#59, don’t look

March 25, 2017

In “How Do I (Not) Look? Live Feed Video and Viral Black Death,” July 20, 2016, after the viral visibility of the Diamond Reynold’s live feed video of Philando Castile’s brutal death at the hands of the police, I wrote some #100hardtruths that must still figure:

“We come to this cultural, political and media onslaught as individuals but, it is my contention that each of us must take responsibility for our own acts of looking. When we look (or write) we engage in the regimes of visibility—complex networks of power, ownership, and access that frame our viewing and knowing—that surround and inform violence. Accounting for our place, our needs, our actions in the face of viral videos of murder is one within a constellation of necessary ethical and political acts. This is particularly true because it may feel like our current media conditions of onslaught and abundance allow us no choices at all. When we have the choice to look, we are bound ethically and politically to what we witness and what we do with all we have seen. Below is a brief primer of ways to understand how or why we might (not) look.”

Image adapted from Diamond Reynolds’ video

In that article, I share these principled positions: Don’t Look, Look Askance, Look at Death, and Look at Death’s Platforms and connect these to deeper traditions of thinking about practices of looking.

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This #100hardtruths was shared with me by my friend, and the new media theorist and practitioner, Anne Balsamo:

“Two people, both citizens, one votes, the other can’t, but is more significantly impacted by the outcome of the 2016 election.

I vote for my sister Laura who is a 54 year old woman with an IQ of 40, which puts her at the level of a pre-kindergarten child. She is a natural born citizen of the United States who has been 100% disabled from the day of birth. She lives in a group home with six other intellectually disabled women in a suburb of Chicago. She works by helping deliver Meals on Wheels. She makes $20.00 per month, which she spends on movies, clothes, radios, and dolls. From the age of 25 she has been supported by Social Security and Medicaid. Two years ago she had heart surgery to repair a congenital heart defect. Medicaid paid for the entire procedure. She has no other insurance options. A private insurer, we were told, would NOT have paid for the operation because of her intellectual disability. This is the hard truth that my family has always known: the market place of services (health, education, etc) does not value Laura’s life. She has never been, nor ever will be productive according to their templates. In that market place, the value of her life is literally zero. Laura is alive because of federal social care programs. Laura matters because she is our family. I pay taxes to fund the services she and others like her need to stay alive. I vote her interest, because she cannot.”

Read More: Ripped from the Headlines (March 22, 2017)

People with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities have the same basic legal, civil and human rights as other citizens. They may need accommodation, protection and support to enable them to exercise these rights. Their rights should never be limited or restricted without due process.


Claire Wardle is the Research Director of First Draft, a nonprofit dedicated to building tools and resources to help people verify the information they are finding online, writes in “How to spot a fake news site in 10 steps“:

“There are ways to quickly discern whether a site falls into the “fake news” category. But because we usually find individual stories on our social media feeds rather than going directly to a website, it can be difficult to differentiate the real from the fabricated. Our brains are overwhelmed by information coming at us from all directions, and we have trouble differentiating between sources on social media. We need to constantly remind ourselves to stop and analyze before we share a story.”

She expands on her ten steps in this article:

1. Check the web address.

2. Research the name of the site.

3. Look for visual clues.

4. Be wary of too many ads.

5. Look for markers of established news sites.

6. Check the “About” page.

7. Run the main photo through Google Images’ reverse image search.

8. Check when and where the site was registered.

9. Fact-check specific claims.

10. Be wary of overly sensational or emotional headlines.

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This #100hardtruth was shared with me by the artist, Natalie Bookchin:

“Silicon Valley has their cake and wants to eat it too. The tools they create, promote, and that enrich them have been instrumental in creating the mess we are now in. These faux-populists claim that they and their tools are anti-institutional and countercultural, giving the people a voice and a choice and challenging the hegemony of mainstream institutions. But entrepreneurial capitalism is their only true religion and the only agent of change. As they congratulate themselves on changing the world, and on their hard work and entrepreneurial rigor, and as they dream of space travel, moon walks, eternal life, and superintelligence, they are blind and deaf to the rubble left in their wake: from rampant sexism in their companies, the autocratic rule of the white elite, increasing inequality, loss of jobs, to a bolstered and strengthened surveillance state and market. Deep in their hearts they know it is not likely to end well, and they have prepared their escape – from bunkers in New Zealand, to the sea and intergalactic travel.”

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In 5 #hardtruths and 2 new pledges @#50 I wrote, “choose to know, name, and share your own internet truths. We all know truths about this internet—the place in which we swim, live, and drown daily. Naming our truths to ourselves and others—how our lives here feel, how they mean, what we want, who we know, follow and trust—is a vital step in building critical media literacy.” When I wrote this, I meant to differentiate between objective or scientific or journalistic facts and the deeper sustaining beauty of truth, between data and information and the more human ethics of personal, political, and communal knowledge.

Then, a few days later, without planning to, I did something else: I performed a version of personal internet truth sharing in “#55: choose to be digitally productive rather than reactive” when I found myself trying to name what I had learned from my own processes, and linked contradictory feelings, while making this project: how the formative lies of the internet dupe even those of us who claim to know better; how the deception of its formative promise that we each can be seen and heard weaves us into its willing fabric of need, deception, pleasure and its linked abuses. I felt vulnerable writing that post, and still find that I am flitting in and out of that affective place: escalated heart beat, the flushing cheeks of shame.

I end each of these #hardtruths with a “See More” list of readings and resources that share the burden of knowing and doing #100hardtruths-#fakenews with others in my community of digital media literacy practice and care. Here, I ask you to provide me with your internet truth. I’ll add them to the list, if and when I receive them.

See More Internet Truths, how our lives here feel, how they mean, what we want, who we know, follow and trust:



The editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal in “A President’s Credibility: Trump’s falsehoods are eroding public trust, at home and abroad,” writes, “The president clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims.”

They continue: “If he doesn’t show more respect for the truth, most Americans may conclude he’s a fake president.”

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This #100hardtruths was shared with me by my friend, the filmmaker Stephen Winter:

Enjoy learning the truth about and from Scatman Crothers: actor, singer, seer, subversive middle-finger-holder.

As we enter a despotic future that will reduce the escapist concept of “pure entertainment” to ashes, take time to appreciate some black performing artists of the 20th Century who began their careers before Civil Rights yet lived to a grand old age where their barely concealed rage and voracious versatile talents were given a platform to haunt and inspire audiences through today. Since these are histories that are regulated to the margins, it takes some exploring to find their full stories, and you’ll have to wade through the sometimes completely wrongheaded biases of the (mostly white) documentarians, but that’s part of the “fun”!

Get into:

  • Moms Mabley: performer, political comedian, radical queer
  • Sun-Ra: band-leader, political radical, asexual queer, space invader
  • Jackie Shane: soul singer, street icon, gender-bender trail blazer