Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
Thursday, November 10, 2011 10:12 AM
When you start up an opinion blog, you voluntarily expose yourself to the world. If you also happen to be a woman, writes Helen Lewis-Hasteley at New Statesman (Nov. 3, 2011), you “open the front door to a chorus of commenters howling at you about your opinions, your name, your appearance, your sexuality.” To learn a little more about the state of internet misogyny and incivility, she asked several women bloggers to describe the comments they’ve received from online trolls. (For those of you fortunate enough to have escaped contact with a troll, it’s a person who posts intentionally inflammatory personal attacks in an attempt to get a rise out of their target.) Here are some enlightening highlights:
Dawn Foster, blogger at F For Philistine:
The worst instance of online abuse I’ve encountered happened when I blogged about the Julian Assange extradition case. As more people shared it on Twitter with positive comments, a growing trickle of abusive comments appeared. Rather than simply being negative, it was clear the commenters hadn’t read the post: just clocked the title, my gender and started punching the keyboard furiously.
The emails rarely mentioned the topic at hand: instead they focused on my age, used phrases like “little girl”, described rape fantasies involving me and called me “ugly” and “disgusting”. Initially it was shocking: in the space of a week, I received a rabid email that included my home address, phone number and workplace address, included as a kind of threat.
Eleanor O’Hagan, freelance blogger:
On the whole, I’ve managed to avoid the worst threats and misogyny that other women writers endure but I don’t think that’s luck or because my opinions are more well-argued. I think it’s because, very early on, I became conscious of how my opinions would be received and began watering them down, or not expressing them at all. I noticed that making feminist arguments led to more abuse and, as a result, I rarely wrote about feminism at all.
Natalie Dzerins, Forty Shades of Grey blogger:
Last night, I was informed that if all women looked like me, there would be no more rape in the world…. If there is one thing I have learned about being a woman with vocal opinions, it is that everything I ever do or say is wrong because of my physical appearance….
I do sometimes wish that I were a man though, so that if I were to get abuse, it would be for my ideas, not for having the gall to have them in the first place.
Source: New Statesman
Image by Anonymous Account, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 12:00 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best international coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
NACLA Report on the Americas
covers Latin American people and politics with a depth, nuance, and historical context rarely found in mainstream media coverage of the region. From elections to revolutions, this bimonthly is on the front lines.
weighs the world on the scales of justice. By tapping into a vast global network of activists, the compassionately written and tightly edited magazine breathes life into the stories of people who are working to build a better planet.
is an essential touchstone for anybody seeking an international perspective on current events. The British weekly allows American readers not only to look out beyond their borders, but also to envision standing outside those borders.
On the pages of Britain’s Prospect, witty screeds sit beside far-flung travel writing, fresh fiction beside wonky policy analysis, knowledgeable criticism beside provocative political essays. Most crucially, complex issues of the day receive ample space and a nuanced treatment.
deepens its readers’ understanding of Europe and developing countries, where local politics have global consequences. Whether on the beat of economic protest in Warsaw, agricultural reform in Brasília, or the rise of Scottish socialism, the magazine’sactivist reporters get fists pumping and crowds chanting for justice.
There’s no room for sensational headlines or ideological bombast on the densely packed pages of The Wilson Quarterly. There are too many new ideas and essential issues to cover, from China’s economic future to Israel’s inner life. And the peerless editors ensure that the prose is as tight as the analysis.
“A journal of ideas and debate,” World Affairs, founded in 1837, burrows beneath the headlines to lend a historical perspective and an open mind to those international issues that promise to dictate our political, cultural, and economic future. The answers aren’t easy, but the questions demand forward motion.
rage is as righteous as it mission. Examining the United States’ behavior around the globe through the lens of race, gender, and class, the monthly’s radical rabble-rousers refuse to take refuge in easy slogans or dusty dogma. And no one person or ideology escapes scrutiny.
See our complete list of 2011 nominees.
Image by Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 4:01 PM
Finally, there is relief for women plagued by catcalls hollered from speeding car windows, unsolicited innuendos offered by complete strangers, and proverbial one-liners greasy enough to make you gag. Well, virtual relief that is, courtesy of the folks at the video game production company LadyKillas Inc.
In the recently released first-person shooter game Hey Baby, a lone female wields a loaded AK-47 as she walks along city streets à la Grand Theft Auto, ready to “pulverize the leering scumbags” that verbally and physically threaten her safety and security. The New Statesman picked up on this bizarre addition to the gaming world, noting that “video games have long been an acceptable outlet for men’s fantasies and everyday frustrations, however unpleasant. Hey Baby is similarly about familiar frustration—in this case, the kind of frustration that women feel when strangers treat them as sexual objects in a public space.”
So as much as Hey Baby is ostensibly a shoot ’em up gorefest, there’s way more to it than that. It’s art, activism, and social commentary operating under the novel guise of a recreational pastime, and despite its in-your-face presentation, its underlying message is meant to be discussed seriously—and it should be.
Source: New Statesman
Thursday, May 13, 2010 2:31 PM
James Cameron is funneling some of his energies into a new role: that of environmentalist and indigenous rights advocate. But he’s finding that this can be tricky territory for a blockbuster director.
Nikolas Kozloff, the author of No Rain in the Amazon: How South America’s Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010), writes at the rainforest conservation website Mongabay about Cameron’s recent forays into the activist realm:
To his credit, Cameron has sought to address not only fictional struggles in the virtual world but also the real-life plight of indigenous peoples fighting to preserve their ancestral lands from hydropower development. Recently, the Hollywood director toured the Brazilian rainforest in association with Amazon Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based NGO [nongovernment organization] which is performing valuable environmental work in South America.
After meeting with the Kayapo Indians, “real life Na’vi,” as Cameron put it, the director got inspired and has been campaigning for indigenous peoples. Cameron says the Belo Monte boondoggle dam planned for the Amazon is a “quintessential example of the type of thing we are showing in Avatar—the collision of a technological civilization’s vision for progress at the expense of the natural world and the cultures of the indigenous people that live there.”
On a tear in New York, he spoke before a United Nations committee on aboriginal rights and even launched an environmental scholarship at Brooklyn Tech high school. Not content to stop there, he updated the Avatar website to keep fans informed about environmental issues and sponsored the planting of a million trees around the world as part of Earth Day.
Kozloff writes that “Cameron has done more than many other Hollywood directors to bring environmentalism into the mainstream.” This is certainly a more charitable view of the director than many on the left seem to hold. Critical theory heavyweight Slavoj Zizek, for example, recently raked Cameron over the coals in Britain’s New Statesman in a commentary that purported to expose the “brutal racist undertones” lurking under the director’s “superficial Hollywood Marxism.”
Zizek might have been impressed (OK, probably not) to see Cameron checking his allegedly Amazon-sized ego and addressing this sort of critique head-on during his New York tour. Cameron spoke on a panel about indigenous issues at the Paley Center for Media in Manhattan, and Kozloff notes on Mongabay that the director deferred to indigenous representatives in answering many questions.
A smart move, given the climate observed by New York City’s Indypendent newspaper:
While the film was well-received by the largely indigenous audience, Cameron did field some tough questions.
[Mohawk journalist Kenneth Deer] pointed to large Hollywood films, such as Dances with Wolves, Little Big Man, Wind Talkers and Avatar, where the hero who saves the indigenous people is always a non-indigenous person. He asked Cameron why he also chose this narrative, and instantly received a large cheer from the audience.
Cameron responded, “That was one of the backlashes against the movie, that the so-called main character was not an indigenous leader himself.” However, he said that the goal in making the film was not to try to “tell indigenous people how bad things are for them,” but rather to “wake up” people who play the roles of economic oppressors or invaders in real-life. “I understand the white messiah argument,” he said, “but in this movie, I am trying to make everybody a white messiah, for everybody to have the sense of responsibility to help with the problem. I think it is such absolutely courageous how you are fighting for your rights … But it is going to take people from the other side meeting you part way and taking responsibility for what has happened in the past and the way we need to live in going forward.”
Sources: Mongabay, New Statesman, The Indypendent
Image © 2010 Atossa Soltani, courtesy of Amazon Watch.
Friday, April 16, 2010 4:34 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25 at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C. and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of international coverage.
Given America’s entanglements in the Middle East—and its ignorance regarding the region’s history—you’d think every domestic newspaper would dedicate a daily section to the Middle East’s politics, culture, and conflicts. Thankfully, Middle East Report fills the void with reliable, thorough, and courageous journalism. www.merip.org
NACLA Report on the Americas covers Latin American people and politics with the depth, nuance, and historical context rarely found in mainstream media coverage of the region. From elections to revolutions, this bimonthly is on the front lines. www.nacla.org
New Internationalist weighs the world on the scales of justice. By tapping into a vast global network of activists, the compassionately written and tightly edited magazine breathes life into the struggles, projects, and people who are working to build a better planet. www.newint.org
New Statesman is an essential touchstone for anybody seeking an international perspective on current events. The British weekly allows American readers not only to look out beyond their borders, but also to stand outside those borders as they gaze.
Peace Review presents scholarly perspectives on peace, conflict, and human rights, often returning to long-forgotten crises to offer wise analysis or check in with people on the ground. The symposium on post-genocide Rwanda (July-Sept. 2009) was peerless.www.usfca.edu/peacereview/PRHome.html
Founded between the two world wars, the PEN American Center provides a forum for writers from around the world, especially those living under repressive regimes. PEN America is both journal and virtual gathering place, where inquiring minds share exceptional fiction and poetry, compelling essays and conversation.www.pen.org
Major media outlets are shuttering their foreign bureaus, and the leftover coverage lacks perspective and nuance. Into this sorry state of affairs steps Virginia Quarterly Review, reminding us what it’s like to read about an unfamiliar place and feel like you’ve lived there long enough to both know it and feel it. www.vqronline.org
Global reportage finds a literary home at The Walrus, a Toronto-based general-interest magazine with international scope. Adventurous writing breathes life into scene-driven stories—of Bolivian miners, Persian musicians, Al-Jazeera in the West—without compromising intellectual depth. www.walrusmagazine.com
Want more? Meet our
health and wellness
, and science and techology nominees.
Friday, February 26, 2010 3:22 PM
During Lent this year, some Christians will give up sweets or booze. Will Self, a secular humanist nonbeliever, is giving up art and culture. In an essay for the New Statesman, Self explains his decision to eschew the pleasures of books, music, museums, and the internet. He writes:
In a cultural desert, the mind begins to burrow deep within itself - just as, in an actual desert, a human body seeks shelter among the rocks. Perhaps in this harshly deracinated environment you will be driven to meditate upon the transcendent, a practice that has become dreadfully unfashionable in the present era, lacking as it does the requisite aestheticism.
Source: New Statesman
, licensed under
Friday, February 12, 2010 1:20 PM
An enchantingly quiet BBC World Service radio documentary equalizes seers and non-seers, as only audio can. Low vision and blind students at the Jyvskyl School in Finland make a soundscape out of their environment in order to navigate. Tones sound to indicate building entrances and exits, outdoor "echo boards" sound distinctly to the tap of a stick, and the surfaces of the hallways are decorated with textured (and noisy) murals. Hearing the Jyvskyl School for yourself relays a reality that neither video nor words offer.
Listen to the BBC World Service Radio Documentary, "The Sound of Snow and Ice."
(Thanks, New Statesman.)
BBC World Service
Monday, June 22, 2009 3:24 PM
Conservatism is alive and well in Europe, thanks to anger over the recession and some good, old-fashioned fear-mongering. The recent European Union (EU) parliamentary elections saw major gains for center-right parties, as well as the groundbreaking election of a few far-right candidates. The Huffington Post reported that across Europe, “voters deserted left-wing parties in droves,” sparking some serious soul-searching among the Left.
According to Huffington Post, parties that gained seats included the following: Hungary’s “anti-immigration” Jobbik Party; the Greater Romania Party, “which is pro-religion, anti-gay and anti-Hungarian”; the Netherlands’ Freedom Party led by Geert Wilder, who “has called Islam's holy book, the Quran, a fascist text and made a film that linked images of terrorist attacks to Quranic verses”; and, the British National Party, whose leader, Nick Griffin, has called the Holocaust a hoax.
Can the Left save itself? David Lammy for New Statesman laments that “while D-Day veterans remembered the sacrifices of those who fought fascism, two racists from the British National Party were elected to represent us in Europe.” His analysis of what’s gone wrong with Labour and how to fix it urges politicians to abandon the blame game and focus on addressing the “deeply felt grievances of cultural loss and injustice” that permeate contemporary British society. He also acknowledges that the election results reflect larger public disillusionment with politics in general, fed by recent scandals like the abuse of expense accounts by Members of British Parliament (MPs).
Also for New Statesman, Jonathan Derbyshire takes the long view on the future of Left-wing politics. He cites the director of the left-of-center think tank Demos, Richard Reeves, who claims that Labour’s problems are too profound to fix before the next general election. Instead, they should concentrate on the “longer-term intellectual and political renewal of the progressive left.”
Sound similar to the current soul-searching among American Republicans? Perhaps British Labour and the European Left in general can take heart at the fact that, when it comes to politics, parties rise, parties fall, and what goes around comes around.
Sources: Huffington Post, New Statesman
Image by The Labour Party, licensed under Creative Commons
Thursday, June 11, 2009 2:09 PM
Behold the capercaillie, a large, elusive grouse that’s the object of much bird-watching lust across the pond. So much so, in fact, that when Victoria James sets out to spot it in the forests of Scotland, she finds the 5:30 a.m. trail crowded with hyper-competitive birders in earnest (read: non-communal) search of same. Her tale, shared in the British current affairs magazine New Statesman, is really quite funny, in particular her sharp, somewhat scientific description of her fellow bird-devotees:
For this is the dark secret of birders, normally the most affable people alive: Until the target has been spotted, it’s every man for himself. Like the object of his fascination, the male birder is both competitive and highly territorial. In the hide this morning, a successful breeding male (the dowdier female and offspring huddle nearby) has staked a prime position for his scope. Behind him, a thwarted smaller male gives a hopping, ducking display of frustration. This is war, except that all the scopes, lined up like Gatling guns, are pointing in the same direction.
Source: New Statesman
Image by Richard Bartz, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, May 18, 2009 4:56 PM
Digital technology has lowered the cost of production to the point where giving things away for free has become a legitimate business model. “Once a marketing gimmick,” writes Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail, “free has emerged as a full-fledged economy.”
The problem with this “freeconomy,” Andrew Orlowski writes for the New Statesman, is that eventually, someone is going to have to pick up the bill. Anderson and Wired are both pushing a techno-utopianism, according to Orlowski, that mixes “manifest destiny and opportunistic hucksterism.” For many years, and two economic busts, the message worked. Now, Anderson’s new book Free isn’t meeting with rave reviews, and Wired (like many magazines) is struggling to survive. Orlowski writes:
“So, perhaps the Wired era is over, departing like a snake-oil salesman at a medicine show who—having poisoned the town—can’t leave quickly enough”
Sources: Wired, New Statesman
Monday, April 06, 2009 12:35 PM
Internationally, Baaba Maal is one of Africa’s most renowned musicians. Inside his native Senegal, Baaba Maal’s role is more like an elder statesman and conflict mediator. Where he grew up in northern Senegal, Rachel Aspden writes for the New Statesman, “Master musicians become community leaders, spokesmen and arbiters of disputes; hence the audiences that queue to consult Baaba Maal after a show.”
Unlike the celebrity activists of Western culture, Baaba Maal’s roots his social work in Senagalese tradition. “We’re all part of the same community,” he says, “we just sit down and talk together.”
To watch a clip of Baaba Maal’s music, click on the video below:
Monday, February 16, 2009 5:05 PM
While rocket attacks in Gaza have subsided since a ceasefire was brokered in late January, the devastation for those living in the war zone has hardly ebbed.
Writing for the New Statesman, Sami Abdel-Shafi describes post-ceasefire Gaza as “almost exactly as it was before the war.” Abdel-Shafi continues that, “[d]esperation and hopelessness are now soaring to new levels,” and despite the death and destruction incurred by the fighting, “[t]here seems to be no victor in this war.”
Blogging for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s Untold Stories, Elliott Woods, an American reporter, describes a state of persistent fear that continues to shroud Gaza:
When I first arrived, my Gazan hosts practically wet their pants laughing when they saw how I shuddered at the sound of nearby explosions. But one of them—middle-aged, thick-necked Mahdi—later admitted to me, "We're all scared, all the time."
Now that I have been here for almost a month—mostly during the so-called cease-fire—I can feel the continual threat in my bones. It's an ever present unease, like a headache or a hangover that doesn't keep you in bed, but keeps you conscious of the fact that something isn't quite right.
Israeli attacks aren’t the only source of that “ever present unease.” According to the Guardian, Hamas has been conducting a “new and violent crackdown” on “all perceived internal opponents,” supposedly out of concern that the war weakened its grip on power in the Gaza Strip. Amnesty International alleges dozens have been murdered, beaten, or shot, though not killed.
“People are afraid to live normal lives, to express their opinions freely,” one activist told the Guardian. “There is no freedom of speech, of movement, of travelling or having real healthcare. Hamas is raising George Bush's policy: those not with us are against us.”
The United Nations reports that, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Israeli attacks killed 1,440 (pdf), injured 5,380, and displaced hundreds of thousands in Gaza. Additionally, some one million Israelis had their lives “disrupted” in some way by Hamas attacks. But post-ceasefire, getting aid to Gaza—where it’s desperately needed—has been particularly difficult (pdf) due to restrictive and inconsistent access.
Image by Al Jazeera, licensed under Creative Commons.
Sources: New Statesman, Untold Stories, Guardian, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Thursday, July 31, 2008 8:37 AM
A trio of Aussies have been teaching kids in Kabul how to skateboard, the New Statesman reports, and by year’s end they hope to establish Afghanistan’s first coed skateboarding school.
"We want to create a positive image of Afghan youth," cofounder Travis Beard told the New Statesman, "to bridge east and west, and of course the guys will learn all sorts of life skills.... But above all, it's about sport and having fun."
They call themselves Skateistan. The group has had trouble finding skateboard-friendly spots in Kabul—potholes and dust are a problem, not to mention safety and security—and they’re still looking for a space for the school.
What’s not a problem, though, is getting young people in Kabul to pick up a skateboard. "They've got more balance than Western kids, mainly because they're not scared to fall and get up again," Skateistan cofounder Oliver Percovich told the Age.
Image courtesy of Sharna Nolan/Skateistan.
Friday, June 27, 2008 5:28 PM
We’ve all received them as gifts: prettily packaged cookbooks with titles proclaiming the excellence of the food you’d be able to devour if only your pantry could store all of the items on each recipe's page-long ingredient list. Finally, someone’s calling them what they are—useless tabletop decor. Writing for British current affairs weekly the New Statesman, Nicholas Clee suggests that independent publishers (specifically the UK houses Grub Street and Prospect Books) are more apt to deliver food writing and recipes "that [are] intended to be of more than ephemeral interest."
Clee's food column sits with the magazine's hefty arts and culture section, a phenomenal collection of criticism and discussion that earned the newsweekly a 2007 Utne Independent Press Awards nomination for arts coverage. Well into 2008, the New Statesman remains a breath of fresh air on both the cultural and political fronts. The June 23 issue includes commentary on master sitar-player Salil Tripathi's farewell concert, and a review of the 1988 documentary Afghantsi, lamenting the lost art of television documentaries.
In the same issue is a discussion of Barack Obama’s "first presidency," his editorship at the Harvard Law Review back in 1990. The writer digs through some back issues of the journal and speculates that perhaps his legal career never took off because “Obama, despite being a lawyer, is a really good person.”
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 1:13 PM
The modern person is a bit confused. We look at a world on the brink of oblivion, suffering from political crises and environmental doom, and yet we attend charming dinner parties and munch on lovely marinated olives while chatting with wonderful, witty friends. We suffer from a “perception gap,” as Matthew Taylor terms it in the New Statesman: We tend to think that things in our own lives are going well, while society at large is “going to the dogs.”
Here’s just one example: Ninety-three percent of people surveyed in a recent BBC poll said that they were “optimistic about their own family life,” according to Taylor. But 70 percent believe that families are getting less successful overall, compared to nostalgic perceptions of days of old. Maybe we can blame this on a quirk of cognition that makes us zone in on bad news and filter out the good. (It’s the bad news that will kill us after all.) But Taylor sees the problem as something particular to our time.
With the rise of consumer culture, people have become more individualistic. Piled onto that is the decline of community endeavors of all kinds, from bowling leagues to churches, which has led people to see themselves as cut off from the rest of society. Finally, we now face threats of monumental proportion—terrorism, global warming, the caprice of international finance—all of which seem so big that we doubt anybody or anything can surmount them. So the lonesome modern person looks out the window of her bungalow, sees the gathering storm, and doubts anybody’s ability to halt our ineluctable slide into barbarism.
But there is cause for optimism. Taylor rattles off some of the joys of the modern era—less racism, a growing equality of the sexes, better education—and wants these developments to put our social ills in perspective. We’re actually doing pretty well, we moderns.
Taylor’s Panglossian optimism might seem unrealistic, but given the choice between self-satisfied optimism and dour pessimism, I think that the former will be a more effective outlook, if not a more realistic one. When we’re too bleak about things, problems we’re confronted with seem impossible to solve. So I choose optimism: Even if we’re wrong and the world really is going to end in the next decade, we have a better chance of changing society if we believe such a thing is possible.
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