music of the week
music of the week
Americans are turning off racist networkTV?
It used to be that the TV series Americans were able to consume were all pretty much produced right here in the US. Acclaimed shows from other shores — even countries that spoke English — rarely showed up in America, and if they did, it was only sporadically on PBS. But in the last several years, that’s been changing. More and more British, Canadian, and Australian series arrive here every day, and sites like Hulu bring in shows that aren’t in English (like Hatufim, the Israeli show that served as inspiration for Homeland).
And then there’s DramaFever, an online video streaming service specializing in TV series and films from Asia. DramaFever has become one of the leading distributors of international content in the United States since its 2009 launch.
DF says its total monthly unique viewers — which includes syndication partners like Hulu and YouTube — quadrupled from 2012 to 2013, growing from 2.5 million to 10 million. And it just keeps growing, currently sitting at 20 million.
Big brands have noted this rapid growth, as Ad Week reports. Toyota, AT&T, Verizon, and Samsung have all purchased ads on DramaFever. The site’s content is available in more places than ever and has expanded beyond Asian programming: it’s signed deals with Hulu, AMC, and YouTube, and in December 2012, it began streaming programming from Spanish language broadcaster Telemundo.
When DramaFever launched with just four employees, co-founders Suk Park and Seung Bak weren’t expecting things to take off quite like they did. “When we started five years ago, we thought our audience was going to be Korean-American,” Park told me over the phone. “But we couldn’t have been more wrong.”
Indeed, 85 percent of DramaFever’s audience, Park said, is non-Asian, with 45 percent being Caucasian and 25 percent being Latino. “All types of ethnicities,” Park told me, “are seeking out foreign content” because it “speaks to them more than … traditional television.”
It’s fall TV premiere time! The time when we briefly glance up and say “Huh,” to the new batch of network television shows before going back to streaming House of Cards to our tablets. And if there’s one thing network TV loves, it’s white people. White people solving crimes, white people falling in love, white people just learning a lot about themselves. But TV loves nonwhite people too. Specifically, it loves them to stand back and to the side. A little further. Fuuurrrther. There we go.
This, of course, is not the first time the federal government has labeled Islamic terrorism “workplace violence.” The Fort Hood shootings by avowed Islamist Nidal Hassan were classified thus by the federal government, as well. In fact, the Obama administration has repeatedly treated “lone wolf” Islamic terror inside the United States as though it were non-terrorist crime – unlike the Bush administration, which, for example, correctly labeled as terrorism Hesham Mohamed Hadayet’s attack on the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002 and the Beltway snipers’ multiple murders in that same year.
The Obama administration takes great pains never to label Islamic terror as such inside the United States; instead, we are told, we should focus disproportionately on the threat of right-wing groups like the Tea Party.
Meanwhile, Islamists inside the United States kill and maim and torture.
Here are seven other recent cases of lone wolf Islamic attacks inside the United States in recent years:
Yusuf Ibrahim. In April, 28-year-old Yusuf Ibrahim was indicted for two 2013 beheadings. He allegedly shot 25-year-old Hanny Tawadros and 27-year-old Amgad Konds, then cut off their heads and hands. The two were Egyptian Coptic Christian expatriates.
Faleh Hassan Almaleki. Almaleki killed his daughter, Noor Almaleki, 20, in a parking lot in Phoenix in 2009 after she became “too Westernized” and refused an arranged marriage. He also used his car to assault the mother of Noor’s boyfriend. Ahmed Rehab of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the “domestic violence incident.”
Yaser Said. In 2008, Said allegedly murdered his two daughters after they began dating non-Muslims. He allegedly shot daughters Amina, 18, and Sarah, 17, on January 1, 2008 multiple times after luring them back home to visit their grandmother’s grave. Said is still at large.
Muzzammil Hassan. In 2009, Hassan cut his wife’s head off because she filed for divorce against him. He stabbed his wife, Aasiya, some 40 times and then proceeded to decapitate her. Ironically, Hassan founded Bridge TV in 2004, a station dedicated to fighting “the negative stereotype of Muslims post-9/11.”
Mohammed Taheri-azar: In 2006, Taheri-azar drove his car into a crowd at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in an attempt to kill Americans in supposed revenge for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A letter he left for police read: “I live with the holy Koran as my constitution for right and wrong and definition of injustice… I’ve read all 114 chapters about 20 times since June of 2003 when I started reading the Koran. The U.S. government is responsible for the deaths and torture of countless followers of Allah, my brothers and sisters. My attack on Americans at UNC-CH March 3, was in retaliation for similar attacks orchestrated by the U.S. government on my fellow followers of Allah in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and other Islamic territories.”
Naveed Afzal Haq. Haq attacked the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in 2006 with a gun, killing a woman and wounding five. According to the Seattle police, Haq said “he wanted the United States to leave Iraq, that his people were being mistreated and that the United States was harming his people. And he pointedly blamed the Jewish people for all of these problems. He stated he didn’t care if he lived.” Those who worked with Haq said he self-identified as a “Muslim-American… angry at Israel.”
Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. Muhammad shot and killed an Army soldier at a Little Rock recruiting station in 2010. The feds didn’t charge him with terrorism; instead, state authorities charged him with murder. As the Los Angeles Times reports, after converting to Islam in Tennessee at age 20, he moved to Yemen, was arrested there, and then came back to the United States to attack the recruiting station. According to police, Mohammed stated he was “mad at the U.S. military because of what they had done to Muslims in the past,” and he wanted to “kill as many people in the Army as he could.” According to the perpetrator’s father, the feds didn’t charge Muhammad with terrorism because doing so would have shone a spotlight on their own incompetence: “They should have done their job and this never would have happened. I think that somebody in the federal government and the FBI should be charged with negligence. Negligent homicide.”
Undoubtedly, there are other cases. And the power of worldwide communication means that terror groups across the Middle East are actively recruiting inside the United States. What we saw in Oklahoma may be just the beginning – or rather, the continuation – of a trend, especially if the feds refuse to treat Islamic terrorism for what it is.
This week Emma Watson, she of Harry Potter fame, made headlines by making a rousing speech on gender equality, as she called for one billion men and boys to sign up to UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign.
Glen Poole of insideMAN gives four reasons he won’t be taking the #HeForShe pledge.
I have started to collect racist ephemera — specifically directed toward Asian immigrants and their American descendants. I mean artifacts in paper such as pamphlets suggesting that Asiatic hordes would invade and take over, posters promoting the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese American internment, documents containing ethnic slurs (“chink,” “jap,” “gook,” “Chinaman,” “nip,” “slant-eye” and so on), and advertising featuring caricatured images. I would like to frame this propaganda and hang it. Since almost all Asian Americans whom I know, among others, have objected to this endeavor, I would like to explain the point of the project.
My purpose is to provoke. I would like to disrupt our shared comfort. The greater the upset caused by references to the past, the more intense the urge toward action for the future. Memorabilia should be saved for many reasons, and not all of it needs to inspire nostalgia for the past.
My idea comes from a story I read some time back about African Americans who have a similar hobby. It turns out there exist a few, not many but not none, African Americans who search out articles such as lawn jockeys and then display them. (Although the genealogy of the lawn jockey is disputed, the bulk of contemporary opinion deems this piece of Americana to be derogatory toward blacks.)
A colleague of mine who is Caucasian and a librarian (thus in the profession of accumulating objects) said to me she thought a person with this type of mania would appear to be very angry. My sense is just the opposite: just as people who buy a book feel they have acquired its content even if they have not in fact read the pages, a person who possesses racist art gains control over it. The idol loses its power.
As an amateur student of history, as we all are at least as to our own lives, I would like prove the past was what it was. Many people, including Asian Americans themselves, deny that Asians in American, whether new arrivals or native born, now face or for that matter have ever faced significant discrimination rooted in bigotry. They suppose “politically correct” complaints refer to only the expected adjustment that all newcomers have had to make, learning different cultural patterns, nothing more. Asian Americans are too proud to acknowledge once having been victims before becoming successful.
Hardly anybody recalls, for example, the glib xenophobia of Ogden Nash, the best-selling author of light verse (only his accompaniment to Saint-Saens’s Carnival of Animals orchestral suite is recited nowadays), or Dr. Seuss, the perennial favorite among children’s authors, of The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. They have been whitewashed. Nash described “the Japanese” as “how courteous” as he “grins and bows a friendly bow; so sorry, this is my garden now.” Seuss supposedly wroteHorton Hears a Who as an apology of sorts for his earlier anti-Japanese graphics (not archived within Seussville).
The few items I have purchased — a union membership booklet with rules prohibiting the patronage of Chinese or Japanese businesses, with signed cards for attendance at meetings, and sheet music with lyrics of mock sing-song broken English — make an argument more effectively than I ever could advance explicitly. Too rare for my means are the perfect specimens extant: political flyers that directly assert California confronts a choice whether to be reserved for white Christians, against a background depicting the horror of heathen Orientals. The talismans of racism constitute convincing proof.
The hatred of Asians was open, overt, hardcore, egregious, and unembarrassed. And it was racial. It was not simply directed at anybody coming to these shores, since some of its advocates themselves also were foreigners. Nor was it about assimilation. The demand that Asians conform to the majority was accompanied by the declaration that it would be impossible for them to do so; they remained untrustworthy, inscrutable.
I wince whenever someone who intends to be progressive declares that she has a problem with a work of art, because she deems it offensive. So much art is (or was in its own era) transgressive. Attraction and repulsion are bound together.
Those of us who care about civil rights harm our cause by implying that social justice is merely etiquette. It reduces the issue from substance to appearance. What is wrong is equated with what is ugly, and vice versa. Universal principles are overwhelmed by subjective opinions.
Our opponents, after all, take advantage of the same rhetoric. The Nazis judged modernism to be degenerate. (My own aesthetics would not surprise anyone: I am impressed by painters such as Chaim Soutine, who produced garish canvasses of beef carcasses hanging in the butcher’s storeroom.)
These perceptions extend beyond tastes. Haters can claim to be offended by interracial couples holding hands. If the test were simply whether an individual has her feelings hurt, and no doubt the observer shocked by love transcending color is genuinely agitated, then their aversion about the effrontery of the act they have witnessed is not subject to refutation. Emotions cannot be denied, because they are by definition beyond reason. If creativity is judged by whether it has avoided giving offense, the racists’ sensibilities deserve equal respect to Susan Sontag’s essays.
There are risks to reappropriation. Irony is easily misinterpreted. A contemporary print I have purchased, by Roger Shimomura, shows two couples in a Pop Art style. In“Mix and Match,” the Caucasian male and Asian female are portrayed as romantic and ideal; the Asian male and Caucasian female are portrayed as disgusting and distressed, respectively.
I am not alone in my enthusiasm. A few years ago, John Kuo Wei Tchen, a professor at New York University, curated an exhibition of this material. Now he, with co-author Dylan Yeats, has published a book entitled Yellow Peril: An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear. They offer details on the exclusive nature of Manifest Destiny. The new world of the nineteenth century drove toward the Pacific but stopped by protecting our side.
Yet our anxieties recur. The concerns about the decline of the West, and the rise of the East, have become acute again. There is another possibility. The differences could cease to be meaningful, as civilizations come together.
The demagogues predicted miscegenation would become the norm. They were right. We could embrace the prospect.