Last week, Bronx-based hip-hop duo Rebel Diaz confronted both Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz in two separate online videos, gaining the attention of several other outlets and raising questions about how mainstream journalists are covering politicians and political campaigns.
Running into Emanuel at LaGuardia Airport, Rebel Diaz members RodStarz and G1 approached the mayor about the murder of Laquan McDonald, a young black man killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. When RodStarz confronted Emanuel, he kept asking, “How do you feel about having the blood of Laquan McDonald on your hands?” Emanuel avoided his questions and ran away from the duo.
A few days later, Rebel Diaz confronted Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. and presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz at a campaign stop in the South Bronx, questioning why Diaz, Sr., an ordained minister and a Democrat, would invite Cruz to this immigrant community.
As he is escorted by police, RodStarz also called out journalists in the restaurant, claiming that they were not doing their job. It is a theme —mainstream journalists not doing their jobs— that Rebel Díaz addresses a regular basis for their “Ñ Don’t Stop” web series on TeleSUR English.
“If we look at the amount of consolidation that has gone on in the media industry since the 1996 Telecommunications Act that deregulated and allowed for a lot of these monopolies [to exist], we see the result of this today,” G1 told Latino USA. “And we see MSNBC, CNN and Fox News are especially extensions of the Democratic and Republican parties. This moment, we are playing an important role to be able to tell these stories. And at the end of the day there is an issue of respectability politics.”
Rebel Diaz believe respectability politics, which tends to ignore the concerns of marginalized communities, is using traditional mainstream journalism to silence new voices. With their show, Rebel Diaz want to challenge this type of journalism and ask the uncomfortable questions.
“In the educational institution in this country, one of their main tasks is to teach you and mold you to behave and work within of what the norms of the system are. In journalism, they teach you that you have to be objective, but really what that objectivity means is ‘don’t ruffle the feathers of the powers that lead’,” RodStarz said.
Raised in Chicago and organizing in the Bronx for over 13 years, Rebel Diaz have managed to not ignore their activism roots. As sons of Chilean political prisoners, questioning and challenging “the powers that lead” are necessary for them to create change. When asked about whether their brand of journalism lacks objectivity, RodStarz was quick to respond.
“How can you be objective when it comes to young people being murdered by police at alarming rates and police officers always getting off? Can you be objective to that? So a lot of times the question is: who are you being objective for? That’s the main question that journalists need to ask themselves,” RodStarz added. “There will still be people who think that this isn’t the type of journalism we are supposed to be doing or ‘they’re being too aggressive,’ I think we are definitely going to be pushing the limits.”