Maddie Oatman

Maddie Oatman

Research Editor

Maddie worked as a travel guide in Argentina and a teacher at several educational nonprofits in San Francisco before joining Mother Jones. She’s also written for Outside, the Bay Citizen, and the Rumpus. A proud Boulder native, she makes time for mountain climbing, stargazing, and telemark skiing.

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Simon Robson's "Coalition of the Willing"

| Fri Oct. 8, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

Can you survey the entire cultural and economic history of the 20th century's last half in one 16-minute film? That's director Simon Robson's short term goal for the video "Coalition of the Willing," now up for an animation award at Saturday's Vimeo Festival in New York. His long term goal is even more ambitious: Unite people around the world in "an internet-based swarm offensive aimed at triggering a 21st century culture shift." But although Robson may be trying to incite utopia, he self-identifies as a cynic. "It sounds bleak, but as we say at the beginning of the film, industry is ruled by profit, and governments by growth." Fed up with leaders' unwillingness (or inability) to enact climate change policy, Robson and his writing partner, Tim Rayner, started toying with the idea that leaders weren't going to do anything at all, and that collective power modeled after the social revolutions of the past would have to do instead. An invocation, in the form of a script, emerged. To illustrate the message of the film, Robson employed stunning visuals by 25 different animators. The resulting patchwork of contrasting artistic styles, animated by a diverse panoply of materials—from clay to fruit to ink—effectively paints the film's collaborative calling.

After "Coalition" was released in June, it garnered attention from the likes of MTV Europe, the Guardian's environmental page, and even Ashton Kutcher (who tweeted about the film, much to Robson's joy). It also spawned an organization, CoalitionoftheWilling.org. The organization's latest project is a flash mob development party, meant to inspire people to submit ideas for "a new generation of internet platforms for the climate crisis."

Mother Jones spoke with Robson recently on the intersection of environment, art, and technology.

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There's No "I" in "Undocumented Worker"

| Wed Sep. 29, 2010 6:22 PM EDT

There's a new campaign to eliminate the I-word from the public discourse, and activists don't mean "impeachment" or "incentives." The particular piece of verbiage that has prompted the "Drop the I-Word" campaign is "illegal"—as in "illegal aliens" or "illegal immigrant." Fed up with a label they say dehumanizes its subjects, campaign promoters ColorLines.com and the Applied Research Center are sending out a pledge and a tool kit to inform people on the negative connotations of the word. "The I-Word creates an environment of hate by exploiting racial fear and economic anxiety, creating an easy scapegoat for complex issues, and OK-ing violence against those labeled with the word," their site says.

The campaigners' hope is that like-minded activists will want to educate their neighbors and influence the media frame. The campaign website displays close-up shots of cherub-cheeked children and adults, overlaid with the simple message "I am not an illegal"—along with a video and the endorsements of such organizations as the Nation Institute and Feministing.

Three Burner Bands Worth Dusting Off

| Mon Sep. 13, 2010 6:00 AM EDT

Burning Man musicians have it rough. There's the omnipresent threat of dust storms, the dehydrated and disoriented spectators, and the competition for a prime location on the playa. And unlike visual artists, who can vie for grants from the Black Rock Arts Foundation to fund their massive sculptures, Burning Man musicians don't get paid. "This festival won't even give us a free ticket, and our equipment is guaranteed to be destroyed," gripes Grey Filastine, a producer based in Barcelona, Spain, who has been performing at Burning Man since the mid-1990s.

But there's no shortage of bands at the 10-day event, known for all-night performances and subwoofers so loud they masticate the ear drums. (Things are getting better, notes Grey Filastine—see below. "There have been years where I just wanted to wear earplugs the entire week; those days are gone.") Heavy on electronica and light on instruments, the nightscape pulsates from competing DJs amid seas of twinkling glow sticks. Admittedly, I thought most of the DJs and producers sounded all the same, but these performers stood out:

Taking Down Fox News

| Wed Aug. 25, 2010 3:25 PM EDT

After Glenn Beck blamed Obama for harboring a "deep-seated hatred for white people" during a morning chat on Fox and Friends more than a year ago, ColorofChange.org's director James Rucker decided that enough was enough. "Beck's comments about the president perfectly captured what has been going on at the network for a long time," Rucker told reporter Alexander Zaitchik, who wrote about the incident in our July/August issue this year. Color of Change is an online civil rights group focused on strengthening the political voices of people of color. Under Rucker's direction, it successfully urged several advertisers, including Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and RadioShack, to pull their ads from Beck's show. But Rucker didn't exactly get the outcome he was hoping for. Fox News did nothing to reign Beck in: instead, he's been allowed to blather on with few boundaries ever since. "Nothing has essentially changed," says Rucker. So Color of Change has launched an even larger offensive: convincing local businesses to silence Fox News.

Rucker had been bothered by catching glimpses of figures like Beck on television in the gym or restaurants. True Fox devotees, who see the world through that lens, should be able to watch Fox in their own homes, says Rucker. "But no one else should be subject to that." The Turn Off Fox campaign, which launches today, wants to de-legitimize Fox in public places. The campaign provides anyone with a kit, including instructions on how to persuade store owners to become "Fox-free" and a flyer detailing why.

"Fox's race-baiting and fear mongering is more than just deceptive and offensive," reads the campaign literature. "It's bad for the country, it's dangerous, and it can result in violence." In a letter asking for signatures, Turn Off Fox makes a case for how Fox's divisive reporting has sparked recent acts of violence. For example, when a man open fired at highway cops on an Oakland freeway in July, he told them that he wanted to start a revolution, with planned bloodshed at the Tides Foundation in San Francisco. Tides is a little-known non-profit, argues Turn Off Fox, that Glenn Beck chose to demonize on his show. A report by Media Matters suggests that the trigger-happy man could have drawn inspiration from Beck's proselytizing, and the shooter's mother admitted that her son "watched the news on television and was upset by 'the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items."

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