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Burge Victims Speak: Exhibit Discussion

Saturday January 19, 2019 at 1pm

Harold Washington Library, 7th Floor Chicago Authors’ Room

Hear photographer Amanda Rivkin, Chicago attorney Flint Taylor and survivor Darrell Cannon discuss the history, investigation, resolution and impact of torture by Chicago police commander Jon Burge and his “midnight crew.”

This event is in conjunction with the Burge Victims Speak exhibit at Harold Washington Library Center.

The talk will be accompanied by a presentation of Rivkin’s portraits.


More info.

Burge Victims Speak Exhibit at Harold Washington Library Center


Chicago Public Library

November 15, 2018


The exhibit Burge Victims Speak photographs + audio by Amanda Rivkin features 17 photographic portraits and audio accounts of men who survived torture by Chicago police commander Jon Burge and his “midnight crew” between 1972 and 1993. The exhibit is on display November 20 to January 25 at Harold Washington Library Center, in the 3rd Floor Exhibit Hall.


The images document the men—many of whom served prison sentences for coerced admissions of crime—in their current-day lives.


Rivkin is a fellow at the Invisible Institute, a journalism production company on Chicago’s South Side. The organization is in the process of developing a public archive of the Burge cases, the future home of Rivkin’s photography and interview series.


The torture came to light when Chicago lawyer Flint Taylor received anonymous letters detailing systemic police torture inside Area 2 and later Area 3 headquarters. Investigation by the police oversight Office of Professional Standards concluded torture had occurred. In 2015, Chicago City Council passed a reparations ordinance that acknowledged the victims of officers serving under and with Burge.


Rivkin’s reporting was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Howard G. Buffett Fund For Women Journalists.

TED x Mid Atlantic: Active Resistance

We are just beginning to understand the massive efforts by foreign governments to influence our elections and plant the seeds of chaos into the United States. Our reliance on digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and the speed at which misinformation can spread has left us vulnerable. So what can we do? Amanda Rivkin says we must be proactive and form an active resistance against these attacks. Amanda Rivkin is a photographer and writer focused on gender, security, political and military issues in Eastern Europe and the United States.


Currently she is at work on a long-term project documenting in portraits and oral histories the victims of Chicago municipal police torture under former Commander Jon Burge. For this work, she has received a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists and support from The Invisible Institute, a non- profit journalism outfit focusing on issues of policing in Chicago.


In February 2017, she founded Trumpistan Watch, a free weekday e-mail subscription and blog media monitoring Western and Russian media news sources concerning Trump and Russia, with a particular focus on geopolitical security, media and authoritarianism. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Farewell, Obama!


Jill and Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama and daughter Malia after Obama gave his farewell address to a crowd of thousands and the nation during his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois on January 10, 2017.

For a full gallery of images from last night, please see my archive, “President Obama’s Farewell Address“.

BBC World Service: “World Have Your Say” on Russian Athletics Doping

Today I got to discuss how Russians cheat and lie, this time in sport with host Ben James and a panel including a Canadian and Kenyan Olympiad and colleagues in London and Germany on the BBC World Service’s “World Have Your Say” program.

…we hear the conversation surrounding the latest twist in allegations of doping in Russian sport. The New York Times says Russian officials have for the first time admitted to the existence of a doping operation which affected major competitions.

Quartz: Russia’s meddling to get Donald Trump elected president is straight out of the old KGB playbook

Russia’s meddling to get Donald Trump elected president is straight out of the old KGB playbook
December 19, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Turkish Prime Minister's office at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on December 3, 2012.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Turkish Prime Minister’s office at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on December 3, 2012.

Mysterious arrests. Disappearances. A far away death in an unknown gulag concealed from family for a generation. These are realities for those of us whose families came to the US from Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the last world war and subsequent Soviet occupation. These are also the reasons why every act against Donald Trump now is an act of patriotism on behalf of the American people.

During the 1970s and 1980s, KGB defectors warned Americans to beware Russian interference. Those warnings were mostly buried. Today, however, Trump’s rise should be examined in the context of these methods of Kremlin ideological subversion and psychological warfare.

The confluence of evidence suggests Donald Trump was supported, and his campaign efforts bolstered, by Russia this election season (as the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have concluded). Plucked from the KGB’s (now FSB’s) playbook for installing world leaders sympathetic to Moscow, we are now witnessing what Russian intelligence officers would refer to as “active measures.”

The first phase of this strategy is to bombard a nation with propaganda, usually of a racist, anti-Semitic nature. The point of this propaganda is to sow the seeds of discord among a population. The second phase is the instigation of incidents that can be used and broadcast widely for the purposes of demoralization. In phase three, Russia installs a friendly leader and leverages the economy according to Moscow’s will.

In the US, phase one was accomplished through the spread of propaganda, often but not always in the form of “fake news,” on social media and at Trump’s rallies. Mainstream media networks played a useful role here by allowing Trump’s rallies to be broadcast unfiltered and often unchallenged, further normalizing Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. We are now between the second phase, with its intent of demoralization. We must never allow the final stage.

History shows us what happens when Soviet ideology and power mix. In George F. Kennan’s seminal “Sources of Soviet Conduct,” published in Foreign Affairs in 1947, the former US ambassador to Moscow outlines Stalin’s expansionist philosophy in the context of Marxist-Leninist thought. In the opening paragraphs, he clearly articulates the Soviet-era doctrine, some of which still holds sway in the Kremlin today.

Stalin believed a country built on free trade and open markets would eventually slip into a form of late-stage capitalism that in turn leads to anarchy, war, and ultimately class revolution. The answer? State control over everything from the economy to private life. Citizens in this system become subjects instead of active participants in society.

In other words, Russian influence over US policy would not simply represent a political shift—it would set the stage for a possible humanitarian disaster. Stalin’s interpretation of this Marxist fantasia evolved into gulags and the deaths of millions. Putin’s interpretation is a sort of Stalin-lite philosophy, in which central control of the economy is handed over to a coterie of loyal elites known as oligarchs. Arrests and assassinations are used to maintain law and order (a rallying cry for Trump during the campaign). Absolute control is still the goal.

In the former Soviet bloc, the memory of the Cold War still looms large. But the majority of Americans don’t understand the reality of things like purges, gulags, disappearances, and state terror. Americans need to wake up, right now, to a different era—an era in which the institutions they were taught would always protect them may be weakened, or even destroyed.

Trump has arguably already started this process in the US via his cabinet appointments. There are other warning signs as well. After watching Trump and his family interviewed in their gilded penthouse on 60 Minutes, it’s clear money is the primary language he speaks. This is also the language most familiar to the Kremlin, and to Putin, who after nearly two decades spent systematically plundering the Russian state of its resources may very well be the world’s richest man.

Indeed, Trump’s gilded penthouse bears a striking resemblance to the palace of the deposed former leader of Ukraine and Putin ally, Viktor Yanukovych. When Yanukovych fled his palace in 2014, he left behind a dizzying array of documents and lavish accouterment, including a personal zoo. Yanukovych’s greed came with a high cost; ultimately it was his country’s sovereignty, economy, and the welfare of the Ukrainian people.

And yet, too many Americans still remain blind to the dangers of Trump’s presidency. As KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov told American television audiences three decades ago, when it comes to Russia’s plan for world domination, the American “will refuse to believe it until he receives a kick in the fat bottom. When a military boot crushes him, then he will understand it.”

The Sources of Russian Conduct: Russian Reading List

by Amanda Rivkin

Note: In light of the election of 2016 and the unprecedented interference in the American electoral process, it became clear that a generation that fought the global war on terror is woefully unfamiliar with what a much earlier generation of American scholars, diplomats and spies would call “the sources of Soviet conduct,” after former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow George F. Kennan’s now infamous article published in Foreign Affairs in 1947. This reading list is an attempt to plug holes, it is by no means comprehensive nor does it claim to be. It is an attempt to provide a brief selection of readings following key themes of the last century of Russian/Soviet history as it is still relevant today given the Russian leader’s training as a KGB spy and deep background in the Russian state and rise in the wake of a period of profound national humiliation of the 1990s. Usual academic caveats, any errors or oversights are mine and mine alone.


Ideology + Revolution: Leninist-Marxism

The Russian Revolution, Sheila Fitzpatrick
Three Who Made a Revolution: A Biographical History of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, Bertram Wolffe
Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution, Richard Stites

Conduct of Soviet state/KGB

The Long Telegram/The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” George F. Kennan (“X”) in Foreign Affairs (1947)
“Venona Project” documents available through The Wilson Center and the NSA
– Covert counter-espionage project within the NSA to detect spies and moles intiated in 1943 lasting until 1980 that detected Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, Kim Philby but more effectively and critically, Harry Dexter White, who helped negotiate Bretton Woods accords establishing postwar International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum
The Russians, Hedrick Smith
Man Without A Face, Markus Wolf
– Former East German Stasi chief’s memoir

Dangers of Big Brother State

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Voices from Chernobyl, Svetlana Alexievich
Lenin’s Tomb, David Remnick

Voices of Defectors + Collapse of USSR

KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov’s warning to America,” (available on YouTube)
– on KGB’s “active measures”; outlines three broad phases from propaganda to occupation (from American television in the 1980s)
Yuri Bezmenov Psychological Warfare Subversion + Control of Western Society,” (available on YouTube)
– delves deeper into psychological warfare stage of “active measures” (approximately where we are in late 2016; Bezmenov is one of more entertaining + engaging of his generation of defectors)
“To the Stalin Mausoleum,” Martin Malia (“Z”)
– Signed “Z” in echoes of Kennan’s earlier “Sources of Soviet Conduct,” signed “X”
Six Questions: A Little KGB Training Goes A Long Way,” interview with Oleg Kalugin in Foreign Policy
– Kalugin was long-serving KGB in US, one time boss of Putin’s when both men were in Dresden, later aligned with Yeltsin


The 1990s: Chaos and Mafia Reentrenchment

The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia, David Hoffman
Godfather of the Kremlin, Paul Klebnikov
– former Russian-American editor of Forbes Russia murdered in mysterious circumstances

Humiliation at the Hands of American Advisors

How Harvard Lost Russia,” David McClintick in Institutional Investor
– Perhaps the finest long-form story ever published on the shenanigans of American “advisors” who helped push Russia to collapse then helped guide its re-entrenchment into an oligarchic mafia state
Could This Woman Be Vladimir Putin’s Real Mother,” Kate Weinberg in The Telegraph (December 5, 2008)
– Two other journalists trying to report this story previously were killed in mysterious circumstances.

Recreating the Past: The Security State, The Kremlin + the Oligarchy

KGB: State Within a State, Yevgenia Albats
Arms and the Man,” Peter Landesman in The New York Times Magazine (August 17, 2003)
– Profile of Victor Bout, perhaps Russia’s most prolific arms trader in immediate post-Cold War era + likely before; openly boastful in New York Times Magazine provides sense of arrogance + pride
Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror, Alexander Litvinenko + Yuri Felshtinsky
Winter is Coming, Garry Kasparov


Tools of the Kremlin: Hacking the Election

Non-Linear Warfare by Media,” Charlie Brooker’s Wipe, summary with Adam Curtis (2014).
Meet Fancy Bear, The Russian Group Hacking U.S. Elections,” Sheera Frenkel in BuzzFeed (October 15, 2016)
How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Thomas Rid in Esquire (October 20, 2016)
FBI’s Comey Opposed Naming Russians, Citing Election Timing: Source,” Eamon Javers for CNBC (October 31, 2016).
Telephone Conversation with US President Elect Donald Trump,” Kremlin read out (November 14, 2016)
Kremlin’s Trojan Horses,” Alina Polyakova, Marlene Laruelle, Stefan Meister, and Neil Barnett for The Atlantic Council (November 15, 2016)
Call for a Congressional Investigation: An Open Letter from Concerned Scholars,” (November 21, 2016)

Crawling Ourselves Out of the Abyss

Farewell Addressaudio,” Dwight D. Eisenhower (January 17, 1961).
– Famously warns of “military-industrial complex”; in August, construction begins on the Berlin Wall.
Keep Your Politics Private, My Fellow Generals and Admirals,” General Martin Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in DefenseOne (August 1, 2016).
Seven Reasons Why a Trump Reset with Russia Will Fail,” Taras Kuzio in New Eastern Europe (November 21, 2016).
– Special attention deserved to #4 + regime survival dependency on existential, eternal threats to drive nationalist calls for patriotism and unity
Former NSA and CIA Chief on Trump,” WNYC interview with Michael Hayden (November 21, 2016).
– Important warning issued on politicization of national security apparatus; no deep delve however.


1. Education in True Patriotism + Dangers of Big Brother State

The Power of the Powerless, Václav Havel
The Captive Mind, Czeslaw Milosz
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt
From Dictatorship to Democracy, Gene Sharp
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder.

2. Deprive Russian Mafia-state of all aid

Putin’s Russia, Anna Politkovskaya
– Assassinated in Moscow in 2006, one outcome of her reporting on the war in Chechnya
McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, Misha Glenny



Access to Justice: Art Works Projects at the Chicago Public Library

“Less than one percent of those arrested and held in police custody in Chicago in 2013 had a lawyer present, according to Chicago Police Data (source: CNN, May 5, 2016). What challenges face the Chicago community in providing equal justice to all, and how are advocates addressing issues of equal treatment and rule of law globally?”

Sheila Bedi, Clinical Associate Professor of Law, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Northwestern University School of Law
Flint Taylor, civil rights attorney, People’s Law Office
Amanda Rivkin, photographer, Howard Buffett Fund for Women Journalists, International Women’s Media Foundation

Leslie Thomas, outgoing Executive Director, Art Works Projects

CAN-TV (local Chicago public access)

Art Works Projects "Access to Justice" panel at the Frederick Douglass Library, Chicago on October 13, 2016. (L-r) Amanda Rivkin, Flint Taylor, Sheila Bedia and Leslie Thomas. Photo by Rich Myers.

Art Works Projects “Access to Justice” panel at the Frederick Douglass Library, Chicago on October 13, 2016. (L-r) Amanda Rivkin, Flint Taylor, Sheila Bedia and Leslie Thomas. Photo by Rich Myers.