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In ‘And She Could Be Next,’ Women of Color Take on Politics – The New York Times



When the directors Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia talk about their new two-part documentary series, “And She Could Be Next,” they compare the process of getting it greenlit to mounting a political campaign.

They would know: In the series, which was executive produced by Ava DuVernay (premiering Monday on PBS and, Lee and Safinia track the actual campaigns — the door knocking, signposting, rallies and forums — of several women of color who ran for office in 2018.

The producers originally considered telling a story about women in politics, pegged to the first female president — Hillary Clinton was eying the White House at the time, and she was widely considered the favorite. But 2016 had different plans. So Lee reframed the project as something she found more enticing anyway: a documentary not only about women but more specifically about women of color and their communities, and the changes they are making in American politics.

While pitching the series to networks and some investors, however, the team faced pushback and questions about the relevance of such a narrative. Some suggested to Lee and Safinia, both women of color, that they focus on female politicians overall. But the filmmakers refused, Safinia said, because they had decided that keeping the focus on women of color was a “nonnegotiable point of clarity.”

Stacey Abrams, in a scene from the documentary. Abrams lost narrowly in the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018 amid widespread claims of voter suppression.  

“I think that there’s narratives that we hear, particularly in documentaries — they define entire communities, and as we know, these narratives have far too long been told from a white male gaze,” she said. Communities of color are too often relegated to victim narratives, she added, which “wasn’t the story we wanted to tell.”

The story being told is of the women who are pushing back against institutions at all political levels, their journeys interwoven to convey the sense of a larger shift, toward what Lee and Safinia call the “new American majority.” This, the series tells us, is what systemic change looks like.

There’s the cast of heroines: Stacey Abrams, running for governor in Georgia; Bushra Amiwala, for county commissioner in Illinois; Maria Elena Durazo, for California State Senate; Veronica Escobar, for a U.S. congressional seat in Texas; Lucy McBath, for a U.S. congressional seat in Georgia; and Rashida Tlaib, for a U.S. congressional seat in Michigan. “Episode One: Building the Movement” centers on the sprint toward the finish lines of their respective races, while “Episode Two: Claiming Power” focuses more on the end of Abrams’s campaign and on the poll closures, voter purges and voter ID laws that prompted accusations of rampant voter suppression in contests throughout Georgia.

The documentary spends plenty of time on the campaign trail. In California, Durazo delivers a speech in both English and Spanish while wearing a “Defeat Trump” T-shirt. Amiwala, a 19-year-old college student, tries to keep up with her studies when she’s not shaking hands and giving speeches.

More intimate moments are captured as well, particularly with Tlaib’s campaign. We watch her explain the workings of Congress to her two young sons in the car (and offer her elder son a position as her policy analyst), and we follow her through the night as she and her team anxiously await the results of a neck-in-neck race.

Lee, who had worked with Tlaib before on the PBS documentary “Makers: Women in Politics,” pushed for the close-quarters view.

“She really wanted to know me as a woman, as a mother, as a person, as a daughter,” Tlaib said in a phone interview earlier this month. In one scene, Tlaib gathers with her family to celebrate the end of Ramadan; the camera follows the family members as they break their fast and also float campaign strategies.


There are also glimpses of the opposition the candidates face along the way. McBath, who campaigns for common-sense gun laws because her son was killed in a senseless act of gun violence, faces backlash and personal attacks on social media. Abrams gives an unruffled response to a man in the crowd who demands to know how much money she owes to the IRS. (Abrams’s opponents tried to use a $54,000 federal tax debt, which she has since repaid, as a cudgel during the campaign.)

And Amiwala, while putting on makeup in her bathroom before an event, recounts how a man once criticized how much lipstick she wore in a campaign video — the kind of petty microaggression female politicians routinely endure. She also recalls the time when a debate tournament judge complimented her for being an “articulate” Muslim.

But this is part of what it looks like to disrupt a system in which you are “an anomaly,” DuVernay said by phone.

“The American political system was not built for or by us,” she said. “It was actually built against us. The actual architecture of the American political system was expressly built to oppress, to subjugate and to create a whole narrative of racial bias and oppression.”

“And She Could Be Next” depicts not only the experiences of candidates but also what Lee and Safinia call a whole campaign “ecosystem,” including activists, organizers, volunteers and other people who also soldier against the status quo but often go overlooked.

Early in the series, Nse Ufot, the executive director of the New Georgia Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to getting Georgians civically engaged and registered to vote, says, “I am so sick of people with limited imaginations and small minds telling us what’s possible, when I see how excited people are.”

Lee and Safinia say this focus on the teams behind the women is what makes the film unique. It took a team of their own, composed entirely of women of color, to pull it off. Lee and Safinia oversaw the operation while field directors and their crew followed the campaigns across the country. It was no small logistical task, but the producers believed a panoramic view was necessary to capture the scale of this political evolution.


“To me, it was never a film about ’18,” Lee said. “It’s about a movement, about women of color who have always been organizing.”

The word “movement” surfaces many times throughout the series, connecting the dots between these women and implying some transcendence of the immediate moment in which their races are happening. The future envisioned by “And She Could Be Next” isn’t just female; it’s African-American, Asian-American, Latino, multiracial. It looks a lot like the diverse and equally representative America the country declares itself to be.

In the beginning of the second episode, in front of the podium after her congressional win, Tlaib tells a room full of women of all ages: “It’s going to be this movement that is going to be in front of us, actually. You are in front of us, and we have to follow your lead.”

In the phone interview, Tlaib brought up a famous quote by Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to serve in Congress: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

But as the country endures a pandemic, mass unemployment and widespread protests, Tlaib said, she thinks it might be time for a revision.

“I don’t know if it’s about bringing your own chair and making the table bigger,” she said. “I think it’s about shaking the table and taking someone else’s chair from them.”

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Facebook Said to Consider Banning Political Ads – The New York Times



SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is considering banning political advertising across its network before the November general election, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, after facing intense pressure for allowing hate speech and misinformation to flourish across its site.

The decision has not been finalized, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential, and the company could continue with its current political advertising policy. Discussions on potentially banning political ads have simmered since late last year, they said, as insiders weighed the idea while reaching out to political groups and candidates for feedback.

But the issue has come to the forefront in recent weeks, with the November election looming and as Facebook grapples with intensifying scrutiny over content posted to its platform. The core of the debate is whether banning political ads would help or harm “giving users a voice,” said the people with knowledge of the discussions. Stopping ads could stifle speech for some groups, they said, though allowing political ads to run could also allow more misinformation that could disenfranchise voters.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment. Bloomberg News earlier reported the potential change in policy.

If a ban on political ads were to happen, it would be a reversal for Facebook and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg. The social network has long allowed politicians and political parties to run ads across its network virtually unchecked, even if those ads contained falsehoods or other misinformation.

Mr. Zuckerberg has repeatedly said he would not police politicians’ ads and stated that the company was not an arbiter of truth because he believes in free speech. He has also said that removing political ads from the network could harm smaller, down-ballot candidates who are less well-funded than nationally prominent politicians. Political advertising makes up a negligible amount of Facebook’s revenue, he has said, so any decision would not be based on financial considerations.

But that hands-off approach has led to an intense backlash against the social network. Lawmakers, civil rights groups and Facebook’s own employees have assailed it for letting hate speech and misinformation fester on its site. Last month, the Biden presidential campaign said it would begin urging its supporters to demand that Facebook strengthen its rules against misinformation. More recently, advertisers such as Unilever and Coca-Cola have paused their advertising on the platform in protest.

That was punctuated this week by the release of a two-year audit of Facebook’s policies. The audit, conducted by civil rights experts and lawyers who were handpicked by the company, concluded that Facebook had not done enough to protect people on the platform from discriminatory posts and ads. In particular, they said, Facebook had been too willing to let politicians run amok on the site.

“Elevating free expression is a good thing, but it should apply to everyone,” they wrote. “When it means that powerful politicians do not have to abide by the same rules that everyone else does, a hierarchy of speech is created that privileges certain voices over less powerful voices.”

Mr. Zuckerberg has stuck to his free speech position even as other social media companies have taken more action against hate speech and inaccurate posts by politicians and their supporters. Twitter recently started labeling some of President Trump’s tweets as untruthful or glorifying violence, while Snap has said it would stop promoting Mr. Trump’s account on Snapchat because his speech could lead to violence. Twitch, the video game streaming site, suspended Mr. Trump’s account entirely, and the internet forum Reddit banned a community of Mr. Trump’s supporters for harassment.

Last year, Twitter said it would ban all political ads because the viral spread of misinformation presented challenges to civic discourse.

Vanita Gupta, chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said it was positive that Facebook was thinking through its options but that “what they need to have in place is a system that actually catches real-time voter misinformation.” She added, “Voter suppression is happening every day, and their inaction is going to have profound ramifications on the election.”

On Friday, some of the top Democratic outside groups that are major spenders on Facebook said they had not discussed with the company any potential banning of political ads closer to the election. A spokesman for the D.N.C. referred questions to a tweet from Nellwyn Thomas, the D.N.C.’s chief technology officer, who wrote on Friday: “We said it seven months ago to @Google and we will say it again to @Facebook: a blunt ads ban is not a real solution to disinformation on your platform.”

Democratic officials have argued that blanket bans or restrictions on political ads are not a sufficient way to root out disinformation, particularly as that kind of content can spread in closed Facebook groups. Banning ads also restricts important digital tools that campaigns have come to rely on for activities such as acquiring new donors and raising money to getting out the vote, they said.

Some Democrats added that the Trump campaign has a significant structural advantage on Facebook, having built up a community of more than 28.3 million followers. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has only around 2.1 million followers on the social network. Removing the ability to pay for ads would give Mr. Trump a far greater reach online than Mr. Biden, they said.

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Facebook is by far the preferred and most popular platform for campaigns. The Trump campaign has spent more than $55 million on Facebook since 2018, and the Biden campaign has spent more than $25 million.

Mike Isaac reported from San Francisco, and Nick Corasaniti from New York.

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Coronavirus: Why politics means success or failure in South America – BBC News



South America is the new epicentre of the global coronavirus pandemic, but the region’s leaders have responded to the crisis very differently.

A great deal has been said about poverty in this part of the world, like the favelas in Brazil where social distancing is hard to achieve and where basic sanitation is not always a given.

There is also the fact that there are so many millions of unregistered workers who rely on earning money every day to put food on the table for their families.

The impossible choice that many people have told me they face is to risk starving or risk getting Covid-19.

There are, undoubtedly, massive challenges in this, one of the most unequal parts of the world. But, say many experts, politics is just as important as poverty.

“I always defended – as many of us in public health did – the importance of having strong, structured health systems,” says Deisy Ventura, professor of Global Health Ethics at the University of Sao Paulo.

“But if there’s one thing I have learned from the pandemic it’s the importance of politics – for good and bad.”

Unity in Argentina

Professor Ventura singles out Argentina. Leading a country already deep in economic crisis, President Alberto Fernandez, who has been in power for less than a year, locked down swiftly when the virus hit.

The country has registered just over 90,000 cases and 1,720 people have died.

“It’s an extremely divided country, it’s been through a very intense political crisis but those adversaries were able to sit around the table and come to an agreement over the necessities of quarantine measures,” says Professor Ventura.

Confirmed cases around the world


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Circles show number of confirmed coronavirus cases per country.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, national public health agencies

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“They have press conferences with various politicians from different political stripes and they announce things together – so the population understand what needs to be done.”

Uruguay and Paraguay have also been singled out as examples. They have fewer than 100 deaths between them, even though they both share borders with badly hit Brazil.

But they are the exceptions.

‘Pandemonium’ in Brazil?

“Unfortunately in some Latin American countries – Brazil especially – the issue of measures has become partisan and that is absurd,” says Professor Ventura.

Its President, Jair Bolsonaro, is a man who has made light of the virus from the very start.

He’s called it the sniffles and seldom paid tribute to the nearly 70,000 people who have died. He has disagreed with his own health ministry over the importance of social distancing, he has argued with state governors who introduced quarantine measures and he has pushed to re-open the economy at the earliest opportunity.

Now he has the virus himself, he’s taking the opportunity to promote the unproven anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a valid treatment.

This confused political messaging doesn’t help.

“Brazil is the only country dealing with a pandemonium and a pandemic at the same time,” says Miguel Nicolelis, a neuroscientist who is helping north-eastern states tackle Covid-19.

“Nowhere that you can look in the world you can see a political upheaval at the same time you are trying to fight the coronavirus. The response of the federal government has been the worst you could imagine.”

Communication is key during an emergency, says Professor Ventura.

“People learn very quickly when they are exposed to a risk. They need to understand the risk, communication needs to be efficient and they need to trust authorities.”

But that lack of trust is echoed across the region.

A ‘missed opportunity’ for Chile?

Mati Libuy Rios is a doctor in Maipu, one of the worst-hit parts of Chile’s capital Santiago. A relatively rich country in South America, Chile has seen a sharp rise in cases and deaths in recent weeks. More than 300,000 registered infections and nearly 7,000 confirmed deaths.

Mati has been working flat out in recent months – on one recent shift, he had to tell 10 families that their loved ones were dying.

“It’s really hard – I am 30 years old, this will probably be the most challenging experience of my life as a physician. Nobody prepares you for this situation.”

There is tension in Chile over lockdown – and the pandemic hit just months after widespread protests last year over social and economic inequalities.

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Mati thinks the government failed to step up to the task of dealing with the pandemic early on.

“We have massive health inequalities, people need to work to get food every day, it’s as simple as that,” he says.

“The government needed to give people all the material conditions to stay at home and at the same time increase testing, isolate contagious people and track all the possible contacts. It’s the simplest way to control it and they missed the opportunity.”

But nothing compares to the numbers in Brazil – a country where many feel the pandemic is nothing but political.

“Every country that took this lightly – that initially made a joke about it – paid a huge price,” says Miguel Nicolelis.

“When politicians challenge biology, biology wins by a huge margin. Sorry and sad to say as a Brazilian but it’s the reality. We didn’t prepare, take it seriously and we now see exponential curves exploding. You cannot even describe this.”

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Facebook considers banning political ads in days before US election – CNN



Another person familiar with the discussions said it is only one of many options being considered by the company and that no final decision has been reached.
Facebook (FB) has come under intense criticism for its policy of allowing politicians to run false ads. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has strenuously defended his company’s stance and argued last fall that banning political ads would not be a good idea.
The potential ban on ads was first reported by Bloomberg. A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment.
Twitter pulled the plug on political ads last year. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted when explaining the decision.
In a speech in Washington last October, Zuckerberg said, “Given the sensitivity around political ads, I’ve considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether.
“But political ads are an important part of voice — especially for local candidates, up-and-coming challengers, and advocacy groups that may not get much media attention otherwise. Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media covers,” he said.
Facebook says it took down Trump ads because they used Nazi symbol
Going further, Zuckerberg explained the challenge of determining what qualifies as a political ad: “Even if we wanted to ban political ads, it’s not clear where we’d draw the line. There are many more ads about issues than there are directly about elections. Would we ban all ads about healthcare or immigration or women’s empowerment? If we banned candidates’ ads but not these, would that really make sense to give everyone else a voice in political debates except the candidates themselves? There are issues any way you cut this, and when it’s not absolutely clear what to do, I believe we should err on the side of greater expression.”
Reacting to the prospect of an ad ban, Nell Thomas, the chief technology officer of the Democratic National Committee, tweeted Friday, “a blunt ads ban is not a real solution to disinformation on [Facebook].”
Thomas said Twitter’s ban, and Google’s limiting of how political ads can be targeted at voters, had made it more “difficult for grassroots campaigns to talk to voters.” She added, “Social media need to do the hard work of fighting disinfo without taking away key tools for getting out the vote.”

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