FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine, adding to the nation’s arsenal against the pandemic

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Feb. 26 voted to approve emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. (The Washington Post)

With demand for vaccines outracing supply and officials scrambling to get much of the population vaccinated before variants spoil an improving picture, a third vaccine is “really good news,” said Eric Toner, senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The vaccine will not have a big effect initially on supply shortages. Only a few million doses will be shipped to states in the days immediately after authorization, though production will ramp up in coming weeks, with 20 million doses to be delivered by the end of March and 100 million total in the first half of the year, according to the company.

The new vaccine, which is for adults 18 and older, has clear practical and logistical advantages over the first two vaccines — it does not have to be kept frozen, and there is no need for a second round of appointments. That makes it a boon for rural areas and other hard-to-reach communities, and for distribution to community health centers and physician offices that might not have the freezers needed for the other vaccines, public health officials say.

But the Johnson & Johnson shot also has a lower efficacy rate, leading some public health experts and government officials to worry that it will be viewed as substandard compared with the other vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson efficacy rate is 66 percent overall and 72 percent in the United States in preventing moderate to severe cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The vaccines by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech and by the biotech company Moderna are about 95 percent effective following their two-shot regimens.

Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said he is already getting tweets and emails from people expressing reservations. “The gentle ones say, ‘Is it okay if I get J & J, or should I wait for Pfizer?’ ” he said. “The strong ones say, ‘I don’t want J & J. I want Pfizer.’ ”

Shah said he responds by saying all three vaccines have been shown to be fully effective in protecting against what people fear most — hospitalizations and death. And he notes that the two earlier vaccines were tested months before the emergence of “variants of concern,” including one first detected in South Africa that appears to affect the efficacy of the vaccines, so the results are not an “apples to apples” comparison. He urges people to get whatever vaccine they can.

Shah said he is planning to equip public health nurses and other vaccinators with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and send them to far-flung corners of his state. “J & J will open up a new wing in our vaccination efforts — not just more people, but harder-to-reach people,” he said.

Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, placed the newest coronavirus vaccine in the context of vaccines used to thwart other infectious diseases.

“In a normal world, people would be jumping up and down for a vaccine that is more than 70 percent effective,” she said, noting that the FDA’s efficacy requirement is 50 percent. Instead, she said, “Some people are saying, ‘I am going to wait until I get the good vaccine.’ ”

She doesn’t want the residents of Alabama’s rural areas — which tend to be less affluent and have a significant percentage of African Americans — to feel they are getting shortchanged if Johnson & Johnson’s product is deployed there.

“It’s something you have to think about as you make vaccines available because people are making comparisons,” Marrazzo said.

Paul Goepfert, director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic and one of the scientific leaders of the Johnson & Johnson trial, said emerging evidence in the United Kingdom shows that the protection provided by the vaccine is similar to that from a single dose of Pfizer.

“Dose for dose, this vaccine is as good as any of the other ones,” he said. “I think the messaging needs to be this vaccine is comparable to the other two vaccines, and as soon as you have the availability [to take any vaccine], you should take it.”

But some experts say it is important for people to understand there might be differences between vaccines in preventing moderate cases of covid-19, because even those infections could have long-term consequences. At the same time, some doctors say they are encountering people saying they prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because they don’t want to have to get a second shot.

For now, consumers are unlikely to have a choice of vaccines because there simply isn’t enough supply. That is poised to change in coming months. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have committed to delivering a total of 220 million doses by the end of March. They say they have solved manufacturing challenges and are in a position to overcome scarcity that has hampered the nation’s fight against the coronavirus.

Some experts expect the United States will reach an inflection point by late spring, with more shots available than people who want to get them. A vaccine developed jointly by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and another from Maryland biotechnology company Novavax are also in the late stages of testing, and the United States has contracts for 400 million doses, if the vaccines are successful.

The addition of the Johnson & Johnson shot will diversify the nation’s portfolio of vaccines, adding one that works through a different scientific technology.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines employ an approach that had never been used in people outside of clinical trials. They deliver a strip of genetic material called messenger RNA carrying the instructions to build the spiky protein found on the outside of the virus.

In contrast, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a harmless cold virus to deliver a gene encoding the spike protein to cells. The approach is more established. In both cases, cells follow genetic instructions to construct the spike, and the immune system learns to recognize the real thing from these replicas — and to respond.

The latest vaccine will also add a new supply stream to help alleviate shortages or manufacturing delays. A different process and supply chain are used, which could help bolster confidence that if any of the vaccines runs into production difficulties, there will still be supply.

“It’s always better to have that — if one vaccine gets in trouble for some reason or isn’t being produced at a high enough rate. That’s the most common problem we see when a new vaccine is produced: shortages,” said Nancy M. Bennett, professor of medicine and public health sciences at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “The more the merrier.”

The advantages of each vaccine against the pathogen are still being untangled. Although a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine didn’t trigger antibody levels to soar as high as a two-dose regimen, it offered good protection against variants. Scientists think that could be because the vaccine robustly triggered another arm of the immune system, T cells, that may provide a different layer of protection.

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization for the vaccine Feb. 4, submitting clinical trial data involving 44,000 participants in eight countries. On Wednesday, the agency released its analysis that the vaccine was safe and effective. On Friday, the agency’s outside vaccine advisers voted unanimously to recommend authorization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to have an emergency meeting Sunday to review the safety and efficacy data and to recommend who should get the vaccine.

Meanwhile, vaccine makers in recent days announced progress on work designed to counter viral variants.

Moderna said it has made a new version of its vaccine targeting the variant first identified in South Africa. A small amount of vaccine has been sent to the National Institutes of Health for a trial to determine whether boosting humans with the modified vaccine will stimulate a strong immune response, the company said.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said they have started testing a third dose of their original coronavirus vaccine to see how well it protects against variants. They are also doing work aimed at variants of concern.

For scientists who have long worked on vaccines, the scale and velocity of the coronavirus research has been stunning. Goepfert, an HIV researcher who worked on the Johnson & Johnson trials, said the HIV vaccine trials he has worked on might have had as many as 5,000 participants, but the Johnson & Johnson study recruited 44,000 people in about 2½ months.

“What’s fascinating about covid vaccine studies is at first we were worried about enrolling the right kind of people at risk. But everybody’s at risk. You just needed to enroll people,” Goepfert said. “I think that’s sadly what helped us get these vaccine end points.”

The Johnson & Johnson study also might help elucidate some questions that are beginning to arise from real-world use of the vaccines. Goepfert said there were health-care workers in the trial who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but then became eligible for an authorized vaccine midway through and received one of the messenger RNA vaccines. Scientists have continued to collect safety data on those people, which should help show whether there are obvious risks from the mixing and matching that may begin to occur in the future, particularly as companies begin testing additional booster doses as a way to protect against variants.

For Helen Boucher, an infectious-disease doctor at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, the events of the past several weeks have been both devastating and exhilarating.

“We have hit this unfathomable number of people who have died and just thinking about it is overwhelming,” she said. At the same, she noted, hospitalizations and deaths are declining and vaccinations are increasing.

“I feel like there is light ahead,” she said. “I think the data supports it.”

Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.

Read more:

African American Theater Arts Troupe Presents 30th Anniversary Gala

African American Theater Arts Troupe (AATAT) founder and director Don Williams wore a proud smile on Feb. 20 as one of his students, August Stevens, softly strummed her guitar singing “A Change Is Gonna Come,” written by Sam Cook in 1964 in support of the civil rights movement. Award winning theater director Woodie King Jr., who served as a role model in Black theater to Williams, praised him for 30 years of work cultivating an artistic outlet for Black voices in theater.

More than 200 people from across the nation tuned-in to a livestream last Saturday night for moments like these as part of the African American Theater Arts Troupe’s (AATAT) 30th anniversary gala.  

Cameron Rivers, a UC Santa Cruz fourth year and chair of the Cultural Arts and Diversity Resource Center (CADrc) along with actor and producer Niketa Calame-Harris (Oakes, ‘02), who voiced Young Nala in the 1994 film The Lion King, facilitated the event. Rivers and Calame-Harris introduced special guest speakers and performers including award-winning theater director Woodie King Jr. and fourth-year assistant producer for CADrc August Stevens to honor the accomplishments of AATAT and its founder Don Williams. 

Woodie King Jr.: From Baldwin Springs, Alabama, King attended Leman College in New York then went on to earn his MFA from Brooklyn College. In 1970, King founded the New Federal Theatre and the National Black Touring Circuit in New York City and began his current career as a producing director. King has received many different awards and acknowledgements for his work, including the 1988 NAACP Image Award, the 1993 Audelco Awards for Best Director and Best Play and an Obie award for Sustained Achievement. 

After making special shoutouts to friends and family that supported him in upholding AATAT, Williams said the organization’s growth in the last 30 years is connected to its determination to uplift people of all backgrounds. 

“Our Black voices are important,” Williams said. “We survived because of the good people in this world, and they come in every creed, every shade, and every color. I’m thankful to all the folks who have been watching this program tonight. It makes a big difference to have you here witnessing the 30 years of service that we’ve been providing to this greater community.”

Within the first hour of the gala, Santa Cruz’s U.S. congressman Jimmy Panetta announced the addition of AATAT’s accomplishments to the congressional record. This means that the U.S. Congress recognizes the organization’s contribution to the community through its performances, scholarships and outreach programs as a part of American history. 

August Stevens said her favorite moments in the evening was watching Williams receive well deserved recognition for his hard work.  

“My biggest hope is that [the community] saw the people that are involved with AATAT…and they see the impact AATAT has and they continue and actually start to provide the resources that we need,” said Stevens after the event. “The amount of press [AATAT] has been getting will be fuel for them to recognize us and give us the institutional power and solidification that we wanted.”

Stevens has been a part of AATAT for almost four years, and working alongside Williams, other campus organizations, and AATAT alum in order to make this event possible.  

Don Williams and AATAT actors on stage.
AATAT rehearsal from 2012. Photo by Prescott Watson from the CHP archives.

The gala presented a documentary on CADrc titled “Uplift Others,” created this winter by UCSC alum Scott Leiserson, which features alum, current students, and Williams. The short film captured what Williams has done for the Santa Cruz community, and how important his preservation of Black theater on campus was for Black students at UCSC.  

After presenting the promo video, Woodie King Jr., an award winning director, reiterated to Williams how important his work has been and how William’s hard work has brought himself and his students closer to the theater.

“I mean, that’s what it’s about man, it’s the love of the arts. It’s the love of young Black people who you’re pulling up with you,” King said. “It doesn’t matter that they are Black, as long as they’re young, energetic, and really want to do it…I’m so glad that the African American theatre group is alive and doing it in Santa Cruz.”

King discussed his journey entering the realm of Black theater during the 50’s and 60’s in Detroit and New York. He emphasized to Williams the importance of reading and educating oneself in order to educate others through the theater.

King showed his appreciation and admiration for William’s hard work in building a theater and community at UCSC and enlightening students about the importance of theater.

“I learned from the great Langston Hughes— If you go somewhere, pull somebody along with you,” King said. “And that’s what you were doing, if you are going to teach some young people that you are teaching and working with and instilling in them the beauty of theater, the beauty of art. The beauty of this piece of theater by August Wilson…The beauty of these kinds of things. That’s what propelled me, it’s the same thing that I see in you.”

The recording of the ” AATAT 30th Anniversary Gala can be viewed here.

A virtual weekend To-Do List: Mutants of the Monster, ‘Minari,’ Dreamland Shakedown, ASO’s ‘Serenades,’ Trillium’s ‘1,000 cranes for peace’ and more

The 2020 pocket calendar may have earned its rightful place in the garbage bin, but 2021’s doesn’t have to. Here are a handful of things to check out this weekend:

First, Lee Isaac Chung’s festival favorite and major awards season contender “Minari,” from indie film studio A24, is available for rent now on platforms like Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu and what have you. Written about Chung’s childhood in Arkansas — Chung’s Korean-American family moved to rural Washington County when he was the same age his daughter is now — “Minari” was filmed outside of Tulsa in the summer of 2019, and explores the fates of an aspiring farm family as they become acquainted with a new family dynamic, new neighbors, holy rollers and Arkansas tornadoes. It’s alternately tender and tough, and resists the well-trod path of making a caricature out of rural Arkansas life by depicting it as either quaintly endearing or uniformly bigoted and dysfunctional.

Advertisement

[embedded content]

At the Dreamland Ballroom, “Dreamland Shakedown: A Tribute to Vintage Black Art” streams live, with a blend of history and burlesque, featuring live music from the Funkanites, vocalists DeeDee Jones and Ricky D Wade, comedy from Nate Williams and burlesque performances from Bastet Dafoe, Raven Rose and Maxie Fauna. More on that event here, with commentary from organizer Meosha Howard and trumpeter Jose Holloway.

Advertisement

Musician (Rwake, Deadbird, Iron Tongue)and event organizer Chris Terry (known to many as CT) and co. have put together a whopper of an evening for the next virtual installment of the Mutants of the Monster Festival, a beloved fest dedicated to heavy music that, in years past, has taken place at the White Water Tavern, Rev Room, Vino’s and other venues, but which has turned to the “TV special” format during the pandemic. Tonight at 6 p.m. on the Arkansas Times YouTube channel Saturday, Feb. 27, catch performances from Adam Faucett, Colour Design, Heavy Temple, Radiant Knife and many more.

Advertisement

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s next Masterworks concert streams 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28 at arkansassymphony.org, with tickets available for a minimum donation of $10, and focuses on a couple of late Romantic era composers. Hear a gorgeous serenade Richard Strauss composed for winds when he was just 17 years old, plus Antonin Dvorak’s sweeping five-movement serenade for strings. Look for your Arkansas Times entertainment editor in there, too; I’ll be hosting the concert stream and interviewing conductor Geoffrey Robson between segments.

Lastly, if you’re in the Northwest Arkansas area on Sunday, check out Trillium Salon Series’ paper crane public art project, going up in a garage at Likewise Community in downtown Fayetteville, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Cellist Matt Magerkurth performs with singer-songwriter Kalyn Fay plus a set from contemporary music group Thought Form Collective. The event is free and open to the public, and CDC guidelines like mask-wearing and social distancing will be required. RSVP at the link here. 
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

To reach under-served communities, vaccination clinics hit the road

Student Nicole Caser (right) speaks with Carol Carpenter, of Cincinnati, before her vaccine during the clinic held at Ohio Northern University in Ada.

Student Nicole Caser (right) speaks with Carol Carpenter, of Cincinnati, before her vaccine during the clinic held at Ohio Northern University in Ada.

Amanda Wilson | The Lima News

Student Alayna Janok gives a vaccine to Dick Carpenter, of Cincinnati, during the clinic held at Ohio Northern University in Ada.

Student Alayna Janok gives a vaccine to Dick Carpenter, of Cincinnati, during the clinic held at Ohio Northern University in Ada.

Amanda Wilson | The Lima News

Student Nicole Caser gets instruction from Professor of Pharmacy Practice Karen Kier to give a shot to Carol Carpenter, of Cincinnati, at ONU.

Amanda Wilson | The Lima News

ins{background:none;}

ADA — Mobile health clinics, which for years have been traveling to deliver medical care in places where there are few pharmacies and public transportation is scarce, may offer one solution to the vaccine equity and accessibility problem that has developed in the early stages of Ohio’s vaccination effort.

The traveling vaccination clinics, equipped with medical-grade storage necessary to keep vaccines cold while on the road, will soon start popping up in rural and under-served communities throughout northwest Ohio.

“We’ve got, essentially, a doctor’s office on wheels,” said Michael Rush, director of Ohio Northern University’s HealthWise program, which oversees the school’s mobile health clinic that was recently approved as a traveling vaccination site.

The university developed its mobile health program in 2015 after Hardin County was deemed a medical provider shortage area. Poverty was high; many residents weren’t up to date on their vaccinations and were missing regular cholesterol or blood pressure checks; and there were few doctors practicing in parts of the county where adults were less likely to own a car, making it difficult to travel long distances for medical care.

The mobile clinics allowed ONU pharmacists and pharmacy students to work directly with under-served communities nearby, administering flu shots, screening for cancer or helping residents manage their diabetes.

The program has since expanded into other counties, offering tobacco cessation assistance at the West Ohio Food Bank in Lima and traveling to the Bluffton Public Library once a month.

The university is now gearing up for its mobile vaccination effort, which will travel to churches, food pantries and other locations deemed accessible for residents in communities where few vaccinations have been given.

Accessibility, hesitancy fuel disparities in vaccine uptake

“If you don’t have a car — and a significant portion of our adult population in Hardin County doesn’t have a car — it might as well be Dallas or Houston, because it’s just hard to get to,” said Steven Martin, a professor and dean of Ohio Northern University’s College of Pharmacy.

Limited supply of vaccines and strict storage guidelines meant few providers were able to administer vaccines early on, even once eligibility expanded beyond healthcare workers and nursing home residents, making it difficult for Ohioans who lived far from a vaccination site or whose internet access was spotty to make an appointment.

And then there were the information gaps, fueled by distrust of medicine and infrequent communication with doctors.

“They may not normally receive health care from a primary care provider, so they may just not think that they should get the COVID-19 vaccine or they may not have good information about it,” Martin said.

So even as Ohio was making progress in getting shots to seniors, some of the most vulnerable seniors were not getting shots at all. Vaccination rates among Black Ohioans throughout the state have lagged those of white residents, despite higher rates of death and severe illness from COVID-19 among African-Americans.

In Allen County, only 7% of African-American residents have received a shot since late December, while just shy of 13% of the county’s white residents have been vaccinated.

“We’d like to get ahead of it so that it doesn’t become an issue in the future,” said Beth Keehn, director of government and community relations for Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, which is working with Allen County Public Health, Lima Memorial Health System, Health Partners of Western Ohio and grassroots organizations to improve vaccine equity through public service announcements, listening sessions and informational seminars.

“Navigating how to get it, where to get it, who to call is a challenge for everyone,” Keehn said. “And so if you were somebody who didn’t have family members working in health care, or maybe you weren’t accustomed to making a bunch of calls and asking to get to the front of the line — you were worried and hesitating to make the call — you missed the opportunity, because the appointments just booked so quickly.”

.neFileBlock { margin-bottom: 20px;
}
.neFileBlock p { margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;
}
.neFileBlock .neFile { border-bottom: 1px dotted #aaa; padding-bottom: 5px; padding-top: 10px;
}
.neFileBlock .neCaption { font-size: 85%;
}

Student Nicole Caser (right) speaks with Carol Carpenter, of Cincinnati, before her vaccine during the clinic held at Ohio Northern University in Ada.

Student Alayna Janok gives a vaccine to Dick Carpenter, of Cincinnati, during the clinic held at Ohio Northern University in Ada.

Student Nicole Caser gets instruction from Professor of Pharmacy Practice Karen Kier to give a shot to Carol Carpenter, of Cincinnati, at ONU.

Artist displays social justice work in new exhibit

CHARLOTTE , N.C. (AP) – Stephen L. Hayes Jr. is an artist who takes on everything he can explore. He sculpts, blacksmiths, welds, makes prints and drawings, carves and even weaves.

The Durham-based artist known for a focus on social justice and incorporating historical context said he tries “just about anything I get my hands on.”

“I love trying to give things new meaning. I don’t have a preferred medium,” said Hayes, whose work will be on display at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in Charlotte from March 5-April 24 in an exhibit titled “Beyond Any Means.”

Hayes, whose “Cash Crop” installation has toured for nearly a decade at galleries and museums, including the Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, said he frequently explores America’s use – or misuse – of Black bodies, along with capitalism and consumerism.

At Elder Gallery, the work on display will add to those themes with a sense of the danger that lies in allowing ourselves to be manipulated by imagery, gallery owner Sonya Pfeiffer said.

A large multimedia installation, titled “5 lbs.,” that’s comprised of dozens of individual circular works, features hands and arms cast from the hands of real people, including children.

“When you first look at the installation, it looks pretty. And then you see that they’re gold bullets, and the hands are grasping for bling, grasping for beauty, grasping for gold,” she said.

Hayes’ piece titled “Fancy Legs” hearkens back to his original discussion of the treatment of Black bodies.

“If you look closely, each of them has a noose around its neck. He takes it back to the original slave trade,” Pfeiffer said.

An opening reception will be held March 5 from 6-8 p.m. A meet-the-artist event, including Charlotte studio artist Cynthia Flaxman Frank, will take place March 26 from 6-8 p.m., but reservations are full. Entrance will be limited with designated time slots to maintain COVID-19 social distancing guideline, and face masks will be required.

UPCOMING PROJECTS

Hayes, 37, spent time in Charlotte while in residence from April 2015 to May 2016 at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. He also had residencies at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, the 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia and at Halcyon Arts Lab, Washington, DC.

Since his time in Charlotte, Hayes has kept an active pace with a packed calendar. In early February, the Gibbes Museum in Charleston celebrated Hayes for winning its 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art in 2020. His work will be on display at the museum for about a year.

Hayes, who earned a bachelor’s degree at North Carolina Central University and a master of fine arts from Savannah College of Art and Design, is also joining the faculty full time at Duke University in July. He teaches sculpture and drawing there now as a visiting instructor in the university’s Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies.

Meanwhile, he’s working on an abstract piece for Stewart Creek Greenway in Charlotte that’s being funded by the Arts & Science Council. Look for that to pop up there along with some benches around August.

Yet another project has him casting the faces of descendants of Black soldiers and re-enactors for a bronze sculpture that will sit outside the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington.

The piece honoring the U.S. Colored Troops who fought for the Union in the Battle of Forks Road will feature 11 soldiers in battle formation and includes space to engrave the names of those who served. It’s slated to be unveiled in November after a COVID-19-related delay.

“This sculpture is pretty different than most you see out there. Their lineage was a part of this history,” Hayes said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Capitol assault was an act of expressive politics. A backlash is surely coming—against the left

For weeks now, the news media have been flooded by a tidal wave of news and commentaries about the January 6 violent assault against the U.S. Capitol building. Most mainstream commentators condemned the assault using terms like “insurrection,” “terrorism,” and even “fascism.” Right wing media and many Republicans have echoed the ex-President’s lies about blocking a “stolen” election, while his Congressional defenders blocked his impeachment conviction.

I would suggest an additional way we might think about the January 6 assault, as a form of “expressive politics” that has its roots in the 1960s — a now-prominent form of protest “politics” that is both futile and counterproductive.

Advertisement:

The 1960s era was a time when powerful social movements brought about profoundly important changes in the United States. But it was also a time when the news media broadcast seemingly incessant images of violence: police attacks on southern civil rights activists, shocking assassinations, the horrific U.S. war in Vietnam, and five successive summers of inner-city rioting as Black Americans’ frustrations boiled over.

Furthermore, some anti-war militants engaged in violent attacks on property while others displayed Viet Cong flags at antiwar protests, and for a while the media seemed saturated with bizarre images of hippies and their countercultural lifestyles.

Television imagery in particular became a vehicle for protesters to “gain attention” through militancy or provocative behaviors — in effect, to feel more “powerful,” even though the same media were consistently dismissing or attacking their fundamental criticisms of America.

Advertisement:

As one young Black man declared after images of the 1965 Watts riot shocked the American public, “We won, because we made the whole world pay attention to us.”

Antiwar protester Jerry Rubin revealed the narcissistic element in “expressive politics” this way: “Media attention can be comforting. Someone is paying attention, we are having some impact — is the feeling.”

Yet in actual fact, the inner-city uprisings, along with other media images, were used then as fuel for a profound backlash campaign led by politicians on the right from Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan to George Wallace and Richard Nixon. They appealed to people left out of, and often alienated by, the events they witnessed in the media.

Advertisement:

Aided by a massive corporate campaign, the backlash turned the country’s politics away from the democratic promise of the awakening social movements to a new creed that worshipped the so-called “free market” and rejected the use of government to meet the needs of people, the ideology known today as neoliberalism.

The mass media simply followed the cues. The 1960s became widely dismissed as an era of self-indulgence and mindless militancy. More precisely, the media romanticized a “good” sixties (civil rights and JFK) while condemning a “bad” sixties (virtually everything that happened after 1964). Consider, for example, how the imagery in the film “Forrest Gump” follows this demarcation to a T.

Advertisement:

So now we have witnessed precisely those “left-out” and alienated populations on the right engaging in a violent assault against the U.S. Capitol. Not only did they feel the Congress was the enemy because it was going to validate an actual legitimate election outcome, but they took and broadcast so many selfies and videos that they provided law enforcement with a vehicle for arresting many of them.

Using burgeoning right wing social media, those who assaulted the Capitol continue to echo the wild conspiracy claims promulgated by neo-fascist organizations while simultaneously ranting about “revolution” or “civil war” and violence to come.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the Capitol event and its aftermath have had one dominant effect. They have energized the forces of backlash and repression — not only against groups on the Right, but any groups carrying out protests which officials might deem as threatening the social order.

Advertisement:

The strident attacks and police violence against Black Lives Matter protests over the last year — reinforced by well-established patterns in our history — suggest that the impact of these repressive measures will fall not on white conservatives going forward, but disproportionately on racial minorities and others on the Left. 

What then do we make of “expressive politics” and what do they suggest about effective ways to bring about much needed change?

First, let us recognize how the media-captured provocative act is particularly seductive for those who are powerless in the political process. Despite Donald Trump’s manipulative language, and except for the single factor of white supremacy, many of those assaulting the Capitol are as effectively cut off from political power as are racial minorities living in under-resourced neighborhoods and communities. White supremacy is, in effect, their only claim of “power” against Black Americans they feel threatened by.

Advertisement:

Second, by itself, a media-captured episode of violence produces nothing but backlash and repression and fails to advance the real interests of those protesting.

How, then, can marginalized or oppressed groups effectively advance their interests? I would suggest both “inside” and “outside” strategies are necessary.

Inside strategy means tactics that cause political decision makers to reflect the interests of these groups. The 1960s are again a case in point — none of the significant, even historic, changes that occurred in that era would have occurred in the absence of mass movements from below. To achieve such a mass movement requires an outside strategy.

Obviously a great deal of networking and strategic on-the-ground organizing goes into creating a mass movement.  Mass protests become more powerful if they reach and draw into their ranks a wider slice of the population — or, according to a classic formula of direct action, if their audience becomes more sympathetic to the protesters’ cause than to the target of their protest.

Advertisement:

Both the civil rights and — until the media zeroed in on looters, and commentators attacked them — Black Lives Matter movements succeeded at this because their audiences saw the legitimate reason for their protest: police attacks on nonviolent civil rights protesters and the widely-viewed police murder of George Floyd that followed a long line of police killings.

A huge challenge facing those on the left is how they can get marginalized audiences on the right to see the threat of climate change, or the impact of racism, or the counter-productivity of U.S. militarism.

A pivotal first step, however, would be to get those audiences to see that their economic self-interests can be advanced by joining with others who are also struggling economically, at the same time recognizing that right wing claims about hot-button emotional issues are essentially just that. 

This suggests that class inequality can be an effective focal point for coming together around a range of issues — jobs, health care, inequitable taxes, inadequate pay, demeaning work, etc.— that can often be addressed in a variety of ways at the local level, but which ultimately direct attention to the nature of our capitalist economy. Joint collaboration, in turn, is a catalyst for growing trust and interaction.

Advertisement:

President Biden often speaks of his desire for “unity” in the nation. However, he doesn’t mean “unity” among all those who are struggling. Probably nothing scares the economic elites of this country more than a unified working majority mobilized to address economic inequities across the board.

That’s a radically different animal from “expressive politics.”