Pot-growing hippies who fled San Francisco for Northern California's rural Humboldt County are victims of their own success in this multigenerational epic about the pathologies and paradoxes of the nation's biggest weed-based economy, and how a growers' utopia devolved into paranoia and violence. It's an empathetic but unflinching portrait of a community caught in the legalization movement's crosswinds.
When Pakistani painter Mahwish Chishty returned from the United States to her native Lahore in 2011, her friends and family couldn't stop talking about the American-led drone war raging along the border with Afghanistan. That's how she got the idea to reimagine drones in her country's colorful truck art tradition. So has the US Department of Defense asked her to repaint any Predators yet? See her answers and more of her hauntingly beautiful paintings below.
Mother Jones: How did you get the idea for these paintings?
Mahwish Chishty: In 2011, I went back home to Lahore. I'd heard all this propaganda behind the drone war, and I was curious about that. It triggered my imagination. Are you familiar with the truck-art genre from Pakistani culture?
MJ: Why don't you explain it.
MC: It's kind of a folk art. It's a tradition, a culture. People who drive these trucks basically live on those trucks, sleep on those trucks. They kind of make that into their mobile home and they decorate it into something that's eye pleasing. They're extremely beautiful paintings. They spend so much time on it and they don't get any funding. This is something that they do, just a personal interest. It has no reason whatsoever other than just an aesthetic sense. I always thought that it was not given any importance in the art world back home, and I wanted people to think maybe what would happen if these drones were friendlier looking, instead of such hard-edged, metallic war machines.
MJ: Some people might see this as a positive spin on drones.
MC: I don't know if I am glorifying it. I just want people to talk about it. At the same time, it has some kind of beauty to it. I am also looking at them as objects, and not as much as war machines.
MJ: So has the Department of Defense asked you to repaint any of their Predators yet?
MC: [Laughs.] No, but I was thinking that would be so cool. I probably should put in a proposal for that.
After Amanda Stevenson and her fiancé approached Anonymous, the authorities reopened her 12-year-old rape case.
A few weeks after Amanda Stevenson was allegedly drugged and gang-raped, the 14-year-old high school freshman packed a bag and fled her tiny hometown of Laurelville, Ohio, for a new life in suburban Virginia. But memories of that horrific night still haunt her, she says: the party in the hunting cabin deep in the woods. The locked room full of laughing young men. Trying to fight her way out of a fog of tranquilizer to say, "I feel strange" or "Take me home" or even simply "No." Her naked body flopping like a rag doll as the teens passed her around and fondled her. Blacking out and awakening to find one guy after another climbing atop and penetrating her.
Despite the passing of years, Stevenson, now 26, says she still has trouble sleeping, still winces at any mention of the word "rape," and still sometimes curls up in a corner, sobbing and angry. So one day this past January her fiancé, Tim Tolka, offered to help her go after the rapists, if that what she wanted.
She wasn't sure it was. But then she read a story about a high school rape in Steubenville, Ohio, that had become national news thanks to the efforts of Anonymous, the hacker collective. "It was just so similar to what I had experienced," Stevenson recalls. She decided then and there that her silence made her part of the problem.
The very next day, using a pseudonym, Tolka posted a plea on the Anonymous website AnonNews.org. "I have information about a second case of gang rape by local athletes in a small Ohio town that was squashed by the authorities," he wrote. The couple went on to post the names, a phone number, and links to the Facebook pages of two of the men Stevenson said had raped her.
At last week's annual summit of the Organization of American States, Latin American leaders distanced themselves from the United States' drug policies and agreed to consider the widespread legalization of marijuana.
The OAS summit "was really a tipping point for this movement" to end the war on drugs, said Pedro Abramovay, a campaign director for Avaaz, a global nonprofit group that has petitioned the OAS to liberalize its drug policies.
The move comes as Uruguay debates a bill to legalize the production and sale of pot (it is already legal there for personal use) and as Chile considers decriminalizing it. Latin American leaders also have kept a close eye on how Colorado and Washington, having legalized marijuana, will go about regulating its consumption.
Deric Lostutter, the hacker formerly known as KYAnonymous
In April, the FBI quietly raided the home of the hacker known as KYAnonymous in connection with his role in the Steubenville rape case. Today he spoke out for the first time about the raid, his true identity, and his motivations for pursuing the Steubenville rapists, in an extensive interview with Mother Jones.
"The goal of the media interviews is to get the entire nation to say 'fuck you' to these guys," said KYAnonymous, whose real name is Deric Lostutter. He was referring to the federal agents who raided his home in Winchester, Kentucky, and carted off his computers and XBox.
Lostutter may deserve more credit than anyone for turning Steubenville into a national outrage. After a 16-year-old girl was raped by two members of the Steubenville High football team last year, he obtained and published tweets and Instagram photos in which other team members had joked about the incident and belittled the victim. He now admits to being the man behind the mask in a video posted by another hacker on the team's fan page, RollRedRoll.com, where he threatened action against the players unless they apologized to the girl. (The rapists were convicted in March.)
Lostutter's hip-hop alter-ego, Shadow
A 26-year-old corporate cybersecurity consultant, Lostutter lives on a farm with his pit bull, Thor, and hunts turkeys, goes fishing, and rides motorcycles in his free time. He considers himself to be a patriotic American; he flies an American flag and enjoys Bud Light. He's also a rapper with the stage name Shadow, and recently released a solo album under the aegis of his own label, Nightshade Records. The name dovetails with that of his Anonymous faction, KnightSec.
Lostutter first got involved in Anonymous about a year ago, after watching the documentary We Are Legion. "This is me," he thought as he learned about the group's commitment to government accountability and transparency. "It was everything that I'd ever preached, and now there's this group of people getting off the couch and doing something about it. I wanted to be part of the movement."
He'd read about the Steubenville rape in the New York Times, but didn't get involved until receiving a message on Twitter from Michelle McKee, a friend of an Ohio blogger who'd written about the case. (You can read her story here.) McKee gave Lostutter the players' tweets and Instagram photos, which he then decided to publicize because, as he put it, "I was always raised to stick up for people who are getting bullied."
The ensuing tornado of media coverage took him by surprise. He mostly avoided the spotlight, except for a brief interview that he gave to CNN while wearing his Guy Fawkes mask. "I was real scared," but also inspired, he told me. "There were so many people standing behind the cause that it felt like you had an army at your disposal and you could just stick up for what's right."
Yet sometimes the Steubenville army seemed to lack discipline, ignoring the letter of the law as it pursued its own brand of justice. Lostutter says he played no role in the hacking the team's fan page; he points out that another hacker, Batcat, has publicly taken the credit. Still, Lostutter knew from a tipster that the FBI was watching him, he says, and stopped tweeting a few months ago. The FBI knocked on his door just two days after he finally went back online.
At first, he thought the FBI agent at the door was with FedEx. "As I open the door to greet the driver, approximately 12 FBI SWAT team agents jumped out of the truck, screaming for me to 'Get the fuck down!' with M-16 assault rifles and full riot gear, armed, safety off, pointed directly at my head," Lostutter wrote today on his blog. "I was handcuffed and detained outside while they cleared my house."
According to the FBI's search warrant, agents were seeking evidence related to the hacking of RollRedRoll.com.
"I'd do it again," Lostutter says.
Lostutter believes that the FBI investigation was motivated by local officials in Steubenville. "They want to make an example of me, saying, 'You don't fucking come after us. Don't question us."
If convicted of hacking-related crimes, Lostutter could face up to 10 years behind bars—far more than the one- and two-year sentences doled out to the Steubenville rapists. Defending himself could end up costing a fortune—he's soliciting donations here. Still, he thinks getting involved was worth it. "I'd do it again," he says.
Without further ado, here's the music video for "Hear 'Em Talkin,' by Shadow: