December 18, 2014
I’m getting good at doing things with a baby on my man-hip. I’m not sure if peeing should be one of them. I am definitely not an expert in child rearing. I have Facebook for that.
When Andrea was pregnant, I felt like I was the first person to ever have this idea, reproducing. Having a kid. Apparently, women have been having babies for decades. Nearly 6000 years, according to some Christians. That’s a long time! The point is that, as it turns out, I have a bunch of friends in Portland and on-line that are experts.
I do hold some expertise on some topics. As a criminologist and sociologist with a PhD, there is a whole range of topics I can offer perspective on. I was live on KATU this morning talking about the Kim Jong Un/Seth Rogan Sony international crisis. I talked to KGW on the subject yesterday. Live interviews are always more fun. I got to say, “We spend trillions on the war on terrorism and with just one vague threat, America folds like a cardtable after a poker game” on live TV. I practiced that line so I wouldn’t say that America folded like a poker game, which half-way makes sense but requires a working knowledge of poker.
Usually, I’m the “hate crime” guy. I’ve done a million interviews on the subject, from 60 Minutes to Good Morning America. I’ve been on shows from Gangland to (my favorite) The Sally Jesse Raphael Show (Hey, it was a free trip to NYC. And yes, I was hung over on the show.). My mom Googled me once and called me in horror finding all the hits that were connected to hate groups. “Those people really hate you,” she said. Believe me, I know.
If you’ve got a mass murder, serial killer, gang activity, terrorist bombing, police or school shooting, I’m your man. You can call me the professor of mayhem. When the news is bad and you need two more minutes to fill your newscast, call me. You know I’m good for a soundbite that will link today’s tragedy to the “big picture.” I know the research and the academic language but let me try to frame it so Joe the Plumber, who probably lives in the right-wing of society, can process it.
Now, let me say, I say “no” to lots of interviews. Even more now that I’m “with child.” I learned my lesson after a local news station asked me about a dead cat on a railroad track and the chyron below my talking head said, “Randy Blazak, Voodoo Expert.” There are lots of people at Portland State who are experts on topics I can only Google, so I often say, “Call Professor So and So in the Psychology Department. She knows more about this than me.”
[FULL DISCLOSURE: Driving into KATU at 5:30 this morning, they were discussing the Sony hack on NPR and compared it to the US hack of Iranian nuclear power plants in 2010. When I got to the green room, I Wiki’ed Stuxnet and worked it into my interview a few minutes later, like I had a big fucking brain. Expert!]
Society has an over-reliance on experts who supposedly know something more than the common schmo. I do read the research and obsess about data and so I might have some insight on something. But, personally, what I am trying to do is offer a critical perspective of power and institutions that has disappeared from the mainstream media. I can put a tie on and get a few lines in about institutional racism and maybe Joe the Plumber will think, “Yeah, that makes sense.”
Where I try to do this the most is around discussions of gender. Viewers do not expect a radical feminist perspective to be coming from a white guy in a corduroy jacket. I can use the authority of my privilege like a Trojan Horse to at least make allusions to patriarchy and destructive forms of masculinity.
After one horrific school shooting, I was live on KPTV. I turned to the camera and channelled my friend, Jackson Katz, and said, “I want all the viewers watching this to imagine that all these school shootings had been done by girls instead of boys. Don’t you think every newscast in the nation would be talking about gender right now?” There was a lot of positive response from female viewers. (One male commenter called me a “college pussy.”)
I hope this expertise is of some value to my daughter. Not that her dad is on TV all the time, but that he has something to say about power. There is value in speaking truth to power, even if you are not an “expert.” And it should never be a one-sided conversation. That would be me if I was a preacher.