News Brief: Campus Anti-Genocide Protests and the Weaponization of Squishy, Bad-Faith ‘Safety’ Rhetoric

Citations Needed | April 27, 2024 | Transcript

Citations Needed
27 min readApr 29, 2024
Anti-genocide protesters at Columbia University. (Bing Guan / New York Times)


Nima Shirazi: Welcome to a Citations Needed News Brief. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: You can follow Citations Needed on Twitter, @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, and if you are so inclined, become a supporter of the show through All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated, as we are 100% listener funded. We do these News Briefs in between our regularly scheduled episodes, which, Adam, will resume again on May 8. We’ve been taking a little break because, sorry, Adam, to blow up the spot a bit again, but we have a new member of the Citations Needed family: Adam’s daughter, Norah.

Adam: Yes, she was born April 7, so we are feeling very #blessed. She’s in good health. So thank you so much for your patience with our little break. We are still technically off, but this particular news story was something that Nima and I were talking about offline, and it was enraging us. So we thought, we thought we’d record a News Brief, because it very much fits into an episode we did recently on crybullyism. Yeah, just a little background. I’m sure, for those who are paying attention, there’s been a recent explosion in college campus occupations and encampments to draw attention to the ethnic cleansing and mass killing event in Gaza, calling on both the universities themselves to divest from Israel and also to make certain demands, because a lot of these universities, of course, have these large investment funds. To some extent, that’s their kind of key function. And there are other relationships with the military-industrial complex. This is obviously extremely in our wheelhouse on the show, and this, of course, has led to pretty aggressive suppression by the police, the suspension of students, which is obviously something that can really devastate one’s track in life, mass arrests, beatings, tasings, clubbings. This has been, depending on the university, has either been met with, some have kind of ignored it, I know, or sort of let it happen because they see the bad publicity. Some have really cracked down, University of Texas being one of them. Obviously, USC was quite horrific, both red state, blue state. By the time you’re listening to this, I’m sure more will have happened. I know there’s one here in Chicago, at Northwestern University.

Nima: And of course, the kind of center of gravity, at least at one point, at the kind of beginning of the real college campus, part of the anti-genocide movement of this year, Columbia University in New York.

Adam: Right. And so this is being justified in the name of safety, quote-unquote, “safety.” Specifically, allegedly Jewish students are said to not feel safety. Every single attempt to shut down, arrest, suspend, club, beat has been justified in some sense of fighting antisemitism. So this is obviously fits well within the wheelhouse of the show, because we just talked about this tactic, which is this rather sleazy kind of fake liberal appeal to antiracism, to defend what again, I think many scholars, I don’t think we’re alone in saying this, believe it is a genocide or at least a proto-genocide in Gaza, which has now been going on over six months. The urgency is as great as ever. Hundreds, dozens, sometimes hundreds, are dying each day. This, of course, doesn’t include those who are dying from disease and malnutrition and preventable diseases and not having insulin. The number is probably much higher.

Nima: And the thousands upon thousands that are still trapped under the rubble.

Adam: Right, and they’re about to, Israel’s about to invade Rafah with the US now supporting that, even though they said they wouldn’t. But of course, we all knew they would.

Nima: Where over a million Palestinians are now seeking refuge and shelter, because they were told to keep moving south and south and south as Israel continued to bomb every aspect of Gaza on the way toward Rafah, and now is poised to invade.

Adam: And of course destroyed the healthcare system in its entirety, there’s been mass graves recently discovered of hundreds of people, many of whom are in OR scrubs with their hands tied behind them. So there’s urgency here. There’s urgency to end this. Everybody, I think many people thought this would have been over by now. They would have sort of gotten out of their system. But appears that Israel is going for broke. They’re going for either full-blown ethnic cleansing or just an arbitrarily high mass killing event, 100,000 150,000, whatever it is. And so there’s the people who have spoken up about this, which, again, the vast majority of Americans, or the majority of Americans, the vast majority of Democrats, certainly the vast majority of young voters who are not being listened to. And the White House, make no mistake, as we’ve talked about before, it can end this whenever they want. The Israeli war machine cannot survive without US support for more than a couple days, if not at all. Israel cannot fight a war on three fronts against Yemen, Hezbollah, and the militants in Gaza, whoever they may be, all that’s left is this kind of squishy, pseudo-liberal discussion around safety, which I want to talk about today.

Nima: So, yeah, so kind of with that, you know, teeing that up, let’s talk about feelings. Let’s talk about outrage, the fake and the justified, and how that is playing out right now in political language and also, of course, across our media when it comes to these college campus protests, occupations, and encampments. Let’s talk about outrage.

Adam: Yeah, so the justification used by the presidents of Columbia, USC, etc, has been the idea that these encampments make people feel unsafe. They make, supposedly make Jews feel unsafe. And of course, they don’t have a they don’t have any polling that shows this, they haven’t done a survey of all their Jewish students to find this out. It’s just an assertion. And this gets awkward, because, of course, as liberals, leftists, progressives, we don’t want to make people feel unsafe, right? That’s kind of a 101 thing. And of course, we don’t want to promote antisemitism, and nobody wants to promote anything that feels like racial hatred, especially on college campuses, where people are supposed to feel safe. So this language is pretty much the only game plan they have, because it makes people sort of question themselves, like, Wait, am I opposing Israel? Is that? Can that be a form of hate? Now, what you have to understand is that if you were born and bred to believe, as most Americans are, Jewish or not Jewish, if you’re born and bred to believe that Israel is inextricably linked, by the way, as the ADL explicitly argues, and has argued for decades, that Israel’s existence as a state is inextricably linked to the cultural, religious, and ethnic heritage of the Jewish people throughout the world, then it would follow that criticizing Israel in an existential way, which is to say, not like criticizing the top policies of Netanyahu or any this kind of liberal Zionist sort of framework, but existentially questioning the existence of an ethno-supremacist state, which is what Israel is by its definition, in key ways, right? Which is to say, a state where there’s different groups, there’s different laws for different people based on their heritage or their ethnicity, that if you question that, that is per se antisemitic. This is obviously absurd. This doesn’t make any sense. Because, again, if I’m a Palestinian living in the West Bank and I question the right of someone from Long Island to come to my house because of their religious or ethnic affiliation, to steal my home, if I criticize that, that’s per se antisemitism, right? You and I would all agree that’s absurd, right? But by the ADL’s own definition that that is true.

Nima: Right, that is then somehow bigotry, rather than a completely rational response to land theft.

Adam: Right. So this is all to say that I do feel like a lot of people genuinely feel unsafe. But guess what? That’s not sufficient. Now, that isn’t to say there aren’t people who say things that are antisemitic or say things that are in the sort of dicey gray area. Of course, that happens, but the vast, vast, vast majority of these protesters, of course, are not. Of course, any mass movement, whether it’s Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, you can’t police tens of thousands of people. It’s impossible, right? So what matters is what the sort of groups themselves say, and, of course, what the sort of overall aggregates say. Otherwise, you’re just not picking and that’s sort of a classic tactic to undermine any protest movement. But whether or not people feel safe per se is irrelevant, because, again, pro-life protesters feel unsafe around feminists and pro-choice protesters. A lot of white racists feel unsafe around black people, right? A lot of people feel, on January 6, feel like the election was stolen by, through, tampering of voting machines, right? People feel things all the time. You can feel in one hand and in the other and see which one feels first. It doesn’t matter how you feel, right? Feelings are important, but they have to be tethered to material reality. And simply saying, We’re gonna send in the fucking National Guard or the state troopers or local police departments with batons and helmets and tear gas–

Riot police harass Occupy Wall Street protesters in Portland, Oregon, in 2011. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Nima: Or private security forces.

Adam: Because if some nebulous group of people feel unsafe is piffle, it doesn’t mean anything. Because A) you haven’t pulled everyone. B) Obviously, a disproportionate amount of these protesters are Jewish. That, of course, is overlooked and obscured by both the White House and the American media.

Nima: Yeah, I think that’s actually a hugely important thing to note, Adam. I mean, the idea of safety and how Jewish students are feeling on campuses deliberately omits the fact that it’s not like the encampments are completely without Jewish people in them. Oftentimes it is majority Jewish people, especially around Passover recently, when there were literal Seders for liberation and justice in Palestine held at these encampments and elsewhere. Of course, the majority of the participants and the leaders of those Seders were Jewish. And so there’s this idea that there’s this kind of binary, the Jewish students on one hand, and then the participants of the encampments. And of course, that is deliberately done to create this idea of bigotry, of discrimination.

Adam: Yeah, because, again, it’s everyone’s sort of, especially all these gentile electeds, you see, like are supposedly speaking on behalf of the Jewish people. And this is one of the problems with ethnostates in general, is that it’s going to become conflated. And that doesn’t mean you’re all just supposed to roll your eyes, you know, throw your hands up and say, Well, I guess, you know, Israel can sort of continue killing hundreds of people a day and starving and, you know, executing journalists with missiles, and poets. And say, Oh, I guess not gonna do it. Like, of course, there’s gonna be gray areas and things are gonna get messy, but ultimately, like, the status quo is unacceptable. This can’t go on anymore. This has to stop again. It’s always important to sort of parse that difference. But again, it’s all just concern trolling, because nobody really thinks that this is some sort of pogrom. This is all right? This is all fake. It’s all fake outrage. Exactly. Again, I think people genuinely who’ve bought into a lot of the kind of ideology of Zionism, I think they genuinely do feel unsafe because they’ve been told their identity is tethered to a nation state. So that does sort of, that makes sense, but in terms of how the media covers it, I think it’s mostly phony. I think again, it requires the erasure of Jewish protesters, which they’ve done carte blanche. They also don’t even mention it. Or that’s sort of an afterthought. The New York Times kind of throws in a paragraph, the White House and others routinely sort of speak on behalf of some nebulous Jewish consensus. Now, polls show that the majority of Jews do support Israel, just as the vast majority of Americans support Israel, the vast majority of Christians support Israel, right? Or the vast majority of Americans are imperialists or colonialists, right? That’s sort of true always. Any kind of anti Imperial stance is always going to be a minority, whether you’re Jewish or not.

Nima: Yeah, sorry, folks. Propaganda mythology works.

Adam: Right. But polls show that millennial and zoomer Jewish Americans, almost half of them find Israel to be an apartheid. Younger Jews have disproportionately are overwhelmingly pro-ceasefire. It’s not even remotely close. So to that extent, the White House doesn’t speak on their behalf. There is a huge generational gap here, and the ADL is very much aware of this, which is why they pushed to get TikTok banned, which they appear to have successfully did. And so what you get is you get this kind of typical, squishy liberal safety discourse, because that’s all they really have. You know, what’s interesting about this quote-unquote “war” is that nobody really, if you notice, no one really defends it on its merits. No one’s even really bothering to do that, and hasn’t really done that since late October of 2023 everyone’s sort of doing this like you have to protest, calibrate it exactly so.

Nima: Exactly. It gets back to the process criticism. You can oppose this, but you have to do it the right way. And if you, if you blame it on, you know, Netanyahu being a bit overzealous, well, then, then that’s okay. We can agree on that. But if you actually call this genocide and do anything to try and oppose it, well then, you know, ooh, icky. You’re making me feel a little uncomfortable, especially if I’m someone who, you know in their Twitter profile calls myself a, you know, First Amendment champion, you know, free speech advocate, I’m really going to be offended by your pro-Palestinian stance, and no longer do I defend your free speech, but I definitely want the cops to come in and you up.

Adam: The peak of this kind of liberal squishiness, this kind of because I think what these protests have done, and why they’ve been so effective, and why I think they’ve resulted in such a meltdown from the powers that be, is because they really do expose the vacuousness of kind of high academia, liberal, kind of antiracist, the sort of Black Lives Matter, Wells Fargo forum, kind of liberalism that basically runs most higher education, which is to say you kind of have the right language, but ultimately you’re in service to corporate America, in service to the military-industrial complex, because they called for divestment from the military industrial complex and from Israel’s genocide. It’s not something easily co-opted. It doesn’t fit neatly into this, like, corporate, antiracist, corporate, kind of, you know, it’s like, when Black Lives Matter first went off, it had these radical demands, and then within three months, you know, you had, it somehow was about education reform.

Nima: That’s like the Pepsi commercial.

Adam: Yeah, there’s the Pepsi commercial. And then it was sort of about, you know, small business loans to black communities, and it’s like something, that’s fine, renaming streets, it’s like, that’s fine enough. But of course, that wasn’t really that’s kind of a no-cost, low-cost thing for the ruling class.

Nima: Which is why something like Defund the Police had a completely different kind of tenor. Because you can’t co-opt it, because it’s an actual demand.

Adam: Of course, and that’s why, that’s, by the way, why it emerged, right? Because Black Lives Matter in 2014 got so co-opted, so watered down, so the demands have to be more specific, more radical. And so this is why it’s so interesting to watch over the last couple weeks, because it is, it is so genuinely subversive in very key ways, which is especially the divestment from military-industrial complex. Because I think most people are not really aware of how in bed with the military–

Nima: How intertwined endowments of universities, yeah.

Adam: Are with the military. Yeah, both in terms of investment, but also the, you know, funding of institutions, the sort of the open exchange of because, again, this is what elite universities do. They train the sociopaths to run American empire in part, right, whether it’s at Silicon Valley or Washington, DC.

Nima: And they partner with each other, and they have fellowships, and they have exchanges, and this is all part of it.

Adam: And this reached a somewhat laughable conclusion. So this is from this kind of double-tongued military-industrial complex, like we talked about in Episode 199, mixed with this kind of therapy speak. This is from the Twitter user @me_im_chloe. She wrote, quote:

“My friend received this email from NYU after they called the police and arrested her lol. You rlly cannot make this up.”

Nima: Can I read it?

Adam: So Nima is going to read this email. This is, we haven’t 100% verified this, but it looks pretty legit. So, you know, whatever take it or leave it. But keep in mind that this person was arrested, and they got this email from NYU who sicced the police on them. They’re the ones that got them arrested, sic the police on protesters. And this is the email they sent.

Nima: This is the email received from the NYU Office of the Dean of Students:

Dear student, I am writing with care and concern to check in with you following the events on Monday evening. I recognize that living and processing this distressing experience evokes various emotions and complex feelings which may affect your ability to focus and feel safe.

Everyone here in the Office of the Dean of Students remains committed to offering you guidance, encouragement, and support during this time and throughout your tenure. We are working closely with school and campus partners, so whether you need someone to speak with, are experiencing academic or schedule difficulties, need information about safety planning or community resources, please be in touch. We are here to listen, provide guidance and connect you to the resources best positioned to support your needs.

We also recognize that you might not be ready to connect or find it helpful, and that is okay. The Wellness Exchange is a free and confidential resource available to you 24/7.

Adam: All right. So here you go. This, this is, to me, is liberalism. We had police arrest you potentially kick you out of the university for protesting right, which we clearly are indifferent to at the very you know, generously, we’re indifferent to it.

Nima: And then had someone from the Office of the Dean of Students have to write that. It’s the same entity. [Laughs]

Adam: No, of course. It’s, sorry, sorry, we arrested you. Have you thought about contacting a therapist?

Nima: The best part, though, is when they say, We understand if you might not want to talk to us, right?

Adam: Yeah, we get it. We had you arrested. Sorry about that?

Nima: Yeah, maybe we’re not the ones you want to confide in, but you know, we’re here. The lines are open.

Adam: And that’s the thing. A lot of these universities, they sell a kind of like, open-mindedness. They obviously trade on their kind of radical chic, you know, Berkeley, Columbia, they sort of have tours where you can go on like the, you know, in the ’60s, back when protests were good. Now they’re bad. And they sort of sell that chic, right?

Nima: They changed enough, Adam, we’re done with that.

Adam: Well, we’ve no we’ve reached the end of history. There’s nothing left to protest. So what’s your problem? You just need to vote harder.

Nima: Exactly, exactly. Well, that’s why you have Larry Summers at Harvard writing this on Twitter on April 26: “I think it is a profound failure that Harvard Yard continues to be occupied in clear violation of university policies and rules.”

Adam: Yeah. So in addition to the sort of flimsy liberal therapy speak and cry, bullyism, we have another exquisite feature of contemporary liberalism in the United States, which is kind of rules-following, where everyone acts like it’s really it really matters that they’re on the grass or that they’re sort of the student handbook you’re not following. Suddenly, everyone’s super concerned with the rules are.

Nima: Didn’t you know that was recently reseeded?

Adam: As if these rules aren’t broken all the time, or as if the rules-breaking is the point, as if camps that actually have full rules have also not been broken, as if that’s the thing, kind of motivating it, the kind of the dispassionate, they’re just calling balls and strikes. They’re just super concerned with, like rules around tents on grass. And this sort of technical, well, technically, you know, you face consequences. That’s what the rules say. And it’s like, buddy, what part of genocide do you not understand? And if the word “genocide” sort of makes you uncomfortable or seems kind of hyperbolic, okay, what part of you know, 40, 50,000 dead people, numbers probably two or three times that, that have been killed, that again, that are 75% living in Gaza refugees, have West Bank military occupied for, you know, almost 60 years. No end in sight to this humiliation.

Nima: And hundreds of people being murdered in the West Bank too.

Adam: Yeah, right. Oh, yeah, right. Hundreds of people murdered in the West Bank. It’s like, which of these things is the issue? Because, again, this could go away tomorrow. I mean, honestly, this would pretty much defuse if there was even a ceasefire. Forget this sort of other demands about, you know, justice and ending apartheid. Forget all that just sort of baseline liberal, big-tent demand that’s supported by 70 plus percent of voters. Just a fucking ceasefire would pretty much end this tomorrow, but they don’t want to do that, and that’s not an option. It’s similar to how they had to invent this, like Houthi menace and, oh by the way, then everyone, that was when everyone really cared about shipping lanes. Everyone was really concerned about the sanctity of shipping lanes, right? Forget the international law of occupying, military occupying people and subjugating and humiliating them and cutting off their food supply. The shipping lanes are the most important, urgent technical, legal issue of our time, or another fake thing people act like they cared about for a week.

But you can’t stop it. You can’t stop the plans to finish ethnically cleansing, or at least decimate the people of Gaza. That’s not an option. These things are inevitable, right? They’re kind of fixed. They can’t be changed. I want to read a New York Times headline, which I think really kind of summed up this.

Nima: Oh, speaking of inevitability, all but inevitable.

Adam: Yeah, this kind of inevitable-izing. Right. Here we go. “Pro-Palestinian Encampments Spread, Leading to Hundreds of Arrests. Protests and encampments in support of Palestine and Gaza have sprung up at colleges and universities across the country, and the police have intervened on several campuses.” So the encampments themselves have led to the arrests.

Nima: That’s right, they popped up, inevitably, leading to the next step, which is arrest.

Adam: And we get this kind of inevitable headlines elsewhere. Here’s a headline from a News Analysis, which is how the New York Times smuggles in their opinion making. Quote, “Signs Suggest That Invasion of Rafah is All but Inevitable,” and this sort of plays into the idea that Israel sort of is going to do it, White House can’t do it. White House can’t do anything. Helpless. White House, bumbling. White House, even though they said they were going to oppose it, then they said, Ah, never mind.

Nima: But even this like signs point to like it’s a Magic 8 Ball, rather than deliberate decisions made by human beings, and decisions that could be made differently or could be forced to not happen by the patron country that is continuing to arm and defend the genocidaires. The idea that this is just inevitable. This is just, you know, the tides, or the, you know, phases of the moon. It’s just gonna happen. These are the steps that are then taken. Palestinians are still alive in Gaza, which means, inevitably, that Israel is going to have to keep murdering them.

Adam: And the reality is, is that I don’t think that the powers that be, and let’s assume for a second, Democrats actually want to win in 2024, which I think is, I think Biden doesn’t really give a, I think he’s just a he’s just a glib racist to be quite honest. I think he sort of views things in this Arab savage framework. And that nothing really is going to ever change that, that’s just how he is. It’s always how he’s been. Comments in the ’80s, right, criticizing Reagan from the right because he was too hard on Israel, things of that nature, support of the war in Iraq, etc. I think if Democrats want to win, I don’t think they have a clue, because I don’t think it’s really registering a lot in the polls. Because intensity doesn’t really register when you ask people questions, the intensity of the contempt and the cynicism and the anger, it’s not going to manifest as people voting for Trump. I think that’s always kind of the red herring. It’s going to manifest as people just not voting.

Nima: Mmhmm.

Adam: And to the extent to which there are maybe four or five people left in the Democratic Party who actually do care about winning, again, they care about winning within a specific framework, but let’s assume they actually care about winning. People risking arrest and getting kicked out of universities in such large numbers. Again, these are people who don’t have their news filtered through CNN. It’s kind of racist human shields, for the most part, just kind of MSNBC, either who just ignores it, or local evening news or in the New York Times. These are people who do get their news from different sources. Again, not to say there aren’t problems with TikTok, but it’s, I think, in this particular instance, in this case, it is actually more accurate. They don’t understand the level of anger and rage and disgust and how a whole generation of people is being driven to cynicism. And when you have people who are sort of charged with winning over Democrats, like, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who even use the word genocide, and then the next day are saying, you really, you know, going on Mehdi Hasan’s show, saying you have to vote for Biden. I think it’s very cognitive, it’s a lot of cognitive dissonance, right, that this is a person who’s arming, funding, supporting and openly championing, and, by the way, propping up many lies from UNRWA, Hamas, Al-Shifa Hospital, propping up lies that are genocidal lies. I mean, these are manifestly genocidal lies. But also, you know, some things about democracy and voting for Trump, and we don’t electioneer on the show. I never tell people what to vote for, how to vote for, but I do think that that is extremely incongruent to a lot of people who view that and say, Well, wait a second. Can we at least hold out support until there’s a ceasefire, right? Like there’s eight, there’s seven months till the election. So what’s the rush? Can we use that leverage, whether you’re again, no matter who you are, left-wing pundit or influential celebrity or an influential person in Congress? Shouldn’t we be using that leverage to make a very clear demand, which is, stop the genocide in Gaza before we kind of preemptively?

Nima: Isn’t that what actual democracy is supposed to be about? [Laughs] I know I’m naive here, Adam, but I mean, come on.

Adam: Well, that’s the thing is, like people are sort of conceding this concept of genocide as if it’s some kind of box-checking, but like, that’s the crime of crimes. Like, what could be more urgent than stopping a genocide? If you genuinely believe something’s a genocide, why would you not use all the leverage you have to prevent that from happening, rather than sort of preemptively conceding, no matter who you are, what, if you’re a left pundit, or whatever, the sort of sheepdogging function one serves, right. That I don’t understand.

Nima: I mean, I think it has to do with who the genocide is aimed at. And there’s this idea, there’s this kind of liberal idea of, well, you know, genocide sure is bad. But like, you know, what would be worse, is if Trump was genociding liberals. That would be worse.

Adam: Or genociding more, right? Because the argument is that he’s somehow worse. And the thing is, like that is not an argument I’ve seen anyone, any meaningful stakeholder, actually make, which is to say, anyone who’s Palestinian, or even someone who’s, you know, in the area getting bombed by Israel, like it is a largely abstract argument. It may be true, right? Who knows, but it strikes me as very out of step with the urgency of the moment.

Nima: Vote for Biden so that we stop doing the thing that we are literally doing under Biden.

Adam: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s how a lot of people read it again, we don’t electioneer. I’m not telling people vote, not vote, whatever. But I do think that message of, like, it’s a and also make sure you vote for Biden, because Trump is going to destroy the republic. I’m making a process criticism here, like, I think that breeds false to most people under a certain age and most people who weren’t, like, completely embedded in the minutiae of, like, partisan identity.

Nima: And it’s able to be addressed. I mean, it has been for six months, but it continues to be able to be addressed, and the Biden administration is refusing to do so.

Adam: Right? That’s the thing. It’s such a simple ask, right? It’s not like demanding that Biden somehow pass universal healthcare. It’s not something that requires, you know, X amount of votes in Congress or protecting a woman’s right to choose, it’s literally, pretty much something he can do in a day. And of course, the moral content of the demand matters too, right? The fact that it’s such a clear moral chipshot matters more than anything. And yet again, we’re just told it’s inevitable, and there’s little he can do about it. I’ve read about this for the Substack. The reason why I think that, like, Oh, we have to get behind Biden seven months out, which, again, I don’t know what the rush is, the election’s not for another, you know, half a year. The reason why I think it’s perverse and really kind of offends me, and the reason why I think at least people should be waiting to do anything until the DNC in Chicago, which I will be covering, the reason why I think people should hold out at least for that is that, like Biden’s counting on it. So there’s a bit of prisoner’s dilemma here. And the Biden White House is very clearly just assuming everyone’s going to fall in line eventually, because of the threat of Trump and the specter of Trump and the genuinely frightening things that are involved in things like, you know, Project 25 and the Heritage Foundation taking away the federal government.

Nima: Yeah, legit fascist shit. Like, absolutely terrifying prospects.

Adam: Right. As opposed to fascists for brown people, right? Which is, again, from their perspective, who cares? They’re just assuming that that specter will be enough. So them knowing that is precisely why they don’t give a shit. And then so you really have a game of chicken. You have a prisoner’s dilemma of sorts, where the assumption is that, Oh well, they’ll fall in line. That’s what they’re counting on. And that, I think, is what makes the kind of rah-rah cheerleading this far out so offensive to me.

Nima: Because it’s giving it up, right? You’re not even playing the game in the game theory.

Adam: No, you’re really not.

Nima: It’s over, right?

Adam: You’re just conceding it. You’re saying, forget about it. And from an impact standpoint, the withholding of that support, which, by the way, certain unions are doing now, they’re saying we’re going to withhold till the ceasefire, certain organizations obviously have done that as well. This is all to say. This is all to say, right? This kind of all this kind of gamesmanship about who endorses what. This is all to say that, I think that the failure of these sort of big-profile progressives to really seem like they’re holding their own is part of the reason which spurs these encampments, because it seems like the kind of fix is in, that everyone’s gonna fall in line, and that Biden’s gonna continue the status quo until, God forbid, November of 2024, and by that point, we’ll have 10, 20, 30, 40,000 more dead people. Invasion of Rafah could be as many, some estimates say 100 to 150,000 and so there’s no urgency. It’s kind of just that’s what it is. Every day you hear these new horrific images, these new dead, mangled children, and you say that’s just fixed, and Biden is doing it, but the other guys would do it anyway, so suck it up and deal with it.

Nima: But that’s why these campus protests are so dangerous, and that’s why they’re getting the coverage that they’re getting, because they are not allowing this to be silenced. They are not allowing this to just be like, well, now it’s six months on, now it’s seven months on, now it’s eight months on, and now it’s no longer the top of the news, because we’re talking about Trump trials, and we’re talking about horserace politics, and we’re talking like talking about, you know, everything but the ongoing funded, armed, and defended genocide.

Adam: Which, again, Biden can stop whenever he wants.

Nima: Which Biden can stop.

Adam: Or at the very least, he can stop arming and supporting it.

Nima: Right. And so again, that is why the fact that this movement is growing, not shrinking, is so dangerous, which is why you’re seeing such violent state responses, state and private, I mean institutions then calling upon state forces often, to clear out the rabble rousers, because they are being too loud about something too fucking obvious, which is potentially detrimental to an important election a number of months from now.

Adam: Yeah, and Democrats don’t really have a moral argument against it. It’s just process and legalese. It’s like in Liar, Liar when he’s like, Objection, and he says, “Well, on what grounds?” “Because it’s devastating to my case.”

It’s like, because it makes the election look bad. It makes Democrats look bad, makes Biden look bad. It makes him look like he’s losing his young voters, make him obviously, all the the sort of energy, the kind of moral energy, the evangelism, all this stuff that that really did carry him in 2020. I mean, riding the coattails of Black Lives Matter, riding the coattails of a lot of the Covid activism, and riding the coattails and a lot of the, you know, “Kids in Cages” immigration activism that did actually was dispositive in that election, despite what people tell you, right? It wasn’t Panera Bread whites. It was, it was progressives and younger voters who did help tip the scales, and now he’s just saying, Go fuck yourself because you have no choice, because otherwise it’s Trump, and you’re obviously not going to support him.

Nima: Right.

Adam: And I think that people generally psychologically, just on a basic psychological, they don’t like being extorted. It makes people angry to be extorted, or to feel like they’re being extorted or being forced into a position they don’t want to take, especially when it’s something that, again, can be solved so quickly and so efficiently, and it’s such a moral no-brainer, right? Again, this isn’t capital gains tax or zoning laws. This is, this is in theory, again, if you accept the premise of genocide, this is the crime of crimes. It is the mother of crimes. It is the biggest deal in the world. Nothing could be a bigger deal, right? A US-backed, funded genocide is the biggest deal in the world, and yet it’s treated as if it’s like some boutique, you know, sort of zoomer hangup, or neurosis, because what else is there to do? There’s not, there’s no other play. You can’t, no one’s gonna argue the merits of it. So really, it’s just, ah, they’re doing it because it’s fashionable. They’re doing it, you know, it’s like baggy sweatpants. It’s, it’s sort of what’s in.

Nima: Yeah, that’s why you see a lot of bullshit, like, you know. Oh, this is just lefty LARPing. You’re just trying to be part of this, like, cool movement. It’s cool. Like, man, if it were cool, if it were so fucking cool to be anti-genocide we wouldn’t be in this position.

Adam: Also, like, if people are joining an anti-genocide protest because it’s cool, then great. Like, this should be cool. Like, it’s not, you know, like, it’s fashionable to feed homeless people. It’s like, well, great.

Nima: Yeah, okay, that’s a good thing.

Adam: If that’s the trendy, in thing, then that would be, that would be advisable. It’s certainly better than the fashion, you know, sort of the trend of, of looking the other way and polishing one’s resume so they can go, you know, work at fucking McKinsey & Company, or whatever else people do at Columbia when they’re not purchasing I don’t know, or sticking one’s head in the sand and hoping no one notices. I mean, this is good. This is what we should be promoting. You know, we were told that zoomers were lazy and entitled, and now they’re finally doing something about it. And what do we get? We get a bunch of handwringing about, Oh, they’re wearing masks. Let’s talk about masks all day. It’s like, shut the fuck up. You guys are useless. You know, I don’t go in for like, I don’t go in for generational stuff, because, again, I think it can be very reductionist, but the way this hemming and hawing and this and that, and it’s all, Back in my day, we protested this, and we were clear, and we we made sure that so and so didn’t say such. And so it’s like, shut the fuck up. Nothing could be more urgent and urgent things are going to be imprecise, like they’re going to be messy. And that’s just why all these fucking concern trolls, the only play they have is to is to either nutpick or act like, you know, they there’s this, there’s this sort of, it’s like, it’s like, entering the atmosphere, there’s this perfect kind of four degrees, right? But the capsule can come in. You have to have the perfect protest. And if you have to hit, you have to hit the Earth at just the right speed.

Nima: Well, it’s like, yeah, right. You can only, you can only, uh, protest genocide the way I think you should, and I don’t think you should.

Adam: You know, anyway, so this has been enraging me, but I will, I will go back to my paternity leave, such as.

Nima: [Laughs] Well, I appreciate you coming out of your leave to do this. It’s been great to talk with you again, Adam, I want to keep up the idea that we only speak on this show.

Adam: Oh, yeah.

Nima: We have, we have no external relationship

Adam: None at all. Hate this fucking guy.

Nima: [Laughs] No, it is, it is good to do this News Brief. I’m glad we were able to make the time. Please go back to your sweet baby, and we will be back in a couple weeks with more new episodes of Citations Needed. So stay tuned for that. Thank you, everyone, so much for listening to the show. Of course, in the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, and become a supporter of the show, and our team, and our work, through We are 100% listener funded, and so all your support through Patreon is incredibly appreciated, but that will do it. As I said, we will be back soon with new episodes. Stay tuned, but until then, thanks again. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed’s Senior Producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. The newsletter is by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again, everyone. We’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed News Brief was released on Saturday, April 27, 2024.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.