Is Trump under federal investigation — or not?


(Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)


The news out of Washington can be so confusing.

President Trump IS under investigation for obstruction of justice in the ongoing inquiry into possible collusion between Trump’s entourage and Russian officials, the  Washington Post reported last week:

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The Post story cited five anonymous U.S. “officials” as the source.

President Trump is NOT under investigation, former FBI director James Comey told Congress — at least not when Comey was running the investigation. Comey, however, was careful not to rule out the possibility that Trump might become a target in the future.

President Trump IS under investigation, tweeted President Trump last week.

President Trump is NOT under investigation, said Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, the next day.

“Let me be clear here, as it has since the beginning,” said Sekulow, “the president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction.”


If you are confused, that’s the point. In the annals of Washington sophistry, the story of the (non) investigation of President Trump is the story of our times: Rome is burning, and the lawyers are hard to believe.

Comey is a showboating bully and a man prone to flamboyant and inappropriate actions, as Hillary Clinton learned twice during the election. He looks like an NBA All-Star who wants to kick your door down, albeit politely. Since there was no advantage for Jim Comey to say Trump was under investigation, Comey didn’t say it.

Sekulow is a hired gun of the Christian right. He has only one job: keep his client out of jail, and his success is far from assured. Like Comey, Sekulow has good reason to deny Trump is investigation (even if he is).

On the other hand, both Trump and the Washington Post have self-interested reasons for their claims. The embattled populist president and the liberal journalistic watchdog both benefit from the idea that the man in the Oval Office is under investigation—even if there’s no official confirmation and it’s supposedly illegal to talk about such things.

The Post can say it is speaking truth to power. Trump can say he’s speaking truth to the Deep State.

It’s a Washington version of charades, in which each player does a pantomime and everyone else tries to guess their true meaning.

“Soft coup”

In fact, there is little doubt that Trump IS under investigation for obstruction of justice. The proof is Mueller’s recent reported (and not denied) interrogation of Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, and Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency.

The two men testified to Congres last week, but refused to divulge the substance of their conversations with the president, much to the annoyance of several senators. So Mueller called Rogers and Coats to provide closed-door testimony where they could be less coy.

According to CNN, Coats and Rogers, “described their interactions with the president about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the president gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.”

CNN’s account echoed Coats’ and Rogers’ carefully hedged statements to Congress last week, to wit, “Trump behaved strangely, but we never felt pressured.”

The beauty of this formulation — at least for Coats and Rogers, who wish to keep their jobs in the Trump administration—is that it won’t alienate Trump, while signaling to Mueller that they didn’t want to be party to obstruction of justice.

I would not be surprised if Coats and/or Rogers themselves were the leakers.

What’s going on here?

The story that President Trump is “under investigation” is a cover for deeper machinations, according to former CIA analyst Ray McGovern on the left, and Sean Hannity, Fox News host on the right.

“A Soft Coup Is Underway in Washington,” McGovern wrote on Monday.

“A Soft Coup Is Underway in America,” Hannity cried on Tuesday.

In this ambidextrous talking point, Mueller is the tool of the secretive government agencies who supposedly want to get rid of Trump because he doesn’t like NATO and does like Putin. While rhetorically attractive, the concept of a “soft coup” is glib and ahistorical.

To state the obvious, the special prosecutor is not part of the Deep State. Mueller was not, and is not employed by one of the secretive agencies. He reports to the Justice Department, not the CIA or the NSA. His record as FBI director is a matter of public record. We even know the names of his colleagues and their political leanings. He is required to submit a public report on his findings.

The functioning of America’s secretive agencies is rarely so transparent.

Judge Walsh

What’s more, the special prosecutor has served as a bulwark against the secret state in the past.

In the Iran-contra scandal of the late 1980s, the special prosecutor was federal judge Lawrence Walsh, a Republican from Oklahoma who had a reputation akin to Mueller’s: a stodgy straight arrow, a stickler for the law.

Walsh took on the secret government like few U.S. officials have ever dared. He identified and investigated a high-level conspiracy of Reagan White House, CIA and Pentagon officials who sought to subvert the will of Congress in order to wage counterrevolutionary war in Central America. Walsh even indicted four top former CIA officials, only to see them pardoned by the first President Bush in 1992. His final report on the Iran-contra scandal is by far the most incisive official account of that particular constitutional crisis.

We don’t know if Mueller is another Judge Walsh, but to depict him, a la Hannity and McGovern, as a “Deep State” conspirator is a facile favor to the Bannonite ideologues who seek to conflate the Deep State with liberal government and the civil service, the better to discredit Trump’s enemies.

Where is the story going?

Other news reports indicate that Mueller also heard testimony from a career NSA official named Richard Ledgett, who is a pure product of the national security bureaucracy. Ledgett recently retired, which means he doesn’t have to worry about losing his job.

According to CNN, Ledgett wrote a memo, “documenting a conversation in which President Donald Trump allegedly urged Rogers to help get the FBI to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.”

“Lift the cloud” is what Trump asked Comey to do in May. Comey refused and was fired. Comey’s account of his meeting with Trump then became Exhibit A in Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice investigation of President Trump.

Ledgett’s “lift the cloud” memo is Exhibit B. I expect it will be leaked soon.

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This former inmate is fighting for every prisoner’s right to a college degree


(Credit: Laura Baker/Narratively)


As Cheryl Wilkins accepted her college diploma, hundreds of women screamed her name and whooped with joy. They were so loud that Wilkins’ brother, sitting with his four-year-old daughter, couldn’t hear the girl cheering, “Auntie! Auntie!” Other family members were even more enthusiastic. When another woman’s name was called, her six-year-old daughter grabbed her hand and dragged her to the stage. “Come on Mama, get your degree!” Wilkins remembers the girl shouting. “Her daughter took the diploma and walked off the stage with it.”

Once the ceremony was over, the pictures taken and the food eaten, the mood turned tearful. Wilkins’ niece sobbed as her father led her away. “I want Auntie to come with us!” she cried. Other children screamed as family members pried them from their mothers’ arms. The visitors left through one exit and the women, many in tears, through another. The afternoon ended with all of the women being strip searched, the required practice after any contact with outsiders.

Read more Narratively: Meet the 20-Year-Old Reporter Who’s Firing Questions at President Trump—From the White House

This was no ordinary college graduation. The ceremony took place at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New York’s maximum-security prison for women. The graduates were all serving time and, despite the celebratory mood, prison rules remained firmly in place. Under their caps and gowns, they wore their green prison pants and white shirts to differentiate them from the outside guests. Family members could not snap pictures of their loved ones since prison regulations prohibit outside cameras. If a graduate wanted a photo to capture the day, she had to order and pay for photo tickets in advance. That day, women involved with the prison’s Click Click club took photos of beaming family members, including Wilkins and her family.

That afternoon, however bittersweet, transformed Wilkins’ life. But the day wouldn’t have been possible if she and a group of other women confined at Bedford hadn’t taken charge and brought the higher education program back to life after it had been cut several years earlier when the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act eliminated Pell grants for prisoners.

The process of reestablishing the college program — as well as participating in the program itself — made such an impact on Wilkins that she continued to fight for access to higher education, even after leaving prison. Now, Wilkins is the senior director of education and programs at Columbia University’s Center for Justice, bringing the issues of mass incarceration onto the Ivy League campus and into its curriculum.

Read more Narratively: Meet the Daring Free-Diver Who Talks to Sperm Whales

Looking back, Wilkins never imagined that she’d end up at Columbia University. In 1997, the 34-year-old Wilkins, or “Missy” as her friends call her, arrived at Bedford on a ten-year sentence for armed robbery. By then, Wilkins had been out of school for ten years. She grew up in the South Bronx, where, she says, “the gangs, the violence, the drugs — they were not just in our neighborhoods, but they were in our schools and our school areas.”

Desperate to escape, Wilkins dropped out in eleventh grade, joined Job Corps and was sent to Cleveland, where she obtained her GED. When she returned to New York City, she enrolled in a for-profit college, a move that left her saddled with debt but no diploma. “After a few failed attempts at higher education, I got involved in street life,” she says. The street life led to being the getaway driver for two men who attempted a gunpoint robbery.

Read more Narratively: The Secret Story of the Groundbreaking Boxing Champ Who Lost His Title—Because He Was Gay

But the women at Bedford weren’t quietly accepting the cut. Shortly before Wilkins arrived, several women had approached Elaine Lord, Bedford’s superintendent at the time, about reinstating the college program. With her approval, they began trying to find colleges that would offer courses despite the lack of funding. They found a liaison and advocate in Thea Jackson, a volunteer with the prison’s children and parenting programs. Jackson approached her friend Regina Peruggi, then the president of Marymount Manhattan College. Peruggi was intrigued and so Jackson brought her — as well as members of her church and administrators of other colleges — to meet the women at Bedford.

Once Wilkins learned about these efforts, she says, “I jumped on board because it was an opportunity to transform my life.”

But first she had to put in long hours of manual labor. The prison had designated a room for a college learning center, but it was filled with boxes upon boxes. Every afternoon, after their prison-assigned jobs, she and three other women sorted through and moved these boxes. Arlene, who had been imprisoned for thirteen years by that point, had graduated from Bedford’s previous college program before it was cut. Still, understanding the importance of higher education, she devoted her afternoons to the tedious tasks involved in creating the college center. The other two, both in their thirties, had never had a chance to pursue a higher education. Deborah, whom Wilkins describes as “good at English and writing,” had gotten married and become a mother shortly after high school. Tisha was always tinkering with the few items allowed inside the prison. She was the woman to go to if a radio or iron broke. “She’d take it apart and fix it,” Wilkins recalls.

Wilkins worked in the mess hall, which meant waking every morning at four a.m., hefting heavy pots and mopping floors for seven hours, then lifting boxes all afternoon. In the evenings, after the prison’s five p.m. dinner, the women returned to catalog the growing collection of books, which became the center’s academic library.

Planning meetings were held in the same room as parole board hearings, a room that looks like any other conference room. In the same room where countless women pled for a second chance at freedom, Wilkins and others met with college administrators and potential donors to argue the importance of college-in-prison programs. They shared their own stories, describing the systemic forces that had prevented and discouraged them from pursuing education on the outside. In the end, Marymount conferred the degree to the Bedford graduates; twelve other colleges donated faculty members, books and other materials for the College Bound program.

Meanwhile, word spread around the prison and excitement grew. “You couldn’t walk down a hall without someone asking, ‘When is it gonna happen?’” Wilkins recalls.

When College Bound began later that year, Wilkins was among the first to enroll. With the challenge of college-level work came the realization that, if they were to succeed, women needed to not only attend classes and fulfill the assignments, but also study – and study hard. Wilkins and her classmates formed study groups anywhere they could. It became a common sight to see women poring over books and quizzing each other with handmade flash cards at the round tables in the housing units, at the picnic tables in the prison’s yard, or even on the weight-lifting benches in the weight room. Even women who weren’t in the college program were enthused — and sometimes got involved. “People would go by and encourage the person who was learning,” Wilkins recalls. The desire to learn became infectious as women saw their friends and acquaintances spend hours learning multiplication tables and division. Any time that the woman being quizzed got up to use the bathroom, Wilkins recalls that another woman would quickly slide into her seat and demand, “Do me.”

“Just the college being there moved people,” Wilkins recalls. “It became the thing to do or strive for.” For many women, the college program pushed them to get their GEDs, or even to learn English so that they could pass their GEDs. Wilkins recalls Evelyn, a Latina woman who had failed the GED test three times because of her lack of English. She passed on her fourth attempts. She flew down the stairs from the GED office to the College Bound rooms, her long brown hair streaming behind her, waving her certificate and yelling, “I got it! I finally got it! Sign me up!” This victory lap — and the immediate demand to begin college classes — became a common occurrence in the prison’s education building.

College also changed the nature of prison interactions. Wilkins also recalls that fewer fights and arguments erupted once college was reinstated. Those caught fighting were barred from attending college that semester — or longer. Few wanted to take that risk.

That didn’t mean there weren’t still conflicts. One day, Wilkins saw a woman, whom she described as “a known thief,” leaving her cell. She stopped and searched the woman. Knowing that her college attendance was on the line, once she ascertained that the woman had not stolen anything, she let her go. Had there not been a college program at stake, the two would have at least exchanged words and might have escalated to a physical altercation. But there was a college program — and Wilkins was keenly aware that any trouble she got into would threaten the program’s existence. “There were a lot of moments like that for folks who were in the college program,” she says. “You don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes that program.” Every college student felt the weight of that responsibility. “If we weren’t at our best, that program could be taken away.”

* * *

The following year, Wilkins was transferred to Bayview, a medium-security prison in Manhattan’s trendy and rapidly-gentrifying Chelsea neighborhood.

Bayview, which consisted of two adjoining buildings across from Chelsea Piers, had no college program. But Wilkins and several other women who had benefited from College Bound decided to ensure that Bayview’s women had a similar opportunity. The prison’s superintendent and at least one staff member supported their efforts, which allowed the women to push forward and establish a program through Bard College.

On May 14, 2009, Bayview held its first college graduation, awarding seven women their associate degrees. By then, Wilkins was out of prison, but that morning, she walked through the front door, up the staircase, through the metal detector and down the hall to the prison’s gym. She fondly recalls that one graduate, 28-year-old Drea, had technically been paroled two months earlier, but had pleaded with prison administrators to let her stay in prison and finish her degree. That day, Drea’s mother, in the final stages of cancer and unable to travel without an oxygen tank, watched proudly as her daughter received her diploma. Drea was released the following day; her mother died nine days later.

Wilkins credits higher education with not only transforming her life, but smoothing her own reentry. If not for College Bound, she might not have walked out of prison with both a job and an apartment already waiting for her.

As she neared her release date, she learned that the former College Bound coordinator, Benay Rubenstein, had started the College Initiative, which assisted formerly incarcerated people in pursuing a college education. Remembering Wilkins’ dedication to helping others, Rubenstein offered her a job as an academic counselor. Another College Bound staffer helped her find an apartment. When Wilkins walked out of prison, the pair were waiting on the sidewalk. They drove Wilkins to a nearby diner where she signed her new lease and ate her first post-prison meal, enjoying eggs over easy for the first time in over eight years. The following Monday, Wilkins began her new job. But, she cautions, hers is an atypical reentry story made much easier by her work with College Bound.

While Wilkins’ story is exceptional, studies show that education drastically reduces the rates of recidivism, or being returned to prison. In 2005, the year that Wilkins left Bayview, the recidivism rate for New York state prisoners who participated in Bard’s prison education program was four percent; the national average was 67.8 percent. Among those who graduated with a bachelor’s degree, the recidivism rate dropped below three percent.

In 2008, Wilkins sat on a park bench with Kathy Boudin to talk about their work around reentry and incarceration. Boudin had been among the initial group of women who approached Bedford’s superintendent about reestablishing college. Both had been out of prison for years, but continued to work around prison issues. That conversation led to the Criminal Justice Initiative at The Columbia School of Social Work where they gave presentations on how to work with individuals and families impacted by incarceration. From there, the two developed the Center for Justice, bringing the issues of mass incarceration onto the Ivy League campus and curriculum.

As they had years earlier with College Bound, the pair held planning meetings and developed programs while working full-time jobs elsewhere. It wasn’t until 2011, three years after that park bench conversation, that Wilkins was able to transition to working at Columbia full-time. Now, she spends her days bringing the issues surrounding mass incarceration out of the shadows and onto the campus and curriculum.

But none of this might have happened had she not had the opportunity to earn her degree while inside prison. “I didn’t have a purpose in life before I went to prison,” she reflects. “Higher education gave me my purpose.”

Now, others behind bars have a similar opportunity. In 2016, the Obama administration created the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, a pilot program waiving the federal restrictions on Pell grants for people in prison and allowing 12,000 people in over one hundred prisons to earn their degree. Like their pre-1994 counterparts, incarcerated students take up less than one percent of the annual Pell grant budget. However, the overall ban on Pell grants for prisoners remains in place and is unlikely to be rescinded by the current Congress.

“Change may have to come state by state rather than waiting for federal support,” Wilkins reflects. She points to New York governor Cuomo’s attempts to reinstate college programs in ten state prisons. In 2014, he introduced a plan, but withdrew it after sharp criticism and opposition by state legislators. Two years later, in 2016, he re-introduced it, this time with $7.5 million from forfeiture funds seized by the Manhattan district attorney and another $7.5 million from private matching funds.

Wilkins is heartened by these efforts. “I’m a firm believer that everybody should have the opportunity to go to school if they want to pursue higher education,” she says.

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Was Trump’s “hope” Comey’s command? We asked a language expert

James Comey

James Comey (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik)

Much of former FBI Director James Comey’s recent congressional testimony hinged on a single utterance from President Donald Trump: “hope.”

According to Comey, on Feb. 14 President Trump dismissed the other participants from an Oval Office meeting and requested that Comey stay behind for a one-on-one conversation. During this conversation Trump reportedly said:

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Comey said he interpreted Trump’s words as a directive, as a request to end the investigation of Michael Flynn.

Not everyone heard the president’s words the same way. In fact, the main point of Idaho Sen. James Risch’s questioning of Comey during the hearing centered on the meaning of the “I hope you can . . .” phrase.

According to Risch’s analysis, President Trump was expressing only a desire, or a wish — not a direct request. Eventually, Risch persuaded Comey to agree that the president’s words, by themselves, did not constitute an order to end the investigation.

My research has focused on the role played by social factors in both language production (i.e., what people say) and language comprehension (i.e., how people understand another person’s meaning). The problem with Risch’s reasoning is that decades of scientific research show that a speaker’s intended meaning cannot be derived solely from the words used to convey that meaning. A speaker’s intended meaning can differ, sometimes dramatically, from a literal interpretation based on the words alone. Context is critical for understanding what a speaker intends to convey.

Can you pass the salt?

For example, when I ask my dinner companion if she can pass the salt, she knows I’m not asking if she is physically able to pass the salt; I’m requesting that she do so. The literal meaning derived from my words is not what I am trying to convey.

On the other hand, if my doctor, during a physical exam, asks me if I’m able to pass the salt, I’ll probably interpret his utterance literally — that he’s asking about the soundness of my arm, if I am physically able to pass the salt.

Context is critical.

One of the most important features of the social context is the power relationship existing between the people involved. My colleagues and I have conducted psycholinguistic experiments in which we manipulate the power of the speaker and examine its impact on comprehension.

The results show that the relative power of the speaker plays a substantial role in how the person being spoken to understands what is said. For example, we found that when someone made an ambiguous remark, such as “It seems very cold in here,” the remark was more likely to be taken as a directive — for example, turn the thermostat up — if the speaker was a boss, compared to when the speaker was a co-worker.

The president of the United States may be one of the most powerful people in the country, if not the world. To not take his expression of desire as a directive could be seen as a dereliction of duty. There are other aspects of this particular context that Comey noted — others were requested to leave so that they could speak in private. These factors also clearly contribute to the interpretation of the president’s utterance as a directive.

Phrasing a request as a desire, and using nonliteral language in general, provides a speaker with plausible deniability, the benefits of which have been described and documented by psychologist Steven Pinker. In a sense, nonliteral language allows one to have it both ways. The recipient might accept the intended meaning and act on it — Comey could have complied and terminated the Flynn investigation. On the other hand, if the recipient questions the meaning — Are you asking me to terminate the investigation? — the speaker can then simply deny that interpretation — No, of course not, I was simply stating a wish.

There are many issues that remain to be resolved in this ongoing investigation. When it comes to the president’s “hoping” that the Michael Flynn investigation could be terminated, existing research on language and social interactions may be a helpful guide.

Thomas Holtgraves, Professor of Psychological Science, Ball State University

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Gender stereotypes are messing with your kid

Gender Steroetypes

FILE – In this Feb. 14, 2010 file photo, news anchor Barbie, left, and computer engineer Barbie are arranged for a photo at the New York Toy Fair. (Credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Gender stereotypes are messing with your kid. It’s not just one movie. It’s not just one TV show. It’s constant exposure to the same dated concepts in the media over and over, starting before preschool and lasting a lifetime — concepts like: Boys are smarter than girls; certain jobs are best for men and others for women; and even that girls are responsible for their own sexual assaults. If you thought this stuff went out with “Leave It to Beaver”, the new Common Sense Media report, “Watching Gender: How Stereotypes in Movies and on TV Impact Kids’ Development”, will put you right back in June Cleaver’s kitchen.

According to the report, which analyzed more than 150 articles, interviews, books, and other social-scientific research, gender stereotypes in movies and on TV shows are more than persistent; they’re incredibly effective at teaching kids what the culture expects of boys and girls. What makes these messages stick — and harder for parents to counteract — is that they’re timed for the precise moment in kids’ development when they’re most receptive to their influence.

Think of preschoolers who are just beginning to identify as boys or girls. The characters they see on TV and in movies often have an obvious masculine or feminine appearance, such as a superhero’s big muscles or a princess’ long hair. These characteristics also are often associated with specific traits — for example, being strong and brave or fearful and meek. Fast-forward to the tween and teen years, when characters begin to wrestle with relationships, sex, and job prospects. That “strong and brave” superhero becomes aggressive and hostile. That “fearful and meek” princess become submissive and weak.

For young audiences who absorb ideas from the media on how to behave and what to become, these characterizations can lead to false assumptions and harmful conclusions. These oversimplified characterizations play out in many ways over and over. According to the report, a lifetime of viewing stereotypical media becomes so ingrained it can ultimately affect kids’ career choices, self-worth, relationships, and ability to achieve their full potential.

And lots of parents are concerned about these issues, too. We polled nearly 1,000 parents across the country and found that they believe the media has a significant influence on their kids, from how girls should look and behave to how seeing violence can affect boys’ beliefs about themselves. Luckily, parents can assert control over the messages that Hollywood dishes out. Because, let’s face it: Exaggerating the differences between boys and girls is just a ploy to keep audiences entertained. It’s not what we really want our kids to emulate.

While there are movies and TV shows that defy gender stereotypes — and Hollywood is making some progress on this front — you’re not going to be able to prevent your kids from seeing everything that sends the wrong message. And your kids probably like a lot of media that reinforces stereotypes. Fortunately, the most powerful messages kids absorb are from you. When you actively role-model gender equality, speak out against stereotypes, and challenge outdated ideas, kids will hear that loud and clear.

Also, you have a lot of control over your kids’ media — mostly when they’re little, but even as they grow. Choose quality media that reflects your values, and talk to your kids about the movies and TV shows they watch. (Learn more about what to look for in movies and TV to avoid gender stereotypes.) Use these age-based strategies — from toddlerhood to the teen years — to reach kids at the exact moment they need to hear them.

Age 2–6

At this age, kids: 

  • Learn their gender identities (that they’re a boy or a girl).
  • Learn stereotypes about activities, traits, toys, and skills associated with each gender.
  • Begin gender-typed play (girls “clean the kitchen,” boys “mow the lawn”).
  • Need to hear your input in specific, not abstract, terms.

What you can do

Point out people from real life or TV that show there’s more than one way to “do” gender. Try a show such as “Doc McStuffins”” and say, “I notice that Doc’s mom works full-time to support the family and that her dad stays home and takes care of the kids.”

Comment positively on shows that equally value boys and girls. Watch “Odd Squad together and say, “Otto and Olive are equal partners and rely on each other to solve cases.”

Find shows that aren’t hyperpink or super-blue. Or, at least, balance out your kid’s preferences with shows such as “Julie’s Greenroom”, which uses a variety of hues, both on the stage sets and in the characters. The show also exposes some of the technical aspects of stage production, which teaches kids that shows are created by people and are only limited by imagination.

Age 7–10

At this age, kids:

  • Attribute certain qualities to men and women — for example, that women are more emotional and affectionate and men are more ambitious and aggressive.
  • Associate specific occupations and academic subjects with each gender.
  • Self-segregate based on gender — boys want to play with boys, and girls want to play with girls.
  • Want some choice over what they watch but still respect parents’ input.

What you can do

Recognize characters who defy gender stereotypes. Check out a movie such as “Big Hero 6″ and say, “It’s OK to show when you’re sad — and boys shouldn’t be embarrassed to cry.”

Praise characters who are instrumental to the storyline for what they do versus what they look like. Stream “Project Mc2″ on Netflix and say, “For the girls on Mc2, being good at math and science are more important than their appearance.”

Seek out movies and shows with non-stereotyped characters — for example, female characters with realistic body types and non-aggressive male characters. Try a show such as “Andi Mack” where the characters wrestle with peer pressure to look and act a certain way to fit in.

Age 11–13

At this age, kids:

  • Feel self-conscious about physical changes and feel pressure to conform to cultural gender norms.
  • Are intolerant of cross-gender mannerisms and behaviors.
  • Are concerned about dating potential.
  • Want to pick their own shows — and they’re often shows intended for older kids.
  • Are more interested in peers than parents.

What you can do

Emphasize that worth and happiness don’t come from appearance (especially important for female characters) or from physical strength (especially important for male characters). Watch a movie such as “Arrival” and remark on the lead character being a female professor. Or try “Billy Elliot”, about an Irish boy who wants to be a dancer despite his father’s objections. Ask: “How do these characters go against what society expects of them?”

Comment positively on healthy, supportive, and fulfilling cross-gender friendships and relationships. Try a movie such as “Bridge to Terabithia” (or read the book), which features an equal friendship between the boy and girl main characters. Discuss what makes them such good friends and what each one teaches the other.

Talk about how transgender characters in movies and on TV are often the target of bullying. Try a show such as “I Am Jazz” about a transgender teen. Ask: “How did you feel when Jazz was bullied. If you knew her, would you defend her?”

Age 14–17

At this age, kids:

  • Mix with other genders and become more flexible about stereotypes.
  • Become preoccupied with their future careers, as well as appearance.
  • Want to learn gender-based expectations for how to behave in romantic and sexual situations.
  • Choose what they want to watch and are willing to discuss abstract ideas (and don’t want to be lectured to).

What you can do

Look for shows that feature boys and men expressing their emotions in constructive ways, having diverse interests (other than only sex), and being kind or friendly to non-heterosexual characters. Check out “This Is Us” and point out how the fathers are shown as nurturing and thoughtful. Or watch “The King’s Speech”, about King George the VI, who must reveal his biggest vulnerability. Ask, “Can a man, or a boy, be both strong and sensitive?”

Point out when female characters voice their own needs. Watch an ensemble show such as “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and note how the female characters don’t defer to the men.

Find characters who have non-gender-stereotypical professional aspirations (girls who want to be scientists and boys who want to be nurses). Consider a show like “Bones”, which features a strong female lead in a traditionally male-dominated profession.

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It’s time for the critical reappraisal of Def Leppard, whether you like it or not

Def Leppard

Def Leppard (Credit: Mercury Records)

Between the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the 40th anniversary of punk’s emergence and the 20th anniversary of “OK Computer,” 2017 is a year full of musical landmarks.

One of the more low-key milestones, however, is Def Leppard’s 40th birthday. In fact, earlier this year, guitarist Phil Collen revealed in a radio interview that the band isn’t planning on commemorating the moment in any way whatsoever.

The lack of fanfare is surprising because Def Leppard never does anything halfway. On Aug. 4, the band is unveiling an extensive reissue of its 1987 opus “Hysteria,” the 12-time platinum record that spawned six Top 20 singles, including “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Love Bites” and “Armageddon It.” Although the usual basic options are available — including a remastered single CD or a double vinyl set— Def Leppard is also offering up a whopping five-CD, two-DVD super deluxe edition with four books, live concert audio and video and a documentary. That’s a lotta Leppard.

The reissue is an appropriately grandiose gesture for a band that’s never been shy about its larger-than-life ambitions. “We wanted to be the biggest band in the world,” frontman Joe Elliott told Mojo in 2007. “Our blueprint was to be AC/DC with Queen harmonies.” Incredibly, Def Leppard fulfilled those lofty sonic aspirations (and then some) by forging a revolutionary three-album studio partnership in the ’80s with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange.

Together, the producer and band honed a shamelessly over-the-top sound that embraced extremes: hard rock’s heaviness, glam rock’s flamboyance and stacked arrangements, and pop music’s gigantic hooks. Better still, this music was meticulous. Lange, a notorious perfectionist and sound sculptor, found perfect foils in the studio tinkerers of Def Leppard and never skimped on details.

The cowbell on the chorus of “Photograph” doesn’t really need to be there, but it adds irresistible perkiness. The choppy synthesizers (courtesy of Thomas Dolby) introducing “Die Hard the Hunter” are action-movie caliber. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is exponentially more epic because of the echoing effects slathered on every, single track.

To this day, Def Leppard’s records sound amazing, especially when cranked up in the car on sticky summer days. Naturally, this glossy commercial veneer rubbed some people the wrong way. Critic Robert Christgau graded 1983’s “Pyromania” a C and described “Hysteria” as “impeccable pop metal of no discernible content, it will inspire active interest only in AOR programmers and the several million addicts of the genre. In short, it’s product — but as product, significant, because it’s product for the CD age.”

In early ’80s England, where the band was initially championed as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the backlash was also fierce and quick — especially because American audiences embraced Def Leppard wholeheartedly, starting with the band’s second record, 1981’s power-riffing “High ‘n’ Dry.” “While Leppard continue to ‘wow out’ crowds in the U.S., they still seem to be at the butt of abuse as far as certain British media and fans are concerned,” journalist Pete Makowski wrote in the Feb. 6, 1982, issue of the magazine Sounds.

He added, “While groups like Saxon and Iron Maiden seem to be able to travel the world and lead a grandiose lifestyle and still retain that dubious street credibility factor, anything that Leppard do is regarded as being pompous and the general consensus of opinion from the average anglophile headbanger seems to be that they are egotistical popstars who sold their souls to the American rock and roll machine.”


On some level, this perception lingers. Much like fellow New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden, Def Leppard still routinely tours huge venues in the U.S. (although Bruce Dickinson and Co. have more metal cred and reverence than Elliott and crew). This is certainly a byproduct of the idea that “authentic” rock ‘n’ roll is constructed and executed in a certain way. Studio experimentation isn’t necessarily frowned upon — ask Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles — but self-indulgence is. “Pyromania” reportedly cost more than a million pounds to record (over $4 million today, an almost unheard of cost at that time). “Hysteria” famously took three years to make. Def Lep was certainly indulgent.

But Def Leppard has always suffered from guilt by association. Commercially successful artists, especially ones who are openly aiming for massive success or who have sustained stardom, tend to be dinged for being go-getting. Call it the “tall poppy syndrome,” an Australian term used to describe when people put those with fame in their place. Def Leppard is also considered one of the patron saints of hair metal, a genre still viewed with skepticism by many in the mainstream.

And then there’s the fact that the band came of age just as MTV was becoming a dominant cultural force and embraced the music video medium. (Viewers can play “early music video cliché bingo” with the video for “Rock of Ages”.) The band’s playing the MTV game paid off in terms of record sales and fans but unfairly overshadowed the performers’ formidable talents. There’s the guitar pyrotechnics of Phil Collen; thundering bass lines of founding member Rick Savage; and Rick Allen’s inventive, Godzilla-like beat keeping. In fact, the latter is so ingenious and dedicated to his craft that he created an entirely new way to play and record drums after losing his left arm in a car accident.

Def Leppard isn’t alone, of course: Pop-metal-leaning MTV faves such as Night Ranger and Bon Jovi, current Def Leppard tour-mates Tesla and the ever-affable Sammy Hagar all have die-hard fans but receive an asterisk when it comes to full-on musical respect. Not coincidentally, all of these acts trade in escapist rock ‘n’ roll that celebrates the glory of rock ‘n’ roll itself, a self-referential tactic that’s a goofy audience pleaser but not necessarily world changing.

Def Leppard fits this mold rather acutely, as its song titles include “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop),” “Let’s Get Rocked,” “Rock of Ages,” “Rock Brigade” and “Rocket.” But the band owns its cheesiness. Lyrics such as “But are you gettin’ it?/ Armageddon it!/ Ooh, really gettin’ it?/ Yes, Armaggedon it!” should absolutely not work, not even a little bit. In context with its sonic dressing (twirling falsetto harmonies, fist-pumping drums, chugging guitars and cheeky pronunciation), the song pulls off the pun-driven wordplay brilliantly. Def Leppard’s music is fun and embraces pleasure without judgment or shame.

That last part is key: Even at its most ridiculous, Def Leppard isn’t self-important and doesn’t take itself too seriously. (Tellingly, a 1983 People profile observed that Elliott owns four copies of KISS’ “Love Gun.”) This is a byproduct of Elliott’s formative influences: David Bowie, T. Rex’s Marc Bolan, Mott the Hoople and a murderer’s row of ’70s rock acts, including Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, Slade and Sweet. All these artists understood the value of having entertaining stage personas and the role theatricality has in making great music. But these acts also took risks and put themselves out there, even if they did look ridiculous or flew in the face of convention.

The members of Def Leppard have always been as stoked to be onstage as their fans in the audience have been to watch the show. It’s not a surprise that in interviews, the band members come across as honest and earnest, sometimes to a fault. “I’ve got political opinions, but why should I force them on everybody else?” Elliott told People in 1983. “I don’t like to hear Pete Townshend’s views on the Labor Party. I’d rather write about women and beer.”

But the band members were no lightweights. In fact, despite their arena-filling sound, they were almost ascetic in their approach to their careers. “Our parents grew up in war-torn England with the Blitz going off trying to kill them and buildings blowing up here and there and they took that value system and instilled it into us,” Collen told Salon in 2015. “The further you get away from that sort of suffering and hard work, the less respect and honor people have in their everyday lives. All the guys in Def Leppard had that same working class background and it was based on those values. Even down to things like not wasting water, because there were rations.”

Perhaps that explains why being perceived as cool wasn’t necessarily on the agenda; being true to themselves, however, always was.

“We’re always bagged in England with bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon,” Elliott told Rolling Stone in 1980. “Bands like Black Sabbath could be called heavy metal, but not us. I prefer to call it hard rock, or just rock ‘n’ roll.”

Despite its rock ‘n’ roll bona fides, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide and having played concerts for almost as many people Def Leppard has never been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, despite the fact that the band has been eligible for well over a decade. The band also continues to push forward with new material and released a self-titled effort in 2015. At times, Elliott’s irritation at a lack of respect from the U.K. press still flares up, however.

“We’ve sold more records than Morrissey, and I think I’m a better singer than Morrissey, and we think we write better songs than Morrissey — yet they’ll still think that Morrissey is really cool because he was once in the Smiths,” Elliott told Australia’s Triple M radio in 2011. “I’ve got nothing against Morrissey, I’ve got something against the press that think that way.”

Neither press kudos nor Hall of Fame accolades are the end-all, be-all mark of a band’s worth, however. What matters is the music and fan support – and, in those respects, Def Leppard is rocking all the way to creating a continuously flourishing legacy.



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An indigenous woman is facing federal charges for protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline

DAPL Protest

(Credit: William Alatriste/ NYC City Council​)


In an escalation of the criminalization of protesters, an indigenous woman is facing several federal charges for her involvement in the Standing Rock protests last fall. Red Fawn Fallis, 38, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, has been indicted on three federal charges, including possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, discharge of a firearm and federal civil disorder — a charge that is rarely pursued.

Bruce Ellison, the lead attorney for Fallis, told Mint Press News he has only handled federal civil disorder charges a few times before, such as when activists from the American Indian movement were facing federal prosecution in the 1970s. Ellison previously represented Leonard Peltier, another well-known indigenous activist from the American Indian movement.

Sandra Freeman, an attorney at the Water Protector Legal Collective, also told Mint Press News that federal civil disorder charges are rare.

“Nobody I’ve worked with previously has ever seen that charge,” she said. “It comes from a law that is usually only invoked with the federal government decides to prosecute people involved in resistance.”

The federal charges against Fallis stem from a massive raid on the Front Line Camp north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on Oct. 27, 2016 that resulted in a clash between peaceful indigenous activists and heavily armed police. During the raid, officers fired tear gas, concussion grenades, rubber bullets and bean bag pellets against the unarmed water protectors, causing a multitude of injuries. Human rights groups like the United Nations have since condemned these violent police actions against water protectors and said that they are “contrary to the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

As law enforcement officers continued attacking water protectors and activists, four officers arrested Fallis and tackled her to the ground. Two gunshots went off beside her as she struggled. Local authorities contend that Fallis possessed a gun at the time and fired three gunshots at police during the raid. A statement from the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department says Fallis was arrested for “being an instigator” and “acting disorderly.” Upon her arrest, Fallis was initially charged with attempted murder. That charge has since been dropped by a state judge.

Fallis was not the only indigenous activist arrested for her participation in the Standing Rock protests last year. Authorities have arrested hundreds of people since the protests against the pipeline began, and about 141 people alone were arrested at the October 27 raid. Since these mass arrests, about 100 were indicted under felony charges by state prosecutors. Several reports have also surfaced about the crowded conditions of jail cells housing the activists.

The charges Fallis faces could set a dangerous precedent on the criminalization of protests, as law enforcement may feel emboldened to arrest more protesters. Reports from The Intercept reveal a coordinated effort between private security firm TigerSwan, law enforcement and agents from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Secruity, the Department of Justice, the Marshals Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to mitigate Standing Rock protests through surveillance and counterterrorism measures. Since November, more than 30 anti-protest bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, according to the ACLU, reflecting even more efforts to stifle social movements by directly targeting protesters. Several protesters who demonstrated against President Trump’s inauguration are also facing hefty charges in court.

Fallis is currently awaiting her next court date on July 17 in Bismarck, North Dakota, and her family and supporters have started an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to pay for the legal fees. The campaign is trying to raise $500,000 for further legal fees, and has collected about $15,000 so far.

Many Native American activists have disputed the charges against Fallis, arguing that she was not holding a gun and that she is innocent. According to reports from The Guardian, Fallis was a respected figure in the Sacred Stone Camp and a passionate activist in the fight against construction of the pipeline. Friends and supporters said Fallis would often provide medical attention to protectors during encounters with police.

“Anyone at the camp that needs help, she’s always been the one to stand up,” Mia Stevens, 22, a member of the International Indigenous Youth Council and longtime friend of Fallis, told The Guardian. “She wouldn’t do nothing like that. Where is the proof?”

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“Nobody Speak” director Brian Knappenberger: “Imagine very wealthy people applying Thiel’s tactics to other news sources you love”

Peter Thiel; Hulk Hogan

Peter Thiel; Hulk Hogan (Credit: AP/Ben Margot/Chris O’Meara)

Talk about walking into a house on fire. When director Brian Knappenberger set out to document the legal battle between Terry Gene Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) and the snarky Gawker media website, which he was suing for posting a surreptitiously filmed sex tape in which he appeared, little did he know that the case was an early indicator of a vast sea change in the American political landscape. Was it just a coincidence that a jury of Floridian citizens rallied around a bloated, orange so-called man of the people when it decided to severely punish the slick big-city media types with a $140 million penalty?

I definitely think there are big parallels between what was happening in that courtroom in Florida and the bizarre election cycle we just endured,” Knappenberger says.

“Nobody Speak,” which comes out June 23 in theaters and on Netflix, focuses on an imperiled freedom of the press when the media is under siege and threatened because billionaires can finance legal campaigns, as venture capitalist Peter Thiel did with Bollea.

Salon caught up with Knappenberger and asked him to exercise his freedom to speak about a film that should send shudders through everyone who believes in the foundation that underlies the old red, white and blue.

How did you come to making “Nobody Speak”?

To me the Hogan-Gawker trial by itself had a really compelling tension between privacy and the first amendment. But the $140 million verdict, combined with the revelation that Peter Thiel was secretly funding the case, made it something very different. It became about how big money can be leveraged to silence journalism it doesn’t like. That is when I realized I needed to dig deeper, especially during a bizarre election cycle in which hatred of “the media” played a central role. 

What’s been the primary response from festival audiences?

The response from festival audiences has been incredible. Audiences have packed in to see this film and almost without exception have risen to their feet with standing ovations when the credits roll. It is amazing. But passions are also high at the post-screening discussions — in particular Gawker, Peter Thiel and, of course, Trump spark some raw emotions. People across the country are upset and, if nothing else, this film walks right into that fire. 

Has there been a primary criticism?

There are usually a handful of people who see this film and still say that Gawker’s actions justify the death sentence they received. Hatred of the press, all press, runs high. But consider the flood of so-called fake news we’ve seen over the last year, which has included false stories that lead a man to shoot up a pizza parlor, or a figure like Alex Jones who has repeatedly insisted that the Sandy Hook shootings were a “false flag” operation. In that context Gawker is hardly the “singularly sociopathic bully” Peter Thiel made them out to be. As the saying goes, if you don’t believe in free speech for speech you don’t like, you don’t believe in it at all. 

Explain your process of responding to changes while you were making the film. Are twists a gift, a challenge . . . both for a documentary filmmaker?

The big turn in this film was the most dramatic I’ve experienced as a filmmaker; the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States. Trump was always in the film since there seemed to be a direct connection between the anti-press sentiment of the Hogan-Gawker trial and Trump’s “open up libel laws” rhetoric during the campaign. And that was even before Thiel spoke at the RNC, gave money to Trump’s bid and became part of his transition team.

But as a filmmaker there was a big difference between thinking of Trump as a cautionary tale and having him actually become president of the United States. I’ll never forget screening a rough cut of this film the day after the 2016 election; it felt much different than the film I thought I was making 24 hours before.

How fitting or ironic is it that Nick Denton, a smut peddler (my opinion!), is the ostensible symbol of the last stand for a free press?

There is an element of the People v. Larry Flynt in this story. One of the reasons I found the trial so compelling is that it wasn’t an easy case. I picked it because it was hard, because it was on the fringes of acceptability. The most interesting and important speech cases aren’t usually the cleanest. But it becomes something different when you factor in the essentially unlimited supply of secret money fueling Hogan’s side and imagine very wealthy people applying Thiel’s tactics to other news sources you love.

What would stop that? Gawker actually broke some important stories. Right now all watchdog journalism is struggling while inequality in our society is staggering. It is too easy to leverage great wealth against inconvenient voices who question that power.

Thinking of this story in generational terms: The new media environment that spawned Gawker also brought us Peter Thiel, Trump . . . even your film. Can you discuss your film’s story in generational terms and what it portends for the future of media in America?

The internet created an environment where new voices could be heard, where protest groups could more easily organize and where information could be spread unfiltered to inform the public. That caused well-deserved fissures in a media world that had become too corporatized and cozy to power. But what we’re seeing now is the dark side, big money co-opting once revolutionary tools, large-scale surveillance and a deluge of misinformation that arguably leaves the public less informed.

The old journalism model is dead and a new one is struggling to be born, unsteady in a hailstorm of special interests and newly freed political money. This is particularly true when it comes to communities across the United States who have lost their local newspapers and with them an important check on power. But we can’t sit around waiting for some new model to emerge. Ready or not, this is a moment of reckoning. Watchdog journalism needs to step up to the challenge; this is why it exists.

Has Peter Thiel responded to the film? Did he decline to be interviewed?

Peter Thiel hasn’t responded to the film and he declined our repeated requests for an interview. But I really wish he did talk to us, I would have loved to put his perspective in the film. The best we got was a response to one of our questions at the National Press Club, one of the few places Thiel has spoken about his behind-the-scenes participation in the case.

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WATCH: Ani DiFranco demands reproductive freedom as “a civil right”


The indie folksinger Ani DiFranco, who started out performing in coffeehouses as a teen in the late ’80s, has long been a feminist icon. She sings of love, pacifism, reproductive rights and progressive politics on her 20th album “Binary,” released earlier this month. For a recent episode of “Salon Talks,” she described her journey as an independent musician in a world of big-media suits. 

How does poetry play into the writing?

I was into poetry as a little kid, when I first learned about it in school. The whole idea of distilling language and making it communicate beyond its borders just really interested me. A little bit later I picked up the guitar and started getting into music and songwriting and so that the poetry fetish kind of found its natural extension through song. But I’ve always continued to write poems just as poems, too, because it’s a very different sort of beast than songs.

I love the music of language. Even before I was making songs — just the music of the way we speak, the prosody . . . the musicality, the music of prose, the melody.

I’m all about that in my writing, trying to echo the music of how we speak in a song so you can really feel it being spoken to you.

What’s the message of the new song “Play God”?

That song really comes from a place of trying to frame reproductive freedom as a civil right. . . . There’s a whole area of unfinished business in civil rights that apply only to women, and we just seem to not even have that language yet that can sort of help us to put it in the realm where I think it belongs.

The song is just trying to talk about how women are much more deeply informed about reproduction and creation and how death is a part of life. I think every menstruation teaches us that. We spin dark every time because there’s death involved, whether that egg is fertilized or not. I’ve had several abortions. I’ve given birth to several children. I’ve had a miscarriage.

Like any woman, I think I know more than a man what it all means, so I think that I should be given that respect.

Catch more of the DiFranco on Salon about her latest album, musical inspiration and civil rights.

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“Prime Suspect: Tennison”: An unnecessary prequel to a provocative “Masterpiece” classic

Stefanie Martini as Jane Tennison in "Prime Suspect: Tennison"

Stefanie Martini as Jane Tennison in “Prime Suspect: Tennison” (Credit: PBS)

Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison is a force. As realized by Helen Mirren in the ’90s on the British crime series “Prime Suspect” as well as in two chapters that aired in the aughts, the detective is impenetrable and pitiless. She’s also a doggedly determined sleuth who stands among the best of the best within London’s highly competitive Metropolitan Police Department. Tennison’s path is paved at severe cost: She distances herself from romantic love or much in the way of real emotional connection and numbs her inner demons with alcohol. Her choice to isolate herself catches up with her in the end.

Long before that came Woman Police Constable Tennison, portrayed by Stefanie Martini in “Prime Suspect: Tennison.” And WPC Tennison is the superintendent as a zygote, a rookie destined to grow into the dauntless crimefighter that Mirren spent 15 years carving and polishing into legendary form but that is in no way present as the prequel begins Sunday at 10 p.m. on PBS member stations — or, in truth, when it ends.

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Martini’s Jane Tennison is 22, fresh out of training and starting a probationary stint at East London’s Hackney Police Station in 1973. Her outlook and her liver have yet to be hardened by years of repressed rage and loneliness, even as she bristles at being ordered to back-burner her desire to solve cases so as to focus on secretarial duties, including fetching tea for her male co-workers.

“Tennison” soon places Jane, purely by happenstance, on the periphery of a case involving the murder of a young woman — not at the center of it, mostly just on the sidelines as her mentor, Detective Chief Inspector Len Bradfield (Sam Reid) takes point and brings her along for the ride.

Now, this is appropriate to the era as well as Tennison’s level of training. It also explains why “Prime Suspect: Tennison” plods along listlessly, which, given the title’s legacy, is a larger crime than anything author Lynda LaPlante could dream up.

The fault for this lies less with Martini than with a lack of realization on the part of producer Rhonda Smith and director David Caffrey that this franchise’s draw is the main character, not its cases. And this pedestrian march through London’s criminal underworld — which inexplicably requires three 90-minute episodes to fully realize — doesn’t change that.

Prior “Prime Suspect” episodes are effortlessly taut in comparison, with every season except for its fourth consisting of two episodes. Even season 4’s three episodes didn’t feel like enough at that time; it was tough to succumb to the gravitational pull of Mirren’s performance only to be set adrift after so short a stint. “Prime Suspect” is an ensemble piece in title only; Mirren always shouldered the weight of those plots, making Tennison’s edges increasingly jagged as more time passed.

But Martini is not afforded the opportunity to test the extent of her ability to engage viewers because the series isn’t expressly about her character. Because of this, little is illuminated about Jane Tennison’s early years, effectively negating its value as a prequel.

Expecting Martini to channel Mirren isn’t reasonable or fair, and Martini shouldn’t have to. One needs only to look at the success of “Endeavour,” the period piece prequel to “Inspector Morse.” Like “Prime Suspect: Tennison,” “Endeavour” airs under the “Masterpiece” umbrella and presents a youthful Endeavour Morse (played by Shaun Evans) as an Oxford dropout navigating class differences within the town that he helps to police. Evans’ characterization of Endeavour tips his hat at his future incarnation, played in “Inspector Morse” by the late John Thaw. But the young Endeavour is a standalone creature, inquisitive and confident, as daring as he is determined.

Viewers could have been treated to something similar with a young Jane Tennison. Women like her aren’t transformed into blunt instruments overnight. Her personality is the result of a kind of spiritual wiring gone dead, internal switches turning off one by one, never to be flipped on again. This is why the prospect of “Prime Suspect: Tennison” seems enticing.

Yet we only see hints at this midway through the final episode, following three and a half hours of muddled gumshoeing that largely focuses on Hackney’s run-of-the-mill rough detectives and rumpled perps.

Fortunately Martini’s Tennison is being forced into early retirement. ITV announced it would not commission a second series of the prequel, known in the U.K. as “Prime Suspect 1973,” in spite of its high ratings. Creative differences between LaPlante and ITV are said to be the cause, which the author confirmed in a lengthy Facebook post that explained much about why this TV chapter comes up short.

“During the production it became apparent to me that ITV’s vision for the series would not be an accurate adaptation of my novel ‘Tennison,’ and the characters that had been cast were far from how I had written them in the book,” LaPlante wrote.

The author goes on to assure her fans that young Jane Tennison lives on in her books. Mirren’s Jane Tennison can be accessed on Hulu, where the original “Prime Suspect” seasons are currently being streamed.

Revisiting the original is beyond worthwhile, and reminding audiences of its existence may be the noblest purpose served by “Prime Suspect: Tennison” popping up on the schedule. Your 270 minutes are better spent with those reliable classic episodes than with Martini’s muddled contribution.

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The day he thought he could fly: How my father broke our family’s silence on schizophrenia

Young Man on Roof

(Credit: Getty/Donald34/75tiks/splendens)

In the late summer of 1936, scalding winds scoured the Southern California region. As the calendar reached September, the 16 year-old known as Junior couldn’t shut off the voices now shouting inside his head. Preoccupied with the growing Nazi threat in Europe, day and night he roamed the sidewalks of Pasadena, the same ones that had carried him to grade school on his metal roller skates a decade before. Begging him to save the free world, the voices grew in intensity each day. Desperate to emerge with a plan to save the free world, Junior continued his relentless pacing.

Not long after midnight on Sunday, September 6, he paused. Silent houses surrounded him in the darkness. With his shirt soaked in sweat, he gasped as a new awareness took hold of his body and mind. With thrilling clarity, he now understood: He was the sole human destined to save the free world. His long days and nights of searching had not been in vain! The revelation filled him with wonder.

As his thoughts gathered speed another insight emerged. Alone among mankind, he had attained the power of flight. His arms, in fact, had become wings. Like Icarus, if he lifted them toward the sky, he’d be aloft. Once he soared toward the clouds, the free world’s leaders would witness this magnificent signal and pledge to conquer the Fascists. Alas, through his tortured logic, he reasoned that his flight would be seen around the globe only after sunrise. For now, he must await the dawn, using every ounce of his energy to shield his secret.

For several years, international prohibition leaders had attended periodic dinners at his family home, alongside his father, Virgil Hinshaw, Sr., an international leader in the movement.

Inevitably, discussions turned to the world situation. “The Fascists are taking over, Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany,” said one grim discussant. “They will dominate the world!” “You Americans are isolationists,” called out another. “Who will preserve international freedom?”

Sitting with his five brothers at the table, Junior felt his alarm grow each time. But with so much to accomplish — homework, church, sports, and part-time jobs — the warnings gradually faded. After all, what could a family of Quakers, committed pacifists, really do to aid the world situation? Yet now, with his senior year of high school approaching and his parents out of town at a Prohibition meeting, a newfound surge of energy took possession of his being, his mind expanding as it never had before.

Amplified by radio accounts of the rise of the Fascists, the visitors’ warnings called out to him: The Nazi threat is real! Black- and- white newsreels looped before his eyes: Brownshirts marching, Hitler’s speeches before massive crowds. Repression grew but America did nothing to heed the signs. Possessed by his new mission, he understood that if he dared not step forward, who would?

But how? If not for him, the Fascists might prevail.

As the early morning hours inched toward dawn, the winds abated. Finally, a brilliant yellow-orange, the sun emerged to the east, spreading long shadows from roofs and palms. Enthralled by his energy and remarkable insights, Junior reached his block on North Oakland Avenue, moving furtively past a few yards to find his own home, a dark-brown bungalow now directly in front of him. Breathing in, he crossed the lawn with muted footsteps. As the front door beckoned, he stared at it and then above. All was silent in the early daylight.

There was no turning back. The time was now.

But how to ascend? Thinking fast, he nimbly scrambled up the trellis, steadying himself as he found footholds. A final thrust and he was on the roof above the small front porch, the walkway twelve feet below. The sky loomed majestically before him, the air already torrid. The voices inside his mind reached a crescendo, pleading with him to perform his deed. Save the free world!

Glory would be his.

Approaching the edge, he shed his clothes and heaved them over, shoes, pants, and shirt floating to the ground beneath. Suddenly cooler, he held his breath. Calf muscles straining, arms outflung, he pushed off and propelled himself forward. For a second, there was only the feel of the air against his skin. The ground rushed toward him before everything turned black.

I learned of this event without any preparation at all. In mid-April 1971, I settled into the living room sofa, picking up a magazine. I needed to start some serious reading for my freshman-year term papers at Harvard but couldn’t resist a short break. Back in Columbus, Ohio, where I’d spent my first seventeen years, I felt as though a heavy backpack weighed me down— each compartment filled with disbelief. Did I really belong here anymore?

Was there some kind of stirring in the wind, a small signal of change in the air? If so, I paid no attention. Things would never change, I was sure, inside the stillness of our family home.

All week, for my first spring break, I’d wandered the house in a half-daze. Everything appeared as though behind museum ropes.

After glancing through a magazine or two, I heard a soft shuffling sound. Peering up, I saw Dad approach awkwardly from his study. He must have returned from his morning classes on campus, where three mornings per week he lectured on the history of Western philosophy for masses of Ohio State undergraduates. My sister Sally was in eleventh grade at the huge high school a block behind our home. Mom was at OSU, teaching English.

Dad and I were alone in the house.

“Son,” he began in a quiet voice, his eyes avoiding mine. He used the formal term when things were serious, a remnant of his Quaker upbringing. “Could we talk for a bit?”

Placing the magazine down, I turned to face him. His body was slightly hunched, his face tense. He no longer resembled the athletic, confident personage he’d once been, early in his career and early in my life. By now, a small paunch surrounded his stomach and a heavy gravity seemed to be pulling down the corners of his mouth.

“Sure,” I replied, wondering vaguely if I’d done something wrong. A trickle of adrenaline coursed through my veins. He beckoned for me to follow him into his bookshelf-lined library, the room he’d planned when our house had been designed a decade before. The navy blue, brown, and maroon hues of the book covers seemed to call out from the wooden shelves. Each time I entered, I felt overwhelmed by the world’s knowledge of science, history, and math inside those pages.

Dad paused as I walked past and pulled the sliding door shut, the soft metallic whirr of its rollers filling the air until wood contacted wood with a small hollow pop. I sat down on a straight-backed chair he’d placed near his desk, close to the tangle of file folders, syllabi, and lecture notes crowding its surface. Dad’s downward gaze and the quiver in his voice told me that our talk would not be about my freshman year or minor issues at home. As he cleared his throat, I clenched.

“Steve,” he began, “there are sometimes experiences, situations in life that are, well, difficult to understand.” To my surprise he was fumbling for words, far different from his usual orations on philosophy and science. “What I mean is this: Perhaps it’s time you heard about some events from my history.” He paused. “There were times when I wasn’t fully rational.”

As he continued speaking time slowed. Worlds passed before my eyes as fast as I could process them. From his occasional talks with me when I was young, I knew of the Hinshaw family’s tribulations and achievements. But something had always been missing, especially surrounding his strange disappearances, when he would vanish for weeks or months at a time. Nothing had ever been said.

From this first, revelatory talk in Dad’s home library, from many more over the following twenty-four years, from discussions with his brothers that began during my twenties, and from long-preserved family letters, I pieced together the events as though witnessing them in person. It’s as though I’d been transported back to Pasadena.

He finally wrapped up: “There have been other times in my life with similar episodes. I’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Perhaps we should discuss all this during a subsequent talk.”

We stood up and awkwardly shook hands. I pushed back my chair, turned, and pulled open the sliding door. While hearing Dad’s words I’d fought panic but also experienced a deep stillness. At last I knew something. A current of air had entered the vast vacuum just a step behind me, which I’d tried to shut out my whole life. At last, a few sounds had emerged from the void. Only one thing was certain.

From that moment forward my life would never be the same.

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