Episode

9/22 The COVID Underclass w/ Dr. Steven Thrasher & Dominique Remy

September 22, 2022

Emma hosts Dr. Steven Thrasher, assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University, to discuss his recent book The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality And Disease Collide. Then, Emma is joined by filmmaker Dominique Remy to discuss her work on an upcoming documentary regarding maternal mortality, and the sobering data surrounding the issue that just came out from a study by the CDC. First, Emma runs through updates on Ginni Thomas’ decision to speak in front of the 1/6 committee, Russian anti-war protests, and the Electoral Reform Bill, before diving into Donald Trump’s legal woes, with Tish James coming for his property and an 11th Circuit panel overturning (and mocking) the decision by Aileen Cannon to grant him a Special Master. Emma and Dr. Thrasher then dive into where his term “viral underclass” came from, coined by queer activist Sean Strub during the AIDS epidemic, and a central theme of Thrasher’s thesis on the sentencing of Michael Johnson, a college wrestler who was living HIV/AIDS and convicted of supposedly not disclosing his status (despite maintaining his innocence through to his successful appeal), before exploring what role this term can play as a tool of greater social analysis, with public health crises often funneling certain social groups into the role of scapegoat for social anxieties (be they based on race, sexual orientation, class, or other). Next, they look at the role of this “underclass” in helping maintain greater systemic issues of a for-profit healthcare system, deflecting the blame down to the individuals rather than the institutions in charge of regulating public health measures and information dissemination, before they jump to exploring the various stigmatized spaces through which diseases travel, looking at the spaces of colonialism and slavery as central to pathogen spread over the last few centuries, queer spaces during the AIDS epidemic, and more. Wrapping up, Dr. Thrasher and Emma tackle how looking at a “viral underclass” helps us explore the COVID pandemic, and why setting up preventative measures for crisis, including social welfare, pandemic preparation, and other institutions for public wellbeing, is a necessary step for both successful pandemic-response and ensuring an equitable solution. Dominique Remy then joins as she dives into her work on the Canary Film Project around the mass stratification in maternal mortality rates in the US between racially marginalized and more affluent, white communities, looking at how discussions of reproductive justice often exclude those impacted by maternal mortality and ignore any solution that attempts to look to systemic failures. Wrapping up, Remy dives into the incredible discussions she was able to learn from in the production of Canary, what the project entails writ large, and how those outside of the project can help.

And in the Fun Half: Emma is joined by Matt and Brandon as Eric Trump pops on a podcast to discuss how much people love his family, the Democratic establishment lashes back at Rashida Tlaib for attacking the oh-so-vulnerable state of Israel, Ed from Fort Worth talks Republican white nationalism, and inspires a discussion on reactionarianism and why it can never escape its own standpoint. Tucker Carlson dives into why straight pedophilia is good but gay anything is pedophilia, and Brian from DC reflects on yesterday’s libertarian debater, plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Steven’s book here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250796639/theviralunderclass

Check out Dominique’s upcoming film project here: https://www.thecanaryfilmproject.com/

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