Radiolab from WNYC: The Girl Who Doesn't Exist
August 30, 2016 6:31 PM - Subscribe

In today's episode, we meet a young woman from Texas, born and raised, who can't prove that she exists.
posted by zeptoweasel (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This was an interesting story, but I was really annoyed by its handling of the whole Sovereign Citizen movement. They had a whole argument with an "expert" without ever mentioning that the whole Sovereign Citizen concept is considered completely bogus by every legal expert and (more importantly) every court that has ever heard their arguments. If Alecia Faith had gotten a job under the table, her lack of a birth certificate and SSN wouldn't have stopped the government from forcing her to pay taxes, or any of the other things that Sovereign Citizens try to get out of with their legal shenanigans.

I like to think that they would have the integrity not to do a show about global warming skepticism without pointing out that 95+% of the scientists who study climate have no doubt that anthropogenic global warming is alarmingly real, or do a show about the link between autism and vaccines without mentioning that the only peer-reviewed article to find a clear link was later found to have fabricated data from a doctor with a direct financial stake in the outcome of the study. But this seems to me like journalistic malpractice on sort of the same level.
posted by firechicago at 7:32 AM on August 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I had the same frustration with RadioLab's interview with the guy who is systematically challenging Civil Rights legislation. The dude is a racist. Report on that, instead of presenting him as a reasonable guy who just happens to be something that the hosts find puzzling.

The Sovereign Citizen Movement is the fringe of the fringe, and is deeply connected to right wing extremist violence and racist groups. The failure to mention this fact is quite bizarre to me.
posted by maxsparber at 9:07 AM on August 31, 2016

I think the sovereign citizen guy's appearance sums up nicely what's awesome and terrible about Radiolab - all about the story. He was just there for the drama, for someone to say 'oh but LOOK at what she's giving up!!1!' Which fine I guess, as a dramatic tension thing, totally not fine as a real world thing where these people's views have consequences.
posted by litleozy at 3:02 PM on August 31, 2016

About a third into this and my thought was it was kind of a "shaggy dog" joke style narrative, there was probably going to be a good very short bit of story there but getting way dragged out. She knew what tv was, just didn't know what she wanted to watch, well not that unusual, I don't know what to watch or what "kids" are referencing in their contemporary discussions.
posted by sammyo at 4:24 AM on September 1, 2016

I came at this from the perspective of someone who was on the periphery of a certain strain of a leftist movements who are also quite concerned about what it means to be numbered/official/etc. I actually delayed getting my own kid a birth certificate, and at the time I had her I didn't pay taxes, but ultimately and pretty quickly I gave in, registered her and became official myself.

At this point when there is a real possibility of President Trump, I think even less radical people could understand at least a fantasy about keeping your child "underground" given that we don't really know where all this is leading politically.

Anyhow, I know there are politically left people who could also articulate a critique of participating in the bureaucratic structures of US citizenship, not to mention some really interesting perspectives from philosophers about what it means to be numbered etc.

So I guess if I have a critique of this episode, it was that it didn't go very deep into this issue, like, what are the rational reasons why parents might want to keep kids out of official citizenship.

But they did do a great job of showing the adult child's perspective on this, how it has screwed her over, and it was a pretty compelling story.

It's crazy that there is no solution to this problem. It could be a Jose Saramago novel.
posted by latkes at 1:57 PM on September 2, 2016

I only recently got into Radiolab (from an episode that isn't on Fanfare). I thought they were as critical of the Sovereign Citizen as they needed to be. Alecia's parents weren't part of the Sovereign Citizen movement, so spending any more time on that group would have been a distraction from her story.

I hope they do a follow up about what she has to go through to get a Social Security card.
posted by riruro at 8:24 PM on September 19, 2016

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