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AI Activism Has Landed, with Chinyere Tutashinda (Center for Third World Organizing) and Nicole Froio (PRISM)

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Block & Build
Block & Build
AI Activism Has Landed, with Chinyere Tutashinda (Center for Third World Organizing) and Nicole Froio (PRISM)

Of course the hot button issue of the day is former President Donald Trump’s 34 felony convictions in his hush money trial. We briefly discuss how this impacts us as organizer, but have so much else to report.

Executive Director of Center for Third World Organizing, Chinyere Tutashinda ([email protected]), joins Cayden this episode to discuss the immediate dangers and risks of AI generated social media activism which may have had its first major viral moment with the widely shared “All Eyes on Rafah” graphic you’ve likely seen. They also explore how organizers and activists think about their work on a longer horizon than the daily news cycle itself.

Later in the episode, reporter for PRISM, Nicole Froio joins to discuss her new exclusive piece Why does Planned Parenthood contract with the arms manufacturer Raytheon? Together they explore the nuanced and complicated reality of a vital health care organization’s need to prioritize cyber security and the limited amount of trustworthy market options capable of providing such support.

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[00:00:00] Cayden Mak: Welcome to Block and Build, a podcast from Convergence magazine. I’m your host and the publisher of Convergence, Cayden Mak. On this show, we’re building a roadmap for the people and organizations who are trying to unite anti fascist forces in order to build the influence of a progressive trend while blocking the rise of authoritarianism in the United States.

[00:00:30] Yesterday, as you probably heard, former President Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 felony counts in his case relating to hush money payments made to a porn star during his 2016 election. This makes him the historic first president found guilty of any crime and honorific worthy of many other former officeholders.

[00:00:48] Trump, though, has already been working to spin this verdict, leveraging it for his fundraising, and as much as I’d like to think that this will negatively impact Trump’s candidacy, he’s very adept at making this kind of thing work for him. The threat he poses is no less today than it was before the verdict.

[00:01:03] And while Trump technically faces the potential of up to 20 years in prison at his July sentencing, none of this potentially matters thanks to his friends slash frenemies in high places, such as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. This week, Alito insisted there was no need for him to recuse himself from any cases regarding January 6th or former Trump, President Trump’s many criminal trials, should they find themselves in front of the court, in spite of new information that he flew flags sympathetic to the January 6th insurrectionists.

[00:01:33] Shortly after that event at his vacation home. Much like his colleague Clarence Thomas, he brushed this story aside as innocuous, unrelated activity by his wife. And as we creep closer to the logical endgame of the Federalist Society plan for our nation’s judiciary, Chief Justice John Roberts also declined a request to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss this matter.

[00:01:55] In Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza, IOF shell strikes killed dozens of refugees in the southern border town of Rafah, designated as an evacuation zone by Israel early on in its eight month long assault. The Biden administration insists that this still has not crossed their quote unquote red line of a full ground invasion of the city, while families burn to death in their meager temporary shelters.

[00:02:18] And meanwhile, two more U. S. officials have resigned over Biden’s handling of the situation in Gaza, a contractor for the U. S. Agency for International Development and a State Department official from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The former stating in his resignation, and I quote, I cannot do my job in an environment in which specific people cannot be acknowledged as fully human.

[00:02:41] Finally, you may have seen that members of the U. S. ruling class found some time on Wednesday to visit the Israel Lebanon border for a photo op. And autographed artillery shells intended for Gaza, including this disgusting display from Nikki Haley, the former U. S. ambassador to the U. N. and former GOP presidential nominee, she signed one with the quote, finish them, which is a truly macabre display and really an emphasis to me about how The GOP continues to be a war party and a vote for a GOP candidate continues to be a vote for war.

[00:03:15] To discuss some of this on today’s show I’m joined by the executive director of the Center for Third World Organizing, Chinyere Tutashinda, and later we’ll also be joined by a reporter for PRISM, Nicole Frio, discussing her recent exclusive about Planned Parenthood’s contract with Raytheon. For now, though, welcome, Chinyere.

[00:03:34] It’s good to see you. How are you doing? 

[00:03:37] Chinyere Tutashinda: I’m doing well. Nice to be here. Thank you for having me today. 

[00:03:41] Cayden Mak: Yeah, of course. Big news week for us. But I think that, the thing that I asked you on to talk about specifically is a lot of the thinking and work that you’re doing at C2 About long term vision in our movements.

[00:03:56] And I think there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of things swirling around these days because it’s such a like high velocity news environment that may feel like kind of distractions from that long term vision. But one way I want to get into thinking about the relationship between things that we might write off as distraction and thinking about vision and strategy is this viral AI image that I think a lot of people probably have seen floating around especially on Instagram that is almost certainly generated from AI.

[00:04:28] Cause it doesn’t, it, this is not a real image of Palestine. It’s not a real image of Rafa. And part of the reason it’s so clearly AI generated is how weird the typography is. And I’m like, I can’t get over it as somebody who’s like a big design. But so, it’s this sort of sanitized.

[00:04:45] There are no human beings in this image, but this image has been shared tens of millions of times in people’s face, their Instagram stories. And I think probably face, I forget what Facebook calls it. It’s all the same, like weird meta continuum of social media. In this week where we are seeing these like truly horrific images and footage coming out of Rafa of really like suffering and dying people suffering and dying children.

[00:05:11] We also have this like really interesting example of AI being used in viral activism. There are a lot of reasons why things go viral and that we can’t fully predict why something will go viral. But one of the things I’m interested in talking about with you, especially like thinking about, actually we met doing like more like tech related advocacy stuff when you were at Media Justice and I was at emailing rising.

[00:05:37] Is this sort of like, how does, how do tactics like this, how do tools like this sort of fit into a toolbox that we have access to today? 

[00:05:45] Chinyere Tutashinda: Yeah. I think I also noticed it. I think everyone has noticed it on Instagram. If you’re looking at the stories, you have seen this picture and found it really odd that so many people I know have shared it who share, who typically share what I would call really relevant newsworthy information and images also felt compelled to share this one.

[00:06:10] I think that because of the broad reach and because of how Like viral, it has gone. It’s reached people who maybe were at this point eight months into this genocide have tried to ignore, pay attention or turn their heads. So there’s something that if I try to. Not be as cynical around it.

[00:06:29] Remind myself that is true, that it has reached more people, but it is, like you said, a sanitized, not even just image, but even just the message itself. Like it doesn’t say much do there’s no call to action here. So yes, when thinking about there are many ways that we can use social media in our activism and organizing, but thinking about something like this that has, it doesn’t have a call to action, doesn’t really give information or news, it becomes a lot for me, at least a lot harder.

[00:06:59] This seeing as a viable tool, right? Yeah, for sure. 

[00:07:04] Cayden Mak: One of the things, one of the commentaries that I’ve seen in my personal network is also that it’s like giving black square, right? I did something. Yeah, there’s a lot of style and no substance. But at the same time, I think this is, related to the sort of mystery of what goes viral and why I’m reminded a couple weeks ago, our friends at Prism published this great piece from a journalist reflecting on how algorithms on social media have changed the way that journalists are reporting on the genocide avoiding using language like genocide and ethnic cleansing, either from top in top down ways, like at the New York Times, where it’s like disallowed, but also algorithmically, where image, actual images of suffering humans are labeled by Meta as like inappropriate or potentially sensitive and therefore they’re like less likely to reach a wide audience.

[00:07:57] And so it’s I don’t know, I have this like weird sort of split feeling about it where I’m like, we have to try everything, right? Lives are literally on the line. We have to try everything. And we are, it does feel like we’re at a we’re, or perhaps reaching an inflection point where something’s gotta give.

[00:08:15] I’m hopeful. Right? Right? Even though Biden keeps saying that the red line hasn’t been crossed Is Israel going to send ground troops into Rafah and what is that, what will that be like, that maybe this is a moment where more people are being like, Hey, bombing a refugee camp is like, 

[00:08:34] Chinyere Tutashinda: It’s a line that I don’t think many people thought we would get to this point.

[00:08:38] So I have seen, even outside of my circle of organizers, I’ve seen a lot of people who are Just feel compelled to say something in a new way that I haven’t seen in a few months. I will say that I think this image has sparked that the atrocities have definitely done that. And giving people, new avenues.

[00:08:58] There’s also the if you haven’t said anything so far, it’s not too late. That’s continuing. It’s not. Yeah. Join us. Yeah. So those are, I think this is one image that is, trying to bring new people into and the AI generated, yeah it’s one of those. And I’m like, what is this? This is the first time I’ve seen it imagery used this way.

[00:09:20] That isn’t, people creating new images of themselves are doing like deep fakes or, but it’s trying to look at AI as a tool for activism. So that I’m intrigued with. I don’t know what his opinion’s about, but I’m curious. I’m trying to hold opinions. I’m like curious to see what this means for us moving forward.

[00:09:37] Cayden Mak: Well, this is one of my not so hot takes is that I think that there may also be something to the fact that it is AI generated that Contributed to its virality in an algorithmic way that because it’s like, there are some obvious artifacts of it being synthetic content that like, these big tech companies are so invested in us getting down with AI and using it and being like, cool with the fact that it exists and is permeating our lives that It would be, it would not be surprising to me that like it got a slight algorithmic edge because it is visibly, obviously generated.

[00:10:18] And so that is also interesting to me that it’s like there’s a little bit, potentially like a little bit of algorithm gaming going on in that. And I have no idea how we would ever verify that, but that’s my hot take on this one. 

[00:10:30] Chinyere Tutashinda: I can see that one, I’m like, Oh I’m curious. I could definitely, those are the kind of images that keep coming back.

[00:10:35] Going. Yeah. Go viral. And there’s a lot of interest and a lot of investment in AI. So I could, yeah, that would make sense that it would bump it. And because it’s so sanitized, that there’s, it’s not going to cause any of those flags. 

[00:10:51] Cayden Mak: Totally. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s one of those things that I think that deserves some actual analysis from people who are, like, thinking about the way that tech shapes how we think about the world.

[00:11:03] See, I also think that the flip side of this is I have noticed that a lot of people who are sharing it are also sharing like a similar, like other template things on Instagram that link to actual stuff people can do, whether it’s like giving to verified fundraisers to help people get out of Gaza or using five calls to harass their elected officials about how the U.

[00:11:25] S. needs to stop sending letters to Israel. I’ve seen some of those, where people, I’ve 

[00:11:31] Chinyere Tutashinda: also seen the if you’re sharing this image, share, please have people do this, find a local action, call your representative, donate, continue to educate yourself. Like they’re trying to take it to the next level, realizing that the image alone, it doesn’t do that.

[00:11:46] Cayden Mak: Totally. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that This points to something that feels really important to me, which is I think that a well designed action, whether it’s virtual or in real life does have some transformational power. And I think that this is what maybe turns people off about this kind of thing is that just sharing something doesn’t feel like it transforms you in the process of doing it.

[00:12:08] Right. 

[00:12:10] Chinyere Tutashinda: No, one of the things, so in my, And I think we’ll talk about it a little bit I won’t even say former life at this point, but starting a decade ago, starting and really doing a lot of direct action work with the Blackout Collective. That’s one of the points that we continue to bring is that direct action and any kind of real organizing work actually should be transformative.

[00:12:27] That it is about how we Not just transforming the people that we like transforming ourselves and our conditions, but everyone involved in that process so there is something around when you start getting the critique around the Clictivisms and things that you can just do is like what does that mean?

[00:12:44] How are you learning? How are you transforming in that process? So my hope is, as the image continues to spread, because it will, that those other things will as too, that people are being called to call representatives and donate directly to organizations that have been doing work in Gaza or to families directly, as well as continue to educate themselves so that they, you They no longer feel either as isolated or as apathetic about genocide.

[00:13:11] And it can be difficult, especially since there have been people on the streets since October 8th, at this point, really calling to first to stop anything from happening and then really escalating, naming that this is genocide happening and seeing. The U. S. continue to be complicit. I can see it’s very disheartening, but it’s so important to continue that work.

[00:13:35] Yeah. 

[00:13:35] Cayden Mak: Yeah. No, I think that’s really important. Like we are in a moment where. We, I was actually just in a discussion with some like seasoned direct action organizers here in the Bay on, on Facebook, actually, where people were like, Hey we need to be finding ways to bring more people into our movements right now, like we need to replenish our energy and our ranks and we need to be developing leaders.

[00:13:59] Who are able to do things like plan direct actions and lead direct actions and expand the sort of circle of trust because this is not going anywhere. And in a lot of ways, I wonder about how many people are thinking about this as continuing a continuous practice that especially depending on the outcome of the election in November, we’re going to have, we’re going to have to deepen that continuous practice, right?

[00:14:27] Thank you. 

[00:14:27] Chinyere Tutashinda: Yeah, and it’s been a tool. I think that they are. When we look at the history of social movements, even in the U. S. It’s been a tool that we have continued to come back to direct action for all kinds of struggles, whether that’s for, labor rights or civil rights or women’s rights.

[00:14:42] It is a tool and tactic that we have used. And if we’re not really clear and continuing to build those ranks and bring people in, it will, I think our tactics will soften her, those who we’re fighting against, we’ll know what we’re doing. They’ll know the playbooks. Like we actually have to, and our people will get worn out.

[00:15:01] Right. And so I know that we’ll talk a little bit about like longer vision, but part of that and being able to have it is also being able to create conditions that keep us in this work. And if we don’t continue to bring new people in and people have the same roles for 30 years, you get really burnt out.

[00:15:18] Yeah, absolutely. Able to find new roles, new opportunities so that we can continue to stay in and bring people in. Is one of the keys to do that? 

[00:15:27] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah. Well, maybe let’s get into some of that. I feel like right now, especially, I was saying as we were prepping for this, that like this week feels like a really interesting week to have this conversation because of the sort of like news velocity because of the sort of inclination to gloat about, donald Trump’s conviction, things like that, but that it’s the sort of presentism that we get stuck in a lot is it can be a trap, right? I think that the things that I’ve heard you talk about the sort of deleterious effects of urgency on our movements are points well taken.

[00:16:01] And I think especially in a presidential election year, it can be hard to get out of what feels like a new cycle driven. Like speed of work. 

[00:16:12] Chinyere Tutashinda: Yeah. I feel, I think for me, one of the things I think that has been a benefit of growing up in the Bay area. So I grew up in Oakland, California and between Oakland and Berkeley, depending on which parent I was with at those weekends well, one of the big benefits outside of it being like this fashion of organizing is that it has a long history of it.

[00:16:31] So you run into people throughout my childhood who were like, I used to be a Panther. I used to do this. And the question that came up for me a lot in my 20s is Well, why aren’t you now, like what got you out of movement? And I just couldn’t imagine what that could be as like a really spry 21 year old, like organizing and those like radical school at the new college in San Francisco.

[00:16:56] And I’m like, I don’t understand. But that question of started for me around what would keep you in it for your lifetime? And then thinking even broadly about, well, what does that mean? When you see the levels of people talked about heartbreak, it talked about, especially then needing to raise a family and get money, which are really real conditions, right?

[00:17:19] But if we’re also, to me, I’m like, it also made me think about what are their roles, what were they doing and how particularly for. That generation, and I’m thinking specifically for the late sixties, early seventies, folks, there was a very high sense of urgency and immediacy. And now, and what we’ve learned is although those were very critical moments, you had global movements, you had all kinds of liberation struggles, we’ve had big fights that happen.

[00:17:52] What we also know is that the empire didn’t fall. Right. No, that global capitalism got stronger and more entrenched, right? Racism and white supremacy took on new forms. So if we know that, and we got to see how people burnt out, how organizations were infiltrated, how do we think about, for me, at least it started making me think really, how are we thinking about time differently?

[00:18:18] And de centering our own realities in that, in this fight, right? Very blessed also because I come out of a really strong family and cultural organizing Organizations around like black liberation fights that they always were grounded in the struggles of our ancestors, right? So if I’m always thinking in the past and know that people have been fighting, struggling, surviving so that I could get here, then I know that it’s not just about me.

[00:18:46] Cayden Mak: Yeah. 

[00:18:47] Chinyere Tutashinda: We decenter ourselves in that fight and know that like humans created these systems. They’re all though, like in the time of history, which is, this is helpful for some, not helpful for others. I will name that because there’s times where it hasn’t been helpful for me, but now I feel as a species, we’ve been around for about 750, 000 years, right?

[00:19:07] Capitalism is only about 600 years old. That’s really not that long. 

[00:19:12] Nicole Froio: And 

[00:19:14] Chinyere Tutashinda: although it will be longer than my life, I’m also clear that if it’s not that long and humans created it, we can uncreate it. We can create it else. And it’s thinking in that way that reminds us of like the seven generations and the forward.

[00:19:30] And to know that it’s not inevitable. And that’s one of the tricks that it wants, both white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy want you to believe is that it’s inevitable. It’s the only way it’s always been here. And if we can continue to put cracks in those myths, Then we know that it’s changeable and we know then that it just means we have to open our lens a little wider outside of us, outside of even the next generation to know that we are, we’re one part of it and we’ll be able to have an impact further.

[00:20:01] And if we think beyond ourselves and think beyond the urgency of the next four years, the next 10 years, the next 50 years, then we’re able to set up systems that allow us to win. Timmy, and we see it so often, even in just in our organizing and our organizations, we try to create five year plans, 10 year plans, and realize so quickly that just the creation of the plan sometimes takes a year and a half that you didn’t plan, right?

[00:20:28] Because we’re so short sighted on how long things actually take. And I feel like I’ve been in a few projects that have taught me that. And feel very lucky to be in spaces where we’re trying to dream beyond this moment. So whether that was like I was a part of the strategy creation for the movement for black lives.

[00:20:47] And that was an experiment in what does the next five years look like? And that moved from five to nine years very quickly because we realized just the process of getting approval and getting everyone on board before beginning would take a while. 

[00:21:01] Nicole Froio: And 

[00:21:01] Chinyere Tutashinda: now with I’m in a process with the rising majority of thinking like, what is the next 50 years look like and what can it look like?

[00:21:08] And I think our movements and our organizations and us as individual organizers and activists Have to start to be in those practices more and more. 

[00:21:17] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s great. And I think that the it feels like it also points to One of the things that I’m hearing in what you’re describing is that this is also just not we need to practice using this muscle, too, right?

[00:21:31] And that knowing the work that also Movement for Black Lives has moved over the past decade it is possible to, for our, for us to walk and chew gum at the same time, right? We can both look at the horizon while walking. With our bodies in the present towards that horizon that those are not two mutually exclusive things.

[00:21:50] And one of the things that this makes me think about is also just the ways in which our existing media landscape are like the technological landscape of media, like the work that it is trying to do. To alienate us from that longer term vision, right? To keep us in an eternal present to trap us in a constant cycle of response.

[00:22:13] And it makes me think about the work that I did at 18 million rising where we originated as an organization that was supposed to do like rapid response campaigning. Right. Which is like the most in the moment, let’s press a button because like people are outraged about something or there’s a trending hashtag kind of model of mobilization.

[00:22:32] Like it’s not really organizing, it’s mobilization. Right. And then trying to figure out how we use the same tools that keep us trapped in the present to actually build real community and help people understand that they’re part of something bigger. But. It makes me think about we’re just like up against a lot to get out of this like trap of the present.

[00:22:54] And I’m curious what you think are the sort of like best tools for folks. What are the ways that we can escape that present? 

[00:23:03] Chinyere Tutashinda: Yeah. I think. I think you’re very correct in that it requires what it requires is a drastic change in culture, right? That we have to experiment with in our organizations and in our organizing, that we know that just between social media and our phones and all the things that get of instant, instant, and that’s only escalated in the last 20 years.

[00:23:26] Instant and isolated that we have to shift that. So when, for me thinking about some of the tools that I’ve seen helpful is creating dream spaces, right? And experimentation, and it’s really hard. Like the first time I went to a conference. I think about a decade ago in 2013, 2014 that was given by the Praxis project.

[00:23:46] And they did this dream lab around education. I come out of education organizing and I’m sitting there with people and we get to create the prompt is to create our own systems. What would it look like? And it was very difficult. I remember sitting there and people are really struggling, not responding to what was, but what we would actually want.

[00:24:06] And what came from that is we were like, well, we won’t have, we won’t have. We won’t, we’ll have windows. We’ll make sure we don’t have cops. We don’t have this. We don’t have that. And I’m like, that’s amazing. But what do we have? What is our formative vision? 

[00:24:18] Nicole Froio: Yeah. 

[00:24:18] Chinyere Tutashinda: We actually want education to look like, how do we want people to feel?

[00:24:22] What does it look like? All of that? What is the curriculum? How does the day look? And it’s very difficult because we don’t give our spaces and our, we don’t give us time to dream. And that for me of Oh, we need. These things, we need opportunities where we are visioning into the future, where we are not just responding from the negative, but we’re actually affirmatively creating what we want to happen.

[00:24:46] So we have something that we’re fighting for. Right. And I think there are many organizations that are doing that in. Very small ways now trying to really shift from this anti perspective to more affirmative. We are fighting for perspective and as let’s say, take it even a step further of how do we create dream spaces around how we with each other, how are we, what does society look like?

[00:25:09] How are we organizing? What are we thinking of governance? Like those kinds of really important questions and give ourselves. Space to be able to dream and feel, and that will make our current organizing so much stronger on what it is. I don’t think it has to be an either, or we cannot put our heads in the sand and just ignore what’s happening in the world as individuals, as organizers, as organizations, and as a movement, right?

[00:25:34] We have to actually be able to do a little bit of both to what extent that happens based on the kind of work you do, I think can shift, but you’ve got to be able to do both. Right. And we also can’t be like. Squirrel that gets distracted with every new headline and every new moment that doesn’t allow us to see the horizon and dream bigger than that, those kinds of dreaming tools are really helpful.

[00:25:58] And then I’ve also been able to study, thanks to Rockwood, I’ve been introduced to a teacher Norma Wong. I love Norma. Yes. Who comes out of Hawaii and she’s like a Zen Buddhist master and all Amazing. And all the things that you would think of what that means when you’re sitting, when learning with someone, she is that, but you learn through story and really challenging you to, and challenging whole cohorts of organizers in this moment to really think beyond, right.

[00:26:30] learning how to do that and then practicing it is really critical and being okay with trying new things. 

[00:26:37] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah. I think that, another sort of artifact of the material reality that we’re operating in is it’s scary to try new things. Cause we’re going to be bad at it at first.

[00:26:47] We’re always going to be bad at things we do for the first time. And it’s I think. The level of scrutiny we feel because of the internet also is like that we have to be, we have to be masterful in the way that we do things. But there’s actually something like very Powerful and not being precious about how we look when we’re doing something.

[00:27:05] I 

[00:27:07] Chinyere Tutashinda: was like, it’s okay. Like for us, even for us at C2, one of our pillars is that we believe we’re thinking Dusha, right? Like we believe in experimentation. We know that even as an organization that’s been around for over 40 years that, that kind of. Experimentation and not being so entrenched is what’s going to help us get all of us closer to freedom is that we have to try new things.

[00:27:31] We have to try new ways of being with each other, new ways of organizing our internal organizations, as well as how we’re training and teaching people to organize. Like we have to learn and be okay with failure and be okay with sharing the lessons of those failures so that we can grow from there.

[00:27:48] Cayden Mak: Yeah, no, I love that. And especially when I’ve been thinking about what our purpose and what our role here at Convergence is also is that I think there’s a lot of work to be done in the media space to like, hold that kind of stuff in ways that are Principle that are like accountable to the people like taking those risks and like trying new stuff as well as presenting something that is like actually useful to other people but it’s something that I’m really excited about, about the work that the fact that folks like rising majority are like, Hey come on in, there’s a role for like a media organization that is rooted in movement.

[00:28:27] And so I’m excited about the road that we’re going to go down together in that way. 

[00:28:31] Chinyere Tutashinda: Yeah, it’s, I’m hopeful. It’s one of those things that makes me hopeful. And I think that as movement builders and not to sound naive, but we have to be dreamers, have to be hopeful in that way. We have to make time to cultivate that hope.

[00:28:47] Because it’s so critical for us to stay in the work. That’s one of the lessons I felt like I got really early through those inquiries. It’s if we do not find. Our own sense of hope, our own grounding in it and continue to cultivate that. As Marian Kaba says, hope is a discipline.

[00:29:02] Like we have that, then. We actually can’t organize our people. We cannot build movements. We cannot build organizations that invite people in to make change because we don’t see the vision, let alone being able to create, co create new visions with our people. If they come into us and we’re like, it’s, we’ll always stay the same.

[00:29:23] There’s no there’s, we cannot be pessimistic. We have to actively fight against it. And know that it’s a fight, right? That it’s not inevitable. I don’t believe that things are inevitably going to get better, that this arc of justice will just get us there without the work. We actually have to bend it.

[00:29:40] We have to move it and mold it in order to like, get to where we, we want to be and for where our people need us to be. 

[00:29:48] Cayden Mak: Absolutely. Yeah. Well, I guess like a sort of last question for you is as we are starting to enter the like intense summer before presidential election that like, I think that as people are struggling with and sitting with the gravity of the Biden administration’s just like complete failure.

[00:30:13] To follow through on, what we think of as what we want a progressive to do in a situation like what is currently unfolding in Gaza. Like, how do we orient ourselves in this moment where so many people are stuck in that these are the same this is a non choice, this is the same thing what are the sort of ways that we can raise our eyes to the horizon in this moment?

[00:30:40] Where it like, it does feel like so much hangs in the balance. Even there, I feel a lot of cognitive dissonance between the they’re both the same versus it does feel like so much is hanging in the balance, because we know what’s going on with the judiciary. We know about Project 2025.

[00:30:55] Chinyere Tutashinda: Yeah, I think, I think the first part for me is to acknowledge that there are elements and there are parts of their agenda that are the same. , we actually have to, I can’t, I will not ignore. I’m not gonna just pretend that’s not the case for people and that, especially when looking at international policy, that it’s not that different.

[00:31:13] And we need to just be real about that. As progressed as and as leftist to our comrades who are naming this and not pretending that’s not the right, we can point out the differences. There are key differences. . And there are things that are very similar. Right, that some of the international things will not change and people will continue to die because of the stance of the United States and what we’re able to do or not do here.

[00:31:39] And we know that things can get worse. And that’s the part that feels very difficult for folks. And depending on what community you’re in, what worse looks like is also going to be different, right? Right. Like right now we know that trans communities have been vastly under attack under the Biden administration.

[00:32:01] We know that there have been continued police violence. We know that, anti Arab and sentiments. Especially since October 7th have been up, but as well as antisemitic, right? We know these things. We know that communities are continuing to be under attack under a Biden administration. And we know that when we look at the documents that come out of the heritage foundation and project 2025, it could be a lot scarier, very fast.

[00:32:28] Right. So it’s, for me, it’s that acknowledge the both and, 

[00:32:32] Nicole Froio: and 

[00:32:33] Chinyere Tutashinda: remember one of the things that became really helpful for me that I felt like is one of the biggest lessons I took from 2016 is that we want to always think about who were, who was our opposition and what can we get from fighting them?

[00:32:47] And what’s the terrain that we want to be able to organize under. And this for the last four years or three plus has been difficult fighting under a Biden administration. And there have been small in rows. Particularly around some of the domestic policy that would not be possible with a Trump administration.

[00:33:02] Yeah. The labor movement stuff. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. Yeah. Right. And it’s going to clamp down and get worse. There’s a way that, like what we saw, the experiments that he tried in 2016 from 2020, we saw a lot move very fast. And we saw places where there were insider, like government folks who were trying to stop and enroll.

[00:33:23] And they learned from that. Yeah. They have experimented, iterated, and learned, and how their plan moving forward with the next administration is around elimination of a lot of those bureaucratic positions. It’s a lot of stopping a lot of the things that prevented him from going even further, have been, are part of this plan, right?

[00:33:40] So, we’re not stopping him. Seeing that and seeing the writing on the wall there, that’s a problem. And it’s a naivety that we just can’t afford to have. So I do think that it’s important for us to look up, remember that in order to get to where we want, we also have to be able to fight now. And so to be able to fight now, we have to pay attention to who do we want as our opposition and we’ll give us the least amount of harm here so that we can fight for those both domestically and abroad.

[00:34:08] And we have to be strong enough to do it. And I think having those kinds of sober conversations, I think is really important. And at the same time, there are communities that I’m not going to go to and say, vote, vote for Biden. I am not. I can have this conversation, but I’m not going. That’s 

[00:34:22] Cayden Mak: right.

[00:34:23] That’s right. Yeah. I think that’s such a, that feels so grounded to me, right? That I I will never step out of my depth here and be like, you have to. Yeah. It’s not a you have to situation, but you know what, I think the thing that I really hear you saying is this the conditions do material conditions do dictate how much we can dream.

[00:34:41] Yeah, and that a lot of this the like vital work that you and others have been doing to create dreaming spaces for our movements are jeopardized by an environment where we have to be like constantly like fighting back against every opportunity. Like bullshit policy proposal that is coming down the pike, I do remember what it was like in 2016 where it just felt like we were like in the streets constantly and but it also felt like there was no hope.

[00:35:11] Right. So that’s, that’s seems like the machine that crushes dreams. Right. 

[00:35:16] Chinyere Tutashinda: And we don’t want to go back there. And what we also saw is what we’re still seeing currently is the impact of those four years. But that’s right. That’s right. Is the all of the politicians who were voted in, like we’re seeing their legislation continue to impact our lives.

[00:35:31] I don’t know what that would look like the next time around. And I don’t want to. I don’t want to be fighting that. I don’t want that for my children. I don’t want that for my families. And I don’t want that for us to be fighting that for the next 20 years. There are things that they can put in place that will have impact beyond this moment, right?

[00:35:51] If we’re thinking to continue to remember, to think beyond just the headlines and executive orders that may come down, the positions that are being eliminated, the judges that are being put into place that will be there for 40 years will have a drastic impact. On what we can and can’t do here. And we’ll take us to a place where it will very much limit our ability to dream and shrink what we believe is possible.

[00:36:16] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that the judicial, to me, the judiciary stuff feels like really frightening. It feels really frightening as a trans person, even though I live in California, it’s I don’t know the there’s so many organs of the federal government that touch what is possible for us to like.

[00:36:31] Live a life that is like feels Reasonable. That, that’s it feels like an immediate threat in a lot of ways, and I’m with you, I don’t want to go back to that feeling of just trying to stand on an avalanche, basically. 

[00:36:47] Chinyere Tutashinda: That’s a good message, yeah. It’s moving under us here. 

[00:36:52] Cayden Mak: Chinyere, it’s always really great to talk to you.

[00:36:54] Thank you so much for joining us today. 

[00:36:56] Chinyere Tutashinda: Yes, no, it’s been great. 

[00:36:58] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Where can folks where can folks find your work? Where can people keep up with C2? 

[00:37:03] Chinyere Tutashinda: Yeah. So if you find us, we’re a hub of movement building and training hub at ctwo. org you’ll find about C2 and also any of the organizations under the hub are there.

[00:37:16] And then for me, it’s. You can either email me, I’m not a big social media presence. I would say I have all the handles, but there’s nothing there. But I love being in conversation with people. So I’m definitely findable at just my first name, chignetti at c2. org 

[00:37:34] Cayden Mak: as well. Amazing. Okay. 

[00:37:37] Chinyere Tutashinda: Thank you so much.

[00:37:38] Cayden Mak: Thank you. Awesome. We have a really we have a C segment this week. I don’t know some, this is also again, this has been a really busy news week. And one of the things that broke was a story that our friends at Prism published in this past week examining a contract that the Huge non profit Women’s and Reproductive Health Organization Planned Parenthood appears to have had with a sub organization within the arms manufacturer Raytheon.

[00:38:08] I’m really excited about the fact that we are joined by the reporter who reported and broke this story Nicole Froyio who is here on the pod with me and I’m really excited about the fact that we are joined by the reporter who reported and broke this story Nicole Froyio who is here on the pod with me Nicole, thank you so much for joining us today to talk about this story.

[00:38:24] It feels big. There’s a lot of, there’s also a lot of like interesting sort of nuance and questions that it raises. But to start out, could you talk a little bit about Where are you found the lead for this story and what the process was reporting it. Oh, you were, I know.

[00:38:45] Nicole Froio: Thank you so much for having me. I was muted. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the invite. Yeah, it’s. It’s been, I do think it feels like a bigger story because as a reporter you’re always just like working by yourself and just have the story in front of you and then realize it was gonna be such a big story, honestly.

[00:39:05] But essentially, there is a whistleblower involved. Someone pointed me towards the. Documents that I needed to see and that’s how I started looking into it. And so that from that moment on I was looking at tax returns. I was looking at linkedin profiles trying to look for connections between the two companies the non profit Planned Parenthood and RTX and I did find a few connections that were already in the public eye So yeah, that was it.

[00:39:37] That was I was told you should look into this, and I did, and that’s how the story came to be. 

[00:39:43] Cayden Mak: Yeah, it’s, it seems really interesting to me, because I think one of the things that one of the things that it raised for me as somebody who’s been ahead of an organization is the sort of challenge of coming up with the like security tools that like effective advocacy warrants and I do wonder about it seems this contract is like specific to cyber security work, but I’m curious about what you found about the sort of is this justifiable?

[00:40:13] Are there reasons for this? Were there alternatives? And really dig into the why about 

[00:40:19] Nicole Froio: so, we can’t really know for sure what exactly it is that Raytheon, Fort Brown Securities is providing to Planned Parenthood because we asked Planned Parenthood and Raytheon what their business relationships with each other are, but they never responded.

[00:40:37] We approached the CEO we approached RTX, we approached a lot of people because As a reproductive rights reporter, I wanted to be very sensitive to why perhaps Planned Parenthood needs such a big cyber security coverage. Right? And, once I started looking into this, the experts that I spoke to, they told me, Planned Parenthood is a massive organization.

[00:41:11] In 2073 alone, they they covered healthcare for around 2 million patients, and that’s all patients that they have data on. They have addresses, they have names, they have the procedures that they got. So that is a lot of sensitive information. The expert I spoke to kept comparing it to a hospital, right?

[00:41:30] So you don’t want your data to, That you gave to hospital to be leaked. Right? So it’s the same thing with Planned Parenthood, perhaps even worse because of the current anti choice movement and how Planned Parenthood has this large kind of like mythology around it. Especially for right wing extremists.

[00:41:51] So there is, there are reasons as to why a big organization like Planned Parenthood needs. Such a big and to scale cyber security system, right? And a lot of the experts that I spoke to were also like, this is somewhat inevitable because a lot of cyber security is developed in tandem and with relation to defense systems and the war economy.

[00:42:23] And so it’s not necessarily that there aren’t values aligned providers. And from what I understand, there would be some that they could tap into. It would be costly though. And I don’t really go like like the nitty gritty of transferring all of that as well. It’s a very large amount of data.

[00:42:43] You have to understand as well that Planned Parenthood has existed for over a hundred years. And so that is like a legacy amount of data as well. So, yeah, so, so there are quite a lot of nuances as to why they use Raytheon for cybersecurity. And, I think a lot of people who read my story were really surprised by one of the experts that was saying maybe divestment in this sense would be, in this case, it would be symbolic, and maybe what we need is Planned Parenthood to shift their politics and their organizing power into dismantling the the war industrial complex.

[00:43:24] Right. So yeah, it is a very nuanced and difficult story. I really wanted to be sensitive to the fact that Planned Parenthood houses a lot of important and potentially damaging data. If it is weak. And I hope that I achieved getting people to think about how most aspects of the internet are implicated in the war economy as one of the experts from the carceral resistance it’s the resistance to apartheid.

[00:44:00] tech network. It’s in the story. So you could probably get the link from there. Has like an interesting conversation to get started. And which isn’t really like that. 

[00:44:12] Cayden Mak: Yeah, I think that’s really interesting and important because Similarly, I think that now, especially if you look at how deeply the internet is integrated into our lives, like it’s easy to forget that like the, at its very origins, the internet was developed basically on a DARPA grant, right?

[00:44:29] That it is completely inextricable with the sort of like cold war era American military industrial complex and the ways in which like the federal government and the military. exchange with Silicon Valley and like the also academic research, right? That those things are deeply linked.

[00:44:50] And I do think that one of the things that’s really that I think is so valuable about the piece is that you do get into that a little bit because I think that people want to invisiblize that. Right. And activists have been trying to make that more visible, whether it was like the folks a couple weeks ago who were protesting Google I.

[00:45:10] O. and talking about the contracts that Google has with the I. O. F. Or what have you that like these links are not like it’s not just at the surface level, these links exist, and it’s not a recent development. It’s really powerful reporting, and I think that I think that you did a good job of kind of like diving into that detail.

[00:45:32] What are your plans for following up on this story? Is there more stuff that you see coming down the pipeline or things you’re paying attention to? 

[00:45:39] Nicole Froio: There is a lot. That I am planning on reporting. I’m currently looking into the power dynamic between funders in the third sector and the organizations that they fund and how that can be used for certain ideological censorship or things like that.

[00:46:01] So I’m currently looking at funders who have cut. funding for any organization that has spoken out against the genocide in Palestine. So yeah I think that’s the story that I’m focusing on. I am very interested in Planned Parenthood as an institution and Just generally, I think I’m really interested in kind of the internal conversations that are being had in the reproductive justice sector right now, because I think that there is, there are several camps that are coming to conflict right now.

[00:46:41] And I think that. While that might seem really difficult right now, and it probably is very difficult as you’re moving through that conflict, I think that it’s probably a good thing for the reproductive movement in general to refine its politics and understand what they will and will not stand for, and I think that those conversations can model a lot of really important change.

[00:47:07] Conclusions for the wider public as well. 

[00:47:11] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for that. But there’s, I’ve seen this conflict popping up in different sectors as well that specifically about reproductive justice advocates trying to work through some of, and also like some of the problematic histories of institutions like Planned Parenthood and trying to understand like how we relate to them now in 2024.

[00:47:32] So thank you so much for your reporting and thank you for joining us today. It’s great to talk to you about this story. Yeah, absolutely. This episode was made with editorial assistance from Salma Mirza. If you have something to say or a question to ask please do drop me a line. You can send me an email that we will consider running on an upcoming Mailbag episode at mailbag at convergencemag. com. 

[00:47:53] If you’d like to support the work that we do at Convergence, bringing our movements together to strategize, struggle, and win in this crucial historical moment, you can become a member at patreon. com slash convergencemag. A few bucks a month. goes a long way to making sure our independent small team can continue to build a map for our movements, and you can come watch this show every Friday, live as we record it on on YouTube.

[00:48:17] Until next week, take care, and I hope this helps.

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