(VIDEO) Global Fund Documentary Sneak Peek to Debut at AIDS Conference

Robin Marty

The United Nations Foundation will be debuting a sneak peek of a new documentary about the work of the Global Fund at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna this weekend.

The United Nations Foundation will be debuting a sneak peek of a new documentary about the work of the Global Fund at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna this weekend.  The documentary, which the U.N. Foundation co-funded, was created to highlight the continued need for funding to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide.

“We are saving lives, and this is the most important thing to look at,” one doctor intones solemnly into the camera, amidst shots of families gathering, children playing, and also those who are ill, a strong reminder of what doctors are struggling to overcome in countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

A short preview of the Global Fund video:

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The full documentary will premier in Kampala on July 26th, with a D.C. screening to happen later this summer.

The Global Fund is the world’s largest multilateral financing institutions for health. Through the Fund, 1.5 million women received antiretroviral treatment in 2009, and 4.5 million orphans and vulnerable children have received care and support services in the past five years.

Commentary Race

Police Brutality and Accountability: When Liberals Forget to Check Their Biases

Alfonso Nevarez

Stated simply, most Americans have an irrational belief that Black men are dangerous, and this bias is especially prevalent among white Americans, including most white liberals and progressives.

Read more of our coverage related to recent events in Ferguson here.

On August 19, Kajieme Powell was shot nine to 12 times at close range 15 seconds into a confrontation with police, just a few miles from the crime scene where Mike Brown was executed ten days prior. The St. Louis police have released a video that provides a graphic documentary of a man’s slaying. I found this to be the most damning video footage yet of the utter disregard too many police officers have for the lives of Black men. And for some who view it, it may be the most damning evidence yet of the low value they themselves place on the lives of Black men as well. Though there is certainly a large gap in culpability between the perpetrators of such violence and the viewers who sympathize with the perpetrators, both the violence and the unwarranted sympathy are the product of the same underlying bias, one that infests our society and fuels the fire of racism like no other.

Stated simply, most Americans have an irrational belief that Black men are dangerous, and this bias is especially prevalent among white Americans, including most white liberals and progressives.

Case in point: Ezra Klein wrote an essay posted on the killing of Kajieme Powell. Klein is clearly disturbed by what he sees in video footage that captured the slaying, as I think any person who is not completely numb to violence would as well. The brutality displayed is impossible to ignore. Klein proceeds to describe what he saw on the video, and the feelings he had when viewing it. When I read it, I could hear the internal struggle Klein experienced when he viewed the video. The description indicates that his eyes were telling him that the events he was seeing contradicted the story police used to justify the killing. His analytical mind was telling him that the force the police used was entirely disproportionate to the threat. His heart was telling him that this man, Kajieme Powell, should still be alive right now, and if not for the actions of these two police officers, he would be.

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Woven into this description, however, are statements that reveal that this new evidence did little to affect the deeply held biases he brought to the table.

As an example, Klein leaves the question of whether the cops are lying open-ended, despite the indisputable fact that the police version of the encounter is filled with verifiably false claims.

It raises questions about aspects of the story police told in the immediate aftermath of the shooting — Powell does not appear to charge the police with his knife held high, and he is shot when he is farther away than two or three feet, for instance.

The video clearly shows Kajieme with his hands at his side the entire time. He does not charge the police in the video. At no point is he within two full-body lengths (>10 ft) of his closest shooter. He sees it himself, but he can’t draw the obvious conclusion: The police are lying to cover this up.

Demonstrating more bias, he continues to report police allegations as fact, despite their obvious lack of credibility, saying, “all Powell had was a steak knife.” Did he? I don’t see a knife. It’s possible, but given the lies the police have presented—not just the shooters but the detectives and officers who are clearly covering for them—who would take such claims at face value?

Someone who identifies with the fear those police faced.

In the aggregate, our society considers Black men threatening, especially young Black men.

It is easy to criticize. It is easy to watch a cell phone video and think of all the ways it could have gone differently. It is easy to forget that the police saw a mentally unbalanced man with a knife advancing on them. It is easy to forget that 20 seconds only takes 20 seconds. It is easy to forget that police get scared.

What Ezra Klein failed to mention when describing his observations and feelings about what he saw was that it was an allegedly mentally unbalanced Black man on the video he was watching. In fact, he never mentions once that Kajieme is Black, and that the police who shoot him are white.

It is easy not to ask yourself what you might have done if you had a gun and a man came at you with a knife.

I would argue that it is easier not to ask yourself what you might have done if the victim had been unarmed and circling, as he appeared to be. And even easier not to ask yourself what you would have done if Kajieme had been white. Because the answer is obvious, isn’t it?

Contrast the killing of Kajieme Brown with this response to a potential threat:

If you’re uncertain about the extent of your bias, be honest with yourself right now. Who was more threatening in these videos: (A) the apparently unstable unarmed or hardly armed Black man who was taunting the police; or (B) the apparently unstable heavily armed white man who was taunting the police? Well, I think the answer is (C) the apparently unstable white police who shot and killed Kajieme Powell and lied about the details to shirk any responsibility for his death. Or maybe it’s (D) the plurality of people in our society who would view a horrifically brutal act and empathize with the perpetrators.

I don’t mean to pick on Ezra Klein exclusively. He just happens to present a perfect case study for attitudes that are prevalent in progressive circles, and in the media as well. He is a left-leaning political journalist who has a track record of covering social justice issues. I can’t pretend to know how he really feels about civil rights and social justice by reading an article or three where he weighs the merits of the “facts” and attempts to come to a “logical” conclusion, but I get the impression that he knows there’s a problem, feels bad that the problem exists, and is frustrated by his inability to identify a possible solution.

The problem is that he, and many others like him in progressive politics, simply don’t understand the problem: We have an aggregated bias in society that assigns attributes to people based on race, and despite any intentions he may or may not have, he is part of that problem. Bias is a difficult concept. There are many shades of bias, from inclination to tendency to prejudice to bigotry to intolerance. Every single one of us has moderate to strong biases that we bring to every situation, and every problem we face. And bias is not always bad. Bias helps us make decisions quickly. Few of us have the time to fully investigate each and every dilemma we’re faced with.

Unfortunately, too many people believe that the absence of bias is ideal, and in the process deny that they have biases. I get the sense that Klein, like so many other well-intentioned progressives, comes from this school of thought, when he concludes that politics makes you dumb. This makes it especially difficult to recognize, and admit, when bias is preventing him from drawing appropriate conclusions. As research shows, “the brain is well-equipped for controlling unwanted biases—if the person detects their presence.”

Rather than trying to eliminate all bias, which is not only impossible but also undesirable, people should strive to suppress unwanted biases. That begins with recognizing that we have unwanted biases. Can we assume that most progressives don’t want racial biases? Since identification and ownership of racial biases is the key to controlling them, what needs to happen to get people to recognize their own racial bias, particularly when that bias perpetuates myths of racial inferiority and immorality? At what point does denial of racial bias, in an effort to fool others, or to fool yourself, begin to define your character?

Commentary Human Rights

Stoking Fire: A Global Look at the Right’s Anti-Gay Rhetoric

Eleanor J. Bader

A new report by People for the American Way examines the "globalization" of homophobia and offers chilling details about its spread.

During the 45-year Cold War between Western-allied countries and those of the Eastern bloc—1947 until the USSR collapsed in 1992—the right wing had nothing nice to say about Godless Communism, dubbing it the Red Menace. But a little more than two decades later, there’s been a complete shift—much of the world’s religious and secular right wing now sees the region, and Russia in particular, as “the savior of civilization.”

The reason? Hatred of homosexuality.

Globalizing Homophobia: How the American Right Supports and Defends Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown, a report produced by People for the American Way (PFAW), charts the growth of this movement and offers chilling details about its spread.

Report contributor and PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery told Rewire, “The right has lost support in the United States and Western Europe on the issue of LGBTQ equality. From their perspective, the work to save the family has to happen elsewhere. They presumably hope that if Russia and Eastern Europe can be turned on this issue, the ideology can later be exported back to the West. Rather than more traditional mission work to spread Christianity, these groups are now pushing on homosexuality.”

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They’re outraged that the United Nations has been used to promote the idea that LGBTQ rights are human rights and that these rights should be internationally recognized,” he said. “That’s why they’re going to Eastern Europe, Muslim countries, and the Vatican to seek allies.”

And it’s not just the U.S. right that had jumped full-tilt into the campaign. Despite the report’s title, Globalizing Homophobia notes that Collectif Famille Mariage, one of France’s most prominent anti-marriage equality groups, has aligned itself with other far right “pro-family” organizations in the country, including the nationalist Dies Irae, the Mouvement Catholique des Familles, and Catholiques en Campagne. One of their chief U.S. allies is activist Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Together, these groups have raised money to bolster anti-gay mobilizations in Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

The fundraising and organizing have paid off. Victories in Russia—from laws banning the dissemination of “gay propaganda” to prohibitions on actions, like those of Pussy Riot, that “offend religious feelings”—have been a shot in the arm to homophobes the world over. What’s more, through the World Congress of Families, a 17-year-old Illinois-based organization that was founded by conservative activist Allan Carlson to promote “the natural family”—an entity the WCF believes was “ordered for the procreation of children and the expression of love between husband and wife in the covenant of marriage”—a host of “pro-family” policies have been transported to foreign lands.

Alexey Komov, WCF’s man in Moscow, and his colleagues take great inspiration from the U.S. anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ movements. Among the victories he celebrates are newly passed laws restricting abortion for Russian women. Among the familiar-sounding hurdles, Russian women now need to wait between requesting the procedure and having an abortion. Equally pleasing to Komov are laws banning same-sex couples from adopting—they call it “corrupting”—orphaned or abandoned children who live in state-run facilities. But the icing on Komov’s cake is the fact that the 8th World Congress of Families, an event that will bring Eastern European, African, South and Central American, and Middle Eastern conservatives face-to-face with mentors from Focus on the Family, the Christian Broadcast Network, NOM, and FOX News, will be held in Moscow next September. The conference theme, “Every Child Is a Gift: Large Families, the Future of Humanity,” is a blatant attempt to forge international alliances between anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and anti-gay activists.

That Russia is at the center of this movement and is seen by the right as “the Christian savior of the world” is mind-boggling. Komov, the report explains, sees his homeland as “the last bastion of moral values against a UN sponsored push to recognize gay rights around the globe.” His unlikely hero is Vladimir Putin. In defending Russia’s leader, Komov argues that “Putin and other Russian leaders have not only turned away from their Communist past and involvement with the KGB, but are Bible-believing Christians today.”

Imagine that.

But Bible-thumping aside, it is the ideology of hate—the notion that if same-sex couples are allowed to marry and rear children, there will be a slew of “negative developments all over the world”—that is most concerning to PFAW. They’re also troubled by the hyperbole used to drum up anti-gay hysteria. Some of the most egregious examples come from French nationalist Fabrice Sorlin, who the report quotes as “comparing Russia’s anti-gay stand to its protection of Europe against Mongol hordes in the thirteenth century and against fascism in the twentieth.” U.S. leaders who tie gay sexuality to Satanism and child molestation are, of course, equally culpable in revving up discrimination and prejudice.

What’s more, while the Russian and Eastern European embrace of anti-gay policies has clearly pleased the American right wing, this is not the only part of the world to capture financial or on-the-ground support from American activists. “Infamously,” Globalizing Homophobia continues, “American religious right leaders’ financial and political support has been inflaming anti-gay passions in Uganda for years, leading to the 2013 passage of a bill that imposes a life jail sentence for ‘aggravated homosexuality.’ American conservative activists Lou Engle and Scott Lively traveled to Uganda to help rally support for the bill, spreading apocryphal stories of the harms that come from gay rights.”

These men have also had a hand in helping conservatives in Belize uphold that country’s criminalization of homosexuality. Similarly, the U.S. right has raised funds and worked behind the scenes to promote homophobia in countries as disparate as Jamaica, Peru, and Nigeria. Indeed, momentum has been so great that in mid-February Scott Lively and Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, formed the Coalition for Family Values. Whether this group will compete with, or complement, the World Congress of Families is anyone’s guess.

Despite these developments, PFAW’s Peter Montgomery says fissures between different factions of the right wing have become increasingly apparent in recent weeks. “In mid-March, Concerned Women for America announced that it was pulling out of the WCF’s 2014 Summit because of Russia’s bad behavior toward Ukraine,” he said. “Some on the right are clearly trying to figure out what their next best move is and there are evident conservative splits. A few weeks before the CWA pulled out, Ted Cruz spoke at a Heritage Foundation event and he slammed Putin. While many of his religious right allies are saying that Putin is the savior of world Christianity and are extolling him, others want to hold Putin responsible for his aggression. We need to push that divide.”

That said, Globalizing Homophobia reminds us that a tangled web of right-wing organizations are working hard to reverse LGBTQ civil rights at home and curtail gay activism abroad. These groups are well-funded and well-connected, and while same-sex marriage is the hook they use to ensnare followers, their actual agenda is far more insidious. The goal? To shove queer communities back into the closets of denial and self-hate. Scott Lively, for one, said as much at a press conference announcing the formation of the Coalition for Family Values. When asked what about the group’s raison d’etre, he told reporters that unlike other “pro-family” efforts, it will condemn all things homosexual, not just same-sex marriage, as an affront to decency and civilized behavior.