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#Metoo, Afrofuturism, Love, and Patriotism: Communication Scholars Discuss “Cruelty in the Age of Trump” in a Special Journal Forum

March 30, 2018
New Research
Political, Race/Class/Gender, Social Justice

(Washington, DC) — The American Civil Liberties Union reports increased rates of hate crimes since the 2016 presidential election, and there is certainly a growing divisiveness and polarization across the country over issues such as immigration, gun control, reproductive rights, healthcare, and more. The newest issue of the National Communication Association journal Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies addresses how cruelty has become “an affective political strategy of the 21st century,” in a special forum titled “Cruelty in the Age of Trump.”

Here are some highlights:

  • To introduce the forum, Marina Levina and Kumarini Silva of the University of Memphis note how “cruelty is seamlessly woven into the casual instances of everyday life,” providing examples from Twitter commentary, President Trump’s own statements, and news headlines. They hope that by understanding the ways cruelty is employed, we can “collectively recognize, organize, and intervene” against it.  
  • Levina follows up with an essay on the perspective of growing up Jewish in the Soviet Union, where “institutional cruelty permeated social and everyday life,” before her family moved to America and became a “success story” because they were “able to be white.” She argues that “cruelty is the joy with which whiteness asserts itself.”
  • Silva, also an immigrant, argues that President Trump’s “often-violent calls for preserving a white, heterosexual citizenry” closely align with the idea that love and family play a prominent role in nation-making. “In this context, I see love as a necessary, even central, component of cruelty,” she writes, analyzing two major news stories to support her argument.    
  • “Violence is warranted now not to preserve the state but to dismantle it,” writes Kendall Phillips (Syracuse University) in an essay that analyzes how popular films such as American Sniper and Captain America: The Winter Soldier have contributed to the public’s shifting perception of government and the angry sentiment that accompanies it.
  • David Moscowitz (University of South Carolina) continues the critique of film in an essay that considers how the visual depiction of cruelty can contribute to viewers’ application of cultural values and norms, using the Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as one case study.
  • Can a movement of empowerment and empathy counter systems of cruelty and sexual harassment? Penn State University’s Michelle Rodino-Colocino explores this in an essay focused on Tarana Burke’s powerful #MeToo movement.
  • Finally, Lonny J. Avi Brooks (Cal State University, East Bay) explains how Afrofuturism was born out of cruelty. Brooks argues that by combining Afrofuturism and game studies, we can create a pathway to “embrace cruel truths while amplifying and developing better futures.”

Read the full issue of Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies here.

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To arrange interviews with the authors, contact Jenna Sauber at 202-534-1104 or

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