Category Archives: Politics

Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, to the Rescue on San Francisco Buses

For those not in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, or Washington, DC, the hate group, American Freedom Defense Initiative run by anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller, has been running ads on buses telling the “truth” about Islam. Really, it’s a lot of bigotry and hate. A federal court ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had to run the ads, and its not the first time that the MTA has had controversial ads run.

Graphic Policy Radio co-host Elana pointed out this awesome photo posted by the Muslim Community Network where we see Marvel‘s hit new hero Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, covering up the ads that are running in San Francisco and preaching to “stop the hate.”

Kamala stars in her own series Ms. Marvel published by Marvel comics, and is a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey. A brand new character, she’s broken out and one of the stand-out comic debuts of 2014. The comic is written by G. Willow Wilson, a Muslim herself, and is a prime example of the new diversity in comics. It helps that the comic is a fantastic read no matter you’re background.

This is an awesome example of culture jamming, using pop-culture to fight hate speech! Whomever is doing this, awesome job.

10417648_904498016268354_7196046278961532024_nUpdate: We had indicated these buses were in NYC, but in fact this is San Francisco.

Update 2: It looks like its street artists combating various injustices through art are behind it. We’ve reached out to the San Francisco transportation authority for further details.

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State of the Union a Mixed Bag for Gamers

President Obama and Spider-ManThe President’s State of the Union address was a dangerously mixed-bag for gamers Tuesday night. The plethora of recent high-profile data breaches and hacks, such as the Sony hack, has given the President the political cover to push a stringent agenda that offers more potential negatives for gamers than positives. Interestingly, even though the President talked about Internet issues extensively in three speeches leading up to the State of the Union, he spent relatively little time on the subject Tuesday night. Indeed, the word “Internet” only appears three times in his hour-long speech and is only used in broad ideas, not connected to specific policies. However, by looking at those earlier speeches and their associated legislative proposals, gamers can understand the President’s Internet priorities.

On the bright side of things, President Obama’s call to increase broadband Internet service through municipal networks could be good news for thousands of underserved gamers. Currently, nineteen states have laws in place that make it illegal for counties or cities to build and offer their own Internet service to residents. The President and the FCC argue the FCC has the authority to change that through rule-making. The FCC chairperson has been warning of this action since the summer and last week, the President gave a preview of the issue. Many Republicans believe that the FCC does not have the regulatory authority and that this issue is a legislative one.

Municipal broadband, when it works, generally offers great rates for very fast Internet connections. Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, has a system that offers 100 Mbps connections for $58 and 1 Gbps for $70 per month. However, in order for municipal broadband to be effective, you generally need relatively high density and/or centralized population to make the investment make sense. It is a plan that does not generally work in rural communities, meaning that the least served in America will remain so.

Also good news for gamers, one of the three mentions of the Internet in the State of the Union was his pledge “to protect a free and open Internet”. This is a clear signal that the President intends to continue his push for Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the idea that all traffic and devices on the Internet should be treated the same by carriers- ISPs cannot discriminate based on where this data originates or is headed. For gamers, Net Neutrality would ensure we do not have to pay more for our connections to Steam, Xbox Live, PSN, or any other gaming service nor would it cost us more to keep our speeds high.

More troubling for gamers is the President’s “tough” stance on cybersecurity issues. His proposals could lead to a murkier legal landscape when it comes to many of the activities in which gamers like to partake. There is a new data and intelligence sharing bill very similar to previous bills that the Internet rose up against with such responses as the Internet blackout of 2012. The new incarnation is CISPA and it has many of the same concerns as the earlier versions, but this time, apparently, it also has the President’s support.

For gamers, the language is especially troubling because it gives companies immunity for data breaches. PSN had a data breach in 2011 that led to the compromise of millions of users’ information. Sony settled a resultant class-action suit for $15 million dollars. That would not be an issue for them under the new law. Additionally, the law asks that information about “cyber-threats” be shared with the US government without adequately defining what that means. Theoretically, the government could know what you are doing on-line without a warrant because private companies are freely telling them in the name of information sharing.

The other very troubling change for gamers is a tightening of language and increase in punishments under the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act. The changes would further criminalize violations of terms of service. Do you let a friend share your gaming service log-in? Currently, that is a violation of the Terms of Service and can get your account suspended. If these proposed changes go into law, that act could be a felony. One would hope that federal prosecutors would have something better to do with their time, but as the Aaron Swartz case suggests this is sadly not always true.

So what can you, as a gamer, do to ensure your rights online stay strong? Contact your representatives and let them know your opinion. Let them know this is a priority issue for you, and let your voice be heard.

Charlie Hebdo’s First Cover After Last Week’s Attack

Charlie Hebdo‘s first cover after the attack on its newsroom will feature an image of the Prophet Mohammed, holding one of the “Je Suis Charlie” signs being used to show solidarity with the magazine. Above that depiction it states in French, “All is Forgiven.”

The magazine usually has a print run of about 60,000, but this issue will be into the million.

charlie

Comics Legend Art Spiegelman & Scholar Tariq Ramadan on Charlie Hebdo & the Power Dynamic of Satire

Democracy Now has a series of videos (haven’t checked out their other coverage) of their coverage of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo. The videos have actually been informative, fair, and pretty level-headed. Above is the comic creator Art Spiegelman, most known for his creation of the graphic novel Maus, and scholar Tariq Ramadan discussing the attacks. Very educational and worth watching.

Gore Verbinski Comments on the Cancellation of the film based on the graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Pyongyang-Journey-In-North-Korea-Gore-Verbinski-CoverAfter theaters, and Sony’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview, ripples flooded out throughout the movie community. One of the casualties is the cancellation of the film based on Guy DeLisle‘s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. The graphic novel chronicles DeLisle’s time spent in the country overseeing an animation project and featured his observations on the elusive country. It was Lost in Translation in the DPRK. I loved the graphic novel, as much for its humor as its insight into a country most of us know little about.

A movie was being worked on based on the graphic novel. It was to star Steve Carell and be directed by Gore Verbinski. The film has been scrapped and Verbinski has put out a statement:

Re: Pyongyang

Getting the facts straight:
Yesterday, I was told by New Regency and Fox that Fox will no longer be distributing the film. Prior to that, the film was green lit and fully funded by New Regency with Fox distributing. I have been told in no uncertain words that based on the situation at Sony, Fox has now decided to not distribute the film. Without a distributor, New Regency was forced to shut the film down.

My thoughts:

I find it ironic that fear is eliminating the possibility to tell stories that depict our ability to overcome fear.

Gore Verbinski

Theaters, Sony, and Paramount Cave to Terrorists and Cyberbullies & Why that’s Bad

interview_xlgIn what can only be described as stupidity and cowardice, national theater chains including AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Cineplex, and eventually Sony Pictures Entertainment have pulled the December 25th release of The Interview. For those who might not know, The Interview is a film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that has them traveling to North Korea to interview Kim Jong Un, and are tasked to kill the leader. The country didn’t take the comedy too lightly, and instead North Korea (likely, it’s hard to verify) waged a cyber-war against Sony in retaliation.

That cyber attack proved an embarrassment for the American subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate. Sensitive documents were released, and have been fodder for sites over the past week. That coverage of leaked documents, and the subsequent reaction (which we’ll get to), played right into the hackers hands. Really, the hack showed the continued ineptness of Sony to protect itself in a digital age. They’ve had numerous hacks, dozens of times, that have exposed user accounts, and more.

In the end, the hackers threatened a physical attacked reminiscent of 9/11 if The Interview wasn’t pulled from release. This led to major theaters to cancel the release of the movie. Those theaters account for 18,000 screens of the roughly 40,000 screens in North America. Other theaters stood strong and would have still released the film. Sony eventually completely caved, and as of this post they were unsure if they’ll ever release the film, even on demand (I’d expect a torrent any day now).

The hacks, and even threat, are an example of cyberbullying taken to extreme, and by caving to demands, that bullying has shown to work. It’s akin to attacks on female creators (which include physical and death threats) in the video game industry, and have gotten some women to quit the industry. Its happened to comic creators and critics by those who disagree with what they have to say. It continues because it’s perceived to work.

What the pulling of the film does is encourage more of the behavior in the future, especially from the North Korean regime. The country has been building a cyber force that supposedly comprises 1,800 individuals. The cancellation of the film by theaters wasn’t likely out of safety concerns for movie goers (North Korea doesn’t likely have the ability to act on their physical threats), it’s more likely theaters are looking out for their own necks, and fear a cyberattack on their own systems, and what would come to light if it happened and documents were released. Documents that have been released showed Sony (and other film companies) conspiring against Google, and really consumers, in the battle over piracy. A battle ironically where Sony, the MPAA, RIAA, and other content producers use similar bullying tactics as were just used against Sony. They’ve also bad mouthed their own films, actors, and the direction of the subsidiary. Imagine what would be revealed about movie theater chains if a similar event would occur?

2014-12-18_1602The caving to the threats, and the embarrassment, have already had a chilling effect.

A planned adaptation of Guy DeLisle‘s Pyongyang by New Regency has been pulled. That film was to star Steve Carrell and be directed by Gore Verbinski with a script by Steve Conrad. The film has been described as a “paranoid thriller,” which has me a bit worried about what it might have been, when in reality DeLisle’s story is more like Lost in Translation. Luckily you can still purchase the brilliant graphic novel. What’s to say a threat and attack isn’t in Amazon’s future to stop the sale of the book though?

Paramount has barred theaters from showing Team America in protest of the cancellation of The Interview.

12 people were killed and more shot, plus numerous other incidences, during the opening week of The Dark Knight Rises, that film was kept in theaters. The Warriors opened in 1979, and lead to vandalism and killings, and only had security added to theaters, and continued to show.

Cyber threats which couldn’t be corroborated, and experts have dismissed the capabilities, are more than enough to stop this film, and more. Where actual physical proof of probable violence existed, a film wasn’t pulled. Think this is about our “safety” or that of protecting the theaters’ digital secrets?

In the coming weeks, and months, this most likely will increase the call for needed cyber legislation, most of which will be draconian, hurt civil liberties, and punish the consumer. Legislation like CISPA, SOPA, or PIPA, will be rammed through like undead zombies infecting and destroying the world before we notice and it’s too late. The attacks also have done more to promote a film which likely have done just ok in a theater (and built up a buzz that it’d be crazy to not release it digitally and capitalize on the hoopla).

This isn’t the first time a hack has led to company secrets being stolen. This isn’t the first time intellectual property has been stolen. The difference here is, that demands were met, and corporations caved to threats. They’ve shown this sort of bullying works, is easy, and effective. It encourages it to be done in the future, creating a chilling censoring effect.

This isn’t the first time issues over a movie and North Korea have come up. In 2002, Bond film Die Another Day depicted a North Korean villain which resulted in the country going on a PR offensive (instead of a cyber one). With these latest threats, the country moves closer to being a real life Bond villain.

Similar issues arose in 2004 of Team America: World Police, and in 2012 and 2013 things changed up a bit with the release of Red Dawn and Olympus Has Fallen. Both of those films featured North Korean terrorists. Those two films, the country used footage for their own propaganda to show off their military prowess.

It’s all ironic since former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was an avid fan of the James Bond franchise (and movies in general). Jong Il was so obsessed with films he kidnapped Japanese and South Korean actors and directors to star in movies he some times wrote himself.

 

 

Artists Against Police Brutality, a Comic Anthology for Charity. Call for Submissions

Comics are a powerful tool bringing together stories and images unlike any other medium out there. They also have a history of taking on social and political issues since their beginning, especially those contrary to the status-quo. With the militarization of the police, and excessive force used by the police, in the news, it’s natural for a group of comic creators to band together to add their voice to the growing protests across the country.

APB: Artists against Police Brutality is a new comic book anthology with one primary goal: show pictures and tell stories that get people talking. The anthology is looking for submissions to add their voice to it.

They are looking for artists across the disciplines to lend their talents and critical eye for this artistic examination of the US justice system and its treatment of communities of color. They are looking for personal stories, biographies, sociopolitical and historical analysis that shed a light on shared experiences across these communities, not just to act as an echo chamber, but to be used to change minds outside of these communities.

APB will be a black and white book that collects these stories. While primarily a comic book project, they will also consider following:

One- and two-row comic strips
Pin-ups and spot illustrations
Prose stories
(whatever the genre; up to 1,500 words) and analytical essays (personal, sociopolitical, historical; up to 2,000 words)

The main goal is to encourage people to talk about the persistent problems facing this country in terms of race and the justice system in an accessible and powerful medium.

From their release:

We’ve all seen the pictures. A six-year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted by U.S. marshals on her first day at an all-white, New Orleans school in 1960. A police dog attacking a demonstrator in Birmingham. Fire hoses turned on protesters. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a crowd on the National Mall. These pictures were printed in papers, flashed across television screens, and helped to change the laws of this Nation…but not all of the attitudes.

We’ve all seen the pictures. Michael Brown lying face down in a pool of his own blood for hours. Protesters with their hands up, facing down militarized policemen. We’ve also seen the videos. Eric Garner choked to death. John Crawford III shot down in Walmart for carrying a toy gun. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice gunned down in broad daylight for the same reason.

This time, the pictures and videos aren’t doing much to change things; if anything, they are a repeated reminder of how worthless black and brown lives are to the justice system. So we need conversations to go along with the pictures, and we’re sending out an APB to artists and writers to help jump start those conversations.

APB: Artists against Police Brutality will be edited by Bill Campbell, John Jennings, and Jason Rodriguez and will be published by Rosarium Publishing. The proceeds for this project will be donated to the Innocence Project.

You can get more information here, or email artistsagainstpolicebrutality@gmail.com.

Demo-Graphics: Comics and Politics

Today is election day and for those who haven’t voted, what are you doing reading this? Get out there and vote! We have a handy tool to help you out with that, including finding your polling location.

With that out of the way, we’ve been tracking a lot of information, not just demographic info of those who “like” comic related things on Facebook, but also their registration, political views, and if they donate to political causes. This data is compiled using the same data that’s used for the monthly comic demographic data breakdown.

It felt appropriate to present the year’s worth of data today! So, get ready for the first ever Comics and Politics roundup!

Voter Registration

Voter registration is a key to winning elections, and as we can see through the past year things have been a bit stagnant until August on, which us about when a lot of political organizations would get their voter registration going. There’s a sudden spike in September, but that drops. This data I believe is purchased by Facebook from the open voter roles and then matched to Facebook users.

The below is the total number of people registered for all of Facebook.

Registration Grand TotalHere’s the same information above, but just for those who like comics. You can see the same increase later in the year.

Comic Registration TotalWhere it gets really interesting is when the information is broken down by gender. You can see some of the greatest gains when it comes to registration for Democratic Women, who overtake Democratic Men towards November.

Comic Registration GenderParty Affiliation

Voter registration is one thing, but how one labels their political views is another. Facebook allows individuals to list whatever they’d like as far as party, and the system then categorizes them into Conservative, Liberal, Non-Partisan, etc. In September, they changed that a bit, eliminating Non-Partisan and adding Moderate, Very Conservative, and Very Liberal.

Party affiliation facebookIn May, there was a rather strange drop in data that I can’t explain that only showed up when I added the interests of folks. The data was checked multiple times over a few days and the same thing happened. The data returned to normal the following month. Here’s the same data above, except just those who like comics.

Party affiliation comicsWhile non-partisan dominates the below stats when it comes to gender, when that’s removed in September those that consider themselves Liberal for both men and women becomes the majority and top two results. Those that consider themselves Conservative drops in September.

Party affiliation comics genderDonations

The final thing we can look at is the habits of individuals who donate to conservative and liberal causes. We see the same strange spike we saw in voter registration in September, which makes me think there was an issue with Facebook’s data.

Donations facebookBelow is the above data, but just for comic fans. Interesting enough, the spike we see above occurs to a lesser extent in October instead of September.

Donations comicsInteresting though is when you break out the gender, men donate the least to liberal causes, while liberal women are the most generous. Overall, women became much more generous as the year went on.

Donations comics gender

And that wraps up our first report! Now, go out and vote, there’s still time!

Voter Lookup.

Tuesday, November 4 is the 2014 midterm elections. We believe in free speech here, and the greatest speech is getting out to vote. You can use the below tool to find your local polling place, who’s on the ballot, and even local initiatives.

We may be a partisan site, but in the end it’s important you get out there and do your civic duty in the end. This Tuesday, head to the polls, and be counted.

Voter Lookup.

Tuesday, November 4 is the 2014 midterm elections. We believe in free speech here, and the greatest speech is getting out to vote. You can use the below tool to find your local polling place, who’s on the ballot, and even local initiatives.

We may be a partisan site, but in the end it’s important you get out there and do your civic duty in the end. This Tuesday, head to the polls, and be counted.

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