Shaping Factors

Over lunch, I was reviewing my accumulated potential news chum links. There had been some interesting articles over the last few days that had piqued my interest (got it right this time), but what would theme? Then it hit me — a connection between articles. All of these have to do with factors that shape our perception and our history, especially in California and Los Angeles in particular.

  • Drawing the Line. Curbed LA had a recent article of late on Los Angeles History 101, presenting 13 defining moments in Los Angeles history. Item #8 was redlining, which was the process of distinguishing particular neighborhoods for particular ethnic and economic groups. That article provided some interesting history, including the fact that many communities in Southern California were “sundown” towns, where blacks were not permitted after sundown (these include Hawthorne, Palos Verdes and South Pasadena). It also mentioned “redlining”: When the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation was established in the 1930s as part of the New Deal, it was meant to bolster the housing market. It also assessed and ranked the value of land and risks according to a neighborhood’s economic and racial makeup. Depending on the community, certain groups were barred, or loans were more risky. The redlining connected to their item #9, which is the dark history of how the Dodgers acquired the land for Dodger Stadium, as well as items #10 and #12, the Watts Riots and the Rodney King Riots. This dovetailed with an article in the Atlantic looking at the practice of redlining in more detail. That article went into the racist history of both the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, showing how the redlining shaped the racial tensions that impact the city to this very day. Look at the redlining maps, and then look at where the racial issues boiled over in Chavez Ravine, Watts, and South LA. Then think about other LA incidents such as the Zoot Suit Riots, and you’ll see the racist history of California in gory detail.
  • Water and Land. Another defining moment in the Curbed LA article is #3, Water and Mullholland. Water enabled the city to grow, but at a great cost. Water is also key to California’s growth, and there was a great article on that a few months ago talking about the central valley of California, water rights, and the small number of farmers that own vast acreage and shape politics and policy in the San Joaquin Valley.  The article talks about Stewart Resnick. . Last time Resnick checked, he owned 180,000 acres of California. That’s 281 square miles. He is irrigating 121,000 of those acres. This doesn’t count the 21,000 acres of grapefruits and limes he’s growing in Texas and Mexico. He uses more water than any other person in the West. His 15 million trees in the San Joaquin Valley consume more than 400,000 acre-feet of water a year. The city of Los Angeles, by comparison, consumes 587,000 acre-feet. It looks at the impact of Resnick’s companies, such as Pom Wonderful (of Cuties fame). He is one of the largest growers of pistacios. And, of course, he owns a mansion in Beverly Hills.
  • Perceptions. Our perceptions are shaped in various ways. The Washington Post had an interesting article (use incognito or private mode if blocked by their paywall) about how social media shaped and spread a historical lie. This is the lie that “The Democrats created KKK.”, and it involves a purported photo of a Klan march captioned: “This photo was taken at the 1924 Democratic Convention. It was known as the ‘Klanbake’ (just in case you want to Google it).” The problem? There was no Klan march at the 1924 Democratic convention — the photo was actually taken in Wisconsin — nor was the convention ever actually known as the “Klanbake.” Read the article for the full details and disputation. But we’re seeing other shaping perceptions, notably in the form of faked videos of celebrities. Often called “deepfakes”, these are used to create “celebrity porn” or fake news, with politicians saying things they never did. Of course, we see the video and believe our eyes — seeing is believing, right? Wrong. Now even what we see is faked.  So here’s a good guide on how to recognize “deepfake” videos.