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jon stewart – “signs of anarchy”

In this 2014 clip, satirist Jon Stewart analyzes tensions in Minneapolis after mayor Betsy Hodges posed for a photo with a young black man while both were volunteering for a voter registration drive. The photo, specifically, the two pointing at one another in said photo, sparked controversy, including the local media and police department describing their gestures as a notorious gang-sign. In the video, Stewart plays to the absurdity of this framing by drawing comparisons to babies pointing as their first form of communication, the gestures associated with N.W.A, an influential rap group tied to antipolice sentiment in Los Angeles during the late 80’s and into the 90’s, and what happens at sporting events. Stewart draws the conclusion that the comments from the officers are likely influenced by criticisms the mayor made previously about the police department needing to work on building trust and bettering community relations, including rooting out officers that abuse their positions. Stewart ends the piece by adding pointing to his “list of innocent things black people do that look suspicious,” thereby signifying that this politically motivated exchange between the mayor and law enforcement catches black citizens in its crossfire.


Jon Stewart frames this story in terms of “innocent things black people do that look suspicious” while the local news frames this as a conflict between the mayor and “criminals” versus the police. What are the effects of these different framings?

What else is on the list of “innocent things black people do that look suspicious”? Why does he highlight these issues?

The video shows local news reports describing the man in the photo as a convicted criminal. Supposing this to be accurate, should the mayor have posed for such a photo? How might objecting to the photo on the basis of time behind bars be unjust in terms of the man’s civil rights?

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