Citations Needed

Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

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Episode 123: How Liberal Meta-Demands for "Investigations" and "Studies" Are Used to Silence Activists


"Joe Biden Calls For ‘Immediate, Full And Transparent Investigation’ Into Jacob Blake Shooting," Forbes reports. "Obama Fraud Task Force Takes on the Big Banks," Bloomberg News proclaims. "Democratic lawmakers call for vote on bill to study reparations," announces CNN.   It seems that every time there’s a movement toward righting a historical or current wrong, whether police violence, corporate abuses, or climate. change, policymakers muster the same tepid “solution”: initiate a committee, investigation, commission, study, or, if they want to sound super militaristic and Serious a “task force” to probe the issue. This type of rhetorical filler offers elites the best of both worlds: Creating the appearance of attentiveness and progressiveness without requiring any meaningful, overt ideological commitments.   Tethered to explicit political objectives, calls for investigations or studies can be a useful lobbying tool, but absent this, they are more often than not a political trick, psychological tools to compel activists and those outraged on social media to take a break, because now the professionals are handling it. The effect: the political equivalent of a five-day cooling off period, wait the outrage out and channel activist energy into Get Out the Vote fodder and superficial reform-ese that never truly upsets the existing order.   On this episode, we study the phenomenon of the liberal appeals for bare-minimum interventions in times of political crisis, looking at how vague and open-ended calls for studies, committees, task forces, and commissions are designed to elevate the reputations of spineless politicians while nullifying the social movements that actually seek racial, economic, and climate justice.   Our guest is Briahna Joy Gray, former national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.


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 2020-11-18  1h14m