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Character Assassination Could Happen to You

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it
TAMPA—If you are a tenure-track or tenured professor, this post is especially important to you.

Because one bad precedent can strip you of rights you thought you earned.

Imagine a low-point in your life. A really low point.

For me, that was my divorce. Close to five years later, most of the wounds have healed.

But the story hasn’t.

That’s because one outsider decided to exploit this most private and painful time for political leverage.

This person pried deep into my private life at its lowest point, collecting tawdry gossip and hearsay with no regard for separating fact from fiction.

Although I was told some small excerpts of the sleazy claims, I never was told that a J. Edgar Hoover-like blackmail dossier had been stashed away in some filing cabinet.

One Coward Was Not Enough

When your luck hits a bad streak, probability suggests that streak will end.

As anyone will tell you (unless they’re trying to save their own rear end for lying), I made no secret of this character assassination that surrounded my divorce.

Still, one coward tried to use this information in a felony extortion demand (which, no surprise, said coward calls a misunderstanding).

And from the hidden filing cabinet came the “Hoover” report. I can make one clear statement about that document: the parts that are relevant are not true, and the parts that are true are not relevant.

When the university tried to look into the “Hoover” report, honesty again was perilously avoided. They said they wanted to look into hiring practices and invited a handful of witnesses. Because the purpose of those interviews was hidden, no one came prepared to answer the questions they would actually be asked. This is handy when the interviewer already has reached a conclusion.

Exactly one person knew the gist of the “Hoover” report but had not informed those up the line. Come interview time, this person lied over and over again in a game of covering one’s own ass.

So there were offsetting versions of events. A stalemate.

To be clear, nothing close to anything that had ever been upheld as a grounds for firing a tenured professor.

But the university could not have been interested in the truth, because they merely had conflicting reports. In time, of course, countless documents and witnesses would verify my version of events. Not one single document can verify the other side, of course, because it is all lies.

This Could Happen to You

If you have any skeleton in your closet, and you risk speaking truth to power, you, too, could have a “Hoover” report. And once that exists, people will give great deference to those claims because they are written down—even when the overwhelming majority is some mixture of nonsense and lies.

And lest you feel safe because you haven’t done the things that I have been accused of doing, just remember that I haven’t done most of them, either.

If this stands, firing a tenured professor will be remarkably easier anywhere than it was a year ago.

Any donation—no matter how small—to the Legal Aid Fund will help ensure this does not happen.

If you are a faculty member anywhere, you have a dog in this race.

And when we win, your contribution will be paid forward to the AAUP Legal Defense Fund in case you ever end up on the wrong side of power.

This is not about me. It is about all of us.

My sincere thanks to those who already have donated.


Please Donate to Tenure Legal Aid Fund

Tenure is vital to academic freedom
TAMPA—I need your help.

There’s no other way to put it.

More importantly, the entire system of academic freedom in this country needs your help.

If you want to ensure a world where university professors can research and teach in an environment that values knowledge above all, now is the time to act.

I greatly appreciate the individuals who donated to the Public Records Fund, and your generosity helped offset more than half of my personal expenses in seeking public records.

But now the stakes are much, much higher.

Academic Freedom Matters to Us All

Although my saga has now been ongoing for more than a year, we are now in the expensive part of the fight.

In the past year, I have yet to find a single case in all of American jurisprudence where a tenured professor was dismissed on the kind of trivial allegations trumped up by USF—not even remotely.

To put it bluntly, the action attempted by USF would reduce the protection of tenure to noting, equating it with at-will employment in a right-to-work state.

If unchecked, this one hasty act by an administration trying to save face could do more damage to tenure that any other single act in the history of tenure.

This precedent cannot stand. This precedent must not stand.

Rights Are Free; Protecting Them Isn’t

My current legal expenses already have run into five figures. I have emptied every retirement account and paid the stiff penalties that accompany those withdrawals.

The U.S. Constitution gives us many rights; however, it provides no mechanism to fund the defense of those rights.

Without fail, when I tell this story to an academic, that person says, “But they can’t do that.”

And I am forced to reply, “They can’t, but they did.”

And that have a cadre of attorneys on full-time salary paid by the taxpayers. It has not cost one of them a cent.

As our nation has witnessed, the courts are the check on abuses of power by the state. But courts are not free, and good legal counsel is not inexpensive.

If you want all of the details, you can look back through past posts on the subject using the tags to the right.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that when agreements are written as they are at USF, tenure represents a ”property right“ under the Fourteenth Amendment.

That means that it should have been as difficult for USF to take away my tenure as it would have been to seize my house, bank account, or vehicle.

Yet they merely wrote a letter.

And if this precedent is somehow allowed to stand, it will be that much easier for the next academics-hating politician to take away your tenure or remodel our system of higher education where your children or grandchildren will not have the opportunity to learn.

Lest I need to remind you of that current political climate:

“The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.”
– U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Feb. 23, 2017

Any Contribution Will Help

Since this blog began in July 2016, there have been tens of thousands of unique site visitors. If each of those visitors contributed $1, it would change the world.

There are many great causes in need of money now. I understand that. When arsonists hit a local mosque last Friday, I scraped together $5 to help rebuild. It wasn’t much, but it helped them reach their goal.

Any amount helps.

When the Public Records Fund opened, some people donated $100, some $50, some $20, and some in the single digits. I understand that you might not have much to contribute. But $1 really will make a difference.

And I will pay it forward. When my case ultimately triumphs, your donation will be forwarded to help fight for academic freedom and tenure (or a cause of your choosing).

An Offer to Multiply Your Impact

This fight is not easy. It has not been easy. But the United States Constitution is on our side.

Tomorrow will begin my ninth month without a paycheck. This despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has said in cases such as mine, the employee should be suspended with pay rather than be fired without any kind of hearing.

To-date, USF owes me about $100,000 in back pay alone. This is separate from the $3 million to $4 million in damages they have done to my reputation.

Without boring you with details, in the coming months an impartial arbitrator will be asked to decide on my request for what is known as a “make whole” order. If granted, this would provide me all back pay (with interest) and restore me to my rightful position as a tenured associate professor at USF. As you might imagine, I also have asked for damages.

If you donate to this Legal Aid Fund, here is my pledge to you: When the back pay is awarded, I will forward all money donated to this fund plus an additional 50% (up to $5,000) in your name to the AAUP Foundation’s Legal Defense Fund.

Although I have not yet received any aid from this fund (or any other), I believe it represents the frontline in fighting for our universities.

If you prefer a different charity, you can indicate that in PayPal or on your check or money order, and your contribution plus a matching amount will go there.

Finally, I will forward the receipts (in your name) to you, as unlike Now the Facts, the AAUP Foundation and most charities can afford official IRS charitable status, making the contribution tax deductible.

I make this matching offer to show how strongly I believe in the cause.

Please consider clicking the Donate button at right or mailing a check or money order to:

Sam Bradley/Now The Facts
PO Box 9412
Tampa FL, 33674

Your support is greatly appreciated. Together, I believe we can protect the integrity of our institutions of higher education for years to come.


Beware the Ides of February

Wood cutting of stabbing of Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar died from a betraying knife. My proverbial knife, however, was right in the back. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

TAMPA—Julius Caesar may have had to be wary of the middle of March, but it seems that I should taken vacations during the middle of February.

Several days have passed since the last post here, as I have been busy with my ongoing legal battle.

I also have not had much positive to say during the past week, as it marks anniversaries in both infringements upon my Constitutional Rights, one in 2013 and one in 2016, discussed here.

“When protected interests are implicated, the right to some kind of prior hearing is paramount.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart in Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569-570 (1972).

Reminders About the USF Case

Lest anyone forget the unequal protection particulars:

I was first informed that a University of South Florida employee was attempting to extort the university using my reputation as leverage on Feb. 19, 2016. Although I have reported the second-degree felony to multiple state agencies, a year later, USF has yet to report the crime, according to all records I have accessed.

After the precise actions foretold in the extortion threats occurred, USF placed me on paid administrative leave on March 23, 2016. I have been able to obtain no evidence of discipline to the other employee.

From April 5, 2016, to April 8, 2016, “interviews” were conducted by contracted attorney Thomas M. Gonzalez. Everyone to be interviewed was specifically told, “This is not a disciplinary review,” it was, in fact, a disciplinary review.

Despite multiple unequivocal rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that a pretrial hearing is required, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox wrote a letter announcing my termination on June 29, 2016.

There was no pre-termination hearing, as required by the Constitution. Since that letter was penned, 241 days have past, during which I have received no income. There still has been no hearing. The Supreme Court has ruled that the preferred option is to allow the employee to continue to work while awaiting a hearing. Even if that is not possible, however, payment is required.

“Finally, in those situations where the employer perceived a significant hazard in keeping the employee on the job, it can avoid the problem by suspending with pay.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Byron White in Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 542 (1985).

No hearing. No pay. No Constitutional rights. No justice. Eight months.

Meanwhile at University of South Florida

Former regional vice chancellor of academic affairs for the USF St. Petersburg campus, Han Reichgelt, stepped down from his administrative position on Feb. 27, 2015, but Reichgelt remains “a [well paid] professor of information systems management,” according to excellent student journalism by The Crow’s Nest.

Han Reichgelt

Han Reichgelt, former USFSP regional vice chancellor of academic affairs

Reichgelt’s sudden administrative resignation came following a complaint to USF’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, according to public records first obtained by The Crow’s Nest.

Although the public documents released by the university omit specifics, sources close to the investigation have confirmed to Now the Facts that the allegations were related to the university’s policy on sexual harassment. The allegations have neither been substantiated nor refuted by either USF or Reichgelt.

Unfortunately for all involved, another high profile case involving sexual harassment would break at USF following my unconstitutional termination.

USF's Dr. Herb Maschner

Herb Maschner, former director of the USF Center for Virtualization and Applied Spatial Technologies

This time, news broke that a high-profile director on the USF main campus, Herb Maschner, had been accused of sexual harassment while at his former employer, Idaho State University, and that the complainant would sue the university in December 2016, according to the Idaho State Journal.

This revelation led to the university removing Maschner as Director of the USF Center for Virtualization and Applied Spatial Technologies; however, he would continue to hold on to his lucrative professor position, according to The Oracle, the student newspaper at USF.

Rather than going to court, Idaho State University settled the lawsuit with Maschner’s victim for $170,000, according to the Idaho State Journal.

Court documents provide graphic detail of the abuse of a female subordinate employee, who “had just lost an infant daughter,” according to the Journal.

Since the Maschner story first broke, the Now the Facts Anonymous Tips box has been flooded with information about, Maschner, and additional Public Records Requests are currently being prepared.

Slowly But Surely

My case against the university proceeds forward. Slowly and expensively.

The response to the public records request fund has been exceptional—and much appreciated. Next week will launch a legal defense fund to help fight this injustice. There will be a fun twist. Stay tuned.

Both these men remain employed. The Supreme Court has clearly said that I should have remained employed or suspended with pay pending a hearing. That didn’t happen.

Instead, it has been 241 days without pay. And to the best of my knowledge—which includes multiple public records requests about myself, I have never been accused of sexual harassment in any venue at any time in any state.

How sad are the state of affairs when all facts suggest that committing sexual harassment would have saved my job?


New #Resist Shirt Available

Racial Justice / Resist T-shirt
I haven’t only been blogging. I have been working on some shirt designs, too.

If you are interested in racial justice, you may find this shirt of interest.

It is available on Spreadshirt.


Biological Bases of Fear in Politics

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Although it made for effective political rhetoric, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous quotation doesn’t quite square with science.

TAMPA—Fear serves as a primary motivator of human behavior for good reason—if you do not adequately avoid threats, you cease to be a human being.

Threats, Opportunities, & Survival

For every member of the animal kingdom, survival boils down to a rather simple strategy: maximize opportunities and minimize threats.

Yet as simple as that may seem, the desire for opportunities and the fear of threats varies widely from person to person. These differences lead some people to take far greater risks than others.

Perhaps not surprisingly, these individual differences have been shown by science to correlate with complex social behaviors.

Mapping Biology to Society Quite Indirect

One of the reasons it is easier to be a politician than a scientist or a science writer is because with science, the devil is always in the details. And hashing out the details gets wonky in a hurry.

Take, for instance, political party identification. For any given person, a huge variety of factors affects this identification—including strongly the party identification of those who raised you.

Donkey and ElephantPolitical parties are social constructs that represent some amalgamation of broad ideology with the particular interests of those in power controlling the parties.

Given this, it should come as no surprise that science is able to better explain identification with an ideology than with a political party.

Further, if you can get a better handle on which aspects of an ideology result in the identification, you can far better explore the factors that correlate with, predict, and follow from that identification.

But that makes for far more boring headline.

Popular Understandings of Human Motivation

Almost everyone reading this will have heard of “fight or flight” or “approach and avoidance.” Those represent straightforward notions, and they are relatively easy to understand.

Each paints two diametrically opposed choices: you go one way or the other. Just like an arrow with two ends.


You have one body, so you can go in only one direction given the laws of physics.

Yet as scientists continued to dig deeper into the mysteries of the human mind—not surprisingly—the underlying reality turned out to be much more complicated.

‘Risky’ Behavior Reveals a Single Arrow’s Flaws

Consider something very benign, which has no serious appeal and poses no serious threat. I have often used the example of a kitchen stool, or, for example, why so few people watch C-SPAN.

Kitchen stoolLet me try to illustrate this with what I hope will be a straightforward example.

With a single approach/avoid arrow and a very neutral object, there is no motivation to approach or avoid it, so one would fall in the middle of that arrow.

Now consider some “risky” behavior that carries with it both strong appeal and a good deal of risk.

Unprotected sex is one example. Recreational drug use is another.

For recreational drug use, one might be allured by the social conformity of the group at a party and any pleasurable effects of the drug. Concurrently, one might be repelled by health dangers and potential legal consequences.

Here one also is caught in the middle of the approach and avoid arrow, yet it goes without saying that this is an altogether a different experience.

Two Systems Must Produce One Result

As it turns out, scientists have revealed a great deal of evidence that the simple approach/avoid model poorly explains what happens in the human nervous system.

Rather than a single push/pull system, thousands of studies point toward two separate systems: an appetitive system that regulates the desire to approach and an aversive system that regulates the desire to avoid.

Two arrows

The two systems compete for control, and whichever system is most active governs action. When appetitive activation is greatest, the inclination is to approach. When aversive activation is greater, the inclination is to avoid.

Returning to our neutral, boring object, neither system is activated, so there is no motivation to do either.

PillFor the risky situation, both systems are similarly active, so there is, in effect, a tie between them. It is difficult draw.

Note how the simple switch to two competitive systems now clearly illustrates why the neutral and risky situations immediately seem so different despite the fact that they both fall in the middle of the single approach/avoid arrow.

Which System Wins at Any Given Moment

If these two systems, appetitive and aversive, were perpetually deadlocked, you would be perpetually frozen, and that likely does not resemble your personal experience.

Using data, scientists have developed models that suggest that these two systems ramp up differently depending upon the intensity of the situation.

HikerWhen the world seems fairly calm and safe, the appetitive system enjoys an advantage. This makes a great deal of sense biologically. Without this advantage, no one would explore their world, so they would never find food, water, or potential mates. We call this advantage of the appetitive system positivity offset.

However, if they appetitive system always enjoyed the advantage, you would walk straight into every danger in the world. In short, you would soon be dead.

Skull and crossbonesThe check on this is that as the environment becomes more intense, the aversive system ramps up more quickly. If you’re mathematically inclined, one can say that the slope of its activation function is steeper. We call this negativity bias.

Taken together, the positivity offset and negativity bias serve to allow humans and animals to be generally exploratory in nature yet avoid dangers and threats.

The important thing to note that is our research and that of others provides strong evidence of significant individual differences in both positivity offset and negativity bias.

Equally as important, our data showed that the two factors were independent. That is, people with a high negativity bias might have either a low positivity offset.

Examining the Two Factors Together

All other things being equal, those with a high positivity offset will have above average approach tendencies. Even as situations become more intense, these individuals still will feel drawn to approach.

Likewise, all other things being equal, those with a high negativity bias will have above average avoidance tendencies. Even when situations are relatively less intense, these individuals will be inclined to avoid.

Because empirical data showed these dimensions to be relatively independent, it becomes much more explanatory to consider individuals that are high or low in each of the two dimensions.

When divided into “high” or “low” on both negativity bias and positivity offset, we got roughly four equal groups of people. Here is our name for each group and a summary description.

INACTIVES: Individuals with both a low negativity bias and a low positivity offset exhibit the least reaction to the external world. Opportunities do not especially excite them, and risks do not especially frighten them.

RISK TAKERS: Given that our research was designed to help craft better health communication messages, this group was of greatest interest. High in positivity offset, these individuals are driven to experience life, and this drive is only slightly tempered as risk increases. Not surprisingly, these individuals reported the most tobacco, drug, and alcohol use.

RISK AVOIDERS: At the very opposite end of the spectrum, individuals with a low positivity offset and a high negativity bias feel less pull toward opportunities in the world, and they are quick to withdraw when any risk presents itself.

COACTIVES: Finally you have the group with a high positivity offset and a high negativity bias. They charge out into the world seeking experience and opportunity, just like risk takers, but that drive has a serious limit. As soon as the likelihood of risk increases, the opportunity loses its appeal

Physical, Behavioral Differences Among Types

In addition to their likelihood to smoke, drink, or take drugs, individuals falling into these groups exhibited both behavioral and physiological differences. That is, their bodies responded differently to pleasantness and unpleasantness.

For example, when shown a series of pleasant and unpleasant photographs, risk avoiders were especially fast to click past extremely unpleasant photographs.

These differences manifested in their physiology, too. As might be expected, those high in negativity bias exhibited increased levels in multiple physiological changes associated with avoidance.

These physiological differences are crucial to understanding this issue. If you are an individual with high negativity bias, unpleasant things are bad to you precisely because they feel bad to you. Even if often subconscious, these physiological changes associated with flight are registered in the mind, and they affect ongoing cognition.

Restated, this is not a carefully reasoned, logical choice. This is, “This feels bad, and I am getting out of here.”

Bringing It Back to Politics

As I first wrote last week, at the same time we were working on this research designed at designing better health prevention messages, other researchers were examining how these concepts related to underlying political ideology.

As a reminder, political party identification is extremely complicated and only partially affiliated with underlying ideological values.

Variables such as education and socioeconomic status also play large roles.

Furthermore, you are a product of your genes, your environment, and how your environment affected your gene expression. So who you are was never predetermined.

Thus, there almost assuredly never will be physiological measures that associate as strongly with party identification as with basic conservative or liberal ideology.

And as a final qualifier—reminder here that with science, the devil is in the details—this also is not simply asking people to check conservative or liberal. Effective measures ask participants to rate their agreement with several statements, some of which stem from liberal ideology, and some of which stem from conservative ideology.

The words, as labels, are also highly charged, so their use skews responses.

Despite Qualifiers, Correlations Exist

Admittedly that was a long list of qualifiers. Yet understanding that basic concepts should make it at least plausible that those individuals with a greater negativity bias would tend to show greater agreement with these kinds of statements:

  1. Society works best when people realize the world is dangerous
  2. Society works best when people take primary responsibility for their welfare
  3. Society works best when those who break the rules are punished

Accordingly, people who respond with a high level of agreement with these statements, which derive from conservative ideology, are more likely to be Republicans than Democrats.

Just as is the case that designing anti-tobacco messages should differ based upon your audience, feal appeals work differently with different audiences.

Fear appeals work best on individuals with a high negativity bias. On the aggregate across a national population of more than 300 million people, individuals with a high negativity bias are going to be overrepresented in the group of people who agree with conservative ideology. And among these people, Republican party identification will be represented in greater numbers.

However, this is far from invariant, and there is no direct causal link. Trying to make predictions for a given individual likely will fare no better than a coin flip. For a national election, however, these trends will manifest themselves in a mass population.


Science Answers: Why Are Conservatives So Afraid?

Trump's rallying cry: Fear itself

An illustrative story from the February 3, 2017, in the Washington Post. The point here is not political but rather to point out that science has shown that some people tend to be more disposed to fear than others.

TAMPA—Sometimes a mystery leads you places you had no intention of going.

But it is difficult to walk away from a good mystery.

This was the case in my research lab several years ago when we began a series of studies that had nothing to do with politics or political ideology, yet we wound up scratching our heads and asking:

“Why are conservatives so afraid of the world?”

The primary difference between science and politics is that in science, you follow the data. When the data clearly demonstrate that your predictions were incorrect, you work hard to understand why. You go where the data take you.

Nearly a decade ago, my research lab was working on a study to better understand the cognitive processing of television.

Specifically we were investigating the cognitive underpinnings of how viewing large quantities of television distorts viewers’ perceptions of the world. In short, the more TV you watched, the meaner you thought the world was.

Participants are asked questions like this:

“If you were to walk by yourself for an hour every night in a park in New York City for a month, what do you think the chances are that you would be the victim of a serious crime?”

DOI: 10.1080/15213260701533078

“Neural Network Simulations Support Heuristic Processing Model of Cultivation Effects,” DOI: 10.1080/15213260701533078

It turns out that people who watch a lot of television estimate their chances much more likely than those who watch less television.

That “mean world” finding was decades old and had been replicated hundreds of times, including multiple times in my lab.

In fact, I even designed, simulated, and published an artificial neural network to show how this effect might manifest itself in the human brain.1

When it came time to collect additional human data with additional measures to test the model against human performance, I had moved to Texas Tech University as an assistant professor.

Lubbock County is one of the most conservative counties in the United States, but it did not seem to matter much because we were investigating fairly low-level cognitive processes.

Television’s Influence upon Our World Perceptions

The basic “mean world” effect makes perfect sense. Even if you work in law enforcement, you are far more likely to see a television or film portrayal of a homicide than to witness a real life murder.

Suffocation scene from Criminal Minds

A man suffocates a woman during an episode of the TV crime drama Criminal Minds (Season 11, Episode 15, ‘A Badge and a Gun’). The overwhelming number of viewers will never witness a homicide such as this in person.

When we ran the first study in Lubbock, however, we failed to replicate this effect—one of the most replicated effects in all of media science.

As scientists do in such cases, we began to dissect everything, looking for what went wrong.

During that process, we ran across the research of John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska, whose (then) early work offered us a clue.

Bad, Scary Things Are Worse for Some People

Roller coaster

My daughter and I rode Cobra’s Curse—the newest roller coaster at Busch Gardens this summer. It was the first real roller coaster I had ridden since childhood. Some people love them, and some people will not ride them for any reason. Science shows that preference is wired inside of you. © 2017

In order to explain this briefly, ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. Do you like riding roller coasters?
  2. Do you like watching horror movies?
  3. How badly would you cringe if shown a photo of a burn victim?
  4. Lastly, do you know people who would answer completely differently?

In an admitted oversimplification, one’s aversion to these kind of risky or unpleasant situations in called “negativity bias.”

In short: How bad is bad stuff to you?

More specifically, how quickly do bad things become worse to you.

It might not surprise you to learn that a study of incarcerated psychopaths showed no evidence of any negativity bias.

Physiological, DNA Underpinnings of Political Leaning

What Hibbing had begun to explore is how individual differences in negativity bias correlate with political leaning.

Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits

“Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits,” DOI: 10.1126/science.1157627

Decades of research has correlated a wide variety of measures to political leaning—but these are almost always self-report. Self-report measures have an enormous limitation in the lab because as well as you think that you know yourself, you often do not actually know why you do what you do.

Hibbing and colleagues began to use the tools that I used in my lab—specifically psychophysiology, which allows us to measure bodily responses that you are neither aware of of able to control. As with all science, of course, he was drawing upon much previous work. But importantly he had begun to take his field in a direction that directly intersected with our line of research.

One of his paper’s was published in Science2, the upper echelons of publications in the world.

How You React in a Haunted House Is Telling

David S. Pumpkins

David S. Pumpkins from the Saturday Night Live “Haunted Elevator” skit.

Imagine that you’re walking through a really good haunted house. Your heart is pounding. Your palms are sweaty. Just at the moment when your fear peaks, a zombie arm suddenly grabs you from what you thought was a solid floor.

The overwhelming odds are that you’ll jump. You have been startled, and everyone knows what that feels like.

What you likely did not know is that an involuntary eyeblink was part of that startle reflex, and the muscles that close your eyes began to contract long before you knew that you had been grabbed.

The more afraid you are, the greater the magnitude of the startle reflex.

In plain English, the more scared you are, the harder you jump.

The startle reflex is “preattentive,” which means that low-level parts of your brain initiate reflexive action well before the “you” part of your brain figures out what is going on.

As a nerd disclaimer, my entire doctoral dissertation was on the startle reflex.

Just as greater fear makes you flinch harder, the muscles closing your eyes also slam shut harder. And we can measure that by placing small sensors over those eye-closing muscles. These sensors are sensitive enough to detect the electrical activity generated by the muscle fibers contracting.

Startling Liberals and Conservatives

You may have guessed the basic answer to the mystery by now. Hibbing and his colleagues distinguished individuals with strong beliefs associated with liberalism and individuals with strong beliefs associated with conservatism.

Placing facial EMG sensors

An old photo of me placing facial EMG (electromyography) sensors. The two sensors directly below the eye measure the muscle group associated with closing the eye during the eyeblink startle reflex.

They then seated the participants, attached sensors, and asked participants to stare at a focus point on a blank screen.

In the lab, for decades, we have elicited startle reflexes by a very brief but very loud burst of white noise (think static on the radio). This noise comes from a special machine that can generate white noise and go from 0 decibels to around 95 decibels instantly. Although this volume would damage the ear for prolonged durations, this lasts just 50 milliseconds.

This noise reliably generates an eyeblink startle reflex. And it is a reflex. I have been working on startle reflex-based research since 2003, and the noise gets me now exactly as it did the first time.

The important thing found by Hibbing and colleagues is that when seven of these noise bursts were played at unexpected times, the eyes of those aligned with conservative ideology slammed shut harder than those aligned with liberal ideology.

In addition to their eyes closing more forcefully, those individuals who identified with conservative ideology also showed greater electrodermal responses to threatening pictures, which is indicative of activation in the fight-or-flight system.3

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough …

For all normal people, as unpleasant situations become more intense, our bodies begin to prepare to fight or flee. All normal individuals have this negativity bias as bad goes to worse.

However, a large body of research has demonstrated that the rate at which bad goes to worse is steeper for some individuals than others. Like eye color and height, this is an individual difference that varies among people.

What Hibbing and colleagues have continued to do4 is to collect data that support the notion that, on average, individuals aligned with conservative ideology have a higher—or steeper—negative bias.

Put more plainly: data show that individuals aligned with conservative ideology respond more intensely and quickly to fear.

Please note that the “on average” part is crucially important to science. Nothing about these data predict how any given individual will respond. However, as a group, these two populations respond differently.

Also note that this is science and not a campaign speech. It would be absurd to say that Republicans do not ride roller coasters or all Democrats skydive. These studies point to a tendency among groups of people, and they specifically use ideology because it is far more indicative than party affiliation.

Our Mystery Was Nearly Solved

We conducted two follow up studies, which did provide evidence that the disproportionately high number of conservatives in our study likely caused our initial failed replication.

Television did not make our participants think the world was more dangerous because to them, the world already was too dangerous.

It is extremely difficult to recruit a sample of liberals and conservatives in rural West Texas that match on socioeconomic and demographic variables, so we postponed the final physiological study to confirm our hypotheses until we had proper funding. Then I became an administrator and had way less time for research …

The important point is that during the past decade, important new research has shed light on physiological differences between two broad groups of Americans ideologically, and part of these differences might be due to our DNA.5 Work is ongoing.

1 Bradley, S. D. (2007). Neural network simulations support heuristic processing model of cultivation effects. Media Psychology, 10, 449-469. doi:10.1080/15213260701533078

2 Oxley D. R., Smith K. B., Alford J. R., Hibbing M. V., Miller J. L., Scalora M., Hatemi P.K., … (2008). Political attitudes vary with physiological traits. Science, 321, 1667-1670. doi:10.1080/15213260701533078

3 This is admittedly an oversimplification.

4 Hibbing, J. R., Smith, K. B., & Alford, J. R. (2014). Differences in negativity bias underlie variations in political ideology.Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 37, 297–350. doi:10.1017/S0140525X13001192

5 Nerd note: For centuries, there was the debate of “nature” vs. “nurturer.” Another large body of recent work demonstrates that the environment in which you are raised affects gene expression. So it is not one or the other. It is both individually and multiplied by each other. Science is hard. But fun!


Why I Am Showing Up for Racial Justice

Tampa Bay residents gather for the meeting of Showing Up for Racial Justice

A room full of Tampa Bay residents gathered to discuss racial justice Tuesday night. The meeting was held by the Tampa chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Photo courtesy of SURJ-Tampa.

TAMPA—Last night I walked into a community room in back of a Lutheran Church for the first meeting of the Tampa Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice.1

As with any completely new experience, there was some apprehension walking through that door. I had brought a friend, but I am leery of the wholly unknown.

Yet it was fundamentally important to me to be there. To “show up,” as the name of the organization suggests.

The agenda showed that we would be breaking out into groups, which ratcheted the apprehension. In some odd personality quirk, I welcome the opportunity to talk to strangers when in “work mode” but tend to eschew it in “personal mode.”

In my first group of four people, I and three strangers were asked to discuss our responses to the following question, an abbreviated version of which I wrote down:

“What incident turned you on to racial justice work?”
– An abbreviated version of our first question, posed by the discussion leader for the night, Russell Meyer

All anxieties quickly dissipated, and I learned a lot and very much enjoyed getting to meet new people with different perspectives.

Racism is a difficult subject. Yes, there were some tense moments. But we cannot grow in comfort. I am more than willing to endure mild social awkwardness if I can help in some small way to make the world a better place.

I left the meeting engaged and ready to work.

Sens. Warren, McConnell, and Coretta Scott King

Then I came home and began reading social media.

At the very same time that we were discussing racial justice, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had been silenced from the Senate debate on the confirmation of Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General, who until his confirmation is himself a member of the Senate (R-AL).

Coretta Scott King's 1986 Cover Letter

Coretta Scott King’s March 19, 1986, cover letter, which accompanied a 9-page statement opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship in 1986. Click the thumbnail or here for the entire PDF.

Warren was silenced at the behest of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) because she was trying to read King’s 1986 letter to the Senate regarding Sessions’ then nomination to a federal judgeship, which was rejected by the Senate.

Despite the fact that the letter was written well before Sessions became a senator, McConnell invoked Senate Rule 19, that says that senators cannot offer words that would suggest “any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

Warren forced a vote, and 49 Republicans voted to silence her. And social media erupted.

No matter the motives, the facts of the incident were that a southern white man silenced a woman for trying to read the words of an African-American woman that suggested another southern white man had engaged in racist practices while an employee of the U.S. government. Pundits call this “bad optics.”

“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”
– Coretta Scott King March 19, 1986, cover letter to then-Senator Strom Thurmond(R-SC) opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions as a federal district court judge. (Emphasis original). Attached to the cover letter was a nine-page statement, the PDF of which is available by clicking here.

I will say simply that the events of the U.S. Senate yesterday made me more energized and more prepared to work.

Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States

Cover of Howard Zinn’ A People’s History of the United States

The cover of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, available on Amazon.

For me, the answer to the first breakout group question took the form of a mathematical equation—or a chemical formula.

There was a seed crystal and an activating agent.

The seed crystal, not surprisingly, is best described by my favorite author, Henry David Thoreau, “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!”

For racial justice to me, that book was Howard Zinn’s 1980 classic A People’s History of the United States, as revised in 2009. An Ivy-League educated historian, Zinn attempted to tell the parts of our history omitted from almost every official account.

It was chapters two and three, “Drawing the Color Line, and “Persons of Mean and Vile Condition,” respectively,” that moved me the most.

Slavery’s Origin in North American Colonies

First Slaves Arrive at Jamestown, VA, 1619

An illustration from the January 1901 Harper’s Magazine by Howard Pyle depicts the first slaves arriving in Jamestown, VA, in 1619. Image courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The original caption read, “Landing of negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-War, 1619.”

To be clear in advance, it was neither the prevalence of slavery nor its brutality that most moved me—as both were well known and abhorrent to me before the book. Instead, I was deeply affected by the systematicity of the efforts and more pointedly, the purposeful efforts by white landowners to inject racial hatred into people. Wealthy white people worked resolutely to create racial hatred and hasten its festering.

First, however, we must begin at the beginning.

According to many accounts2, the first involuntary kidnapped Africans arrived in what would become the United States in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Zinn quotes an African-American writer, J. Saunders Redding, describing the event.

“Sails furled, flag drooping at her rounded stern, she rode the tide in from the sea. She was a strange ship, indeed, by all accounts, a frightening ship, a ship of mystery. Whether she was trader, privateer, or man-of-war no one knows. Through her bulwarks black-mouthed cannon yawned. The flag she flew was Dutch; her crew a motley. Her port of call, an English settlement, Jamestown, in the colony of Virginia. She came, she traded, and shortly afterwards was gone. Probably no ship in modern history has carried a more portentous freight. Her cargo? Twenty slaves.”

Jamestown represented an ambitious project for investors in The Virginia Company of London. In April 1607, three ships of optimistic colonists settled and named Jamestown. Nine hundred settlers arrived within three years.2 By 1610, all but sixty had died of famine. The period came to be the known by the words of one settler as “the starving time.”

Zinn points out that the English settlers simply did not possess that agricultural acumen—or the work ethic—to feed themselves and grow tobacco for export.

Although they had superior weaponry to Native Americans, they were vastly outnumbered by a cunning people on their native soil, so their enslavement was an impossibility.

Zinn quotes Edmund Morgan in his book, American Slavery, American Freedom:

“If you were a colonist, you knew that your technology was superior to the Indians’. You knew that you were civilized, and they were savages. It was evident in your firearms, your clothing, your housing, your government, your religion. The Indians were supposed to be overcome with admiration and to join you in extracting riches from the country. But your superior technology had proved insufficient to extract anything. The Indians, keeping to themselves, laughed at your superior methods and lived from the land more abundantly and with less labor than you did. They even furnished you with the food that you somehow did not get around to growing enough of yourselves. To be thus condescended to by heathen savages was intolerable. And when your own people started deserting in order to live with them, it was too much. If it came to that, the whole enterprise of Virginia would be over. So you killed the Indians, tortured them, burned their villages, burned their cornfields. It proved your superiority, in spite of your failures. And you gave similar treatment to any of your own people who succumbed to the savage way of life. But you still did not grow much corn …”
– Zinn excerpted much of the quote. Above is the entirety taken from page 90 of the 2003 paperback edition.

Driven to the point of cannibalism and starvation, the people of Jamestown desperately needed labor.

A Slave by Any Other Name

When that first Dutch ship arrived in 1619, it is important to note two things. Firstly, indentured white servants already had been imported to Jamestown, but in far short supply. Those first 20 hostages from African were dubbed “servants” rather than “slaves” despite the fact that the European slave trade was at least 50 years old.

17th Century tobacco ad featuring slave labor

A 17th-Century depiction of Virginia tobacco production prominently featuring slave labor.

Slavery had not yet been legalized in the colonies, so this euphemism of equality between indentured European servants and kidnapped African slaves was of necessity. Despite the terminology, every record from Jamestown documents an unequal treatment—far harsher to the slaves in every case. The white Europeans in power treated them very much differently.

Perhaps the most important point from this section of Zinn’s book is that despite the unequal treatment by the ruling class, there is evidence that this prejudice did not exist between the indentured white servants and the slaves from Africa.

“…where whites and blacks found themselves with common problems, common work, common enemy in their master, they behaved toward one another as equals. As one scholar of slavery, Kenneth Stampp, has put it, Negro and white servants of the seventeenth century were ‘remarkably unconcerned about the visible physical differences.’

“Black and white worked together, fraternized together. The very fact that laws had to be passed after a while to forbid such relations indicates the strength of that tendency. In 1661 a law was passed in Virginia that ‘in case any English servant shall run away in company of any Negroes’ he would have to give special service for extra years to the master of the runaway Negro. In 1691, Virginia provided for the banishment of any ‘white man or woman being free who shall intermarry with a negro, mulatoo, or Indian man or woman bond or free.’ ”
– Zinn, Chapter 2

The inexpensive slave labor proved extremely profitable, and the proliferation of kidnapped slaves exploded in Virginia. By 1700, there were 6,000 slaves in Virginia (one-twelfth of the population), according to Zinn, and by 1763, half the population were slaves, 170,000.

An Inhumane, Brutal Practice at All Times

The kidnapping, transportation, and sale of Africans as slaves cannot be described as anything other than abhorrent and evil. Yet it was the system of treatment designed to control such a large, poorly treated slave population once arrived where evil took on a new dimension.

“Fear of slave revolt seems to have been a permanent fact of plantation life. William Byrd, a wealthy Virginia slaveowner, wrote in 1736:

“ ‘We have already at least 10,000 men of these descendants of Ham, fit to bear arms, and these numbers increase every day, as well by birth as by importation. And in case there should arise a man of desperate fortune, he might with more advantage than Cataline kindle a servile war… and tinge our rivers wide as they are with blood.’ ”
– Zinn, Chapter 2

Indeed there were hundreds of such revolts, despite barbarous physical and psychological torture aimed at submission. Kidnapped from their native land, transported in inhuman conditions, forced into brutal labor, and typically torn from their families once in America, these human beings understandably yearned to be free.

To the wealthy landowners, these revolts and rebellions had a chilling and threatening correlate: indentured white servants and other poor white citizens often joined in the rebellions.

“Only one fear was greater than the fear of black rebellion in the new American colonies. That was the fear that discontented whites would join black slaves to overthrow the existing order. In the early years of slavery, especially, before racism as a way of thinking was firmly ingrained, while white indentured servants were often treated as badly as black slaves, there was a possibility of cooperation. As Edmund Morgan sees it:

“ ‘There are hints that the two despised groups initially saw each other as sharing the same predicament. It was common, for example, for servants and slaves to run away together, steal hogs together, get drunk together. It was not uncommon for them to make love together. In Bacon’s Rebellion, one of the last groups to surrender was a mixed band of eighty negroes and twenty English servants.’

“As Morgan says, masters, ‘initially at least, perceived slaves in much the same way they had always perceived servants… shiftless, irresponsible, unfaithful, ungrateful, dishonest…’ And ‘if freemen with disappointed hopes should make common cause with slaves of desperate hope, the results might be worse than anything Bacon had done.’ ”
– Zinn, Chapter 2

The Most Unforgivable among Unforgivable Sins

Wealthy landowners—vastly outnumbered and fearing a common uprising between slaves and indentured whites—set about a diabolical plot to institutionalize racism so that they two oppressed groups would be less likely to see one another as the allies they were.

To put that another way, many of the racial issues still hurting lives in 2017 were purposefully and deliberately institutionalized by wealthy white landowners in the 1700’s.

They did this on purpose.

And not just informally. The Virginia Assembly wrote white supremacy into the law.

“Virginia’s ruling class, having proclaimed that all white men were superior to black, went on to offer their social (but white) inferiors a number of benefits previously denied them. In 1705 a law was passed requiring masters to provide white servants whose indenture time was up with ten bushels of corn, thirty shillings, and a gun, while women servants were to get 15 bushels of corn and forty shillings. Also, the newly freed servants were to get 50 acres of land.

“Once the small planter felt less exploited by taxation and began to prosper a little, he became less turbulent, less dangerous, more respectable. He could begin to see his big neighbor not as an extortionist but as a powerful protector of their common interests.”
– Zinn, Chapter 2, quoting Morgan

Employing the human motive of greed, the ruling class drove an inexpensive rift between two exploited peoples. Racism in America did not come about as the natural course of events. It was carefully orchestrated as history first created the need for slave labor (if white landowners were to prosper) and then to alienate the slaves from white servants (if which landowners were to live).

This historical web of events led to a society that still struggles mightily with racism, both overt and subtle.

We Got Here; We Don’t Have to Stay Here

Then Zinn says among the most powerful statements in the book. One that gives me genuine hope and gives me the motivation to stand up for racial justice and continue to stand up.

“The point is that the elements of this web are historical, not ‘natural.’ This does not mean that they are easily disentangled, dismantled. It means only that there is a possibility for something else, under historical conditions not yet realized. And one of these conditions would be the elimination of that class exploitation which has made poor whites desperate for small gifts of status, and has prevented that unity of black and white necessary for joint rebellion and reconstruction.”
– Zinn, Chapter 2 (emphasis added)

People long since dead did this to our society to protect their interests. That means that together we have the power to undo this to advance society’s interests.

Racism is a disease that has long angered me. Finding out that it was a purposeful infection was the seed planted in my mind that told me that I had to do something about it. Anger was not enough.

Participating in the Women’s March on Washington was the activating agent that told me that I have to do something about these injustices now.

1 When I created this blog, I did so very purposefully with the name “Now the Facts.” It will remain true to the name. Some will view this as a “political” post. It is not. Here I report facts with the objectivity of a trained journalist. I have fact-checked this post. The first-person portion of the post diverges from traditional print reporting, but again, these are the facts of my experience rather than my opinion of what one must infer from my experience.

2 See also: Johnson, C., & Smith, P. (1998). Africans in America: America’s journey through slavery. New York: Harcourt Brace. Gates, H. L., Jr. (2011). Life upon these shores: Looking at African American history. New York: Knopf.


Beware That Unofficial Fourth Estate

Donald Trump Tweet from Feb. 6, 2017

Donald Trump Tweet from Feb. 6, 2017.

“Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”
– Disputed origin

TAMPA—It is an old saying, but its meaning is simple: the newspapers of old had a voice far larger than any individual due to volume. You can write a letter. They can write a million. Draw their ire at your peril.

The current president of the United States, Donald Trump, has made no secret of his contempt for most of the media, save for Fox News.

“I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.”
– Trump during his ‘listening session’ for Black History Month, Feb. 1, 2017.

Things have changed with the Internet and social media, of course. With Twitter, the president has direct access to 24.1 million followers.

Yet, this is still less than his arch-rival New York Times’ 33.5 million followers—and but a quarter of singer Katy Perry’s audience of more than 95 million.

Despite his ongoing feud with the media, Trump offered unprecedented accusations of the press Monday at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base—home to both United States Central Command and the United States Special Operations Command and ironically just across the Bay from the Poynter Institute, the preeminent thinktank for journalism.

“You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that.”
– Trump at MacDill AFB on Monday, Feb. 6, 2016.

I will leave it to others to dissect that quotation, but in this space I will offer that it ignores both the “ink by the barrel” maxim and the realities of the modern media landscape that allow him to have 24 million followers on Twitter.

Incredibly Weak Conspiracy Theory

The majority of people walking around Europe have a camera-equipped cell phone in their pockets—many of which are capable of broadcast quality HD video. If even if the media (a majority of which are corporate owned and driven by profits) somehow did collude to not cover a terrorist attack, it would be impossible for it to stay hidden because of social media.1

Journalists today must work harder than ever because everyone has the ability to be a citizen journalist. With a cell phone and a coffee shop, you can reach the world.

The desire to be first with the scoop makes this notion absurd prima facie.

Three (Four) Co-Equal Branches

Ordinary Americans are learning a lot about the United States Constitution these days, so most people know that it sets up three co-equal branches of government.

I would hazard a guess that most people do not know that Article I covers the legislative branch. The executive branch is relegated to Article II.

This is for a reason. The people were always supposed to come first.

Article III, then, is the judiciary, which Trump seems to especially hate these days:

Feb. 4 Trump tweet with so-called judge

Feb. 4, 2017, tweet where Trump calls a Republican president nominated and unanimously Senate confirmed judge a “so-called” judge.

Trump has shown no restraint in attempting to delegitimize the judiciary, calling the federal judge who halted his travel ban nationally a “so-called” judge. Trump is speaking of Federal District Court Judge James Robart, who was appointed by then President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2004.

Trump tweet from May 30, 2016, attacking another federal judge.

Trump attacked Federal District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel on May 30, 2016, regarding class action lawsuits against Trump University.

This would echo events from May 2016, when Trump attacked Federal District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel on Twitter because the judge was presiding over class action lawsuits against Trump University.

Second May 2016 attack on judge.

One tweet deemed insufficient, Trump again attacked the judge 10 minutes later.

The tweets came just days after Trump called the judge a “Mexican” at a campaign rally.

“Summary judgment” (which Trump misspelled) means that a judge would throw a case out at the start for a lack of merit. That did not happen. Nor did a trial. Trump famously settled the lawsuit in November 2016 after vowing never to settle.

Ignorant statements about the judiciary from a defendant in a lawsuit who is still merely a candidate for his party’s nomination is lamentable. However, for a sitting president to directly attempt to undermine a well respected federal judge runs contrary to everything that America is.

This authoritarian style attempt to intimidate the judiciary clearly shows a trend.

Co-Opting the Legislative Branch

Turning back to Article I, the legislative branch, Trump showed no shortage of contempt for legislators over the campaign.

Just look at the many things Trump said about Paul Ryan during the campaign.

Many critics have argued that Trump is trying to bully his Supreme Court nominee through—this as news surfaces of founding a “fascism forever” club in high school, and the fact that no one seems to be able to ever remember the nominee at two prison-related legal defense groups at Harvard that he listed on his qualifications (he is not pictured with either group in yearbooks nor is he listed as “not pictured.”)

Trump already is pressuring the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, to take extreme measures if Democrats attempt to block this nominee.

“If we end up with that gridlock I would say if you can, Mitch, go nuclear. That would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was caught up in the web.

“It’s up to Mitch, but I would say go for it,”
– Trump speaking of McConnell on Feb. 2, 2017.

The pattern is clear: Delegitimize all other voices except the White House.

What About That Fourth Branch?

Although the Constitution clearly delineates just three branches of government, its First Amendment gives a nod to a fourth.

Attributed to date back to 1787 in the House of Commons of Great Britain, Thomas Carlyle attributes the term “Fourth Estate” to Edmund Burke after allowing for the first three “Estates”:

“… in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”
– Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes and Hero Worship

The idea—that has resounded loudly throughout American constitutional law—is that the press serves as a representative of the people as a watchdog on government.

Trump’s attacks on the media have been so ubiquitous as to not need repeating here, yet not only has he attempted to bully the other two actual branches of government, he has far worse tried to bully the fourth, metaphorical branch.

Except this one buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.

No matter how many followers on Twitter, the New York Times still employs more than 1,000 trained journalists around the world. And as a trained journalist, I assure you that those journalists see themselves not as the “opposition party” that Trump alleges but as the watchdog for the people that they have always been.

Regardless how much spin is cast or to what degree Fox News shows only a funhouse mirror version of the world to its viewers, there simply are too many trained journalists motivated more than ever to seek one thing: the truth.

Although I have yet to see any numbers, I would wager a good deal of money that every time Trump blasts the New York Times, its subscriber base jumps upward significantly. For something Trump says he hates, he is their best financial ambassador at present.

As I hold this actual copy of the Constitution in my hand, there are few paragraphs in isolation that I am sure that I am willing to die to protect. The First Amendment, however, is one.

And Trump chose to trash it in the city where I live.

So, resist I do.

1 A single video upload was the source of a storyline that spanned multiple episodes of the terror-themed drama, Homeland, for an example how this has made into into the collective conscience.