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Tag: VICE

Nazi-Era Snapshots and the Banality of Evil

The world of human life is complex, and articles like this really help me sit back and consider some of the challenges of the human condition.

 

Nazi-Era Snapshots and the Banality of Evil

No Lakotas in the picture. All photos courtesy of Daniel Lenchner’s collection.

“Do you know about the Lakota Indians?” asked Daniel Lenchner, handing me a slightly faded photograph from the early 20th century. It was a class portrait with a location printed at the bottom: Lakota, North Dakota.

“Now,” challenged Lenchner, “can you find an Indian in this picture?”

I scanned the rows of Caucasian faces.

“Not going to happen,” he continued. “We got rid of them, you know. No more Lakotas in Lakota. It looks like a class portrait, but you could also say that this is a picture of genocide.”

That theme of implicit absence dominates Lenchner’s found-photograph collection. Scouring flea markets, estate sales, and the internet, Lenchner has collected over 500 snapshots of Nazistaken by Nazis that document their daily lives: their families, their friendships, and their leisure activities.

As a Jewish man with ancestors who perished in the Holocaust, these intimate glimpses into the daily lives of his family’s persecutors bring him face to face with what political philosopher Hannah Arendt called  “the banality of evil.”

I met the 68 year old Lenchner last month in his sprawling New York apartment to look through his collection and discuss its implications.

VICE: What’s striking about so many of these images is that without the uniforms you really can’t tell that these people are Nazis, can you?
Daniel Lenchner:
 Yes, that’s really what my thesis is: These people are normal in appearance, but appearances are deceiving. There is the modern news phenomenon of people being interviewed in the street after they discover that their neighbor is a mass murderer. They’re always expressing surprise, that they didn’t realize it, that they should have known. The underlying assumption is that they could’ve known. But, if the truth is that there is no way to know, then you shouldn’t be surprised.

I interviewed the great-niece of Nazi leader Herman Göring once, and her family albums are filled with pictures like these. She talked about feeling the love that’s evident in so many of the scenes: fathers holding their children, spouses embracing, friends laughing. How do you confront the presence of those kinds of emotions?
Yes, these guys went home to their wives and children, and maybe they sang them nice German lullabies, but it’s not an exoneration. I mean, Hitler loved dogs, and he was a vegetarian. Great. But, it’s all kind of irrelevant. At the end of the day these things are reconcilable. No, not exactly reconcilable, but they coexist. The evil and the not-evil coexist in a person. But, in Nuremberg, it didn’t come up that they were nice to their wives because it didn’t matter.

It looks like the man in this picture wasn’t such a great husband. Is this a Dear John letter written on the back?
A Dear Johann letter, so to speak.

Can you describe what we’re looking it?
Well, here we have this handsome studio portrait of a German officer, and on the back is this message from a woman, apparently his mistress. She writes that she’s giving back this photograph because it’s brought her back luck. He’s a playboy. She refers to his “wanderings in Weimar,” and makes reference to his wife.

What do you like about this picture?
It’s just so normal, so banal, just a man screwing around on his wife—nothing so unusual there. He’s a regular scoundrel, but put him in a Nazi uniform and all of a sudden we have a special kind of scoundrel.

In this case, the story is right there on the image itself, but most of these pictures have very little context. How much of what you see comes from the pictures themselves and how much is your own projection?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Let me show you something that addresses that. This is one of the most stunning pictures I’ve ever bought and there’s absolutely nothing on the back. Take a look and tell me what you see.

I see a massacre.  
Yes, a little massacre, with what I believe is a rape. This is surely a woman with her babushka. She’s laid on this table with her legs splayed, and she’s been made a little comfortable with some straw under her head. I think everybody’s dead here: bodies, bodies, bodies. And, the Germans are done now. They’re heading to what looks like a small train station. Their backs are all turned away. “We’ve done our work and now we’re leaving.”

What might be most disturbing of all is this detail of putting the straw under the woman’s head. It looks like an attempt to make her comfortable as they raped and killed her. It seems like a recognition of her humanity.
Also, it looks like this dead man has his arm around this person here, in a protective pose.

As if he could shield them from bullets.
As I said, there’s nothing on the back of this photograph, but the story is very clearly there. I don’t think we have to read too much into it.

And yet, it’s hard not to project, isn’t it? This is not so different from the kind of war photography that we’re all familiar with…
Right, this almost could have been taken by Robert Capa.

The composition is excellent and the focus is razor sharp.
That’s right. One thing you can say about the Nazis is that they went to war with good cameras. They didn’t go with any goddamn instamatics. They went with Leicas: good cameras with good lenses. You can see the number on the train. You can see the blades of grass. You can see the dead man’s eyes.

It’s similar to a Robert Capa, as you say, but—and this goes back to projection—knowing who took this picture gives it an intimacy that takes it beyond photojournalism. The photographer is part of the photograph. That almost gives it the quality of a family snapshot, except instead of standing and smiling, everyone is dead.
And then, the question you’ll never answer: why did they take this picture?

Why do you think?
Sometimes you wonder, are they proud? Who knows. This I have no answer for.

Well, they certainly didn’t take it for your benefit. There’s something profoundly subversive about this ending up in your hands. I mean, the photographer could never have even imagined your existence.
No. But, who was it meant for? His superior officer, his friends, his wife, his children?

It’s jarring to see that photograph in the same collection as this other one here. This picture here seems delightful, really: a crowd of people laughing at something outside the frame.
Except, look there. Do you see the swastika? Suddenly it becomes sinister. What are they laughing at? We will never know. And, they are really cracking up. It’s great. You have examples of all the different ways that people laugh. Some people cover their face, and some bend at the waist, some hold their stomach, and here he’s leaning backwards, she’s covering her mouth, and she’s pointing to draw her friend’s attention.

You must be primed to see the swastika. It took me a second.
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I’m so sensitive that I occasionally see swastikas where there are none.

With that kind of priming, what do you see when you look at the German people of today?
Well, I lived in Germany for five years as a college instructor for the American military. I taught comparative literature to GIs. That was during the mid-70s, so many of the people that I passed on the street had lived through the Nazi era. It was a little weird to say the least. You get on a German train and you can’t help but think about cattle cars packed with human beings. But, you’re also struck by all of the good things. The place is clean, and the trains run on time, and the people are so honest.

In what ways were they honest?
On the autobahn, for example, the bathrooms all had plates where you would leave a tip for the cleaning person. So, you walk into the bathroom, and there is a plate full of money. Now, you put that on the New Jersey Turnpike and it wouldn’t last three minutes. They’d steal the money and the plate too. But, in Germany not only do they not steal the money, but they put more in. You look at that and you think, Are these the same people responsible for the Holocaust? How can this be? Yet, some of those people must have been honest. They must have been honest in that narrow sense: placing money on the plate on their way to build a concentration camp.

The Lenchner family in Lodz, Poland in 1935. Only Daniel Lenchner’s father (back row, second from right) survived the war.

Roc’s new book, And, was released recently. You can find more information on his website.

“Why We Did It” – Oh Boy… Whether You Find It To Be Accurate Or Not It Will Probably Upset You…

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You can click on this picture to watch their interview if you would like

Recently Rachel Maddow went on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and now that I have your attention here is some more information…

I considering myself a moderate, which more than anything means that new information can affect what I think. A while back Rachel Maddow produced a TV Documentary called “Hubris” which addressed the ‘so called” false pretenses that allowed our nation to go to war with Iraq – meaning that what was said about why we were going in was not in fact true. That documentary was posted on iTunes via the Rachel Maddow Show’s Podcast, and since she always asks people to post her show, and videos of it online I decided to post that entire documentary on my YouTube channel. It has since gotten about 100,000 views, and has filled my email with some incredibly angry YouTube comments from all kinds of people… I mean, angry stuff…

*By the way, I don’t just watch liberal stuff… I really can’t help but watch anything and everything I can get my hands/eyes on. I watch/listen to: The O’Reilly Factor, Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, Real Time with Bill Maher, and others when I can. I like things other than politics, this is just part of my rhetorical diet to know what’s out there.

Anyway: I want to note that I am not a “Truther” (I don’t think that the United State Government was behind 9-11, so let’s just get that out of the way…), I do however think that this war was a war of choice, and that it was mismanaged, which I think is rather well voiced by documentaries like “No End In Sight” (posted at the bottom of this).

Hubris” addresses the issue of WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction), and this new documentary goes into some of the reasons why the makers of the film believe our government wanted to go. I don’t can’t speak to it’s legitimacy, and I don’t think that Mrs. Maddow is unbiased. I do however really appreciate that she presents sources, and gives room for actual debate, rather than just pure ad hominem. If you’d like to give some feedback that would be great – but the reason why I decided to post this second video (Why We Did It) was to keep the videos tied together, and because it might help us hold a conversation about reasons why we might not want to be so quick to go to war again anytime soon without more checks and balances (i.e.: Iran, Syria, Ukraine). And if you’d like to check in on the conflict going on in Ukraine feel free to click anywhere on this sentence.

Part 2
“Why We Did It”

Part 1
“Hubris”

“No End In Sight”

So What Does Revolution Look Like?

Having grown up an American citizen I’ve heard many enchanting stories about our own revolution. It is often glamorized by heroic acts of humble farmers fighting against elitist Brits with more people, and better weaponry (i.e.: The Patriot with Mel Gibson). Revolution is sometimes very necessary, but it is not pretty… And it is no secret that the world is experiencing some unrest, and has for the last few years. Well, let’s face it, there is always unrest somewhere. The most recent unrest that has the rest of the world’s attention is the uprising in the Ukraine. Below are some videos produced by VICE that might help serve as a refresher if you already know about what is going on, or it might serve as a quick update if you don’t.

This is the VICE correspondence from inside the home of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich… Ooooooh myyy.

Since this was produced much has ensued, but I still felt that these short Vice videos might help some people who were hoping to learn more about the uprising in this historically beaten and tattered nation.

“Corruption? In The Motherland?! No Way…” – Why these will be the most expensive Olympics of all time – VICE

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As many of us around the world are watching these winter Olympics over the next couple of weeks we will find ourselves dreaming about what we could’ve been/done, and hopefully what we still can be/do. With that said, it’s probably just as important that we look at these Olympics realistically. I don’t think that it’s going to surprise much of anyone that there is a lot of corruption in Russia. This short news report however puts faces and numbers on that alleged corruption. I just really love Vice for strong reports like this one

What Is Real News? What Would You Do If You Saw It? #NSFW

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Living in a nation that sits in the crosshairs of entertainment news sometimes it can get tiring just being bickering over and over. Of course everyone should be allowed to experience their greatest struggles with consideration that they are their greatest struggles – but upon finding out that there are struggles much worse than your own can truly change your approach to your own.

Do you considered yourself someone who loves people all around the world? Do you try to know the struggles of other people, regardless of where they live? Are you saying yes, but also telling yourself that you just aren’t exposed to a lot about the world? Do you get tired of our infighting even bigotry in our political system? Well, assuming this that you are watching this from the United States (as over 90% of my readers reside) these news pieces will probably seem like something that could never happen to you, and for that you should be very thankful…

Warning: this is Not Safe For Work (NSFW), it is very violent, and profane at times, but Very real.

If you’d like to see the post show interview with the reporters don’t worry, it’s right here.

The Exploited Laborers of the Liberal Media

I generally tend to enjoy Vice as a news/countercultural voice because it marches to the beat of it’s own drum. I found this article in particular to be interesting as it challenges the cultural norms of believing that the community that has been crying so heartily about stagnant wages as been so blind to it’s own hypocrisy. I have had a lot of these basic thoughts myself over the years, and I would imagine that anyone who has worked for free, supported someone who worked for free, or just known someone who worked for free could sympathize with this philosophical question of when we cross the line of exploitation. What do you think about this?

The Exploited Laborers of the Liberal Media

 

Photo courtesy of Intern Labor Rights

Editor’s note: For years, VICE used part-time unpaid interns—a practice that we recently halted. We currently pay interns $10 an hour and limit them to 20 hours a week during the school year and 25 hours a week during the summer.

I was 21 years old when I took out my earring, combed my hair, and tried concealing my distaste for power and Washington, DC, in order to ask questions at press conferences. It was the summer of 2006, and I had just left college to work for a small, do-gooding nonprofit that covered Capitol Hill for public radio.

I went through the whole experience of being a journalist in the nation’s capital: attending deadly boring policy luncheons, interviewing near-dead lawmakers and dead-inside lobbyists, and dying a little inside myself every time I saw my work “edited”—turned into shameful garbage—before going on air.

Like any other reporter, I pitched stories at morning meetings and then did the legwork to put them together, in the process learning the job. While my gut impulse at first was to righteously confront the powerful with strident questions highlighting their logical inconsistencies and factual errors, I soon found it was often smarter to affect an earnest demeanor just a hair shy of sarcastic. You need to let the person being interviewed explain why he is terrible, which is more easily done when he thinks you are stupid or on his side.

What I did looked and felt like an entry-level job in the media. And I enjoyed it—I liked going up to any old white guy in a suit and asking him to explain in his own words why he’s destroying the country. I felt as if I had sort of made it, as much as an English major can. I wasn’t living at home, I got to carry a microphone, and my work was broadcast over the radio. To an outsider looking in, I almost looked a respectable person.

The problem was I wasn’t being compensated for any of that work or my veneer of respectability. What I did every day might have appeared to be a job, but I was labeled an “intern,” meaning I got paid in experience and networking opportunities, not anything tangible. I made rent by taking a part-time job serving mediocre Mexican food across from the National Press Club and asking Washington Post columnists if Pepsi was OK instead of Coke. Periodic calls to Mommy and Daddy also helped. That was what was expected of me—I’m part of a generation conditioned to believe that if you just work for free hard enough and long enough, you can become president some day.

I was fortunate, all things considered. My labor was being exploited by a boss who took in $100,000 a year, but I was privileged enough that I could afford the exploitation for a few months, sort of. I had parents who could kick me some cash every now and then with only moderate-to-severe grief. And it hadn’t yet hit me that I had to pay back all those student loans.

The problem with unpaid internships is that interns are people, and in capitalist economies people generally must work for money in order to obtain food and shelter. While I managed to pull it off, a lot of those who want to become journalists aren’t lucky enough to be born white and middle class. My family had enough money to support my stupid “dream,” while others, many no doubt more talented and deserving than I, were barred from even trying because they were too poor to work for nothing.

America’s leading liberal periodicals are aware of the obstacles to advancement the less privileged face in our decidedly not meritocratic society. Indeed, they often provide excellent coverage of the class war, from union-busting at Walmart to the fight for a living wage at fast-food chains. At the same time, though, many of them are exploiting workers in a way that would make corporate America proud: relabeling entry-level employees “interns” and “fellows” in order to dance around US labor laws.

Paying people little to nothing because you can—a practice aided by the awfulness of the job market and the desperation of people trying to make it in “glamour” industries like journalism—is both exploitive and discriminatory, but many good liberals do not appear to recognize it as such, even as they decry that behavior elsewhere.

Photo via Flickr user Joel Gillman

Do as I Say, Not as I Pay

Robert Reich served as labor secretary under Bill Clinton and is outspoken in his support for a living wage. But when I asked him about the trend of entry-level jobs being relabeled “internships” and being stripped of the pay, benefits, and legal rights they once offered recent college grads (by some estimates, half of the estimated 1.5 million interns in America are unpaid), he professed ignorance.

“This is not a topic I’ve given much thought,” said Reich.

Reich is a busy guy, but he should think about the issue more. His political advocacy group, Common Cause, is only one of the organizations he has a hand in that relies on free or near-free labor. In a recent listingThe American Prospect, a magazine founded by Reich and other veterans of the Clinton administration, announced it was looking for editorial interns to assist “with fact-checking and research.” The interns will be “encouraged to contribute editorially and participate in meetings in addition to pursuing their own projects.”

Sounds good, but, “This is a full-time internship and comes with a $100 weekly stipend,” according to the listing. That comes to about $2.50 an hour, or “not nothing” if you are a glass-half-full type. However, there is a catch: “Interns who receive full course credit are ineligible for the weekly stipend.”

The American Prospect did not respond to a request for comment, but a writer for the magazine explained the inequality-compounding problem with unpaid, for-credit work in 2010: “If you can’t afford to work for free, you certainly can’t afford to shell out money for tuition on top of that.” That, of course, is what the Prospect is asking from its interns. And that publication isn’t the only one exempting its own interns from its concern over exploited workers.

“Be Our Hero” 

Last year, progressive magazine Mother Jones, named for a 20th-century radical who campaigned against child labor, ended its internship program. Though editor Clara Jeffery had previously written that the magazine “couldn’t live without our interns,” using unpaid and low-paid labor was rapidly becoming controversial in the media world, so the magazine decided to be proactive. No longer would young people be expected to work long hours for crumbs as lowly “interns”—they would now be “fellows.”

“We used to call some of these positions internships,” the magazine explains on a job listing. “But in late 2012 we changed the title because this is no entry-level internship… You should be ready to drill down into complex research, fact-checking, and strategic projects and have the reporting bona fides or other relevant experience to show you’re ready.” And you should be prepared to do it full-time for six months.

“We’ll work you hard and demand your best,” the magazine says. “And in the end you’ll learn a ton, and be our hero.”

Uh oh.

The fellowship offered by Mother Jones is neither an internship nor an entry-level job—“No coffee or laundry errands here!” says the magazine—but the compensation could fool you: “Fellows receive a $1,000 monthly stipend.” Assuming a 40-hour workweek (many journalists work much longer hours than that), that means a fellow at Mother Jones earns less than $6 an hour in a state, California, that just decided to raise the minimum wage to $10. In San Francisco, where the magazine is based, $1,000 a month isn’t enough to pay for both food and shelter.

“It’s not easy, but our fellows… make it work,” said Elizabeth Gettelman, a spokesperson for Mother Jones. “Some supplement their incomes with freelance work, and they find shared housing in the Bay Area that they can afford. But we are very aware of the financial challenges they face.” She added that the magazine is always looking for ways to “improve the level of financial support.” After six months, she notes, a fellowship at Mother Jones can be extended the rest of the year at a rate of $1,400 a month.

That’s a raise, but it’s still not enough. In California, a single adult needs to earn more than $1,900 per month “to make a secure yet modest living,” according to a living wage calculator on the Mother Jones website. Work a full year as a fellow at the magazine and you will make $14,400—or put another way, about $11,000 less than you will need to support yourself in a place that enjoys the highest rents in the nation. When it’s all over, you may get a better title on your resume, sure, but you will also lose the title to your car.

One former MJ intern who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity told me they “slept on an air mattress for six months while I worked there because I couldn’t afford a real one.” Another former intern said, “During our first meeting with HR at Mother Jones, we were advised to sign up for food stamps.”

It must be said that MJ appears to treat its nonfellowship workers pretty well—about half of their employees, including some editors, belong to the UAW union. And as with most major publications, the names at the top of the masthead are very comfortable. Editors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery each make more than $167,000 a year, while chief operating officer Madeleine Buckingham makes $159,000.

Photo via Intern Labor Rights

Are You Experienced?

Employers will usually say they offer internships as a form of training to those who lack the experience to get hired. They say this because they are legally required to in order to justify paying people below minimum wage. But at the liberal online news magazine Salon, internships are not for those just starting out.

“Some professional experience is required,” says a listing for an editorial internship at Salon. If you get that job, you’ll be helping “research, report, write and produce our news and culture coverage,” which sounds a lot like a job. The position, based in New York City, is unpaid.

Though it does not pay its professionally experienced interns a dime, Salon (which has published my work in the past) has had the chutzpah to run a number of stories on the plight of unpaid workers, such as, “‘Intern Nation’: Are We Exploiting a Generation of Workers?” and “Unpaid and Sexually Harassed: The Latest Intern Injustice.” The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The New Republic is another liberal outlet with a problematic labor record. Owned by a co-founder of Facebook worth more than $600 million, the magazine is currently hiring interns whose responsibilities include “conducting research for editors,” as well as “pitching and writing blog posts and web pieces.” Previous experience in journalism is “preferred, but not imperative.”

TNR used to advertise that its internships “are full-time, unpaid, and based in the DC office,” but that language was removed soon after the magazine became aware of this story. Spokesperson Annie Augustine told me that despite the change in language, “there has not been a change in policy.” However, she added that “interns are given the option to work flexible hours so they can take part-time jobs.” She also pointed out that the magazine offers a separate “reporter-researcher” program that comes with benefits and a $25,000 salary, though that is still a couple grand short of a living wage in Washington, DC.

Augustine did not explain why the magazine does not pay all its full-time employees, but the publication has written about the issue before—in a piece published this past summer, TNR editor-at-large Michael Kinsley mocked the idea that uncompensated interns supplant paid employees and deserve to be paid themselves. “Right,” wrote Kinsley. “Why, just the other day we saw Rupert Murdoch wielding an allen wrench over the pieces of an Ikea desk,” which the intern who copy-edited his piece probably found uproariously funny. (Another piece recently published by a paid contributor to the magazine: “Yes, Young Writers Should Give Their Work Away for Free.”)

TNR has the money to pay interns but doesn’t, likely because there is an established culture in the media world that treats working for free as the cost of admission. And when everyone else is doing it, why not? And so Harper’s is looking for interns to “work on a full-time, unpaid basis for three to five months”; the Seattle-based YES! magazine is hoping to hire an “online reporting intern” to work up to six months for free (though it does offer housing); and the Washington Monthly, which claims to be “thriving” thanks to “generous long-term support from foundations and donors,” is offering internships that are “unpaid and can be either part-time or full-time.”

“The reason we don’t pay interns is that we’re a small nonprofit operation and we can’t afford it,” explained Paul Glastris, editor of the Washington Monthly. “We think it’s a valuable experience—it certainly was for me, having started in this business as an unpaid intern at the Washington Monthly.

That internships provide interns experience is not in doubt; so do most jobs. And there’s no disputing that internships can lead to more lucrative work down the line; so do most jobs. The issue is that asking people to work for free is exploitive—and no one would do it were they offered a paying gig elsewhere. When left-leaning outlets in particular refuse to provide a living wage for the people producing and editing their content, it’s not a good look. In These Times, which has published work by left-wing icons such as Noam Chomsky and Barbara Ehrenreich, is currently hiring interns to do everything from editing to fundraising—but none of those funds are set aside to pay those raising them. On its official Twitter account, the publication has said, “Interns must unite to stop the trend toward free labor becoming the norm,” but it did not reply when asked if such a campaign should include its own employees.

Meanwhile, Democracy Now!, the venerable progressive broadcast hosted by journalist Amy Goodman, requires interns at its new, LEED Platinum–certified office in Manhattan to work for free for two months, for a minimum of 20 hours a week, after which “a $15 expense allowance is provided on days you work five or more hours.”

“They really held that $15 over us,” said one former intern, who added that “they told us pretty explicitly on our first day that the internship wouldn’t lead to a job.” According to the source, who requested anonymity, interns were required to fill out daily accounts of the “results” they achieved each day. (“Wrote headline tweets for the day, monitored stream from last night, listened to interviews for quotes”; “Got a retweet from Lupe Fiasco (rapper).”)

In 2011, Democracy Now! asked its $15-a-day employees to work the program’s 15th anniversary gala, a major fundraiser. Interns were asked to “greet and thank guests, check their coats, make sure the event goes smoothly, and help clean up,” according to an email obtained by VICE. “We will provide you with a delicious pizza dinner, but ask that you refrain from eating the catered dinner at the event.”

Back then, interns did not have to wait two months to get their $15 stipend, which probably made the Domino’s go down easier. But while entry-level staffers at Democracy Now! are paid less than ever, not all have shared in the sacrifice: Goodman made more than $148,000 in 2011, twice what she took home in 2007—and that doesn’t include income from book sales or speaking engagements.

Requests for comment were not acknowledged by Democracy Now!.

Raising the Bar

“When one restricts internships to people who can afford to work for free, you institute a form of economic-based discrimination,” said Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica, an outlet that focuses on investigative journalism. ProPublica pays all of its interns $700 a week for the simple reason that $700 a week (which works out to around $35,000 a year) is “what we thought was a competitive wage” for an entry-level journalist in New York City.

ProPublica does not claim to be liberal or progressive. But Tofel, a former assistant publisher at the Wall Street Journal, appears to believe—sort of radically for his industry—that people who work should be paid a wage, even if they are in their 20s and haven’t yet suffered through a crucible of unpaid internships. The experience these internships offer is great, he said, but not enough.

“I don’t think there’s any question that unpaid internships can be enormously beneficial to interns,” said Tofel. “But that’s not the issue.”

Experience is great and can open doors, but unpaid and low-paid internships can also slam doors shut. Failing to pay young journalists a decent wage is effectively a way of saying that those too poor to work for nothing need not apply. That socio-economic filter leads to a pool of journalists—even at good, upstanding progressive publications—that is wealthier and whiter than the public as a whole. And that hurts the final product.

“Any time you have a more diverse workforce, you get better coverage,” said Tofel. “Any time you have a less diverse workforce, you get worse coverage.”

Liberals should know all about the virtues of diversity and providing ways for poorer people to climb into positions of influence. Yet maddeningly, they continue to exploit the idealistic people who are willing to give their labor away for free, which isn’t just wrong, it hurts the mission of a liberal news organization.

Money is not an excuse. If you set out believing you are obliged to pay your employees, you find a way to do it. The progressive Utne Reader manages to pay its interns minimum wageDissent magazine just started paying their college interns $2,000 a semester, which comes out to about $7.80 cents an hour by my calculations. And the left-wing Truthout.org pays every intern $10 an hour. None of these places are rolling in money.

Other publications have had their hands forced by an increasingly emboldened class of young journalists who have presumably taken their employers’ liberal rhetoric to heart. Earlier this year, interns at The Nation penned a letter to their bosses lamenting the fact they were asked to work full-time for five months while receiving a measly $150 a week, “an impossible prospect for many who are underrepresented in today’s media.” The magazine was sufficiently shamed that it announced it “took their concerns seriously” and would soon start paying minimum wage.

That’s a start, paying people the bare minimum required under US law. But try living off that anywhere in America, much less the ultra-expensive cities where most of these publications are based. You can’t, even if you turn to the generic cat food.

So here’s a challenge to the liberal media: If you are in favor of a living wage and oppose discrimination against the poor, let’s see that reflected in your newsrooms, not just on your blogs. Support workers, including the young ones who work for you, by insisting they get a fair wage for a fair day’s work. There is no justification for not paying people for their labor—that’s why so many lefty publications did not even offer a defense when I asked for one—and failing to do so means failing to live up to one’s stated liberal ideals. It also just sets a bad example. If the bleeding hearts aren’t ashamed enough to pay their workers, why should anyone?

Charles Davis is a writer and producer in Los Angeles. His work has been published by outlets including Al Jazeerathe New Inquiry, and Salon.

More on interns:

I Interned for Pauly Shore (and It Really Sucked)

One of Our Interns Chatted with the Founder of ‘Intern’ Magazine

The Overtime Secret

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What Will We Say About President Obama’s Legacy in 20 Years?

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Pres. Obama’s future legacy continues to be hotly debated and estimated, as it has been over the last few years. Considering how the pages of his biography will read is a fascinating to me. His first big policy agenda was about Health in America. This healthcare policy has been debated, is being debated, it likely will be debated for a long time. What seems important to note however is that one way or another this will reflect in large part how he is to be remembered.

What seems to many to most likely to be the next major policy battle is immigration reform. I think it will be interesting to watch with both parties reshuffling amidst some rather chaotic times – primarily the Republicans however with the splintering factions in the party. It seems possible that The Republican Party might find a rebound from struggling lately by sponsoring and helping to pass some type of immigration reform, but I personally don’t see this as likely with this new generation of warlike primary season. I suspect that the Democrats will probably push to pass this legislation, and I would imagine it will be the second half major legislation of this president’s term. I would love to see the Republicans talk about governing on this, because they care about border security, and that’s okay. So this is just my guess, but I think this is what we’ll be talking about next.

With all of that said what I think is a fascinating topic for us to be completely skipping over his guns. With 90% of the population seemingly supporting legislation for universal background checks it was blocked by a a minority in congress. Now hear me out my conservative friends, just hear me out. While I think securing our borders is important last year we had net 0 (people) with illegal immigration… and we can talk about the effect of immigrants and society, but that is unless the debate the mass violence in this nation. People are the talking points about guns, it is very sensitive subject – well I know it is in Oklahoma at least… one thing that we must all recognize though is that we always brag about how great America is, but we are killing each other with guns more than any other nation in this world. We need to have a grown-up discussion about this, especially with their having been so many mass shootings in the last few years. It’s finally on our minds, these deaths happen all the time, but when it’s one there, anyone there, and three there, nobody cares… We need to have some serious discussions from serious people about what we can do as individuals to make a difference.

I don’t know that we should pass more gun laws, I think we probably should (although I don’t know what they are), but I don’t think we can sit here and do nothing. Maybe we should get some friendly feedback and ask others around the world why they think we have so much gun violence and they don’t. It’s what you would do if you thought you had something in your teeth, you’d ask a friend to give you some feedback really quick so you don’t look like an idiot. And of course more people are killed by other means than gun in very poverty-stricken parts of the world, so that seems probable to skew the data pool. We’re the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of mankind, but to the world it seems that with these challenging issues we can’t stop hitting ourselves in the face.

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One reason that the gun debate has become so divisive is the attachment to the racial divide. Some people consider it to be a conversation about race bating, but while I think that race is a part of the conversation it’s not about one race against the another, other than the blind eye that we seem to turn towards gun ravaged communities in the inner-city. There is no question that “black-on-black” gun violence is the most prevalent gun violence in our nation, but we have to ask the tough questions about how we can change our inner-cities. Even with marginal improvements in many areas of the country we are still the most violent gun nation in the world, at least on record… That just doesn’t seem acceptable to me. The main problem seems to lie with hand guns. So outside of outlawing them how can we make a dent in this situation where people can so secretively be armed with deadly force?

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The unbelievable decorum, and disrespect in the public square is really astonishing. Maybe take this opportunity to think of someone who you disagree with, and will probably never agree with on something and you let them know that you love them. You know why? You should do it because they probably mean it too when they express their beliefs, and that alone is worth something. They probably earnestly care about and fully believe in the things that they say, even if it seems ridiculous to you. Tell them why you think they’re wrong, and ask why they believe what they believe. If they freak out move on, at least you tried, but remember there were defensive because they care about something. Just let them know that you’re interested in why they believe what they believe. If you find that your discussion isn’t getting anywhere it’s okay to move on, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to get to know someone a little better. Plain and simple the sooner we start learning how to engage with others who have different beliefs the sooner we can stop being the guy sitting in the corner pulling our own hair out.

I don’t think that I’m superior because I’m an American, but I think we have a great country and we can set a good example for the rest of the world. The way that we shoot each other, and the way that we govern each other we have to ask what kind of an example we are setting for the other 95.5% of the world. Well whatever is written in the history books it will seemingly fall on the shoulders of President Obama in the minds of many, or at least that’s how it’s worked in our past. So hopefully: healthcare will become less expensive as we become healthier, will figure out how to start having the conversation about immigration reform as adults should, and we stop shooting one another. Of course there are many other things that are on the table, but the seem especially pertinent. I hope that our president end’s up with a positive legacy, because that means that we will have done well.

 

I’m including a great investigative report by VICE about guns in Chicago “Chiraq”.

Ground Zero: Syria – VICE (WARNING: Very Graphic)

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Feel free to skip ahead and not read all of my thoughts if you don’t have that much time, the video is way more important. But WARNING, it is very graphic.

I generally get really excited when I start hearing people, and seeing people talk about current events. However, this time around in regards to Syria it has kind of broken my heart. It’s rather bizarre to see what it takes to get people interested, however they are now interested and it’s time to pay attention.

I hate war. I really hate war. Having believed in God pretty much my entire life I always try to see other people as an extension of myself, and I don’t want them to die, especially in the midst of hatred and violence. Part of that frame of mind has led me to not get so hung up on land borders, or social groups. One of the biggest talking points on whether or not we should go into Syria has been whether or not it’s in our nation’s best interest. I think that this standard misses the mark by quite a bit. The standard should be “is their oppression, and do we have evidence that we can help?”. In the past when we have tried to help it seems that we have often ended with an enraged population, at home and abroad, that then blames us for all of their problems.

I don’t want the United States to be the police of the world, we don’t need to be in charge of being everyone’s moral authority. However, being supportive of those who are oppressed and being brutally murdered is not simply being the police of the world. For all those who want us to be an isolationist country the only way that I can find that to be a real noble cause is if they somehow think that by example or through accumulated resources we will someday be able to help others in need. Maybe this would be comparable to securing your own oxygen mask before you get the mask for the child next you on the airplane, I’ve used this example before. If being isolationist is only for our own benefit, then I hope all with that belief system never find themselves at the end of the barrel of a gun of an oppressor with only themselves to lend a hand.

Syria is different from Iraq in multiple ways: chemical weapons were used in Iraq 15 years before our war started there, chemical weapons are being used now in Syria. Of course there’s still the debate of justice and punishing those who have hurt others in the past, but we need to have a conversation about eminent threats to mankind right now. I don’t want to go to war, but if there are actions that we can take to help the people in this video I think they need to be strongly considered. Forget about the politics, rhetoric, teamsmanship, tribalism, I don’t care about that. These are people… If you don’t care about them something is wrong with you. And if in this discussion your primary goal is to find out who is wrong in America you’re missing the mark. Before you come to an absolute decision on what is right and wrong in this situation please research all of the options. I know this is an unattainable quest, as we don’t have all the information, and we won’t have all of it. But please don’t make up your mind so flippantly, we’re talking about our brothers and sisters in humanity.

I’ll finish with this, I am no military mastermind but I don’t think that we should put troops on the ground. It seems as if we aren’t going to anyways. I also don’t think that we should arm either side, and of course the only side here that we would arm potentially is the rebels, or the “Free Syrian Army”. When we’ve armed groups in the past it is come back to bite us, and even if they are on the side of lesser evil the rebels still have extremists, just look at the video of the guy eating the Syrian soldiers heart. I think that if we are going to do some isolated strikes on military bases that are attacking their people I might be open to that, but boy does that make me uneasy… What will the repercussions be? In our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drone strikes have multiplied Terrorist responses against our troops by 10 times… This doesn’t seem to be helping anybody. I understand that I can’t know the military strategy as it would be silly to make it public, but for me to support any action I would need to know that it is founded in some sort of a logical approach that will not hurt civilians, as they will turn against us, and actually prevent Assad from hurting his people as soon as possible.

WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC

Kony, M23, and The Real Rebels of Congo: What Happened to Kony 2012, and What’s Next? – VICE

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If you are reading this you are most likely on the internet, and thus have more likely than not heard of Joseph Kony, who is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA is famous for recruiting young children, brainwashing them to kill without hesitation, and then putting weapons in their hands. A group called Invisible Children has pushed to put an end to this senselessness. In the last couple of year one of their main founders, Jason Russell, launched a campaign to make a real push to get the word out about Kony while people were paying a bit more attention in the Presidential election year. Well, the campaign became much bigger than he’d ever expected, and it ended with Mr. Russell having somewhat of a personal meltdown, which sadly enough was ridiculed heavily, and somehow made light of the tragedies that have taken place over the last several years, and the work that Jason had been putting into stopping them.

Well, the “Kony 2012” campaign seems to have died out quite a bit, but there are still plenty who are interested in the situation. However, VICE, my favorite investigative reporting organization, has some questions about Kony, and any other rebel groups in the region, in particular the constantly war torn Democratic People’s Republic of Congo.

The Cannibal Warlords of Liberia – VICE

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While the world always seems to be falling apart and restructuring somewhere new all of the time there are some places that never rebuild, they are only ever in a mild state of peace. Liberia is one of those places. After the United States abolished slavery there was a movement to send some of the black people, whether former slave or not, back to Africa, and they formed the nation/colony of Liberia. This is part of this broken nations story as told by VICE.

WARNING: This has some violent and graphic material.

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