Hate speech and the Arizona massacre

Gabrielle Giffords, a democratic congresswoman from Arizona, was gun downed while speaking to constituents on a street corner in Tuscon January 8. Six others, including a 9 year old girl, were killed and 14 were wounded. A 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughney was arrested. For a peek into the politics of hate and vitriol that surrounded her re-election campaign, see a video of the Tuscon Tea Party rally held October 2010 featuring Gifford’s opponent and former marine Jesse Kelly.

At 1.20 minutes Kelly says: ” Liberty is what we believe in this country. These people that think they’re better than us that look down on us every single day, tell us what kind of health care to buy, they take over industries, and if you dare to stand up to the government, they call us a mob. We’re about to show them what a mob looks like on November 2.” Later he asks the crowd ” Aren’t you sick of having people spit in your face everyday?” Kelly also held a campaign event where he invited people to “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” Kelly was endorsed by Sarah Palin who put a symbol of a rifle scope’s cross hairs around Giffords. No one can say what drove Loughney to murder, or at what moment, rhetoric leads to action. But the pieces are all in play and have been seen before in the killings of abortion providers — a combination of readily available weapons — Loughney’s gun was legally purchased — and a constant stream of publicly sanctioned hate filled speech which encourages a sense of righteousness, entitlement and victimhood.

Glenn Beck in Wilmington, Ohio

Last week I went to Wilmington, Ohio, a town of 12,000 with 16% unemployment. In 2008, the town was crushed when the area’s largest employer, DHL, decided to close its hub and with it, 7,500 jobs. Wilmington isn’t terribly remarkable compared to a lot of other places in the US, where the global flight of capital has left communities jobless. What’s different about Wilmington, is that is has become a media darling. It began with a profile by 60 minutes, then Jay Leno came to town, and celebrity chef Rachel Ray cooked Thanksgiving and donated a treasure of kitchen appliances and food. The attention has helped make a bad situation a touch better for sure, inspiring donations and volunteerism. Then last week, conservative commentator Glenn Beck, rolled in with his “Broke” book tour, hawking books and promising miracles. Unlike the other celebrities, Beck charged admission to several events, making it unclear what his purpose was, to help the town, or to help Beck. He also repeated a wildly untrue narrative: the town is too proud to accept federal dollars, as though that is a sign of moral character. To read a longer account deconstructing Beck, and see more photographs, I invite you to visit a story on AlterNet And photographs with colleague Alan Chin on BagNewsNotes

All photographs (C) Nina Berman/NOOR All Rights Reserved

Underbelly Project – public art made private

I was initially dazzled by the photographs but upon reading the story, got completely turned off by the idea. The Underbelly project — a group of artists find an abandoned NYC subway station, invite their friends all over the world to sneak in, make art for a few hours and leave. The story hypes the danger aspect. No one can hear you scream. (Very very scary) The result, a bunch of art in a place no one can see…. For me, public art is about the public intersection, the life the work takes on because of the eyes on the street. Considering New York City’s long, proud and radical history of subway art, where the graffiti artists took creative and real risks, the Underbelly Project feels like a group of wannabees, hopelessly clubbish, and dead on arrival.

Big Jesus

I’ve received several emails from friends informing me that the statue in front of the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio has burned to the ground. For those who missed seeing it. Here is “Big Jesus” and “Big Jesus at Night” , two photographs which appear in Homeland. And a third, unpublished photograph,” Path to Jesus”.

More photographs of Big Jesus and the Megachurch project can be found at noorimages.com.

Italian facist propaganda

I found these postcards by Aurelio Bertiglia on sale outside the Milan train station. They depict the Italian campaign in Ethiopia. The owner sold them next to framed photos of Mussolini. Il Duce skiiing, Il Duce swimming.
The owner said he was a socialist, said Italy was ruined, and hated selling the images, but said it’s what people like to buy. The use of children to promote war time mythologies astonished me, but the scenes depicted felt quite familiar._MG_6639_MG_6633