder dinners, we skim through the Haggadah to get to politics. I am Jewish by name, features and family history.

    While growing up in the US as a Jew hasn’t made me feel non-white, at the same time, I know Jews are hated targets of white supremacists. I’ve lived mostly in Berkeley, California, the son of two professors, in a social bubble where Jewish integration is complete. Some of my friends are white, and some of them are Jewish, but we go about our lives with many of the same privileges.

    I’ve also grown up partly in Paris, France. Despite my French passport and family ties, I don’t feel quite as white in France. Although France has a history of republicanism–emphasizing civic duty and individual liberty—still, for many, “being French” means generations of French people in your family history and a last name like Beaulieu or Chevalier. I remember that in Paris, in fifth grade, I had a friend whose father was a Holocaust denier. At dinner my friend’s father announced that if people were truly deported from France to death camps, they weren’t really French, but foreigners (he meant Jews, both French- and foreign-born, casually referring to my own family members who had been sent to to their deaths).

    Of course, anti-Semitism exists in the U.S., too. My grandmother’s family came to America after World War II. When her parents tried to rent an apartment in Minneapolis, the landlady apologetically told them that she couldn’t rent to them, since her sister was unwell and living downstairs — presumably because Jewish refugees carried diseases.  

    But my grandmother climbed the academic ladder, helping to set the stage for my life in Berkeley, and now as a student at Harvard. The US has traditionally made space for this possibility: outsiders—though only certain outsiders at certain times—have had children and grandchildren who felt like insiders. Harvard’s new president, Lawrence Bacow, has said that his mother arrived in the US as a 19-year-old Auschwitz survivor, the only one in her town to survive. “Where else,” he asked, “can one go in one generation from off the boat with literally nothing to enjoying the kind of life and opportunity that I and my family have been fortunate to enjoy?” Now, he went on to say, we must defend the things that made that possible, including a humanitarian openness to immigrants.  Many people, I know, never had the opportunity to become insiders in America. But it was possible for some, who have a responsibility work to make it possible for more.

    And yet, instead we’re building walls, putting up razor-wire, and sending troops to the border to defend us against exhausted, famished refugees.

    Shortly before the Pittsburgh massacre, the shooter tweeted about HIAS, a Jewish organization that helps refugees, and about the caravan of migrants crawling towards the US border. The Tree of Life Synagogue works with HIAS. Extreme-right groups and authoritarian governments tend to tout conspiracy theories about this connection between Jews and refugees, especially focusing on the billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Trump, energized by the midterms, joined these conspiracy theorists, railing against Soros, accusing him of funding the migrant caravan and resistance to Brett Kavanaugh.

    Perhaps I feel connected with Pittsburgh because it is a reminder that, even as a non-practicing Jew, I am — as my great-grandmother put it — “Jewish enough for Hitler.” I am Jewish enough for his current admirers, too. But my dismay extends beyond concerns for the Jewish people. There is also a more universal worry: what is happening to our democracy, in the wake of these racially motivated attacks? Manuel Valls, French Prime Minister during the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, observed: “History has shown us that the reawakening of anti-Semitism is a symptom of a crisis of democracy.”

    A resurgence of anti-Semitism in the US is scary to me as a Jew. Recognizing it as heralding the collapse of a humane, democratic international order is scary to me as an inhabitant of the world.
    The post Jewish Enough to Feel the Difference Under Trump appeared first on YR Media.

  • Four States Where You Can Go To College For Free

    by Desmond Meagley

    Student loans suck. Americans owe a staggering $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve. But in the last couple of years, individual states have been stepping in to help fill the void with “College Promise” programs and other types of community and state college scholarships.

    That means that if you’re a resident of California or a handful of other states, you might be able to go to college for free, and avoid taking on student debt yourself. Yay, free money!

    Here are a few of the states where you can attend college for free:


    Thanks to a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year and budget approval, the state of California is now offering a free year of college at all of its 114 community colleges to California residents who are recent high school graduates.

    California’s “College Promise Grants” are separate from Cal Grants and vary regionally throughout the state. (More information about them is available here.) For example, as of August 27th, Contra Costa Community Colleges are offering free tuition to incoming “first-time, full-time” students through its FT3 initiative.

    To be eligible for the tuition waiver, applicants must be taking at least 12 units, maintain a 2.0 GPA, complete an application for the program as an application for federal student aid (either through the FAFSA or the California Dream Act), create an educational plan, and be in their first year of college ever. The program encompasses all three of the community colleges in Contra Costa’s district: Contra Costa College, Los Medanos College and Diablo Valley College.

    Another California program, called Free City, is available for San Francisco residents. The program is available for both full and part-time students through City College of San Francisco, though it’s not applicable for summer classes.


    In May, Maryland passed a bill that will fully cover community college tuition for all full-time students from families who make under $125,000/year. The only requirement is that students must maintain a 2.7 GPA and attend college within two years of leaving high school. The law will go into effect in 2019.

    This makes Maryland the most recent participant of the 16 states that run College Promise programs for their eligible residents, including Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Missouri and Hawaii.

    New York

    Through the Excelsior scholarship, New York now offers free tuition to residents at any two or four-year public college or university in the state. The scholarship grants up to $5,500 to full-time students with household incomes ranging up to $100,000 (that limit rises to $125,000 in 2019.) Excelsior currently assists just over 20,000 students, although research indicates that requiring recipients to complete 30 credits a year in order to be eligible currently poses a major barrier to the growth of the program.


    Tennessee now offers two free tuition programs to its residents designed to address the needs of different demographics of students: Tennessee Promise is for recent high school graduates and Tennessee Reconnect is for independent adults who are returning to school. Both programs are “last dollar” tuition programs, meaning they kick in to pay fees that are not covered by other federal and state grants.

    The Tennessee Promise Program provides two free years of tuition, in addition to mentoring services, to all graduating high school seniors in Tennessee. In order to maintain the scholarship, students must attend regular meetings with a mentor, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete eight hours of community service per school term. Tennessee Promise has been available since 2015.

    Tennessee Reconnect, which came into effect this year, is aimed at an older demographic, targeting adults who previously left school and are looking to start or finish their first college degree. To be eligible, applicants must complete the FAFSA, be independent students, and enroll at least part-time (or six instruction hours per week) in college.
    The post Four States Where You Can Go To College For Free appeared first on YR Media.

  • We Make the Media – a recent speech at Freedom of Speech Online 2018

    by Ethan

    I was honored to give the opening keynote this Friday at the Future of Speech Online, held at the beautiful Knight Conference Center atop the Newseum in Washington, DC. A few friends asked whether I’d share the remarks online, so here’s my best attempt, from my notes. Apologies for the differences between this and the talk I actually delivered – the perils of live performance, y’all.

    It’s become necessary at gatherings about the future of media to start by banning the “f” word, a word that gets a lot of play in Washington, especially on the President’s Twitter feed. But there’s lots to talk about in the world of dis- and misinformation, that complicated space where words online can lead someone to “self-investigate” a DC-area pizzaria with a rifle to ensure that it isn’t hosting a pedophile ring in its non-existent basement. Online words have consequences, and we’re still trying to understand whether those consequences include swaying elections in the UK, the US or Brazil, or whether recent political surprises have causes other than the media environment.
    There’s lots of people trying to solve the mis/disinformation problem with technology, and because I hail from a lab where people manufacture novel artificial limbs, 3D print buildings and design satellites to monitor African environments that I’m coming with a set of new tech solutions. You couldn’t be more wrong, because I’m bringing something far more powerful: history.
    When people invoke history in journalism, they’re often talking about the “golden age” of broadcast media, sometime between the end of WWII and Watergate. We had a few authoritative voices – Edward Murrow, Walter Cronkite – and less doubt, perhaps, about what had actually happened in the world. “And that’s the way it is,” like Cronkite liked to say.
    That model of media was the result of a very specific moment in technology and in economics that has more to do with the advertising industry depicted in Mad Men than it does with any specific view of how media and democracy work together. A small number of businesses did the very expensive work of producing news and packaged it with advertising on some of the very few channels that could reach a large public, a limited number of print publications and a tiny handful of broadcast television outlets. Those few outlets held a near monopoly over attention and sold slivers of that attention to advertisers for vast sums of money, which is a great business model as long as you can maintain it.
    That concentration of power in the hands of a very few outlets meant that media wasn’t very representative. News was largely a white, male space – if you were Black, Latinx, Asian, female, queer or any other identity, news was often a space that wasn’t very open to you. I don’t want to return to a vision of 1950s news, where so many voices were missing from the conversation, even if that conversation was more coherent than the one we encounter today.
    Our media now is dramatically more representative, for the simple reason that there are very few structural barriers to expressing yourself, even if there are massive barriers to being heard by an audience. Movements like Black Lives Matter and the gun control protests led by survivors of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida both leveraged the power of participatory media to be heard and to shift media narratives to stories that often go unreported. This, I would argue, is generally a good thing. But the results of this change (which An Xiao Mina terms the shift from “broadcast consensus to digital dissensus”) means media is more conflicted, confusing and hard to navigate than it was in the mid-20th century. For help understanding our current media, we need a different guide.
    I propose Benjamin Franklin, the sort of guy we like to celebrate at MIT. We know him as a statesman, a diplomat and a scientist, but the job he held the longest was as postmaster, first as postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 and finally getting fired from his position as postmaster general of the Colonies in 1774, when the British finally figured out that he was a revolutionary who could not be trusted. (The dude literally used to post his letters by writing “B. Free Franklin” – as opposed to “B. Franklin – free” – it took the British a while to catch on that this was political propaganda as well as a way of getting free postage.)
    Ben was a hustler, an entrepreneur who took full advantage of the various opportunities his position opened, including giving plum patronage jobs to many of the men in his family. His most profitable synergy came from printing newspapers and using the post to distribute them. Early in his career, he’d had difficulty distributing his writings because the postmaster disagreed with their political content and refused to transmit them. Franklin put forth a policy that was both progressive and profitable – neutral carriage. Under his leadership, the job of the post was to deliver letters and printed materials, not to prevent their transmission. This fact, combined with the fact that US presses were not required to reserve “caution money”, huge sums that might be drawn on if a paper was successfully sued for libel, led the US towards a new form of public sphere: a distributed public sphere of mail and print.
    When we talk about the public sphere as scholars, we’re usually referring to Habermas’s conception of the public sphere, which was rooted in conversation of wealthy elites in coffeehouses. This dynamic of face to face conversation shapes much of how we traditionally think of the public sphere working, but that’s not how the public sphere evolved in the US. The colonies were physically huge, and in imagining a political conversation that included both Boston and Charleston demanded a creative way of envisioning how political debate could unfold. More than any of the founding fathers, Franklin was responsible for the shaping of this new space for policial discourse.
    The founding father who picked up the torch from Franklin as he took over Jefferson’s work as ambassador to France was Dr. Benjamin Rush, a professor and public health advocate whose arguments about the role of the post and the press in the Continental Congress led to the most important piece of legislation you’ve never heard of, the Post Office Act of 1792.
    The Post Office Act established the right of the government to control postal routes and gave citizens rights to privacy of their mail… which was deeply undermined by the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but hey, who’s counting. The low cost of mailing newspapers as well as the absence of stamp taxes or caution money, which made it incredibly prohibitively expensive to operate a press in England, allowed half of all American households to have a newspaper subscription in 1820, a rate that was orders of magnitude higher than in England or France.
    But what may be most important about the Post Office Act is that it set up a very powerful cross subsidy. Rather than charging based on weight and distance, as they had before Franklin’s reforms, the US postal system offered tiered service based on the purpose of the speech being exchanged. Exchanging private letters was very costly, while sending newspapers was shockingly cheap: it cost a small fraction of the cost of a private letter to send a newspaper. As a result, newspapers represented 95% of the weight of the mails and 15% of the revenue in 1832. This pricing disparity led to the wonderful phenomenon of cheapskates purchasing newspapers, underlining or pricking holes with a pin under selected words and sending encoded letters home for the price of a paper rather than a letter.
    But the really crazy subsidy was the “exchange copy”. Newspapers could send copies to each other for free, with carriage costs paid by the post office. By 1840, The average newspaper received 4300 exchange copies a year — they were swimming in content, and thanks to extremely loose enforcement of copyright laws, a huge percentage of what appeared in the average newspaper was cut and pasted from other newspapers. This giant exchange of content was subsidized by high rates on those who used the posts for personal and commercial purposes.
    This system worked really well, creating a postal service that was fiscally sustainable, and which aspired to universal service. By 1831, three quarters of US government civilian jobs were with the postal service. In a literal sense, the early US nation was a postal service with a small representative government and a tiny military attached to it. But the postal system was huge because it needed to be — there were 8700 post offices by 1830, including over 400 in my home state of Massachusetts alone, which is saying something, as there are only 351 towns in Massachusetts.
    The key thing to understand about this is that it’s not a happy accident that we ended up with a public sphere that worked this way. Our founders built and regulated the postal system in such a way that its function as a sphere of public discourse was primary and its role as a tool for commerce and personal communication was secondary. They took on this massive undertaking explicitly because they believed that to have a self-governing nation, we needed not only representation in Congress, but a public sphere, a space for conversation about what the nation would and could be. And because the US was vast, and because the goal was to expand civic participation far beyond the urban bourgeois, it needed to be a distributed, participatory public sphere. To be clear, this was far than a universal public sphere – the founders saw this as a space for propertied white men – but the infrastructures of post and mail created powerful tools for abolitionists, for newspapers that helped free black men connect across vast distances, that helped carry the case for women’s suffrage.
    All that said, I’m not going to argue for a return to the press of the late 18th and early 19th century any more than I would argue for a return to Murrow or Cronkite. Franklin’s press was littered with advertisements to a degree we’d find disconcerting today – as much as 90% of the text in these papers were commercial in nature, helping explain why so many of these early newspapers were called The Advertiser. The press was partisan, to an almost absurd degree. It wasn’t a party press – the political parties of the time emerged from the press, rather than the other way around. You read Hamilton’s New York Evening Post, and that, more than anything else, identified you as a Federalist.
    Oh, and the 18th century press was LOADED with fake news. I don’t just mean Franklin’s habit of inventing personas like Silence Dogood, who he created because his brother’s paper, the New England Courtant, wouldn’t publish his letters until he began using a pen name. Franklin’s papers ran stories accusing the British of paying Indians to scalp settlers, a slander that both helped sell papers and turn colonists against the British. (Yeah, that part doesn’t get much play in his autobiography for some reason.)
    Worse was Sam Adams – you know, the beer guy – who was a notorious propagandist whose articles in the Boston Gazette led a mob to sack the house of Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts Bay. The folks who attacked his house – “They were old men, young men, and boys barely old enough to read, all of them jacked up on ninety-proof Sam Adams prose,” – believed Adams that Hutchinson was responsible for the hated Stamp Act, a tax on newspapers. Actually, Hutchinson was against the stamp act and had warned his superiors in England that the colonists would never accept this restriction on their speech. (This story is from Eric Burns’s wonderful book, Infamous Scribblers)
    Mis/disinformation isn’t a new phenomenon in American civic discourse. Nor is a disputatious, partisan press that veers into propaganda. But these shortcomings where counterbalanced by a carefully constructed ecosystem where diversity and free, inexpensive flow of information helped counterbalance the excesses that otherwise might have plagued the system.
    The public sphere of the mid-20th century was carefully constructed as well. It was shaped by a strong professional norm, the firewall between the business and journalism operations of a newspaper, which allowed news organizations to investigate the politically powerful, and even the corporations that funded them. The introduction of the Fairness doctrine in 1949 somewhat heavyhandedly tried to assure equal representation of opposing viewpoints in the media. And after FCC commissioner Newt Minow declared the emerging space of television a “vast wasteland” in 1961, the philanthropic community responded by building the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and building public media as we know it in America.
    The point is not that any of these interventions might be the right medicine for what ails us at present, but that the shape of our media is a choice. The media environment we live in is the most powerful factor that influences our civic and political life, and that these environments aren’t inevitable – they can be shaped by policy and by norms, as well as by technology.
    We seem to have a strange sense of powerlessness when it comes to coping with the contemporary media environment. After stepping down from his role as VP of growth for Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya now warns us that social networks are bad for us, and tells us that “i don’t let my kids use that shit.” It might have been nice had he mentioned something while working to bring 2.2 billion people to the platform. And perhaps he could do something with the billion dollars he made working for the company beyond a mea culpa.
    Much of the discourse about social networks doesn’t develop beyond critique. We’re told that social networks are addictive and bad for our psychological health. We’re told they’re killing journalism. We hear reporting that social networks are easily manipulated and used to sway elections. And we’re told that the ideological isolation and polarization they cause is destroying our democracy.
    But as a scholar, I’ve got to be a bit cautious about these claims. My lab does a lot of research on the dynamics of social media. My smart friends just published a 500 page book on the use of social media in the 2016 elections using the tools built in my lab. Despite what we’re learning, I will freely admit that there is TONS we don’t know about how social media is influencing political discourse and opinion. My guess is that honest scholars will tell you that the jury’s out on the psychological impacts of social media as well. And it’s not clear whether the damage that’s been done to journalism’s business model is the fault of the internet, or even whether journalism – rather than the journalism business – is suffering at present.
    When we accept these equations that blame the current political and cultural moment on social media as valid, we end up with simplistic solutions to the dilemmas we face. There are dozens of organizations – some of them excellent – working to factcheck social media and reduce the amount of misinformation online. Much as factchecking became a part of the journalistic mainstream over the past decade, I expect social media factchecking to spread. But I also don’t expect it to radically alter the media environment. The people who most need factchecks are the least likely to see them or to believe them. If factchecking radically changed public discourse, it’s hard to imagine that after a decade of excellent work the American public would have elected a serial fabricator to the nation’s highest office.
    Another overly simple solution: It’s become popular to advocate for people to delete their Facebook accounts, both as a form of protest and a way of reclaiming their interactions with the world. There’s nothing wrong with deleting your Facebook account, but it’s a mighty thin form of protest that’s unlikely to have much impact. Albert Hirschmann talked about exit and voice as strategies for trying to influence corporate behavior – if a product decreases in quality, you can switch to another brand, sending a signal to the corporation that their behavior needs to be changed. But Hirschmann notes that some systems, particularly political systems, can’t be exited – instead, you’ve got to use voice to make an impact. And while you, personally, can get off Facebook, you can’t get away from what Facebook is (or isn’t) doing to society locally or globally.
    Facebook has a lot to answer for, both in the US and around the world. In some countries, it is – for all practical purposes – the internet. In a country like Myanmar, where Facebook is the main resource people use for search and messaging as well as social networking, and where it’s been abused by the military government to conduct a genocide against the Rohingya people, there’s a deep need for international pressure on Facebook to act with far more care and caution. Asking almost 20 million Myanmar users of Facebook to quit is probably less practical than helping pressure Facebook to behave better.
    I want to challenge people to move beyond these criticisms of social networks – including all the valid ones – and towards a vision of what we’d like social media to do for us in a democracy. I want us to stop asking whether social media is good for democracy and start asking “What do we want social media to do for democracy?”
    My friend Michael Schudson took on this question a decade ago in a slightly different context. In his book, Why Democracies Needs an Unloveable Press, he offered a brilliant essay titled “Six or Seven Things the News Can Do For Democracy”. Some of these things are unsurprising – they’re what we expect the press to do, to inform us, to investigate stories that demand deep reporting, to analyze the news of the day and put it into context. Other possible functions are less well known. The news can create a public forum, a space where people discuss the events of the day. It can mobilize people into a movement, sending them out into the streets, something that US newspapers have a strong taboo against doing, but which European media is much more comfortable advocating for. News can help give us empathy for people distant from us who are suffering from tragedies preventable and otherwise.
    Importantly, Schudson doesn’t argue that media does all these things well, or that any one news organization can or should do all these things. Some of these goals come into conflict – if you are using your news organization for mobilization, it may conflict with its believability as an investigative outlet, for instance. But these are possible, legitimate functions for news media in a democracy and we could optimize any media outlet for any of these goals. In a diverse, rich media landscape, we might cover all these democratic functions through a plurality of media, trying to achieve different goals but working together to provide a public sphere.
    I’m lazy, so I stole Schudson’s framing and wrote an essay this summer called “Six or Seven Things Social Media Can Do for Democracy”. As in Schudson’s essay, I’m arguing that social media could do these things, not that it currently does. And as in Schudson’s model, there are aspects of social media that are contradictory – the platform that lets us connect with the likeminded, amplify ideas and mobilize – the sort of platform that led people to protest in the Arab Spring – is not the same platform that is going to provide a sane and safe space for deliberation or introduce us to a diversity of people and ideas. The point is that we can build a variety of platforms, some of which help us connect with friends we already know, others which introduce us to people we don’t know. Some could help us mobilize action around causes we care about, others could introduce us to people we disagree with and help us have meaningful conversations.
    In imagining what this vision of social media could look like, I’m imaging media that’s under personal control, plural in purpose, public in spirit and participatory in governance. (Those four P’s are nice and explosive when you’re giving a speech. Secrets of the craft, people.)
    Personal – The first steps we’ve taken towards this vision of media in our lab is the Gobo.social project. Gobo is a social media aggregator – it allows you to view multiple social networks through the same client, a precursor for the social media world I’m imagining. It’s also deeply personalizable – you control a set of filters that let you decide the gender balance of friends you’re hearing from, whether you want to hear posts that are funny or serious, widely shared or shared only with a small group. These are features we believe should be available within social networks like Facebook, which uses an opaque algorithm to decide whose posts you see and whose are suppressed. Gobo puts that power in your hands, and shows you why each post is included or excluded from your feed, a feature we believe should be true on every social network. If the networks won’t provide these services, we can build them into tools we use with all social networks and put that control back into our hands.
    Plural in purpose – LinkedIn doesn’t have much of a problem with hate speech – the people who use it know their possible next employer is reading their profile and behave accordingly. It’s not that different in function from Facebook, but the norms that govern the community’s behavior are sharply different. There’s potential to create a great diversity of online spaces with different purposes, each of which have different behaviors and norms. One of the main problems with Facebook is its desire to be all things to all people. There’s not a simple set of norms that governs a platform that some use for sharing baby photos and others see as a space for political combat. A social media landscape that’s plural would allow different rulesets for different spaces.
    Public in spirit – Wael Ghonim was one of the key organizers of the Arab Spring in Egypt. He administered the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page, which organized Egyptian resistance in the name of a young man tortured to death by the police. When young people began occupying Tahrir Square, Hosni Mubarak contacted Ghonim and asked him to call his people off, something Ghonim explained he couldn’t do. But while Facebook helped lead people into the streets, Ghonim was disappointed with its limitations as a space for serious discussions for how the Egyptian people might govern after the revolution. After liberal Egyptians were shut out of the country’s politics, Ghonim created Parlio, a social network designed not to reach everyone, but to reach a small audience of current and future civic leaders. The network had strong rules requiring civility and polite discussion and wasn’t shy about kicking abusers off the network. While it was a private company, eventually acquired by Quora (another social media company with a different purpose and practices from either Facebook or Twitter), it was public in spirit and intent.
    Some innovative new networks may be built by companies who see value in creating civic-minded public spaces. But I suspect others will be built by public-spirited actors, local governments that want to create conversations between neighbors, civil society organizations who want to increase understanding because people from diverse backgrounds. I’m particularly excited about the idea that European public broadcasters could see value in building new social media spaces devoted to amplifying marginalized voices and creating dialog about difficult local issues.
    Participatory in governance – Networks like Facebook and Twitter are largely unaccountable to their users. In the spirit of Rebecca MacKinnon’s Consent of the Networked, they are unenlightened monarchs, constrained by no Magna Carta and influenceable only by public shaming or by market forces. That’s not how social media systems have to operate. Reddit has an enormous range of communities, from the toxic to the deeply informative. THe difference, again, is not technology, but governance – the /r/science community has thousands of volunteer moderators who follow a strict set of rules to keep conversations productive and rooted in peer-reviewed research. As we imagine a world with a plurality of public-spirited social media communities, there’s no reason most can’t be self governing. Indeed, since moderation is one of the most expensive tasks in moderating an online community, there may be no other way to build many of these online spaces.
    It’s important that we start imagining a pro-democratic vision of social media for the simple reason that people are already imagining the alternative. As the ethnonationalist right gets kicked off platforms like Twitter, they are building a possible future of social media on sites like gab.ai, a short-messaging platform that builds on Twitter but adds some interesting community features. It’s a mistake to let the Nazis develop the future of online community. And while there’s innovation coming from the crypto-libertarian camp as well, with platforms like Steemit adding compensation for contributions in the form of reputational currency, there’s a shortage of large-scale experiments that treat the public sphere as a public good. Imagining a world in which our public spaces are controlled by large corporations that might, someday, be lightly regulated isn’t good enough.
    My favorite Ben Franklin quote is “Well done is better than well said.” It’s time for us to move beyond critiques and conversations about what’s wrong with social media with the hard work of imagining and building something better. If we want social media that increases diversity, creates a space for civil discourse, we have to build it. At the very least, we need to build the environment where it can happen. We need to fight for interoperability, for transparency and for the right to build our own networks.
    I am a firm believer that America is a nation of ideas. One of the most powerful of those ideas was that we could, as a nation, build am media ecosystem that allowed us to participate in our own governance. At a moment where there’s fear and doubt about the state of our democracy, it’s a good time to ask just what we’re going to build.

    This talk draws heavily on one I gave some months back at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which Vincent Stehle, who invited me, draws on in this recent essay. It also hails back to a talk I gave at Data and Society years back (and to a lecture I give each year in my News and Participatory Media class.)
    The details of Franklin and Rush’s influence on the shape of US media are largely from Paul Starr’s excellent The Creation of the Media. The idea of an internet of print and letters is inspired by his work and by Winifred Gallagher’s How the Post Office Created America.

  • I Captured the Migrant Caravan First-Hand Through Mexico

    by Shawn Wen

    Jair Cabrera is a photojournalist in Mexico. The article and photo captions below were translated to English from the original Spanish by Peter Eversoll.

    A migrant runs desperately to catch up with a truck heading north on Nov. 11, 2018. Many migrants from the caravan walked most of the way from Central America to central Mexico. However, for the remaining 1,700 miles to the border, getting a ride on a truck was a matter of survival for some. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    Oct. 19 is a date that marks a “before and after” for Central American immigration. That’s the day a migrant caravan composed of thousands of people from different parts of Central America entered Mexico. Many of the migrants saw the massive size of their caravan as an opportunity for a safer trip — a way to avoid the possible violence, robberies and extortion they could face if they took the trip alone.

    Migrants hurry to jump on a truck to get a ride north to the U.S. border on Nov. 11, 2018. Because of the need for transportation, vehicles were adapted to carry people for the long journey – the truck pictured is usually used to move livestock. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    I grew up in Iztapalapa, in the eastern part of Mexico City. In my neighborhood, daily life is marked by a lack of opportunities and a high rate of violence, which has caused many people to flee. Since I was little, I’ve lived with migration constantly in front of me: close friends and family have had to leave to find a better life for themselves. This has sparked my interest in the topic, because the migrants I photograph reflect the people I know who have migrated, too.

    Children and their families are loaded onto trucks on Nov. 11, 2018. For many, the risks outweigh the threats back home in Honduras, making this a journey of survival. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    I traveled with the migrant caravan for a week. During this journey, the Central American migrants transformed spaces in order to survive and to continue north. I watched as trailers and trucks, normally used for merchandise or animals, were adapted to carry people across an entire country.

    In Mexico City, a sports complex was turned into a shelter with enormous tents set up as dormitories and cisterns for bathing. In one corner of the shelter, some migrants set up a salon, making money by cutting hair and doing eyebrows.

    Gerson earns his way cutting hair in one of the shelters set up in Mexico City on Dec. 7, 2018. Originally from Honduras, he felt unsafe there, especially after his brother was murdered. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    In Mexico City, migrants shelter in a soccer stadium on Nov. 28, 2018. The caravan spent a week here, letting migrants catch up, rest and organize resources for the long journey ahead towards Tijuana. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    Dozens of migrants are piled into a truck — this one usually used to transport cars — for the long drive north on Nov. 11, 2018. The trip from Mexico City to Tijuana takes between 36 to 48 hours. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    After having spent a week traveling with them, I, too, decided to arrive in Tijuana. I’ve always been struck by its status as a border city. Just walking down the street, you hear so many stories and dialects, reaffirming that this is a city full of immigrants who were able to adapt to a new place.

    A baseball stadium in Tijuana converted to an improvised migrant camp is home to hundreds of people on Nov. 28, 2018. There was a desperate feeling among the migrants waiting to cross into the United States in search of political asylum. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    In Tijuana, a woman carries her child across the flooded camp where dozens of families are staying on Nov. 30, 2018, just a few yards away from the border wall that separates their dreams from their reality. Extensive rain created chaos and provoked a humanitarian crisis. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    During my current stay, I met a group of young people (six guys and one woman with her 3-year-old daughter) who had been traveling together since entering Mexico, and I listened to their stories. On Tuesday morning, I went to the shelter where they were staying and they told me that they were going to jump the border fence, so I decided to spend the whole day with them.

    A young man takes shelter from a downpour on Nov. 29, 2018. The rain in Tijuana took an emotional toll on the migrants of the caravan. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    The moment had come for them to take off and we walked a couple of hours to find the perfect spot to cross. There was no time to say goodbye, and they crossed. I watched them through a hole in the fence as the border patrol caught them and loaded them on to a truck. I have no idea what happened to them. It makes me so sad to think of the thousands of migrants who cross borders every day without knowing what’s in store for them.

    After reaching Tijuana, a group of migrants attempts to cross the border on Dec. 4, 2018. Here, a man helps a young girl jump the fence. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    Dozens of migrants in Tijuana pray for safe passage to the United States so they can turn their American Dream into a reality on Nov. 27, 2018. (Photo: Jair Cabrera)

    To see more of Jair Cabrera’s photos, check out his Instagram. 
    The post I Captured the Migrant Caravan First-Hand Through Mexico appeared first on YR Media.

  • Hijabs, Burkinis and More: Explore the Diversity of Muslim Fashion

    by Pablo De La Hoya

    Tour the San Francisco de Young Museum’s stunning Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit, with pieces ranging from a headscarf labeled “Feminist” to Nike sportswear. Sasha Shahinfar, a member of the de Young’s Teen Advisory Board, gives an inside look at key garments, as well as exhibition galleries designed by Hariri & Hariri Architecture.

    Pieces Shahinfar highlights include a “Feminist” headscarf by Nourka, a “US Constitution and First Amendment” flight jacket by Céline Semaan Vernon for Slow Factory, and a wedding ensemble by Shakeel’s Boutique.

    The Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit runs until Jan. 6, 2019.

    Learn more about the exhibit and how you can visit.
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  • TikTok’s Blowing Up – but Will It Implode?

    by Noah Nelson

    The latest and greatest social media app, TikTok, has emerged from one of the cringiest corners of the web, and it’s quickly becoming home to an entirely new ecosystem of memes, viral challenges and internet celebrities.

    The music-focused, short-video-sharing app was first introduced back in 2017 when its predecessor, Musical.ly, was purchased by Chinese company Bytedance. Bytedance combined Musical.ly with its Chinese counterpart, Douyin, and TikTok was born.

    Today, TikTok has become a global phenomenon, with most of its 130 million users in China. While users in the U.S. have been slower to adopt the platform, TikTok’s unique culture and steadily growing audience could mean big changes are ahead for the more established social and video platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

    “The app overall is an amazing platform to really see what people can do with just a few seconds. The comedy aspect of the app is something that I really enjoy,” said Kevin Carrieres, an 18-year-old from Arizona and established TikTok influencer.

    Kevin Carriers, who goes by kjcproductions, is an established TikTok influencer.

    “Honestly I have nothing bad to say about TikTok,” said Cristain Rodriguez, one half of the TikTok-famous brotherly comedy duo, TheRodriguezTwins. “No other platform has helped us the way TikTok has.”

    A video from comedy duo The Rodriguez Twins.

    Those who haven’t had much experience with the app are most likely to encounter TikTok’s short, choppy videos — often featuring dancing, lip syncing and other incorporations of popular music — and the app’s signature cringe-factor.

    In a piece for The Atlantic, social media reporter Taylor Lorenz went so far as to describe TikTok content as being “so painful and embarrassing that a viewer can’t help but laugh.”

    TikTok is often compared to Vine, the much-beloved six-second video app that was shut down in 2016.

    Rodriguez, who was recruited to create content on TikTok thanks in large part to his and his brother’s Vine fame, said the comparison isn’t entirely fair because TikTok also offers a robust live-streaming feature in addition to the main video feeds.

    The two apps do have one major similarity, in that both feature strict video length restrictions: TikTok videos must be under a minute. But TikTok’s unique culture and ever-changing selection of memes has established it as something far-flung from Vine and the more mainstream apps like Instagram or Snapchat.

    Unlike on any of those platforms, the videos on TikTok are surprisingly — almost eerily — homogenous. A scroll through the public posts will quickly reveal that there are only a handful of popular video styles (often inspired by hashtags or challenges) at one time, and it often feels as though everyone on the app is participating in them.

    For example, a recently popular challenge includes the subject using rubber bands or a nerf gun to knock down paper signs to the beat of a song, revealing a funny joke or a surprise in the process. No one community on TikTok — not the furries, the fitness nuts, the military fanatics or the makeup gurus — was too cool to not post its take on this newest challenge.

    A TikTok user participates in a recent challenge. 

    At first glance, this phenomenon could give a newcomer the impression that there’s a lack of creativity on the app, but rather, this reporter would argue that the uniformity creates a sense of harmony throughout the platform — unity, even — that is entirely missing from the more crowded social apps.

    That unity is incredibly refreshing and encouraging to see online, especially after the cringe-factor has worn off, and is a big selling point for users.

    In a recent edition of the Axios Media Trends Newsletter, Sara Fischer wrote, “Mainstream social media apps have grown so big that users are flocking to a less crowded and commercialized place, where they can focus on creating silly and fun original videos, without worrying about the stress that comes with widely sharing them on massive networks.”

    At the same time, however, TikTok’s relatively small user base is on the rise.

    TikTok saw a 67 percent increase in daily active users over six months in 2018, according to data gathered by Apptopia, and was recently ranked in the top five most popular apps in both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

    And larger platforms are already making moves in an effort to imitate TikTok’s success. Facebook launched a copycat app, called Lasso, no doubt trying to tap TikTok’s famously young audience.

    It’s unclear whether a larger platform will replicate TikTok’s best features and ruin its growth before the app itself becomes too crowded and defeats its own purpose, but it’s not a stretch to say that regardless of its future, the super cringey, surprisingly fun app has already made a lasting impact on the social media landscape.
    The post TikTok’s Blowing Up – but Will It Implode? appeared first on YR Media.

  • Special: Rick and Morty Composer Ryan Elder

    by Davey Kim

    Rick and Morty Composer Ryan Elder is the world’s first “African dream pop” artist.

    Music producer of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, Ryan Elder, gives YR Media’s Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner the backstories behind the psychedelic tracks heard throughout the show, including fan favorites like “Get Schwifty” and “The Rick Dance”! He gives an inside look into music-making producing (yes, it involves a lot of WTF moments) and admits to some of his REAL nerdy hobbies outside of the studio. Oh yeah, did we mention he’s the pioneer of African dream pop?

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 6 – Nerd ISH).

    Merk: How much acid do you have to be trippin’ on to compose scores for a show that feels like an acid trip itself?

    Ryan: It’s definitely a headspace you got to get into. But other than coffee, I’m generally fairly unmedicated when I work on the show.

    Nyge: I know Justin [Roiland], the voice of Rick, does a little method acting sometimes. Like in season 2 when he actually got drunk in the studio to do drunk Rick.

    Ryan: He said the only thing that can get him to do those burps right is light beer. So…if he’s doing a lot of burps, he’s drinking a lot of light beer.

    Merk: There’s an episode where Rick himself is actually trippin’ on something. He dances with a bunch of people from all sorts of universes. He’s jammin’ to a bop you made called “The Rick Dance.” What’s your priority when it comes to composing music like that for specific episodes?

    Ryan: I asked Justin and Dan [Harmon], what does “The Rick Dance” sound like in your heads? And Justin was like, “Watch this YouTube video of the ‘Do The Urkel‘ from Family Matters.” I’m like, “Okay. Let’s check out the Urkel.” It’s got this kind of old school hip-hop beat and a cheesy little chorus. I asked my friend Lauren Hillman to sing the vocals on it.

    Merk: You also composed something that a lot of us young’uns were like OMG! What kind of throwback vibes does Disney’s The Wizards of Waverly Place theme song give you?

    Ryan: When did I write that? That was in the mid-2000s probably. Every so often you start writing a cue or a song that almost writes itself. When I sent it off to Disney, I really felt like, “This one is going to be good, they’re going to like this one.” And it worked out.

    Nyge: What do you nerd out about?

    Ryan: I once played on the “Magic: The Gathering” Pro Tour. I also now play one-day long versions of the TV show Survivor. I have friends who will host these survivor games at the park and we all vote each other out. And it’s pretty fun!

    Nyge: What are some requests you’ve gotten that really stick out in your mind?

    Ryan: There’s a scene where Beth’s co-worker puts some music on. He’s like, “Hey, do you like that? That’s African dream pop.” And that’s all I got. I had the words African dream pop and that’s it. I called up Dan and Justin was like, “What is African dream pop?” “Oh, you know, it’s African dream pop.” So, my first step was listening to a lot of African music and then listening to a lot of dream pop and finding a way to overlap and then create the one and only song in the genre of African dream pop.

    Nyge: What’s the story behind that theme music of Rick and Morty?

    Ryan: I’ve worked with [Justin over the years] on several pitches and we were pitching another animated show called Dog World to another network, but it was more for kids, on a planet where dogs have evolved from men. He wanted a piece of music that had a really dramatic, energetic, adventurous, sci-fi kind of build to it that exploded at the end. So, I wrote this piece and he fell in love with it. Dog World unfortunately didn’t go anywhere. Fortunately for Rick and Morty, we still had the music.

    Nyge: One of my favorite musical moments on Rick and Morty was the famous song “Get Schwifty“. I can’t help but wonder where that came from.

    Ryan: That’s all Justin. He’s an improvisational genius and the story behind that song is actually really interesting. [Adult Swim] made a little flash game during season 1 of Rick and Morty. In the game, you control Morty and go around into Summer’s bedroom and find her iPod that has three songs, one of which is “Get Schwifty”. The writers just loved these crazy songs so they’re like, “Let’s just write a whole episode around these crazy songs from Summer’s iPod.”

    Merk: Based on what you know about our show Adult ISH, if you had to write a theme song for our show, what would it sound like?

    Ryan: Fun, for sure. Got to be up-tempo. Maybe a little danceable. I think I would do some old school hip-hop. You guys seem like you are vibing on that. I would start there. Maybe I’d give you an alternate version that’s a little more modern and let you decide between the two. Yeah, number one, it’s got to be fun. Got to be a little bit unhinged.
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  • Tracking the Rise of Anti-Semitism

    by Shawn Wen

    The attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue this past October was a rude awakening for many Americans, who were unaware of such virulent anti-Semitism in the U.S. It’s been over a month since Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue and murdered 11 people there. Even as that particular event begins to feel more remote, the reminder that overt acts of anti-Semitism and hate exist in the US still feels very present.

    YR Media’s Oliver Riskin-Kutz spoke with Lecia Brooks, the outreach director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, about the current trends in hate and anti-Semitism, and what we can do to reverse them.

    This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

    ORK: This shooting took many by surprise. Prior to the shooting, had anti-Semitism already been on the rise in America?

    LB: The SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) has been tracking an increase in the number of anti-Semitic hate incidents and crimes for the past two years — but there’s been an increase for about 10 years, in this country and globally. This attack is not an anomaly, except in that it was a mass murder.

    Anti-Semitic acts are usually verbal rhetoric, like the trope of Jews being responsible for anything that goes wrong, as we’re seeing now with the migrant caravan. But we’ve seen an increase in acts too: bomb threats being called into over 100 Jewish day schools two years ago, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries that started immediately after that and still continues, up through [recently] when a group at a junior prom in Wisconsin took a photo doing a Hitler salute. And people are saying that [an incident like the prom photo] really doesn’t matter, when of course it does.

    ORK: What effect does the Internet have on the spread of anti-Semitism? Are people recruited over the Internet?

    LB: The Internet is great at spreading information. Unfortunately, still too many people believe that everything they read on the Internet is true. Google search algorithms are such that if you were to search for proof that Jews control everything, or are behind a “white genocide,” all you’d need to do is [type in] that affirmative statement and you’d get information that only validates what you already thought.

    Bowers was a frequent poster on a site called Gab. There are also other sites, like the Daily Stormer or Stormfront, places where people can feed their racism and anti-Semitism and find people who think like them. Research shows that people who visit these websites tend to feel marginalized — people who already believe that an increase in populations of color and immigrant populations is putting them on the losing end of society.

    ORK: What is the SPLC doing to fight this rise in anti-Semitism?

    LB: The SPLC is educating policymakers, influencers, and educators about the existence of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. With our research and publishing, we hope to shine a light on these bad actors and show folks that there is indeed a connection between white supremacy and anti-Semitism. People don’t necessarily link them, but with the massacre at the Tree of Life, people are beginning to see the connection.

    Anti-Semitism is connected to other kinds of hate. We identified 954 hate groups in 2017, of which at least 85% are white supremacist. And white supremacist groups are also anti-Semitic, because they’re in a tradition of Aryan purity, meaning Jews are not white in their mind. We want people to rise up against that and push back against normalizing biased, bigoted, and anti-Semitic thoughts and actions. That’s why we publish.

    ORK: What effect has the Trump presidency had on the rise of anti-Semitism and hate?

    LB: The President entered his 2016 campaign on a platform of hate. He began by demonizing Mexicans, and then Muslims. “Make America Great Again” was and continues to be read, as “Make America White Again.” I’m not saying that the President has expressed anti-Semitic thoughts, but he doesn’t speak out against them.

    In the Tree of Life example, he didn’t take a strong stand against the terrible act. He also promotes a white nationalist agenda with his-anti immigrant and anti-Muslim policies, which tends to fuel far extreme-right and white nationalist movements. They feel like they have a leader in the White House. He needs to reject that, but he does not. The desires of the white nationalist and white supremacist movements are being actualized by policies that come out of the federal government.

    ORK: Do you think any recent changes in national politics, like the House of Representatives turning blue, could have an effect on this rise?

    LB:  Any administration should have a check on power. It’s not good for our democracy to have all three branches of government controlled by one party or one leader. There’s been no check on Trump’s policies to date.

    We hope that will change when the new Congress is sworn in. It may provide a cover for those in the Republican Party who wanted to speak but didn’t, for fear of being marginalized by the president. I feel confident that the newly elected officials will begin to speak out, and demand that the president speak out more against the rise in hate and extremism in our country.

    ORK: What can ordinary citizens do to help check the rise of hate?

    LB: Each of us has a responsibility to speak out against hate, bias and bigotry. The hateful rhetoric that we hear every day becomes normal when we allow it to. We’ve all seen stories of hateful acts carried out against Latinx people, or Jews, or Muslims. We have to speak loudly and firmly against these acts. For all our criticism and critique of President Trump, it really is up to us to push back against the hate and reject it.
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