Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

In Theaters This Weekend, a Civil Libertarian's Nightmare

| Fri Jan. 11, 2013 7:06 AM EST
From left: Zero Dark Thirty, Gangster Squad.

If there were ever a weekend for someone like Glenn Greenwald to avoid going to the movies lest he risk vomiting and seething with self-righteous indignation in the theater, this would be that weekend.

With Gangster Squad (Warner Bros., 113 minutes), we get a pulpy endorsement of extrajudicial killing, made all the more palatable by Ryan Gosling's roguish charms. Meanwhile, Zero Dark Thirty (Columbia Pictures, 160 minutes) delivers a history lesson in how America conquered Bin Laden through the sheer force of torture, with feminist overtones. Both films, which open on Friday and are rated R for "strong violence," are inspired by actual events, both are tied to delays and real-life controversies, both features scores of composite characters, and both have acclaimed directors.

First off, I'd like to point out that I do not believe that movies or any other works of art should be condemned—or properly assessed, for that matter—purely through the prisms of moral questions. That is a lousy and dull way to consume popular culture, and if I were to adhere to such a stringent code, it would be extremely difficult to appreciate films like D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, which is widely acclaimed for legitimate, non-white-supremacist reasons.

Having said that, you're in for a fairly decent and reasonably engaging time at the multiplex this weekend, whatever the premium you place on human rights.

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World Leaders Flocked To Twitter in 2012

| Wed Jan. 2, 2013 6:44 PM EST
Muhammad Morsi, president of Egypt, is currently ranked as number 14 on the list of most-followed world leaders.

If you are interested in following Mohammed Magariaf, the new president of Libya, he is indeed on Twitter, with a Klout score in the low 50s. And joining him on the world's most gloriously addictive/time-sucking social media site is the majority of world leaders.

A new study (PDF) by The Digital Policy Council, the research arm of the consulting firm Digital Daya, finds that 123 of 164 countries (75 percent) now have a head of state who is tweeting (or perhaps has staff tweeting for them) from either a personal or government account. In 2011 DPC identified 69 actively tweeting heads of state. This 78-percent uptick is visualized in the chart below:

world leaders who tweet chart
Courtesy of DigitalDaya.com

Barack Obama is the most popular world leader on Twitter with 25 million followers—roughly 2.3 million fewer than Barbadian pop singer Rihanna, and 7 million fewer than Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar's Canadian archrival Justin Bieber.

It only makes sense that more heads of state and national governments are utilizing Twitter for PR and propaganda purposes. "Based on these growth rates, the Digital Policy Council anticipates penetration on Twitter for world leaders to be nearing 100% in 2013," the report states. "This would render Twitter as a de facto communication tool for all heads of state."

For instance, Muhammad Morsi, Egypt's new Islamist president, has been tweeting in Arabic to his now 850,000+ followers since late 2011 (he came in at No. 14 on DPC's list). The government of war-torn Somalia has found time to Tweet some (Somalia was ranked No. 101 with 765 followers, narrowly beating out Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the governments of Oman and Grenada). Hell, even the totalitarian regime of North Korea started Tweeting its anti-Seoul and anti-American propaganda—from the Pyongyang-based account @uriminzok—in 2010. (Not to be confused with @KimJongNumberUn, just to be clear.) North Korea did not qualify for DPC's study, but currently has close to 11,000 followers and, in case you're curious, follows these three accounts:

Here are the top five world leaders on Twitter, as ranked by DPC in December 2012:

1. Barack obama

President of the United States: 25 million followers

2. Hugo Chávez

President of Venezuela: 3.8 million followers

3. Abdullah Gül

President of Turkey: 2.6 million followers

4. Rania Al Abdullah

Queen of Jordan: 2.5 million followers

5. Dmitry Medvedev

(Former) President of Russia: 2.1 million followers

What "Happy Feet Two" Star Matt Damon Taught Me About Fracking

| Fri Dec. 28, 2012 7:06 AM EST

And a fine singer to boot.

Promised Land
Focus Features
106 minutes

If Matt Damon & Co. really wanted to make a movie that would scare American audiences off of fracking for good, they should have just made a movie dramatizing fracking's potential threat to America's beer. Instead, what we get is a quaint love story wrapped in a conspiracy movie, draped in a toothless political polemic, festooned with mawkish aimlessness.

It didn't have to be this way. Promised Land's script was originally developed with Dave Eggers, the acclaimed, award-winning author. The film offers the considerable acting skills of Damon, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, John Krasinski, and Scoot McNairy. And, due to the hotly controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, the movie has had the honor of being slammed by the Heritage Foundation and petroleum lobbyists.

Promised Land is also directed by Gus Van Sant, a man who has a keen artist's eye for both mainstream fare and indie grit. (Yes, Van Sant and Damon are reunited, so beware of the lame and painfully obvious Good Will Fracking headlines.)

See? Nothing but good résumés and intriguing publicity behind this movie. And yet it putters out into both embarrassment and creative lethargy, fueled (if that's the term I want) by an acute lack of focus and commitment. Promised Land struggles to compel just as much as it fails to inform. By the film's end, Matt Damon will have taught you precisely two things about fracking: That it's bad for cows, and even worse for heartfelt dramatic monologues delivered by Matt Damon.

"Movie & An Argument" Podcast: Judd Apatow's "This Is 40" & Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained"

| Fri Dec. 21, 2012 11:39 PM EST

On this week's episode of A Movie & An Argument, With Alyssa Rosenberg & Asawin Suebsaeng, we discuss (scroll down for audio):

  • This Is 40, Judd Apatow's "sort-of sequel" to 2007's Knocked Up, starring Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd.
  • Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti-western revenge flick, set in the pre-Civil War Deep South.

Listen:

Each week, I'll be sitting down to chat with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg (who also does killer work at The Atlantic and Slate's "Double X"). We'll talk, argue, and laugh about the latest movies, television shows, and pop-cultural nonsense—with some politics thrown in just for the hell of it.

Alyssa describes herself as being "equally devoted to the Star Wars expanded universe and Barbara Stanwyck, to Better Off Ted and Deadwood." I (everyone calls me Swin) am a devoted lover of low-brow dark humor, Yuengling, and movies with high body counts. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and tune in during the weeks to come.

We'll be featuring guests on the program, and also taking listeners' questions, so feel free to Tweet them at me here, and we'll see if we can get to them during a show.

Thank you for listening!

Click here for more movie and TV features from Mother Jones. To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To find more episodes of this podcast, click here.

To check out Alyssa's Bloggingheads show, click here.

Thu Jun. 12, 2014 5:51 PM EDT
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