Author

Shawn Hamilton

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I am a writer, filmmaker, and founder of Production Portal, Inc. an accounting and consulting firm specializing in film, tv and event management. I blog here about history, politics, and culture. I live in NJ and work in NY.

[This post originally appeared in Longreads.] When I was about 7 or 8 I had my first serious conversation with my mother about the future: what I wanted to be; how I wanted to get there; how things really “were.” The word “were” in this context was probably my first paradox. Things that “were” were infinitely complex, yet simple. They were understood with or without understanding. You had to know how things “were” before they made themselves known, or you would regret having made the acquaintance. There were jobs that were “gone” as she described it. Jobs that paid well right out of high school were “gone.” Jobs with security were “gone.” Before those jobs had “gone,” they had been scarce for black folks in her experience anyway, but now they were accessible in theory but nonexistent in reality. Now the door that would have been closed because of Jim…

[This video originally appeared on Huffington Post] Episode 1 – The Prototype 1963 The first episode dissects a shooting that managed to be both the crime of the century and a typical act of gun violence. It tracks both the wanderings and escalating violence of a man who went my the alias Alek Hidell, and the political calculations that led to this very dysfunctional man having very functional – and cheap – weapons. Hidell was a man of reinventions – changing occupations, homes, and identities at will – become more lethal at each iteration. He attempted to assassinate a right wing agitator and future Presidential named Major General Edwin Walker, but failed then practiced. He plotted the death of then former Vice President Richard Nixon, but abandoned the plot. He traveled and regrouped. The rifle that Hidell used – the Mannlicher Carcano –  was also well traveled. It began as…

[This piece originally appeared in Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/micah-xavier-johnson-assassin_us_578936ede4b08608d3347fa8?section=] In the days after Micah Xavier Johnson’s mass shooting in Dallas, The Drudge Report took to calling him simply, and in outsized font, Micah X. Though it was the most transparent of the attempts to tie Johnson to black militancy and/or the Black Lives Matter movement, it was only the most extreme expression of a widespread phenomenon. It was also dead wrong. After the shooting spree that lasted for several hours, Johnson was mortally wounded by a robot wielding an explosive. His final act was to write a note in blood ― “RB”. The desire to tie him to a black nationalist movement is so strong that there’s been serious speculation that he was trying to write “RBG,” which stands for “red, black and green,” the colors of the Pan-African flag. But in looking for meaning in the message, the media has missed the…

In his first few days in office Trump and several members of his team attacked the media for underestimating the size of the crowd that attended the Inauguration. Trump argued that, “I turn on the networks, and they show an empty field. I’m like, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was, it looked like a million, million and a half people.” This could have been labeled just another off-the-cuff remark that has endeared Trump to political-incorrectness-fundamentalists, but later that day the baton was passed to his Press Secretary Sean Spicer who expanded on Trump’s argument claiming that, not only had Trump’s crowds and viewership been larger than the media reported, but that it had been “the largest crowd ever to witness an Inauguration”. Ever. The largest crowd ever. With her eye on the finish line, Trump’s Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway took the baton and…

[This article originally appeared on Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fuckery-donald-trump-lies_us_588126a8e4b096b4a230a23f?fx74o5hg6bf6tuik9] In his 1987 comedy film, “Raw,” Eddie Murphy jokes about an argument with fellow comedian Bill Cosby about Murphy’s use of profanity. According to Murphy, Cosby’s son Ennis watched Murphy’s stand-up special and told his dad of Murphy’s foul language. Ennis was a fan; Cosby was not. Being an elder statesman in business, Cosby called Murphy to express his outrage at Murphy’s cursing ― what Cosby called, in Murphy’s elaborate recounting of it, “filth, flarn, filth, flarn filth!” Eddie Murphy was offended. He had managed to “put some jokes between the curses” he argued. No audience would pay for a “curse show,” where a comedian walks out on stage, drops some profanity, grabs his crotch, then collects a check. To focus on Murphy’s foul language was to miss his command of the craft and the relationship a comedian cultivates with the audience, he…

[This article originally appeared on Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-nazi-propaganda-coordinate_us_58583b6fe4b08debb78a7d5c] On election night, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews had a revelation. Matthews, with a pained expression, began to piece together the basis for Hillary Clinton’s pending defeat. She had failed to communicate a tough position on illegal immigration. She had supported bad trade deals. She had not renounced all of the “stupid wars.” Her presidential rival, Donald Trump, on the other hand, had waged what Matthews called a “legitimate” campaign on these issues, a claim that seemed to stretch the bounds of legitimacy, but Matthews was not alone. In the following days and weeks, others would make similar claims implying a victory that, weeks before, had been impossible was actually inevitable ― and liberalism was largely to blame. People magazine put Trump on its cover in November, a month after one of its journalists, Natasha Stoynoff, accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2005.…

I announced this a few weeks ago on Facebook and Twitter and a few other places, but not here. I was recently published in the Baffler and Salon.com. Here’s a link to my piece in the Baffler: http://www.thebaffler.com/blog/freedom-fries/ Here’s a link to my piece in Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/2015/04/07/march_madness_and_the_ncaa_purity_lie_how_the_billion_dollar_basketball_industrial_complex_blinds_us_to_our_biggest_flaws/ I wish I could think of a cooler way of incorporating this into my blog, but this is it. – Shawn

[This article originally appears on the Society for US Intellectual History blog http://s-usih.org/2015/02/invisible-men.html.] In his seminal works – Shadow and Act and Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison created two metaphors that speak to one of America’s great dilemmas regarding African Americans: how do Americans reconcile their beliefs in ‘democracy’ with certain ‘anti-democratic’ practices? The first appears in Shadow and Act, a book of essays, in which Ellison describes the African American as a Giant upon whom all of American history ‘unfolds’, a ‘human natural resource’ that must be restrained to preserve national power and stereotyped to preserve national innocence.[1] The second metaphor, the ‘battle royal’, appears in an earlier work The Invisible Man which explores what happens when the metaphorical giant attempts to break the chains and shape its destiny.[2] While both metaphors spoke explicitly to slavery and Jim Crow, they echo today in a variety of American institutions, the…

[This piece originally appeared in Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/2015/04/07/march_madness_and_the_ncaa_purity_lie_how_the_billion_dollar_basketball_industrial_complex_blinds_us_to_our_biggest_flaws/] In a nation split by partisan bickering, one of the few documents that both liberals and conservatives await with genuine enthusiasm is President Obama’s March Madness bracket. Liberals hope to match it or best it. Conservatives hope to obliterate it, but unlike most hot political topics, it’s all in good fun, right? For many, March Madness is the ultimate return and escape: a return to a simpler, purer time; an escape from the crass concerns of corrupt professional sports. This perception is, of course, rooted in myth.  This year’s March Madness tournament will earn the NCAA close to a billion dollars in revenue. TV ratings for CBS, who aired the tournament games, skyrocketed to an 18-year high. That this tangled mess of contradictions and hypocrisies is cause for celebration for anyone other than the NCAA — and CBS — is a sign of both the…

[This piece originally appeared in The Baffler: https://thebaffler.com/blog/freedom-fries] In his book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser demonstrates the dominance of McDonald’s, not just in the context of the history of the fast food industry, but in the history of all industry. McDonald’s is the largest owner of retail property in the world. The company trains more Americans than the U.S. Army. The McDonald’s logo is more recognizable than the Christian cross. Ronald McDonald is second in popularity with children to only one figure—Santa Claus. By any (and every) measure, McDonald’s is a juggernaut. And yet the prospect of a $15 per hour minimum wage in Seattle has led this grand institution to turn, not to greater economies of scale or improvements in vertical integration, but to the Fourteenth Amendment—a law ratified in 1868, primarily to protect the rights of recently freed slaves. The McDonald’s corporation’s efforts to avoid the mandate…