This is my Xenophilia blog where I post various occasional writings as well as links to my publications, and by invitation to current projects. Many of the older posts have been lost and the posts I am reposting are not necessarily in the order they were written. Hopefully, going forward from June 2015 this will be resolved.

Steven at work
Steven @ Work, May 2015. Background, HORIZON WATCH, Angie Reed Garner.

The links at the top of the page can be used to navigate to my biography page and to various current projects.

If you are looking for my academic writing, try academic.edu. In the future I will add additional links to ongoing projects, e.g. my work on stand-up comedy and masculinity, as it becomes more developed and interesting.


Book Review: Five Wars by Fred Johnson

About three-quarters of the way through his memoir of soldiering, Five Wars: A Soldier’s Journey to Peace (2017), Col. Fred Johnson (Ret.) recalls a scene from his time in Bosnia. It’s January 1995, and his commander is meeting with the Serbian military leadership in their area of operations. Fred takes a stroll around a bombed-out school, finds a room littered with crayon-covered drawings of the sort children make in the earliest grades. “Except,” he writes, “when I picked one up, I saw that the child had drawn a house completely engulfed in flames. Green blobs with rifle barrels—tanks, I assumed—lined the background. Stick figures formed a line out of the burning building; one of the stick figures was on fire, scratched over red and orange and yellow. Another stick figure was drawn in the yard beside the house, laid horizontally, with red crayon coming away from its mouth in drops.” Continue reading Book Review: Five Wars by Fred Johnson

When… Then…

May 3, 2017. Louisville Black Lives Matter/Stand-Up Sunday has called for a boycott and picket of Dino’s Food Mart and Tony’s, located catty-corner from each other at the intersection of Twenty-Fifth and West Broadway. The reasons for the boycott are complex, but at root have to do with a profound lack of respect on the part of the owner for the predominantly Black residents of the neighborhood.

West Louisville, like so many similar communities in the United States, is a food and shopping desert, leaving locals with little choice of where to shop. The owners of the Dino’s/Tony’s emporiums take this situation as a license for disrespect, particularly for Black kids. Continue reading When… Then…

Proposition 2: It is and isn’t Populism

Regarding the use of the term populism, I have been struggling with this since at least the late 1990s. Like my friend Chuck Tanner, I am uncomfortable ceding the concept to the right on political/strategic grounds. Yet there is, in my view, an analytic core in the Berlet/Lyons formulation that can’t be ignored—even though I am not convinced by the particulars. Continue reading Proposition 2: It is and isn’t Populism

Proposition 1: Russian Connection Is Political Theater

Theater of the Absurd
The Trump-Putin Scandal as Political Theater.

The Trump-Russia connection is best understood as political theater–or better, theater of the absurd transmogrified into reality television. Make no mistake, it is having real impacts, but it matters mostly because people are paying attention to it.

Does President Trump have dealings with potentially shady Russians? Who knows? It certainly isn’t impossible. It’s probably not even implausible. But how much does it matter, even in the worst case scenario, of say Trump owing vast amounts of money to unscrupulous Russian oligarchs who also have highly embarrassing blackmail material on him?

Continue reading Proposition 1: Russian Connection Is Political Theater

Blue Lives Matter Bill Makes Nonsense

policehatA bill has been introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives to add law enforcement and other safety workers as a category in the state’s hate crimes statute. Given that 75 police officers were killed nationally by intentional gunfire or vehicular assault in 2016 it’s a little strange for many people to hear someone say that this bill should not become law (https://www.odmp.org/search/year/2016).

So if not, then why not?

First, the constitutional argument. Hate crimes laws were designed as a legal response to the violent history of white supremacist violence perpetrated primarily against Black folk with a nod toward the bloody history of anti-Semitism. Yet, as these laws were crafted and pushed forward it became clear that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment made any provision for the protection of some portion of a class and not others legally untenable. Thus existing hate crimes laws are written so that they apply to entire categories of people, not just historically oppressed, disadvantaged, or minority fractions of such categories.
Continue reading Blue Lives Matter Bill Makes Nonsense

White Nationalism 2016 Edition

 Danuta Danielsson 1985 (after Hans Runesson) mixed media Angie Reed Garner

Danuta Danielsson 1985 (after Hans Runesson)
mixed media
Angie Reed Garner

Some years ago I published an article in the Journal of Hate Studies (Vol. 4, Pp. 59-87) titled “White Nationalism Revisited: Demographic Dystopia and White Identity Politics” (2005). In it I presented an argument focusing on the ways in which changing demographics in the United States are reshaping cultural and political self-understanding in the “white, middle-American” population and the ways in which various flavors of ideologically committed white nationalists are exploiting these changes.

The argument in “White Nationalism Revisited” turned around an understanding of post-Jim Crow white nationalism as different than old-fashioned white supremacy. As civil rights lawyer Dan Canon observed in a recent SALON article: “There are some who rightly criticize the term ‘white nationalist’ as too forgiving” there are, nonetheless, important differences at the level of tactical politics between the old and new forms of bigotry that changing the label cannot address.

Continue reading White Nationalism 2016 Edition

Fear, Horror & Statistics

One of the strangest things about arriving back in the United States after nine years abroad, is the immersive fear-mongering and know-nothingism of the 24-hour news cycle. It is like watching a train wreck that never stops and it is very, very hard not to rubberneck.

I am not someone who ignores the news. Quite the contrary. But as someone who typically gets his news from selective reading, guided by my highly curated twitter feed and specialist sensibilities while avoiding anything that reeks of “breaking news”, the constant schadenfreude of MSNBC-FOX-CNN is nauseating.

And yet, after the police killings of two black men in two days—Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana—followed by the killing of five police officers in Dallas by a sniper at a peaceful protest rally, I’ve been watching too much of it, hearing too much of it, to the point where I am afraid.

Let me be clear: I support Black Lives Matter and related movements unequivocally.

Let me be clear: I don’t support targeted killing of police (or anyone else) by snipers, bombs, drones, robots, tasers, beatings or neglect.

Let me be clear: Protest, even raucous, confrontational protest that engages and channels the righteous anger of a community is not the same thing as killing, shooting, targeting. It is protected political activity and a precious right.

I am overwhelmed by the courageous, poised testimony live-streamed by Diamond Reynolds while her boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot and killed by a police office after being pulled over for a broken taillight and then informing the office (as he was legally obligated to do) that he was carrying a concealed handgun (for which he had a permit). (Trigger warning: You can read an abbreviated account here http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/harvard-psychologist-explains-how-diamond-reynolds-stayed-calm-and-livestreamed).

As the officer shot Castile multiple times, and he was dying in the car next to her, Reynolds livestreamed the aftermath, her daughter in the backseat, remaining calm and taking care of not only herself and her daughter but in effect the police officer as well—a police officer who is audibly losing it on the recording. She literally makes the recording while the officer is menacing her with his sidearm, freaking out, and failing to render emergency aid to the man he had just shot.

The Washingon Post interviewed Jim Hopper from Harvard, an expert on trauma, who explained that Reynold’s calm as she livecast while assuring the officer that she will keep her hands where he could see them was an “understandable” response to a horrific situation, in which parts of the brain—presumably the parts responsible for panic—shut down.

Yes, that’s obviously within the range of the possible or it wouldn’t have happened. Both panic and almost uncanny calm can be seen in the aftermath, or even in the midst, of trauma. I won’t speak to Hopper’s work—I’m not familiar with it—but the Post’s use of his scientific commentary serves to take an extraordinary act and present it as something ordinary. There may be good reason for this. Maybe for the sake of some clueless person who might interpret her response as unfeeling or callous—a person both lacking in imagination and who didn’t listen to the entire recording. Maybe just because newspapers have to print something.

Fear is complicated. People are complicated. They react in all sorts of unpredictable ways to situations that become all the more unpredictable in interaction with other people who are also unpredictable. Training is intended to make people more capable of reacting to crisis situations predictably—without panic. It doesn’t always work.

Black men in particular (and among others) have long(!) had reason to fear the worst from any encounter with the police. The technology-facilitated revelation of this reality to a wider population has created a stir, raising incredulity first, then anger, and now growing frustration. The killing of cops in Dallas will raise fear in a wider circle. Specifically fear of increasing reactionary violence from increasingly heavily armed and militarized police forces.

Here is some out of context data:

Number of police officers killed by intentional civilian gunfire in 2015: 39
Number of civilians killed by police gunfire in 2015: 990
Number of police officers killed by intentional civilian gunfire in 2016 to date: 22
Number of civilians killed by police gunfire in 2016 to date: 509

(Statistics for police deaths from the Officer Down Memorial Page; for civilians killed by police by the Washington Post.)

It’s worthwhile to look at the fine grain of the Post data (click on the little figures that represent each and every incident). For the 2015 data, 730 are classified as “Attack in progress.” No doubt many of these, I haven’t run a case-by-case analysis, might be described as responses to civilian driven violence in direct protection of the public or self-defense. But far too many of them are akin to this:

“David Wheat Jr., a 22-year-old white man armed with a knife, was shot on July 18, 2015, in an apartment building in Fort Collins, Colo. Two Fort Collins police officers, called to find an intoxicated and suicidal man, shot Wheat 11 times when he refused to drop a kitchen steak knife.”

Or this:

“Richard Perkins, a 39-year-old black man with a toy weapon, was shot on Nov. 15, 2015, in a gas station in Oakland, Calif. Oakland police were towing vehicles after a car show. Perkins approached officers and pointed a realistic-looking toy gun at them.”

Or this:

“Tyrone Bass, a 21-year-old black man armed with an unknown weapon, was shot on Sept. 15, 2015, on a street in Chalmette, La. Bass struggled with a St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy and struck the deputy on the head. A second officer shot and killed Bass.”

Situations where patience, training in crisis de-escalation and non-violence, calling for back-up, avoiding unnecessary confrontations and so on could (in hindsight and without knowing the details) have meant one less killing.

Black Lives Matter. Stop the Killing!


The fantasy of efficacious violence haunts both super hero stories and the equally fantastic—though far more harmful—stories we tell ourselves about about “smart bombs” and “precision guided munitions,” and military intervention on the side of what is right or just or humane. The comics, and the movies that derive from them, have an edge on reality in that no one actually has to suffer and die for them—and in that there is at least the possibility, however rare, of some narratively central reflection on the fantasy structure. In national war narratives this is mostly left to marginalized opposition groups and political gadflies.

In spite of the bad reviews, as a life-long geek I enjoyed Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This doesn’t make the politics underlying any less fraught.


Continue reading BATMAN vs. SUPERMAN vs. NUCLEAR WAR