Banned books? People Still Read?

banned

The Written Word

The most powerful invention created by humanity right after fire, agriculture and the thrown rock (though not necessarily in that order).

The written word allows us to share information across time and space. To store ideas frozen for generations for new thinkers to review, revise, and even renew. Writing connects us with our past and with the future. From the Rosetta Stone to the Gutenberg Bible, writing consistently proved its value to Humanity again and again, allowing ideas, even forbidden ones, social and cultural taboos, their chance at immortality.

If they can get by the censors. For as long as we’ve been writing, there has been someone to say: Oh my god! You can’t write that! What if <insert sheltered group here> were to see this?

Censoring knowledge, hiding the written word is not new. Books can go from being literature to being banned in less than a generation. The Steinbeck classic, The Grapes of Wrath incited rage and banning soon after its release. Today, it is taught as a classic work of early American literature. Want to see a southern sixth grade teacher foam at the mouth? Mention teaching Huckleberry Finn and watch the foam fly. America’s on again, off again love of what is arguably an American classic, Huckleberry Finn, one of Mark Twain’s most famous works, falls into and out of grace like clockwork. The list of authors who have been banned might astound you. I happened to stumble upon this excellent infographic and wanted to share it with anyone who can appreciate just how good you have to be, to be considered BAD for post-literate America.

Post-literacy is the concept of a society where almost everyone is taught to read and no one feels compelled to actually engage in reading. An unfortunate part of the recent anti-intellectualism sweeping the nation. If even one book on this list makes you curious, READ IT. I have read most of them simply because I had a more diverse education than is taught in school today. But all of these books are still available and if someone deemed it worthy of banning, you should read it just because they don’t want you to.

And because TV is lowering your IQ just by being on when you’re in the same room with it.

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Banned Book image by http://www.printerinks.com/

Book censorship in the United States.” Wikipedia.org. N.p. Web. 27 Dec. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org> 

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Poster design is ©Paul Sizer/Sizer Design + Illustration

Net Neutrality: Being Neutered by the FCC

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IF YOU AGREE, I give you permission to send this letter to every Congressman and government official you can think of. Put your name at the beginning and the end and let them know how you feel. Go to the FCC site and make them aware of your feelings as well, while there is still time. Here is a link to finding the name and email of ANY Congressman:  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

GO FORTH AND FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE!

TO: Federal Communication Commission
FM: Thaddeus Howze

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has come to my attention you propose to alter the arrangement of internet delivery for the entire nation based on the presupposition that corporations such as Comcast and Time-Warner Cable have the best interests of the citizens of these United States.

Nothing has been further from the truth for quite some time.

Both of these companies have had nothing but contempt for the common user of their services, treating them as little more than a $200 a month bill that can neither be negotiated for (offering smaller bills or ala-carte services giving users the option to pay ONLY for what they want) nor providing them with bandwidth comparable with other nations where the US is considered not only the slowest, but the least technologically innovative of the developed countries.

Singapore for example:
In January 2001, the Broadband Media Association was formed to promote the broadband industry. By April the same year there were six broadband Internet providers, with the total number of broadband users exceeding 300,000. Pacific Internet introduced wireless broadband services in October 2001.

In December 2006, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) introduced a programme named “Wireless@SG”. It is part of its Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure initiative. It offers everyone free wireless access in high human-traffic areas, including the Central Business District, downtown shopping belts like Orchard Road, and residential town centres. The access speed has been doubled to 1 Mbit/s since 1 September 2009 and the free service will continue until 31 March 2013.

In early September 2010, internet service providers in Singapore rolled out the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN) service plans. The Next Gen NBN is Singapore’s nation-wide ultra-high speed fibre network. It offers pervasive, competitively priced broadband speeds of up to 1 Gbps at comparable prices to ADSL and cable connection. Deployed 75% nationwide as of August 2011, Next Gen NBN is on track to achieve its target of 95 per cent coverage by mid-2012.

Singapore has NINE major cable company providers and the average internet speed is 100 Mbps. Citizens of this nation can get wireless communications for their technology almost anywhere. For free. They have some of the fastest connected services in the world for every citizen who has a place to live.

And just about anywhere outside of the US is faster than we are:

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Comcast is lucky when they can provide speeds at 1/10 that at anywhere near the same base cost. The government of Singapore ensures that internet monopolies like we see with Comcast and Time Warner (and their supposed merger) DO NOT HAPPEN, without giving the people of the nation an alternative. As government workers, it is incumbent upon YOU to protect the best interests of people in this nation from predation at the hands of corporations acting in collusion to exploit the vulnerability of a nation unaware of how corporate entities are able to buy access and control entities such as the FCC using lobbying.

From the point of view of common folk, it would appear that lobbyists have more say than citizens. More than 2 million citizens have spoken for Net Neutrality and yet it remains an issue for DEBATE, as if there was a MERIT TO EXTORTING THE CITIZENS OF THIS NATION for the profit of already fabulously rich corporations who act in collusion and are effectively a monopoly providing their services.

Let’s pause while we take a message from our sponsors:

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In the case of Time Warner and Comcast, both companies act as monopolies on their separate sides of the country, strangling out innovative smaller firms by tying them up in court until they can no longer compete with them. These companies have managed to lobby their way into the Congress preventing even basic intelligent discourse about the nature of the services they provide and the people who are unable to effectively voice their concerns regarding this issue.

I am a 30 year veteran of the Information Technology Industry. From telecommunications to computer system network design, I have seen it all and I have watched the systematic manipulation of the technological infrastructure of this nation fall under the dominion of large corporations slowly and steadily, particularly as their previous means of making money (Radio and later Television) have fallen from grace as the primary sources of information retrieval for the average citizen. Every time the Telecommunication industry finds itself about to regulated as Common Carriers, they find a way to manipulate the system preventing this from happening.

I am also a speculative fiction writer. I have already written a short story where the world I am watching is playing out. The creation of a process by which companies are forced to pay to have their data accelerated while other data is slowed intentionally eventually causes an imbalance to the Internet.

Programmer rage across the planet is unleashed and eventually the large corporations who strangle the internet are thus eventually strangled out of existence with denial of service attacks and other such network shenanigans. I don’t even want to imagine how the rest of the world will respond to the idea of balkanizing the Internet for the sake of PROFIT.

In that future, eventually the Internet becomes a place of sterile corporate control. Small voices are left to revive older technologies because they simply cannot afford to connect via the Internet. The Internet itself eventually fades as the voices that made it vibrant and alive lose connection, lose money, and lose interest in maintaining a structure they can no longer afford to use.

How many resources are we dependent on that are maintained strictly by people who would not be able to afford to work with due to rising costs with the overturn of Network Neutrality? Use Wikipedia lately? Maintain a blog? Like Youtube? How much of the web’s content is maintained by volunteers who would have none of the financial access this future speed-lane version of the Internet network would require?

The internet’s core principle (at least in theory) was that everyone who used it had the potential to use it at the same level. No one would or could control or dominate how information was seen, distributed, accessed or utilized; this gave the same amount of priority to a young web designer in Australia as to a large media firm in London. What you are proposing now says ISPs and Corporate Providers will control, throttle and decide WHO SHOULD BE SEEN AND HEARD based on their income and willingness to part from that cash.

Aren’t Americans already paying FAR too much for cable services? The average cable bill in the US is at least $100 and in some places as high as $200 a month for lackluster performance at best, promoting the idea that in America, WE PAY MORE AND GET LESS. Why should you now reward corporations who are NOT performing at their peak AND charging an outrageous fee already, to further abuse users of the internet and increasing their fees even further because when the content providers who are using this network have to pay more to get seen by through the corporate chokepoints, they will pass their costs onto their customers.

  • $200 a month for Comcast cable
  • $15 a month for Netflix riding Comcast Cable
  • $15 a month for Hulu riding Comcast Cable
  • $15 a month for Amazon riding Comcast Cable

So we are looking at $245 right now. You allow this NETWORK EXTORTION PROTOCOL to take place and here is what happens:

  • $220 a month for Comcast cable (they have no competition and now they control the providers too.)
  • $20 a month for Netflix riding Comcast Cable (pay more or be left behind, spread costs)
  • $25 a month for Hulu riding Comcast Cable (huge library, need to compete with Netflix, charges more)
  • $20 a month for Amazon riding Comcast Cable (not making money yet, wants to appear competitive)

In a month, my bill will shoot to $285 and I will have receive NOT A SINGLE BIT OF IMPROVEMENT IN SERVICE!

Since Comcast/Time-Warner has no competitors, in the next year they can and likely will raise my bill again, WITHOUT A NEED TO IMPROVE ANYTHING. Since by definition, they are a MONOPOLY and don’t have any competition to speak of. In the area I live in THERE IS NO COMPETITION for Comcast.

So in less than a year I can expect to pay even more for cable than I do already, see no improvement in my services, increase the cost of my service providers who are being forced to pay more by a company that is already so rich it can afford to tie its competition up in court using nuisance lawsuits until they go out of business.

This has become the mantra of these United State: PAY MORE, GET LESS.

THIS IS NOT A BUSINESS MODEL, IT IS AN EXTORTION RACKET. Is this the business of our government? Because if it is, you are setting not only a poor example for business, you are perpetuating a crime against the American people by allowing big business to dictate to YOU, what laws should exist and how YOU BETTER ENFORCE THE ONES THEY LIKE. Extortion is the process government is supposed to PREVENT, not abet.

It is possible you have forgotten what Net Neutrality was supposed to be doing. I have included a video in plain English of what you need to consider when you talk about this issue and its ramifications to the common man. The common man who is depending on you to PROTECT HIM FROM BEING EXTORTED UNDER THE GUISE OF BUSINESS. Watch the link, learn something you never considered and if you have, then why am I writing this letter? IT CAN’T BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.

What Net Neutrality means in plain language:

http://bit.ly/1hS66sD

I say to you as the men and women who will direct the Congress’ decision on the need for Net Neutrality: While it is easy for you to look at the words of lobbyists and hear the dollars they offer you (however indirectly they may arrive at your doorstep) and feel you are making a good decision. I say to you, NAY. You have been lied to, with the blandishments of people who know more than they are telling you, are certain they are making the decision that will make THEM the most money, while providing the least quality service for everyone ELSE involved.

It is incumbent upon you all to go outside of your circles and ask not just the citizens, but the ISPs who are the middlemen in all of this, how they have been mislead and misused by telecommunication giants who, flexing their financial muscle control who sees what and why. Is this your fight? You betcha. You, as the FCC, are obligated to watchdog the foxes who are trying to take their place in the henhouses of American’s homes taking every last egg they can find while you stand outside wondering why don’t you see any foxes.

To be honest, I am ashamed of the corporate behaviors I see being enacted. They are short-sighted because when you look at the internet, the bounty it has given to everyone who has grown rich on it, has been because it has been CREATED EQUAL. That everyone using it, provided they can get access, has the same ability to communicate across it.

To undermine net neutrality is to tell everyone around the world, the alphabet may have 26 letters but you will only get to use half of them. Unless you pay us for the rest of the letters. How does America compete against a world where they have the rest of the alphabet and we don’t because Comcast, Time-Warner, Dish Networks, AT&T and any other major lobbying contributor thinks they should make money before the rest of the world should.

You want to change the world, ladies and gentlemen? You want to be remembered?

Then the decision you make today, must be the one that enables EVERYONE to continue to compete on an equal playing field with the entire alphabet, armed with the tools and the knowledge to shoot the foxes who might otherwise undermine our very nation’s future for the sake of profit.

Those corporations are unsustainable. They need an ever-increasing amount of cash to grow. Are you prepared to risk all of our futures on a corporation who by definition MUST DIE ONCE THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO EAT?

Consider the future, just this one time and tell these companies, our ability to communicate with each other, equally without being extorted, is simply not for sale EVER. At any price.

Thank you for considering my proposal. I would be happy to testify at any time if it would make this last bastion of communication able to remain free.

Sincerely,

Thaddeus Howze

22456 Sonoma Street,
Hayward CA, 94541,
510-910-3912,
ebonstorm@gmail.com

REFERENCES: WIRED Magazine: 

Websites Throttle FCC Staffers to Protest Gutting of Net Neutrality: http://www.wired.com/2014/05/fcc-throttling/

 

John Oliver will help you understand what is really at risk. Yes, you will laugh, but he is deadly serious. But go ahead and laugh. I wrote my article before he gave this skit BUT he agrees with me on almost EVERY POINT.

 

Cain’s Legacy

Cain’s Legacy (or why mankind has a dubious future at best)

How the world works

The source of this image is unknown to me. But the genius of the artist shouts out a truth that cannot be ignored.

“Power goes to those most willing to be and do the most heinous things to their fellow man. If you are without shame, without conscience, without moral compass, you can rise to the peak of ‘human’ achievement, such as it is, and take your place as a leader among men, a monster above those not willing to stare into the abyss that has already consumed you. This is Cain’s Legacy.”

Let me say that again for you in relationship to the modern world.

POWER, the ability to:

  • alter society at large, literally change the world through the exercise of their economic, political or social resources,
  • manipulate our environment and create catastrophic events beyond our ability to foresee the consequences of
  • make decisions which affect the nature of the world at large,
  • for good or ill, affect the lives of billions is now part of the human experience and relegated to an elite few. As few as 400 people control bulk of the world’s wealth
  • be unconcerned for the consequences of said exercises of power. To be above any legal, social or economic responsibility for the exercise of that power.

This elite few:

  • who instead of considering the conservation of nature for the greatest number
  • fail to realize that they are now responsible for the entire human species.
  • They fail to realize any decision or lack thereof can conceivably doom us all.
  • in their current role as masters of resources, wealth and social control,  prefer to drain the Earth of its resources, harvest natural bounties and exploit the labors of those not fortunate enough to be born into wealth.
  • promote the meme of meritocracy knowing they do not personally subscribe to it. There is no merit that helps you rise to the top, only the ruthlessness necessary to say and do anything to anyone.

But this is not entirely their fault. (What?) Bear with me a moment.

There is no training for becoming powerful. (Not an excuse, just an observation)

There is no class for directing the flow of wealth at the scales it is done today. All of the kings of old, their wealth, power and influence pales in comparison to that being wielded by our new corporate kings and their economic fiefdoms. Science and human nature are still learning about how compassion, humanity, and empathy are affected by our environment, our upbringing, our training, our use or lack of use of drugs which alter our mental chemistry.

WE HAVE NO COURSEWORK ON HOW TO BE HUMAN.  How to be good to each other, how to see each other as viable no matter our origins. We promote competition literally until death can be the only result.

WAR IS COMPETITION’S ULTIMATE STATE. When two groups cannot come to an agreement beneficial to both, if the groups are large enough, entrenched enough, then WAR is the result. We fight until we destroy the opposition, even if their perspective may bear more than a kernel of truth.

This is Cain’s Legacy. We kill our brothers rather than find commonality with them.

This innate blindness, this acculturated inhumanity to each other does not have to be our only path to the future.

What if we spent as much on peace and education as we did on war? 

  • Could we not make the same profits? (I think so. And then some.)
  • Could we not improve our quality of life? (Most assuredly and for more than just an elite few.)
  • Could we not find cures for dementia, cancer, AIDS? (It would be nice; we haven’t cured anything since polio…)
  • Could we effectively address the recursive problem of employment where automation removes jobs faster than we can make new ones?
  • If we were better educated, could we stop depending on superstition to make decisions about our bodies, our lives and the disposition of the world’s resources?
  • Could we finally address the most important issue in our human history, our burgeoning population that continues to explode without a means of dealing with the need for resources to maintain those new numbers?

There are more and more problems every year but we continue to spend money on the same things that keep us in the exact same place we are now; ignorant, arrogant, petulant and recalcitrant.

The same way we learned to use power and influence to manipulate the world, we could instead harness empathy and realize for us to make the world better, it will require the best EVERY PERSON CAN BE, the best every person can find within themselves, to selflessly discover new solutions to old problems.

We will need to come to the conclusion at every life, no matter how humble has the same potential as the greatest king, sitting anywhere in the world. Because until we do that, everything we do only delays the inevitable extinction of mankind. You don’t believe me.

You think I engage in hyperbole? I think not. I present exhibit 1 below, your honor. Watch the video below from beginning to end and ask me again when it is done whether I exaggerate. Realize everything you see here is happening all over the world. NO PLACE IS EXEMPT.

VICE AND VIRTUES

Watching an episode of VICE this week reminded me just how out of order our world is and how many people die every day without an understanding of a world beyond the one they are confined and limited to seeing.

Murder is a tool, hopelessness and fear, merely lieutenants in a war for the souls of men in a battle to manipulate, exploit, and control resources, in pursuit of wealth in a fruitless attempt to forestall death and personal suffering.

IT IS MADNESS to forfeit the future for the present.

IT IS MADNESS to use your children as explosives in a war that no one can win.

IT IS MADNESS to plow the forest into the ground and call it progress.

IT IS MADNESS to trap and slaughter billions of animals in conditions which breed diseases that escape into our environment and kill us and call it agriculture.

IT IS MADNESS to use oil and coal and radioactive materials whose potential consequences will be responsible for the deaths of billions when we have other choices.

IT IS MADNESS to subsidize technologies like hydraulic fracturing which use the world’s most precious resource, fresh water, to subsidize further mega-corporate wealth.

IT IS MADNESS to indenture children in diploma mills and having them toil for low pay while executives pass by them homeless in the streets at the end of the day.

IT IS MADNESS to make a government that can be bought by lobbyists who in their zeal to deregulate their industry fail to note the lack of safeguards when they do.

IT IS MADNESS to say we can’t cut military spending when there are no wars, except when YOU make them…

IT IS MADNESS to deny healthcare to millions when the politicians denying them have the very best healthcare in the world, at no cost to them.

IT IS MADNESS to deny the benefits of natural drugs like marijuana, while allowing pharmaceutical companies the option to avoid being responsible if their drugs kill people.

IT IS MADNESS to spy on your populace, tell them you aren’t spying and then punish anyone who proves the lies you have told as the lies that they are.

IT IS MADNESS to teach your people to be proud of their ignorance, to misinform them under the guise of news and use religion as a means of retarding intelligent discourse about anything.

IT IS MADNESS to create false divisions between people under the guise of race, religion, creed and to make them appear to be significant enough to kill each other over.

IT IS MADNESS to wage war, economic, social, religious, cultural or political when people starve in your streets for want of leadership and vision.

IT IS MADNESS to base your society on a mantra like “Greed is Good.”

IT IS MADNESS to mortgage the future to live well in the present.

IT IS MADNESS to fear the future enough to kill the present.

IT IS MADNESS to believe fear can ever lead to love.

IT IS MADNESS to believe lies can ever lead to truth.

SHEER MADNESS.

VICE on HBO: Episode 1 – Killer Kids

CISPA – When privacy is no longer private

This website is red and black against the passage of CISPA legislation.

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Anonymous has called for an Internet blackout to protest CISPA, the much maligned cybersecurity bill that threatens your privacy more than it protects it. But without the support of Reddit, which co-sponsored last year’s SOPA blackout, the Web isn’t listening.

About 200 hundred sites have joined the #CISPABlackout today in protest of CISPA, which last week passed the House of Representatives. That may sound like a big number, but the list mostly consists of small sites within the hacker community. That’s a big contrast to the last year’s SOPA protests, which drew support from huge organizations like Google and Wikipedia.

Exceptions include the nonprofit Fight for the Future, which has tweeted solidarity but has not blacked out its site. Another is Stan Lee’s Comikaze, the comic book convention backed by the former Marvel Comics head honcho, which has blacked out its site.

And as usual, everyone says, what does this have to do with me? Nothing. Not a thing, as long as you are completely willing to be able to have your work online, seized without warning, without recourse and often without explanation. This may happen through no fault of your own, your provider may have inadvertently found themselves mixed up in a government investigation having nothing to do with you. Worse, they won’t have to tell you anything. EVER. Your info is simply out of reach.

Your data, however, may be held until such time the government deems you not involved, or maybe never. And I have a problem with this very premise. With so much of our data now out there swirling among the data clouds being created at breakneck speeds with no consideration for whose data is mingling with whom, how can anyone be sure any action taken by the government against any single provide may not have repercussions for many innocent people caught in the cross-fire. CISPA like its evil cousin SOPA is wrong.

Don’t support it. Don’t allow it to be passed. Call your Congressional representative and let them know what you think. While you are still allowed to voice your opinion in public…

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References:

How capitalism is turning the internet against democracy, and how to turn it back

News-washing: How fact-free is your news today?

News-washing: A trend that creates a populace unable to make decisions in its own best interests.

News-washing is a portmanteau of a similar vein to brain-washing. I created it to discuss the idea in which events take place that should be turned into news. The event should be described as accurately as possible, as devoid of emotional involvement as possible. This information should then be coupled with the potential ramifications to the people closest to the event, any witnesses and potential participants as well as how it will affect the circumstances locally. As news agencies propagate this information, the relationship of this information related to the people who are having the news distributed to them should be made relevant without distorting the event, or news about the event in relationship to the receiver of the news.

Though the graphic above is relatively self-explanatory I thought I would include how it came to be. In the military, I was trained as an observer, to be able to render an event in an ordered fashion, remaining aware of things like time, placement of people, resources, equipment and events. It is important because your life may depend on what happened in what order and a decision based on those observations can be critical. When I began working as a civilian with the police department, I discovered the ability of the average person to observe events varied widely.

Most people are NOT trained to be aware of how events unfold and during an interview with twenty people regarding an event, you will have twenty different accounts. This is why the police will take statements from everyone they can AND gather evidence to piece together what actually took place.

This is a similar process to what is done for news reporting except with one vital variation: The news grows less effective, less accurate and more distorted the further you are from the event. The best event is one where the journalist (the supposed objective and trained observer) sees it and hopefully without bias reports the event as it happens. Of course, film helps but is no guarantee of objectivity. But once the reporter has done their job, the news is subjected to an potential array of forces, postive and negative:

  • The editor is the first force that controls what is important is and how it is portrayed. They may decide to not report the event or to change the emphasis of the event.
  • The company’s particular slant on the news. If they have a company bias, or an organizational bias, the news article’s commentary may not reflect the event.
  • If it is an issue of national security, it may never see the light of day at all. The military may control what is seen or heard or may send misinformation if its in the “best interest of the nation.”
  • There may also be the conversion of news to propaganda if it serves national or corporate interests to do so.
  • The effectiveness of these tactics may also be augmented by the number of times the news is repeated, repetition is believed to build credibility even if it isn’t true.
  • Resonance is how news may be interpreted by viewers/readers with extensive backgrounds. Their interpretations can either cloud or make clear, important topics to the layreader.
  • Amplitude is the quality of that news service overall. Do they or are they known for producing news that is accurate, high quality and respected by others journalists, organisations or readers.

These six forces are the primary forces affecting our news today. As such, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know who is telling you what and why. So my advice is simple. TRUST NO ONE. Verify everything you can with as many reputable sources as you can. Treat news like you would Wikipedia. Everyone who writes in it isn’t your friend, or knowledgeable or for that matter has an objective point of view.

The hidden agendas of corporate media can lead to strange manipulations of how events may be seen. The chief force in this transformation of news media has been the 24 hour news cycle. Forced to report on news all day long, has made the media, hungry for topics, and often less responsible in these days of needing more news and having less staff, less resources and more responsibility for the bottom line.

News is supposed to hold people long enough for them to see commercials. That is the reality of your news corporations. It’s the primary reason news has become more like info-tainment rather than information.

Unfortunately, much of the world’s events, things that should make it into the mediasphere are instead hidden either as state secrets or corporate secrets held in collusion, often with the consent of governments.

I have watched as:

  • Information that should be in the mainstream media remains unseen or minimally reported
  • Information is watered down with less pertinent facts, personal opinion or through distribution agencies removing news elements via their corporate requirements.
  • Events that should be covered are completely ignored and only covered on smaller networks.
  • Events that have less significance are given greater news coverage.
  • Information from events is covered up, hidden or declared a state secret preventing it from becoming news for general consumption.

I am so suspicious of news media these days, I check and double check information I see everywhere. But since no source is perfect, it is good to have a variety of places to go to. Here is my short news source list. I will add to it when I get a moment. Share yours or dispute mine…

I am open to hearing how you think news-washing is accomplished and what we can do to get more news that isn’t in the hands of megacorporations or billionaires who control media, lock, stock and barrel. The best way to stay ahead of the curve is to be and remain informed. With that in mind, I want to close with an awesome monologue from The Newsroom. How many of the facts that get rattled off do YOU know personally? Brace yourselves. Reality isn’t pretty.

The Death of Diversity (in Comics)

Found an article near and dear to me by a writer named Dara Naraghi, who is both a writer and lover of the comic genre. After reading his article I knew I would have to share it again since it touched on issues of diversity in the DC Universe, a subject I have written on several times in the past, Superhero Diversity and Where are the powerful Black Superheroes, but bears sharing again. So without further ado, please welcome Dara Naraghi.

First, a bit of background for those of you who don’t follow superhero comics: a couple of weeks ago, DC Comic published Aquaman #7, written by Geoff Johns, one of the most prominent and popular writers in the superhero genre, and Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics. In it, he introduced a brand new superheroine to the DC universe by the name of Kahina the Seer.

Kahina the Seer, art by Joe Prado

On page 1 of the comic, we see her running for her life from Aquaman’s mortal enemy, Black Manta. She puts up a good fight, but by page 7, she is defeated.

Page 7, art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

On page 8, we find out that she’s Iranian.

Page 8, art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

And yes, she’s also killed off.

What follows is an open letter to Geoff Johns, adapted and slightly reworked from a similar note I sent to the book’s editor, Pat McCallum.

Dear Mr. Johns,

After reading Aquaman #7, I felt the need to share my thoughts on a topic close to my heart. To that end, allow me to very briefly share my background with you: I’m an Iranian-American writer, a lifelong fan of the medium of comics, and a big fan of the DC characters. I have over 10 years of published works to my credit, from self-published stories to comics and graphic novels from Dark Horse, Image, IDW, and DC Comics. My DC Comics contribution was a Spectre story set in Tehran, Iran, for the DC Universe Holiday Special 2010 #1, edited by Mike Carlin.

Needless to say, when I saw that a new superheroine introduced in Aquaman #7 was an Iranian woman, I was very excited. As far as I know, the only other Iranian character in the (pre-52) DCU was the villain Rustam (who, ironically, was named after the most famous and popular HERO from Iranian literature). So you can imagine my frustration and extreme disappointment when this new hero, Kahina, was summarily killed a mere 8 pages after being introduced!

Please understand, this is not one of those “DC Comics is racist/xenophobic” essays that you’ve undoubtedly encountered countless times in the recent past. I’ve been happy with, and supportive of, DC’s attempt at diversifying their universe with a sizable number of comics starring minority and female characters in the “New 52″ relaunch of books. But I just don’t understand the logic behind creating a new minority hero – one from a country and culture that’s often misrepresented in today’s media as “evil” – only to have her killed upon her first appearance. What purpose did her death serve, other than being a mere plot point?

In doing so, you deprived your readership of a character utterly unique by virtue of her ethnic background, a character different than the thousands of others in the DC universe. Imagine the new storytelling venues opened up to you and other DC writers, had this character been allowed to continue her adventures in your fictional universe. With Iran in the news cycle as of late, here was a chance to add an element of verisimilitude to DC Comics, and start something bold and unconventional.

I’m not asking that DC Comics create a plethora of Iranian characters, or that they should only be portrayed as heroes, or even that once created, they should never be killed. I understand narrative needs, primary characters and supporting ones, emotional beats and motivation. But when there are absolutely NO characters of a certain ethnic or cultural background in your stories, to casually kill off the ONLY example of one, after a mere 8 pages, seems very counterproductive to me. It’s a disservice to your audience, a step back in your strides towards diversity, and just reinforces the negative stereotypes about the stunted development of superhero comics.

I know that because of my background, I’m much closer to this situation than the majority of your readers, but I don’t feel that invalidates my thoughts on the matter. Embracing multiculturalism not only offers a wealth of new storytelling possibilities, but it also distinguishes them from the hundreds of other alternatives in the marketplace, and opens them up to a wider marketplace.

I hope that you will consider my thought on this topic in the spirit that they were written: not to condemn, but hopefully to illuminate.

Sincerely,
Dara Naraghi

After reading his letter, I was moved to respond and my response is an emotional one (emotional by my standards, your mileage may vary). If you find his letter moves you, you can leave a response at his blog. Trolls need not apply. We already know what you think.

Dara Naraghi,

I support your letter, plan to send it to everyone I know and ask them to say the same thing that you did. I was a long term fan of DC Comics (over 40 years buying them) and had intended to raise my son reading them, hoping to inspire him the same way they once inspired me to write. I am a science fiction and fantasy writer and think about our relationships to each other both racially (since race is just a concept used to oppress diverse groups I tend to ignore it) and culturally, since culture is more significant and often based around geography, it has a bit more relevance. The death of this character while seemingly insignificant to the writer could have major significance to a reader, like you, who identified with the character and felt painfully both the idea that she did not exist before now (and should have) and now does not exist again (seconds after she gave you hope of a new day dawning where her culture might be acknowledged as anything other than a bad thing).

I am a Black Man in America and no longer have the benefit of the illusion of parity in this culture. I know I will never see it. But I live for the day when I am not asking for anything that White writers and by proxy White superheroes don’t get by being White. I would like the same chance to develop as a person, with the expectation of being heard, of being considered a person with feelings, not a statistic to be killed when a convenient death is required.

There was no need to create Kahina the Seer if the only goal was to kill her. There was no reason to make her a person of color if your goal was to kill her. All that says to people of color (at the subconsciously level) is you matter less than the story I am telling, less than my promotion of stereotypes and mindsets of “White Superiority” and that in the end, you, as a “Person of Color or Culture Outside My Own”, don’t matter. Please don’t bother writing responses refuting this, all of you trolls who will read this. I will not be affected one way or the other. I am now beyond that. I wrote this letter for Mr. Dara Naraghi who expressed his concerns eloquently and should know despite the piss-poor support he has received in the comments of his letter, that he was heard by someone who understood his pain.

You would think with things in the US being as racially charged as they are in the last months (if you read this at a later date, today was the same day Mr. Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder of Trayvon Martin, but was unable to be arrested since he had been let go by the police department the same day as the alleged murder took place back in February 2012) and anyone publishing anything might consider what a statement this particular event in their books might take.

On the other hand, one of the benefits of White Privilege is never having to acknowledge anyone else’s culture but your own. And when you discount other cultures, you are right to do so, because only your ideals, your dreams, your people’s right to exist in all forms of media, matter. Everyone else is an extra on your stage to be discarded at will. So, as poignant and significant as your letter might be, I suspect it will fall upon deaf ears, used to hearing only how wonderful it is to be White in America and responsible to no one but themselves.

I salute you, Dara Naraghi. Anything you write, I will find and support. It is rare to be a person of conscience in an age of conceit and vanity.

If you have been insulted by what I’ve said, examine yourself. If you hate me because I speak the truth as I see it, know this: If you hate me because I am Black, know that I did not choose it, especially knowing how much this culture hates Black men, I would have chosen to be something, anything else.

But, and this is the more important point, I did not choose to be what I am, hating me is a choice YOU made. Continuing to hate me and people like me, is a choice you perpetuate. The true stigma in this is yours, not mine. I could not choose. You could. You chose poorly. You chose to vilify your fellow man about a thing he could not change. You perpetuate your hatred in your media, though you will not call it that. “I’m just telling my story,” is how you rationalize it. And that sir, is history. “His Story.”

Is it important to show People of Color in science fiction?

Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko, Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The simple answer to this question is yes. Despite the homo-social tendencies of the science fiction media (books, movies, comics, and television) which are then marketed to sub-cultures, People of Color not only exist but make up the bulk of the human experience, despite what you may see in modern media.

Let’s put this another way. Projected into the future, our modern society would likely be much more colorful than predicted by Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek with a far greater distribution of People of Color onboard the less politically-correct Enterprise of the Future. And before I get rants from Trekkers (Trekkies), I have much respect for Star Trek. The show at least tried to present people of color somehow making it to the future as something other than a snack for the monster of the week or as space janitors.

If Trek truly represented our modern world thrown forward, we would likely have seen more people of color in command positions, more Indians, more Chinese, simply because, allowing for three hundred years, we would expect much of our current world’s cultural disparity to have been ironed out, replaced with people doing the job because they were capable, not because it was expected we would see only Caucasians in positions of power because they were funding the show, viewing the show, or producing the show. When seen in the light of marketing, Star Trek still promoted the idea of the supremacy of the Caucasian heroic model endemic of modern science fiction. (To be fair, it did improve with age, allowing women to command ships and even to put a Black Man in command. Took nearly three decades, first Star Trek debuts in 1966, Commander Sisko appears on DS9 as a regular in a command role in 1993.)

Cover for Son of Heaven, a book from the Chung Kuo series.

Perhaps if we were to be more honest, the future might look a lot more like a book series called Chung Kuo, that posits an eventual domination of China and other Asian cultures completely taking control of the human experience through both a rigorous development of their human potential and the downfall of a decadent Western Civilization. Truth be told, that, at the moment, seems to be a much more likely model. It is a brilliant series of books to read. (Yes, it was very long, with quite a few characters, but if you like political science fiction, you will love Chung Kuo.)

It is important to show People of Color in our science fiction because we are here. On Earth. Right now.

We did not vanish into obscurity in the past, nor will we disappear from it in the future. Like it or not, the future of the world, much like the past of the world, will be defined by People of Color. The question might really be: Why can’t everyone have an equal opportunity to make it into the future, have an equal opportunity to be heroic or cowardly, genius or idiot, socially well adapted or psychopathic and maladjusted with equal frequency in our media?

We know the real reason already. The Heroic Myth has been co-opted to not allow Heroes of Color. Yes, I said it. What are you going to do about it?

That’s what I thought. Nothing. Ask modern publishers or movie-makers. They reply with:

“It’s too dangerous. They’re not marketable. We won’t be able to sell that. Who ever heard of a powerful Black male superhero. No one would believe it. If you made the lead character, White, I could move that for you. No one wants to read about Heroes of Color. Can you be more black? You can’t sell that here. Mexicans can’t be heroes. Only Asians do kung-fu. Who wants to see a movie about Native Americans? Stereotypes are easier to write about. You have to have a Caucasian on the cover. Movies with all Black casts can’t make back their money. We can only sell movies about native people with a Caucasian lead.”

All sound familiar? Oh, they might not if you haven’t ever tried to do anything with a Person of Color in it. But if you have, you will know the sound of one or all of these refrains.

Listen. Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound you heard when that statue of Lenin was being torn down. It’s the same sound you heard when they tore down the Berlin Wall. The same one you heard in Egypt, and in Greece and in Spain, in 2011. It’s the same one you heard when people Occupied the United States in protest.

You might not be familiar with it. It is the sound of revolution.

It is the sound of people having enough. Their rage with being put on the side of history. People are not condiments. You do not use them to flavor YOUR life. They are not meant to add color to your media, the same way you might add a purple cabbage to your green salad. People of Color are life itself.

Sanaa Latham as Alexa Woods in AVP

Your media may deny it. But Nollywood knows better. So does Bollywood. How are those newspapers selling these days? How about those publishing houses? Comics? The comic and print industries are scrambling like insects during a fumigation. Your model of exclusion is ending. People want to be heard. People want to be acknowledged. People want to be Heroes. People of Color want to live to the end of the movie. The People want to be Seen. Admired. Loved. Respected. Acknowledged. For their contributions, for their histories, for their suffering, for their triumphs, but more than anything for their Humanity.

We are as People of Color, writers of Color, science fiction authors, are fighting to acknowledge we Exist. We will be here in the future, in whatever form that future takes. That the future will depend on us as much as it will depend on (insert Caucasian hero here) to save the day. Hannibal turned the tide of battle, China had a history and culture that has lasted 3000 years unconquered by outside forces, the Mayans created one of the most accurate calendars on Earth, Egypt was one of the greatest hubs of science, trade and commerce on the African continent and the world. Like it the world now depends on the people of Chile to grow food, or the South American nations to protect the Amazon as one of the last storehouses of the world’s bio-diversity. Our future will also depend on People of Color.

People of Color are not an afterthought in the novels of Caucasian writers. We are shaping the world.

There are 800 million people living in the nation of India. There are at least 1000 million (1+billion) people living in China. 500 million living in Africa, 500 million or more in South and Central America. People of Color are not going to go away. As knowledge is democratized, so will opportunity spread. So will innovations, creativity, productivity. One day, the West’s ability to create and dominate the world, may be surpassed in one of these nations. People forget the United States rose to power in a near socio-political vacuum. The world was in a terrible state of repair after World War II, there was no real competition then.

Pay attention. That has ended.

Those nations have recovered. Each of them filled with people who want to see themselves portrayed as heroes. Filled with the same drive and ambition we possessed in the West. See Singapore, Beijing, Taipei, Japan as examples of the masterful harnessing of human potential. The West should be quaking in its cowboy boots. But it won’t. Its belief in Western Superiority is complete and less and less valid in a world filled with motivated People of Color.

Let’s close with a chilling quote from the masters of assimilation: “We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” This is the future of the West. Cold. Mechanical. Clockwork. We are all cogs in the machine. Know your place. Surrender your individuality. Serve the machine and its hidden masters.

I do not accept this.

People of Color exist despite the pretense in Western media that we do not. And if the West is not careful, it may find history will mark the passing of White Supremacy and its Western pathology of deleting People of color from history with tales of fiction about the Caucasians who could not adapt to the reality of their eventual blending and dissolution back into the melting pot that are People of Color.

We better hope those motivated People of Color where ever they may be find a way to change our future. The world as we know it, is looking pretty grim. We need new thinking to have a future at all.

People of Color, write your revolution. Save our Future. Resistance is never futile. Fight for every word.

Thaddeus Howze Atreides
@ebonstorm (twitter)
@ebonstorm@gmail.com

Thaddeus Howze, Authoris a veteran of the IT and Communications industry with over 26 years of experience retooling computers to best serve human needs. Unknown to humanity, our computers have another agenda. Thaddeus recently released his first collection of short stories, Hayward Reach. In a coded format, he has secretly informed Humanity of the impending computerized apocalypse. You can read parts of the code here: https://ebonstorm.wordpress.com or http://ebonstorm.weebly.com

Part of a series of essays on: The State of Black Science Fiction.
Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event

Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer – is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler’s Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world’s first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled – Immortal Fantasy. Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: http://blakelyworks.blogspot.com/ or http://blakelyworkstudio.weebly.com/

L. M. Davis, Author – began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers: A Shifters Novel will be released this spring. For more information visit her blog: http://shiftersseries.wordpress.com/ or her website www.shiftersnovelseries.com.

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him: www.mvmediaatl.com and www.wagadu.ning.com.

Margaret Fieland, Author – lives and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines: http://tinyurl.com/LifelinesPoetry/is available from Amazon.com  Her book, “Relocated,” will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy,” will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website, http://www.margaretfieland.com.

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author – is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: http://valjeanne.wordpress.com and http://qandvaffordableediting.blogspot.com/

Alicia McCalla, Author – writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012. The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at: www.aliciamccalla.com

Carole McDonnell, Author – She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction. Visit Carole: http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/ or http://writersofcolorblogtour.blogspot.com/

Balogun Ojetade, Author – of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: TheChronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him: http://chroniclesofharriet.wordpress.com/

Rasheedah Phillips, Author – is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog, AstroMythoLosophy.com.

Nicole Sconiers, Author – is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage. Visit her: http://nicolesconiers.com/index.html

Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. – is owner & operator of TheDigitalBrothers.com, BlackScienceFictionSociety.com & BlackCommunityEntertainment.com. Visit him: http://www.blacksciencefictionsociety.com/profiles/blog/list?user=2stjwb1h216fd