Monday, February 15, 2016

News Briefs 2/15/16

Justice Antonin Scalia Dead at 79

It is always a tragedy when a human being dies, but sometimes things are murkier when said human being is an influential and dangerous public figure. Justice Antonin Scalia died this Saturday at 79 years of age. Known for his Originalist view of the Constitution (wherein he based his legal decisions on the exact wording of the Constitution), Scalia has either championed or supported some of the most regressive Supreme Court decisions ever made. Highlights include:

-Using his Originalist reading of the 2nd Amendment to protect any individual citizen's right to bear arms because it would have been historically necessary. Mass shootings be damned, we need our guns! Subsistence hunting and defending against the British are still things we do, right?

-Fighting against the right for gay people to get married, his argument being that individual states should be able to enforce their bigotry without involving the national government. Because why SHOULD two consenting adults in love be allowed to get married if other people think it's icky?

-Supporting Citizens United, the case where corporations got the go ahead to funnel unlimited amounts of untraceable money into the political system through PACs and Super PACs, effectively leaving citizens united in our collective helplessness.

The Notorious RBG is not impressed

I am sure that as a private person, Antonin Scalia was a perfectly fine man, and was at the very least admirably intelligent and principled. My heart goes out to his friends and family for their loss. However, the unquantifiable damage Justice Scalia helped to wreak on our country should not be forgotten or glossed over because he is dead.

- Nate

Misogynists HATE Him: Producer Exposes Hollywood Double Standard on Twitter

As if we needed another reminder of Hollywood’s gender-based issues, a film producer has gained notice on the internet this week for exposing the problematic treatment of women by screenwriters.

Producer Ross Putnam created a twitter account, @femscriptintros, to catalogue sexist introductions to female characters after noticing a disturbing trend in the scripts he had been reading. Screenwriters, like Hollywood and society in general, are obsessed with women’s looks; each cited intro describes the woman as “gorgeous” or “stunning,” but fails to give any further information. Some will describe the woman as athletic or professional, but rush to assure the reader that she is, indeed, still hot.
Not even sure what "too professional to care" means.
Putnam’s twitter account is only the latest grievance against the institutional sexism of Hollywood. It is interesting that Putnam’s account is gaining traction so quickly when blogs with similar style and purpose, like the women-run Lady Parts, which posts sexist and exploitive casting calls, have existed for years. Hollywood’s gender bias is nothing new, but perhaps society is becoming more receptive to calls for representation.

As a proposed solution for screenwriters, Wired introduced the Jane Test. Riding on the coattails of the infamous Bechdel Test, the Jane Test offers three simple questions meant to assess sexism in a film (or script, in this case). The Jane Test asks: Does the character intro focus on external attributes of  the character? Is the character a 20-something or 30-something? and Is the character dating someone decades older than her? While the first question addresses the aforementioned sexualization of women, the latter two focus on Hollywood ageism--female actresses over the age of forty are largely ignored by Hollywood, while men of the same age and older flourish. In fact, male actors in their forties and fifties are often romantically paired with 25 year old actresses. Just look at Scarlet Johanson’s last few roles.
This is painful.

While @femscriptintros and the Jane Test are steps in the right direction, Hollywood still has a long way to go. Hopefully the coming years will usher in a new age, in which not only women, but also people of color and the LGBTQ+ community will have the media representation they deserve. 


The Boys in Blue are Watching You
(But you probably figured this out already)

It's not news at all that the NYPD is a smarmy organization rife with corruption, but sometimes the people need a refresher. Word just got out that the NYPD has been using Stingray cell phone trackers to spying on people for nearly 10 years without the public's knowledge - how else can you spy, though, am I right? But here's the thing about all of this - the NYPD has utilized these devices over 1,000 times since 2008 WITHOUT warrants.
For those of you who don't know, Stingray phone trackers are surveillance devices initially developed for military and intelligence community use. The function of these devices is to mimic a wireless cell tower - which means all nearby phones and devices that utilize those towers are forced to connect to the Stingray once it is turned on. Stingrays can crack through encryption and be used to intercept phone calls, eavesdrop on emails, text messages and conversations, and track people. The NYPD has used these devices to target suspects, but also in many cases to spy on victims of crimes, along with tracking and eavesdropping on unknowing civilians. Many times without warrants, which is, you know, ILLEGAL?
Now if this, if not knowing about all of this gets you upset, I suggest you take a deep breath and count to ten, because we all know no one is going to get reprimanded for this. It's all part of the militarization of police departments across the country - they need military grade weapons and gear, to protect you from yourself, of course. The implications and precedents set by this unwarranted surveillance are just another check on the list.
If you're ready for a Police State clap your hands!

- Renee

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