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A Quick Note from WKOG

December 24, 2018

The Snowman , 1966 [Source]

 

To all our subscribers-

We would like to apologize for the recent email glitch. While making some much needed improvements to the Wrong Kind of Green website, an email was inadvertently sent to our subscribers in the process of making these modifications.

The post was due to implementing some software changes that will allow the website to be a much better viewing experience for our loyal followers. In that vein, we would like to say that although this was a momentary mistake, we will take all necessary precautions to ensure that this will not happen again.

Since its inception, we have worked for WKOG in a voluntary capacity – paying for all expenses out of our own shallow pockets. We have recently set up a Patreon account with a modest goal to obtain 200 loyal supporters (Patrons) who appreciate our efforts. If you are able to spare a few dollars a month – please consider us.

Over the past eight years, we have provided approx. 85 in-depth, researched investigative pieces on the environmental movement and the misguidance provided by the modern NGO movement in addressing the most significant problem facing mankind today. In the coming years, we will strive to continue to furnish much more original content.

We greatly appreciate your understanding and your support. We look forward to providing our readers better and improved content in the near future.

Wrong Kind of Green

“The first duty of a revolutionary is to be educated.” –Che Guevara

 

The Role of Salvation Army in Shameful Forced Post-Second World War Adoptions

December 23, 2018



The Salvation Army remains active in the adoption industry today. Photo: Salvation Army

 

July 19, 2018: “‘Shameful period in Canada’s history’: Report released on forced post-Second World War adoptions”

Excerpt:

“On Thursday, the committee released a report titled “The Shame Is Ours” detailing Canada’s post-Second World War adoption mandate. It is estimated that more than 350,000 mothers were affected by agency policies and the “common practice” of forcing unwed mothers into maternity homes and coercing them to give up their babies.

 

In a press conference Thursday, committee chair Art Eggleton called it “another Scoop,” referring to the Sixties Scoop in which Indigenous children were separated from their parents. Eggleton said that nearly 600,000 infants were born to unwed mothers and recorded as “illegitimate births” between 1945 and 1971, though the committee does not know the exact number of forced adoptions due to “prevailing secrecy.” Some of the institutions that carried out the policies no longer exist. But the committee heard evidence during hearings that as many as 95 per cent of unwed mothers in maternity homes surrendered their babies to adoption, compared to two per cent today.

“It has led to lasting and life-altering psychological distress for both the mothers and adoptees,” said Eggleton.

 

July, 2018, Canada: “THE SHAME IS OURS: FORCED ADOPTIONS OF THE BABIES OF UNMARRIED MOTHERS IN POST-WAR CANADA”:

“The committee heard from witnesses who have an in-depth knowledge of historical Canadian adoption practices and they affirmed the accounts that members heard from mothers and adoptees. Young, unmarried mothers who found themselves without financial means or the support of family found their way to church-run maternity homes for unwed mothers, after seeking help from family, friends or their churches. Catholic, United, Anglican and Presbyterian churches as well as the Salvation Army, operated such homes. Members were told that in some instances a fee was requested from the young woman or her family to be cared for at the home. In all cases, it appears that the facilities implemented strict schedules for the residents. The women were required to perform assigned chores, attend “classes” that prepared them for domestic tasks, rather than help to further their education, and participate in religious services. However, the strict schedules were not intended as a structured and regimented environment. Rather, the young women were described as being treated more like prisoners. Some homes had bars on the windows and the movement of residents was strictly controlled. They were often not allowed to use their surnames, only first names, and were not permitted to speak to each other about their own circumstances. Committee members were told that these young women were often subjected to shaming and abuse by the nurses, sisters, social workers, matrons and church leaders. They were told they had no value, they were societal outcasts, they had sinned and deserved the treatment they were getting, and that, in fact, they must be psychologically unwell and unfit since they got pregnant in the first place.

Members acknowledge that some work has been done in this regard. The maternity homes for unmarried mothers were run in Canada by several churches, including Catholic, United, Anglican, Presbyterian and the Salvation Army. Members heard that only the United Church of Canada has studied its role in the forced adoptions of post-war Canada. Among the witnesses who appeared during the committee’s study, the United Church was the only religious organization willing to attend….

The committee was told that while other churches have listened to the concerns of individuals and organizations about the forced adoption practices, they have not reacted with apologies or concrete actions. In this respect the committee acknowledges the written submission from the Salvation Army which describes the services offered by the organization and the adoption policies in Ontario from 1940 to 1980. In describing its role and response to the forced adoptions in post-war Canada, the organization stated that it “regrets the prejudices and harsh attitudes” of the time and that it “never supported the deliberate breaking of… the bond between a mother and a child”.”

Report:

THE SHAME IS OURS FORCED ADOPTIONS OF THE BABIES OF UNMARRIED MOTHERS IN POST-WAR CANADA

Britain: June 10, 2018: Sixty years after half a million British babies were forcibly removed, calls for decades of pain to be recognised

“More than half a million children were given up for adoption at a time when “unmarried mothers” were often rejected by their families and ostracised by society. Adoptions were generally handled through agencies run by the Church of England, the Roman Catholic church and the Salvation Army.”

Article:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jun/10/mps-demand-apology-for-unmarried-mothers-forced-to-give-up-children

Sydney, March 1, 2012: Stories from the mothers who had their babies taken away. Here is a selection of women explaining just what it was like for a young Australian girl or woman in the 1950s-mid 1970s facing pregnancy as an unwed mother.”

“About 150,000 babies were put up for adoption in Australia during 1951-1975, the large majority from single, unwed girls and women. The practice of “forced adoptions”  involving coercion and institutional policies that encouraged babies to be taken away from their mothers, has been the focus for a Senate committee for the past 18 months. Yesterday the Community Affairs committee tabled it’s final report, Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices, to the Senate yesterday.”

 

https://www.crikey.com.au/2012/03/01/forced-adoption-stories-from-the-mothers-who-had-their-babies-taken-away/

Uproar Over Sexy Picture On Magazine From Amnesty International’s Dutch Arm

NPR

December 21, 2018

 

Amnesty International Netherlands published a magazine about refugees (left) and ran a cover photo of a woman wearing a few strategically placed life jackets. A Dutch actress, she fled Syria as a child. After criticism for sexualizing women in the image, the group apologized — and replaced the photo on the online version with a photo of the same woman encircled with barbed wire. Glamoria/Amnesty International Netherlands

 

How do you get people to pay attention to the plight of refugees?

The Amnesty International arm in the Netherlands had an idea. With the help of a Dutch media agency called Tosti Creative, they self-published several hundred copies of a 36-page magazine called Glamoria. It looks like a glossy fashion magazine, with a name that seems to be a spin on the word “glamour.” But Glamoria also references the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. The organization’s goal was to focus on the plight of refugees now living in camps on Greek islands.

On the cover, Dutch actress Jouman Fattal, who fled Syria as a child, is wearing a couple of strategically placed orange life jackets (which refugees use when traveling by boat). She’s wearing makeup and her hair floats above her head. Her midriff is exposed.

The magazine, published on December 12, contains articles about the plight of refugees. About 200 copies of the 36-page magazine were distributed to “relevant organizations, influencers and politicians,” according to Amnesty International Netherlands. In addition there was an online version.

The aid organization got plenty of attention – but not in the way they’d hoped.

Zaid Muhammadwho in his Facebook profile identifies himself as a refugee and is now living in the Netherlands, wrote on Facebook, “I’m not exactly sure why the lady in this photo looks … relaxed? … I also don’t know if you realize that most of the life jackets refugees [use] are just useless … I believed that they will never do the job in case our little lovely small crowded plastic boat drowned.”

Shaista Aziz, the co-founder of the nonprofit group Safe Space, which addresses issues of sexual harassment, abuse and violence, wrote an op-ed on the U.K. blog Media Diversified: “The woman’s only function in this photograph is to look like a passive sexualized object – she exists only to please all those who gaze at her.”

On December 17, Amnesty International Netherlands wrote in a tweet: “We apologise for any offence this may have caused. We never intended to offend anyone and regret that the choice for the cover has been a distraction from our ongoing work to end the dire situation for many trapped on the Greek islands.”

The print editions of the magazine were withdrawn from circulation.

In an email statement to NPR, Amnesty International Netherlands explained that the magazine “attempted to draw attention to the sharp contrast between the luxurious lifestyle portrayed in magazines and the terrible situation of people in the camps.”

On December 19, the main office of Amnesty International also issued an apology: “The magazine, produced by Amnesty International Netherlands, was in extremely poor taste and entirely at odds with our values and objectives as a global human rights movement. It is clear that the magazine trivialized the suffering and trauma refugees have experienced fleeing their homes, particularly women. We realise the images also compounded sexualized gender stereotypes that harm and objectify women, specifically women of colour. We are conscious that the use of life jackets as a prop was particularly hurtful to people who have depended on these for their survival. We are profoundly sorry for this.”

The publication was part of a campaign that pointed people toward a petition, “Don’t Look Away,” calling for the Dutch government to bring 1,000 refugees from the Greek islands to the Netherlands. Over 44,000 people have signed the petition so far.

Assessing the ad and the reaction it sparked, Ludek Stavinoha says, “It was effective at getting attention but perhaps the wrong kind of attention.” Stavinoha is a lecturer in media and international development at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

It is difficult to get the world to focus on refugee issues, says Stavinoha: “They chose this image precisely because they knew a traditional photo of a refugee camp would not get people’s attention.” The use of celebrities and ironic photos to raise interest in a humanitarian issue is a response to the perceived failures of using graphic, realistic photographs that some critics say exploit suffering people.

“On the one hand, Amnesty has sought to break through perceived compassion fatigue by using this provocative image,” he says. “Yet the outcome has been the very opposite.” Stavinoha says the “shock factor” has brought the focus to the image itself rather than the underlying issue.

In addition to withdrawing the magazine and apologizing for the Glamoria cover, Amnesty International Netherlands has replaced the image on the digital publication with another shot of Fattal. In the new cover photo, Fattal has barbed wire wrapped around her face.

 

[Freelance writer Rachel D. Cohen is a former intern for NPR’s Science Desk.]

The Atlantic Council & Latin American Regime Change

Putting Northern interests first, Washington DC think tanks weaken democracy in the South

Brasil Wire

December 28, 2017

 

Founded in 1961, the Atlantic Council (AC) is part of the NATO offshoot Atlantic Treaty Association, described as an umbrella organization which acts as a network facilitator in the Euro-Atlantic and beyond, that claims to draw together “political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats in an effort to further the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty, namely: democracy, freedom, liberty, peace, security, and the rule of law”.

Atlantic Council’s board members include Henry Kissinger, former CIA chiefs Michael Hayden and Mike Morell, and Bush-era head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. Its Digital Forensic Research Lab is led by a former Obama National Security Council advisor, and it is partnering with Facebook to carry out a purge of pages it deems to be “fake news”.

Together with the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA), the Wilson Center and other  organisations (between which there is a revolving door for personnel), the Atlantic Council has been an international platform and promoter for both the controversial anti-corruption operation Lava Jato (Car Wash), which helped paralyse the Brazilian economy, and the 2016 removal of the Rousseff Government from power.

The organisation insists it is independent from both the US Government and NATO, however it receives the majority of its funding, of an undisclosed total, from various NATO member governments.

It was recently in the news for donating a million dollars, provided by the US State Department, to an opposition group in Venezuela, the latest in an estimated USD$45+ million in US funding to pro-opposition groups since 2008.

AC think tank funding

In October 2013, one year ahead of a crucial run of regional elections and after a burst of destabilisation in Brazil, the Atlantic Council launched its new Latin America effort, named the ‘Adrienne Arsht Center’, with a stated aim to “study, educate, and strengthen the trends transforming Latin America into a strong Western partner”.

The center was founded by Peter Schechter, a consultant who also hosts Altamar, a foreign policy podcast. Until June 2017 he was the Atlantic Council’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives as well as founding director of its latest Lat Am-focussed wing.

Born in 1959 in Rome, Schechter was raised in Italy, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In 1993, he co-founded Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, a DC-based consultancy which advises politicians, companies, non-profits, and international organizations. Their clients’ tasks included fighting “regulatory encroachment” on US banks in Latin America, to spinning Hunt Oil’s Camisea project in Peru, which was threatened by protest from indigenous groups.

The bulk of his work, however, was serving as election advisor to conservative and neoliberal candidates across Latin America, including a number of current presidents. Clients included Venezuela opposition leader Henrique Capriles, Alvaro Uribe (his fourth client in Colombia), and 1994-2002 Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

His expertise in the region has made him a regular talking head on Latin American politics. He is a frequent guest analyst for television shows across the region as well as on US-based Spanish language networks Univision and Telemundo, noted for their right-wing bias.

In September 2009, Schechter’s firm signed a contract with the interim Honduran government of Roberto Micheletti to provide public relations services following the June 28, 2009 coup d’état. According to Foreign Agents Registration filings with the US Department of Justice, the firm received over $292,000 to boost the post-coup regime’s image in the US. His work for the Honduran putschists attracted negative publicity for Schechter’s company and sparked indignation both in Honduras and in the US, including letters of condemnation and a protest in front of the firm’s Washington, DC office.

On Brazil, Atlantic Council personnel could be found quoted in the press and on television networks eulogising Operation Lava Jato, normalising the judicial/parliamentary Coup d’état which removed Dilma Rousseff, and also promoting the neoliberal programme of Michel Temer’s post-coup government, such as fiercely resisted cuts to workers rights and a programme of pension reform which would raise retirement age as high as 74 for millions of ordinary Brazilians, which is above life expectancy in some areas of the country.

When these commentators would talk about “anti-corruption” and “poor economy” as the reasons for her impeachment, they would never indicate any relationship between the two. Yet Rousseff’s removal stemmed in part from both the public fervour generated by the partisan anti-corruption operation, and also perversely the economic effects it had created – with some economists estimating that the resulting Lava Jato mandated shutdown of economic sectors in 2015 accounted for half a million unemployed in construction alone, and 2.5% of GDP – turning a mild recession into something Wall Street talking heads in its corporate media could portray as the “worst economic crisis in a century“.

Lava Jato not only had profound effects on Brazil’s economy and democracy, it has also indirectly enabled capture of the country’s strategic resources, and corporations such as Embraer, which is now a target of takeover by US competitor, Boeing, sparking outcry amongst Brazilian developmentalists, nationalists, and the left as a whole.

The roots of the operation can be traced back as far as a 2002 Bush-era initiative, encouraged by infamous Office of Public Diplomacy propagandist, former Venezuelan ambassador, and one time head of Council of the Americas, Otto Reich, which made anti-corruption the principal tool for enabling political and economic outcomes in the region.

Mr. Reich, like Schechter was also hired to propagandise on behalf of Honduras Post-Coup Government. Following the Coup, Reich sent his thoughts to members of Congress by e-mail. “We should rejoice,” he wrote to one member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “that one of the self-proclaimed 21st Century socialist allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen.”

Also in 2009, leaked cables reveal that Lava Jato’s main protagonist, inquisitorial prosecutor/judge Sergio Moro, was already in collaboration with the State Department and Department of Justice on an embryonic strategy which would evolve into Operation Lava Jato. Brazil, a one-time ally of Venezuela, has seen its democracy, economy and sovereignty severely impacted by the operation, which has been deemed “Lawfare” and “War by other means” by observers. The ongoing role of public relations from within or around organisations like Atlantic Council and AS/COA and their relationship with large commercial news organizations warrants maximum scrutiny, and is indicative of whom is directing the real power being wrought in the region.

Using these non-conventional weapons, the so called ‘Pink Tide’ of leftist governments across the continent has been reversed, to the delight of Washington, London and Wall Street. Corruption allegations are affecting the political scene across South America, in Chile, Argentina and Peru, and frontrunner for Brazil’s own 2018 election, former President Lula, faces an appeal on 24th January in what amounts to a kangaroo court, a trial which could shape the country’s future for a generation.

And the impact is not only economic and political but military and strategic. Joining its beachhead in Colombia, which is becoming an official NATO partner, comes the establishment of new US Military presences in ArgentinaParaguayPeru and now Brazil’s Amazon and North East. It is telling that Liliana Ayalde, US Ambassador to Brazil from September 2013, throughout the 2014 election and subsequent Coup d’état, is now serving as civilian deputy commander of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

The Right’s New Clothes – Are the Latin American Youth

A network of Conservative Think-tanks & Foundations from the United States, such as Koch, Cato & Templeton, are financing young Latin Americans to fight Left Governments and defend old positions with a new language

Brasil Wire

June 15, 2015

By Marina Amaral

 

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” – John Kenneth Galbraith.

 

Original version in Portuguese at Agência Pública. English Translation for Brasil Wire by Angela Milanese. Republished under Creative Commons license.


Our body is the first private property we have. It is up to each of us to decide what to do with it,” says a young blonde woman in Spanish with a firm voice while moving gracefully across the stage at the Liberty Forum, which is adorned with the logos of the event’s official sponsors: Tobacco company Souza Cruz, Gerdau Group, Petróleo Ipiranga and the RBS Group (a local Globo TV affiliate).  A sold out crowd at the 2000-seat auditorium of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre (PUC-RS) bursts into laughter and applause for Gloria Álvarez, a 30-year-old Guatemalan daughter of a Cuban father and a mother descended from Hungarian immigrants.

gloria1

Glória Álvarez, a star of the Latin American youth. Photo: Fernando Conrado

Gloria, or @crazyglorita (55,000 followers on Twitter and 120,000 on Facebook) rose to stardom among Latin American rightwing youth at the end of last year, when a video shot at the Ibero-American Youth Parliament held in Zaragoza (Spain), in which she attacks Latin American “populism,” went viral. At the Liberty Forum, the most high profile event promoted by Brazil’s rightwing, Gloria and the former Republican governor of South Carolina, David Bensley, are the only two people – among the 22 Brazilian and foreign speakers – scheduled to deliver keynote speeches at the three-day event, called “Roads to Freedom.”

A radio broadcaster for 10 years, now hosting her own TV show, Gloria is a captivating showoman. She addresses the audience with ease, which is mostly made up of PUC-RS students, one of the best and most expensive universities in southern Brazil. “Who here calls themselves conservative or libertarian, raise their hands,” she asks the audience. When she sees a roomful of raised hands, she relaxes. “Ah, ok,” she replies. Alvarez is the young leader of the National Civic Movement (MCN), a small Guatemalan organization that sprung up in 2009 in the wake of movements that unsuccessfully demanded the impeachment of the social democrat President Álvaro Colom. Her mission, she explains, is to teach her ideological peers how to “charm and seduce people on the left and how to defeat the bearded and beret-cladded Che Guevara crowd.”

The first lesson is to use “#PopulismovsRepública,” a hashtag she created to overcome the “obsolete division between right and left.”

“An intellectually honest leftist must recognize that the only way out is employment and a modern, 21st century rightwinger must recognize that sexuality, morality and drugs are individual problems. He is not the moral authority of the universe,” she continues, amid thunderous applause.

There should be no guilt, neither moral nor social, she teaches. The message is individual freedom, youth “empowerment,” low taxes and a minimal state – the agenda of the neoliberal right (in economic terms) across the world. “Wealth is not transferred, ladies and gentlemen. Wealth is created, starting in each one of your little heads,” she says. In the same vein, Gloria also criticizes social welfare programs for the poor, affirmative action programs for women, blacks, people with disabilities, even the very concept of minorities. “There are no minorities. The smallest minority is the individual and he is best served in a meritocracy.”

“There is a truth that every human being must reach to find peace, if they don’t want to live as a hypocrite. All of us, seven-and-a-half billion human beings inhabiting this planet, are selfish. This is the truth, my dear friends in Brazil. We are all selfish. Is this bad? Is this good? No, it’s just the reality,” she says categorically. “There are people who don’t accept this truth and come up with this wonderful idea: ‘No! [Gloria shouts, imitating a man’s voice] I will build the first unselfish society!’ Be careful, Brazilians, be careful, Latin America! Those wise guys are like Stalin in the Soviet Union, or Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Fidel Castro in Cuba or Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Why do we keep following those hypocrites like sheep?  Because [Gloria grimaces and imitates a frail woman elderly voice] they teach us that it’s wrong to be selfish and that to think of ourselves is a sin. How many of you haven’t heard someone say we need a good man who doesn’t care only for himself,” she says, bending as she speaks, and then standing up to regain her proud upright posture.

“Look, gentlemen, unless it’s a Martian, this man does not exist, never existed and never will exist.”

Frantic applause.

But, she explains, the “champions of freedom” also bear their share of responsibility. They do not know how to communicate their ideas, or how to use technology to “empower citizens” and “liberate” Latin America. If you keep discussing macro-economics, GDP and so on, “we will lose the battle. We need to learn with the populists and talk in a way that people understand, make them identify with what we’re saying,” she explains. “And let me give you another piece of advice. Since they say that us, conservatives are damned exploiters,” she quips ironically. “I’ve found a wonderful way to define the concept of private property, which makes the leftists go like ‘wow!’”

“Private property is what we amass in our lifetime, starting with our first properties: body and mind.” The past, she explains, isn’t the same to everyone, so this amassing is personal. She continues, “This humanizes us, gives us, disgraceful conservatives, a bit of a heart.”  Laughter. Applause.

“There are people who want the right to health care, education, work, housing. The UN even wants to establish a human right to internet access,” she scoffs disdainfully, even though she had just declared that technology is the key to changing the world. “Imagine that, in this auditorium, some of you want the right to education, others the right to health care, and others want the right to housing. So if I give you education, everyone here will pay for it, and you will be VIPs, while they will be second-class citizens. If I give them health care, everyone in this auditorium will pay for their health, and they will be VIPs. If I give them houses, I will take from you to provide houses for them, and they will be the VIPs. This isn’t social justice, this is inequality before the law,” she concludes, again amid laughter and applause.

“If everyone in Latin America is entitled to life, liberty and private property, then everyone goes after education, health care and the house they want, without the need of a super-Chávez, super-Morales and super-Correa.” Ovation. Whistles. Before closing her 40-minute speech, Gloria invites the public to challenge the “victimization of Latin-Americans” and “blaming the Yankees” worldview, which undermines self-esteem and the courage to take risks, required by the entrepreneurial spirit. The audience gives her a standing ovation.

Neoliberals and Libertarians

Gloria Álvarez does not really represent anything new. The main difference is the language she uses. The MCN movement receives “funding from some of the largest companies in the traditional business elite,” according to investigative journalist Martín Rodríguez Pellecer, who is the director of the Guatemalan online media site Nómada (an Agência Pública partner). “I came to know, from sources close to them, that one of the companies that support their public campaigns and congress lobbying is Azúcar de Guatemala, an extremely powerful cartel of 13 companies. (Guatemala is the world’s fourth largest sugar exporter). Guatemalan companies, by the way, have investments in Brazilian plants.”

The same can be said about her ideas. Despite their seductive title, libertarians are “a minority segment among the schools of thought that gained influence in the post-war era, in opposition to the Keynesian-inspired interventionist policies,” explains the economist Luiz Carlos Prado, from the Rio de Janeiro Federal University.

After the 1970s oil crisis, pro-market economists such as Friedrich Hayek (Nobel Prize 1974), monetarists from the Chicago school of economics led by Milton Friedman (Nobel Prize 1976) and neoclassicists associated with Robert Lucas, Jr. (Nobel Prize 1995) came to dominate global economic thought, and became known to the public under the single label “neoliberal.” Their concepts were brought to Latin America by the most conservative sectors of American society, represented mainly by think thanks with ties to Ronald Reagan. After losing Republican primaries in 1968 and 1976, Reagan was finally elected president in 1980, with Friedman as a major adviser. The same ideas also dominated the government of Margaret Thatcher (1979-1991) in the United Kingdom.

“The supporters of classical liberalism also supported political freedom, but this school of economic thought called ‘neoliberalism’ advocates non-intervention of the state in the economy, without demonstrating a particular concern for political freedom. In some cases, and without any shame, they allied themselves with dictatorships, such as the military regime of Pinochet in Chile,” says Prado.

Gloria Álvarez’s Guatemala is a good example of how libertarian ideas came to fruition in Latin America. In 1971, “a significant part of the Guatemalan economic elite embraced neoliberalism and adopted it as its political project. That was when they founded the Francisco Marroquin University (UFM),” explains Rodríguez.

“The University was founded by Manuel Ayau, known as El Muso, in allusion to Mussolini. Ayau adopted the fascist, anti-communist platform of the National Liberation Movement [MLN, a Guatemalan political party]. Since then, the UFM has been preparing political and academic cadres trained to discredit the very concepts of government and social justice.”

As a result, Guatemala was transformed into the Latin American country that collects the least in taxes (11% to GDP) and the one that least redistributes them,” he says.

Álvarez studied at UFM and “became a libertarian, but she is a little less conservative than her professors, who are a mix of neoliberalism and Opus Dei [a conservative religious institution]. She declares herself to be an atheist and a supporter of abortion rights. Although she has become a star on the Latin American right, she is a minor figure on the Guatemalan right. She has no political base and is not a political candidate for elected office. I see her more as a libertarian enfant terrible,” concludes Rodríguez.

Libertarians resurfaced with full force in the United States after the 2008 financial crisis (and the subsequent clamor for market regulation) and as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama.

Libertarians preach the supremacy of the individual over the state, absolute market freedom and the unfettered defence of private property. Libertarians claim that the economic crisis, which threw 50 million people into poverty, was not caused by the lack of financial market regulation, but rather by government protectionist policies towards certain sectors of the economy. They also emphatically reject the social policies promoted by the Obama administration. However, a significant portion of libertarians distance themselves from traditional rightwing positions on social issues. In the name of individual freedom, they defend positions usually associated with the left, such as the legalization of drugs and a more tolerant approach towards homosexuals. GOP Senator Rand Paul, a presidential hopeful, is one of the best known faces of the libertarian movement.

“Libertarians that are Tea Party supporters (a radical rightwing faction of the Republican Party) are also associated with think thanks such as the Cato Institute. They make up the post-modern right, represented, for example, by David Cameron in the UK, who modernized the ‘rolling back’ of the welfare state agenda,” says Prado.

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“Who is John Galt?”, “Less Marx More Mises”. Photo: Instituto Liberal do Nordeste

Prado looks amused when I mention Brazilian libertarians, followers of the Austrian school of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. “The Austrian school is a very minor strain, even in academia,” he declares. “Who are those libertarians? In Brazil, we have sophisticated economists who follow schools of economic thought, such as the neoclassical school of Nobel Prize winner Robert Lucas and other similar approaches. Rightwing politicians lacking depth, such as Ronaldo Caiado [a senator from the centre-western state of Goiás, affiliated with the Democratic Party (DEM)], and a conservative middle class that reads [popular rightwing columnist] Rodrigo Constantino of Veja magazine,” he concludes.

Caiado1

Senator Ronaldo Caiado. Photo: Fernando Conrado

Caiado and Constantino are veteran participants of the Liberty Forum in Porto Alegre. The novelty is that the Tea Party’s libertarians are at last able to present themselves, to Brazilian youth, as an attractive new face for the right.

Come to the Street, Citizen

pressconf

On April 12, the eve of the Forum, Gloria Álvarez made a speech at the second round of nationwide demonstrations against President Dilma Rousseff. Dressed in a sequin shirt featuring the design of the Brazilian flag, in front of about 100,000 people at Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, Álvarez railed against “cursed populism.”  (see video of Gloria’s speech here).  From atop a truck, the leader of the Come to the Street movement (VPR), Rogério Chequer, introduced Álvarez as “one of the greatest representatives of the battle against the populism of the São Paulo Forum.” [The Sao Paulo Forum (Foro de São Paulo) is an annual conference of leftist political parties, social movements and organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean.]

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Among those who led the anti-government protests in March and April, Chequer’s movement was one of the last to take up the cause of impeachment. That delay earned him a public rebuke from the elderly Olavo de Carvalho, a polemical rightwing pundit, who accused him of “toucan wimpiness.” Toucan is the symbol of Brazil’s main opposition party, the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB).

The Free Brazil Movement (MBL), mostly known through the figure of its leader, Kim Kataguiri, which adopted the cause of impeachment from the get-go, broke up with Chequer publicly, publishing pictures of him standing next to PSDB Senator José Serra at the Aécio Neves presidential campaign. PSDB Senator Neves was dubbed a “traitor” for his hesitation in demanding the impeachment of the elected president. They reconciled after a delegation led by Neves and Caiado made a controversial visit to Caracas, Venezuela.

Incidentally, Caiado participated in the opening night of the Liberty Forum. Lacking Glorita’s irreverent grace, the conservative rural senator drew applause from the audience with sound bites against government corruption and references to the São Paulo Forum (video). Caiado also demanded the resignation of President Dilma Rousseff and attacked the Brazilian State Development Bank (BNDES).

Interestingly, his accusations were made under logos of the Gerdau Group and Ipiranga Petróleo (from the Ultra group), which are two of the largest borrowers of BNDES loans, according to data collected by one of Brazil’s largest newspapers, Folha de São Paulo. Between 2008 and 2010, both companies individually obtained more than R$1 billion worth of bank loans.

The southern entrepreneur Jorge Gerdau is one of the creators of the Liberty Forum, established in 1988 with the aim of promoting a debate between various schools of thought. The most important conservative gathering in the country, it nevertheless included, in its first incarnations, guest speakers such as former President Lula of the Workers Party (PT), former Minister José Dirceu, a minister in the Lula administration, and the late Rio de Janeiro state governor and leftist Leonel Brizola.

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It was there that, in 2006, the most prominent rightwing think tank in Brazil – the Millennium Institute – was officially launched. Armínio Fraga (who would have been finance minister if Aécio Neves had been elected) is its best-known figure in the field of economics. Its backers are the Gerdau Group, publishing company Editora Abril   and Pottencial Insurance, which belongs to Salim Mattar, who also owns Localiza Rent a Car.  Suzano Papel e Celulose [paper and cellulose], Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and the Évora group (from the Ling brothers) are also supporters. In 1984, William Ling helped create the Institute of Business Studies (IEE). Comprised of young business leaders, the IEE organized the Forum from the start. His brother Winston Ling founded the Liberty Institute in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, while William Ling’s son Anthony Ling has ties to the group Students for Liberty [Estudantes Pela Liberdade (EPL)], which created the Free Brazil Movement. Hélio Beltrão of the Ultra Group is one of the founders of the Millennium Institute, though he has his own institute as well, the Mises Brazil.

Brazil’s network of neoliberal and libertarian think tanks includes two more entities: The Open Order Institute, which holds youth seminars; and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Ethics and Human Economics (CIEEP) in Rio de Janeiro, linked to Opus Dei. The jurist Ives Gandra, who wrote a controversial opinion piece stating that there is legal basis for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, is a member of its board of advisers.

Like the Millennium Institute, the majority of these organizations have been created recently. The original seed was the Liberal Institute, established in 1983 by Donald Stewart Jr., a civil engineer from Rio de Janeiro, who passed away in 1999. According to “The dictatorship of contractors: (1964-1985),” a doctoral thesis written by the historian Pedro Henrique Pedreira Campos, from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), Donald Stewart Jr.’s  company, Ecisa (Engineering, Commerce and Industry S.A.), was one of Brazil’s largest construction firms during the military dictatorship. Stewart partnered with Leo A. Daly Company, a US construction business, to build schools in the northeast region of the country, funded by a regional government development agency, known as SUDENE. The participation of an American company in the project was a requirement to get financing from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which operated as a front for the CIA during the cold war era of Latin American dictatorships.

Donald Stewart was also an old friend of a crucial character in this story, Alejandro Chafuen, a 61-year-old Argentinian living in the US. Stewart and Chafuen are members of the exclusive Mont Pelèrin Society, founded by no other than the Guatemalan Hayek. Launched in 1947 in Switzerland, with headquarters in the US, the organization comprises the most committed libertarians. El Muso, the founder of Gloria Álvarez’s alma mater, the Francisco Marroquín University, was the first Latin American to chair the Mont Pelèrin Society, while the University’s current rector, Gabriel Calzada, is a board member, along with the Brazilian Margaret Tsé, the CEO of the Liberty Institute, which is the ideological backer of the Institute of Business Studies.

Meanwhile, the president of the Mont Pelèrin Society, the Spaniard Pedro Schwartz Girón, also actively fosters think tanks associated with the Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies (FAES), a foundation with ties to the Spanish Partido Popular (PP).

FAES, which is chaired by former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, promoted the Ibero-American Youth Parliament, the event that catapulted Álvarez into fame. Pedro Schwartz, Alejandro Chafuen and the Colombian Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, who co-authored the book “The Perfect Latin American Idiot, ” a hit with rightwing youth, attended the Latin America’ panel at the Liberty Forum. Chafuen also took part, discreetly, in the April 12 protests in Porto Alegre. He posted a photograph of the demonstration on his Facebook page. The photo shows Chafuen, dressed in the Brazilian national team shirt, hugging the young Brazilian political scientist Fábio Ostermann. Ostermann is the coordinator of the Free Brazil Moment, which is how the Students for Liberty (EPL) decided to call their anti-government movement.

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Alejandro Chafuen & Fábio Ostermann

The southerners Fábio Ostermann and Anthony Ling, and the southeasterner Juliano Torres are the founders of the local chapter of Students for Liberty, an organization that plays a crucial role in the network between American conservative think tanks – especially those that define themselves as libertarians – and “anti-populist’’ Latin American youth. Mr. Chafuen, who leads the Atlas Network since 1991, is their mentor.

The Atlas Network (the trade name for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, adopted in 2013) is a type of meta think tank that specializes in promoting the establishment of libertarian organizations throughout the world. It receives funds from its partner libertarian foundations in the US, or from local entrepreneurial think tanks that are geared toward the fostering of young leaders, especially in Latin American and Eastern Europe. According to its Form 990, which all non-profit entities must file with the IRS, Atlas Network’s revenue in 2013 totalled $ 11,459,000. Resources allocated to programs outside the US were US$6.1 million, of which US$2.8 million were directed to Central America and US$595,000 to South America.

With the exception of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso Institute, all the organizations mentioned in this article are part of the Atlas Network in Brazil, along with Gloria Álvarez’s MCN, the Francisco Marroquin University and Students for Liberty (which was founded inside the Atlas Network in 2012). Furthermore, in addition to the aforementioned resources, there are much more sizeable programs operated by the Atlas Network, which are funded by other foundations.

The discreet charm of Mr. Chafuen

Sitting in the VIP room of the Liberty Forum, Mr. Chafuen rose to his feet to greet Kim Kataguiri, who made a surprise visit. The undisguised glee from this demure gentleman, a libertarian with ties to Opus Dei, was my cue to ask for an interview. The main parts are transcribed below.

Q: How did you get close to Brazil?

A: I started to work with my Brazilian friends of liberty in 1998 with Donald Stewart, and I always remember how lonely he felt in his quest for freedom. To arrive in Porto Alegre on the same day of the protest and see all these people, not all libertarians, but people from different social strata of Brazilian society, arguing things that are very consistent with the essence of a free society, it reminded me of these pioneers. Because, yes, there were so many people on the street, so many souls, it left me pleasantly surprised and wondering what will happen next, and how can we harness the enthusiasm of so many young people to produce lasting change in Brazil.”

Q: What kind of changes?

A: Coming from the outside, it’s difficult to say, it’s unique to each country. Look at Spain today, in which political parties lost ground to new movements, such as Podemos from the left, or their opposite in Catalonia, the Ciudadanos. In the United States, for instance, we have the Tea Party, a spontaneous movement that instead of founding a new party, opted to become a trend within a party, and now all but one of the major Republican presidential candidates identify themselves with the Tea Party and seek its support. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, they all come from the Tea Party and are pretty much opposed to the traditional republicans. So this is not an answer that a foreigner can give, especially in Brazil, which is a world unto itself, with so many diverse cultures. We can offer some ideas, but it’s up to them, the ones I saw on the streets, the young and the not so young, to attract more members of civil society, and to institutionalize all this.”

I mention to him that, at the Forum, people speak a lot about freedom – without basis in reality – and that they actually compare Brazil to Venezuela.

A: Yes, the situation here is very different from Venezuela, but you must be vigilant. Freedom isn’t lost just like that, from one day to another. Venezuela was one of the most prosperous countries and look what happened. Populism in Latin American weakens institutions. They let entrepreneurs feel free to invest for some time, allow freedom of expression, and then sooner or later they change the rules of the game. Chávez’s first nationalizations and expropriations happened years after he took power. Yes, you have considerable freedom here. But there are some things that pervert freedom, which is the non-compliance with laws, privilege, corruption, and crony capitalism. It’s a false freedom. It’s like putting a fox in the chicken coop and telling them, ‘you are free now.’ Then the problems start [bribery allegations], business owners are required to enter the game, and they end up taking the blame. It takes two to dance a tango, as they say in Argentina.

Q: Are the guys from the Free Brazil Movement strong enough to promote social change?

A: I developed a model to explain how things happen, which has four elements: first – ideas, since human beings think before acting, or at least we should; second – motivation, because economy is motivation; third – action, because ideas without action are just ideas; the fourth is providence or, depending on what your beliefs are, luck. So you get to work with ideas, some leaders emerge, laws change, and that affects society’s motivation…a typical change doesn’t happen overnight. This pressure builds up and suddenly something happens. And then there is a scandal, another scandal, a magazine with courage, some young men from São Paulo decide, “I’ll leave college and fight against it.” [Kim Kataguiri and Renan Haas, from the MBL, recently announced the decision to leave college to devote themselves to the movement.]  And then the movement is out there in the streets. It’s a combination of factors that we have seen at other times in history.

Mr. William Waack [a Globo TV journalist], who got an award here, said to us at a luncheon, before the opening of the Forum, that the only movement he covered that was like this was the fall of the Berlin Wall. He exaggerated a bit, but we don’t know yet what will happen with this movement.

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Globo TV Journalist William Waack receiving award

Q: After the first anti-government protest in March of this year, the Atlas Network published a piece on its site celebrating the crucial role of its partner, Students for Liberty, in the protests against President Dilma Rousseff and the Workers Party in Brazil. Do you feel responsible for this movement?

A: Our role [in regard to Students for Liberty] is the power of nurturing. These human beings, we call them intellectual entrepreneurs, people with new ideas who see solutions and decide to invest their capital in them. It’s like in business. So we offer them training programs, try to support them financially, encourage them to be committed, to not be too much of a partygoer. But Atlas does not support political parties. We withdraw our support if there is any partisan interest. We don’t accept resources from the government but we can offer some guidelines, new ideas about a free society, from classical liberalism to libertarianism, from religious to atheists, but it’s up to each person to choose. Many of us in our organization have a very negative view about the top-down approach. So we try to encourage people, help them meet each other. Now, for example, all over the world, people might be asking, ‘can we emulate the Brazilians?’ So we celebrate, but we’re careful not to take credit for the results, for what happens locally.

Q: In Venezuela, an Atlas partner organization, the CEDICE Libertad, and the Cato Institute, which funds Atlas programs for students, allied with local businessmen. They were accused by the Chávez government of fomenting opposition among students.  

A: I am vice president of CEDICE, and this is not true. Every so often, some CEDICE members might have engaged in some political activity. But one thing is political life, the polis; another is to work exclusively with one political party. We have worked with-and received at CEDICE-Leopoldo López [who is in jail] and his party, the Internacional Socialista; María Corina Machado [a former congresswoman] and Antonio Ledezma [the mayor of Caracas, arrested in March amid accusations that he was involved in a coup plot]. The answer is that we cannot give up the fight for freedom and some people get into politics. But the Atlas Network doesn’t get involved in local politics. The battle is not between left and right but between right and wrong. And now if you excuse me, I have to go and get ready for my speech.

Q: One last question, please, to dispel rumours. The ties between the Koch foundation and Students for Liberty, through direct funding as well as funding from other foundations associated with the Koch brothers have aroused suspicions, since the Kochs own oil industries that could have interests in this country.

A: The Atlas Network receives 0.5% in funding from the Kochs. The Students for Liberty, I don’t know. Goodbye.

Students for Liberty and the Free Brazil Movement

The executive director of Students for Liberty (EPL), Juliano Torres, was more forthcoming about the link between the EPL and the Free Brazil Movement, a brand name created by the EPL to participate in street demonstrations without compromising US organizations that are prevented, by IRS rules, from donating funds to political activists. He told me in a phone interview that “several members of the EPL wanted to participate in the 2013 ‘Free Pass’ protests in Brazil but we receive funding from organizations such as the Atlas Networks and Students for Liberty, which are forbidden by IRS rules to get involved in political activities. So we said, ‘members of the EPL can participate as individuals, but not as an organization, to avoid problems.’ So we decided to create a brand name. It wasn’t an organization, just a brand that we could use in the streets, called the Free Brazil Movement. Me, Fábio [Ostermann] and Felipe França, who are from Recife and São Paulo, plus four, five people – we created the logo and the Facebook campaign. Then the demonstrations ended and so did the project. So we were looking for someone to take over; we had more than 10,000 likes on our Facebook page, pamphlets. Then we found Kim [Kataguiri] and Renan [Haas], who made this incredible shift in the movement, with the marches against Dilma and things like that. Incidentally, Kim is a member of the EPL, so he was also trained by the EPL. Many of the local organizers are members of the EPL. They act as members of the Free Brazil Movement, but they were trained by us, through leadership courses. Kim, by the way, will participate in a charity poker tournament that Students for Liberty will organize in New York to raise funds. He’ll be a speaker. He’ll also be a speaker at the international conference in February.”

Torres, who is paid by the EPL, tells me that he has two online meetings per week with American headquarters and that he and other Brazilians take part every year in an international conference, with expenses paid, and in a leadership meeting in Washington. The budget of the Students for Liberty for this year in Brazil should reach R$300,000.

“In the first year, we had approximately R$8,000. In the second year we had about R$20,000, and from 2014 to 2015 it grew considerably. We receive funding from other external organizations too, such as the Atlas Network. The Atlas, along with Students for Liberty, are our main donors. In Brazil, one of our major donors is the Friederich Naumann Institute, which is a German organization. They are not allowed to give money but they pay for our expenses. So there were meetings in the south, in Porto Alegre, and in the southeast, in Belo Horizonte. They rented the hotel, paid for the meeting room, lunch and dinner. There are also some individual donors who make donations to us.”

The launching of the EPL in Brazil took place after Torres participated in a 2012 summer workshop for thirty students in Petropolis, sponsored by the Atlas Network. “Right there, we made a draft, a plan, and then we contacted Students for Liberty to officially join the network,” he says.

After that, Torres went through several training programs at Atlas. “There is one they call MBA, there is a program in New York, and also online training. We recommend to all people who work in positions of a certain responsibility to also go through the Atlas Network training programs.”

The US headquarters was impressed by the results obtained by Brazilians. “In 2004 and 2005, there were about 10 people in Brazil who identify themselves with the libertarian movement. Today, the results we have, within the global network of Students for Liberty, are very good. One way to measure the performance of a region is to look at the number of local coordinators. We have more coordinators than any region, including North America, Africa and Europe, individually. The organization has existed, in the United States, for eight years; in Europe, for four years; here, for three years. So we are getting better results in less time, which provides us with a greater influence in the organization.”

There are two Brazilians (out of ten members) at the International Board of Students for Liberty. This year’s report devotes a page to the protests from the MBL in Brazil. A Brazilian, Elisa Martins, who has a degree in economics from the Santa Maria University, is responsible for international scholarships and young leadership training programs at the Atlas Network.

The programs are carried out in partnership with other foundations, especially the Cato Institute, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Institute of Human Studies, all organizations linked with the Koch family, one of the richest in the world. In the last two decades, the 11 foundations tied with the Kochs poured US$800 million into the American network of conservative foundations. Another important partner is the John Templeton Foundation, another American billionaire. With considerably larger budgets than the Atlas Network, these organizations develop fellowship programs, funded by them and executed by Atlas. An example of these projects is the expansion of the Students for Liberty Network, financed by the John Templeton Foundation, which closed 2014 with over $ 1 million budget.

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Thus, even though it appears in third place among the backers of Students for Liberty, the Atlas Network, through its partner, raises a considerably larger volume of funds. All major donors of Students for Liberty are also Atlas donors. It is not always possible to know the origin of the money, despite the legal obligation to fill the IRS 990 form. American conservative organizations distribute money through several different channels, making it impossible to know the original source of the money that reaches each the recipient.

Rightwing foundations have been under scrutiny by the media and groups such as Conservative Transparency.

These investigations have exposed questionable use of resources for lobbying in Congress and state governments, and financing controversial causes such as opposition to climate change legislation. In response, in 1999 the foundations created two philanthropic investment funds, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Management. These investment funds do not require donors to disclose their names in the IRS 990 forms. Thus, the Donors Trust is the largest backer of Donors Capital Management (and vice versa). The Koch foundations are the main suspect of pouring money into these funds.

The 2014-2015 Students for Liberty report shows an impressive amount of fundraising: US$3.1 million, compared with only US$35,768 raised when the organization was launched in 2008. US$1.7 million came from foundations, according to the report, which does not detail the amount donated by each institution.

The Charles Koch Institute is listed but according to the report, it provides grants to American students only, while the Charles Koch Foundation, which distributes grants to students through a number of foundations, is not mentioned in the report.

Another Koch family foundation, the Institute of Human Studies (IHS), is a major contributor to student fellowship programs. Only in 2012, it distributed US$900,000 in grants, according to a form submitted to the IRS.

The Atlas Network is one of the IHS’ major partners. The MBL coordinator, Fabio Ostermann, for example, mentions in his résumé that he was a Koch Summer Fellow at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.  Ostermann is an aid of Representative Marcel van Hattem, a politician from Rio Grande do Sul, affiliated with the Progressive Party (PP) and pointed out by Kim Kataguiri as the only Brazilian politician who fully embraces the MBL’s ideas. The young representative was elected with the financial backing of the Gerdau and Évora groups, the latter belonging to the father of Anthony Ling, who is a founder of the EPL. Van Hattem also took courses at the Acton Institute University, the most religious of the organizations that are part of the Atlas and Koch Foundation fellowship network.

Acton lists combatting “sin” as one of its core principles, stating that the ubiquity of sin requires the limitation of the state.

Maté Party

The Liberty Forum ended in the same way the street demonstrations that preceded it did, with a chanting of “Dilma out,” “PT out.” [PT -Partido dos Trabalhadores, or Workers Party].

Representative van Hattem in a passionate speech, thanked the Forum for his election.

“If I am a representative today, I also owe it to the Liberty Forum,” he said. He then made an interesting distinction between the 2013 demonstrations, which were spontaneous, disorganized and comprised multiple parties; and the 2015 protests, in which “we have an agenda.”

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The program was modified to include Kim Kataguiri, who was not initially listed as a speaker. Kataguiri was embraced by sponsors such as Jorge Gerdau and Hélio Beltrão, posed for pictures with several fans, as well as his friend Bene Barbosa, who was promoting a book defending the freedom to bear arms. He then went to the auditorium, once again full of students.

Sitting on the couch, Kataguiri waited for van Hattem to list the usual litany of accusations against the São Paulo Forum, the totalitarian power of the Workers Party and “the biggest corruption scandal of the universe.”  Every soundbite and rhetorical red meat was greeted with rousing applause. Van Hattem stirred up the audience, displaying the bond he had established with them, telling them “the avant-garde today isn’t leftist, it’s libertarian.  Well-informed youth go to the streets and ask for less Marx and more Mises. They like Hayek not Lenin. They carry signs with the hashtag #Olavoisright,” [referring to the aforementioned rightwing pundit Olavo de Carvalho].

Van Hattem then left the podium and, walking across the stage, walked towards Kataguiri. “The next step is up to you, but it’s hard. The Brazilian system is averse to new ideas. Today, Kim, the communist congressman Juliano Roso called you a fascist,” he said. And finally, “I just want to conclude by saying that the streets are saying: ‘PT out!’” Applause, screams. The crowd sung in chorus, “‘Ole, ole, ole, ole, we are on the street just to overthrow the PT’.”

It was the cue for Kataguiri’s entrance. Wearing sneakers and walking around the stage, Kataguiri urged the “neoliberal institutions” to get out of “our neoliberal bubble, our libertarian bubble, our conservative bubble and take the country,” and asserted, “It is time for us to break the monopoly of the leftist youth. We have to change this image of the defender of the free market as an old uncle wearing boots who supports the military regime. We are the opposition. We want to privatize Petrobras. We want a minimal state. Brasília will not dictate the people; the people will dictate Brasília.”

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Kim Kataguiri, public figurehead of MBL

Three days after the Forum, Kim Kataguiri left for his March for Freedom toward Brasília, attracting a meager turnout of people, while Gloria Álvarez embarked on a tour that took her from Argentina to Venezuela, effusively reported on her social network. In Argentina, she visited Buenos Aires and Azul, after an invitation by the Argentina Rural Society. Her speeches at the National University in Tucumán were organized by the Federalism and Liberty Foundation, which includes on its international board, the Atlas Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the CEDICE Libertad, and the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy.

These organizations are all part of the Atlas Network, as are the other organizations that organized Álvarez’s trip –  Students for Liberty (Bolivia and Ecuador), the CEDICE (Venezuela), and the Foundation for Progress (Chile).

The most interesting thing about Álvarez’s trip, however, was not mentioned on her social network, or even in Chilean newspapers. On April 23, she and dissident Cuban blogger Yaoni Sánchez met with the conservative former President Sebastián Piñera after they delivered speeches at the Adolfo Ibañez University in Viña del Mar.

The meeting with the ex-president was reported on twitter by a former minister of the Piñera administration, the economist Cristián Larroulet. He posted a photo – the only photo in which Álvarez and Sánchez appear together – with the caption, “President Piñera with Yoani Sánchez and Gloria Álvarez, two examples of Latin American women fighting for freedom.” Larroulet is the founder of the think tank Liberty and Development, a natural partner of the Atlas Network.

Ioni

 

Toxic Philanthropy – The Spirit of Giving While Taking

Institute for New Economic Thinking

December 10, 2018


America’s new “philanthrocapitalists” are enabling social problems rather than solving them

 

Anew breed of wealthy do-gooders armed with apps and PowerPoints claim they want to change the world. But with their market-oriented values and often-shortsighted prescriptions, are really they going to change it for the better?

Or change it at all?

Anand Giridharadas, who has traveled first-class in the rarefied realm of 21st-century “philanthrocapitalists,” harbors serious doubts. In his acclaimed book, “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” the business reporter and former McKinsey consultant exposes the willful blindness of bright-eyed social entrepreneurs and TED-talking executives who, having drunk their own late-stage capitalist Kool-Aid, are now ready to serve us all. Compliments of the house.

Doing Good, Masking Bad

British novelist Anthony Trollope once observed, “I have sometimes thought that there is no being so venomous, so bloodthirsty as a professed philanthropist.”

Legendary short seller Jim Chanos, who teaches business students to spot fraud, understands why: when he scrutinizes a company for signs of shady activity, one of the things he looks for is an uptick in philanthropy— a strategy business ethics professor Marianne Jennings has named as one of the “seven signs of ethical collapse” in organizations. Chanos refers to the ruse as “doing good to mask doing bad.”

Such cynical public relations gambits are familiar enough to New Yorkers using Citi Bike, the public-private bike share system funded by Citigroup, whose misdeeds helped spark the global financial crisis of 2007-8. Or visitors to the Sackler Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, named for the family whose members own Purdue, the pharmaceutical company that fueled America’s opioid crisis through deceptive marketing of the addictive painkiller OxyContin.

But another sort of deep-pocketed philanthropist is harder to pin down. The harm she causes seems less direct; her motives more lofty. This type is fond of touting “win-win” solutions to social problems and tossing out terms like “impactful” and “scalable” and “paradigm-shifting” —the kind of lingo fed to business school students in lieu of critical thinking. Members of this group nevertheless refer to themselves as “thought leaders.”

These would-be benefactors of humanity tend to like former president Bill Clinton, whose Clinton Global Initiative became the ultimate road show for eager converts to what Giridharadas calls the faith of “win-winnerism,” i.e. “I’m doing great in this racket, and so can you.” Inhabiting Silicon Valley start-ups, venture capital firms, think tanks, and consulting companies in large metropolitan areas, philanthrocapitalists speak reverently of global poverty, but rarely touch down in places like Appalachia or rural Mississippi.

They are people like John Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods Market, whose book “Conscious Capitalism” is the bible for those aspiring to the win-win faith. In his formulation, CEOs are not simply the heads of companies, but transcendent beings that find “great joy and beauty in their work, and in the opportunity to serve, lead, and help shape a better future.” Mackey’s philosophy is one in which the beneficiaries of commerce should dedicate themselves to social improvement because they are obviously the best equipped to do the job. The public is meant to humbly follow.

This last bit, as Giridharadas shrewdly points out, may be far more radical than the old trickle-down philosophy of yesterday’s winners, who lobbied the government to get out of their way so that the bounteous by-products of their cutthroat activities could descend unimpeded to the poor. The new winners want something even more audacious: to replace the role of government as guardian of the common good.

Giridharadas presents searching conversations with well-educated, often well-meaning people floating above and apart from the lives of ordinary Americans, wishing to ease their consciences but failing both to clearly see the problems of society and to notice, for more than a nagging moment, the ways in which their own lives are financed by the fruits of injustice. They end up embracing a warm-and-fuzzy vision of changing the world that leaves brutal underlying structures securely in place.

The author has said what few who have traveled in this world have said plainly, lest their passport be revoked: the efforts of philanthrocapitalists are largely disruptive, rather than beneficial, to public life.

You can see it in the kind of ideas they embrace. Lecture slots at Davos don’t get doled out for discussing the need to expand popular, time-tested programs like Social Security and Medicare that are proven to reduce poverty and economic inequality. Such sensible fare is not nearly “innovative” or exotic enough—and besides, it might require the wealthy to pay additional taxes. Better are schemes like universal basic income that tend to favor elite interests (such as continuing to pay workers inadequate wages) or creating technological solutions like the one offered in the book by a young win-winnerist: an app that charges workers to manage the unpredictable cash flow caused by erratic work schedules.

And what of campaigning to outlaw the exploitative business practice that causes the problem in the first place? Notsomuch.

Talking about victims plays well on the philanthrocapitalist circuit, but pointing out perpetrators is largely forbidden. You can wow the crowd by peddling for-profit schemes to help the poor, but you won’t get the same applause by calling to jail criminal executives. Yet, as Giridharadas makes clear, even the fanciest app will not erase the feeling among ordinary people that the system has been captured by a small group of the rich and powerful—a feeling that drives them away in disgust from establishment politics and makes them very angry indeed.

What the philanthrocapitalist has a hard time admitting is that meaningful structural change involves a lot more than an app and a PowerPoint. It means taking on financialized corporations that engage in stock market manipulation to enrich shareholders rather than investing in workers and products that are actually useful to human beings. It requires fixing a regressive tax system in which the wealthy pay less on their investments than working people pay on their earned income. It means empowering workers and taking on the coercive hierarchies of wealth and power that are locking into place a dual economy where the affluent become so removed from the struggles of the majority that they hardly speak the same language.

Antidemocratic and unaccountable, the new philanthropists emerge in Giridharadas’s cautionary book less as the solvers of social problems than the deluded enablers. The emperor may stand there in his organic underpants waving a pie chart, but in the court of public opinion, it is increasingly obvious that he’s not in the least interested in dismantling his own palace.

 

[Lynn Parramore is Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. A cultural theorist who studies the intersection of culture and economics, she is Contributing Editor at AlterNet, where she received the Bill Moyers/Schumann Foundation fellowship in journalism for 2012. She is also a frequent contributor to Reuters, Al Jazeera, Salon, Huffington Post, and other outlets. Her first book of cultural history, Reading the Sphinx (Palgrave Macmillan) was named a “Notable Scholarly Book for 2008” by the Chronicle of Higher Education. A web entrepreneur, Parramore is co-founder of the Next New Deal (formerly New Deal 2.0) blog of the Roosevelt Institute, where she served as media fellow from 2009-2011, and she is also co-founder of Recessionwire.com, and founding editor of IgoUgo.com. Full bio]

The Age of Natural Capital, and Why It Must Be Stopped

Global Policy Journal

January 21, 2016

By Ed Atkins

 

Atkin argues that capitalism has led to a culture of misguided prioritisation: putting efficiency and profitability above justice and environmental concern. In response to this he argues for the need to use political tools to make environmentalism and justness valuable commodities.

 

Welcome to the Capitalocene: a world in which our ecology is dictated by finance, and our environment increasingly seen as a monetary good to be produced, commodified and traded. This is not a new process: the mass-production of matches represented a commodification of fire. However, in recent years, a new policy has formed: one that aims to solve problems of climate by apply financial values to the planet’s natural resources. The result is the privileging of efficiency over justice; modernisation over tradition; and the placing of nature as an instrumental sub-section of political economy – rather than possessing its own intrinsic value.

With the fall of communism, and the decline of the bipolar political system that accompanied it, the dominant Western model of development reigned supreme as the route to improving lives and livelihoods (Oliver-Smith, 2010). At the centre of this economic mantra lies the normative position that production, both stimulated and managed by the power of the markets, will improve conditions of human welfare. Accompanying this model has been the promotion of large-scale infrastructure and commercial operations, from mining to agriculture – that have transformed our social and natural environments: destroying ecology, displacing many and veiling such processes within the promise of development.

In the past half century, this drive for economic growth and profits has unleashed a process of environmental degradation across the globe, via the extraction of natural resources and the failure to mitigate the resultant pollution. For many, the concept of sustainability has collapsed and we have become Homo Economicus, determined to pry open natural resources for exploitation. The commodificiation and privatisation of public and common goods has been one of the primary features of the era of neoliberal economics (Harvey, 2007). From the failed privatisation of water utilities in the 1990s to the problematic biofuels frenzy, new markets have developed, prospered and collapsed, with the environment continuing to provide an important resource of growth and profit. The result of this is the centring of climate change emissions within patterns of accumulation – with the world’s richest monopolising the majority of global emissions.

A Shift in Perceptions

Mainstream economics is characterised by a particular rationality that creates a certain paradigm – that of individualism, utilitarianism and the importance of equilibrium. The result of this is the difficulty to couple the financialisation process of mainstream economics and notions of human rights (of access, development, security etc.) – two concepts that speak very different languages (Branco, 2015). Within human rights discourse, equity must be fused with other more-quantitative concepts (such as efficiency) to create a greater conceptual apparatus that provides a route towards political capital and change. However, within mainstream economics these notions are abstracted and treated separately – with efficiency cast as a technical issue of basic mathematics, that exists a world away from competing notions of justice. This presents a serious socio-political problem: with the primacy of efficiency of resource-use resulting in the creation of institutions that often fail to facilitate a more democratic and diverse process of resource management.

The spectre of climate change is here and mitigation is necessary. However, the toolkit of classical economics, previously driving the extraction and use of natural resources, has resorted to traditional methods in an attempt to mitigate emissions and climate change. The result is the continued financialisation of nature – a process that is based upon the insistence that a resource’s (be it waterfood, or carbon) financialisation provides the most viable route to the efficient allocation and usage of it when faced with the felon of scarcity. Across policy, economic instruments have been promoted as the most desirable route to meet the twinned challenges of environmental change and resource insecurity. Certificates, credits, securities and bonds are now asserted as the most-effective route to better management practice; reduced wastage and; ultimately, ecological improvement. However, this process of replacing environmental regulation with the power of markets has a more important consequence: the conversion of natural resources into commodities – to be bought and sold for a profit, or loss. Such a transition represents an important transfer of stewardship: from the community to the company; and from sustainability to profit.

This process of financialisation involves a significant ontological change. Nature is no longer just a raw commodity that we can use; it has become a resource that can be abstracted and produced in society’s image. This discursive and material production of nature as a financial entity to be traded, incentivised and managed – has allowed for a shifting of property rights to encourage the transfer of “natural capital” from one community to another, and from one use to a competing operation. Global circuits of biodiversity, carbon offsetting and reforestation have been directed and redirected from nation to nation, and community to community; often allowing the reproduction of development and injustice. The result is the understanding of the financialisation of nature as an ideological pursuit, focused on the opening of new avenues of profits – often at expense of others. Carbon, possible the most recent imagined commodity, provides an important example of this – with the process of carbon-emissions-trading often portrayed as a structurally colonialist policy that embodies the transfer of responsibility of climate change mitigation from the richest to the poorest, often at the expense of the latter’s right to economic development.

Financialisation as Injustice

The character of the financialisation of nature, the centrality of quantitative measurement and modelling – has resulted in a significant inequity between the poor and the rich. Discourses of efficiency have been used to legitimise policies that deprive local communities of their rights to resources and the related benefits (Boelens & Vos, 2012). Traditional practices deemed inefficient by mainstream economics are often alienated and demonised as restricting development and progress – as is particularly evident in the treatment of indigenous communities facing displacement by development projects.

This continued financialisation of the global environmental commons of land and water is intricately linked to wider narratives related to the securitisation of the environment and, how the world’s resources are used. Such a process results in important competition between efficiency and traditional use, with such conflict. The World Bank (2010) has previously asserted that between 445 million and 1.7 billion hectares of land across the globe that is vacant, unused and, as a result, inefficient. What this report fails to decipher however is the presence of subsistence farming, the trade of non-monetised goods and the presence of informal communities – this is particularly evident in swathes of sub-Saharan Africa (Mehta et. al. 2012). However, these narratives of underuse and inefficiency have provided the impetus of a series of resource grabs, in which traditional users are displaced by governments to pave the way for an influx of international financial interests to ensure the financially-profitable use of the resource in question. Notably, this discourse is often silent on the structural relations of power that permeate across such schemes (Swyngedouw, 2012; Sultana & Loftus, 2012).

The cases of injustices associated with processes of financialisation are both multiple and geographically diverse. From the buying up of vast swathes of land in Cambodia for food production (often by the governments of Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates) (GRAIN, 2008); to the peasants forced to fetch water from a nearby spring, as large pipes carry the water to a mine in Peru (Crow et al. 2014). Weather derivatives in Ethiopia; carbon markets in China; betting on species extinction – all are permeated by economic and environmental injustice.

The character of the financialisation of nature, the centrality of quantitative measurement and modelling – has resulted in a significant inequity between the poor and the rich. Discourses of efficiency have been used to legitimise policies that deprive local communities of their rights to resources and the related benefits (Boelens & Vos, 2012). Traditional practices deemed inefficient by mainstream economics are often alienated and demonised as restricting development and progress – as is particularly evident in the treatment of indigenous communities facing displacement by development projects. Notably, these processes often occur within official policy-responses to crises – be they of food or energy security, or climate change (Borras et. al. 2012), as well the ever-increasing needs of the hubs of global capital (Mehta et. al. 2012). Many of these policies of financialised appropriation have created significant points of conflict between local communities and the actors enabling the process itself. The result is simple: the livelihood struggles of many have become increasingly intertwined within the financialised north-south relations of climate change, and the policies of mitigation (Hopke, 2012).

In response to this process of financialisation, many opposition networks have looked to locate this policy within the wider realm of the neoliberalisation of nature – attempting to critically analyse the economic rationale that underlies the process and uncovering the injustices that it embodies. As Mitch Jones has stated: “The financialization of nature is not about protecting the environment; it is about creating ways for the financial sector to continue to earn high profits….By pushing into new areas, promoting the creation of new commodities, and exploiting the real threat of climate change for their own ends, financial companies and actors are placing the whole world at risk.”

In this writer’s mind, this provides an important route for analysis – that of the incorporation of notions of environmental justice into the study of the interplay between the international financialisation of nature and the local experiences of these processes. However contemporary processes of financialisation fail to do so: instead prioritising processes of mathematical efficiency over understandings of traditional use and equitable access – often creating serious injustice. Although the prescription of monetary value to resources may be cast as a route to increased efficiency and decreased pollution, the truth is often far from this characterisation – as has been shown in recent articles on biodiversity banking by Molly Bond and Andrea Brock.

The message for critical scholars is clear: although the financialisation of nature, its appropriation, and all the processes surrounding it may be institutionally tied to the noble cause of climate change mitigation, it also presents many problems. Displacement, degradation and continued-injustice all point to an important argument: that processes of financialisation are not necessarily beneficial in utilitarian terms but represent something deeper: the continuation of capitalism as usual. Thus, it is important to assert that nature must not become a sub-section of the political economy, as mainstream economics believe. It is vice-versa, and we cannot forget that.

 


References

Branco, M. & Henriques, P. (2010) The political economy of the human right to water. Review of Radical Political Economics. Vol. 42, 2: pp. 142-155

Boelens, R. & Vos, J. (2012) The danger of naturalizing water policy concepts: Water productivity and efficiency discourses from field irrigation to virtual water trade. Agricultural Water Management, Vol. 108, pp.16-26.

Borras, S., Franco, J., Gomez, S., Kay, C., & Spoor, M. (2012). Land grabbing in Latin America and the Caribbean. Journal of Peasant Studies, 39, 845–872.

Harvey, D. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hopke, J. (2012) Water gives life: Framing an environmental justice movement in the mainstream and alternative Salvadoran press. Environmental Communication, 6:3, 365-382

Mehta, L., Veldwisch, G. J., & Franco, J. (2012). Introduction to the special issue: Water Grabbing? Focus on the (re)appropriation of finite water resources. Water Alternatives, 5(2), 193-207.

Oliver-Smith, A. (2010). Defying Displacement: Grassroots Resistance and the Critique of Development. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

(2014) Santa Cruz Declaration on the Global Water Crisis, Water International, 39:2, 246-261

Sultana, F. & Loftus, A. The Right to Water: Politics, Governance and Social Struggles edited by Farhana Sultana and Alex Loftus (eds). Earthscan, Oxon, 2012

Swyngedouw, E. (2012). UN Water Report 2012: Depoliticizing Water. Development and Change, 44(3), 823–835.

World Bank, 2010. Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can it Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits? Washington, DC: The World Bank.

 

[Ed Atkins is a PhD student at the University of Bristol, and a commissioning editor at E-International Relations where this article was originally posted.]

Valley of the Sex Dolls: Our Post-Apocalyptic Future Is Grimmer Than You Thought

December 12, 2018

By Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer

 

“Patriarchal systems of capitalism and colonialism don’t recognize or value inherent worth in women’s bodies and the work women do, and instead commodify them. Once women’s bodies are objectified in this way, it positions violence against women as justified, embedding it into the fabric of society. Violence against women is and remains the bedrock for all other kinds of violence.” — Battered Women’s Support Services

The near-term and even more so post-apocalyptic future will be grim – a reflection of the neoliberal and patriarchal ideologies that will bring us face to face to a new form of mind pollution – a collective conditioning to the continued social degradation of women. With the rise and proliferation of plastic sex dolls and sexbots – our increasingly desecrated landscapes will soon be filling up with disposable bodies. Many dismembered and almost exclusively, female in form.

Production of sex robots Abyss Realbotix

Industrial scale production is already here. Akin to a slaughterhouse, these life-like forms hang suspended from the ceiling on chains bound to the neck. Row upon row, the headless forms represent a new era in commodification, exploitation and ultimate degradation – the socially acceptable and financially profitable desecration of the female body.

The irony of the politically correct backlash toward plastic straws in contrast to the acceptable growing tsunami of plastic waste exclusively in female form  – is lost. Silicone heads, torsos, breasts, arms, legs, removable vaginas, dirty and worn, will protrude from garbage bags and trash bins. A growing number of these forms will resemble dead children – the discarded remains of the anatomically-correct imitations of five year old girls, created exclusively for paedophiles. After all, according to the manufacturers, “It’s not worth living if you have to live with repressed desire.”

As a sign of the depravity of man, rivers, streams, lakes, oceans and all other places of waste disposal will overflow with plastic corpses that grossly mimic the female form. The sheer abundance of female bodies floating face down – or face up – will become so commonplace, an already desensitized society will become even more indifferent to the grotesque spectacle. Left solely to the machinations of men, female body parts fill up landfills by the tens of thousands – to such an extent – real women will be indistinguishable from the plastic corpses, literally lost amongst the rubbish.

Above: Sex dolls assembly in Abyss Creations laboratory. Credit: Eduardo Contreras/San Diego Union-Tribune

Above slaughterhouse image. This was the first of six “related images” suggested by Google to the sex doll assembly photo above

The line between real – and plastic – will continue to blur until it disappears all together. The need to separate real and plastic becomes at first inconvenient, to then more difficult, to then most difficult, to finally, no longer necessary. This is the beauty of social engineering – a gradual but steady progression that goes undetected – thereby ensuring it’s eventual completion and success.

“This system of violence is called patriarchy, and over the past two thousand years it has come to rule most of the world. Patriarchal civilization is based on exploiting and consuming women, living communities, and the earth itself.” — Women’s Caucus, Deep Green Resistance

An old description for vulgar terms such as “fuck”, “shit” or “damn” is to describe them as “four-letter words”.  Yet, there seems to not be a problem with one particular four letter word:  rape.  This is illustrated by the current preoccupation with sex dolls, where the object personifying the female body is sexually dominated and/or assaulted, yet can’t even speak or respond to “her” vile treatment. It demonstrates the indifference that is prevalent in most societies when it comes to rape of the female body, be it imagined – or real. Is there any greater reflection of this type of rape mindset than a man procuring a doll to have sex with whereby he can essentially control her every action without thought, participation, feeling and/or contribution to what should be a mutual act between willing partners?

And it is this mentality that has now completely enveloped the entirety of man’s existence, who has furthered his depravity by unleashing the same mentality onto the Earth herself.

The need to control, dominate and manipulate without a response from its victim is part of the euphoric experience of pilfering perpetual and increasing resources from that which he has no respect. The same euphoric feeling from raping the animated human body has extended to inanimate objects: sexbots, sex dolls and the Earth herself. She, being the Earth, provides all of the pleasures without any pangs of guilt in terms of the verbal and physical responses from an unwilling participant.

A sex doll and other rubbish litters Sincil Dike, 2018,  (Image: Bill Brown)

Yet, the primary mistake of modern man is his false belief that the ongoing structural collapse is not a reactive expression by the Earth in direct response to his misdeeds. Although the Western edifice built off this centuries long and ever expansive rape is formidable, it is not affected to the same degree as the environmental victims in the Global South who fight to survive in far more vulnerable circumstances. However, the growing yet still imperceptible fissures continue to go unacknowledged by those in the most insulated parts of the world.

Juxtaposed with a rapidly warming planet, planetary environmental collapse and accelerated resource depletion – the ramifications of this cultural arrogance – is in the midst of unfolding. Blind to the sixth extinction event, now well underway, this grotesque waste of energy and resources is no match for the grotesque human reductionism that feeds the momentum for the furthering of collective human depravity and indifference.

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]

 

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

 

 

 

Navigating Ontario’s Online Political Front Groups

RankandFile.ca

March 23, 2018

By David Bush

 

Last fall the Facebook page North99 exploded onto the social media scene. It went from nothing in the Fall of 2017 to one of the largest progressive social media accounts in the country almost overnight. It currently has 40,000 likes on Facebook, not quite half as many as Press Progress, a similiar social media project, but it is growing at nearly three times rate. Its social media posts have by far the widest circulation on the Left, well beyond any union, organization or progressive campaign. It bills itself as the Left’s version of Ontario Proud and Rebel Media.

North99’s content is clearly progressive and on the Left. It explicitly polarizes along class lines, standing up for Sears pensioners, taking shots at Doug Ford, Tim Hortons and Loblaws. When the new $14 minimum wage was rolled out and Tim Hortons was caught punishing its workers, North99 social media was all over the issue. One of its posts denouncing Tim Hortons was shared over 29,000 times on Facebook, two others were shared over 10,000 times each. Its posts denouncing Galen Weston and Loblaws for the bread price fixing scheme was shared over 60,000 times. It is a positive thing that North99’s baseline messaging takes aim at bosses and the rich.

On its website North99 states it is “a progressive media network for the many, not the few. Our contributors and supporters include progressive people across Canada united by a concern about rising inequality and the increasing influence of the far-right.” It says it is funded by small donations, roughly $1,000 a month, is volunteer run, and is non-partisan. But who actually runs the website and social media accounts of North99?

A Liberal front

North99 was federally incorporated under that name on August 14, 2017. It changed its incorporated name to 10363987 Canada Association on October 24, 2017. The name listed as a director is Geoff Sharpe. Who is Geoff Sharpe?

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 8.32.09 PMSharpe is a digital strategist who has strong ties to the Liberal Party. He was the President of the BC Young Liberals from 2011 to 2012. That’s right, the BC Liberals, the party that is so right-wing  that it makes the PC party irrelevant in the province. In 2012 Sharpe denounced the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) because of an email exchange between teachers where one teacher warned another not to cross the picket line during the 2012 strike or there would be shouting. Sharpe regularly displayed disdain for the BCTF and teacher unions stating, “definitely need to remember that teachers doesn’t equal BCTF. I know many who cannot stand the org[anization].”

Sharpe also worked as a digital media strategist on Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberal leadership campaign in 2013. After Wynne won, Sharpe was lauded for using techniques similar to Obama’s election campaign. At the time Sharpe was working for Navigator Ltd., the same $600-an-hour PR firm Jian Ghomeshi initially hired to protect his image after revelations about sexual assault. Navigator would later drop Ghomeshi as a client. After leaving Navigator Ltd., Sharpe now runs Sharpe Strategies, a digital media strategy firm.

The other name linked to North99 is Tara Mahoney. She is the daughter of Richard Mahoney, the former president of the Ontario Liberal Party. She worked for the Liberal Party of Canada’s national campaign headquarters as a front-end web developer.

North99’s links to the Liberal Party belie its claims of non-partisanship. This is clearly the work of seasoned digital media experts and political strategists who are looking to scoop up data and to push a partisan political agenda. But North99 is far from the only partisan front group utilizing social media in this way.

The Tories’ front

Ontario Proud, is by far and away the largest political Facebook page in Ontario and one of the largest in the country. Founded in 2016 by Jeff Ballingal and Ryan O’Connor, the page has over 330,000 Facebook likes. Ontario Proud blends a curious mix of non-political posts about great provincial attractions, the weather, or sports, along with political red meat for the right-wing. It constantly pumps out right-wing talking points on taxes, the minimum wage, climate change, xenophobia, terrorism, hydro rates. The goal for Ontario Proud is to target people who are not political junkies but are only moderately into politics. Like North99, Ontario Proud trumpets the the slogan “For the Many, Not the Few”, which is stolen directly Jeremy Corbyn’ Labour Party in Britain.

Ballingal is a former Tory operative who also worked for Navigator Ltd and Sun Media. O’Connor was the former Vice-President of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association and famously caught organizing students to infiltrate and defund progressive groups on campusesChris Spoke, who formerly worked at Sun News, is also involved with Ontario Proud.

Ontario Proud has spent well over $200,000 to targeted ads to build up its base of support. This was a clever way to make the most of new campaign financing rules that restricted spending of the third party interest groups. Ontario Proud says it is non-partisan and  promotes strategic voting. The page’s influence continues to grow as it stokes fear and confusion about the minimum wage. This year, Ontario Proud has even organized anti-Wynne protests at Liberal town hall events. The page’s success is breeding copycats in other parts of the country.

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 7.53.47 PMAnd the NDP…

The NDP has its own version of these groups, Press Progress. While Press Progress is not quite the same, it is more openly connected to the NDP as it is a creation of the Broadbent Institute. Its Facebook reach is massive, with over 100,000 likes, and the content on its website is designed to be easily understood and shareable with “clickbait” headlines.

Press Progress was launched in 2013 as an “independent, nonprofit newsroom” dedicated to fact-checking and breaking original stories. The Broadbent Institute, which created Press Progress, is a nominally independent think tank and research institute. Its role in the NDP world is to produce policy and leadership development. For instance figures and policies closely aligned with the Broadbent Institute were prominent in the Jagmeet Singh’s campaign. Some Broadbent people were even spotted voting down the prioritization of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) resolution at the recent NDP convention.

For all its progressive chops, the Broadbent Institute represents status quo in the NDP, often willing to partner with so-called progressive corporations, like Loblaws – which is funder of its annual Progress gala. It is not a mere coincidence that Press Progress has been completely silent on critiquing Loblaws despite its opposition to the $15 minimum wage, its tax avoidance schemes, its bread price-fixing scheme, and its recent layoffs. Those scandals were so galling that even the Liberal-aligned North99 took a shot at Galen Weston.

We still need an independent, bottom-up working class politics 

While it shouldn’t be surprising that online partisan front groups stir the pot, what is remarkable is how effective they have been with so little accountability. All of these groups are scooping up massive amounts of data, often directly collecting information through their own cynical petitions on hot issues. These groups show how empty much of the political landscape has become. Digital media strategists are running a shell game that treats ordinary working people as something to be manipulated and toyed with. Forget about all that nonsense about Russians on distorting democracy through social media. We need to look no further than the communication specialists and political parties in this country to see who the true manipulators are.

Workers face an uphill battle when they go up against big corporations and their government friends. We can win, but only if we organize ourselves, speak for ourselves and fight for ourselves. When it comes to the media they are rarely on the side of workers – they barely even report on labour and workplace issues anymore. The slick new digital media is no different. We can’t expect any favours and that is why we need our voices and our own media to cut through the spin. Everything else is just public relations.

 

[David Bush is a Ph.D. student at York University, a labour organizer active with the Fight for $15 and a writer in Toronto, Canada.]

 

Démocratie, Insurrection et Gilets Jaunes

Le Partage

December 2018

By Nicolas Casaux

 

“Cars burn as protesters wearing yellow vests (gilets jaunes) clash with riot police near the Arc de Triomphe as part of a demonstration over high fuel prices on the Champs Elysee in Paris, France, 01 December 2018 (issued on 03 December 2018). The so-called ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) protest movement, which reportedly has no political affiliation, is protesting across the nation over high fuel prices. According to reports, the damage left after the riots in Paris are estimated to exceed three to four million euro. EPA/YOAN VALAT”

 

Nous ne vivons pas en démocratie. Cela doit apparaître de plus en plus clairement à de plus en plus de gens. Les manifestations actuelles des gilets jaunes semblent le suggérer. Le mot démocratie n’aurait jamais dû désigner autre chose que la démocratie directe. Le fameux pouvoir du peuple, par le peuple et pour le peuple. Le régime politique dans lequel nous vivons, le régime électoral républicain et libéral, que les institutions culturelles dominantes, les gouvernants et les médias qualifient de démocratie représentative (un oxymore), est « une aristocratie élective dans les faits », ainsi que l’écrit Francis Dupuis-Déri dans son livre La peur du peuple – Agoraphobie et agoraphilie politiques. Il ajoute d’ailleurs qu’il « est aussi possible d’y voir une monarchie, puisque l’aristocratie élue est dirigée par un monarque élu, le président — ou un premier ministre tout puissant face à une reine impuissante, comme au Canada ou en Grande-Bretagne. D’un point de vue étymologique, le mot monarchie désigne bien le pouvoir ou le commandement (arkhè) d’un seul individu (mono). Mais pourquoi donc faut-il qu’il y ait un chef dans un régime libéral ou républicain, en plus du corps de l’aristocratie élue?? Mystère. Avoir un chef d’État semble pourtant normal et naturel, et personne ne s’étonne que le roi ait simplement été remplacé par un président ou un premier ministre. »

Jean-Jacques Rousseau écrivait que le principe de la représentation « nous vient du gouvernement féodal, de cet inique et absurde gouvernement dans lequel l’espèce humaine est dégradée ». Lors de la Révolution française, l’Assemblée nationale soulignait que « la représentation du peuple était inconnue aux Anciens » et que c’est du « gouvernement féodal […] dont elle tire son origine. » Quelques années plus tard, aux États-Unis, l’historien Samuel Williams rappellera que « [l]a représentation […] a été graduellement introduite en Europe par les monarques?; non pas avec l’intention de favoriser les droits du peuple mais comme le meilleur moyen de lever des impôts. »

Le peuple qui s’était révolté en 1789 contre le pouvoir en place se méfiait — à juste titre — de ceux qui disaient les représenter. En 1793, l’article 33 de la déclaration des Droits de l’homme affirmait que la résistance à l’oppression était la conséquence des Droits de l’homme. L’article 35 donnait donc au peuple la possibilité de s’insurger contre ses dirigeants : « Quand le gouvernement viole les droits du peuple, l’insurrection est, pour le peuple et pour chaque portion du peuple, le plus sacré des droits et le plus indispensable des devoirs. »

Seulement, et malheureusement (mais heureusement pour Macron), dès 1795, les gouvernants, soucieux de rétablir l’ordre et de conserver leur pouvoir, vont réécrire une nouvelle « constitution ». Les hommes n’y naissent plus « libres et égaux en droit » et le droit de renverser les dirigeants par l’insurrection est supprimé.

En 1810, le Code pénal napoléonien va préciser que toute attaque, toute résistance avec violences envers la force publique sera qualifiée de délit de rébellion. Les mots changent : l’insurrection devient rébellion. Si la rébellion a été commise par plus de vingt personnes, les coupables seront punis, même s’il n’y a pas eu port d’armes, de la réclusion criminelle pour cinq à dix ans[1]. Napoléon pourra enfermer tranquillement ceux qui menacent son autorité en créant un système policier à son service.

Depuis 1992 (article 412 du code pénal[2]) la loi française est plus répressive que le Code pénal napoléonien. Plus répressive que le Code pénal napoléonien. Tout un symbole. Républicain, cela va de soi. Napoléon, ce dictateur sanguinaire — son règne a coûté la vie à plusieurs millions d’individus?; les estimations varient d’un peu plus d’un million à cinq millions — auquel on doit l’Arc de Triomphe, érigé à la gloire de sa mégalomanie. Arc de Triomphe dont les élites (les gouvernants et leurs laquais des médias et des institutions culturelles) ont fait un « symbole de la République », et dont la dégradation a permis aux médias d’occulter les mutilations subies par nombre de Français lors des manifestations de ce samedi 1er décembre — des mains ont été arrachées, au moins un œil crevé, une femme de 80 ans est morte à Marseille, un Toulousain est toujours dans le coma après avoir été touché au visage par un tir de flashball, et beaucoup se sont fait tabasser. C’est-à-dire qu’en réalité, « la République » dont parlent les élites, c’est l’Empire, c’est un régime aristocratique, c’est l’État. D’ailleurs, un autre de ses principaux « symboles », le drapeau tricolore (bleu, blanc, rouge), nous vient directement de la royauté[3].

« Les armoiries du Royaume de France utilisées jusqu’à la Révolution. Le blason de Navarre y figure depuis qu’Henri, roi de Navarre, était devenu roi de France sous le nom d’Henri IV. »

Et contrairement à ce que suggèrent les médias, le programme d’histoire de l’éducation d’État, les institutions culturelles dominantes et les élites gouvernementales, il est absurde et indécent de révérer les vestiges des régimes autoritaires du passé. Les rois, les reines, les empereurs, les impératrices et leurs lèche-bottes actuels — comme Stéphane Bern — sont autant d’ennemis du peuple. Nous faire respecter, estimer voire admirer ceux qui ont été de terribles oppresseurs ainsi que les symboles de leur pouvoir est une des choses les plus perverses que les dominants — les héritiers de ces oppresseurs — ont réussi à accomplir. Il est très significatif et particulièrement abject que nous ayons aujourd’hui des rues qui portent les noms de tyrans et de dictateurs, des statues à leur effigie, des musées qui les honorent, que l’on visite leurs palais, et ainsi de suite. Leur « République » désigne et incarne tout sauf le principe démocratique. Lorsque, samedi 2 décembre, en sortant du G20 à Buenos Aires, Emmanuel Macron affirme que « le peuple, on doit l’informer au mieux, on doit constamment être dans un travail d’éducation », il énonce clairement la nature antidémocratique du régime qu’il dirige (et de toutes les soi-disant démocraties représentatives), dans lequel une élite, avec lui à sa tête, est en charge de l’éducation du peuple.

C’est pourquoi les gilets jaunes, s’ils tiennent à vivre libres, à mener des existences décentes, et pas simplement à légèrement alléger leur calvaire, ne devraient surtout pas se contenter des maigres — et parfois étranges — revendications qui circulent, et encore moins des quelques concessions ridicules que le gouvernement propose ces derniers jours (moratoire sur la hausse des taxes, etc.), et devraient exiger rien de moins que la dissolution des structures de pouvoir antidémocratiques actuelles, au profit de l’instauration d’une véritable démocratie directe. Ils sont plus qu’en droit d’exiger la destitution de toutes les formes d’autorité illégitimes, et la redistribution égalitaire du pouvoir et des richesses?; et d’ailleurs, à moins d’une refonte totale de la société industrielle telle qu’elle existe aujourd’hui, la destruction de la planète est garantie, et donc celle des sociétés humaines. Cela requerrait, bien évidemment, une période de transition, et toutes sortes de processus qui pourraient et devraient être débattus par les gens eux-mêmes, assemblés dans les places publiques.

Mais revenons-en à la loi française actuelle. Elle qualifie de mouvement insurrectionnel toute violence collective de nature à mettre en péril les institutions de la République. Lesdites institutions ne seront jamais listées et seront à l’appréciation du juge. Le fait de diriger ou d’organiser un mouvement insurrectionnel est puni de la détention criminelle à perpétuité et de 750 000 euros d’amende.

Est puni de quinze ans de détention criminelle et de 225 000 euros d’amende le fait de participer à un mouvement insurrectionnel :

  1. En édifiant des barricades, des retranchements ou en faisant tous travaux ayant pour objet d’empêcher ou d’entraver l’action de la force publique?;
  2. En occupant à force ouverte ou par ruse ou en détruisant tout édifice ou installation?;
  3. En assurant le transport, la subsistance ou les communications des insurgés?;
  4. En provoquant à des rassemblements d’insurgés, par quelque moyen que ce soit?;
  5. En étant, soi-même, porteur d’une arme?;
  6. En se substituant à une autorité légale.

Est puni de vingt ans de détention criminelle et de 300 000 euros d’amende le fait de participer à un mouvement insurrectionnel :

  1. En s’emparant d’armes, de munitions, de substances explosives ou dangereuses ou de matériels de toute espèce soit à l’aide de violences ou de menaces, soit par le pillage, soit en désarmant la force publique?;
  2. En procurant aux insurgés des armes, des munitions ou des substances explosives ou dangereuses.

***

À l’évidence, malheureusement, nous sommes aujourd’hui bien loin de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen de 1793, dont l’histoire de France est pourtant si fière, mais qui n’a plus aucune valeur juridique. C’est-à-dire que ce que nos ancêtres qui se sont battus pour plus de justice considéraient comme « le plus sacré des droits et le plus indispensable des devoirs » est aujourd’hui sévèrement puni par la loi.

C’est pourquoi, aujourd’hui, bien que l’immense majorité des Français déteste Macron, aspire à une véritable démocratie et soutienne les gilets jaunes, notre cher monarque est intouchable. La loi l’autorise à réprimer — et même, potentiellement, dans le sang — n’importe quelle insurrection.

***

Paradoxalement — peut-être — tout cela ne constitue pas une raison de ne pas participer à une insurrection. Au contraire.

 


  1. http://ledroitcriminel.fr/la_legislation_criminelle/anciens_textes/code_penal_1994/partie_legislative_2.htm?
  2. https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCodeArticle.do?cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006070719&idArticle=LEGIARTI000006418367&dateTexte=&categorieLien=cid?
  3. https://www.lepoint.fr/culture/le-drapeau-tricolore-est-il-de-droite-ou-de-gauche-27–11–2015–1985174_3.php ?

 

[Nicolas Casaux est membre de l’organisation internationale Deep Green Resistance.]