In the 1930s radio had been around for a few decades, but it was only just becoming commonplace, and it was still an exciting new technology that was rapidly connecting the world and contributing to social and political change. In the US, radio was defining President Roosevelt's man-of-the-people image, with his inviting and personable fireside chats. In Europe, however, radio's effect was amplifying a much more virulent form of populism.

hitler and mussolini

Fascism was finding its voice. The blended pride and humiliation of national ego, and the simultaneously mocking and fearful portrayal of the weak and terrifying other, were tapping into impulses that were deeply human and capable of immeasurable cruelty. But by the 1950s, the world had adapted to its new interconnectedness, and it seemed certain that we had left true fascism behind for good. It wasn't until recently, with a new technology to connect us more than ever, that the cycle returned and society began finding its way back to those ancient and ruinous tribal divisions around the world.

This is the what comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his portrayal of Borat in the film of the same name, and for his cutting political series Who Is America?, was speaking to on Thursday night. He was giving a speech at the Anti Defamation League's International Leadership summit, when he said that "all this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history."

borat joke

The incredible communicative power of the Internet has the potential to unite us with the kind of populism that brought us the New Deal—or indeed the Green New Deal—or to divide us with a new era of fascism and hate. If CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Jack Dorsey are unable or unwilling to face the tremendous responsibility this power places on their shoulders, we must either wrench this power from them through any regulatory means at our disposal, or face devastation that may well exceed the ravages of World War II.

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How TV's "Good Cops" Promote Dangerous Narratives About Real-Life Police

Shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine make cops seem harmless, an illusion tainted with centuries of racism.

Two summers ago, during one of the darkest periods in my personal life, I found solace in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a sitcom that stars Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta, an NYPD detective with an impressive track record of solved cases despite his goofy, unsophisticated demeanor. Since its premiere in 2013, the show has been commended for its representation of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC people; the recurring cast includes two very smart (and never overtly sexualized) Latina women, as well as two Black men in the precinct's top roles. In 2018, the show received a GLAAD Media Award for its depiction of queer characters. Throughout its seven seasons, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has addressed serious issues like workplace sexual harassment, reconciling with an absent parent, and coming out to disapproving family members, all while retaining a sharp, tasteful sense of silly humor. Rotten Tomatoes has given multiple seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine a perfect 100% rating, likening it to "comfort food."

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Breitbart reports that Beto O'Rourke's campaign ejected Breitbart reporter Joel B. Pollak from a speech at Benedict College, a historically black institution, on Tuesday afternoon.

Pollak claims, "I was being ejected because I had been 'disruptive' at past events." He goes on to say, "This reporter has covered two O'Rourke events...At no point was there any disruption whatsoever." He also claims that members of O'Rourke's campaign threatened him with arrest if he didn't leave. Breitbart is known for their far-right perspective and history of spreading what many view to be fascist propaganda and hate speech.

Soon after the article was posted, Twitter users began to chime in with their opinions. Most controversially, Elizabeth Williamson, a New York Times feature writer, called the ejection "WRONG and hypocritical."

Other major media personnel chimed in, as well, seeming to agree with Williamson's take.

The debate continued to rage on until "Breitbart" started trending on the platform, with over 80k tweets on the subject as of noon on Wednesday.

The majority of the tweets seem to express outrage at anyone who would legitimize Breitbart's brand of propaganda by calling it a "news outlet" or its employees "reporters." Most Twitter users' arguments seem to hinge on the idea that freedom of the press is a right that should only extend to "legitimate news sources." But how do you define a legitimate news source?

While any rational person can see from even the briefest browse that Breitbart is not a source of unbiased, factual journalism, that doesn't mean freedom of the press shouldn't apply to it. According to Sonja West, a professor of First Amendment law at the University of Georgia, "For the most part, the Supreme Court has said that reporters have the same First Amendment rights as everyone else, which generally means that we all have a right to be free from government interference when we speak or publish. Importantly, there are very few constitutional protections for news-gathering, and virtually none that apply just to journalists." This means that questioning whether or not Breitbart is a "legitimate news source" is entirely irrelevant to their right to express themselves. They had as much right to cover O'Rourke's speech as anyone else.

Of course, it's also important to point out that kicking out Pollak was entirely within the O'Rourke campaign's rights. According to the ACLU, "Generally, a campaign rents space for its rallies, which gives it the right to exclude people for 'trespass' as well as get law enforcement's help to do so. A campaign can declare someone to be a trespasser if their presence interferes with the campaign's chosen message."

Perhaps O'Rourke's team was trying to protect what was probably a mostly black audience from a probably racist journalist. Maybe the school was the one to eject Pollak, or maybe he really had been disruptive in the past. But more likely than not, O'Rourke's team was merely trying to protect the Texas candidate from bad press by being associated with Breitbart. If this is the case, they made a poor choice.

Trump's war on the press is gathering momentum by the day, and he has a long history of ejecting "legitimate journalists" from his rallies and events. So for O'Rourke to eject a journalist—no matter how inflammatory and hateful a publication he writes for—is a disservice to the fight against Trumpism. In fact, this move by O'Rourke's team played right into Breitbart's hands, garnering the publication more attention than it ever would have gained for what undoubtedly would have been biased coverage of O'Rourke's speech. More worryingly, it's a move that works to legitimize Trump's practice of excluding from his events press members that he deems too left-wing or biased.

The line between hate speech and freedom of speech is notoriously blurry, but in order for journalism to remain the watchdog over government corruption, we must err on the side of freedom of expression, no matter how much we may disagree with what is being expressed.