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Category: The Texas Observer

Texas Observer: Alex Jones Seeks Bigotry-Fueled ‘Groomer’ Comeback

Posted in Journalism, and The Texas Observer

Alex Jones remains a toxic influence on American politics and society despite an apparently shrinking audience and dwindling sales at his Infowars online shop, plus mounting losses in a bevy of lawsuits. After decades of spreading anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, Jones now wants to stage a comeback by positioning himself at the front of a new wave of hatred—with the help of powerful friends like Republican U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“Alex Jones Broke The Groomer Gate Scandal … in 2008?!” read an incredulously phrased headline on a story published by Infowars in April. The post links an audio recording by Jones— in which he claims elementary school teachers are giving explicit sexual instructions to 6 or 7 year olds—to today’s “groomer” panic. “Grooming” refers to a behavior whereby pedophiles ingratiate themselves with a potential underaged victim. But right-wing pundits, including Jones, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and the viral Twitter account @LibsofTikTok, now seemingly want to expand the definition to include openly LGBTQ+ teachers or anyone who speaks with young people about the existence of transgender people and gender diversity.

Texas Activists Protest Modern-Day ‘Slavery’ in Prisons

Posted in Austin, Journalism, and The Texas Observer

While prison inmates launched a nationwide strike last Friday — the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riots — a small but vocal group of activists gathered in Austin to support their cause.

Hundreds of inmates have joined the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee(IWOC), a division of the Industrial Workers of the World union and a major motivator of the strike. Inmates at 40 facilities in 24 states were expected to take part, and some Texas prisoners have been engaging in work stoppages since April.

Prisoners say they want their work to count toward time off their sentences, improved living conditions in prisons, better access to attorneys during disputes, and an end to an annual $100 copay on medical services.

Social Media Ban Could Curb Free Speech Behind Bars

Posted in Journalism, and The Texas Observer

Prison reform activists are concerned that a new state social media policy could be used to infringe on the free speech rights of both incarcerated people and and those who support them by sharing their stories, thoughts and experiences online.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) “Offender Orientation Manual,” updated in early April, “Offenders are prohibited from maintaining active social media accounts for the purposes of soliciting, updating, or engaging others, through a third party or otherwise.”

Under the updated manual, prisoners can be penalized for infractions in a number of ways, including by receiving extra work duties or being confined to their cells.

New Technologies Connect Prisoners to the Outside World

Posted in Journalism, SXSW, and The Texas Observer

Can the tech industry be recruited to help end mass incarceration?

On Friday at SXSW Interactive, part of Austin’s nine-day SXSW music, film and technology conference, a panel of app developers and nonprofit founders took on the question, connecting lower recidivism rates with keeping incarcerated people in touch with family and friends.

“If you haven’t been in prison, You can’t understand how important mail calls are,” said panelist Marcus Bullock.

Bullock’s the CEO of FlikShop, an app that allows family and friends to inexpensively turn photos into postcards that are then automatically mailed to prison facilities.