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Alexander Zaitchik

Greg Gutfeld

Cross-posted from Media Matters

It is not insulting Fox News host Greg Gutfeld to say he doesn’t know much about the subjects he jokes and chats about for a living. He draws pleasure from saying so himself, over and over again, in a thousand repetitive ways.

Like the network he works for, Gutfeld’s shtick is premised on the loud embrace of a pugilistic, media-bubbled conservatism. Gutfeld considered the late Andrew Breitbart a close friend and inspiration, and indeed represents what might be called the Breitbartian wing of the Fox News spectrum: he revels in media war for its own sake, prefers pop culture to political history, and spends his time buried in a trough of Twitter feeds and feuds. His new book, The Joy of Hate, reads like an extended riff on the author’s admission to being just an oversexed, Internet-and-TV addicted former lad-mag editor, who not all that long ago was teaching “old people how to do sit-ups on cruise ships,” and whose idea of journalistic legwork is using the search box at FoxNews.com. (more…)

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Posted: December 3rd, 2012

alex-zaitchik-greece-12

A.C.A.B. = “All Cops Are Bastards”

The central Athenian neighborhood of Exarchia is the hub of Greek anarchist activity and a major node in the European anarchist network. Part NYC’s Lower East Side and part Copenhagen’s Christiana, it is home to numerous squat communities and reclaimed people’s parks, as well as some of the city’s hippest cafes and bars. The newest of the anarchist community spaces is called Nosotros, which features radical bands and speakers most nights of the week, including figures associated with the Occupy movement such as David Graeber. Since the 2008 murder of a teenage activist in Exarchia, relations between the locals and police have deteriorated to the point where cops generally stay out of the area, limiting their activities to plainclothes monitoring and stop-and-frisks along the perimeter. The quarter is home to a vibrant political street art scene. Below is a small sampling of the tags, stencils, and painted images found on its walls.

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Posted: March 17th, 2012

Click here for a photo essay of graffiti in Exarchia

(Photos by the author)
I arrived in Athens only hours after the February 12 anti-austerity riots, the acrid odor of burnt-out banks still lingering downtown, and checked into a familiar haunt, the Hostel Zorbas on Victoria Square. The last time I stayed there, in the summer of 2001, the place still took drachmas and buzzed with backpackers just returned from Piraeus, where the ferries fan out to the pleasure islands of the Aegean. A decade later, those memories felt like the flashback scenes in The Road. This time the hostel had only two other guests. There was Anas, a young Syrian refugee planning his way north to Sweden — “They called me up for military service, and I’m not going to shoot my own people,” he was telling the desk clerk when I arrived — and there was Guy, an 18-year-old anarchist from Brooklyn. Guy was in town to forge relationships with his brothers in black and study Greek riot tactics.

Welcome to the Austerity Athens hostel scene. (more…)

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Posted: March 14th, 2012

A year ago this week, a 22-year old Army reject with a shaved head and a 9mm opened rapid-fire on a Congressional meet-and-greet outside a Tucson shopping mall, killing six and wounding 14, including a non-fatal headshot against Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The day after the shooting, I flew to Tucson to look for stories. Upon landing I found my way to Sportsman’s Wharehouse, the massive gun-shop where Loughner had purchased his Glock as easily as buying a bagel. At the counter I saw two kids Loughner’s age with sleeve and neck tattoos indicating current or past membership in one of the area’s many white power gangs. When I asked the guy behind the counter if the shooting had impacted sales, his manager cut me off and said staff weren’t allowed to talk to press. (more…)

Posted: January 10th, 2012

Václav Havel’s death last week was less surprising than the reminder he was still alive. How he came close to reaching the Czech median life expectancy of 76, I have no idea. The perpetually wheezing, intermittently pneumonic Havel had been two sniffles away from his last since the re-election year of his friend Bill Clinton. That’s when doctors removed a good chunk of his malignant right lung, so charred by a three-decades long chain of unfiltered Petras that it could have modeled for those EU cigarette-packs obliged to illustrate the consequences of the habit. Then there was Havel’s half-decade as Prague’s Papillon, breathing dank prison air and subsisting on Czech jail slop. That he managed to eek it out to a ripe old 75 is an act of defiance to rival his stands against Husak and Moscow. Or maybe there’s magic on the Portuguese coast where Havel spent much of his last decade on this planet. (more…)

Posted: December 30th, 2011

twitter-revolution

Two years ago, I wrote an article for AlterNet about Twitter, then in its boost phase. As usual, I had been slow on the social media draw, and had no idea what people were talking about in 2008 when they said they “couldn’t find me on Twitter.” So I checked out the site and read some tweets. What I found scared me. The Twittersphere was like a nightmare satellite vision of the planet’s psychological atmosphere, nearly opaque with a dense, low-orbiting band of nauseating narcissisms. I couldn’t get my head around it; still can’t. Why would you willingly restrict communication to 140 characters unless you were playing a board game? Why would you want to broadcast your most diaristic, most diarrhetic thoughts to an uninterested world? Why oh fucking why would you voluntarily stick yet another IV needle into your brain carrying yet another drip of distraction? (more…)

Posted: February 11th, 2011

beck

The following is an adapted excerpt from Alexander Zaitchik’s book, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance, just released by Wiley & Sons.


Every July 4, Glenn Beck emcees the Stadium of Fire celebration in Provo, Utah. The patriotic extravaganza is the most elaborate Independence Day celebration in the country, drawing more than fifty thousand people annually to Brigham Young University’s LaVell Edwards Stadium for a program of family music, star-spangled speeches, military displays, and a magnificent array of fireworks. Sponsored by the conservative Mormon group Freedom Festival, the Stadium of Fire is the closest thing in the country to an institutionalized Rally for America, Beck’s controversial 2003 traveling pro-war roadshow. It is not surprising, then, that this is among the high points of Beck’s calendar year. “There’s nothing like Utah on the Fourth of July,” he likes to say.

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Posted: May 14th, 2010

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Story first published on AlterNet

Anyone interested in taking the pulse of the GOP base in 2010 has a few options. They can watch Fox News at any hour of any day. They can trot down to their local Tea Party, where the overwhelming majority of participants vote, and have always voted, Republican. They can visit the various official party Web sites, where the leadership has crafted a message to resonate with the angry anti-government mood that defines today’s conservative grassroots. (more…)

Posted: April 15th, 2010

Wall Mart Hippies

This story was first published on Alternet.

There is a fresh interpretive fad in the young field of Tea Party Studies: The New Right of 2010 as the New Left of the 1960s.

According to this nascent meme, today’s conservative grassroots holds strong echoes of earlier radicalism on the left. The Tea Party movement that worships Sarah Palin and screams for Barack Obama’s birth certificate is, in this view, more than just the latest herpetic outbreak of Richard Hofstadter’s paranoid “pseudo-conservatism.” It is a reincarnation of the New Left and 1960s counterculture. The Tea Partiers, it is becoming fashionable to argue, are the heirs not just of the John Birch Society and the young Barry Goldwater, but also of Students for a Democratic Society and the young Abbie Hoffman. (more…)

Posted: March 22nd, 2010

I started hearing about OMON before I ever saw them. I’d only been in Moscow a few weeks when a bar debate erupted over the authenticity of a YouTube clip purporting to capture an OMON deathblow. During an arrest an OMON officer had unleashed a series of strikes that left his victim crumpled on the ground.

Some said the person died of internal bleeding. Others doubted it. In any case, I made a mental note of the word: OMON. (more…)

Posted: May 18th, 2007