Challenging Narratives: Unmasking Zionism, Media Bias, and the ‘EARN IT’ Act

Featuring Nora Barrows-Friedman and Shealeigh Voitl

by Kate Horgan
Published: Last Updated on
The Project Censored Show
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Challenging Narratives: Unmasking Zionism, Media Bias, and the 'EARN IT' Act
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Eleanor Goldfield opens the program with a conversation about Gaza; her guest, Nora Barrows-Friedman, rebuts common Israeli / US talking points, and identifies Zionism as the actual obstacle to peace. Then Shealeigh Voitl tells Mickey about some of her recent research and writing. She finds fundamental differences in how corporate media and community media cover gun violence, and takes entertainment-industry publications to task for employer-biased coverage of the Hollywood writers’ strike. Also, she points out flaws and dangers in the so-called “EARN IT” Act.

Notes:

Nora Barrows Friedman has reported about the Middle East for 20 years, and is Associate Editor at the Electronic Intifada. Shealeigh Voitl is Digital and Print Editor at Project Censored, and has also written for Truthout, the Progressive, Ms., and elsewhere.

Video of Interview with Nora Barrows-Friedman

Video of Interview with Shealeigh Voitl

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Nora Barrows-Friedman

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Eleanor Goldfield: Thanks everyone for joining us at the Project Censored radio show. I’m your co host, Eleanor Goldfield, and we’re very glad right now to be joined by Nora Barrows-Friedman, who is associate editor at the Electronic Intifada and the co host of the Electronic Intifada podcast.

And she’s been covering Palestine for over 20 years as a reporter. Nora, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Thank you so much, Eleanor.

Eleanor Goldfield: So, I wish that there were better circumstances for the invite, but there… I mean, people are likely being inundated because no matter where you are, what bubble you exist in, the news is all Israel Palestine, and I think it’s important for, especially us at the Project Censored Show, we like to be able to wade through that mess and highlight the important points that aren’t being reported on, that are being censored and that are being lied about through omission or outright.

And so I wanted to invite you on because you have this important perspective in these over 20 years of experience on this topic.

So let’s start off with the apartheid elephant in the room, contextualizing this situation right now. And not just because of what’s going on with the genocide of Palestinians, but also contextualizing that much like men suffer under patriarchy and white folks suffer under white supremacy, contextualizing Israelis who have lost lives because of Israeli apartheid.

So I was wondering if you could give some context to this situation, and really apartheid as that root cause.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah. God, what a great question. And I think that framing is exactly correct. I, I’m getting, you know, inundated on my social media feeds with people who don’t know that much about Palestine and that’s fine. You don’t have to be an expert to have an opinion on what’s happening in terms of how Israel is constantly and relentlessly right now, slaughtering Palestinians in the concentration camp in Gaza.

It’s okay to be outraged about that, but what I’m also seeing is people are saying, oh, it’s very complicated, there’s a lot of nuance, I don’t really know what to think about it. And that, I think, is also part of this deliberate strategy to conceal and obfuscate the very simple history of what has happened to the Palestinian people over the last century, but especially over the last 75 years.

As we know, 1947 and 1948, 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their land, from their homes, their villages, their towns, their cities, their agricultural farms, and a European foreign colonizing force was allowed to prosper on their land and Palestinians have been fighting back ever since, as any other Indigenous colonized population has done in history.

And also, I mean, at these times, when I think about the international law and human rights law, these are all very important entities, the United Nations and all the ratified resolutions are just like the distance from here to the moon in terms of how I’m thinking about international law right now, because you’re looking at what happens, and you’re looking at how international law has never even made it into the equation when it comes to the West choosing to hold Israel accountable. It doesn’t.

It is letting, it has let, and is letting right now, Israel define the terms of slaughter. Israel continuing to ethnically cleanse and repeat this absolutely psychotic genocidal rhetoric at the top levels of the Israeli government saying that they’re going to wipe Gaza to the Stone Age. They have been literally turning off the electricity and the water, the food supplies. There are no medicines going in. Gaza has been in complete darkness over the last 24 hours because there is no electricity left. People are running their hospitals on generators.

People are trying, I’m in contact with, sorry, I’m going off on so many tangents now, but I’ve been in contact with our friends and contributors to the Electronic Intifada constantly over mostly over WhatsApp and sometimes it takes 12 hours to get the read receipts on the messages that I send because people are unable to charge their phones.

Internet is completely out. Israel bombed the telecommunications services. So it’s impossible for Palestinians to know even if they can get their own stories out right now, and yet we’re hearing nothing. Nothing about the slaughter in Gaza from the mainstream corporate news. We’re hearing nothing.

All we’re hearing about is Israel’s right to defend itself. It is the inhumanity of the so called, I’m putting them in quotes, Hamas terrorists, right? All to make it look…to manufacture consent for this genocide, to dehumanize Palestinians in such a way so that their struggle for liberation is collapsed and perverted into this: the scary brown people want to slaughter Jews because they’re Jews.

It’s not Palestinians fault that their colonizers and occupiers are Jewish people. They are fighting for the struggle of liberation of their people, of their country, of their land for their children and for their future. And nobody is coming to defend them. And we’re getting people like President Joe Biden regurgitating the lies of the Israeli military and its media apparatus.

He stood there yesterday and he said that he had seen the videos and the photos of supposedly beheaded Israeli babies, right? This lie that has just sparked a wildfire around the world with no evidence, none, no evidence, not even to talk about what would the military strategy advantage be for the Palestinian fighters to do this? There’s not even any sort of analysis. You know, people have marshmallows for brains when it comes to looking at who Palestinians are, seeing them as human.

And yet, Biden is fed this information, the White House confirmed yesterday that Biden actually didn’t see any evidence that he claimed he did and that whatever he had said in that press conference yesterday was fed to him directly from Netanyahu’s office, right?

So we’re seeing Biden, all the other leaders in the West scramble to provide cover for Israel’s genocide and slaughter in the Gaza Strip, and we don’t hear what’s actually happening.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to get into where to go for legit news in a second, but I also, I want to talk about this because this is something that we’ve talked about in the past: that Zionism and the project that it created, Israel, is actually a very anti Semitic project, and it is a danger to Jews across the globe.

And I think that people have this knee jerk reaction, you know, I have some friends in Germany who sent me pictures of that ridiculous Israeli flag on the Brandenburg Gate. And we were talking about it because they’re, they’re for Palestinian rights as well.

And they said: but this is the knee jerk reaction of a people who grew up in the shadow of Nazism. And I think that a lot of people have, maybe not as much as German people my age, but a lot of people have this knee jerk reaction. Oh, you have to, you have to support Jews.

But can you talk about how supporting Jews is necessarily the antithesis of supporting Israel?

Nora Barrows-Friedman: That’s a fantastic question. Yes, I mean, God, I know we’ve talked about this in depth before, but it just really reveals, you know, when you look at the Israeli flag being draped all over Brandenburg gate while 80 years ago, what was being draped over Brandenburg was the Nazi flags, right? And all the swastikas.

Palestinians have had to pay the price for Germany’s guilt. Right. Palestinians have had to pay that price and Israel and its media lapdogs in the West and the Israel lobby groups masquerading as civil rights organizations, specifically the Anti Defamation League, the ADL, have deliberately manufactured this completely deranged idea that the only safe place for Jews all over the world is on someone else’s land in a place that they’re calling Israel.

That’s the only place that supposedly we can be safe, that we can be protected from the echoes of the Nazi genocide. Right. Completely ignoring the fact that Jews should be able to be safe wherever they are in the world and that my safety, your safety, the safety of every Jew should not ever come at the expense of someone else’s danger, at someone else’s genocide, at taking someone else’s land.

How are we supposed to be safe, right? Stealing someone else’s home and pretending that that’s just a normal civilized thing to do. And this cuts to the heart, I think, of the deepest anxiety for settlers. At least the ones who have taken over land in Palestine and have lived there, like cosplaying this fantasy of living a normal and modern and civilized life.

There is a deep anxiety in every settler, that one day it will all come crashing down, that the natives have not been pacified.

You can’t put them in a concentration camp, seal the borders, and expect them to just die quietly, right? How does that, that anxiety make anybody think rationally?

And I think we do have to talk about how the Zionist project is inherently anti Semitic. Because it tells Jews that the only safe place is this apartheid racist settler colonial entity and that we have no right to be in other places around the world, therefore collapsing the responsibility on every Jew in the world to align with the apartheid murderous genocidal regime of Israel, right?

So the whole project itself has nothing to do with Judaism. Judaism is a very convenient tool that it has used as a settler colonial ideology to steal someone else’s land, and slaughter the indigenous people.

And it’s hard to condense that in a 140 character tweet, but people are doing a really good job on Twitter, trying to remind people that this is not a war between Jewish victims and scary Brown Muslim terrorists. It’s not. This is a natural product of a 75 year campaign to ethnically cleanse indigenous Palestinians and pretend like nothing will ever happen, that there won’t be any consequences, that settlers can continue to maintain a quote unquote normal modern civil civilized life.

I think that facade has fallen in the last five days six days. And again, no one is coming to the defense of Palestinians. Once again, Palestinians are on their own to defend themselves.

And people are just like, where is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela? Where’s the Palestinian Gandhi? All they know is the language of violence. You know, why can’t they just peacefully ask, why can’t they ask nicely?

They have. They have. Palestinians have asked everyone, the international community. They can’t go to the international criminal court. That’s not okay for them to do. They can’t ask international civil society to engage with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, that’s a bridge too far. They can’t do that. They can’t have peaceful, unarmed marches.

In Gaza in 2018, the great march of return, people brought their children, they dressed in their traditional clothing. It was a celebration of identity and struggle and a cry for justice. And what happened?

The Israeli army mowed down by the hundreds, sniped people in the head, kneecapped thousands and thousands of Palestinians marching for their rights peacefully, right? Conditional support is what we’re seeing.

Palestinians have to be the perfect victim. They have to be the perfect population in order to elicit sympathy and compassion and solidarity from the West. And it is disgusting. I am disgusted. I’m livid that support for Palestinians and their struggle for liberation is conditional. And that’s what we as settlers in the West have to examine.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, absolutely. And I kind of want to dig to that mindset just a little bit more because something that I’ve seen a little bit on Twitter, and Instagram and places like that is kind of what you would mentioned before like this, Oh, well, there’s nuance, you know, because Jews are indigenous. There’s that word again, that very woke washing word that is used. Indigenous to the land that is, that was previously known as Palestine, and as members of the diaspora, we have the right to quote unquote, go home.

And there’s a lot of, I recommend that people read The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand. It’s a brilliant book. And I’m sure that there are many others that speak to this, but can you talk about that? It makes my whole body shudder every time I hear it, but can you speak a little bit to that argument and why that also falls apart?

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the most insidious arguments, and it is true that there has been, for the last 6, 000 years, there have been Jews in that part of the world. Absolutely. No one is ever contesting that. Of course. And until 1948, Jews and non Jews lived relatively peacefully as equals inside the land of Palestine.

And when you speak to Palestinians, like, oh, you know, you don’t want Jews to come back. They’re like, you can come. It’s only when you take my land and you take my home from out from underneath my feet that we have a problem. And it’s only when you take that home and that land, you install yourself on my property and you tell me that I can’t come back, and I can’t live as equals in my own land, then we have a problem.

And it’s also been just fascinating to see, and again, this is a deliberate strategy engineered by Israel lobby groups, the ADL, the Zionist Organization of America, these very strange astroturfy organizations that are using this quote unquote woke language to weaponize Judaism in service to ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

So you see these lobby groups, they have these brochures and these very swanky, cool social media accounts saying, like, Zionism is a decolonial effort, that Zionism is self determination for the indigenous Jewish people. Absolutely not.

But to an uninformed public who also harbor still a lot of guilt about the Holocaust, they’ll take it. They don’t want to seem anti Semitic. Oh, these Jews are enacting their own self determination and they’re saying that they’re decolonial, and it’s just these Arab terrorists who want to kill them because they’re Jews. Then it’s easy to give Israel a blank check. It’s easy to give Israel the benefit of the doubt. And because of the level of racism and Islamophobia that is so saturated in our media, it is also easier to make palatable the kind of slaughter that we’re seeing against Palestinians right now.

If you’re like, oh, this is a war of self-determination for the Jewish people, then it’s easier not to have to look at the babies being pulled out of the rubble in Gaza City. It’s easier not to look at the last 16 years of siege on the Gaza Strip where, and I’ve seen them, I’ve been to Gaza. I’ve walked into the pharmacy in a hospital where they store their medications. This was in 2008. This was not even at the height of the 16 year old siege. We were just two years in and seeing just, I can’t even remember, it was less than 10 boxes of anesthetics for surgeries left on the shelves. Right.

Israel counts the calories of every Palestinian in Gaza. Israel has a list of items that have been banned for the last 16 years: concrete, diapers, maxi pads, anesthetics, cancer medication, dialysis machines, basic medical supplies.

I was following the Twitter account of a plastic surgeon in Gaza. I believe he’s Palestinian, but born and raised in the UK and he goes to Gaza periodically to offer his services whenever needed. And, unfortunately this is a regular thing. And he was there talking about how he needed to clean the wounds of a teenage girl who was brought to the hospital with severe burns all over her body from these Israeli airstrikes. And they ran out of the iodine solution days ago. And so he was forced to clean her body with soap, regular soap.

I mean, the level of sadism that Israel has for the people in Gaza and in the West Bank, and those with Israeli citizenship inside the state itself, the level of sadism that it is allowed to enact these colonial fantasies of shredding Palestinians to bits, of laughing while they do it. It’s sick, and it points to the core sickness of Zionism itself.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, and I think you brought up a great point, which is, this isn’t a war, really, because a war suggests that there are even sides. Right.

It’s so twisted too, because a lot of the things that you’re talking about, like the sadism of the Israeli state, is exactly the sadism that we saw in the Holocaust.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yes. And that we saw against people in Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam, you know, like it’s just that there is historical precedent and this all points to the sadism of the West, of the imperial forces of these settler colonial entities that think that they can get away with slaughtering indigenous people because they have been. It’s atrocious and it just, I mean, I just run out of words at times like these.

Eleanor Goldfield: I don’t think words for words were meant for these situations.

And so I’m curious, what can people do about this? And in particular, those of us who are Jewish and are confronted, I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been inundated from both sides, the you’re a self hating Jew and you blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

But then also I’ve been inundated from folks on the left who say that there should be no space for grieving any lives lost, like Israeli civilians, for instance, and so it’s like this double inundation and I feel like what we’re, what we’re witnessing is kind of like dehumanization winning.

And that makes me so sad and it makes me so angry because I think if anything, we have to keep our humanity without letting it overshadow the struggle for Palestinian justice and freedom.

So I’m curious in particular, from that Jewish perspective, what do you feel that we need to be doing right now?

Nora Barrows-Friedman: I think those of us who are anti Zionist, publicly or privately need to be doing the most right now.

We need to be the ones having those really hard conversations with our family. We need to be the ones who are asking tough questions of people who have been dehumanizing Palestinians, whether it’s in our synagogues, whether it’s in our schools, whether it’s in our families.

There’s also like, I mean, for me, you know, I was telling you right before we started recording that like people show their true selves in times like these, people who you thought loved you and respected you and learned from you are completely in lockstep with what Israel’s doing. And they’re using their Jewish identity as a cudgel to not only give Israel the green light, but to absolve themselves of any responsibility.

When Israel claims you as someone who should be saved and protected by the state, you have the responsibility not to let them do that and to fight back with everything you have, whether it’s having these conversations, whether it’s defriending whoever you need to defriend. I don’t need these people in my life anymore.

I don’t. I don’t need these people who yell at me that I’m an Arab lover and a terrorist lover. You know, these very racist tropes, you know, you swap Arab for the N word, this is what they mean. I don’t need these people in my life. You don’t need these people in your life.

People are showing who they really are and it’s hard and they are on the wrong side of history. And one day when Palestine is free, which every day we’re one day closer to that, which is something that I have to remember in my head to keep me going, they’ll say, I was really, I was really mistaken there. I’m really sorry. Or they won’t. They’ll shut up about it.

There are a lot of, apparently anti apartheid South Africans, white South Africans right now. I didn’t know there were so many, right? Because they were enjoying their life of colonial power until the natives fought back and won.

And this is what we’re seeing now in Palestine. And it’s incredibly difficult. And I think especially as a Jewish American person who understands what’s happening in Palestine, you don’t have to be an expert again, but if you look at how Israel is using us to further this project of colonialism and imperialism and, and apartheid, it is incumbent upon us to push back.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah. Absolutely.

And so finally wrapping up here, I’m curious if you have suggestions, cause there’s just so much, whether it be decapitating babies or what have you, there is so much. Lie sounds like too nice of a word, really…

Nora Barrows-Friedman: I know, we don’t even have the language to describe. Yeah.

Eleanor Goldfield: No, I, I don’t.

So, where should people look for legitimate news? I know that you said it’s difficult for people to even share their stories now, but obviously Electronic Intifada, but where can folks go for legitimate news on this?

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah, definitely check us out at electronicintifada.net. We’re doing regular live streams with our contributors in Gaza who are able to grab one bar of data and 5 percent left battery on their phone. It’s really important that people hear these voices. So go to our YouTube page, our Twitter is at Intifada. We’re on Instagram at electronic Intifada.

There are also outlets, I mean, Al Jazeera is doing is doing a fine job, and you can get the live stream online. It’s not that hard. There are incredible social media creators. Follow people who are protecting the right to resist on social media.

Go to Jewish Voice for Peace, for example. There’s an incredible new organization called Jews Against White Supremacy, J. A. W. S. They’re on social media as well. They have incredible statements and resources that you can spark conversations with your family with.

It’s really important that we get a way to cut through this propaganda machine. I know that the boomers in my family are glued to MSNBC and CNN, and it’s really hard to get them to switch off, but please do your best, you know, send them this episode, send them the live stream videos that we have on the electronic intifada.

It’s really important that people find alternate sources of information that don’t have ties to the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government and these forces that are doing a deliberate job of bringing false information, of smearing Palestinians, of dehumanizing Palestinians. It’s just really important to make an effort to get out there.

Eleanor Goldfield: Yeah, thank you, Nora. And I think just to kind of go back to something that you said that there’s no safety in genocide. And so if family members or if people who are on the fence are worried about Jewish safety around the globe, well, then it’s a very simple, simple answer. Israel as an apartheid state must end.

Nora, thank you so much for taking the time. Everyone, please do check out Electronic Intifada. Nora and the folks there do amazing and incredibly vital work, particularly at a time like this.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Thank you so much, Eleanor. You do incredible and vital work as well. Thank you.

If you enjoy the show, please support our work at Patreon.com/ProjectCensored

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Shealeigh Voitl

Welcome to the Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio. I’m your host, Mickey Huff. Today on the program, we welcome back Shealeigh Voitl. She’s Project Censored’s, digital and print editor, a regular contributor of course, to the Project’s annual book series. Voitl’s Writing has been featured, of course, in the annual book, State of the Free Press.

Mickey: Most recently 2023. Just finished a round of doing research, writing, and copy editing with us at Project Censored for our next book, but Shealeigh has also been published by Truthout, The Progressive, and Ms. Magazine. So we are joined today by Shealeigh Voitl to talk about several pieces of very timely, topics that she’s been publishing just the past few months.

We haven’t had time to catch up. We’ve been, busy both at the project, and of course Shealeigh’s been extremely busy. Working with us, but we wanted to share three of these pieces with you today in our first segment, and you can find all of these pieces online for free, no paywall and these are all issues I think near and dear to the project’s audience and in reverse order, we’ll end by talking about what’s realistic, what’s realistic, what’s disturbing. How entertainment trade magazines spin the WGA SAG after strikes a lot going on with that.

We’re going to get to that in a little while. Before that, we’ll talk about the earn it act and how it ignores privacy and censorship concerns. Shealeigh wrote that with avram anderson, another longtime Project contributor. Also, we’re going to talk about a piece that Shealeigh did for the Progressive magazine that actually stems from a very long in depth investigative study.

Started last summer and Shealeigh Voitl is going to talk about that. But the progressive magazine published this how corporate news distorts gun violence. That’s unfortunately timely because there is so much of this kind of violence in our culture, and of course, we’re going to find out. More specifically in the study, and this is where we’ll begin with Shealeigh, in Chicago, as elsewhere, corporate media outlets regularly omit stories of people living in close proximity to gun violence.

In other words, Shealeigh is going to talk to us about some of these distortions. But when we get into it here, let’s actually go back to the roots of that study. But first, Shealeigh Voitl, welcome back to the Project Censored Show.

Shealeigh: Hi, Mickey. How you doing?

Mickey: I’m great. It’s, I’m so glad that we were able to finally catch up with you.

You’ve been really busy on so many different projects and these several pieces, but this is the product. This piece that you did is the, well, it’s the culmination of a study you started, with interns at Project Censored and you carried it through and it took some time to conduct. So why don’t we just start with the process?

You’re beginning this, this research project some time ago, and let’s just talk a little bit about that the timeline and analysis and then kind of give an overview of that study and then we’ll get into some detail, Shealeigh Voitl.

Shealeigh: Yeah, so my research partner, Sam Peacock and I, who was a Project Censored intern at the time.

We organized our searches. To sort of capture the weeks leading up to the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas in May 2022, and the weeks after. So we set it from April 14th, 2022 to June 24th, 2022. And we looked specifically at corporate and independent coverage of community level gun violence.

So between non intimately related individuals and cities, and compared that to coverage of mass violence, and we recorded over 1, 700 quotations across seven sources, which included Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Block Club Chicago, The City, a few Canadian sources as well, The Globe and Mail, Ravel, and we categorized them by type, source, and so on, and we found, A lot of things that we were expecting some things that we weren’t expecting.

The progressive piece focuses in on Chicago specifically, which is where I’m from. So it is unfortunately an evergreen topic. but it was, it was a long study and we were, yeah, we were, interested, I guess, to see the results, but not surprised.

Mickey: Well, why don’t we just jump right into that? let’s jump into the results.

And again, you know, the way in which media report about violence or violent crime, has long been at issue. I remember going back over 20 years, Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine, calling attention to that mass school shooting, right? And I mean, that seems like so long ago. And unfortunately, school shootings have become.

Just so much more commonplace. And I think just the nature of your study is the product of a society that’s just gotten more and more potentially violent with this kind of these kinds of outbursts. And the way that it’s covered is important because the reason I’m alluding to that is going back to Barry Glassner, the sociologist from UCLA.

He had a book called the culture of fear that was used in that film that talked about how violent crime was decreasing, but media coverage of it was wildly increasing, but it wasn’t just increasing by some 300%. It was the type of coverage, the very sensationalistic coverage. And, you know, going back and looking at that, a lot of details are left out.

I think it’s more grabbing eyeballs and scaring people, right? The culture of fear. And I’m just curious as to what you maybe discovered in in in the way in which media covers this gun violence. And I think one of the parts of your thesis is the fact that the corporate media, the so called quote mainstream media.

We don’t use that phrase really here. It’s establishment press or corporate media. They’re distorting this issue here as well in 2022 2023. This is an ongoing issue. So maybe you can talk a little bit about some of the findings and talk about what you mean about the distortion. you know, in, in that kind of coverage and, and, and what you, what you hope people take from this kind of study.

Yeah,

Shealeigh: so, yeah, the, articles about community level gun violence from the establishment press, which, as I mentioned before in this case, included Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, overwhelmingly favored sources with official bureaucratic statuses, such as police officers, local government officials.

Who said a lot of the same thing every time. But if you looked at outlets like Block Club Chicago and The City, which is a New York City independent outlet, you saw diversity in perspective, not just in reports of a singular shooting in a given place, but in what the city is and isn’t doing to prevent gun violence.

These articles more often included quotes from local activists, community members, religious leaders. So it’s, it’s more about the quality of reporting, that we just weren’t seeing when it came to, community level gun violence that we were with mass shooting. after a mass shooting event, corporate coverage provided.

You know, in depth discussion of gun legislation, how these events shaped the conversation surrounding gun safety and gun violence prevention, the articles talk about victims, survivors, their family members, articles about community level gun violence were much narrower in scope and scope.

, some of this can be explained by a lack of resources at these papers, but many relied mostly on police accounts, shootings in Chicago’s downtown area, however, received more in depth coverage. This was a trend we saw in New York coverage as well. coverage of community violence was comprehensive when it came to violence in the city center.

For example, like while Downtown shootings spiked last year. Gun violence in areas like the Loop and River North in Chicago, which are predominantly right, white, still accounts for a small percentage of the city’s overall gun violence, yet it made up 15 percent of the Chicago Tribune’s reporting in our timeline.

Shootings in predominantly black neighborhoods in Chicago’s south and west sides accounted for less than 10 percent of the Tribune’s reporting, despite constituting a substantial portion of the city’s gun violence and this framing paints this type of violence as random when community gun violence, reflects inequities of systemic racism, such as redlining, mass incarceration.

So how can you begin to imagine solutions to something that you’re taught to believe is totally random? we know sort of what the conversation is when it comes to, mass shooting. There’s a conversation around gun legislation, but really for community level gun violence, a start would be to fund core community institutions, invest in affordable housing, jobs, healthcare, education.

Chicago launched Our City, Our Safety in 2020 to do that in 15 neighborhoods across Chicago with higher rates of gun violence. But, While Chicago Tribune was focused on how violence downtown would affect tourism and tax revenue, they missed the fact that West Pullman, one of the neighborhoods the plan was supposed to support, saw none of the promised funds by July 2021.

But it had experienced a drastic spike in gun violence. So, I think the takeaway from all of this is the quality of reporting that mass violence may, may get after a horrible tragedy, such as what happened in Buffalo, such as what happened in Uvalde, these shootings in communities across the country do not get and therefore are not visible and therefore do not get the access to, preventative, action that may exist, for other

Mickey: communities.

So, we’re hearing in the establishment press an overt reliance on establishment kind of sources sensationalist coverage coverage. That doesn’t really get to roots coverage. That appears that it’s random and unstoppable or you get the problem of. the red versus blue, you get the red says we need more guns.

The blue says we need to restrict guns. And then everybody goes out and does that again until the next shooting. it seems like the rinse and repeat cycle of tragedy and the way that the reporting. the way that the establishment reporting on that is, is it, it almost seems to fuel that cycle and it.

It’s a loop. It does. It seems like a feedback loop that they can’t seem to get out of. and you clearly show that when the independent press or when there’s a different lens and a different frame and a different constituency involved, you, you’re saying that the study clearly illustrates that that kind of reporting is very different and one would hope extrapolating from that.

That maybe that kind of reporting spurs civic engagement or spurs some other kind of thinking where people feel empowered to not just be victims of of these kinds of crimes, but maybe actually do something meaningful. To address it where they’re happening. Shealeigh Voitl?

Shealeigh: Yeah, I mean, it’s already happening.

You know, and I think that’s the part that’s so frustrating, is you see certain discussions around gun legislation that just aren’t happening with the other types of, solutions that exist, for community gun violence. So gun legislation, while important, isn’t the only way forward. but it is the one that gets the most attention.

So, for example, violence interruption programs resulted in a nearly 60 percent reduction in gun violence on Chicago’s west side, and these programs, which often enlist the help of local paraprofessional health workers, help identify and mediate conflict, and in 2021, the governor of Illinois, J. B.

Pritzker, Pledged 50 million to these initiatives. and this is because of the work of community organizations like Centers for New Horizons and Institute for Nonviolence Chicago. I read about these organizations for the first time in Block Club Chicago. Coverage of these initiatives is crucial because funding is crucial.

And in order for these programs to receive the funding that they need and deserve, they need to be visible. And that is where, you know, media steps in but is lacking currently.

Mickey: Right. And Shealeigh Voitl, you talk in the study about gun violence as a public health issue, which actually has been, this has gone on for maybe near, at least a decade, you know, going back with studies and other administrations talking about gun violence as a public health problem, and a public health issue.

So you, you actually cover that and factor that into the study as well.

Shealeigh: Yeah. So Illinois actually declared gun violence a public health crisis in 2021. But before that, independent outlet’s coverage connected the dots. It conveyed the urgency that gun violence in our country demands, not just attention when a horrible, horrible mass shooting tragedy occurs, but consistently and evenly, just because you’re not seeing things being done about gun violence outside of, like, you’re not seeing things politicians arguing about it in our nation’s capital doesn’t mean that community members aren’t doing the hard work already of keeping this conversation alive and protecting the people in their communities.

Mickey: Absolutely. And again, I want to remind listeners that we’re speaking with Shealeigh Voitl, Project Censored’s editorial associate, a regular contributor to our annual book series, also, a, an author of several pieces that we’re going to talk about today, some posted, freely at projectcensored.org, but also, Shealeigh Voitl’s been published in Ms.

Magazine, also the Progressive Magazine, part of this gun study that we were just discussing was published in the Progressive magazine, how corporate news distorts gun violence, the full study, not shooting straight is available again for free at the projectcensored.org site, Shealeigh Voitl. We have several other things that we want to talk about.

but as we leave this segment briefly, what do you hope people take away from your study of media coverage on this kind of gun violence? Yeah, I mean, I hope

Shealeigh: they, I think read outside of, the corporate press when it comes to these issues. Look at your local media and see what they’re doing, what they’re talking about.

For me in Chicago, sources like South Side Weekly and the Block Club Chicago understand the importance of including the perspectives of community members living in close proximity to gun violence, who also know all too well the negative effects of overpolicing. So, I mean, this coverage really shapes the conversation around the change that we want to see, the change that we’ve been waiting for years and years for, but by ignoring that work that’s being done by people in these communities, we’re marginalizing them further.

Mickey: That’s Shealeigh Voitl, author of several pieces that we’re talking about today on the program. we’re going to take a quick break right now, a music break, but then we’re going to come back and continue with Shealeigh Voitl. We’re going to talk about the EARN IT Act, a piece co authored with avram anderson, about how the EARN IT Act ignores privacy and censorship concerns, and we’re going to wrap up today’s segment with Shealeigh Voitl by talking about updates on

The WGA SAG AFTRA strikes in Hollywood among the writers. How entertainment trade magazines are spinning the kind of reporting that’s going on there. Stay tuned. We’ll continue after this brief musical break on the Project Censored show. Welcome back to the Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio.

I’m your host, Mickey Huff. Today, in this segment, we are honored to welcome Shealeigh Voigtel. Shealeigh is author of several of the pieces that we’re talking about today. In the first segment, we talked about gun violence media coverage of mass shootings and community violence. We are going to talk about two other pieces right now.

And again, Shealeigh, we are going to Shealeigh is, the digital and print editor for Project Censored. And again, has been published in Truth Out the Progressive Ms. Magazine and more. This second piece that we’re talking about today, Shealeigh Voitl, you wrote with avram anderson. It’s about the EARN IT Act.

And so I want to back up for just a second so that you can remind people what exactly is the EARN IT Act. I mean, I already mentioned that it ignores privacy and censorship concerns and some people in the audience may be saying, I don’t even know what it is. So, so help us out. Help us out. What is the EARN IT Act?

Shealeigh: Yeah, so it stands for the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act. it’s actually being reintroduced in Congress for the third time. and as you mentioned, it increased, increases surveillance and censorship, dismantles and to end encryption all under the under the guise of making the online world sort of safer for children.

But I think as we’ll talk very shortly, about we, it won’t do that. It won’t do that. academics, scholars agree. There’s just no way that, that this is headed for somewhere safe for anyone, including children.

Mickey: Yeah. And again, I, I realized that, you know, when, when people hear that out loud, when, when people hear opposition to this, what sounds like a, I mean, it’s kind of a convoluted title, leave it to Congress to figure that out, right.

With their acronyms, but I mean, at the core, at the core of it, one might say like, well, this sounds important. I mean, you know, don’t, don’t we want to protect, you know, people in this kind of way, but as you write here. You say that the EARN IT act will create an unelected commission of representatives from law enforcement victim services and technology companies tasked with developing best practices of quote, preventing identifying disrupting and reporting online child sexual exploitation.

So, clearly an important topic something we absolutely want to prevent identify disrupt and report child sexual exploitation, however. Yeah, exactly. But unfortunately, you right. unfortunately, the commission will not include anyone from civil liberties groups who have voiced concerns about the legislation’s impact.

So let’s talk about what the concerns are. I mean, you just said, like, of course, we’re concerned about, child, the children being exploited in this way that that should go without saying. But what are the actual legitimate concerns? And I know you’re going to talk to us about something called Section 213.

So, Shealeigh Voitl, please, explain.

Shealeigh: Yeah, so, EARN IT does undermine Section 230, which means that the interactive community’s computer services, can be held responsible for illegal user generated content. And what that means further is that these services sort of run the risk of like overcorrecting and censoring perfectly legal user speech all over the internet to avoid the possibility of litigation, the EARN IT authors which include, like, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Richard Blumenthal have repeatedly ignored media scholars that say this will not help survivors of online child sexual exploitation, but rather might leave them with less recourse than before, because more recently, the concern is that if these services are acting as agents of the government by conducting warrantless searches, then any evidence of a crime that’s collected could be rendered inadmissible later

Mickey: on.

Yeah, and I mean, again, you mentioned that these kinds of rules, laws, these, these bills that are proposed weaken or drop encryption, for legally protected content. We see that with FOSTA and SESTA. You also talk about something KOSA, Kids Online, Safety Act. you also go on to write, that there’s sort of a moral panic around the impact of social media.

And you write 43 states have introduced over 140 pieces of legislation in 2023 that deal with children’s online rights and privacy. But again, your concern, the concern of avram anderson and other media scholars, civil libertarians. Is that there’s overreach here that actually ends up impacting perfectly legal content, Shealeigh Voitl.

Shealeigh: Yeah,

, and it’s really I mean it’s very concerning and it should be concerning for everyone but I think especially vulnerable groups. Because of EARN IT’s move to dismantle end to end encryption encryption. The bill sort of poses these tremendous data privacy concerns, for vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ community, particularly LGBTQ youth that use, these platforms to explore their identity, seek gender affirming care, It also puts people seeking abortions in certain places at risk, immigrants, journalists, other people, .

Mickey: Which is an issue now, right?

Shealeigh: Absolutely, and it’s scary. I mean, it’s really, really scary. because this bill is so broad and, and, and where does it end? You know, if something like this gets passed, you know, what happens down the line? And there are other avenues to protect people online, protect children online from, these horrible things that we’re talking about within the EARN IT Act.

But censorship… Is not the way to do that.

Mickey: No. And you write in your conclusion that the real world consequences of these kinds of bills will forever impact everyone’s online access, privacy and experience. So I think, the argument here is that there are better ways to, to protect youth online, et cetera, without casting such a great drag net that has such, such negative impact on civil rights and civil liberties.

Shealeigh: For sure, yeah, I mean, you know, you, you co authored Media and Me, as did, avram, which is, you know, comprehensive media literacy curricula, you know, it’s like, that could be, you know, very powerful, more rigorous data privacy standards for adolescents supporting research on, you know, the mental health effects of social media.

There’s also legislation that protects kids without censoring speech, like the Invest in Child Safety Act. but yeah, I mean, EARN IT just sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression without helping or protecting kids

Mickey: online. It’s particularly important. I think that people dig beneath the headlines and dig beneath the clever names because again, on the surface, you know, it can really get some people saying, well, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

But as usual, Shealeigh Voitl, you and avram anderson, in this case really exposed once again, that the devil is often in the details. Absolutely. Yeah. So, so Shealeigh Voitl, we have, 5, 6 minutes left in our segment here. And, that’s at least enough time to get started on what’s. You know, turning out to be at a long ongoing story now with the Hollywood writers strike right the, we have the W.G.A. SAG AFTRA strikes, you wrote a piece not long ago called what’s realistic, what’s disturbing. And of course that’s riffing on a quote and we’re going to get into that a little bit with some of the things that Hollywood studio moguls have. Well, they’ve kind of been caught with foot in mouth, disease.

It looks like they’ve, they’ve been saying a lot of things out loud that, I mean, are reminiscent of the robber baron era of the late 19th century, in terms of how they’re talking about labor, wealth generators. I mean, we all know these are human beings, right? not just laborers, workers and wealth generators, but by some of the, some of the language that we hear coming out of the, The trade magazines, the very pro corporate studio publications.

, well, it’s been pretty disconcerting and you did a, I think you did a great job on packing why labor rights are important. Why intellectual work is labor and look the entertainment industry. As we’re seeing, it’s just, it just isn’t going to run without the brains and the labor and the intellectual and artistic and creative work behind it.

And these people are asking for a cut of their wealth. I mean, again, as I keep going back, since I feel like we’re, it’s like Eugene Debs and the Pullman strike. Is it like 1894? it’s very, there’s a lot of that overtones here. It’s, I mean, I’m an historian too, so I can’t help but see some of those and connect some of those dots, but the Writers Guild of America, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, okay, they represent major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, Disney.

, they were negotiating this past summer, they came to an impasse and of course. this actually came, came to a strike, actually the strikes, this was in the spring, and the strike started in the spring and has continued over summer. So the strike is ongoing, and in fact, we’re even just very recently seeing Drew Barrymore, Bill Maher, you know, with scab like behavior as they were criticized for wanting to bring their shows back without the writers.

And we see that that’s actually backfired recently. But Shealeigh Voitl, take us down this path. What’s been happening in this case? And what’s specifically, like, what’s at stake here? You know, you’re writing about disputes over pay, regulation of AI, a whole raft of things that people may not be thinking about.

So Shealeigh Voitl, help unpack this for us.

Shealeigh: Yeah, so, the writer’s strike started in May, and among other things, writers are just asking for compensation that fairly reflects the structure of streaming services, which now currently, the way that it’s Set up, offer very meager residuals for, these writers of these shows.

Right now writers are grossly underpaid and are forced to just jump from job to job to job just to remain afloat. SAG actors joined the writers on the picket line in July. And they had similar concerns over pay, regulation of AI, being paid to use their likeness, and improved healthcare benefits.

But I think the thing that was like most striking was for me, I was on Twitter and I saw like these entertainment magazines like, like Deadline and Hollywood Reporter tweeting these things that almost seemed like they were spokespeople for Hollywood executives. And it’s like, why is that the point?

Shouldn’t you be talking about the writers? That the show is that these shows have been the writers for these shows that have been exploited for a long time. Why are you like, what are they asking for? What are they being denied? Like, why are you making this about the viewers and what’s, you know, at stake for the viewers?

When clearly what’s more at stake is like livelihood for these, these workers.

Mickey: Well, Shealeigh Voitl, you, you know, one of the passages you captured here, that’s again. a couple of quotes, not flattering quotes in my estimation of some of these studio moguls, one of them published in Deadline in July, an executive said, quote, the end game is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.

That’s a pretty candid moment there.

Shealeigh: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s gross. And it also, it just like, it, and, I mean, I talk about this in the, the article. Jenny Yang, who was a comedian and actor, writer, called it out right, immediately. It’s union busting. That’s like what they just want, they want to scare these workers into ending the strike.

And unfortunately, people like Drew Barrymore, people like Bill Maher, You know, they obviously backed, backed, backed out of, you know, continuing with their shows, but if they hadn’t, crossing the picket line would have just normalized what these studio execs are doing, by denying just a cut of their multi million dollars to these workers that are busting their butt trying to, you know, make these amazing, this amazing content for everyone.

And yeah, I mean, there’s nothing normal about

Mickey: it. No, but remember, remember during the pandemic, people, these people were called essential workers because they kept people going, right? They, they kept, they kept people from worrying about some things. Maybe they get, they got people distracted while they were dealing with the pandemic.

I mean, we don’t talk about that as being a good thing all the time when it comes to news, but in entertainment, I mean, people want some escape. They want that. And so these people were all respected. They would say, Oh my gosh, they’re doing great. What ends up happening is the industry itself was billions of dollars, right, raking in all kinds of record profits, bragging about it, and then people like Disney CEO Bob Iger, you wrote this, you wrote, that he told CNBC that the writers and actors expectations were not, quote, realistic, and he finds the strike, quote, disturbing, but you pointed out, this is coming from someone who makes 535 times what a Disney employee’s median pay is and most of these people on strike aren’t the bill.

They’re not the Drew Barrymores or the Bill Mahers. They’re the people you never heard of that don’t even make a living wage in a place like California. And they’re asking for a cut of the multi billion dollars worth of profits. And that’s what doesn’t get reported.

Shealeigh: Yeah, and I mean, when you see coverage now of like, you know, Drew Barrymore, you know, first announcing that she would proceed with the filming of the show, backing out, you see that, and that’s at the forefront of your mind, and what it does slowly is it, you know, delegitimizes the worker’s concerns.

And demands and they’re valid. You know, this is like a brand new system of streaming and we’re, they’re all asking is for a pay structure that reflects changing times. and protection, protection from

Mickey: technology, new technologies, like AI that could take their whole jobs.

Shealeigh: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And so it’s it’s not like what Bob Iger saying.

It’s unrealistic. It’s disturbing, but it’s not. And they want you to read those quotes and think that these workers are just asking for too much that they’re being greedy. And that is not the case. That’s not the case. And so it’s really important to follow the strike as it goes on, and not take these, you know, studio execs, these celebrities that are maybe, you know, moving in ways that are not in a line with, the strike.

It’s important to listen to the people that are on the front lines, that are on the picket lines, that understand what they want, what they need, what they deserve. Because, yeah, it’s, I mean, I love TV, I love movies, I want all my favorite shows to come back, but I want to know that these things are being made by people that are getting paid fairly for their work, and as you mentioned, being protected.

Mickey: Well, again, and I happen to know that you also have a background in the arts and In music, it’s something that you, you do and you have a, I honestly think that people that do that may have a deeper appreciation for what it means to be a professional in in the creative arts. I’m also a former professional musician of several decades and it’s a lot of work.

It’s, it’s hard work and good artists make it look fun or sound fun. And again, oftentimes they’re the people that make it happen or people that That you never get to see that Bob Iger is saying, well, you’re unrealistic and. You know, really what’s unrealistic is the fact that we have these multi millionaires and billionaires.

and if, as you finish the article, that’s in fact, what’s more disturbing coming out of a place that we call tinsel town. Right? That’s that’s far more disturbing. So, really great points in the article. And again, still timely. That’s something that is still with us. You can see that piece, what’s realistic, what’s disturbing, how entertainment trade magazines spin the WGA SAG AFTRA strikes as a dispatch for free at projectcensored.

org. Our guest for this segment today has been Project Censored’S digital and print editor Shealeigh Voitl. She penned that piece, also penned a piece called EARNIT still ignores privacy and censorship concerns about the EARNIT Act with avram anderson, and we started the program talking about a long term gun study and media coverage that Shealeigh Voitl did.

Not shooting straight, corporate media gives mass shootings blanket coverage while missing community level gun violence. Shealeigh Voitl, thank you so much for being with us today. on the Project Censored Show to share your research and your writing. People can learn more about Shealeigh at projectcensored.

org or you can see more of her writings at places like Ms. Magazine, Truthout, and The Progressive. Shealeigh Voitl, thanks so much for joining the program.

Shealeigh: Thanks for having me, Mickey.